Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st Gear: This Trend Must Be Stopped
Gear shifters are increasingly getting weird. Freed from the bounds of mechanical sense by computer control, and with designers allowing their interior packaging schemes to run amok, shifters are becoming strange afterthoughts. Is it now a button? A lever? A series of intricate eye twitches and neck spasms?
In all seriousness, sometimes they get confusing, and confusion in cars tends to spell danger. Fiat Chrysler was forced to recall 1.1 million cars after 41 people got hurt, and actor Anton Yelchin was killed after possibly getting confused by the shifter in his Jeep.
And now Consumer Reports, the grand arbiter of What Is And Is Not Good, is starting to dock points from cars that have confusing shifters:
Consumer Reports believes so strongly that these types of shifters have the potential for harm that we are now deducting points from the Overall Score of any vehicle we determine has a shifter that is difficult to operate or that can be confused for other controls. We are also now deducting additional points from the Overall Score if a tested vehicle does not automatically return to Park or engage the parking brake when the engine is shut off, or when the driver’s door is opened with the engine running. Some vehicles, from manufacturers such as Ford and Honda, already employ both of these fail-safes.
While more than 50 vehicles are affected, Consumer Reports is no longer recommending the following cars because their specific deductions from among our criteria drop their Overall Score below our threshold: the Chrysler 300, Lexus CT 200h, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and GLE.
Chrysler went on to tell CR that it plans to change the shifter in the 300, but no dice from Lexus or Mercedes.
Cool design is great and all, but not when it comes at a human price.
2nd Gear: FCA Under Investigation By The Securities And Exchange Commission
FCA is already under investigation over its diesel engines from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice, but now add the Securities and Exchange Commission and a whole bunch of state attorneys general to that mix, Reuters reports:
On the diesel emissions issue, FCA said it has “received various inquiries, subpoenas and requests for information from a number of governmental authorities, including the U.S. Department of Justice, the SEC and several states’ attorneys general. We are investigating these matters and we intend to cooperate with all valid governmental requests,” FCA said in its annual report filed Tuesday with the SEC.
Any potential fines levied if FCA is found to be in the wrong could total in the billions, and the SEC subpoenas don’t help. While the EPA and DOJ inquiries look like they would be looking into issues of environmental rule-breaking, the SEC investigation would seem to indicate that the federal government is looking into whether or not FCA defrauded investors. And when investors are pissed, that is not good news for any company.
3rd Gear: British Ford Factory Is Hanging In The Balance
Seemingly anyone and everyone warned the British people that leaving the European Union was a really bad idea, and the British people did not listen. Now there are rumblings that Ford could be closing down one of its engine plants because of it, and British Prime Minister and lover of adorable children Theresa May is trying to get Ford to stay (again, from Reuters):
Britain’s biggest trade union fears that more than 1,000 jobs could be lost at Ford’s Bridgend plant despite reassurances from the U.S. carmaker that similar levels of employment will be needed in the coming years.
“Ministers in this government have been engaging with various companies within the automotive sector, including Ford and other companies,” she told parliament.
Brexit was still a really bad idea.
4th Gear: Toyota Slimming Down At The Top
Toyota, a company notorious for its sometimes moribund decision-making process, is trying to speed that whole thing up. Primarily by getting rid of a lot of management, Automotive News says:
Announcing personnel changes for the financial year starting April, the Japanese automaker on Wednesday said in a statement it would reduce its board of director positions to nine from 11.
Under the new structure, only President Akio Toyoda and Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada will remain representative directors after Toyota cut the number of such posts from six.
My grand prediction is that this definitely means we’ll see a new Toyota MR2 by the end of the year.
BRING IT BACK.
5th Gear: GM Thinks A Border Tax Would Be Bad
General Motors CEO Mary Barra was giving a speech yesterday to the Economic Club, a club of economics, when she said a border tax could be “very problematic,” USA Today reports:
Barra told the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. that the border adjusted tax “if not done very thoughtfully could be very problematic.”
On this day in 2005, at an auto expo in Geneva, Switzerland, Honda debuts the Civic Concept, a five-door hatchback. The Japan-based automaker launched the first Civic in the early 1970s and the compact, affordably priced car went on to become a best-seller in the U.S. auto market.
Neutral: What The Hell Is Preventing A New MR2 Anyway?
Not necessarily one from Toyota, I mean. But whatever happened to a relatively inexpensive, mid-engined car? What’s stopping it from happening again? I dunno, I’m old and crotchety today. BRING BACK MY YOUTH.