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 About Mitsubishi In America?
By most accounts, Nissan’s taking a controlling stake in Mitsubishi Motors is a plus for both companies. It helps scandal-plagued Mitsubishi get back on track and provides new resources and a lucrative Southeast Asian market for Nissan. Everybody wins.
Except maybe in the U.S., where Mitsubishi’s future still remains uncertain.
While Nissan isn’t doing anything dire like phasing out the Mitsubishi brand globally, Automotive News points out Nissan does not have a ton of incentive to get Mitsubishi squared away in America:
With Nissan racing to build its own U.S. market share and struggling to get enough factory capacity to supply its own retailers, the prospect of pausing to help build up a Japanese-brand competitor looks like an unlikely move as the companies sketch out their plans.
[...] Helping Mitsubishi find its footing in the U.S. market after years of setbacks and decline would require a new product portfolio, which would likely translate to Mitsubishi versions of Nissan’s core products. Nissan is already feeling a capacity pinch in North America. It has turned to a Japanese factory for a third source of Rogue crossovers, as its plants in the U.S. and Mexico run on three shifts.
Even Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said he’s not sure yet:
“The potential for cooperation in the Americas in general, not only North America but South America, has absolutely not been touched,” Ghosn said.
“We know there is a potential,” he said of the global potential. “But we did not take the time yet to identify it. Purchasing, common platform, joint technology, Southeast Asia. These are obvious things.”
And even Nissan’s North American chairman admits “I don’t follow Mitsubishi in the United States so much.”
2nd Gear: Nissan’s Suppliers Hate Nissan Too
According to a newly released annual survey of suppliers to the top six North American automakers, Nissan sank into a virtual last-place tie with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
By contrast, General Motors — typically a cellar-dweller in factory-supplier relationships — improved significantly after vendors gave GM purchasing chief Steve Kiefer improved grades, reflecting his first year on the purchasing job after running GM Powertrain.
[...] Both companies appear to be feeling some heat. Nissan is in the final 12-month stretch of its global Power 88 business plan to increase global operating profits. And FCA has consistently lagged other automakers in annual surveys of supplier relations.
Separately, FCA slipped from fifth to seventh place among major automakers in the most recent biennial North American Suppliers’ Choice Study by Deloitte and Automotive News.
Nissan suppliers are unhappy about a year-old campaign there to slash component prices, Henke says of his findings. “Things are decidedly getting worse.”
3rd Gear: Nissan Swears It Wasn’t Cheating
One more gear about Nissan. Right as the automaker seized on Mitsubishi’s fuel cheating crisis to take a controlling stake in the company, it gets accused of diesel cheating on the Qashqai SUV in South Korea. Via Reuters:
South Korea said it would punish Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) with a fine and a recall of its Qashqai diesel sport utility vehicles after accusing it of manipulating emissions, an allegation that the Japanese automaker denied.
The finding is an embarrassment for Nissan, which blew the whistle on Mitsubishi Motors Corp’s (7211.T) mileage-cheating scandal and last week announced it was buying a $2.2 billion stake for de facto control of Mitsubishi.
South Korea’s environment ministry said it believed Nissan had used a so-called defeat device in Qashqai to turn off its exhaust reduction system under regular driving temperatures.
The ministry said it would fine Nissan 330 million won ($279,920), and order a recall of the 814 new Qashqai vehicles sold in the country so far. It also plans to file a complaint against the head of its local operations with prosecutors.
Will this happen in other markets too?
4th Gear: Hyundai Poaches Another Bentley Designer
Last year Hyundai managed to hire Bentley’s design chief Luc Donckerwolke, and now Reuters reports the Korean automaker has Bentley’s chief exterior designer as well:
Hyundai issued a statement saying Sangyup Lee will start work next month as its head of design, after Reuters reported the hiring of the Korean designer by the South Korean auto giant.
Lee is being brought in to work with Luc Donckerwolke, a Peruvian-born Belgian, to lead Hyundai’s development of its Genesis premium car brand - a project driven by Chung Euisun, heir-apparent to the Hyundai Group.
“Lee will help...enhance the design competitiveness of both the Hyundai and Genesis brands with his abundant experience in designing high-end luxury vehicles,” Hyundai said in its statement.
“His challenging and innovative design languages fit well with the DNA of Hyundai Motor.”
Hyundai’s upping their game even more lately, it seems.
5th Gear: Driverless Cars Will Be Driving A Lot More
One of the key benefits to autonomous cars, supposedly, will be reduced traffic congestion. But what if different demographics start to use them a whole lot more, and that ends up not being the case? Via the AP:
Experts foresee robot cars chauffeuring children to school, dance class and baseball practice. The disabled and elderly will have new mobility. Commuters will be able to work, sleep, eat or watch movies on the way to the office. People may stay home more because they can send their cars to do things like pick up groceries they’ve ordered online.
Researchers believe the number of miles driven will skyrocket. It’s less certain whether that will mean a corresponding surge in traffic congestion, but it’s a clear possibility.
[...] Based on focus groups in Atlanta, Denver and Chicago, KPMG predicts autonomous “mobility-on-demand” services — think Uber and Lyft without a driver — will result in double-digit increases in travel by people in two age groups: those over 65, and those 16 to 24.
Vehicles traveled a record 3.1 trillion miles in the U.S. last year. Increased trips in autonomous cars by those two age groups would boost miles traveled by an additional 2 trillion miles annually by 2050, KPMG calculated. If self-driving cars without passengers start running errands, the increase could be double that.