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: Audi Beats Lexus!
What is the best car brand? Apparently for 2016, it’s Audi, according to Consumer Reports, which annually ranks cars according to “overall score, road-test score, and predicted reliability results for each tested model of a brand.” That meant Audi came in higher overall than even Lexus, though the latter was ranked better in terms of predicted reliability. Here’s how Automotive News explains it:
Audi, which finished with a score of 80, overtook Lexus, which dropped to third place after finishing first the previous three years. Subaru finished second with 78 points and supplanted Mazda as the highest-ranked non-luxury brand.
The influential magazine, which has compiled its brand report card for nine consecutive years, said Audi and VW vehicles that have been pulled from dealerships due to diesel emissions violations are not included in scoring. The VW brand finished 15th for the second straight year with 67 points, up from 60 points in 2015.
But that came with some finger-wagging, however:
“The rankings do not account for corporate practices or brand perceptions, and despite Audi’s score, Consumer Reports strongly believes that Volkswagen AG … should be held accountable for manipulating emissions testing with its vehicles,” the publication said in a statement.
2nd Gear: Detroit Struggles
A lot of enthusiasts balk at Consumer Reports (although I can tell you their car staff is a bunch of first-rate gearheads just like us) but mainstream buyers put a ton of stock in what the magazine has to say. That’s why this year’s report is not good news for the U.S. automakers, reports The Detroit News:
Buick — at seventh — was the only brand from the Detroit automakers to rate in the top 10 of the consumer magazine’s 2016 Brand Report Card for a second-consecutive year.
All other brands from General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV were in the bottom half of the 30 brands rated. Four Fiat Chrysler brands were among the worst six ratings.
Consumer Reports Director of Automotive Testing Jake Fisher said Detroit automakers continue to be hurt by having older models in their lineups, and by reliability rankings that have been dragged down in recent years largely because of faulty infotainment systems.
Go Buick, I guess?
3rd Gear: But Audi Must Fix Quattro
Stephan Winkelmann, formerly the swashbuckling head of Lamborghini, is moving to Audi’s Quattro GmbH performance division. His goal: to get their cars to match the exponential growth of BMW’s M and Mercedes-AMG. From Automotive News:
Its models include the R8 coupe, known as the car of choice for Marvel’s Iron Man fictional movie character Tony Stark, as well as a line of tuned-up series production models such as the Audi RS5.
Quattro sales grew 13 percent last year to more than 17,000 cars, but this is dwarfed by rivals Mercedes AMG and BMW M, which sold 68,875 and 62,400 cars last year respectively.
Quattro has been in flux and Winkelmann’s appointment is the second change in management in less than two years. Hollerweger was named Quattro chief in 2014. At the time media reports said former Audi development chief Ulrich Hackenberg had lost confidence in his predecessor Franciscus van Meel following delays to the next-generation R8 and problems with a planned electric version of the sports car. Van Meel is now running BMW M.
4th Gear: Takata Faked Test Data After The Recalls?
Seriously, how is Takata still even in business? This report from the New York Times is pretty damning:
More than a year after defective Takata airbags led to recalls and at least two fatalities, company officials in Japan presented falsified test data about a new component’s design to Honda, their largest customer, according to internal documents.
The fudged data, discussed in an internal 2010 document and cited in a report published on Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation, illustrates what investigators said was a pattern of deceit at Takata that continued long after the severity of the airbag defect came to light.
The new design was experimental and never went into production, but Takata engineers in North America said they felt pressured by their counterparts in Japan to proceed with it despite what they viewed as its “high likelihood of failure.”
5th Gear: Honda To Go Greener
Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T) on Wednesday said it aimed for new-energy vehicles to account for two-thirds of its line-up by 2030 from around 5 percent now, as increasingly stringent global emissions regulations prompt automakers to make greener cars.
Japan’s third-biggest automaker by sales said in its latest strategy update that its petrol-battery hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery electric and fuel cell vehicles (FCV) would collectively outnumber its petrol-only offerings in less than 15 years’ time.
Plug-in hybrids - which can also be recharged via household wall sockets - will be “at the core of electrification in the future” for Honda, said Chief Executive Takahiro Hachigo.
Honda will release a plug-in hybrid in North America by 2018 that shares the same production platform as its Clarity FCV announced in October, Hachigo said. It will then make plug-in versions of its major models and raise model numbers, he said.
Reverse: Vive Le Prost