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: ‘It’s Scaring Dealers’
Say what you want about Volkswagen and its diesel cheating, but you have to feel for the rank-and-file employees whose work lives have gone to shit while the company scrambles for a fix and is left unable to sell many cars. That includes the dealers.
And as Dieselgate stretches into its third month, Automotive News reports on how dealers are increasingly frustrated with the company:
“This thing isn’t getting better with time,” said Alan Brown, co-owner of two Hendrick Volkswagen dealerships in suburban Dallas and chairman of VW’s dealer council. “We don’t have a fix. We don’t have a timeline.” The unknown, he added, is “what makes the anxiety of this even worse.”
[...] Meanwhile, an information vacuum has put the value of affected VW diesels under a cloud of uncertainty. Competing brands’ dealers won’t accept the used TDIs on trade, and VW dealers feel pressure to absorb them at depressed prices to reflect their more than 15 percent price drop at auctions since the scandal.
A VW offer to repurchase used TDIs from dealers at guaranteed pre-crisis prices turned out to be a one-time program for vehicles in stock as of Oct. 22, and customers looking to unload their TDIs now are seeing offers that leave them “very frustrated,” Brown said.
“It’s scaring [dealers] because we don’t know how long we’re going to sit on the cars,” Brown said.
Perplexingly, Volkswagen has actually dialed back some of the strong incentives on new cars—incentives many competitors are happy to offer this time of year—which helped mitigate sales declines for a while. That leads to concerns like this gem:
Emich says he hasn’t sold any 2016 Passats since his shipments of the re-engineered car began arriving last month. “The 2016 Passat, unfortunately, is missing some incentives,” Emich said. “It’s essentially a face-lifted car that they’re treating like a redesigned or new model.”
Ouch. Hang in there, guys.
2nd Gear: Hyundai Goes Electric/Hybrid
Here’s the teaser shot for the Hyundai Ioniq, and Automotive News says it will be unveiled next month with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric versions to do battle with the Toyota Prius and other green models:
Detailing the plans today in a release, Hyundai called the Ioniq the first nameplate from any manufacturer to offer either an all-electric, traditional gasoline-electric hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain. A teaser photo depicts a black compact vehicle with a triangular silhouette, lowered front hood and raised rear deck.
The Ioniq will debut in South Korea next month, and then be shown at the Geneva and New York auto shows in March, Hyundai said in a release.
“Our vision for future mobility focuses on choice, with a variety of powertrain options to suit customers’ varied lifestyles, without compromising on design or driving enjoyment,” Hyundai global r&d chief Yang Woong-Chul said in the statement. “Ioniq is the fruit of our efforts to become the leader in the global green car market.”
3rd Gear: HERE!
Today Nokia officially completed the sale of its mapping arm to a consortium consisting of BMW, Daimler and Audi. It’s been the works since August, but it’s legit now to the tune of 2.55 billion euros.
This is a big deal for more than just your in-car navigation system. Auto Express explains why:
HERE maps supply four out of five vehicles, so when Nokia put the service up for sale in April there were fears that it could be purchased by a tech company that could then monopolise in-car mapping. BMW, Audi and Mercedes/Daimler collaborated to prevent this, and also to avoid disruption to the development of self-driving vehicles.
The German manufacturers are said to have beaten competition from Uber, amongst other interested parties.
Maps are becoming an increasingly critical component for vehicles, as cars become more autonomous. “High-precision digital maps are a crucial component of the mobility of the future,” Dieter Zetsche, Daimler chief executive, said in a statement.
4th Gear: It Will Be THE Minivan
Arguably the biggest debut at next month’s Detroit Auto Show won’t be a performance car, but rather the new Chrysler Town & Country, which is a massive deal for that brand and the minivan segment in general. Minivans are a smaller segment than they used to be thanks to crossovers, but Fiat Chrysler officials told The Detroit Free Press they want to “own it.”
And no Dodge version this time, either.
It represents the future with plans to offer a plug-in hybrid version even though FCA and its CEO Sergio Marchionne have been reluctant to embrace electric vehicles. Marchionne now sees the minivan as the test ground for consumer acceptance of hybrid technology with the expectation most of the fleet will adopt alternative powertrains by 2023.
Investment in a new generation of minivans also represents resiliency for not giving up on a segment that other automakers have abandoned, leaving Chrysler, Honda and Toyota as the last big players. General Motors and Ford exited the segment years ago.
The development of a new Chrysler Town & Country but not a new Dodge Grand Caravan reflects Marchionne’s edict to stop duplication among brands. But in the end, the automaker did not want to abandon the lower end of the price range so the decision was made to keep building the current generation of the Dodge Grand Caravan indefinitely for sale in both the U.S. and Canada.
5th Gear: Dual-Clutch Decline?
We are fortunate to live in an era when automatic transmissions don’t completely suck anymore, for the most part. For a long time dual-clutch gearboxes were positioned as the future of the autobox thanks to stellar performance. But Automotive News posits they’ve had a harder time out of the gate than expected:
Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. suffered a spate of complaints after introducing dual- clutch transmissions in the Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta and Acura TLX. And Fiat Chrysler — which once planned to produce 700,000 dual- shift gearboxes a year in the U.S. — has dropped it from its long-term plans for North America.
Consumer Reports and J.D. Power have both reported a sharp uptick in complaints about faulty transmissions, as automakers seeking better fuel economy rolled out dual-clutch gearboxes, continuously variable transmissions and eight- and nine-speed transmissions.
“In the past, transmissions were things you could count on, but that’s no longer true,” said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ director of auto testing. “We are seeing major problems that will leave people stranded on the side of the road.”
Part of the problem is consumer expectations, AN reports. Americans aren’t used to the low-speed shudder and manual-like behavior that DCTs sometimes exhibit, and that’s led to both complaints and lawsuits. “If people aren’t used to it, they think something is wrong,” a researcher said. Of course.
Reverse: Lower Manhattan Expressway!