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: Le Comeback
Peugeot hasn’t sold cars in North America since 1991, and its now-partner Citroën ducked out a few years before that too. Aside from weirdos like us who openly lust after a Cactus, it’s probably fair to say most people haven’t missed them. But the PSA Peugeot-Citroën Group seriously wants back in on this market, starting with low-volume sales and/or a ride-sharing model by 2026.
One unexpected benefit of acquiring General Motors’ long-suffering European subsidiary Opel is that now, PSA has engineers in Germany who know exactly how to make European cars compliant for our market, Automotive News reports:
“Our engineering teams, using some of the Ruesselsheim engineers, are making our next generation of products U.S.-compliant,” Tavares said. “That work started a few months ago and has been boosted by the fact that we’re now using the Ruesselsheim engineers who have been working for GM for so many years.”
[...] “Our success in Europe could lead to a very arrogant position that I want by all means to avoid,” Tavares said. “Entering the U.S. will only be an upside for the value and the profitability of my company. My only focus in the U.S. is to do the right things right.”
To succeed in North America, PSA is starting at the engineering level, relying on engineers whose job had been to homologate U.S. vehicles for the European market.
At the same meeting with reporters, Larry Dominique, CEO of PSA North America, said the company has hired Ben Winter, formerly of Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, as its chief technical officer. He will be responsible on the U.S. side for working with the engineers in Ruesselsheim.
Perhaps this regulatory expertise takes some sting out of wanting half their money back from GM over that deal.
2nd Gear: When You Want Trade Parity But You Keep Getting Owned By The Libs
The Trump Administration, as you may well know by now, is no great fan of the way the North American Free Trade Agreement is currently set up. In the coming weeks, those terms with Canada and Mexico may be renegotiated, but at the moment it’s the Canadians who are driving the hardest bargain at the table, much to the chagrin of the U.S. Via Bloomberg:
U.S. officials are particularly frustrated with what they see as Canada’s intransigence at the table, according to the two people. While Mexico has shown some flexibility on the U.S. proposals, Canadian officials are more reluctant to give ground, preferring to promote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s concept of a “progressive” trade agenda based on improving gender equality and the environment, among other things, one of the people said.
Here is the part that matters to The Cars:
At a negotiating round in November in Mexico City, U.S. officials were flabbergasted when Canadian negotiators delivered a presentation suggesting the U.S. proposal on autos is misguided, an approach the U.S. considered to be more of a lecture than a counteroffer, one of the people said. Gutierrez said Thursday Mexico may be able to accept an increase in the regional content requirement for vehicles traded under the deal.
NAFTA requires a vehicle to have a minimum of 62.5 percent North American content in order to benefit from tariff exemptions for autos assembled and traded in the region. The Trump administration has proposed raising the so-called auto rules of origin requirement to 85 percent North American content and add a new 50 percent U.S. content minimum.
Gonna be interesting to see how this wraps at the end of this month.
3rd Gear: Expect More Buick Avenir Models
The Buick Avenir Concept was a gorgeous Cadillac CT6-platformed sedan we saw a few years ago at the Detroit Auto Show. It ended up not happening as a standalone model, but it influenced the design of future Buicks. Now the name’s being used to denote special, higher-trim editions of Buick models, and you’ll be seeing more of it. Think of it as Buick’s answer to GMC’s Denali line. Via Automotive News:
Duncan Aldred, vice president of Global Buick and GMC, said expanding the upscale subbrand is a way for Buick to better compete in the entry-level luxury market against the likes of Audi and BMW.
“As a premium brand, we reach up into luxury and down into mainstream and Avenir is the way we go toe-to-toe, I think, with some of these Tier 1 luxury brands,” he told Automotive News during the Detroit auto show. “You’ll see Avenir roll out across many more models and maybe the whole range over time.”
Buick has had a ton of growth in the U.S. and in China as of late and the new Regal models look excellent. Even if truly competing with Audi and BMW is a bit optimistic for now, I’m eager to see what Buick does next.
4th Gear: Senators Ask Questions Over Ford Warning
Two senators asked the U.S. Transportation Department on Thursday to explain why a “do not drive” directive issued last week by Ford Motor Co (F.N) is limited to about 2,900 older pickup trucks and if other vehicles are potentially at risk from defective airbag inflators.
The second-largest U.S. automaker said it had confirmed a second death in a 2006 Ford Ranger caused by a faulty Takata Corp (TKTDQ.PK) airbag inflator and urged some owners to stop driving immediately until they can get replacement parts. [nL1N1P61GI]
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should “swiftly and proactively address the deadly defect in Takata airbags and provide consumers with appropriate notice regarding the defect’s serious potential risk to life,” wrote Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey, both Democrats, to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Either way, Takata airbags are the problem that will never go away!
5th Gear: Speak Of The Devil
Funny I should mention that, as 14 more automakers are listing different models that need to be recalled to replace potentially defective and lethal Takata airbags. Via the Associated Press:
Documents posted Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration include many made by Ford, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Daimler Vans, Toyota, Tesla, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Mazda, Subaru, Jaguar-Land Rover, McLaren and Volkswagen. Toyota, Ford and Honda released some of their models last week.
Good lord, that’s like everyone!
There’s a full list of cars in that story link above—it’s a long one—but to see if your vehicle is involved, go to www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and enter your VIN.
Reverse: Spreading American Culture
Neutral: How Do The French Succeed In America?
Besides the Cactus, which is wonderful, what can Peugeot-Citroën offer that no one else is doing? The market’s getting crowded with luxury cars, electrification, autonomy and ride-sharing plans as it is.