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: Gettin’ Tough
California Gov. Jerry Brown says he intends to sign a bill that will make the nation’s strictest carbon emissions controls even stricter. The bill, which just got final approval from the state senate, has been fought by oil lobbyists and industry groups for months who said it’s a potential job-killer.
The bill extends the state’s aggressive pollution control goals another 10 years to 2030, reports the AP. The initial effort was set to end in 2020.
California lawmakers voted Wednesday to extend the state’s landmark climate change law — the most aggressive in the nation — by another 10 years, resisting fierce opposition from oil companies and other business interests to keep the program alive at least through 2030.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, a strong advocate of the state’s climate initiatives, has said he’ll sign the bill when it comes to his desk.
The move keeps alive the legal framework that underpins California’s wide-ranging efforts to fight climate change, from a tax on pollution to zero-emission vehicle mandates and restrictions on the carbon content of gasoline and diesel fuel.
The opposition cited increased energy costs as a result:
Republicans contend the law has raised prices for consumers without making a substantial dent in the volume of global climate emissions. Higher energy prices are particularly harmful in the inland Central Valley, where summers are hotter and winters colder than in the coastal cities where Democrats dominate, said Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford.
“It’s shameful when coastal elites have no sympathy for the middle class and the working poor who do not live on the coast,” Vidak said.
2nd Gear: VW In Talks To Settle With States
Speaking of state environmental laws, Volkswagen will begin negotiating with a group of states to settle various lawsuits over the diesel cheating scandal. Via Bloomberg:
The company said in a court filing Tuesday that the talks will start no later than Nov. 1, after all sides agreed to move the lawsuit to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, who presided over related cases that were settled in June. VW said it will provide the states with documents and information related to the claims.
[...] The states of Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington are involved in the batch of cases being transferred to Breyer. Four of them filed lawsuits contending the carmaker violated their laws by installing the devices in 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter engines. Washington issued a notice of penalty under its laws, according to the filing. The states’ attorneys general announced the suits last month.
3rd Gear: The Wake-Up Call
After having been in gestation for the better part of a decade, the new Acura NSX is here, and it turns out it’s quite good. Whether it will be a success or not remains to be seen. There’s probably two ways to measure that: sales and profits, and what it does for the sagging “brands” of Honda and Acura.
Maybe sagging is too strong, especially in Honda’s case. But in this Reuters story, Honda execs at the car’s Japanese launch (it’s an import from Ohio now!) reveal what they need the NSX to do:
“Generating profit from the NSX may be a struggle, but by focusing on both functional cars and also advanced performance we will raise the Honda brand,” Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo said at the launch.
Marketed under the Acura badge, Honda’s stalled premium brand in the United States, China and other regions, the NSX marks the latest effort by the Japanese automaker to reclaim its reputation as a leader in innovation and engineering after a spell of sluggish sales due in part to “play-it-safe” designs.
“We’ve really woken up and realized that Honda has to make a Honda product. A Honda product ... can’t just be a mental or physical thing, it has to be emotional,” he said.
Analysts said its advanced engineering and technology would help to change Honda’s image.
“Once upon a time ‘Honda’ was synonymous with ‘performance’. Now Honda is known for reliability, for sensibility,” CLSA analyst Chris Richter said.
“(The new NSX) is an attempt to redefine Honda and regain some of the excitement about driving.”
Sure, it’s a halo car, and that’s what halo cars are supposed to do. But as we’ve pointed out before, it’d sure help if the NSX had some backup in the rest of the lineup. Maybe the new Civic Type-R can do that.
4th Gear: Self-Driving Taxis In Singapore
Uber and Volvo may be teaming up to bring “self-driving” (not really) ride-hailing cars to Pittsburgh (Update: Not Philly like originally wrote, pardon my mistake), but Singapore has them technically beat with a smaller but similar effort. Via Bloomberg:
While billed as a pioneering trial, the service covers a relatively small area and its riders will be handpicked. Invited members of the public can summon a car from a fleet of six reconfigured Renault Zoes and Mitsubishi i-MiEVs to ferry them within a 200-hectare research and high-tech business park. An engineer from the company will ride in vehicles to monitor performance and take the wheel if required, according to a release from Singapore-based startup nuTonomy.
NuTonomy runs one of several autonomous driving projects in the island nation, which is promoting the technology as part of efforts to reduce a reliance on privately owned cars. Public transit operator SMRT Corp. set up a joint venture in April with a Netherlands-based company to operate “driverless pods.” A center for testing and research of autonomous vehicles was set up this month by the land transport authority and one of its universities.
5th Gear: Lease-A-Mania
We’re solidly in the era of people buying new cars based almost entirely on monthly payments. (And with the average new car transaction price around $34,000, how many people can you really expect to pay cash?) One interesting side effect of this is that leasing is more popular than ever, and may even reach as much as 40 percent of the overall market, reports The Detroit News:
Car-shopping website Edmunds.com said 2.2 million vehicles were leased in the first half of 2016, double the volume of the same period in 2011 and up 13 percent from the first half of 2015. Edmunds.com predicts consumers will lease 4.5 million vehicles this year, led by growth from millennials and those 75 and older.
Steven Szakaly, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association, believes there is plenty of room for growth. “I think this could easily be 40 percent of the market,” he said.
The reason is simple: monthly payments are cheaper. Lease payments on average are 23 percent less than monthly auto loan payments, according to Edmunds.com.
For example, here’s one family who leased a new car for a teen because the payments were so cheap:
A low monthly payment convinced Shari Stein of West Bloomfield to lease a 2016 Chevrolet Trax LS subcompact crossover for her daughter, Hannah, 17.
“This was the best option for us without putting a lot of money down,” said Stein, who wanted a safe and reliable car for the high school senior. “When we compared it to the used cars, this is a much better deal.”
Stein wouldn’t say how much they are paying monthly for the two-year, 10,000-mile-a-year lease secured through Serra Chevrolet of Southfield. Serra is advertising a lease special for the Trax LS for as low as $77 a month with $999 down.
“Everybody wants a lower payment,” said Serra Chevrolet sales consultant Brittany Danna, who said 95 percent of her business is leases.
Reverse: Schumacher Debuts
Neutral: Is The Leasing Boom A Good Thing?
For the used car market, maybe. But leasing is only a good fit for certain buyers, and all these people seeking low payments could be hurting their wallets in the long run.