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: What To Expect When You’re Expecting Detroit
Welcome to the first official workday of 2016! And with a new year comes the biggest auto show in America in the Motor City next week. What can we expect this year? Well, probably nothing as nuts as the new Ford GT or Corvette Stingray like in previous years, but a solid lineup of important cars.
Automotive News has a good roundup of what to look for: the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the next Chrysler Town & Country minivan, the Honda Ridgeline pickup, the Lexus LC big coupe that also debuts a new modular platform, the production version of the Lincoln Continental, and the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback.
2nd Gear: Faraday Future Loses Chief Battery Engineer Already
We won’t know until later today or tonight whether this crazy beast is really the Faraday Future concept or not, but already the much-hyped startup has lost its chief battery architect to Lotus, but not that Lotus. Here’s Bloomberg:
Porter Harris left the company this month and lists his current employer as Lotus Research and Development LLC on his LinkedIn Page. His e-mail address is listed as the primary contact on Lotus R&D’s website. Harris was responsible for engineering and designing Faraday’s battery packs.
The departure is untimely for Faraday, which just signed an agreement to build a $1 billion factory north of Las Vegas to make electric vehicles and has its coming-out party at CES this week. Faraday has been secretive, even refusing to divulge the name of it chief executive officer.
Seeing as how chief contact info at Lotus Research and Development LLC’s website is firstname.lastname@example.org, it looks like he maybe started his own company. Still, an interesting departure right before the company’s big debut.
3rd Gear: Gas Is Cheap And May Get Even Cheaper In 2016
Good news! The drops in gas prices we saw in 2015 are likely to continue into this year, and maybe get even cheaper. Via CNN Money:
AAA, which compiles gas price information from around the country, is projecting that gas prices will stay lower in the year ahead — maybe even lower than this year.
It estimates that the average price of a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline would be between $2.25 and $2.45 a gallon. In 2015, the average price per gallon was $2.40 — Americans saved $540 on gas as a result.
In its report, AAA also said it projected that the national average would stay steady or drop another 10 cents in the coming weeks. Even though gas prices can vary by season, AAA said it didn’t think the average would go above $3 a gallon this year.
I do worry a bit about the effect cheap gas prices have on the development of electrification, but with fuel economy standards become ever-stringent, it’s probably not that big a deal. In the meantime, enjoy cheap gas in the vehicle of your choice. I know I will.
4th Gear: Midcycle Refreshes Are Now More Extensive
It used to be that a car’s midcycle refresh—updates after a few years on sale short of an all-new model—merely included cosmetic options or a handful of new options. That’s not the case anymore. Now midcycle updates are much more comprehensive updates to pack cars with the latest technology, and in some cases, new engines and gearboxes. Via Automotive News:
At the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, Ford introduced the 2017 Escape with two new engines, new interior and its new Sync 3 infotainment system. And Toyota used its 2015 midcycle Camry as the launch pad for a corporate mission statement directly from Akio Toyoda, who wants more emotion in Toyota vehicles. Toyota spent roughly three times as much on the face-lift as it would have previously, estimates Monte Kaehr, the Camry’s chief engineer, who declines to give a figure.
“The 2012 Camry was doing well in the marketplace,” Kaehr said. “We did research with customers and intenders to see what they appreciated and what needed to be approved.”
I always get annoyed for the people who buy a new car, only for that same car to get a ton more features and stuff just a year or two later. But hey, that’s the game.
5th Gear: Supplier Says Diesel Is Doomed In The U.S.
Automotive supplier Continental is not optimistic about the future of diesel in the U.S. in the wake of Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal. Via Reuters:
Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) emissions test-cheating scandal could kill nascent markets for diesel cars in North America, Japan and China, the chief executive of automotive supplier Continental (CONG.DE) has told a German newspaper.
“The diesel passenger car could sooner or later disappear from these markets,” Elmar Degenhart said in an interview with markets daily Boersen-Zeitung published on Thursday.
He added that diesel had a market share of only 1-3 percent in these countries, compared with 53 percent in Europe.
[...] “We are convinced that it is only a matter of time before electromobility, and there I include hydrogen power in the long term, prevails,” Degenhart said.
I’m not sure I agree with his take on hydrogen specifically, but at least as far as diesel passenger cars (read: not trucks, not yet) are concerned, he’s probably right. Automakers who aren’t VW struggled with diesel emissions certifications before, so why go in that direction now? Diesel is doomed here.
Reverse: The Ill-Fated EV1 Turns 20