Image: AP Photo/John Raoux
The Morning ShiftAll your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn't your time more important?   

Why fuel retailers are rushing to change their pumps’ payment systems, Elon Musk dances hilariously, Nissan names its dual-motor all-wheel-drive EV setup, and some fun talk about German car sales. All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 8, 2020.

1st Gear: Why Gas Stations Across The Country Are In A Mad Rush To Add Credit Card Chip Readers To Pumps

I have recently been noticing that I’ve been doing a lot less card “dipping” or “swiping” at fuel stations than ever, and a recent story from the Detroit News seems to explain why. According to the news site, Visa and Mastercard have denied a request to delay a deadline for fuel stations to add credit card chip readers to pumps. If that deadline isn’t met, fuel retailers could bear a heavy financial burden should there be a security compromise. From the news site:

Gas stations around the U.S. are rushing to upgrade fuel pumps to accept credit and debit cards with chips after Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. rejected a request to delay a looming deadline to complete the work.

Beginning in October, station operators that haven’t modernized their pumps will face liability for any card fraud that happens at their businesses.

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The story expounds a bit upon the costs retailers could face, writing

Fuel retailers that don’t upgrade could face costs of as much as $201,000 per store over the next seven years, according to data compiled by Conexxus. The group expects the fuel industry to suffer $451 million of card fraud in 2020 alone.

“There’s going to be quite a surprise come October,” Laura Townsend, senior vice president of the Merchant Advisory Group, said in an interview. “Folks that have been trying to transition to EMV will be unable to because of things outside their control. But they will bear a significant increase in losses either come October or shortly thereafter because we know fraudsters will find the weakest link.”

According to the story, this transition in the U.S. to chips has been a long time coming, beginning with a 2015 deadline that Visa and Mastercard set. But sellers of fuel were able to get extensions due to the heavy cost the transition would take; The Detroit News says the work would have cost “more than $3.9 billion.”

The story references a 2019 survey by Conexxus, an organization that describes itself as “a non-profit, member-driven technology organization dedicated to the development and implementation of standards, technologies innovation and advocacy for the convenience store and petroleum market.” Nearly 70 percent of convenience store-owners who replied to that survey, the Detroit News writes, have yet to upgrade any outdoor pumps to the new chip readers.

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What’s the problem? Well, the CEO of Gas Pos, a seller of point-of-sale systems for fuel pumps, told the Detroit News that the industry is “massively under-prepared” and that there’s a dearth of technicians and inventory. The Conexxus survey discusses other issues, with the Detroit News writing:

In the Conexxus survey, more than half of participants cited a lack of available software for not having chip technology fully deployed, while about 15% pointed to a shortage of hardware. The convenience-store industry blames Visa and Mastercard for not consulting them when setting deadlines.

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Visa and Mastercard, who rejected an appeal to delay installing chip readers, had this to say about why they’re being so firm:

“We believe extending chip technology to fuel pumps is an important step to take to protect businesses and consumers who want to pay securely as well as conveniently,” Visa said in a statement. Mastercard said it’s seeing good adoption of EMV technology and a reduction in fraud.

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Check out the full story for more details, and also read “Another Reason to Not Pay for Gas at the Pump” by our sister site, Lifehacker, as it addresses the security concerns of the traditional magnetic strip system in finer detail.

2nd Gear: Nissan Shows Off A New Dual-Motor Electric All-Wheel Drive Setup

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is underway, and automakers are showing off new and exciting (and in some cases, zany and nonsensical) tech to fill journalists’ columns with press.

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Among those automakers is Nissan, who announced yesterday a dual-motor electric all-wheel-drive system called “e-4ORCE.” (Nissan says it’s pronounced “e-force” and not “e-four-orce,” in case you were curious).

Details are pretty scarce, and the photo below appears to be the only hardware imagery available. It just shows an electric drive module at each axle, and some force vectors implying that there’s some sort of torque vectoring strategy going on at each differential.

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According to Autoblog, this will be Nissan’s first all-wheel-drive electric powertrain setup and will make its way into a production version of the Ariya crossover concept that showed its face at the Tokyo Motor Show last fall.

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Last fall was also when Nissan first showed off its dual-motor, all-wheel-drive Leaf EV prototype. From our story on that car:

By installing two high-output electric motors at both the front and rear of the car that generate 227kW (304 horsepower), Nissan claims that this test car will be the proving ground for an all-new kind of car control that will be implemented in EVs going forward.

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That “all-new kind of car control” is now e-4ORCE, which Nissan describes in its recent press release, writing in a rather PR-ish way that neglects to mention any interesting technical details:

The technology was born from lessons learned in the development of the Nissan GT-R’s ATTESA E-TS torque split system and the Nissan Patrol’s intelligent 4X4 system. Engineers developed the e-4ORCE technology to specifically manage electric vehicle power output and braking performance to be smooth and stable.

Unparalleled ride comfort is the result of the e-4ORCE technology’s ability to minimize vehicle pitch and dive. This is accomplished by employing regenerative braking from both front and rear motors, making city stop-and-go traffic less jostling. Similarly, on rough, bumpy roads and when accelerating, motor control is optimized to maintain ride comfort by minimizing irregular movement.

e-4ORCE increases driver confidence by faithfully tracing the driver’s intended line thanks to ultra-high-precision motor and brake control. With the confidence to handle such a variety of road surfaces, even for novice drivers on slippery surfaces, driving becomes more enjoyable.

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I see nothing particularly impressive about this system other than how silly its name is, but the takeaway is simply that all-wheel-drive electric Nissans are coming. And that’s a good thing for EV fans.

3rd Gear: Elon Musk Dances As Tesla Delivers First Locally-Built Cars in China

If you’d like to see something hilarious, watch Elon Musk dance in celebration of the first Shanghai-built Tesla Model 3s reaching customers. It’s a big moment for the company that resulted in some hilarious rug-cutting. From CNBC:

Musk talked about several initiatives and achievements. The first Tesla Model 3 cars were delivered out of the Shanghai factory to the public, for example, and Musk said he will design a future Tesla vehicle in China that will be sold globally. He also said China would open a new design and engineering center in the country and that it will use the Shanghai Gigafactory to build a production program for the Model Y.

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Ah screw it, I can’t mention the dance moves without posting the clip, so here it is:

They’re not good moves, but as someone who generally isn’t afraid to just go for it despite being a terrible dancer, I can appreciate it. Plus, it seems like a good (and possibly traumatizing) way to raise company morale.

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4th Gear: BMW May Have Issues, But It’s Still Selling Lots Of Cars

We’ve talked a lot about BMW’s conservative electric vehicle strategy, and we know that it might have factored into the former CEO leaving the company. But things aren’t all bad at BMW; In fact, you could argue that in the most important way, things are good.

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That’s because, according to Bloomberg, BMW sales hit a record last year. From the news outlet:

BMW AG said last year was a record for car sales and 2020 could be better still as the German company looks to shrug off a sluggish European market and slumping demand in China.

The Munich-based company sold 2.52 million cars in 2019, said Pieter Nota, BMW’s sales head. The tally is a 1.2% increase over 2018, when 2.49 million BMWs, Minis and Rolls-Royces were bought.

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Though BMW says it’s confident 2020 sales will be even higher than 2019's, that may not be easy thanks to sales slowdowns in China and Europe, as Bloomberg notes:

Nota’s optimistic tone stands at odds with the rest of the industry. A second yearly drop in cars sales in China is all but guaranteed for 2019, and industry figures for Europe scheduled to be released next week could also show the same trajectory.

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But of course, the one thing that seems to continue crushing sales is SUVs, so you can bet BMW will continue to lean on those.

5th Gear: Speaking Of German Cars, Germany Isn’t Building Them!

But those BMW SUVs that are raking up all the sales aren’t built in Germany, contributing to the fact that auto manufacturing in the country is way down.

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Bloomberg’s story “German Car Production Drops to 23-Year Low on Waning Exports” gets into details, writing about a drop in demand from international markets:

Automakers including Volkswagen AG, BMW AG and Daimler AG produced 4.66 million vehicles in German factories last year, the weakest since 1996. The country’s VDA car lobby, which published the figures on Monday, said the 9% decrease was a result of waning demand from international markets.

The industry is set for more tough times this year. The VDA predicted global car deliveries will drop to 78.9 million vehicles from 80.1 million in 2019.

Germany’s status as a global manufacturing powerhouse has been built on the carmaking industry, but pollution concerns — intensified by Volkswagen’s 2015 diesel-cheating scandal — trade conflicts, and slowing economies have all weighed on demand.

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Reverse: Porsche Announces It’s Building The Amazing Carrera GT

From Porsche: A History of Excellence:

“...on January 8, 2002, [Porsche boss] Wiedeking announced that Porsche would produce the car called the Carrera GT.

“The Carrera GT was a continuation of everything we had learned in the GT-One chain of cars,” designer Tony Hatter explained. [Designer] Lagaay brought him into the project early. “The decision to make the car was based on, ‘Okay, we have this LMP-One entry....’which I was involved with, an open carbon-fiber monocoque with a V-Eight engine in the back. The decision was, ‘Let’s make a sports car out of this for the road.’”

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Neutral: Are You One Of The Many Crossover Lovers? If So, Why?

I love (old) SUVs because I’m an avid off-roader, and because it’s in my blood. But those of you buying BMW X1s, why? What is about these crossovers with no off-road ability that convinces you to pay a premium just so you can give up handling, fuel economy, and rollover safety?