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: So Many Recalls
Time from an update on our old TMS pals at Takata! At this point, which automaker hasn’t had a Takata airbag recall? Well, we’re here to tell you. Just two of them, one huge and one small: Volkswagen and Tesla, according to Bloomberg. But since both use Takata airbags, the question becomes: But... why?
Takata has produced 887,055 air-bag inflators for Volkswagen since January 2011, and a combined 184,926 units for Tesla since January 2012, and the two companies are ongoing customers, Takata said in a letter last month to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency had asked Takata in June to list the companies in North America that it supplies with inflators containing ammonium nitrate propellant.
The disclosure highlights the potential risk for Volkswagen and Tesla to join 11 automakers already recalling vehicles, if investigations determine that ammonium nitrate is unsafe to use. Takata has said that the chemical appears to be one of many contributing factors into the air bag ruptures, along with flawed manufacturing processes. About 32 million vehicles have been recalled in the U.S., and the devices are linked to eight deaths and 130 injuries.
Tesla officials maintain the Model S is not affected by the recalls, and Volkswagen says it “is investigating potential safety concerns” raised by the airbags.
2nd Gear: Rubber Takes A Hit Too
Guess who else is a loser in China’s car slowdown? The rubber industry, according to another Bloomberg story (that doesn’t appear to be online yet:)
Shrinking new car sales in China are worsening the outlook for rubber producers in Thailand and Indonesia already facing a global glut that’s driven prices near a 10-month low.
Benchmark prices on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange may drop to as low as 180 yen a kilogram ($1,446 a metric ton) this year, the lowest level since October, according to a Bloomberg survey of nine analysts and traders. Futures have lost 12 percent in 2015 to 186.9 yen and entered a bear market on Aug. 4.
Thailand’s Sri Trang Agro-Industry Pcl, the world’s largest rubber producer, posted an 18 percent year-over-year drop revenue drop. The decline in China, apparently, is bad enough that not even the rise in Hellcat demand can help the rubber industry.
3rd Gear: More Hellcat
Speaking of the Hellcat! A combination of cheap gas, a recovering economy and the lure of 707 horsepower has meant a sort of renaissance moment for Dodge, reports The Detroit News. Booming merchandise sales, attendance at Dodge events, doubling Hellcat production for 2016... “It’s the ’71 Hemi all over again,” CEO Tim Kuniskis said.
When something’s successful you do more of it. So what does Dodge have in store?
Merrihew argues the“next step” is taking the strength of the Hellcat brand and leveraging it across the Dodge lineup while staying “true to Hellcat and true to the products.”
Kuniskis, when asked about expanding the Hellcat engine to other vehicles, said the brand is focused on its current demand. “Everybody’s asking for it,” he said. “The problem I’ve got is I can’t build all the Chargers and Challengers.”
Some Dodge Viper owners have been lobbying for a Hellcat version of the American sports car, or at least an increase in performance.
“We, as Viper owners, it’s a matter of pride,” said Tom Gerard of Windsor, owner of a 2003 SRT10 Viper.
Even the Viper owners want a Hellcat now. The world has gone mad. Hellcat mad!
4th Gear: Aston Goes Electric
The Aston Martin Rapide could have been Aston’s Porsche Panamera, except it... um, wasn’t. So they’re going to try and spark (see what I did there?) some demand in the sedan by adding an electric version within two years that packs a lot of power, and a big price tag, reports Automotive News:
The longtime builder of British sports cars will bring an all-electric version of its four-door Rapide to market in two years, CEO Andy Palmer confirmed to Automotive News.
Speaking at Sunday’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance — a target-rich environment for a high-end brand such as Aston Martin — Palmer said the electric Rapide would be followed by an all-electric version of the DBX crossover by the end of the decade. Palmer’s confirmation comes several months after he indicated Aston was considering an electric Rapide in April.
While it’s too early to confirm powertrain specifics, Palmer did reveal his eye-watering expectations for the Rapide: all-wheel drive, around 800 hp and a 200-mile range.
Palmer hinted the car would be in the $200,000 to $250,000 range, which is quite a bit more than even the most extreme Tesla Model S. Will buyers step up?
5th Gear: VW, Ford Feel The Burn In Russia
Russia’s economy has been hit hard with Western sanctions lately, and that includes its auto industry. But the weakened ruble has also meant a huge increase in the cost of foreign parts that automakers need to build cars there, reports Reuters:
While a weaker domestic currency usually makes exports more lucrative, automakers’ reliance on expensive foreign components has left them uncompetitive. Russian authorities have introduced incentives to encourage carmakers to gradually start producing most parts locally, but the most expensive and technologically advanced parts such as electronics, engines and suspensions are still imported.
Volkswagen Group and Ford Motor both import more than half of all parts used to assemble their cars in Russia. Even market leader AvtoVAZ, which produces Russia’s best-selling brand Lada, sources about a fifth of its production abroad.
Reverse: He Would Have Liked The Hellcat, Probably
Walter Percy Chrysler, the founder of the American automotive corporation that bears his name, dies on this day in 1940 at his estate in Great Neck, New York, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. He was 65 years old.
Neutral: What Should Fiat Chrysler Do Next With Hellcat?
A Jeep Grand Cherokee is all but inevitable, but the brand’s a hit. What to do with all that power?
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