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: It’s Something!
Fiat Chrysler has been stumbling around for a little while now, with CEO Sergio Marchionne appearing to be mostly interested in just selling the company. We haven’t heard a lot about product investment lately, but this, from the Detroit Free Press, counts as great news:
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said today it plans to spend $1 billion to retool its plants in Toledo, Ohio, and Belvidere, Ill., and create 1,000 new jobs as it shuffles its North American production footprint.
FCA said it will invest $700 million at its Toledo Assembly North Plant to prepare for the next-generation Jeep Wrangler and expand the production capacity of the SUV. The automaker said it plans to add about 700 jobs at that plant.
In Belvidere, the automaker plans to spend $350 million to prepare that plant to assemble the Jeep Cherokee, which is currently built in Toledo.
FCA under Marchionne has decided to re-focus on highly profitable SUVs, and while that’s not ideal from an “I like cars, please more cars” perspective, I guess it makes sense from a business perspective.
But it’s good to see FCA putting its money where its mouth is.
2nd Gear: Senator Asks Tesla To Explain Autopilot
In the wake of the first fatal crash involving Tesla’s Autopilot system, Senator John Thune (R - SD) sent a letter to CEO Elon Musk asking the company to appear before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Reuters reports, asking Musk to brief the committee on the crash and Tesla’s response to it:
Thune wrote that he was interested in hearing about Tesla’s efforts to ensure its technology is “deployed safely.” He added that “manufacturers must educate consumers not only about their benefits but also their limitations.”
A Tesla spokeswoman said she had not seen the letter and did not have an immediate comment.
This doesn’t quite sound like a subpoena just yet, but we’re staying tuned to this one.
3rd Gear: Ford Invests In A Mapping Company
Ford just bought a nice chunk of a mapping company, called Civil Maps, Bloomberg reports:
The startup uses artificial-intelligence software to aggregate raw 3-D data from sensors on self-driving cars to create highly detailed maps used to direct autonomous vehicles. Civil Maps said its format uses less data, reducing the cost of transmission over cellular networks. That lets the technology provide more real-time road data gathered through crowd-sourcing traffic information from other cars.
The startup only has 16 employees so far, but that doesn’t mean it’s a small move for Ford at all. Almost every major car company will, at some point in the next 20 years, offer autonomous cars. Those cars need highly detailed maps, and if you can get in on the ground floor of a mapping company before any of your competitors do, then it may just give you a head start.
4th Gear: The United Kingdom Also Wants To Pile On Volkswagen
Volkswagen’s getting hammered on Dieselgate, and rightfully so. The United States and the European Union have had their fill, and Germany’s considering some measures, too. But after seeing the rest of the world have their fun, the U.K. wants to get in on it, too (via Reuters):
In Britain, 1.2 million cars were fitted with defeat devices but in April a British transport minister said the firm had yet to fix any cars, contradicting the carmaker which said it had begun making some software modifications.
On Friday, Britain’s transport select committee, whose conclusions are not binding on the government, said VW should be punished to avoid a repeat of the scandal.
“Without proper sanctions against manufacturers that cheat, there is little to stop a similar scandal from happening again,” the committee said in statement.
Britain is really bad at doing much of anything right now, so we’ll see how that plan works out.
5th Gear: Did You Guys See The Deadspin Awards?
Yeah, I know, this isn’t exactly “automotive” “industry” “news,”
but it’s a summer Friday and nothing matters anyway. The Deadspin Awards were last night, and they were awesome and hilarious and sportsy. If you didn’t catch them live, you can still watch them here. I hear that Daniel Radcliffe read some mean tweets and then made fun of this entire company.
Good guy, that Radcliffe.
On this day in 1903, the newly formed Ford Motor Company takes its first order from Chicago dentist Ernst Pfenning: an $850 two-cylinder Model A automobile with a tonneau (or backseat). The car, produced at Ford’s plant on Mack Street (now Mack Avenue) in Detroit, was delivered to Dr. Pfenning just over a week later.
Neutral: What SUVs Should Jeep Build?
They’ve got the Wrangler, the Renegade, the Grand Cherokee, soon the Wagoneer, and NOTHING ELSE THAT WE WILL MENTION. Is four SUVs enough? What else should they be building, besides also the Comanche?