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 while you sit back and try to coffee yourself awake. Don’t spill it on your computer.
1st Gear: The Ford Plants In Chicago Sound Like A Great Place To Work
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined recently that black and female employees at two Ford plants in Chicago have been subject to harassment by “a group of individuals,” the agency announced this week.
Ford agreed to pay up to $10.1 million for it “without any admission of liability with the EEOC to avoid an extended dispute,” according to the commission’s press release. No details about when, to whom or any other information on the alleged harassment was given. From the release:
In its investigation, the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that personnel at two Ford facilities in the Chicago area, the Chicago Assembly Plant and the Chicago Stamping Plant, had subjected female and African-American employees to sexual and racial harassment. The EEOC also found that the company retaliated against employees who complained about the harassment or discrimination.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ...
The conciliation agreement provides monetary relief of up to $10.125 million to those who are found eligible through a claims process established by the agreement.
Below is what Ford, which the Detroit Free Press reports has 5,500 employees between these two Chicago plants, did about the investigation. From the Detroit Free Press:
The Dearborn automaker also said it conducted its own investigation “and took appropriate action, including disciplinary action up to and including dismissal for individuals who violated the company’s anti-harassment policy.”
Ford also declined to clarify what happened or how many employees were subjected to the harassment. The automaker did say the group of employees eligible for settlement money are either women or African-American men who began working at the plant after Jan. 1, 2010.
The agreement with the commission means that over the next five years, Ford agreed to conduct regular training at the two Chicago-area facilities, continue disseminating its anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies to existing and new employees, report complaints of harassment to the commission and monitor its workforce in regards to sexual and racial harassment as well as other discrimination.
2nd Gear: Dealership Trickery In New York
Car dealerships. Sometimes, they’re great and nice and offer you bottled water on a hot summer day. Sometimes, they allegedly put your tools out to rust or trick you into buying phony equipment for your car.
The latter was true for customers in New York, as Automotive News reports that area dealership Nissan of New Rochelle will have to pay back $298,000 to a bunch of customers for salespeople tricking them into buying a bogus feature on their car. The feature was an “anti-theft product,” and the dealership’s fairly new owner apparently didn’t know this was going on. From Automotive News:
The dealership, which [owner Anthony] Panarella bought in 2014, is about five miles north of New York City. Panarella said it had a less-than-stellar reputation when he bought it, but he learned a valuable lesson: He should have vetted the veteran employees better and immediately.
“This [fraud] was something inherited,” Panarella said. “I’m 38 years old. When I bought the store I was 35. I was green.”
The store’s finance and insurance managers were illegally charging customers for a vehicle identification number window-etch product called Total Loss Protection, according to a news release from the New York attorney general’s office. Panarella said he has since fired all four F&I managers.
The “more than $298,000” is for penalties from the state of New York and 298 customers, Automotive News reports, who were reportedly tricked into buying theft products ranging from $215 to more than $5,000. Automotive News has a lot more information on the entire case here.
3rd Gear: There May Finally Be An Acceptable Takata Airbag Fix
Takata’s more than 100 million faulty, exploding airbags made for the biggest recall in automotive history, and, naturally, the fix wasn’t great. With another 80,000 Mazdas recalled for the airbags, some for the second time, USA Today reports that the Takata fix this time around may actually be worthwhile.
The original fix wasn’t much of a fix at all, if we’re honest. Reuters reported in July that Takata just produced a bunch of new inflators, and the fix involved adding a drying agent to the airbags in order to keep moisture out. Moisture was one of the factors that set the bags off, spewing shrapnel and killing nearly 20 people worldwide.
Here’s what USA Today said about the newest edition of Takata fixes, particularly on the Mazdas:
The recall covers front passenger inflators on certain 2007 through 2009 and 2012 CX-7, CX-9 and Mazda 6 vehicles. The recalls vary by state and age of the vehicles. ...
The recall supersedes one issued in January that temporarily replaced older Takata inflators with the same parts. Ammonium nitrate used in the inflators can deteriorate over time. The company says newer inflators are safer. In the latest recall, dealers will install permanent replacement inflators that don’t use ammonium nitrate.
Another Takata death occurred well into the first and second rounds of recalls, and authorities weren’t sure at the time if the airbag had been replaced. This time, hopefully, the airbag fix will be more permanent—and more safe.
4th Gear: Just Buckle Your Seat Belts Without Someone Making You
The United States government recently got hit with a lawsuit for being too slow to implement rules mandating seat belts in the backseat, because apparently there are people out there who need to be told to restrain their bodies in the case of a car wreck. Who would’ve thought?
Here’s a rundown of the case, from Reuters:
In a complaint filed on Wednesday, two nonprofits said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has done nothing to implement legislation signed in July 2012 by former President Barack Obama that required the warnings.
The Center for Auto Safety, and Kids and Cars Inc, said nearly 1,000 people are killed annually in the rear seats of U.S. passenger vehicles because they do not buckle up, and proper belt usage would lower the risk of death by 44 percent. ...
The lawsuit seeks to require NHTSA, part of the Department of Transportation, to start the rulemaking process immediately and within one year implement a final rule, which was supposed to take effect by October 2015.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was also named as a defendant. Her agency had no immediate comment.
Reuters reports that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently said 91 percent of adults buckle up in the front seat, but only 72 percent do in the back. And get this: According to Reuters, New Hampshire doesn’t even require adults to buckle their seat belts. It’s the only state that stubborn, thank goodness.
Come on, y’all, seat belts aren’t a fashion statement. Just buckle them.
5th Gear: Here Comes Hyundai In The Electric-Car Race
Reuters reports that Hyundai investors are worried that it isn’t making as big of a charge—sorry—as it should in the green-car race, and the company wants to change that. But we’ll have to wait a few years, because good things take time.
Except microwaved macaroni and cheese. That doesn’t take much time at all. Anyway, here’s the story from Reuters:
Hyundai Motor Co said on Thursday it will launch a long-range electric vehicle with a driving range of 500 km (311 miles) per charge after 2021, seeking to address investor concerns that it is lagging rivals in the green car race.
The automaker and affiliate Kia Motors Corp, which together rank fifth in global vehicle sales, also said they are planning 31 eco-friendly models by 2020, up from a previously flagged 28.
The new additions include three plug-in hybrid vehicles, which come on top of eight battery-powered cars and two fuel-cell vehicles.
Hyundai launched its Ioniq electric car last year, but its range was... not good. Reuters reports that the company will have a very interesting and not at all boring Kona electric version by the start of next year, complete with around 242 miles of range. The long-range trim on Tesla’s entry-level car, the Model 3, should get 310 miles to a charge.
You’re getting there, Hyundai.
Reverse: The Wrench Came To Be
Get your birthday hats out and get ready to celebrate. Aug. 17, 1835 was the day that the almighty wrench came into this undeserving world of ours. From the U.S. Census Bureau’s website:
On this date in 1835, the adjustable or screw wrench was patented by Solymon Merrick of Springfield, Massachusetts. The modern looking wrench was soon followed by improved designs that are still in use today. There are 900 domestic establishments making the hand and edge tools that are the descendants of the prehistoric hammer stones and hand axes. The $5 billion a year industry employs some 23,000 people.
There’s something to celebrate.
Neutral: Would You Have Caught That “Anti-Theft Product” Charge?
Sure, sure, buying cars off of Craigslist is more fun. But if you ever have or do buy new cars at a dealership, do you go all the way down the list of what you’re paying for? Would you have caught the anti-theft product charged by the Nissan dealership, or not?