NHTSA Faces Audit As 36,000 Americans Still Die Annually In Crashes

“Buying a safer car in 2010"
“Buying a safer car in 2010"
Photo: NHTSA
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The way the Feds regulate auto safety has been a shitshow for a good long while, and now it’s facing an audit. How much faith you put in that audit, is another question. All that and more in The Morning Shift for August 12, 2020.


1st Gear: Are We Fed Up Yet?

In 2009, 33,883 Americans died in car crashes. If you relate that to how many people die compared to how much we are driving, that represented 1.15 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. In 2019, we were basically static. There were an estimated 36,120 deaths, representing 1.1 per 100 million miles traveled. That’s a lot of nothing in a decade.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that NHTSA, the governing body for auto safety here in the United States, is getting an audit. That is, the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General will audit NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) because shit is slow, as David Shepardson explains for Reuters:

David Friedman, who was an NHTSA deputy administrator during the Obama administration, said the agency under President Donald Trump has failed to adopt any significant life-saving regulations.

“That is a clear failure to fulfill NHTSA’s mission to save lives and prevent injuries, especially when you consider that there are technologies out there now that could cut the annual death toll in half,” Friedman said.

It often takes NHTSA years to finalize changes or adopt new motor vehicle safety standards.

In February 2018, NHTSA finalized rules requiring “quiet cars” like electric vehicles and hybrids to emit alert sounds to warn pedestrians of their approach after a demand by Congress in 2010.

How much I trust this audit, I can’t say, but something has to change.

2nd Gear: Amid Calls Of Recovery, VW Finance Takes $590 Hit And Expects More

We’ve been talking a lot about how car sales are back on an upswing and car companies have been spouting optimism to the press every chance they can get. Why wouldn’t they?


Less optimistic: the financing arm of VW, which just took a $590 million hit and expects worse for the rest of the year. That’s from a new report from Bloomberg, detailing how economic collapse here in America is leading to defaults:

Volkswagen AG’s financial-services division boosted provisions for credit and residual-value risks by about 500 million euros ($590 million) in the first six months and warned the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic could worsen in the second half of the year.

The costs booked mainly covered U.S. operations, because other countries allow deferring some credit payments during the crisis, said Frank Fiedler, the chief financial officer of VW’s lending unit. The postponement could shift ripple effects from shutdowns to the second half.

“We’re seeing a substantial rise in unemployment in the U.S., and in Europe the further development is difficult to predict,” Fiedler said. “Maybe the economy revs up again, but we do anticipate that credit defaults go up.”


I don’t mean to sound depressing, but things are not about to get better by the looks of it.

3rd Gear: Tesla Splits Stock For First Time

Tesla split its stock five-for-one, making it more accessible for your cousin to start buying up stocks pretending to be a mini-Elon, as the Financial Times reports. Well, the FT didn’t mention anything about your cousin, but it does give a good tidbit about how this fairly normal financial action takes on a thrilling zest and verve because it’s about Tesla:

News of the US electric carmaker’s five-for-one split, to take effect on August 28, fuelled a 7 per cent jump in its shares in after-market trading on Tuesday.

In theory, the news of a share split should make no difference to the price, since it does not change the overall value of the business. But reducing the price of each share is often seen as a way to make them more attractive to small shareholders, as well as a sign of confidence by management in future market gains. 


As ever, not everybody gets the Tesla shine. Gravity works differently in Fremont.

4th Gear: Incredibly Dumb Tesla Suit Gets Dumber

Meanwhile, a long-running beef for Tesla continues to be incomprehensible and stupid, as Tesla is now claiming that the disgruntled employee it fired is being financially backed in a lawsuit by short sellers. Tesla loves to call out shorts, so none of this surprises me, via a Bloomberg report:

Tesla Inc. says hedge fund Cable Car Capital LLC, which is shorting the company’s stock, is funding a former employee’s defamation allegations.

The carmaker said in a filing Monday that Martin Tripp’s counterclaim against Tesla was being funded by Cable Car, even though Tripp has said under oath that he had no financing or connection to Tesla short sellers.

Cable Car portfolio manager Jacob Ma-Weaver had no immediate comment.

Tesla sought an emergency order from a judge forbidding Tripp from publicizing confidential information. Tripp has disclosed volumes of Tesla’s confidential documents, deposition transcripts and filings in his posts on Twitter, YouTube and Google Drive, Tesla said in federal court in Reno, Nevada.


Please read more about the Tripp case, as everything in it is unhinged.

5th Gear: Japan’s Nuclear Imports Near Zero

This should also not be a surprise in the post-Fukushima world, but the nuclear industry in Japan is “stagnating,” as the Japan Times puts it:

Japan’s imports of fuel to power nuclear plants were close to zero last year, reflecting the stagnating nuclear industry following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, official trade data showed Tuesday.

The effective halt to imports of uranium — enriched, natural or their assemblies — is believed to be the first since the resource-poor country started securing the materials from overseas in the 1960s.

Most nuclear plants in Japan remain idle as stricter safety measures were implemented after a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex. The operations of fuel manufacturing plants have also been suspended.


Reverse: There Is A Bernie Connection, Too

Via History:

On August 12, 1964, Charlie Wilson, part of the gang who pulled off the 1963 Great Train Robbery, one of the biggest heists of its kind, escapes from Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, England. Several men broke into the maximum-security facility to free Wilson, who remained on the loose until 1968.


Neutral: What Should U.S. Auto Safety Regulation Look Like?

Do you think it’s even the most important factor in our safety, compared to, say, road design or medical care? Or telecommuting?

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.


Neutral: it’s probably gonna end up as more expensive tech, but really, updating whatever is holding back our headlights should be priority number 1... There’s a joke about our headlight tech being in the dark ages somewhere in here, but I’m too tired to figure it out