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: Mercedes Targeted By Lawsuit
A report from the German government apparently concluded that Volkswagen was the only automaker to use a cheat system to skirt emissions. But now a lawsuit from one U.S. firm, which is also suing VW, alleges other irregularities.
A lawsuit filed by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro on behalf of Mercedes owners in 13 states claims independent testing reveals Mercedes’ diesel cars had nitrogen oxide emissions levels of 4.5 to 30.8 times the legal limit.
The 172-page lawsuit (which you can read here ) alleges 43 counts of misconduct in various jurisdictions against Mercedes including fraud, breach of contract, false advertising, unfair trade practices and violations of a several state-specific consumer protection acts.
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Hagens Berman isn’t just alleging that the cars are dirty in their lawsuit. They’re alleging that Mercedes used a defeat device to get around U.S. emissions controls, which would then explain why their real-world test results didn’t match the lab results.
Here’s a statement from the automaker via CNBC:
Daimler said in a statement on Friday: “We consider this class action lawsuit to be unfounded. Our position remains unchanged: A component that inadmissibly reduces emissions is not used in Mercedes-Benz vehicles.”
2nd Gear: Teen’s Family, NHTSA Demand Faster Recalls
A Texas teenager, Huma Hanif, has been identified as the 10th U.S. person to die from shrapnel loosed by a defective Takata airbag. Hanif’s 2002 Honda Civic struck another car in what police called a minor accident, but the airbag rupture resulted in her death.
Hanif’s family claims they never received a recall notice. Here’s Reuters on how they and NHTSA are addressing a need for better alerts to safety recalls:
Separately, a NHTSA spokesman told Reuters the agency plans to be louder and more public about requiring manufacturers to do a better job reaching out to vehicle owners and making sure recalls are completed.
Traditional methods to reach consumers, such as mailings, are inadequate, spokesman Bryan Thomas said. “More must be done,” he said.
A Honda spokesman said on Wednesday the automaker has more than doubled the size of its customer relations team working to get owners to respond to requests to get recalled cars with Takata air bags fixed at no cost.
3rd Gear: The Tesla-GM Double Standard
As the Tesla Model 3 hits an insane 325,000 pre-orders, it’s safe to say the situation is driving established players like General Motors up the wall. Tesla has way more hype, and love from Wall Street, despite GM being an unquestionably more stable business. Here’s The Detroit News’ Daniel Howes on that:
I asked a ranking GM executive this week about the apparent double standard. He sighed, mumbled something about Tesla being a tech company dabbling in autos instead of an auto company dabbling in tech, and added that there’s “no justifiable reason” for Tesla’s valuation.
Maybe, maybe not. In the first quarter, Tesla sold 7,550 cars, according to Autodata Inc., compared to nearly 684,000 for GM. But as of Thursday’s market close, the market capitalization of Tesla totaled just over $36 billion. GM? Just over $46 billion.
Tesla is the new new thing, not a reimagined and restructured GM led by a path-breaking CEO willing to make tough calls her predecessors avoided. Musk, a quixotic entrepreneur, is what my colleague Henry Payne calls “the boldest auto entrepreneur since Henry Ford” — emphasis, mine, on the bold part.
Musk gets the benefit of the doubt from investors, customers, even a skeptical media. GM? Not so much, which should be not at all surprising given its long history of mediocrity, of false promises, of playing a more conservative game than it talks.
4th Gear: Why Ed Welburn Mattered
GM’s soon-to-be-retiring design chief was a pioneer on a lot of fronts, but in the area of organization, he may have created his most lasting effect on the automaker. Here’s Automotive News on that:
His choice of topic underscores perhaps Welburn’s most important legacy as the sixth design head in GM’s 108-year history: The globalization of a once-disparate collection of designers and studios. The soft-spoken Philadelphia native has shown an attention to detail never before paid to GM’s far-flung vehicle portfolio, colleagues say. (He’s been known to make day trips to Sao Paulo or Seoul to OK a vehicle design).
In the process, Welburn has orchestrated a renaissance in GM design, one that has helped GM recover from an era of badge-engineered blandness.
Very much worth a read.
5th Gear: Uber Poaches Top Ford Engineer
Uber and other ride-sharing services want to get into the autonomous car game because humans are pesky, expensive creatures. The company just scored a big get from Ford. Here’s Automotive News:
One of Ford Motor Co.’s top electrical engineers has left the automaker to help the ride-hailing company Uber pursue self-driving vehicles.
Uber said Thursday that it hired Sherif Marakby as vice president of global vehicle programs. Marakby, 50, most recently was Ford’s director of global electrical and electronic systems engineering.
“Self-driving technology is a hard challenge to solve with enormous potential to improve people’s lives,” Brian McClendon, Uber’s vice president of advanced technologies, said in a statement. “Sherif is a world expert and we’re excited to have him join the team.”
Reverse: Rebel 500
Neutral: What’s Your Favorite Welburn-Era Design?
What from GM’s stable has been a win? What’s a miss?
Additional reporting by Stef Schrader