Fiat Chrysler Recalls Nearly 2 Million Cars For Airbag Defect Tied To 3 Deaths

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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: And It’s Not Takata This Time

Fiat Chrysler announced last night that it will recall 1.9 million cars over an airbag problem now linked to three deaths and five injuries, reports Reuters. It’s an electronic problem:

The recall is to resolve a defect that may prevent deployment of airbags and seat-belt pretensioners in some crashes. The recall includes models sold between 2010 and 2014, including the Chrysler Sebring, 200, Dodge Caliber, Avenger, Jeep Patriot and Compass SUVs.

[...] Fiat Chrysler said the issue occurred when vehicles equipped with a particular occupant restraint control module and front impact sensor wiring of a specific design are involved in certain collisions.

Fiat Chrysler said it no longer uses the occupant restraint controllers or wire routing design. The notice did not say when it will begin recall repairs, which spokesman Eric Mayne said the automaker is “finalizing.”

It also affects the 2012-2013 Lancia Flavia, so get your Flavias fixed.

This recall comes a week after General Motors issued a recall for 4.3 million vehicles over a software defect that prevents air bags from deploying during a crash.

2nd Gear: Why Mobileye And Tesla Split Up

The chairman of Israeli autonomous tech firm Mobileye has been in the press talking shit about former partner Tesla, saying the latter’s Autopilot pushes the envelope in terms of safety.


But now we know more about why they split up this summer: Mobileye learned Tesla was developing its own camera-based vision system, which it regarded as supremely not cool.

Mobileye, however, has said it was out of safety concerns.

Via Reuters:

Once Mobileye learned Tesla would be using its own vision system in upcoming versions of Autopilot, a semi-autonomous technology that helps vehicles steer, it “attempted to force Tesla to discontinue this development, pay them more and use their products in future hardware,” a Tesla spokeswoman said.

[...] “When Tesla refused to cancel its own vision development activities and plans for deployment, Mobileye discontinued hardware support for future platforms and released public statements implying that this discontinuance was motivated by safety concerns,” she said.

The public fingerpointing is rare in the industry. In July, after Mobileye announced its break with Tesla, the carmaker said its former supplier had been unable to keep pace with Tesla’s product changes.


Who’s telling the truth here?

3rd Gear: Michigan Backs The Dealers

Speaking of Tesla, once again the state of Michigan has ruled in favor of franchised car dealers and against Tesla’s direct sales model. Via Automotive News:

The ruling was released after a Sept. 7 hearing to review the state’s initial motion to deny the automaker’s request for a license, submitted in November 2015. The application — which if approved, would allow the automaker to sell electric vehicles in storefronts in the state — was denied on the basis of Tesla’s direct-sales model.

According to state law, “a vehicle manufacturer shall not … sell any new motor vehicle directly to a retail customer other than through franchised dealers.”


Lame. On the bright side for direct sales fans, however, Arizona yesterday granted Tesla a license to sell direct to consumers.

On a side note, while I am in favor of at least allowing the option of direct sales, how will Tesla will be able to keep that system going with the mass numbers of Model 3s it eventually hopes to sell?


4th Gear: Fields Blasts Trump

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has used Ford’s decision to move small car production to Mexico as an explosive talking point in this election, particularly in Michigan, where voters are perpetually in fear of losing manufacturing jobs to other countries. (And, to be fair, with good reason.)


But Ford CEO Mark Fields promises that no American jobs will be lost as a result of this move because truck and SUV production will take the place of those small cars in America. Via The Detroit Free Press:

Fields said “zero” jobs will be lost in the U.S. and said “it is really unfortunate when politics get in the way of the facts.”

[...] “They think they’re going to get away with this and they fire all their employees in the United States and ... move to Mexico,” said Trump. “When that car comes back across the border into our country that now comes in free, we’re gonna charge them a 35% tax. And you know what’s gonna happen, they’re never going to leave.”

Fields told CNN that Trump’s claim about job losses was false.

The spat between Trump and Ford dates to June 2015 when Ford first announced that it would stop producing the Ford Focus and Ford C-Max at its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne in 2018 so it could move those vehicles to a lower-cost country.

Today, Fields reiterated the automaker’s commitment to the UAW to keep that plant running.

“We will be replacing those products with two very exciting new products so not one job will be lost,” Fields said.


5th Gear: The Alltrack Leads Volkswagen’s American Comeback

The future starts today!, if you ask Volkswagen. It starts with the new Golf Alltrack, which is aimed at stealing some sales away from Subaru and will be a prelude to an electric- and hybrid-centric lineup in the years to come. Forget those dirty diesels! Via The Detroit News:

The German automaker’s strategy took form this week with the launch of its first new vehicle, the 2017 Golf Alltrack wagon, since the cheating scandal broke last September.

“The Alltrack is the beginning of the journey making the brand more family-oriented, more fun-to-drive, and also more smart-to-own. It is the beginning of a positive journey for this brand,” said Hinrich Woebcken, 55, who began in April as CEO for VW Group North America. “Me and my team are intending to take this negative perception which is in the market because of (diesel) right into a positive momentum.”


And don’t forget the big SUV and a new Jetta:

The most important product in VW’s relaunch, however, will come in the second quarter of next year when VW unveils a midsize three-row SUV.

“It is in the middle of ramp-up in Chattanooga,” said Woecken, referring to VW’s Tennessee assembly plant which makes the Passat sedan. “This product is going to be a splash. It is a great seven-seater – the biggest Volkswagen SUV ever. This product is designed into the heart of the U.S. market.”

VW will follow the as-yet-to-be-named sport ute – which debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in 2013 as the CrossBlue concept – two months later with a long-wheelbase version of its compact crossover Tiguan. A redesigned Jetta sedan will follow.


We’ll have a full review of the Golf Alltrack later today.


Reverse: The General


Neutral: Ford VS. Trump

Is Trump right to fire at Ford over this one, or should we trust the automaker’s promise that U.S. jobs won’t be lost?



1st gear: Chrysler attempts to sustain your painful existence of Caliber ownership. Be your own angel of mercy, folks.