Detroit's 'Big Three' May Not Dominate North American Car Production Much Longer

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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: The Big Three Get Beaten At Their Own Game

While you might expect the “Big Three” (Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler) to dominate automobile production in North America, that may not be the case for much longer, according to a market analyst at IHS Markit who spoke Reuters. The news site writes:

North American vehicle production by the unionized Detroit 3 automakers will fall behind the combined North American output of automakers from Europe and Asia, along with Tesla, for the first time this year...


In 2017, the automotive consultancy claims, Fiat Chrysler, GM and Ford will produce 8.6 million vehicles on North American soil, while Tesla and foreign automakers will manufacture 8.7 million.

That 100,000 car delta is expected to grow as foreign automakers continue to build U.S.-market vehicles locally, with Reuters stating that Asian and European automakers, along with Tesla, will build 9.8 million cars in North America by 2024, while the Big Three will assembly just 8.1 million (that’s a six percent drop from 2017). That’s a giant 1.7 million car gap between the established big three and the rest of the pack.


Who knows whether this gap will inform the current White House administration’s views towards foreign automakers when they enjoy a majority share of cars produced in the U.S.


2nd Gear: Toyota And Mazda Join Forces To Develop Electric Vehicle Tech

Toyota has been dragging some major ass when it comes to electric vehicle development. Sure, the company has had the Prius hybrid since the beginning of time, and it’s been working heavily on hydrogen fuel cells, but when it comes to purely electric-motor driven vehicles, the company has had nothing to show. The same goes for Mazda, who has been focusing heavily on improving internal combustion engine efficiency.


Both companies have announced plans to get into the EV space, and Toyota last year even announced an “in-house venture company” whose goal it was to expedite EV development.

Now Toyota is entering a joint venture with Mazda and automotive supplier Denso. Called EV Common Architecture Spirit Co Ltd, the company’s aim, according to a statement published by Reuters, will be to “develop technology for a range of electric cars, including minivehicles, passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks.“


None of this is a huge surprise, as Mazda and Toyota have been working together for quite some time, and Denso was named as part of the EV-focused “business unit” mentioned last year.

Still, as Reuters points out, with China’s government pushing electric vehicles, and battery prices dropping, it’s time for all automakers to crank up their EV games—especially since internal combustion engines are being banned around the world. Maybe even in the U.S. in the not so distant future.


3rd Gear: The End Of The Fiat Chrysler 3.0-Liter Diesel “Scandal” May Be Near

In May, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it was launching a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler after the company allegedly failed to disclose certain software features that reduced the effectiveness of emissions controls devices on 3.0-liter diesel Ram 1500s and Jeep Grand Cherokees.


Such software features, called Auxiliary Emissions Control Devices, are not illegal, provided they’re used properly (for example, to protect a vehicle from damage). But what Fiat Chrysler allegedly didn’t do was disclose disclose eight of their AECDs—a move that’s required by law. (You an read the full list of Fiat Chrysler’s emissions-altering AECDS here).

Fiat Chrysler eventually proposed a fix, and in July, the EPA and California Air Resources Board approved 2017 models for sale. Reuters says Fiat Chrysler plans to use that same fix on vehicles affected prior to 2017 (and as early as 2014), but there are some hurdles:

Justice Department lawyer Leigh Rende said the federal government and California were near agreement on a testing plan with the company to see if the fix will work. The government and company must obtain representative vehicles to test as well, she said.


But fixing the cars isn’t the end of this mess. According to Reuters, owners of affected automobiles are engaged in a lawsuit that may come to a head in the middle of next month, with the site writing:

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will engage in settlement talks with lawyers representing vehicle owners suing the automaker over excess diesel emissions in Washington on Oct. 12, a court-appointed settlement adviser said Wednesday.


We’ll see in October how much this is going to cost Fiat Chrysler. For Fiat Chrysler, getting this bad PR over with as soon as possible may be the way to go.

4th Gear: Ford Gives Its Employees Paternity Leave

On the list of Things Other Countries Do Better Than The U.S., health care is at the very top. And included under that umbrella is paid paternity leave, which not nearly enough companies in the U.S. offer. That’s a shame, because dads like to spend time with babies, too, you know (and a number of studies say it’s important in the child’s development).


According to Automotive News, Ford employees—men and women—now get to spend more time with their newborn children, with the news site saying:

Mothers can now take an additional 10 days off any time in the first year of their child’s birth or adoption, or they can add the 10 days to their already allowed six to eight weeks of maternity leave... In addition, Ford will — for the first time — offer 10 days of paid time off for fathers any point during the first year following a child’s birth or adoption.


According to TIME Magazine’s sister-site Motto, as of November of 2016, neither GM nor Ford offered paid paternity leave. And Fiat Chrysler does not mention paternity leave on its benefits website (and my friends who work at FCA say they’re not aware of an official paid paternity leave program). So Ford’s move seems like a solidly progressive one, even if—in a lot of ways—it’s just common sense.

5th Gear: The Texas State Fair Could Be A Bigger Deal For Automakers Than Ever

With hundreds of thousands of cars in southeast Texas totaled after Hurricane Harvey, many Texans are on the hunt for new vehicles (especially since Texas isn’t exactly known for having the best public transportation). That makes this year’s Texas State Fair, which starts on Friday, a big deal for automakers—well, more specifically, truck makers.


Every year, truck brands put up huge displays at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas, and conduct big stunts to woo the truck-thirsty Texans actively lassoing bulls, eating giant briskets, making fun of Oklahoma and doing whatever else it is that Texans do.

According to Automotive News, the Texas State Fair is the biggest new car show in the American southwest, so it’s always a big deal. This year could be more important than ever, because chairman of the Houston Automobile Dealers Association Steven Wolf said vehicle sales in Texas are definitely looking up. This means there’s a lot up for grabs for automakers. The news site writes:

“In our stores, there’s a lot of push for Jeeps, pickup trucks, F-150s, Explorers, Expeditions, Escapes,” [Wolf] said. Some of the most popular Jeep and Ram trims are in short supply, but dealers in other parts of the country are forgoing inventory so that it can go straight to Houston.


Apparently, lenders and insurance companies have been very quick about declaring cars total losses, so people have cash in hand ready to buy a truck. Let the truck brand-showboating begin.

Reverse: Inventor Of One Of America’s First Gasoline Cars Dies

From History:

On September 28, 1938, inventor Charles Duryea dies in Philadelphia at the age of 76. Duryea and his brother Frank designed and built one of the first functioning “gasoline buggies,” or gas-powered automobiles, in the United States. For most of his life, however, Charles insisted on taking full credit for the brothers’ innovation. On the patent applications he filed for the Duryea Motor Wagon, for instance, Charles averred that he was the car’s sole inventor; he also loftily proclaimed that his brother was “simply a mechanic” hired to execute Charles’ plans.


Neutral: What Do You Hope Will Come Of Mazda And Toyota’s Venture?

An EV-Miata? An EV Tundra? Tell us your wildest dreams.