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: VW Goes Electric
It’s been a sort of chicken race between Volkswagen’s Clean Diesels and other automakers who focused on hybrids and electrification. And since VW had to cheat to make theirs work, and are paying for that decision now, it’s clear who won.
So VW will concede that the future is indeed electric, announcing at the same time a reduction of $1.1 billion a year in spending and a new focus on electrics. That effort will be led by an all-electric Phaeton sedan. (Cue the “Tesla fighter” headlines.) Via Automotive News:
VW will increase its focus on long range plug-in hybrids and high-volume electric vehicles with a range of up to 300 km (186 miles), the company said in a statement today. The Phaeton sedan will get an all-electric drivetrain to become the flagship of VW brand’s flagship for electrification.
The automaker also said it will speed up cost cuts and will overhaul the VW brand model strategy.
“The Volkswagen brand is repositioning itself for the future. We are becoming more efficient, we are giving our product range and our core technologies a new focus,” VW brand chief Herbert Diess said in the statement.
Also, a different strategy for diesel:
VW said it has decided to switch over to installing only diesel drivetrains with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and AdBlue technology in Europe and North America as soon as possible. VW engines affected by the diesel emissions rigging scandal used lean NOx traps to reduce nitrogen oxides emissions rather than the more expensive urea-based SCR systems.
The times, they are a-changing.
2nd Gear: The New Prius Actually Sounds Interesting
We tend to hate on the Prius because it’s abysmally boring to drive, but I think you also have to admire it for being the absolute best at the kind of car it’s trying to be, and at what its buyers want. And the all-new for 2016 Prius actually has some interesting tech at work. Once more from Automotive News:
It starts with a completely re-engineered 1.8-liter engine and two choices of denser batteries that boost fuel economy by at least 10 percent over the outgoing, third-generation vehicle.
Toyota Motor Corp. also promises livelier driving dynamics thanks to a body architecture that is 60 percent more rigid and software updates that provide smooth, more direct acceleration.
Also on tap: An electronic four-wheel drive option.
You know it’s gonna sell like hotcakes.
3rd Gear: Europe Cracks Down On Diesel
The European Commission wants diesel testing that more accurately reflects their real-world NOx emissions, but one group is warning that if stricter standards are rushed into effect they could price diesel out of that market entirely. Via Reuters:
A rushed and overly tough change to European emissions tests in the wake of the cheating scandal at Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) could make diesel vehicles so expensive that manufacturers have to stop selling them, a trade body warned on Monday.
“The automobile industry agrees with the need for emissions to more closely reflect real-world conditions, and has been calling for proposals for years,” the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) said in a statement.
“However, it is important to proceed in a way which allows manufacturers to plan and implement the necessary changes, without jeopardizing the role of diesel as one of the key pillars for fulfilling future CO2 targets.”
4th Gear: Aston Martin Sees An Electric Future Too
Rather than downsize and turbocharge their engines to meet stricter emissions and fuel economy requirements, Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer said he’d rather go with ludicrous electric torque instead. Fair enough. Via Bloomberg:
The British company is working on a battery-powered version of its current Rapide sports car that will be available as early as at the end of 2017 followed by a new electric DBX crossover, said Chief Executive Officer Andy Palmer. The cars will uphold the carmaker’s traditions by embodying “power, beauty and soul” in each vehicle, said Palmer, a 35-year veteran of the industry who has led Aston Martin for about a year.
“We’re talking about an electric Aston Martin with between 800 and 1,000 horsepower — imagine having all that torque on demand,” Palmer said in an interview in London.
[...] “We’re a V-12 engine company,” the executive said, referring to the engines used in Aston Martin cars. “Project that into the future. Do I go the way of the rest of the industry and downsize the engine? Do I see Aston Martin with a three cylinder engine? God forbid.
“You’ve got to do something radical. Electric power gives you that power. It gives you that torque.”
I’m okay with this.
5th Gear: UAW Goes Facebook
How will the United Auto Workers leadership push members to accept the new contract proposal with Fiat Chrysler? This time, they turn to social media. From The Detroit News:
After 65 percent of the membership turned down a first tentative agreement last month, the union launched a comprehensive social-media blitz with the help of BerlinRosen, a New York-based public relations firm that the union was working with on an unrelated matter before negotiations.
[...] “We heard from UAW FCA members that they wanted the union to provide regular updates and detailed information about the tentative agreement, and we are responding by increasing our communications with members, especially on social media,” UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in a statement Monday. “We are making regular updates on our website and Facebook page, and local leaders across the country are beginning to hold informational sessions in plants so that members can fully understand what is — and isn’t — in the new tentative agreement.”
We’ll have to wait and see if members *like* the new contract or not! (I can see myself out, thanks.)
Neutral: Is VW Making The Right Move Now By Pushing Electric?
I’m not really sure what the alternative is. Diesel isn’t going to pan out in the long run, not anymore.
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