This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place every weekday morning. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: The Gigafactory Trick
One of the big questions surrounding Tesla's gigafactory is: Who is going to use all of those batteries? The goal is to produce enough batteries in ten years to meet demand for 500,000 cars, which is about twice what most people are forecasting Tesla to be capable of selling at that point.
Some of the batteries could go to Solar City for renewable energy storage, some might go to the military, but this report from Bloomberg has me thinking about Ze Germans.
“The development with Tesla is catching a lot of attention in Europe,” Laurent Abadie, who heads the Japanese manufacturer’s operations in Europe, said in an interview. “It could bring some acceleration to this industry. Especially the German carmakers are trying to catch up.”
As a result, Panasonic will be able to expand its leadership in car batteries, which it already supplies to companies including Volkswagen AG, Abadie said. He declined to provide a specific forecast.
Batteries are the most expensive component of an electric vehicle, and, as Nissan is learning, it's not fun being in the production business.
Ze Germans are the furthest behind in terms of electric vehicles and that car market in Europe has to turn around eventually.
2nd Gear: European Car Market Turning Around!
New car registrations were up 1.8% last month as people in the countries hardest hit by austerity suddenly had enough money to buy a Volkswagen, or whatever.
New passenger car registrations in the European Union (EU) and the countries of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) rose to 701,118 vehicles in August, from 688,464 in the year-earlier period, data from the Association of European Carmakers (ACEA) showed.
A recovery in demand in Spain, Portugal and Greece, countries formerly plagued by austerity, helped lift momentum in favour of mass market brands, with sales of VW branded cars up 14 percent, Ford up 15.2 percent and Opel registrations rising 7.5 percent.
By contrast, August registrations of BMW cars fell 2.0 percent, Mercedes-Benz car sales fell 3.9 percent and Audi (NSUG.DE) registrations fell 7.6 percent.
Germany couldn't carry Europe forever and a 26% jump in Portugal helped, even if it's a small market.
3rd Gear: Why Are The Dems Defending NHTSA?
An attack on a federal agency, like the ones being leveled at NHTSA, can always be viewed through a partisan lens.
It's maybe why Republicans have been so hard on NHTSA, and house Dems have been defending it.
But Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the panel, and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., who is the ranking member of the subcommittee that oversees NHTSA, took issue with some findings.
“The report almost completely ignores the role played by GM. GM had the same information as NHTSA — but also knew much, much more. GM allowed the defective switch to be installed in these vehicles; for over a decade, the company had the opportunity and responsibility to take action to fix this deadly problem — yet failed to do so. The fault here lies squarely with GM,” the pair said.
No, the fault definitely lies with NHTSA as well, though the Dems make a good point in that if the Republicans care so much they should pass the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2014, which would give NHTSA actual teeth and more support but... that would put Republicans in support of a government agency and thus "bigger" government.
See, everyone is a hypocrite.
4th Gear: But Seriously, Get Rid Of David Friedman
How to view acting/deputy NHTSA chief David Friedman's performance yesterday in front of Congress? Was he just moronically trotting out the company line to keep his job or falling on his sword because he knows he isn't going to?
It's unclear, but Sec. of Transportation Anthony Foxx told David Shepardson a full-time NHTSA administrator is coming soon.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., urged the White House to make filling the NHTSA administrator job a priority.
“While I believe Mr. Friedman has done a good job of running the agency on an interim basis since the last Senate-confirmed administrator stepped down in January, I would urge the White House to make filling the vacancy for the nation’s top highway and auto safety official a priority. Especially as the agency evaluates its personnel and financial resource needs, and continues to work to modernize in order to keep pace with an auto industry far more technologically advanced that it, NHTSA needs an administrator and a deputy administrator — not one person doing both jobs,” McCaskill said.
That's not a job I'd want.
5th Gear: NHTSA Investigating Door Latches
No one better dare imply that NHTSA isn't doing its job as they're launching a probe into the 2011 - 2013 Ford Fiesta over doors that might not latch.
According to the AP, NHTSA says it's had 61 complaints over the doors, including 12 instances of the doors being opened while driving.
One person was injured when the door slammed on them as they tried to close it.
Reverse: I Need To Drive An Amphicar
On September 17, 1965, four adventurous Englishmen arrive at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany after crossing the English Channel by Amphicar, the world's only mass-produced amphibious passenger car. Despite choppy waters, stiff winds, and one flooded engine, the two vehicles made it across the water in about seven hours.
Neutral: Will Ze Germans Need Ze Tesla? Or is this just crazy conjecture?
Photo Credit: AP Images