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Higher-Octane Fuel In America Is Getting Closer And Closer

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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 in the case that your boss asks you “so when are we getting high-octane gas in America” and you need to look smart.

1st Gear: Give Us The High Octane

Automakers want it higher octane gas, but in the U.S. we’ve been sticking with trash gas—87, 91, or 93 octane, or 94 if you’re at a Sunoco and are feeling frisky—for decades now.


That said, momentum is building for our standards to change, even if such a change would be monumental in scope, since higher octane fuel allows for higher compression, and a completely different approach to new-car engineering. Still!

Here’s Automotive News:

Automakers, led by the Detroit 3, and others now sense an opportunity to create a national high-octane standard that satisfies all stakeholders. It would involve piggybacking on legislative efforts to reform controversial mandates for blending biofuels such as ethanol into the nation’s fuel supply.

The concept has taken on new urgency with the auto industry under pressure to comply with higher fuel economy and emissions standards next decade. One way to help them, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said at a House hearing last month, is to pursue a national standard for high-octane fuel. “I think there is a potential that will serve the auto sector as well as the ag sector and consumers across the country that we could pursue together,” he testified.

That’s the same potential automakers see. “This is an opportunity to create a win for the environment, the auto industry and particularly for our consumers by keeping vehicles affordable and performance and efficiency high,” said Steve Zimmer, executive director of the U.S. Council for Automotive Research, the research alliance of the Detroit 3.

“Our members are poised to move forward. What we need next is the full engagement of energy producers, distributors and retailers, and particularly policymakers.”


You should remain a bit skeptical of this, since it’s likely that electric and fuel-cell cars will overwhelm the market before Big Oil relents on octane standards in the U.S., though we can still dream.

2nd Gear: Tesla Doesn’t Seem Like A Great Place To Work, Even For Executives

People keep leaving, which is always a good sign at companies. It never means that there’s a dysfunctional work environment. It also never means that the company’s top leadership is bad at management. People leaving is healthy, in fact, especially when they leave their stock options on the table.

The galaxy-brain take is that people leaving is actually super-efficient, since if they left, they were never meant to be there to begin with.

Anyway, Bloomberg reports that short-sellers are happy:

Doug Field, senior vice president of engineering, is taking time away from the company to recharge, according to a company spokesman. His sabbatical is significant: Musk has said he regards Field as “one the world’s most talented” engineering executives. He’s one of only four executive officers named in the company’s recent proxy statement.

Field’s break follows a broader exodus of top executives. Matthew Schwall, Tesla’s primary contact with U.S. regulators, just joined the safety team at Waymo, the self-driving-car company started by Google. Jim Keller, the head of the driver-assistance system Autopilot, left last month for Intel Corp. In March, Tesla confirmed two of its top financial executives had parted ways, and in February, sales chief Jon McNeill defected to Lyft Inc.

Tesla’s management churn is among the reasons some investors say they’re wagering against shares of the company, which is valued similar to General Motors Co. despite selling a fraction as many vehicles and burning through billions in cash.


What’s all this about? Well, according to a companywide email sent today by CEO Elon Musk at 1:08 a.m. Pacific Time, Tesla is simply “flattening” its management structure. Here’s the email, obtained by Jalopnik’s Ryan Felton from a source:

To ensure that Tesla is well prepared for the future, we have been undertaking a thorough reorganization of our company. As part of the reorg, we are flattening the management structure to improve communication, combining functions where sensible and trimming activities that are not vital to the success of our mission.

To be clear, we will continue to hire rapidly in critical hourly and salaried positions to support the Model 3 production ramp and future product development.



Thanks, Elon.

3rd Gear: Rolls-Royce To Switch To Full Electric Cars, You Know, Whenever Or Something


In the year 2040, to be exact, if we’re still around then. That’s 22 years from now, when we’ll all be either dust blowing around in nuclear winter or commuting in autonomous flying drones. Rolls, as ever, is being very ambitious.

Here’s the Financial Times:

The brand, which currently only offers 12-cylinder petrol engines in its cars, will be “full electric” by 2040 to comply with changes in international rules, chief executive Torsten Müller-Ӧtvӧs told the Financial Times.

The UK and France have both promised to ban cars that run without electric power by 2040, but the Rolls-Royce boss believes other markets — such as the US or Middle East — will also follow suit by then.

“When you see what happens in Saudi, when you see what happens in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, they are all looking into alternative energy.

“Electrification will also happen in these countries, sooner or later.”

He added: “We will definitely offer 12-cylinder engines as long as we can, as long as it is legally allowed to offer them.

The company aims to introduce its first electric vehicle within the next 10 years, but will phase out its existing engines over several decades.


It’s that last part that makes this funny. Rolls, you see, definitely intends to go fully electric to save the Earth or something, but only when it’s legally forced to. Also, it will phase out its gas engines “over several decades.” This is also the answer I give my girlfriend when she asks me when I will stop smoking. “Just phasing it out over several decades.”

4th Gear: Nissan And Renault Are Getting Even More Serious

The two have had an alliance for years, but as consolidation sweeps across the industry, they are now studying ways to make the relationship viable for the long-term. They might even merge.


From Reuters:

Speculation about the alliance’s future, including a possible merger, has been brewing since Reuters reported earlier this year that the two companies were discussing plans for a closer tie-up in which Nissan could acquire the bulk of the French state’s 15 percent Renault holding.

The automaking partnership, which also includes Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T), was the world’s top-selling passenger vehicle maker in 2017, but amid growing consolidation in the global auto industry, the group must find a way to strengthen its framework before alliance chairman Carlos Ghosn retires in the coming years, after overseeing the partnership for nearly 20 years.

“This could take many different shapes,” Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa told reporters on Monday at a results briefing, adding that a change in equity structure to create a more equal balance between the two companies was one of the options being studied.


5th Gear: Uber Is Has A New Executive In Britain As It Fights For Survival In London

It has been only a little less than two months since a self-driving Uber killed someone, which is why it feels a little beside the point to report that Uber has a new executive in Europe tasked with saving its business in London. That’s where regulators stripped the company of its license in September, though Uber has appealed the decision.


From Reuters:

Uber said Jamie Heywood would join as Uber’s new regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe from Amazon next month, a remit which covers 110,000 drivers in 12 countries including Britain.

“Jamie’s leadership will... be crucial as we implement major changes across Europe including more safety features, improvements for drivers and a new approach to partnering with cities,” Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, regional general manager of Uber in Europe, the Middle East & Africa, said in a statement.

Uber is battling a decision by London’s transport regulator last September to strip it of its licence after it was deemed unfit to run a taxi service. Uber is appealing the ruling, and its cabs can continue to operate in the meantime.


Reverse: DaimlerChrysler Is Done


Neutral: What Octane Do You Use?

Do you go for the good stuff, or, like me, the bad stuff? Do you shun the advice of your owner’s manual? If you use only what your owner’s manual asks for, what number does your car require?


Correction: This post originally said that Europe 95 and 98 octane gas is common across Europe, which is true, though it’s measured differently than in the U.S. Ninety-eight in Europe is roughly equivalent to 93 in the U.S., while 95 is like 91 in the U.S. I regret the error!