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: A Fix For All The Cheaters
The vast majority of emissions-cheating Volkswagen Group engines were the 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-bangers found in the Golf, A3 and other models, but the potent 3.0-liter V6 engine had problems too.
But! A fix is said to be coming too, reports Bloomberg (emphasis mine):
The ongoing talks focus on ironing out final technical details and reviewing test results to ensure the reliability of a software upgrade, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
A new catalytic converter may accompany the upgrade to overcome concerns over the issue, which affects about 85,000 Audi, Porsche and VW vehicles. Talks between Volkswagen and U.S. regulators remain fluid and no final decision has been reached, the people said.
While a recall plan for the 3-liter diesel engines was proposed in February, an agreement has been delayed as Volkswagen and U.S. regulators focus on the issues affecting about 480,000 vehicles with smaller engines that were deliberately rigged to pass official emissions tests. The ultimate timing of an agreement on 3-liter diesels depends on a broader settlement over the cheating scandal in the U.S., the people said. Representatives for Volkswagen and the Environmental Protection Agency declined to comment.
2nd Gear: Mitsubishi Takes A Hit
Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s fraudulent fuel-economy testing and the subsequent plunge in its stock price and sales could cost Mitsubishi Corp., its second-largest shareholder, about 335 billion yen ($3 billion), as the Japanese carmaker’s disclosure reverberates.
Mitsubishi Corp., which owns 10 percent of Mitsubishi Motors, is the first of the automaker’s major shareholders to measure the potential impact of improper fuel economy testing dating back 25 years. It also joined Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., the carmaker’s biggest stock owner, in saying it can’t comment at this point whether to extend aid to the carmaker.
“We cannot say anything particular about the support, as we do not know the whole picture,” President Takehiko Kakiuchi said at a briefing in Tokyo today. As a shareholder of Mitsubishi Motors, the fraud at the carmaker is “extremely regrettable,” he said.
3rd Gear: Takata’s Titanic Moment
One more story from Bloomberg today about automotive companies in huge trouble! This one’s about Takata, which is having a lot of problems getting out ahead on the potentially lethal explosive airbag recall crisis:
The embattled Japanese supplier chalked up its latest forecast — for a 13 billion yen ($121 million) annual loss for the year ended in March — to charges it’s booking for recall costs and settlements with consumers injured by its rupture-prone air bags. Those 20.1 billion yen in provisions were announced days before a U.S. regulator’s order that may add 35 million to 40 million devices to the recall list.
Also unaccounted for are the demands Takata may face from automakers that have shouldered most of the financial burden of the biggest safety crisis in the industry’s history. Mazda Motor Corp. — one of the relatively smaller carmakers affected by the air-bag recalls — booked twice as big a charge as Takata last fiscal year. The supplier also still faces class-action lawsuits in the U.S. for which it’s been unable to estimate the financial toll.
“Takata’s recall crisis is like the Titanic hitting the iceberg,” Takeshi Miyao, an analyst with Tokyo-based market researcher Carnorama, said by phone. “You don’t realize the enormity until you see the impact from it.”
4th Gear: GM Bounces Back From Japan’s Earthquakes
Yes, General Motors. Turns out they had supply issues with the devastating Japanese quakes too, once again showing the globalized and interconnected nature of the car business. Via The Detroit News:
General Motors Co. said Monday it has resumed production at four North American assembly plants after it had to idle them for two weeks because of a parts shortage following recent earthquakes in Japan.
GM spokesman Tom Wickham said production at the company’s Spring Hill plant in Tennessee; Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas; Lordstown plant in Ohio and Oshawa Flex plant in Ontario resumed Monday. The plants had been down since April 25.
Wickham said GM has not had any inventory issues.
5th Gear: Hey Teens
Chevrolet launches a website to sell rad small cars to all the teens, since grown-ups aren’t really buying small cars anymore. Via The Detroit Free Press:
A new site, to be called ChevySmallCars.com, is aimed at “a younger, more socially savvy buyer,” according to Steve Majoros, Chevrolet director of cars and crossovers. “We’ve introduced a lot of new vehicles in the last few years and the new website is a great way to expose a portion of our portfolio that not everyone knows about.”
The three small models accounted for 6.7% of Chevrolet’s U.S. sales of 656,172 this year through April. The Trax, a subcompact crossover, is doing quite well, as its year-to-date sales are up 39% to 18,237. But sales of Sonic and Spark are 11% and 36%, respectively.
Buy a Spark, teens!
Reverse: The First Time But Not The Last