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: The Revolution Will Not Happen Overnight
Self-driving cars are just five years away from being all over our roads!, we are told by the Silicon Valley futurists and the auto industry experts and regulators determined to reduce our traffic fatalities. While that is certainly a noble goal, one big factor that gets lost in all the hype is how skeptical normal human drivers still are of the technology.
Some 62% of those surveyed in by the auto-valuation outfit “don’t think all vehicles will be fully autonomous in my lifetime.” More surprisingly, a third of Gen Z respondents (ages 12 to 15) agree, which means we will still be driving ourselves towards the end of this century.
That’s a far cry from 2021, the self-driving car arrival date recently put forth by Google, Ford, Uber and others.
- Human drivers, please: 56% said they would prefer to get picked up in an Uber or Lyft that’s driven by a human vs. a computer.
- Ride-sharing users most open to auto tech: 69% of those who use ride-sharing services feel that Level 5 cars will be safe, compared to 42% of non-ride sharing respondents.
- Driving still considered fun: 80% felt “people should always have an option to drive themselves” and 62% reported that they “love to drive.”
- Autonomous what?: 79% said they’ve heard of “self-driving vehicles,” but only 41% recognize the term “autonomous vehicles.”
The survey polled 2,264 people between the ages of 12 and 64, which obviously includes some people not yet old enough to drive but who will encounter some form of autonomy when they do start eventually. (Which is crazy to think about.) It backs up the idea that autonomous cars still have a long way to go, and not just in terms of tech and regulation.
2nd Gear: Takata Said To Be In Talks To Resolve Criminal Case
Just like Volkswagen is said to be doing, and like General Motors and Toyota before them, troubled airbag supplier Takata is reportedly in talks with the U.S. Justice Department to resolve a criminal investigation. The Wall Street Journal reports Takata could be charged with with criminal wire fraud:
U.S. Justice Department investigators have held preliminary discussions with Takata that picked up steam in August, the people said. Prosecutors are currently awaiting a proposal from the company on how to resolve an anticipated criminal case, the people said. The discussions are continuing without a firm timetable for reaching a settlement, they said.
Prosecutors are weighing charging Takata with criminal wire fraud after determining the company likely made misleading statements and concealed information about air bags that can explode and spray shrapnel in vehicle cabins, the people said. The safety crisis is linked to 14 deaths and more than 100 injuries globally. Prosecutors haven’t discussed a specific charge with Takata and could pursue other kinds of criminal violations in the case, the people said.
Auto makers are recalling nearly 70 million Takata air bags in the U.S. alone, the largest ever such automotive safety campaign. The Japanese supplier has acknowledged providing misleading testing reports on air bags to customers including Honda Motor Co., while adding the discrepancies weren’t tied to safety devices that later exploded. The misleading reports are a significant focus of the criminal investigation, some of the people said.
I wonder how much they’ll end up paying.
3rd Gear: While Another Fatal Airbag Explosion Is Reported
Meanwhile, Takata’s problems seem to show no signs of ending. Via Reuters:
Honda Motor Co Ltd (7267.T) said on Wednesday that the driver-side airbag inflator ruptured during a fatal crash in Malaysia, in the fourth death this year in the Southeast Asian country linked to airbags from supplier Takata Corp (7312.T).
The incident on Sept. 24 took place in Johor, a state in southern Malaysia, and involved a 2009 Honda City. The car was part of a product recall announced by Honda in June last year, that required the replacement of the Takata driver’s front airbag, the company said in a statement.
No details of the victim were provided.
4th Gear: Marchionne Out At Paris
Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne was supposed to appear at the upcoming Paris Motor Show, but he has bowed out with no comment from the manufacturer. Via Reuters:
“The media availability with Sergio Marchionne on Sept. 29 at the Paris Motor Show has been canceled,” FCA (FCHA.MI) (FCAU.N) said in a statement. A spokesperson later added that Marchionne would not be coming to the show at all.
As that story notes, Marchionne also didn’t go to Frankfurt last year when his company was in labor talks in the U.S. The same thing is currently happening in Canada, so that may be why.
5th Gear: The Lights In Paris
The big news out of this year’s Paris Motor Show will be electrification. And here’s Automotive News on how that market is becoming increasingly crowded, with established players like Volkswagen, Renault and Opel seeking to compete with the newcomers:
VW is leading the charge, keen to turn a page after its exposure last year as a U.S. emissions test cheat. The carmaker is showcasing new electric vehicle architecture underpinning a June pledge to achieve annual sales of 2 million to 3 million electric cars by 2025.
“Everyone’s watching VW - they’ve set out some very high expectations,” said Ian Fletcher, an analyst with consulting firm IHS Automotive.
“Brands like Renault, Nissan and Tesla are still going to be mainstays, but there will be far greater competition for electrification.”
Nissan’s 2010 Leaf kicked off the contemporary crop of battery-only cars, joined two years later by alliance partner Renault’s Zoe hatchback.
At least in America, they face the challenge of cheap gasoline.