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 Google-Fordmobile
One of the biggest developments in autonomous cars this year is the planned partnership between Google’s newly-separate driverless car division and Ford. But until the companies announce what they’re doing at CES or the Detroit Auto Show, we don’t know exactly what form it will take.
Automotive News speculates the car could be a clean-sheet “real” car built by Ford to Google’s specs, rather than an existing Ford with Google tech on it:
The big benefit? Instead of adding Google’s electronics to an existing car, Ford engineers likely would create a purpose-built vehicle — and learn much in the process.
The car would be developed from the wheels up to seamlessly package the complex electronics, lidar, radar and camera sensing and computer systems needed to guide a vehicle safely down the road. In other words, it would look like a normal car, not like Google’s experimental “bubble cars.”
[...] By using Ford-built vehicles, Google would save billions in development costs. It would not have to design, build, test, manufacture and validate cars for safety and emissions. A deal would free the tech giant to focus on developing the automated driving software in use in a fleet of 53 self-driving bubble cars on the road in California and Texas. Those 53 cars, by the way, were assembled in Detroit by Roush Enterprises, a supplier closely aligned with Ford.
This should be interesting.
2nd Gear: Ex-Lambo Exec Tapped For Genesis
Hyundai has finally realized it can’t shed its value image that easily, and so it wants the new Genesis brand to be a legit player in the lucrative luxury car market. One of the few Western execs who will shepherd it is former Lamborghini executive Manfred Fitzgerald, reports Automotive News:
Fitzgerald, a former director for brand and design at the Italian sports car maker, will take charge as senior vice president at Hyundai Motor, and will oversee the automaker’s global strategy for luxury car brand Genesis, Hyundai said today in a statement.
[...] Fitzgerald will join Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer as one of a handful of non-Korean executives, including Luc Donckerwolke of Bentley and Albert Biermann of BMW, at the automaker’s headquarters in Seoul.
3rd Gear: Audi Tempers Spending Plans
Arguably the Volkswagen Group’s most successful, profitable and important marque is Audi, but even the luxury division is facing big cuts in light of Dieselgate. Reuters reports Audi’s 2016 investment plans are significantly smaller now:
A company source said the plan foresaw spending of 3.3 billion euros for next year. Under its previous budget drawn up a year ago, Audi announced investments of 17 billion euros over 2015-19, or an annual average of 3.4 billion euros.
“With the current investment program, we obviously want to enhance the brand’s strong position, but at the same time, we aim to achieve additional financial scope by means of further process and cost optimization,” Audi finance chief Axel Strotbek said in a statement.
4th Gear: Toyota Remains On Top
In the never-ending race to be the world’s top-selling automaker, Toyota is ahead for now. It blew past Volkswagen this summer and Dieselgate hasn’t helped the Germans’ cause. Via Reuters:
Toyota on Friday said group vehicle sales totaled 9.21 million in the January-November period, more than the 9.10 million cars delivered by Volkswagen during the same period. Toyota has continuously outsold Volkswagen on a year-to-date basis since July.
Earlier this month, Volkswagen said its Volkswagen brand sales fell 2.2 percent year-on-year in November, extending a slide seen since October, the first full month after Europe’s biggest automaker admitted that it cheated diesel emissions tests in some of its cars.
5th Gear: More Fiat Chrysler Recalls
Fiat Chrysler has had a not-so-banner year on the recall front, and here come more than half a million additional cars that need fixing. Via The Detroit News:
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Thursday announced two recalls that include nearly 570,000 sport utility vehicles worldwide.
The largest recall involves more than 476,600 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs from the 2011-12 model years. An estimated 352,831 of the vehicles are being recalled in the United States. Wiring in the vanity mirror of the impacted vehicles can short-circuit and start a fire.
The company said it is unaware of any related injuries or accidents. Overheating was observed only in vehicles equipped with a certain wiring package. The conditions were reported among a small percentage (less than 0.02 percent) of vehicles, the company said.
Reverse: RIP Florence Lawrence