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Independent Mechanics Are Getting Screwed As Cars Get More Complex

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A deeper look into Tesla’s third-quarter financials, Volkswagen and its doom and gloom attitude, a concern about independent mechanics and more await you in The Morning Shift for Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019.

1st Gear: Independent Mechanics Getting Screwed

Unless the situation demands it, nobody should really be getting their car repaired at the dealer after the warranty expires. Dealers generally charge you way more for the same job than a good, independent mechanic would. But the rise of sophisticated, driver-assistance systems has dealers and mechanics clashing over who can fix what.


Systems like lane-keeping assistance, automatic braking and blind-spot detection have automakers saying only repairs and parts coming from their authorized dealers can “ensure safety,” according to Reuters.

Subaru is one such automaker: “[it] tells customers any problems caused by substitute replacement parts for its EyeSight system are not covered under its warranty: ‘Protect yourself and your investment by keeping your car 100% Subaru.’”


Volvo and Nissan, also, reportedly say “parts and repairs from unauthorized dealers will affect their warranties.”

More from the story:

The aftermarket dispute is escalating in the United States. Independent repair shops and parts makers have asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the government agency responsible for consumer protection, and state lawmakers to intervene.

They want carmakers to be prohibited from making warranties conditional on original ADAS parts or service, bringing the new tech in line with rules on traditional auto equipment, and want access to the latest diagnostic data from vehicle software.

“The auto industry is creating the false narrative that you can either have safety or you can have repairability,” said Paul McCarthy, president of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) of independent suppliers.

The argument is that new cars are getting so technologically advanced and complicated that many independent repair shops are not equipped to fix them. And as more and more cars come from the factory with these advanced systems, the disparity between mechanic and dealer is only going to get worse.

Maybe we should all just buy used or vintage.

2nd Gear: Volkswagen Thinks Things Are Just Going To Get Worse

Car sales are down globally and Volkswagen, in particular, is feeling pretty negative about it. Today, the automaker said the downturn in the market is getting worse, according to the Wall Street Journal. But it still expects to do alright in terms of revenue by selling luxury SUVs. I mean, what else is it supposed to publicly forecast?


From the story:

Volkswagen, which boasts a host of automotive brands from passenger cars and luxury sports cars to vans and long-haul tractor-trailer trucks, is reaping the rewards of a major overhaul of its business that began in the wake of its 2015 diesel-emissions cheating scandal.

“The best days of the party are over, but I wouldn’t want to drown in worries about recession,” Volkswagen Chief Finance Officer Frank Witter said.

Despite falling deliveries of new vehicles, Volkswagen’s net income in the three months to the end of September rose 42% to €3.8 billion ($4.2 billion), as revenue rose 11% to €61.4 billion.


This is because we haven’t hit full recession yet, kids! It’s just heading that way. Grab whatever profits and revenue while you can, because they’re probably not going to stay.

3rd Gear: Profit Doesn’t Always Equal Sales

Last week, we reported Tesla’s profitable third quarter, with the company generating $6.3 billion of revenue and reporting a net income of $143 million. Now, a new report reveals these numbers came despite a 39 percent decline in revenue from U.S. sales.


Ours is currently the biggest market for Tesla, and Bloomberg reports a drop in sales here last quarter. From the story:

The electric automaker’s U.S. sales plummeted to $3.13 billion in the latest quarter, from $5.13 billion a year earlier, according to a securities filing on Tuesday. Tesla said earlier this month global deliveries for the quarter rose to a record 97,000 vehicles, though most of that growth came from sales of the Model 3 — its lowest profit margin vehicle.

While it was known that the automaker was emphasizing global expansion last quarter, the document adds clarity to the extent of the regional shift. The U.S., China, the Netherlands and Norway have long been the biggest markets for the company’s all-electric cars. While sales in China — the world’s largest auto market — rose to $699 million from $409 million, a category known as “other” — which includes several countries — grew to $1.8 billion from $784 million.


Additionally, the filing reveals Tesla reduced costs because of manufacturing efficiencies and undefined “commercial negotiations with suppliers.”

I see more Model 3s here over any other Tesla on the road wherever I go. This is likely because it is the cheapest Tesla you can buy. But Tesla is also focusing on China right now because the Shanghai Gigafactory is open. It seems that’s where the real money will be.


4th Gear: Pedestrian Avoidance Systems Not Great At Avoiding

While we’re on the topic of safety and avoidance tech, here’s another story from Reuters that reveals these pedestrian-avoidance systems actually yield very mixed safety results. It comes down to the fact that there still isn’t an industry standard and the systems offered on the expensive cars are generally better at “seeing” pedestrians than other models. That’s a scary thought.


The study comes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which found:

that not all systems perform equally well. Of the 19 latest-year editions and models IIHS tested, 13 avoided pedestrians entirely, or at least managed to reduce speeds significantly.

While the best-performing cars included luxury models Audi A4, BMW 3 series and a version of the Mercedes-Benz C-class, IIHS also gave its best rating to the Nissan Maxima and Volvo S60.

The Chevrolet Malibu, a Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, were among tested cars that did not reduce speeds in some tests or failed entirely.


IIHS’s tests included situations that typically result in over half of all pedestrian deaths, such as an adult walking near the road’s edge, an adult crossing the road and a child unexpectedly darting out from behind an object.

Reuters also notes these tests were conducted during the day. At night, none of the model-year 2019 cars tested (a Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Tesla Model 3 and Toyota Camry) were able to see an adult pedestrian.


The technology is still in its infancy and capabilities vary wildly from car to car. For now, be careful when walking out there.

5th Gear: Here’s Your Regularly Scheduled Carlos Ghosn Update

Would this even be The Morning Shift without a Carlos Ghosn update? Here is the latest.


Japanese tax authorities have been able to determine the former Nissan boss did indeed use company funds for private use, reports Japanese newspaper Yomiuri via Automotive News Europe. From the story:

The Japanese newspaper, without citing sources, said the National Tax Agency found Ghosn used Nissan money for several years to pay consulting fees to his sister for fictitious work and to make donations to a university in Lebanon.

Nissan recorded some 150 million yen ($1.4 million) as secretary’s office expenses for three years through March 2014. But the agency ordered Nissan to pay tax on the amount after judging the expenditure was for private use and should not have been deducted as expenses from corporate income, the Yomiuri reported.

While the finding has not led to a criminal case, it backs up Nissan’s claim that Ghosn improperly used the company’s money, the newspaper said.

A tax official told Reuters that the agency could not comment on individual cases. A Nissan spokeswoman said the automaker was checking the newspaper report. Lawyers for Ghosn did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.


Ghosn is currently awaiting trial in Japan on charges of financial misconduct. He denies it, and instead has been sticking to the collusion story. These new findings from the tax people won’t do him any favors, though.

Reverse: Q-Porte

The Maserati Quattroporte was unveiled. The name translated from Italian literally means “four doors”. Regular production began in 1964. The Quattroporte joined two other grand tourers, the Facel Vega and the Lagonda Rapide, capable of traveling at 200 km/h (124 mph) on the new motorways in Europe. It was equipped with a 4.1-litre (4,136 cc or 252 cu in) V8 engine, producing 260 hp (194 kW; 264 PS) DIN at 5,000 rpm, and either a five-speed ZF manual transmission or a three-speed Borg Warner automatic on request. Maserati claimed a top speed of 230 km/h (143 mph). The car was also exported to the United States, where federal regulations mandated twin round headlamps in place of the single rectangular ones found on European models. There have been six generations of this car, with the first introduced in 1963, and the current model launched in 2013.


Via 365 Days of Motoring.

Neutral: Do You Use An Independent Mechanic?

Finding a good and honest one can be difficult, but once you do, you stick with them for as long as you can. Do you prefer that or just going to the dealer?