This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:00 AM. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: Fuhgeddaboutit, NJ
Remember that time New Jersey banned sales of Tesla's because they didn't go through the traditional dealer model? You know, direct sales that were only not ok because the dealer unions were all scared?
Tesla is appealing the decision. They say that it contradicts a previous franchise statute that was approved that specifically allows direct sales. Tesla's statement on the matter says that franchises aren't properly equipped to help expand EV sales, which is something we hadn't thought much of:
Franchise dealers have an inherent conflict of interest in selling electric vehicles. In order to do so effectively, they would need to enthusiastically tout the reasons why electric vehicles are superior to gasoline vehicles. This is not something that they are going to do since gasoline vehicles represent virtually all of their revenue.
We'll keep our eye on this to see how it all shakes out, but I find it almost unfathomable that Tesla sales will remain banned in my great home state of New Jersey.
2nd Gear: GM Is Still Investigating
The intense congressional grilling of Mary Barra entered a second day yesterday, and what groundbreaking information did we learn?
Barra has been under the hot lights of our government for the last couple of days, and what we know is that she is investigating what went wrong and the company she is the CEO of is a "new GM." Senators and Representatives have expressed displeasure with what they've heard from her thus far, but what did they expect? Did they expect her to come out and say that GM takes all liability for everything and throw the whole company under the bus? That would be incredibly naive, and if Barra did that, it would be incredibly stupid. Congressional hearings like these rarely produce the sort of groundbreaking testimony that congress expects, this is no exception.
3rd Gear: NHTSA Wants More Funding
While GM is being grilled about the defects in its cars that contributed to a number of deaths, NHTSA is defending their role in the non-recall.
The investigation unit that goes over all cars that are to be recalled has 51 employees and a budget of $10.1 million per year. NHTSA has an annual budget of $800 million. The increase that the White House has proposed is a modest one, to $10.6 million.
But why increase it at all? In 2007, a member of the NHTSA team thought an investigation of Cobalts would be a good idea. Did that investigation happen? Nope, the employee's superiors opted against it because the risk was "only slightly elevated." And not only that, at the time NHTSA didn't even keep records of why the investigation wasn't started (They do now).
So a slightly elevated risk isn't enough to help protect the citizens? And NHTSA needs more funding when they had a fair amount of reason to start an investigation in the first place? Really?
4th Gear: Beijing Auto Wants To Be In America
Beijing Auto, a state-owned Chinese automaker and partner of Daimler in China, wants to increase its presence abroad. And they're going to do that by purchasing a mid to high-end automaker in Europe or the US.
And they say that they already have candidates to make that happen.
But who? The big three aren't really for sale here. Abroad, most of the larger automakers are in alliances or already performing strong enough that they don't need investment from a foreign brand. Maybe they buy a name like Saab? Resurrect a brand? I'm not quite sure, but they have money to spend, I'm sure they'll find a way.
5th Gear: Time To Investigate How Air Bags Work
In light of how the Cobalt's air bags reacted when the ignition was turned off, regulators think that it's time to investigate how air bags actually work in all situations, like the side impact crashes that were mentioned in the hearings.
A judge in Texas wants GM to order all the cars in the recall be parked until fixed. This is just beginning.
"Fast & Furious," the fourth film in an action-movie franchise centered around the world of illegal street racing, debuts in U.S. theaters on April 3, 2009, kicking off a record-breaking $72.5 million opening weekend at the box office. "Fast & Furious," starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez, recorded the all-time highest-grossing opening of any car-themed film, besting the 2006 animated feature "Cars," which raked in more than $60 million in its opening weekend and went on to earn more than $244 million at the box office.
What comes next for GM? Thoughts?