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: That’s A Lot Of Toyotas
We’re just beginning to realize the scope of the gigantic 34 million-car Takata airbag recall. At least 11 automakers used Takata’s potentially explosive airbags, now linked to seven deaths in the U.S. Yesterday the recall announcement came from Honda, today it’s from Toyota. Per USA Today, here’s the list from Toyota:
In the case of Toyota, the additional models will include 2003 to 2007 Corolla and Corolla Matrix; 2005 to 2006 Tundra; 2005 to 2007 Sequoia; and 2003 to 2007 Lexus SC430 vehicles. Toyota says the new additions bring the number of Toyota and Lexus vehicles covered by Takata recalls in the U.S. to about 2.9 million.
That’s a lot of cars, and a lot of ridiculously common cars. (Except for the SC430, of course. When was the last time you saw one of those?)
2nd Gear: GM Finds An Interesting Use For Old Volt Batteries
What’s an automaker to do with the fancy batteries in hybrid and electric cars after they’ve reached the end of their vehicular lifespan? General Motors thinks they could be used to power homes and offices, and they’ve already put them to use helping power the data center at the Milford Proving Ground. From The Detroit Free Press:
GM’s Pablo Valencia, senior manager of battery life cycle management, has said that when an electric vehicle battery reaches the end of its automotive use, 30 percent or less of the battery life has been used. GM plans for each Volt battery to last at least 10 years on the road and the batteries could provide power for energy storage for another 10 years.
GM is looking to partner with others for future deployments even though the supply of batteries today is “pretty small,” Valencia said.
It’s a great idea. I hope we see more of this.
3rd Gear: Billionaire Investor Kirk Kerkorian Dies At 98
Kirk Kerkorian, who made his billions in the casino industry and was involved with the American auto industry in various colorful ways over the years, died Monday in Los Angeles, his investment company announced yesterday. He was 98. Here’s Automotive News to explain some of how Kerkorian was involved in the car business, which itself could probably fill a book:
His last known investment in the auto industry was in 2008, when he spent more than $1 billion buying a 6.5 percent stake in Ford Motor Co., becoming its largest outside shareholder. He sold the shares at a $600 million loss later the same year, expressing a lack of confidence in the automaker’s turnaround prospects.
In 2007, Kerkorian made a $4.6 billion bid for Chrysler, which was then part of DaimlerChrysler. He ultimately lost out to Cerberus Capital Management. It was Kerkorian’s external analysis of Chrysler that had helped lead to the company’s tie-up with Daimler-Benz a decade earlier. Kerkorian had enlisted former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca to help make a $22.8 billion hostile offer for Chrysler in 1995, when he already owned a 10 percent stake.
Kerkorian later unsuccessfully sued DaimlerChrysler in 2000 after he realized much like everyone else that the so-called “merger of equals” wasn’t what everyone was promised. He also pushed GM to partner with Renault-Nissan in the mid-2000s.
4th Gear: Chinese Brands May Feel The Most Pain As Sales Decline
On The Morning Shift lately, we’ve been covering how auto sales in China — especially among luxury brands — appear to be on the decline after years of explosive growth. Who gets hurt the most when this happens? The home-market Chinese brands, says Bloomberg:
China’s automakers are vulnerable to price competition initiated by foreign brands, which have stepped up their discounting to win back market share, according to the head of the country’s state-backed auto group.
The discounting will hit local brands in the coming months, Dong Yang, secretary general of the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers, wrote in a posting on its website. There are too many domestic car brands in China and automakers should stop expanding their capacity and seek to combine their operations instead, he said.
The homegrown Chinese automakers were having a tough time as it was, with the bougie Chinese nouveau riche blowing off their cars in favor of Audis and Buicks.
5th Gear: New York Goes After Dealers For Bunk ‘Credit Repair’ Products
The Attorney General of New York just brought the hammer down on three dealerships accused of unlawfully selling “credit repair” and identity theft protection products to customers. Paragon Honda and its two sister stores settled the case for $13.5 million. One more from Automotive News:
Also today, the attorney general’s office announced a smaller but similar settlement with Generation Kia in Bohemia, N.Y.; said it has served notice of intent to sue 11 dealerships that allegedly engaged in similar practices; and revealed a consent order previously reached with Credit Forget It curtailing its activities.
The attorney general’s office said its investigation of Paragon found that the dealerships used deceptive sales tactics from 2010 through 2014, including charging consumers for credit-repair services and other aftermarket items without their knowledge or by misrepresenting that the services were free.
By charging consumers for the Credit Forget It services, Paragon violated state and federal laws banning upfront fees for these services, the attorney general’s office said.
Karma’s a bitch.
Reverse: I Honestly Think This Is Why Ford Will Never Bring The Bronco Name Back
Viewers across the nation are glued to their television screens on this day in 1994, watching as a fleet of black-and-white police cars pursues a white Ford Bronco along Interstate-405 in Los Angeles, California. Inside the Bronco is Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson, a former professional football player, actor and sports commentator whom police suspected of involvement in the recent murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Neutral: What Did You Think Of Kerkorian?
The guy certainly had an interesting run in the automotive world.
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