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: The Great V2V vs Wi-Fi Smackdown
Vehicle-to-vehicle, or “V2V” communications are supposed to be the future, enabling cars to wirelessly “talk”to each other on the road using the public airwaves, with the end goal including traffic alleviation and greater safety measures. But it’s only supposed to be the future for cars.
Many people don’t care about this whole “car” thing, such as the cable television and tech industries. They like those public airwaves, and want the same ones that are reserved for V2V communications and use them for other things. Like WiFi, reports the Associated Press:
“We’re losing 35,000 people every year (to traffic crashes),” said Harry Lightsey, a General Motors lobbyist. “This technology has the power to dramatically reduce that. To me, the ability of somebody to download movies or search the internet or whatever should be secondary to that.”
The fight pits two government agencies against each other: the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates spectrum and sympathizes with wireless proponents, and NHTSA, which regulates auto safety and has long made V2V a top priority. The White House, which is currently reviewing NHTSA’s proposal to require the technology in new cars, is caught between two of its goals: greater auto safety and faster wireless service.
Supporters of V2V claim that if the tractor trailer that Joshua D. Brown’s Tesla crashed into had been equipped with the technology, the crash wouldn’t have happened at all and Brown would have lived.
And from the Wi-Fi camp:
Those who want more of the airwaves for Wi-Fi say that with self-driving cars on the horizon to eliminate human errors, the safety benefits of V2V are less important. They point out that it could be more than 20 years before the full benefits of V2V are realized, because it takes decades for the automotive fleet to be completely replaced.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel derided V2V as a turn-of-the-century technology at a forum on the matter earlier this year. “For 15 years we haven’t substantially deployed a thing in this band with respect to auto safety,” she said, calling for more “efficient” use of the spectrum.
Carmakers are down to share the space, but only if V2V signals won’t be disrupted, because the signals need to transmit 10 times faster than a normal cellphone call and be reliable 100 percent of the time. There is no room for error here.
2nd Gear: When In Doubt, Buy
Volkswagen’s boss thinks that buying stakes in key suppliers will help it avoid production standstills, says Reuters:
“Because of what we experienced in the past days, we may now possibly need an additional alert system to further reduce those risks for Volkswagen,” VW works council chief Bernd Osterloh was quoted as saying in an interview published on Friday.
“A conceivable approach are minority stakes or options to buy.”
“Toyota has holdings in many of its suppliers,” he said. “I am not saying that VW should now seek stakes in all of its suppliers. But with regard to vulnerable parts (of the business), this might be a possibility.”
Last week, suppliers like Car Trim and ES Automobilguss stopped VW deliveries of seat covers and cast iron components for gearboxes, which resulted in production stoppages because VW canceled a contract without warning and refused to pay the €58 million back in compensation fees.
When in doubt, buy your way in, I suppose.
3rd Gear: Buying A Car? There’s An App For That
In yesterday’s TMS, we reported on the Lease-O-Mania that’s sweeping the nation. And the banks want in, according to Bloomberg. JPMorgan, partnering with digital car-buying service TrueCar, now offers Chase Auto Direct, which is the newest app to try and entice millenials into buying cars by simplifying the process.
Here’s how it works:
While the car app idea isn’t new, the scale may be. USAA has an online car-buying service that works with TrueCar, letting its members choose and finance a vehicle online, with the option of getting insurance, too. Unlike USAA, Chase serves about 14,000 dealerships in the U.S. through its indirect auto lending business—meaning it lends to the dealer, who then lends to you, tacking on a few basis points to the interest rate.
Chase’s dealer network may take issue with being cut out of part of the process, but the bank stresses the service will be a big lead generator—and sellers are paid a fee for closing deals. “Customer financing at their dealerships will continue to be popular, and that won’t change anytime soon,” said [Bruce] Jackson [the head of retail lending at Chase Auto Finance]. “But we want to be ready for where customers might be down the road.”
Right now, Chase Auto Direct is available to Chase customers in 30 states and will expand to all nifty-fifty by next year.
4th Gear: Checking Bosch For Clues
After lawyers said that Bosch was totally in on VW’s diesel cheating, German prosecutors are looking over Bosch data, searching for anything that might link it to how VW cheated in the first place, says Automotive News. They seem skeptical that they’ll find anything new, as a prosecutor’s office spokesman said, “Currently, I would question whether we will learn anything new.”
This is because the data is from an older Bosch case:
The data stems from an old case when a former Bosch employee stole engine software data for the purpose of re-selling it to other automakers and tuning companies.
The employee was convicted of stealing confidential corporate data, and prosecutors are now evaluating whether the data from that case is relevant for a more recent probe of both Volkswagen and Bosch, examining their potential involvement in an emissions cheating scandal.
The Stuttgart prosecutor’s office confirmed that the data include software from the 2009 to 2011 period, when Volkswagen used engine manipulation software to cheat emissions tests.
Guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this all shakes out.
5th Gear: Coach Is Becoming...Bearable Again?
United States airlines have finally gotten some of their financial shit together and they’re looking into making your flying experience a little more pleasant. Before you get too excited: no, it doesn’t mean they’re taking away the checked bag fees. But! You can start to expect more food and entertainment, reports Bloomberg:
Free meals and booze are returning on some long domestic flights, and gratis snacks are common again. A few airlines are even dropping fees for streaming audio and video: American Airlines Group Inc. just matched its two-largest domestic peers by offering cattle class free access to its full menu of in-flight entertainment.
These modest steps follow years of “densification” at the back of the plane as carriers sought to boost profits by adding seats and crunching knees. At the same time, travelers at the front of the plane were courted with ever-increasing opulence. While a seat-count reduction for the less fortunate isn’t in the cards, those free movies may be sufficiently engrossing to make you forget the lack of space or your oversized neighbor.
“Even the smallest thing can seem like a big deal,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst at Atmosphere Research Group in San Francisco. “When you’re an abused animal, even a tiny pat on the head can make you feel like you’re loved.”
Interesting way to put things, Henry.
It’s not just food and entertainment, either. In April, Delta dropped its fees for buying a ticket over the phone or at the airport (people did that?) American will now refund tickets if the reason is “suitably compelling.” Up to you to decide what that means.
But before we celebrate:
In the end, all that free stuff may not be free at all. Another factor in some of the analysis, Harteveldt said, is finding a way to stand out from rivals. Carriers are always keen to command higher fares, and the new perks might allow them to charge a few additional bucks. Delta, for example, frequently cites a “revenue premium” it obtains over others, as do JetBlue Airways Corp. and Virgin America Inc. on some of their networks.
Any crumbs for coach dwellers pale next to investments being plowed into new aircraft, airport terminals, and employee contracts. And some issues just aren’t on the table, no matter how much industry profits may rise. The checked-bag fee is sacrosanct, as are those ubiquitous fees to select certain “better” seats at the time of ticketing. And airlines will continue to lavish love and lucre on pampering the more lucrative passengers who ride in first class and business class.
Oh, well. It’s still better than nothing, though.
Reverse: Welcome To The World, Mini!
Neutral: Do you think the car-buying app will catch on? Make a difference? Matter at all?