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: The Drama Is Real
Fiat Chrysler is by far the thirstiest carmaker in the world, repeatedly going after a merger with GM and whoever else will give the company the time of day. Most recently at the Geneva Motor Show, FCA boss Sergio Marchionne floated the idea of merging with VW. This did not go well, as Automotive News Europe reports:
GENEVA — Volkswagen Group is not open to merger talks with Italian rival Fiat Chrysler, CEO Matthias Mueller said on Wednesday, rebuffing comments from FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne.
“We are not ready for talks about anything,” he told Reuters on the fringes of the Geneva auto show. “I haven’t seen Marchionne for months.”
“We have other problems,” Mueller said.
“We have other problems” is incredible to hear from such a high-ranking exec. Only VW could make itself look bad, too, in this situation. Honestly, I’m kind of impressed.
2nd Gear: FCA Still Trying To Get Approval For U.S. Diesels
The thirstiness of Fiat Chrysler isn’t coming from nowhere; the company is still struggling to even get approval to sell 2017 diesels here in the United States, as Reuters reports:
In January, the Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board (CARB) accused the Italian-American automaker of illegally using hidden software to allow excess diesel emissions from 104,000 U.S. trucks and SUVs. The EPA has refused to grant Fiat Chrysler (FCA) approval to sell 2017 diesel models.
“We have been dealing with the EPA and CARB, we have engaged legal counsel. The only thing I can tell you is that we continue to work with the agencies to try and resolve this,” Marchionne told reporters at the Geneva auto show.
“We continue to offer full cooperation to the agency to try get this issue resolved. I think my main objective now is to get certification for the 2017 models,” he said.
If none of this is ringing a bell, we’ve written about how rough things look for Chrysler’s diesels in America before:
All of this only reminds me of how Mazda still has not gotten around to selling its diesels here in America. What I would give to have been in on some of those meetings.
3rd Gear: Circling Back To VW Group, Audi Is Getting Sued For Aussie Diesels
The sweeping scale of diesel’s worldwide meltdown continues to spread around the globe, first in America, then Europe and now intensifying in Australia. Audi is getting sued down there by the country’s consumer watchdog Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the eloquently-titled ACCC).
The suit builds on an existing one against Volkswagen and specifically lays out a complaint against Audi selling 12,000 cars in Australia with emissions-cheating software, and Automotive News reports on the details:
“The ACCC alleges that Audi AG and Audi Australia engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, made false or misleading representations and engaged in conduct liable to mislead the public in relation to certain diesel vehicle emission claims, and that VWAG was knowingly concerned in this conduct,” the ACCC said in a media release.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising, orders relating to the future use of findings of fact and costs.
The Federal Court action adds to what is already proving to be a costly legal fallout for the German company as it faces class action lawsuits in Australia and around the world over emissions fraud, as well as penalties from antitrust authorities.
VW’s earlier line that “We have other problems” looks very on the nose.
4th Gear: The UK Will Fight Diesel Emissions With Parking Costs
The UK seems to have come up with an innovational approach to combating diesel: hitting them with parking fees, as Autocar reports:
[Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip] Hammond was expected to launch the UK government’s planned diesel scrappage scheme, but it was not mentioned in the budget. The Department for Transport and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was considering offering a cashback payment or money off low-emission vehicles in exchange for buyers’ older, high-polluting diesel vehicles, in a bid to reduce transport pollution.
Several local government organisations have already begun to try to discourage people from driving diesel cars, with Westminster City Council announcing an increase in parking charges for diesel vehicles in a bid to cut nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in the Greater London borough. High levels of NO2 increase the risk of respiratory problems in humans and are said to increase the risk of cancer.
I guess the working solution here is to tax diesels out of existence. Looking through automotive history, this is probably the most effective approach possible.
5th Gear: As For Alternatives, There’s Not Much Out There
The most forward-looking auto show of the year is going on now, the Geneva Motor Show. What’s interesting is that there are no affordable electric vehicles on display, as Forbes points out:
Visitors to the annual car show here might wonder where all the new electric cars are hiding, but they can save their energy; there aren’t any new ones, at least not any affordable ones.
There are a few examples of expensive electric playthings, and concept cars which drive themselves, but that’s another revolution waiting in the wings for the technology to catch up.
Concepts like the diesel-turbine plug-in hybrid Techrules Ren, pictured above, and things like Bentley’s all-electric EXP12 Speed 6e are lovely, but it’s weird to see a gap in electric car development from the world’s top carmakers when their past eco tech is flopping so spectacularly.
Reverse: Let’s remember Bertha Benz, the first real driver
Normally we do an On This Day In History thing, but since the Women’s March is today I wanted to once more point to a very cool woman in automotive history, Bertha Benz, who pressed her husband’s automotive invention along and took the first real ‘drive’ in a car. We’ve written about her in detail before, and you should educate yourself:
Neutral: Who are the women who have guided your automotive life?
It’s as good a day as any to reflect on the women of the automotive world, both in a grand and in a personal sense. Who has guided you in your automotive life?