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Germany to Cheating Diesel VW Owners: Get Your Car Fixed or We Take Your Registration

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In case you hadn’t heard, this “cheating diesels” thing that started three years ago is still going on. Enjoy your morning commute to work, breathing in a lot more nasty vehicle emissions than you ever thought you would. This is The Morning Shift for Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018.

1st Gear: Get Your Volkswagen Fixed in Germany or Lose Its Registration

Here’s one for the people who ignore their car recalls, no matter how severe: Automotive News Europe reports that the federal motor vehicle authority in Germany, the KBA, warned the owners of certain Volkswagen Group diesels to get their cheating diesels fixed or risk losing their car registration altogether.


The KBA basically said owners have had long enough to get their recalls done since the first story about this cheating catastrophe broke three years ago next month, and Automotive News Europe reports that the KBA has already de-registered a few Audis and Volkswagens.

From the story:

Further vehicles are at risk of being taken off the road in German state of Bavaria but have been given a grace period to make the repair, Automobilwoche said.

“The recall [for affected VW diesel cars] is compulsory. Cars that are not fixed can eventually be taken out of service. Subject to the release date of the updates, the car owner has had about a year and a half. Plenty of time, to take part in the recall,” the KBA told Automotive News Europe in an emailed statement.

The move comes after the KBA approved in early 2016 software tweaks from VW intended to fix manipulated engine control software in 1.2-, 1.6- and 2.0-liter EA 189 engines.


Automotive News Europe reports that this is really about a small group of people, since the KBA said 95 percent of the nearly 2.5 million affected cars in Germany had gotten their cheating emissions fixed. But that small percentage is still out there commuting and polluting (more than it should), and the German government is done with those owners procrastinating.

We could probably all use this kind of motivation when we’re procrastinating, to be honest.

2nd Gear: Switzerland Bans Some Mercedes and Porsche Cars Over Emissions

“More emissions talk?” you ask yourself, exasperated. Yes. We’ve been talking about cheating emissions for three years, and somehow it’s still happening.


This time, Swiss authorities have had enough of some of these lying, cheating diesel engines in their country, and Reuters reports that they’ve banned the Mercedes-Benz Vito and the Porsche Macan and Cayenne with cheaty diesels.

The ban begins with vehicles imported from Aug. 17 onward, Reuters reports. Switzerland just won’t register them. From the story:

Mercedes Vitos with 1.6-litre diesel engines, Porsche Macans with 3-litre diesel engines and Cayennes with 4.2-litre diesel engine are affected by the action. All have Euro 6 emission norms, which refers to the emissions standards these engines are required to meet.

Daimler said it had stopped exporting the Vito model after German authorities in May ordered a recall and halt to new registrations for the vehicle. This affected 24 Vito vehicles destined for Switzerland, a spokesman for the German manufacturer said in an emailed statement.


Reuters reports that cars already registered in Switzerland get a pass on this new rule, but that they’ll have to be retrofitted to be less, well, cheaty.

3rd Gear: Another Environmental Group Wants to Sue Toyota and Mazda

Toyota and Mazda haven’t had a great time so far with their joint car factory in Alabama, since the companies picked a spot for the plant near the habitat of a threatened species that allegedly hadn’t been properly marked or protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


That was the basis of a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, a group that helps species nearing extinction, against the service. The lawsuit said the service hadn’t properly protected a small fish called the spring pygmy sunfish that lives near where the plant is going, and that steps need to be taken to make sure the plant doesn’t harm it. The center announced that it plans to sue Toyota and Mazda soon, too, and another environmental group joined the party.

That group is Tennessee Riverkeeper, which Huntsville, Alabana outlet WAFF reports has filed an intent to sue Toyota and Mazda like the Center for Biological Diversity did a few weeks ago.


Here’s more, from WAFF:

“This gets us a seat at the table, at the negotiating table. Oftentimes people at the city of Huntsville or major corporations won’t take Riverkeeper seriously until we file enforcement actions, and then that gets us a seat at the table,” said David Whiteside, founder of Tennessee Riverkeeper.

“We are not opposed to the construction of this plant, we just want to make sure they do it in a way that complies with federal environmental laws,” he said.


There’s more on the whole fish issue here and here, if you want to read.

4th Gear: People Aren’t Exactly Warming Up to This ‘Self-Driving Car’ Stuff

Here we are, year after year, marching slowly toward a life of autonomous pods on the road and our fellow humankind being even more enslaved to technology. Yet, wait, what’s this? People are less open to the idea of self-driving cars, and think they’re less safe, than two years ago?


Now we’re talking. Keep those pedals in the car.

Automotive News reports that a study done by Cox Automotive recently found that people are less warmed up to the idea of buying fully autonomous cars than they were two years ago, with a lot of people preferring semi-autonomous cars now. That’s come as overall awareness of autonomous tech has gone up, and as a few crashes have gotten a lot of news coverage.


From Automotive News:

Nearly half of the 1,250 consumers surveyed said they would never buy a Level 5 (or fully autonomous) vehicle, according to a Cox Automotive consumer attitudes study released Thursday. That’s up from 30 percent of the 2,264 people polled two years ago.

The Society of Automotive Engineers recognizes five levels of vehicle autonomy, ranging from Level 0 (human-only control) to Level 5 (no steering wheels, pedals and human control). [...]

The number of respondents who believe roads would be safer if all vehicles were fully autonomous versus operated by people has decreased 18 percentage points in two years.


Automotive News also reports that the study found that 85 percent of the people tested think a person should always be able to take over from the car, rather than removing the wheel and pedals from it completely. Sounds like a good plan.

5th Gear: Sergio Marchionne Dodged Federal Charges for Buying a Watch

The Detroit News quoted two sources as saying federal investigators found out that former Fiat Chrysler CEO, the late Sergio Marchionne, bought an Italian watch for the former vice president of the United Auto Workers union, General Holiefield. Marchionne reportedly didn’t disclose the gift in questioning.


Marchionne was never charged for anything related to the watch before he died last month at 66 years old, the Detroit News reports, but charges could have included making a false statement and breaking a federal labor law—the one barring employers from giving union officials money and expensive items.

Some of the UAW leadership, as you probably know, has a thing for cash and expensive items, and a history of that kind of stuff being given by FCA. Here’s more on what the sources said about the watch, from the Detroit News story:

The sources describe a dramatic “gotcha” moment during a secretive July 2016 meeting between Marchionne, head of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, and investigators. It ended with the auto executive exposed to the possibility of federal charges. [...]

Flanked by his white-collar criminal defense lawyer, William Jeffress, at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, Marchionne was asked by investigators whether he had given UAW leaders valuable items.

Marchionne said no, according to the two sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

Investigators then confronted Marchionne with evidence he had given Holiefield a custom-made Terra Cielo Mare watch in February 2010. The Italian watchmaker has produced custom-made, limited-edition timepieces with the Fiat logo emblazoned on the dial since at least 2006.


The watch given to Holiefield, the Detroit News reports, citing court documents, had a hand-written note from a person described as an FCA executive: “Dear General, I declared the goods at less than fifty bucks. That should remove any potential conflict. Best regards, and see you soon.”

Reverse: Buying a Car Online 20 Years Ago

On Aug. 16, 1999, the LA Times wrote that all dealerships required people to put in personal information before showing the price of a vehicle, when even home prices were available without that stuff. But, the story said, “the auto industry carrie[d] the same baggage it has in the real world into the cyber one.”


How times have changed.

The story also said that at the time, car dealers ranked last in a Gallup Poll of how people felt about the honesty of others in a certain profession. Maybe things haven’t changed that much.


Neutral: Have You Done Your Recalls Lately?

Obviously, a few people in Germany haven’t. But have you checked your VIN for recalls lately—you know, in case there’s some big safety feature you need fixed?