Alfa Romeo And Maserati Get A New Boss To Manage A Struggling Turnaround

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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: Meet The New Boss

Harald Wester will remain Fiat Chrysler’s chief technical officer, but he’s out as the CEO of the Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands. In his places comes Reid Bigland, previously just the head of U.S. and Canadian sales (a role he’ll continue), reports Automotive News.

Bigland is a top exec at FCA and the former CEO of Ram trucks, and he has a lot on his plate trying to turn Alfa and Maserati around. Some choice quotes from the story:

Alfa’s ambitious relaunch is considerably over budget, supplier sources told Automotive News Europe.

The market introduction of the brand’s Giulia midsize sedan was also delayed and the car will go on sale in Europe at the end of this month, five months behind original plans and won’t be in the U.S. until the fall. Marchionne said at the Geneva auto show in March that the Giulia’s launch was delayed to make sure it would be a true rival to competitors such as the BMW 3 series.

Also, Alfa’s first SUV, based on the Giulia, will not come to market before early 2017, nine months later than planned, according to supplier sources.

And also:

Maserati has been hit by fading profitability, an aging lineup and a delay in launching its first SUV, the Levante. Its first-quarter operating profit fell 56 percent to 16 million euros after its shipments dropped 16 percent in the U.S. and 8 percent in Europe. The Levante went on sale in Europe this month, a year later than planned and will launch in the U.S. in October.

The setbacks at Alfa and Maserati are likely to be costly for cash-strapped FCA, the only major global automaker with more debt than cash on hand.


Those aggressive five-year plans from 2014 are looking more and more shaky these days.

2nd Gear: Is Anybody Following The Rules?

Welcome to the Summer of Dieselgate, and this time, everyone is invited to the party, not just Volkswagen. In the wake of VW’s cheating scandal, more and more regulators are re-testing emissions, and Automotive News reports that we’re seeing issues with CO2 emissions and not just NOx like the VW cars:

Germany initially tested the diesel cars for “defeat” devices after Volkswagen Group admitted to manipulating engine management software to cheat tests for the health-harming NOx pollutants.

But officials were surprised that many of the cars showed high levels of emissions of CO2, a gas blamed for climate change.

“Out of 53 cars tested for illegal software, 30 were showing inexplicably high CO2 emissions. The experts are now looking into this,” a spokeswoman from the German transport ministry told Automotive News Europe.


Irregularities abound! Can’t wait to see who goes on the apology tour next.

3rd Gear: The Crackdown

Bloomberg has a profile on the EU official who’s leading the investigations into diesel emissions cheating, and says she wants to do it without taking too many heads:

She thinks the European Union has too many diesel cars, the air in EU cities is too dirty and the future of road transport is electric. Meet Kathleen Van Brempt, head of an EU emissions-investigation panel who insists she has the auto industry’s best interests at heart.

The 46-year-old Belgian Socialist is leading a European Parliament committee set up in December as a response to Volkswagen AG’s cheating on tests of smog-causing emissions. Van Brempt says her goal is to draw common lessons about better EU lawmaking and put more effective rules in place rather than to point fingers at regulators or manufacturers and see heads roll.

Van Brempt’s don’t-rock-the-boat approach reflects the political pragmatism needed in an EU characterized by national rivalries, a balance of power and automakers’ clout. She says a consensus-based view also happens to be the best way to restore consumer confidence after the “dieselgate” scandal, which has led to the recall of millions of vehicles, prompted national probes into possible emissions deception by other manufacturers and undermined the credibility of EU environmental rules.

“There’s a sort of collective responsibility,” Van Brempt said in an interview in her office in Brussels on Monday. “It’s a collective blindness on the implementation and enforcement of the rules. We need to report all the facts and figures in a very systematic way and use them to get better law, close the loopholes and get enforcement in place at European level.”


4th Gear: More Takata Recalls

This time from Toyota, and it’s big—1.6 million cars, reports Reuters:

Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said on Monday it will recall almost 1.6 million additional U.S. vehicles for front passenger side Takata air bag inflators that could rupture.

Earlier this month, Takata Corp (7312.T) said it was declaring another 35 million to 40 million U.S. inflators defective at the urging of U.S. regulators, a move that more than doubles the number of inflators recalled. Faulty Takata inflators have been linked to more than 100 injuries and 13 deaths worldwide.

Toyota said the new recall includes some but not all Corolla, Matrix, Yaris, 4Runner, Sienna, Scion xB, Lexus ES, GX and IS vehicles built between 2006 and 2011.


Daimler is set to be announcing more Takata recalls this week too.

5th Gear: Ford Vs. Trump

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump loves to go after Ford over the plans to relocate some car production to Mexico. But it’s family scion Bill Ford Jr., the executive chairman, who’s emerged as the defender of the company against these attacks. Via The Detroit News:

“In my mind, Ford ought to be the company that’s being held up as a real success story,” Ford told reporters after a speech Monday at an entrepreneurs’ conference in Detroit. “We didn’t take the bailout, we paid back our debts, we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps. We’re investing in America. We’re exporting out of America. And so, I think we have a great story to tell.”

[...] Bill Ford defended the North American Free Trade Agreement that covers the United States, Canada and Mexico, arguing it has allowed Ford to “build our business on both sides of the border.”

“Our U.S. manufacturing business has grown, and our Mexican manufacturing business has grown,” he said. “We think it has been a good deal.”


Reverse: Thelma And Louise


Neutral: Can Alfa Romeo And Maserati Make It?

The luxury market is more crowded than ever and FCA is strapped for cash. How do the Italians pull it off?


Andy Sheehan, StreetsideStig

For such a famous businessman, Trump puts forth a startlingly limited view of international economics. So you don’t want Mexicans coming into the US, but you want to cut jobs in Mexico, further incentivizing immigration?

This is why this is the worst election cycle of my lifetime. It’s not because the candidates are so bad. It’s because the average voter seems incapable of completing a single thought. America has never been dumber.