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.
It’s Day One of the Detroit Auto Show, the most magical time of the year! We’re here in the Motor City trying not to freeze our asses off as we bring you the latest debuts from the show floor. Also, we slept in vans last night at Cobo Hall.
1st Gear: VW CEO Confirms Catalytic Converter Is Proposed Fix
“We have one [catalytic converter] in the works and we believe that that will be a part of the technical solutions,” Mueller told reporters at a VW event Sunday on the eve of the Detroit auto show.
Asked whether he expects the new catalytic converter to bring the vehicles into line with U.S. emissions standards, the CEO replied: “Yes, we believe that this is possible.”
Mueller is meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy this week, where he plans to make his proposal.
Part of the proposal will include a buyback offer for at least some cars, Mueller said. More on this later today for sure.
2nd Gear: More Compensation For Diesel Owners
Another nice get from Reuters here: more incentives coming to VW TDI owners, this time people who own the Touareg.
Volkswagen Group of America President and CEO Michael Horn said late on Sunday on the sidelines of a media event that the German automaker would announce on Monday at an event at the Detroit auto show the expansion of its program that provides $500 in cash and $500 in credits at dealerships to owners of its 2009-2016 diesel VW Touareg SUVs.
VW announced in November it was offering the compensation for 482,000 owners of 2009-2015 2.0 liter diesel cars. Horn said on Sunday that more than 260,000 owners have signed up - or more than half - and 130,000 have already been paid.
3rd Gear: GM Ignition Switch Lawsuit Goes To Trial Today
General Motors may be showing off a raft of new designs and new technologies, but in a New York court today it’s still dogged by the ghosts of a big past scandal. This trial serves as a bellweather for lawsuits to come against the automaker. Once more from Reuters:
In the lawsuit, plaintiff Robert Scheuers claims he was injured when his 2003 Saturn Ion ran off the highway, became airborne and then struck the ground and trees in May 2014. The front air bag did not deploy, which Scheuer blamed on the switch despite having followed GM’s instructions to remove all but a single key from his key ring.
GM has argued there is no proof that the switch caused or exacerbated Scheuer’s injuries. “Each bellwether case will be tried on its own merits,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said.
4th Gear: FordPass
Ford announced today it is launching an app that it hopes will “do for car owners what iTunes did for music fans.” Their words, not mine. Here’s Automotive News:
In April, the automaker plans to launch a platform called FordPass that gives users the ability to reserve parking, pay for transportation costs through their vehicle or phone, earn rewards and call a “FordGuide” for free help reaching destinations. It is announcing FordPass, as well as partnerships with McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, ParkWhiz and other companies that are part of the platform, at the Detroit auto show today.
With FordPass, the company hopes to connect more directly with customers — and ideally, noncustomers — during the hundreds of hours they spend in their vehicles and help them get around.
“The idea is to build a long-lasting relationship with customers,” said Elena Ford, the company’s vice president for global dealer and consumer experience.
5th Gear: The Minivan Lives!
The Pacifica’s new look was a purposeful departure from minivans of the past, said Ralph Gilles, FCA’s global head of design.
“As a designer, what kept coming up was the image problem with the minivan,” said Gilles, citing FCA’s consumer research. “It was loud and clear: People are embarrassed to drive these things. I don’t want people to see a stodgy old minivan. I don’t want them to just see a solution, a product that solves the issue that I didn’t even know I had.”
At a meeting with journalists last month, Gilles mentioned a ribald joke he said he and other designers came up with to show just how much of a departure the Pacifica is from FCA’s traditional minivan designs: “I think even single guys can get laid in this thing.”
6th Gear: Will Buick Build The Avista?
I hope so, but I’m still waiting on the Avenir before I cross my fingers for a Camaro-esque luxury sport coupe from Buick. But here’s Bloomberg:
GM will use the auto-show circuit to find out if enough people might buy such a sporty Buick. Chances are this one won’t be added to Buick’s lineup as executives say the car is more an exercise in testing new styling cues for other future models. But it has a chance.
“It’s a concept car and it has styling intent,” said Duncan Aldred, vice president of Buick and GMC Trucks in an interview. “We’ll see about building it. If it gets great customer reaction at the auto shows then we’ll have a job to do to see if we should build it.”