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: How Much Will Volkswagen Pay?
Yesterday a federal judge set a March deadline for Volkswagen to say whether it has a fix for 600,000 cheating diesels in the U.S. (although no penalty was announced if the automaker can’t meet it.) That’s only one of VW’s problems. The other is the lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice, for as much as $46 billion, for violating environmental laws.
According to a VW lawyer who spoke to Reuters, that’s moving along just fine:
Lawyer Robert Giuffra told U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer at a court hearing in San Francisco the automaker is making progress in trying to reach a settlement after it admitted to using software to emit up to 40 times legally allowable emissions in vehicles sold since 2009.
“The discussions are progressing,” Giuffra said.
The Justice Department last month sued VW for up to $46 billion for violating U.S. environmental laws.
Breyer said he wants a definite answer by March 24 from VW and the EPA on whether the sides have found an acceptable fix for the vehicles, noting that VW admitted the excess emissions nearly six months ago.
To recap: Toyota settled its suit with the Justice Department for $1.2 billion for concealing safety defects, and General Motors paid $900 million for the same. How much will VW have to pay for this?
2nd Gear: All The SUVs For Audi
It wouldn’t be a Morning Shift if I didn’t mention how people are buying so many SUVs and crossovers these days! At Audi, lots of new models coming out, and many of them start with Q, reports Bloomberg:
Audi is revving up its effort to topple BMW as the world’s top luxury-car brand with new SUVs ranging from the tiny Q2 to the full-size Q8.
After falling to third place behind Mercedes-Benz last year, Audi is seeking to reignite flagging growth and overcome the emissions scandal that tarnished the image at parent company Volkswagen Group.
Audi, which struggled last year because it had the oldest lineup among the three competitors, aims to regain an edge in 2016 by introducing new cars as BMW’s offerings age.
“The competition with our rivals will remain a neck-and-neck race,” Audi sales chief Dietmar Voggenreiter said in an interview at the company’s headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany. “We should get a tailwind from our new models.”
3rd Gear: EcoBoost 2.0
Speaking of trucks and SUVs, Ford’s early downsizing and turbocharging gambit clearly paid off, especially with its truck engines. That means a $145 million investment in its Cleveland plant for a second-generation of 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engines, reports Crain’s:
The engines will support the company’s 2017 F-150 pickup, including a new F-150 Raptor.
Ford said 150 jobs will be created or retained at the plant, which employs more than 1,500 people.
The engine factory produces the company’s current 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine for the Ford F-150, Explorer, Expedition, Transit, Flex and Taurus. More than 1 million EcoBoost engines have been built since 2009.
4th Gear: Another Record Month, Probably
Automotive News reports you people bought a shit-ton of cars in February again, even though the weather was bad: U.S. auto sales, after being slowed last month by winter storms, are on pace to reach the highest level for any February since 2000, some forecasts released this week show.
Purchases delayed from January and a bevy of Presidents Day deals are likely to push February sales up about 8 percent, according to Edmunds.com and LMC Automotive. That would result in a seasonally adjusted, annualized selling rate of 17.7 million units, up from 17.6 million in January and 16.4 million a year ago.
TrueCar said it expects sales this month to climb 6.6 percent higher than February 2015, with a SAAR of 17.5 million. Kelley Blue Book was more optimistic, projecting a 9 percent gain and a SAAR of 17.9 million.
The February 2000 SAAR came in at 18.9 million.
5th Gear: Maven Takes On Zipcar
GM has launched its car-sharing service Maven at the University of Michigan campus, and it’s set to expand the program later in 2016. The Detroit Free Press reports it has a loyal customer base at Zipcar to contend with first:
Many automakers, including GM, have launched ride-sharing pilot projects in selected cities, but GM has raised its profile. In January, it announced it is investing $500 million in Lyft, the nation’s second-largest provider of on-demand ride-sharing after Uber. Then GM acquired assets and hired about 20 employees from Sidecar, a defunct San Francisco-based ride-sharing service that halted operations at the end of 2015.
But Maven, like Zipcar, is a car-sharing service that targets people who need access to a car for short, well-defined periods.
Unlike Zipcar, which offers a diverse range of vehicles from many automakers, Maven initially will offer four Chevrolet models in Ann Arbor: the Spark, Volt, Malibu and Tahoe. Maven’s hourly rates will range from $6 (or $42 a day) for the Spark and Volt, to $8 (or $56 a day) for the Malibu, to $12 (or $84 per day) for the Tahoe.
Reverse: Remember That?
Neutral: What Should VW Pay?
What do you think a fair settlement would be for VW, including other reparations?