This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place every weekday morning. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: 13 And Counting
Perhaps to lessen the blow when it does happen, but probably just to turn the screws on GM and continue to look tough, the Feds are letting it be known that they're going to raise the number of fatalities in the GM recalls beyond what's already been reporting.
"We believe it's likely that more than 13 lives were lost," said David Friedman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "GM knew about the safety defect, but did not act to protect Americans from that defect until this year. The families and friends of those lost in the crashes…deserve straight answers about what happened to their loved ones."
The agency issued a statement on Friday questioning the auto maker's count and on Tuesday attributed the doubts directly to Mr. Friedman.
While I believe that NHTSA is still responsible for not doing proper oversight, they've clearly won the PR battle. By pivoting towards the $35 million fine and then complaining that they can't ask for more, they've essentially made it seem like they're doing all they can do — a distraction from the fact that they did almost nothing in the past.
2nd Gear: Canada Is Worried, Too
And if that weren't enough, the Canadian equivalent of the DOT (Transport Canada) is now on GM's case to determine how many deaths can be attributed to the ignition flaw in Canada.
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said she was sure the number of complaints potentially linking accidents to the switches would rise as people became aware of the recall.
"There were two accidents into which we are currently having investigations which may be related to this defect and this recall and I can confirm that," she said in a telephone interview.
An official at Transport Canada - the federal transportation ministry - earlier said both accidents involved vehicles which were subject to the recall. The airbags did not deploy in either case.
We'll see what happens there.
3rd Gear: And Now Ford Looks Good On Safety
Boy, if this ain't curiously good timing for Ford
Alisa Priddle has the story that Ford is so overwhelmed with safety technologies they're letting other people use their patents on such things as inflatable safety belts for free or at a reduced cost.
"We are constantly looking at how to improve," Danowski said, which means managing a steady stream of ideas, patents and new technologies making their way to the marketplace. "Our goal is not to withhold it, especially if it is related to safety."
Danowski said Ford takes pride in making technology more available. Examples include the chiming seat belt reminder and the air bag deactivation switch on pickups that many adopted as an industry standard. The money is reinvested in engineering of new technology.
Oh Ford, you clever bastards.
4th Gear: The Compact-Subcompact Production Conundrum
Subcompact cars will always be cheaper (Aston Martin Cygnets aside) than compact cars, but you don't want to make them so cheap you can no longer sell compacts.
That's the dilemma automakers have as subcompacts they build in places like Mexico compete with compacts build in places like the United States.
The solution? It ain't moving subcompact production to the U.S.
Dave Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said this month that subcompact cars produced by competitors could hurt sales of the automaker's compact Elantra, which is built in Alabama. He said if the problem persists, Hyundai could open a plant to build the Elantra in Mexico. Hyundai builds its subcompact Accent in South Korea.
Good news for Americans who want cheap cars, bad news for Americans who want good jobs.
5th Gear: The Diesel Paradox
We badly want diesel cars here, and we'll probably get them, but no fuel is without its consequences and the ones for cities like London are fairly serious with London reportedly having worse air pollution than Beijing when measured by certain pollutants.
"Successive governments knew more than 10 years ago that diesel was producing all these harmful pollutants, but they myopically plowed on with their CO2 agenda," said Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London, a nonprofit group. "It's been a catastrophe for air pollution, and that's not too strong a word. It's a public-health catastrophe."
Tiny particles called PM2.5s probably killed 3,389 people in London in 2010, the government agency Public Health England said in April. Like nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, they come from diesel combustion. Because the pollutants are found together, it's hard to identify deaths attributable only to NO2, said Jeremy Langrish, a clinical lecturer in cardiology at the University of Edinburgh.
Do you measure MPG like the U.S.? Particulates? CO2. Everything has costs.
Reverse: Not Everyone Has Great Beginnings
On this day in 1937, the government of Germany—then under the control of Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party—forms a new state-owned automobile company, then known as Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Later that year, it was renamed simply Volkswagenwerk, or "The People's Car Company."
Neutral: Particulates v. CO2 v. Consumption
Who is doing the best job of combatting vehicle pollution?
Photo Credit: Getty Images