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: More Like Cold, Hard Prepaid Debit Card

In this, the Age of the Big Recall, automakers have had a tough time compelling owners to actually bring their cars to dealers to get repairs done. Federal regulators nailed Fiat Chrysler hard to the tune of $105 million for improperly handling their recalls in a variety of ways.

Now they’re working to push customers into getting their cars, specifically older Jeeps and Dodge trucks and SUVs, fixed as soon as possible using $100 debit cards or $1000 in incentives on new trade-ins. All the details can be found at Fiat Chrysler’s site, but here’s a summary from Automotive News:

Alternatively, owners eligible for the buy-backs may opt to have their vehicles repaired and receive a $100 prepaid Visa card, or accept a trade-in incentive of $2,000 off the purchase price of a new Ram pickup or $1,000 off a Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge or Fiat vehicle. The trade-in offer expires at midnight on Jan. 4, 2016.

In a separate program, owners of 1993-98 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-07 Jeep Liberty SUVs recalled in 2013 for rear-mounted fuel tanks that have been linked to several deadly fires will be offered $100 prepaid Visa cards to repair their vehicles. Eligible owners will receive the cards if they choose to have a trailer hitch installed at FCA dealers to protect the fuel tank.

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Once again, full details here. Get your cars fixed.

2nd Gear: Speaking Of Fiat Chrysler...

While the company seems to be in a weird place with its CEO apparently going nuts over his desired merger with General Motors, Fiat Chrysler is topping the U.S. sales charts at the moment. Once again, Jeep and Ram sales are blowing up thanks to cheap gas. From Reuters:

FCA sales were led by Jeep SUV, with a rise of 18 percent from year-ago levels while Ram pickup truck sales gained 4 percent and Chrysler 200 sedan purchases jumped 30 percent, overcoming the 15 percent drop in Dodge brand sales, FCA said.

The Italian-American automaker kept alive its streak of consecutive months of topping year-ago sales figures - which now stands at 65.

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3rd Gear: Defects And The Justice System

One interesting consequence of this renewed focus on safety, defects and recalls: how they impact criminal cases. Some convictions are getting overturned in light of new evidence. Via Bloomberg:

Last week, a Pennsylvania judge, citing “newly discovered evidence” erased her guilty plea. The new evidence: the February 2014 recall by General Motors Co. of 2.6 million cars for defective ignition switches.

Ward-Green, now 25, is part of a small but growing group of people caught in a Kafkaesque legal web stemming from the safety scandals that have rocked GM and other automakers. Often blamed for unexplained accidents and sometimes charged with serious crimes, they can wait years before learning the role played by undisclosed defects.

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But also:

“When defendants claimed their cars shut off or sped up all by themselves, the claims seemed too far out to create a doubt that was reasonable. Now we know better,” said University of Michigan law professor Erik Gordon.

In the case of GM’s defective ignition switch, the company knew of the problem for about a decade before it issued a public notice.

“Just about everyone who is in jail in a case where there wasn’t clear evidence of driving under the influence or another wrongful act will try to get out using the ‘ignition switch made me do it’ defense,” Gordon said in an e-mail.

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That story’s a good read.

4th Gear: Chinese Jobs In America

Bettter than American jobs going to China. From The Detroit News:

A Chinese manufacturing company that makes bearings for cars will invest nearly $26 million in a new U.S. headquarters and technical center in Northville Township, according to Gov. Rick Snyder’s office.

The investment by CW Bearings USA Inc. will create 125 jobs and follows the governor’s eight-day trade mission to China. Snyder met with CW executives in Shanghai on Saturday.

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5th Gear: Auto Braking Is The Next Big Thing

I’m not a huge fan of automatic braking systems in new cars because I’ve had a lot more “false positives” than life-saving experiences with them. In fact, I’ve had exactly none of the latter, but I also pay attention when I drive, apparently unlike most Americans.

But these systems are increasingly common on new cars. From the LA Times:

More cars are coming equipped with robotic functions that protect drivers from front-end crashes with other vehicles or objects, which could result in fewer crashes and lower insurance rates for drivers.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said 52% of the 784 new vehicle models come with technology that alerts a driver to a pending crash as either a standard or optional feature.

Among 2015 models, 27% also offer robotic braking, which automatically slows or stops the vehicle without driver intervention if a crash is imminent. That’s more than twice as many as in the 2012 model year.

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Reverse: Airbags!

On September 1, 1998, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 finally goes into effect. The law required that all cars and light trucks sold in the United States have air bags on both sides of the front seat.

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Neutral: Do Incentives Work For Recalls?

How do automakers get people to fix their damn cars?


Contact the author at patrick@jalopnik.com.