Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. There’s a new Toyota Supra at the Geneva Motor Show, but you should divert your gaze momentarily to these other important stories from around the world that you need to know.
1st Gear: Guess What Happens When You Fact-Check Anything About Trump’s Trade War
Why is President Trump agitating for a trade war with the European Union after getting pissed off about Chinese steel? That’s a great question, particularly as everything Trump has said about his reasoning for a trade war is wrong, as the Associated Press’ fact-checkers pointed out today.
You should read the full article here, but I’ll hit the highlights:
Trump said we have an $800 billion deficit. It sounds like he was actually alluding to how we bought “$810 billion more in foreign goods than other countries bought from the U.S.” as the AP cites from the Census Bureau. That leaves out our $244 billion trade surplus in services.
Trump said a trade war is easy to win. It’s not.
Trump said that the EU is blocking American cars from selling over there. This is my favorite one:
TRUMP: “If the E.U. wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on U.S. companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S. They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!” — tweet Saturday.
THE FACTS: He’s wrong that automakers find it impossible to sell U.S.-made cars in Europe and that European cars come into the U.S. “freely.” He’s right about a big imbalance, but his impulse to exaggerate is on display here.
The U.S. Census Bureau shows $13.8 billion in U.S. auto and parts exports last year to four countries in Europe: Germany, Britain, Belgium and France.
It shows $51.3 billion in U.S. imports of autos and parts from five countries in Europe: Germany, Britain, Sweden, Italy and Austria.
The EU applies a 10 percent duty on cars made in the U.S. The U.S. applies a 2.5 percent duty on cars made in Europe.
If Europeans wanted to buy big gas-guzzling pickup trucks and midsize crossovers, you bet American automakers would be selling well there. There’s not a lot else to it.
2nd Gear: Automakers Are Pissed
You know who loves this? Not carmakers, who would have to deal with higher steel prices and retaliatory tariffs on top of them. Needless to say, execs are already voicing their displeasure to the assembled media at the Geneva Motor Show.
“There are no winners. Everybody loses something,” Toyota executive vice-president Didier Leroy told the Financial Times. “It’s bad news for carmakers and bad news for customers. It can only have one impact, and that is to push the price up for the final customer.”
It’s easy to imagine Trump as bumbling his way towards not a lot at all, but carmakers are taking this very seriously, as Reuters reports. Sergio Marchionne told the press:
“If people have not yet recognized that the Trump administration is attempting to correct what it sees as a number of injustices ... [they] are going to run into trouble.”
Volvo added that its production in South Carolina could get screwed up, and Volkswagen and Ford both publicly voiced their displeasure over tariffs that wouldn’t help anybody. Cool. Cool.
3rd Gear: Meanwhile In Europe, Toyota Drops Diesel From Passenger Cars
Another automaker is dropping diesel from its passenger car lineup. Following Fiat Chrysler, Toyota is ditching the engine for Europe, as Automotive News Europe reports.
Unsurprisingly, the company is going back to hybridizing everything, though it’s leaving big SUVs and trucks out of this pull-back. Things like the Land Cruiser, Hilux and Proace commercial vehicle will keep their diesels.
4th Gear: China Issues Licenses To Test Autonomous Cars On The Road
I personally thought this had already happened, but it turns out that Baidu (China’s big search engine) didn’t have any kind of official rules for its test of a self-driving car last summer in Beijing. Bold!
In any case, now there are licenses for use on a dedicated stretch of road in Shanghai—one that’s only 3.5 miles long—as Automotive News China reports, so expect a great deal more autonomobile testing over there.
5th Gear: At Least Uber Is Offering To Pay This Time
This story is deeply humorous to me, if you can’t already tell. Uber and Waymo recently settled their gigantic court case over whether or not Uber stole trade secrets from Waymo about self-driving cars, part of Uber’s hail mary to save its lack of a working business model. As it is, that whole effort from Uber flubbed, and now the company is just trying to buy its way in, as The Information reports:
Now that the legal fight between Uber and Waymo is over, Uber wants to resurrect an old idea—partnering with Waymo to deploy self-driving cars, say people familiar with the situation.
Since Dara Khosrowshahi became CEO last fall, Uber executives have signaled to Waymo a desire to allow Uber’s customers to ride in Waymo’s autonomous vehicles.
Reverse: He Never Even Got To See The Model T
Neutral: You’re An Auto Executive. What Do You Do?
Let’s say you’re the Gersio Charmionne of semi-major international automaker Chiat-Fysler, or the Charles Gonne of Nerault-Sissan. Are you already changing plans, or are you just issuing statements to the media about how bad this would all be? Are you sending edible arrangements to the White House with “I love you, you love free trade, we’re a happy free trade family” written on the card? What’s your play here?