While we in America are bracing for a long, dark winter with Coronavirus, China seems to have made it out, if car sales are any indication. All that and more in The Morning Shift for October 19, 2020.
1st Gear: There Is Another Side
I’m starting to feel like there will be no life without COVID anymore like I’ll just be wearing a mask for the rest of my life. Meanwhile, in China, car dealers are smoking it up, laughing maskless, as car sales rebound. Automotive News China reports, “Good times come back in China as sales return” with some nice snippets of joy as car dealers welcome back customers:
In February, immediately after the coronavirus spread from Wuhan to the rest of China, dealership employees donned face masks, even though there was virtually no showroom traffic.
Now, eight months later, several salesmen at the row’s BMW dealership could be found last week out for an afternoon break, smoking and laughing — and most notably, not wearing face masks.
Salespeople at the nearby Toyota store could be seen chatting merrily. They had good reason. Because of robust sales, the dealership has run out of inventory, said Zhang Feng, a sales consultant.
“A customer has to wait for three months after placing an order for large crossovers like the RAV4, and about one month for other Toyota models,” he said.
Car sales in China have been a bit up-and-down, but September sales have been particularly strong, the article notes. Things seem on course for recovery over there. Must be nice!
2nd Gear: Even The Company That Took Over Takata Is Lying: Report
I don’t know if this was bound to happen, like some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, or a self-selecting group, but the company that bought up Takata is reportedly also playing very fast and loose with safety. It’s falsifying data about seatbelt strength, as Bloomberg reports:
The issue comes on top of revelations last week, confirmed by Japan’s transport ministry, that Joyson Safety Systems Japan, or JSSJ, had given faulty data to automakers on seatbelts shipped from its factory in Hikone, Shiga prefecture, which it took over from Takata in 2018. The Nikkei newspaper reported on Oct. 15 that as many as nine million seatbelts supplied by JSSJ to Japanese automakers fell short of strength standards.
JSSJ is ultimately owned by Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corp., the Chinese company whose subsidiary acquired the bankrupt Takata in 2018. The Japanese firm became aware of the faulty inspection data at the Hikone factory in April, with certain data also appearing to have been manipulated to pass product safety requirements imposed by the International Automotive Task Force, a Europe-based certification body, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. It’s unclear when the alleged data falsification took place, the people said.
3rd Gear: Hyundai/Kia Expects $2.9 Billion Cost Over Defective Engines
Speaking of recalled items, Hyundai and Kia have had major issues with the line of Theta engines, as Reuters reports:
Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors said on Monday that their third-quarter earnings would reflect quality-related costs amounting to a combined 3.36 trillion won ($2.94 billion).
The costs would include additional provision expenses related to the South Korean automakers’ “Theta” engines, the companies said in separate regulatory filings.
U.S. safety regulators in 2017 launched an investigation into the recall of nearly 1.7 million vehicles by Hyundai and Kia over an engine defect that increases the risk of a crash. The engines involved were fitted in Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe vehicles in the U.S., and Kia Optima, Sorento and Sportage models, all of which share the powertrain.
It costs a lot to be that bad!
4th Gear: Acura Thinks It’s Not Sporty Enough, Apparently
Of all of the things I would say are wrong with Acura, a lack of sufficient sportiness is not what I would put at the top of my list. Not Acura, though, by the sounds of this interview with Automotive News:
Acura unwrapped the redesigned MDX crossover in a virtual presentation, marking the fourth and penultimate vehicle in its lineup to undergo generational change with the mission to return to the brand’s performance roots.
“We can’t be right on top of our brother franchise,” Jon Ikeda, Acura brand officer, told Automotive News. “Honda is sporty fun, but we’re the performance division of Honda. We’re going to take the fun, sporty thing to the next level, and it’s going to be a little more expensive because some of those fun things cost money.”
[M]oving upmarket also comes with some sticker shock, especially when it comes in declining sedan segments. The second-generation TLX has a base price that’s a $4,500 jump from the outgoing model. The MDX faces a similar fate. Ikeda said he’s not too worried about sales because the products are strong.
5th Gear: Former Tesla Partner Says It Can Certify Driver-Assistance Tech To Standards
Driver-assistance tech is still a bit of a Wild West at the moment and a former supplier for Tesla, MobilEye, is casting itself the Will Smith of the situation, as Automotive News reports:
Startup Foretellix, based in Tel Aviv, and computer vision provider Mobileye, a subsidiary of Intel Corp. based in Jerusalem, announced an automatic lane-keeping systems verification package that addresses the requirements of a new United Nations regulation, the companies said Monday.
The regulation — adopted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations — creates regulation on Level 3 autonomy as it relates to automated lane-keeping systems.
The regulation, drafted under the leadership of Germany and Japan, limits the operational speed of these systems to 60 km/hr (37 mph) and passenger cars. It also includes general requirements regarding system safety and the system’s failsafe response, how the driving task shall be handed over from the system to the driver, as well as emergency and minimum risk maneuvers and other requirements.
The idea, I guess, is that carmakers just buy this pre-approved tech package rather than develop and test a system itself.
Reverse: Bullshit, I Say
Neutral: What Will Be Your Sign That We’re In The Clear For COVID?
Will it be when you go back into a store without a mask for the first time? When your friends have all bought new cars? What’s your peg?