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: GM Ignition Switch Lawsuit Dropped
Breaking news! The first bellwether ignition switch lawsuit against General Motors has been dropped by its plaintiff.
The case took a turn for the weird this week, with Robert Scheuer—a mailman who claims to have been badly injured in a Saturn Ion crash—getting accused of check forgery, real estate fraud and perjury by the automaker. Those matters had been discussed away from the jury, but on Thursday the judge decided they would hear about it after all.
And so this morning, Automotive News reports Scheuer is dropping his lawsuit:
According to a filing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the plaintiff Robert Scheuer agreed to voluntarily dismiss his claims against the automaker with prejudice. Scheuer agreed to take nothing on his claims, the filing showed.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman said Thursday that GM could show a jury evidence which he said would probably be “devastating” to Scheuer’s case. He and his wife, Lisa, are accused by the car company of not telling the truth on the witness stand about why GM was to blame for the Scheuer family’s eviction from their “dream house.”
“We said all along that each case would be decided on its own merits, and we had already started to show by strong, clear and convincing evidence to the jury that the ignition switch didn’t have anything to do with Mr. Scheuer’s accident or injuries,” GM said in a statement today. “The apparent lies the plaintiff and his wife told the jury ended the trial early, and we are pleased that the case is over without any payment whatsoever to the Mr. Scheuer.”
So much for that. Scheuer and his wife have since hired criminal defense lawyers as well.
2nd Gear: All The Recalls
Automakers recalled a record 51.26 million vehicles in 2015 in 868 campaigns — another record, the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration said Thursday.
The tally is slightly above 2014’s record, which stood at 50.99 million vehicles after being adjusted downward.
“Clearly, massive recalls are still a prominent feature of the safety landscape,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said at the Washington Auto Show.
“NHTSA has made major efforts in the last year to improve our processes for identifying vehicle defects, and that effort will continue. ... But identifying defects is not enough. We have to make sure they get fixed.”
Remember, recalls, while annoying, are largely a good thing. It’s better than leaving these problems un-fixed.
3rd Gear: Be Fair, Volkswagen
Volkswagen has stepped up to offer various compensation packages to customers burned by the diesel cheating scandal, but they have not been the same in all the different markets VW sells cars in. A German justice minister says that’s not fair, reports Reuters:
Volkswagen is not doing itself any favors by offering unequal compensation for U.S. and European customers following an emissions scandal last year, a German justice ministry spokesman said on Friday.
“This unequal treatment ... cannot be in the interest of VW,” the spokesman said during a regular news conference.
On Tuesday, European Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska demanded in a letter to VW’s chief executive that U.S. and European customers be compensated in the same way after the company’s emissions scandal.
4th Gear: Honda To Sell A Fuel Cell Car In California
Honda announced it will join Toyota and Hyundai in selling a fuel cell car by the end of this year in California, but it won’t be cheap. Here’s Reuters:
Honda is the latest automaker to bring a small number of hydrogen powered vehicles to market amid increasing zero emission vehicle mandates from California and other U.S. states.
The Japanese automaker made the announcement at the Washington auto show, saying the next-generation Honda Clarity Fuel Cell model will cost around $60,000 with a targeted monthly lease under $500. Honda declined to say how many it planned to sell.
The vehicle will go on sale in Japan in a few months and in the United States by end of the year. It will initially only be leased.
5th Gear: Ghosn Wants Better Testing
As his company Renault increasingly comes under scrutiny for diesel emissions, Nissan-Renault boss Carlos Ghosn said he wants testing to more accurately reflect real-world emissions, reports Bloomberg:
Renault SA Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn said regulators need to determine new terms for checking vehicle emissions after probes sparked by Volkswagen AG’s test cheating exposed differences between laboratory results and cars’ on-street performance.
Readings from day-to-day vehicle use are always “multiples” of figures from testing, and so-called “real driving emissions” aren’t yet regulated, Ghosn said in his first remarks since a French government investigation of Renault came to light a week ago.
“The question is what’s acceptable” to authorities, and “we are hoping that there is going to be a position from the European Commission on that.”
Reverse: Get Off My Lawn