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: Takata Goes Ahead And Pleads Guilty, Will Pay $1 Billion In Deal
We knew this was coming, but it’s amazing to actually see it happen. Takata’s CFO Yoichiro Nomura pleaded guilty in a Detroit court yesterday and accepted a $1 billion deal, as The Detroit Free Press reports:
Japanese auto supplier Takata, one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, pleaded guilty as a corporation in Detroit today to fraud and told a federal judge its behavior over a 15-year period was “deeply in appropriate.”
In doing so, the company accepted a $1-billion settlement with the U.S. government.
The story of Takata, though, is likely far from over as automakers are still arguing that they did absolutely nothing wrong and it’s all Takata’s fault.
Also, Takata has to now look for a buyer or collapse, as Reuters reports, so that will be interesting.
2nd Gear: Pickup Truck ‘Price War’ Is On As GM Boosts Incentives
The new Ram looks wonderful! The new F-150 is a revolution! The Silverado is... fine! With sales going down, General Motors is now ramping up its incentives on its big-value pickup trucks, as Automotive News reports:
General Motors boosted incentives on its pickup models this month after its biggest foes gained ground, intensifying a price war within the U.S. auto market’s most hotly contested segment.
The rise in incentive activity also reflects the U.S. auto market slowing down following a seven-year streak of expansion.
“It’s taking a lot more incentives now to move the metal than it did last year or certainly the year before,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with car-shopping website Autotrader.com. “Things are slowing.”
GM is spending 26 percent more in discounts on each Silverado truck than Fiat Chrysler does for its Ram and 85 percent more than Ford does on its on F series, according to the Power Information Network data, which J.D. Power doesn’t release to the public.
This is making me feel like it’s the Bush years all over again.
3rd Gear: Overcapacity Hits The U.S. Again
Speaking of American carmakers aimlessly boosting sales, we’re now getting into some serious overcapacity territory, as Automotive News notes:
Across dealer lots in America, inventory is piling up as automakers produce more cars than are being bought. Dealers had about 85 days worth of cars and trucks on hand at the beginning of February — about 22 days more than at the beginning of 2017 and eight days more than a year earlier, according to Automotive News Data Center.
“The sales are good, I just have more product on the ground than I’ve had before,” said Kull, who has about 60 days of passenger cars including Civic compacts and Accord sedans stocked at an office parking lot down the road from his Honda store in Marlton, N.J.. He prefers to have just 45 days worth of cars on hand.
The inventory glut also is a reflection of the challenge it’s been for companies to make deep enough cuts to production of slumping passenger cars, which Americans are snubbing in favor of light trucks.
This is in stark contrast to what we’ve been hearing from the White House, that the Big Three need to build more plants and more capacity here in the U.S.
4th Gear: Michigan Is Fighting To Be America’s Home For Autonomous Cars
For years we’ve been hearing about how the Big Three have been working to compete with Silicon Valley in terms of basic automotive technology. Mostly this has been about software and interfaces. Now it’s about supporting self-driving cars as a whole, as The Detroit News reports:
Gov. Rick Snyder has assembled an advisory panel to help guide Michigan’s progress on mobility issues and driverless vehicles.
That council is tasked with bringing back preliminary recommendations quickly. Snyder has asked for suggested policy changes by the end of March.
Michigan is in a race with other states to be the leader on new technologies that are shaping the auto industry and transportation in general. The panel was created under legislation passed last year that was intended to encourage autonomous vehicle development in Michigan.
Good luck with that.
5th Gear: Uber Fighting London Against English Test
Uber, which is doomed, has now found itself in another fight somewhere around the world.
This time it’s in London, where the city requires cabbies to be able to speak English. You’d think this would be a reasonable regulation, but Uber doesn’t like the idea of regulating its drivers in any way shape or form, as Reuters reports:
Tens of thousands of London private hire drivers could lose their licenses due to new English reading and writing requirements, taxi app Uber said on Tuesday at the start of a court battle to halt the plans.
Uber launched legal action in August after public body Transport for London (TfL) said that drivers should have to prove their ability to communicate in English, including to a standard of reading and writing which Uber says is too high.
The transport body has said it is important for public safety that drivers can communicate in English to an appropriate level and that it needs to better regulate the sector which has grown significantly in recent years, leading to congestion.
At this point I’m just impressed that Uber can find so many people, organizations and governments in the world to have fights with.
Neutral: America’s F1 Champion Mario Andretti Is Born
Reverse: How Will We Look Back On This Era Of Automobile History?
We like to talk about how much progress is being made today in the car world, that cars are better than ever before and only improving, but the massive recalls and safety crises of late (Takata included) have me wondering again if we’ll look back on this moment in time as a confused interim between human-driven cars and self-driven cars.
But I really don’t know. What do you think?