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: More North American Races? Sure
Liberty Media, a huge conglomerate owned by an American broadcast mogul nicknamed “The Cable Cowboy,” is buying Formula One in a massive $8 billion deal. Racing impresario Bernie Ecclestone will stick around, for now, but simple math says the 86-year-old won’t be there forever (probably?), and Liberty Media is tasked with moving the lucrative global sport into its next era.
Reuters reports that will more than likely mean yet another expanded push into North American markets. Currently F1 races in Montreal, Austin and Mexico City, but who knows, that could change:
“I can’t really think of a better buyer,” said motorsport marketing executive Zak Brown, the chief executive of CSM Sport&Entertainment.
“If you had to write down a list of who you would want to buy Formula One, Liberty would be top of that list,” added the American, whose company is part of Chime Communications and represents many of Formula One’s leading sponsors.
Brown saw Liberty’s arrival as bringing longer-term vision that could see the sport embark on significant growth in areas such as the U.S., and said sponsors were excited by the prospects of attracting a new and younger audience.
“They’ve sold it to strategic buyer as opposed to another financial buyer,” he said. “So they will be making decisions that are strategic-led, what’s best for the growth of the sport and the fans and the sponsors.”
That all sounds well and good, but let’s see what happens. As the story notes, west and east coast races in the U.S. could have tremendous revenue potential.
2nd Gear: The Man At The Heart Of Fiat Chrysler’s Sales Numbers Debacle
The handsome and strapping Reid Bigland has long been considered a rising star at Fiat Chrysler. He’s led Ram Trucks and Alfa Romeo in North America, and currently serves as global head of Alfa and Maserati, and he’s head of U.S. sales and CEO of Fiat Chrysler Canada. The guy has a lot on his plate.
But as Bloomberg explains, Bigland is at the center of an investigation into whether Fiat Chrysler committed fraud by inflating its monthly sales numbers. Not only could this change the way sales are reported, but it’s also part of a criminal and regulatory probe into the matter, not to mention lawsuits.
For many dealers around the country, it’s just a given that Bigland, a charismatic speaker with chiseled features and a bodybuilder’s frame, pushes hard for results. For them, he’s the tough but fair leader, at once beloved for his cheerleading yet sometimes feared for his ever-escalating demands for higher sales.
“Reid will tell you what he expects and there’s no sleight of hand,” said Tom Leonard, co-owner of Fury Motors in South St. Paul, Minn. “He gives us a number, and we have to figure out how to hit it.”
[...] The two lawsuits also allege Fiat Chrysler manipulated sales with incentive programs. Under Bigland’s leadership, these have been among the most expensive in the industry. Maserati of Long Island sued the company in July alleging other dealers were given cash incentives to count cars in their demo fleets as sold, even though there was no retail buyer at the time the sales were counted.
3rd Gear: More Takata Recalls In Japan
This time for BMW. Via Reuters:
The German automaker recalled 44 models including its 116i and 118i hatchbacks and the 320i sedan to replace passenger-side air bags made by the parts maker, according to a filing to Japan’s transport ministry.
Affected vehicles were produced between 2004 and 2012.
Not the 1 Series hatchback! You bastards!
4th Gear: Nissan’s Rescue Of Mitsubishi Falls Behind Schedule Amid Raids
Nissan has agreed to buy struggling and scandal-ridden rival Mitsubishi, but it’s still doing the diligence that was supposed to be completed a month ago. Continued raids by Japanese government officials over the fuel economy cheating mess probably isn’t helping. Via Automotive News:
The ministry may raid Mitsubishi Motors offices a fourth time if the evidence collected during its latest inspection isn’t enough to fully understand the scope of Mitsubishi Motors’ misdeeds, said Yuki Ebihara, an official within the regulator’s recall division. Another search also may be warranted if the ministry’s findings point to bigger problems, he said.
“You can’t deny the company has a culture that’s prone to malpractice,” Ebihara said in a phone interview. “Compared with other makers, we have to give them a closer look.”
5th Gear: Uber Pushed To Make Self-Driving Data Public
With the help of Volvo and through its own Ford Fusions, Uber is making its first big foray into autonomous car testing on public roads. But at least one consumer watchdog group is pressing Uber to make public any data about its crashes or other incidents, which is required in California but not other states. Via The Detroit News:
Uber Technologies Inc. is being pressed to make public information about any accidents or other problems with its self-driving cars as it prepares to begin operating autonomous Ford Fusion hybrids to pick up customers in Pittsburgh.
The Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog group said the popular ride-hailing company should make available information about its self-driving cars because it is planning to conduct trials on the streets in downtown Pittsburgh instead of a closed course. Free pick-up service is expected to begin this month. Drivers will be ready to assume control if there’s a problem.
“You have opted to use public roads as your laboratory and with that comes a responsibility to fully disclose exactly what you are doing both when things go right and when they inevitably go wrong,” John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director wrote in a letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick that was dated Wednesday.
And we all know how much Uber likes being regulated.
Reverse: Federal Safety Laws At 50
Neutral: What Price Should FCA Pay If They Are Found To Be Greasing Their Sales?
How big a scandal is this, and what should happen?