Illustration for article titled Feds Are Investigating Tesla Again
Photo: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik
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I would have thought that the federal government would be casting another eye on the misleading terminology of Autopilot, but that would be asking too much, I guess. That and more in The Morning Shift for Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

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1st Gear: For Touchscreens?

I don’t know if this is exactly what I would be rushing to investigate if I was a federal investigator, but, well, maybe that’s why I’m not a federal investigator. Faulty touchscreens are apparently the big consumer issue when it comes to Tesla, as Reuters reports:

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday it had opened an investigation into 63,000 Tesla Model S cars after reports of media control unit failures that led to loss of the use of a touchscreen.

The auto safety agency said the probe, known as a preliminary evaluation, covers 2012-2015 model year vehicles and comes after it received 11 complaints alleging failures. The complaints said the media control unit failures allegedly fails prematurely due to “memory wearout.”

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See, this is why we gotta just stick with buttons and knobs. Buttons and knobs, man.

2nd Gear: Hugeness Of Ford F-150 Impossible To Overstate

A new F-150 is coming out this week, which is probably why there’s also a Boston Consulting Group report trying to convince us all that the pickup truck made by Ford (oh so different from the pickup trucks made by GM, FCA, and the rest of them) is very important. To be honest, it worked! As the Freep reports, the F-150 is big. Economically:

The wildly popular Ford F-150 pickup truck with its family of Super Duty siblings is second only to the iPhone when it comes to branded consumer product sales, according to a new economic analysis from the Boston Consulting Group.

While the iPhone generated $55 billion in revenue to $42 billion for the F-Series in 2019, the F-Series actually generated more in revenue than the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League combined — which was just $40 billion, the analysis showed.

[...]

“It is impossible to overstate the economic significance of the Ford F-150 to Ford and to the U.S. economy,” said market analyst Jon Gabrielsen. “The Ford F-150 is the single highest volume vehicle sold in the U.S. and has been for years.”

The F-Series would actually be the 80th largest company in the U.S. in terms of revenue, Ford proudly notes. Bigger than Nike, Coca-Cola, Starbuck’s, Tesla, MasterCard, Netflix, VISA, Uber, CapitalOne, Twitter, Disneyworld and Southwest Airlines.

This report goes far, but not far enough. Let us consider a sovereign state of F-150. Perhaps we could have a breakaway nation of F-150 owners, people too afraid to do anything so risky as, I don’t know, buy a Dodge.

3rd Gear: Roughly 100 Coronavirus Cases In VW’s Mexico Operations

Remember how we kept reporting on how the auto industry was pressuring Mexico to reopen manufacturing early, and how the checks put in place by the Mexican government seemed remarkably loose? Well VW is saying that a good two percent of its employees got coronavirus, or about 100 people. And that’s what we’re hearing from a cautious company, as Reuters reports:

Volkswagen, which has tested staff extensively for COVID-19 infections and coronavirus antibodies, said staff who tested positive had contracted coronavirus during the period after the plants had shut in late March and before resuming work.

About 45 percent of the company’s 11,364 workers and associated staff had been tested and nearly 2 percent had contracted the virus, the company said in a statement, equivalent to about 100 workers.

Mexico has become one of the world’s main coronavirus hotspots, with the Latin American nation on Monday reporting 4,577 new infections and 759 additional deaths.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been criticised for permitting factories to reopen too soon, with few signs that the number of deaths or infections was easing up.

Volkswagen added that the plant in “coming days will remain focused on training and preparation for the start of manufacturing.”

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The thing I’m taking away from this is that VW is still just starting to reopen its Puebla factory, while other carmakers have been open for weeks now.

4th Gear: McLaren Could Be Insolvent Within A Month

We’ve written a bit in the past about how McLaren is in rough shape financially, to the point that its car collection is becoming a point of legal contention. But new evidence suggests the situation is worst than we all thought for such a high-profile venture, as RaceFans reports:

Although a spokesperson declined to provide details, matters came to a head last week when McLaren launched urgent legal proceedings against a group of bond holders who refused permission for McLaren Group to raise funds – believed to be £280m – by mortgaging its state-of-art Surrey headquarters and hallowed heritage collection, which includes a number of Ayrton Senna’s race winners.

Court documents seen by RaceFans state that McLaren Group is “now facing an impending liquidity shortfall. It has an urgent need to raise new money by no later than 17 July 2020” and that “additional liquidity of approximately £280 million would be sufficient for the Group to be able to support its operations into 2021”.

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If McLaren wants to do well, it should simply sell a full-size pickup truck. Then it’d be fine, I’m sure.

5th Gear: Wait We Don’t Have Federal Safety Protocols For Flying?

Airlines and airports are “flying blind,” as The Detroit News puts it:

U.S. airlines are adding flights back to their schedules as demand slowly rebounds from record-low levels at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. But the lack of direction about safety precautions governing flying during the pandemic — such as requiring passengers to wear face masks and checking their temperatures before flights — has created confusion among passengers and workers.

And neither the Federal Aviation Administration nor the Transportation Security Administration has implemented COVID-19 safety protocols to guide airports or airlines.

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A big part of what has been so horrible about coronavirus is how much we are all left to our own devices, without clear government direction requiring mask usage, and laying out what is and isn’t risky. But god knows how much any direction or regulation can even do without universal healthcare in this country, or proper federal funding for nurses and hospitals. As it stands, don’t look for me on a flight anytime soon.

Reverse: Aliens

Via History:

On June 24, 1997, U.S. Air Force officials release a 231-page report dismissing long-standing claims of an alien spacecraft crash in Roswell, New Mexico, almost exactly 50 years earlier.

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Neutral: What Investigation Would You Want In The Car Industry?

I would love to see some kind of investigation on how car companies have sidestepped federal attempts at regulating fuel economy by shifting sales to relatively lax areas like pickup trucks, but that’s me.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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