The Jeep Safari Concept, a preview of the upcoming Wrangler. Photo: Jeep

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, whether you know that they’re what you need to know or not.

1st Gear: It Feels Like Jeep Is The Only Thing Holding This House Up Anymore

Jeep sales have hit a lull this year, the Detroit Free Press reports, and that’s worrying, as in these days of cheap gas it feels like small SUVs and crossovers are the only things propping up the entire auto industry anymore.

Advertisement

While I might be sweating bullets, FCA isn’t as worried. The company claims that this sales drop is expected, as they are at the tail end of a bunch of product cycles, as the Freep notes:

Jeep also has a robust lineup of new products and key updates on the way over the next four years. Those plans include:

  • The Cherokee, which started rolling off the line last month in Belvidere, Ill., after production was moved from Toledo, is scheduled for a refresh in the first quarter of next year.
  • An updated version of the Renegade in 2018
  • The brand’s flagship model — Wrangler — is likely to be unveiled later this year at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
  • A Jeep pickup truck planned for 2019
  • A new Grand Cherokee and Wagoneer in 2020

All of those products should help Jeep to regain its momentum and grow for years to come.

But given current market conditions, the size of Jeep’s sales decline and market share is hard to overlook.

If Jeep goes down, I don’t know what kind of hope I can have for anybody else in this biz.

2nd Gear: Jeep’s Getting EPA Diesel Approval Any Minute Now. Any Minute...

I was sure that Dieselgate marked the end of any car company’s aspirations to sell new diesels, particularly in the United States, but I was wrong. Jeep is still going after EPA approval for American sales, as The Truth About Cars reports, citing an anonymous source who attended a private dealer meeting as told on the JL Wrangler Forums:

The anonymous source claims the 2018 Wrangler will debut without a compression ignition option. Hardly a surprise, given the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 lack of environmental certification. FCA sold over 100,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 models outfitted with unapproved emissions control devices, earning it a page in the EPA and Justice Department’s bad books. A “fixed” EcoDiesel hasn’t yet been approved.

However, it seems FCA remains confident the EPA will eventually go its way. The dealer source claims a diesel Wrangler should appear in late 2019, nearly two years after the models’s planned December 2017 introduction. (We’ll first see the model first at this November’s L.A. Auto Show.)

FCA, I might remind you, is still in the middle of its own diesel crisis. If it pulls this off, there’s hope for diesel yet. I’m not holding my breath, though.

3rd Gear: I Have No Idea How Big This German Price Fixing Scandal Will Get

I also have no idea how little it could end up being. Over the weekend we found out that Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes and BMW are all suspected for fixing prices together in a German auto industry kind of cartel. This would likely be the worlds most precise, moustachio’d cartel. Today’s news is that VW is apparently holding an emergency meeting to get its shit together, as Reuters reports:

Volkswagen will hold a special supervisory board meeting on Wednesday to discuss allegations that German carmakers operated a wide-ranging cartel, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

[...]

A VW spokesman confirmed an extraordinary supervisory board meeting would be held on Wednesday but declined to give details.

[...]

On Friday, German magazine Der Spiegel said VW, its Audi and Porsche brands, Mercedes-owner Daimler and BMW may have colluded to fix prices on components, including of diesel emissions treatment systems, using industry committees.

Spiegel said the talks also led to the use of smaller tanks containing AdBlue, a urea-based liquid needed to help filter nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel emissions. Larger tanks would have been more expensive, the magazine said.

Again, I have no idea how big this could get, but I also kind of get the vibe from the German government these days that they’d let things slide for their most internationally-respected industry. We’ll see.

4th Gear: Get Ready For The Impala To Die Again

We’ve reported before that sedans, particularly large sedans, constitute the saddest segment of the auto industry. Sales are so sad that, well, just don’t be surprised if the Chevy Impala dies again, at least going off of this report from Automotive News:

[T]he Impala’s chances of reaching an 11th generation look grim. Sales are tanking. Production has slowed to a crawl. An average Chevy dealership now sees about one Impala customer every two months.

[...]

The problem is that as many of those owners age, the segment isn’t attracting many new buyers beyond police departments and car-rental companies.

“If you want more room, you’re not looking for a car. You’re looking for an SUV,” [Jake] Fisher, [Consumer Reports’ director of auto testing] said. “For the same price, same fuel economy and more utility, you could get yourself an SUV, and sometimes one with a third-row seat.”

AN doesn’t blame the Impala for its poor sales, and that’s hard to argue with. Even the Chevy SS, in all of its rear-drive, V8 glory, couldn’t ever sell well.

5th Gear: Please Read This Story About Fisker Trying Again To Take On Tesla

Fisker is one of the more interesting companies in the car world, trying to make a luxury eco car in the right place at the right time and utterly, abjectly failing at it. Fisker’s original collapse wasn’t all his own fault. (Sandy, for instance, flooded hundreds of its cars.) So it’s fun to read about how the designer is taking another stab at the eco-luxo-sedan market while newer startups like Faraday Future shoot rockets at their own feet.

Advertisement

Automotive News got to interview Fisker himself, and came away with some choice quotes, including this one on how wild Fisker’s first foray into batteries went:

Fisker blames the downfall of Fisker Automotive partially on A123 Systems Inc., which supplied batteries for the Karma before filing for bankruptcy in 2012 — leaving him without a supplier.

“That was obviously detrimental for Fisker at that time,” he said. “My lesson learned there is that we need to make 100 percent sure of the battery technology that we launch with, which is why we chose LG Chem.”​

Representatives for LG Chem, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

Please, read the whole article.

Reverse: RIP The 121/Pride/Festiva

Neutral: Are You Worried About Jeep Or Nah?

I am. If there’s ever a company that has gone kerblooey even when it has every reason to succeed, it’s Jeep.