We're All Driving Vastly More

Illustration for article titled We're All Driving Vastly More
Photo: Associated Press
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I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a bit of a slow summer Friday out there, news-wise. Hopefully that’s a leading indicator that it will be a slow summer Friday for you, work-wise. Anyway, onto The Morning Shift for Friday, June 21, 2019.


1st Gear: The Driving’s Gone Up 43 Percent

If we’re going to do anything about this pesky little conundrum we call the climate crisis, then moving to electric vehicles and driving less are two of the many necessary steps our species must take in a very short period of time to avoid total catastrophe.

Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., we’re doing neither. Electric vehicle usage is creeping up ever, ever so slightly, but far too slowly to meaningfully impact vehicle emissions. And, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent figures released yesterday, we’re actually driving more. From the report:

Based on preliminary reports from the State Highway Agencies, travel during April 2019 on all roads and streets in the nation changed by +2.5% (+6.8 billion vehicle miles) resulting in estimated travel for the month at 279.3** billion vehicle-miles.

To put this in perspective, the same report says Americans drove 195.4 million miles in April of 1994, meaning the most recent figures work out to a 43 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled since 1994 (compared to a 25 percent population increase over that same time). In other words, Americans have been steadily driving a lot more when we really need to be driving a lot less.

Most of this driving, according to DOT, occurs in urban areas, the exact areas where driving is the most infuriating, least enjoyable, and the easiest to replace with non-vehicle trips:

This total includes 82.5 billion vehicle-miles on rural roads and 196.8 billion vehicle-miles on urban roads and streets.


Obviously, it’s not desirable to actually ban cars entirely considering nearly all Americans depend on them to live productive, fruitful lives. But that doesn’t change the fact that, from a climate crisis perspective, we’re going in the wrong direction, and our cities aren’t doing nearly enough to give people viable alternatives.

2nd Gear: Renault and Nissan Reach Agreement to Figure Out How to Reach More Agreements

One of the key sticking points in the Renault-Nissan fight has been their respective representation on the new board make-up post-Ghosn. Rather than continue to type boring words about corporate governance, I’ll just say it is no longer a sticking point. From Automotive News:

In a statement on Frdiay [sic], Nissan said it will give Renault CEO Thierry Bollore a seat on its board’s audit committee and Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard a seat on its nomination committee. Both are key positions at the heart of decision making.

The concessions from Nissan to let Bollore on the audit committee came with strings attached. Nissan is placing restrictions on Bollore’s role in areas where the two companies might have a conflict of interest, people familiar with the matter said.


Sounds like a common sense compromise that one side will feel aggrieved by in short order that will lead to another feud we’ll have to cover for several weeks.

3rd Gear: UAW Orders Strike at Major Supplier for FCA, Ford, and Tesla

1,900 UAW workers at auto supplier Faurecia’s Michigan plant outside of Ann Arbor went on strike early Friday morning after they failed to reach a new agreement. Automotive News says:

The plant, which employs 1,900 UAW members, supplies interior parts to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Co. and Tesla Inc., the UAW said.

The 2015 four-year contract was extended for three weeks on June 1 by company and union officials.

“Unfortunately, after many long hours at the bargaining table, we have yet to reach a tentative agreement with the company,” a statement sent to Local 892 members by the UAW said Thursday. The note advised workers to be prepared to walk off the job “in an orderly fashion” and report to the nearby local union hall for further instructions on Friday.


Automotive News says that, according to 2015 figures, the plant generated $1.1 billion in annual sales and Faurecia, which is based in France, had $19.17 billion in sales in 2017. But the Michigan plant has reportedly been plagued with plumbing problems recently, requiring management to bring in “portable restrooms” which may or may not be porta potties. Yikes.

4th Gear: Japan Helped Deep-Six the FCA-Renault Deal

I’m losing track of all the reported reasons the FCA-Renault deal fell apart, but add one more to the list: Japan’s government. From Bloomberg:

The Japanese government played a role in the breakdown of merger talks between Renault SA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV earlier this month, weighing in with concerns the combination could harm Nissan Motor Co., people familiar with the matter said.

Japan signaled its misgivings over the deal to the French government, said the people, asking not to be identified speaking about the negotiations. France — Renault’s most powerful shareholder — then sought a pause in the talks for more time to win Nissan’s support, provoking Fiat to withdraw its offer.

Details on Japan’s role, only emerging now, highlight the obstacles to a quick resumption in merger negotiations between Renault and its Italo-American rival. They also show that France and Japan can find common ground to protect their carmakers and the two-decade Renault-Nissan alliance.


This really just sounds like an idea that needed more time to win over the skeptics, instead of leaking it to the press and making it sound like a done deal.

5th Gear: Carlos Ghosn Somehow Still Had A Board Seat at Mitsubishi Until Yesterday

Despite spending 130 days in jail since November for a host of alleged financial crimes, Carlos Ghosn was still technically on Mitsubishi’s board until yesterday, according to Automotive News. The best part is they didn’t even kick him off the board; they just let his term expire:

Ghosn’s term was not up for renewal by Mitsubishi Motors’ shareholders, cutting his formal connection to the world’s biggest auto alliance, which he built and led over the past two decades.


This was his last remaining board seat at a car company.

Reverse: Earthquake Kills 50,000 People, Surely Many Cars Damaged, Too


Neutral: What Would It Take to Get You to Drive Less?

When gas prices go up, people drive less. Is that the only way?

Former Senior Reporter, Investigations & Technology, Jalopnik


Shane Morris

I started my own business in 2015, and that allowed me to begin working from home. When I lived in Nashville, that wasn’t a problem, because in East Nashville, everything is close. Heck, I used to ride my BMX bike to the gym.

However, I recently relocated from Nashville, to small-town Texas... and now nothing is close. My gym is 16 miles away. The HEB is 11 miles away. If I need a Costco run, that’s 24 miles. For bigger excursions, I’m on the road even longer.

Could I do the home gym thing? Sure, but that would mean investing $5,000+ into equipment, and sacrificing tons of space in my garage. (Not gonna happen.) Could I get groceries delivered? Sure, but they’re still getting delivered in a car.

The realities of American geography are stark. Once you get into “midsize town USA”, you realize how far away everything is, especially compared to our counterparts in other OEC nations. (Especially places like Japan, South Korea, etc.) Even discussing distances with friends in England, I realize how post automotive development influenced so much of the American west. In places like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, it’s obvious urban development happened before cars. However, in 1900, people forget the west was barely populated. The American west was shaped by the car, with automotive transportation in mind, backed by cheap, plentiful oil.

Around the same time I was moving to small town Texas, my sister moved to quasi-rural Oklahoma, and I was explaining the biggest decision I made in buying a home was being “no more than 45 miles” from my wife’s office. Yes, you read that correctly. To her, at 75 mph, a straight shot commute of 35-ish minutes isn’t a big deal. (She actually seems to enjoy her time listening to Ariana Grande.)

My sister has a (no shit) 55 mile drive from her house to the hospital she works at. She has a radar detector (a gift from me), and tends to drive 85-90MPH on her (extremely rural) commute. I cannot overstate this: People in rural, red states do this... a lot. On these long, straight, featureless roads, they do like 85 MPH at a clip, and it’s no big deal. They’re used to it. You just slow down a bit when your detector chirps at you, and then you speed back up. There are no hills to knock down the radar, or lasers.

Now you’d think, “Wow, she must spend a fortune on gas.” She does. But it doesn’t matter, because her mortgage looks more like a car payment for a 5 year old Hyundai, and she has a goddamn pool, with a fenced yard big enough to host an NFL training camp. Who cares about the cost of gas? Living is cheap.

TL;DR - To quote Rage Against The Machine, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.”