Tesla Has Some Fresh Recalls

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A new report indicates Brexit could be bad, hood ornament history, and Tesla has some new recalls. All that and more in The Morning Shift for November 25, 2020.

1st Gear: Tesla Issues Two Recalls

Tesla has had plenty of recalls over the years, though that doesn’t make it very unique, given that no automaker is immune from them. That said, there were some real questions about Tesla’s build quality in the early years; there are still many questions, in fact, though I thought that maybe the company had turned the corner with the Model Y.


That’s because Tesla has been manufacturing cars for years now, and the Model Y is probably its best car to date, and I thought maybe it was starting to get the hang of things. Or maybe I bought into CEO Elon Musk saying that the Model Y in Germany would be a “revolution” or some such, not that that is terribly relevant to Model Ys made in America.

Which is all a big wind-up to say that Tesla has issued two new recalls, one for the Model Y and one for the Model X. The recalls total nearly 10,000 cars — not a huge amount really — but another reminder that making cars is hard.


From Reuters:

The larger recall covers 9,136 Model X cars from the 2016 model year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said here on Wednesday.

NHTSA said the front and spine cosmetic roof trim may have been adhered without first using primer, and one or both pieces of trim may separate from the vehicle while it is being driven.


The other recall covers 401 2020 model year Tesla Model Y vehicles with bolts connecting the front upper control arm and steering knuckle that may not have been properly tightened. Due to the inadequate tightening, NHTSA said the upper control arm could detach from the steering knuckle.


2nd Gear: Autonomous Vehicles And Regulation

Under the Trump administration, the federal government has largely declined to set rules around autonomous cars, preferring to let individual states decide. This is in keeping with the Trump administration’s timidity when it comes to making bold moves in general, though a new report from the World Economic Forum outlines why regulation is sorely needed.


From Automotive News:

Countries that set a strong national policy can gain certain fast-mover advantages. Tim Dawkins, lead author of the report, says that autonomous-vehicle operations are ultimately conducted at the local level. Policies that might work in Phoenix might not work in Pittsburgh.

“Safety needs to be defined by the operating environment,” he said. “That unfortunately is not going to allow interoperable licensing or permitting approaches. It’s just the reality of development. But if we agree on common terms and at a baseline level that a learner’s permit is a first step, that’s where we see this framework fitting.”

Chief among the WEF’s recommendations: Develop scenario-based assessments that represent the challenges AVs will face in their given environments. These assessments can occur through a combination of simulation, closed-course testing and real-world road tests and be based on a scenario library that can be subsequently be used by regulators to set safety benchmarks.

“No two companies should have to experience the same near-miss twice, and this becomes a shared resource, and breaks down tendencies to compete on the basis of safety,” says Michelle Avary, head of automotive and autonomous mobility at the WEF.


Making autonomous cars use open-source software actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it, but I doubt Tesla and Cruise and Zoox and Uber will be rushing to do that anytime soon without some prodding.

3rd Gear: VW Labor Leaders Aren’t Too Happy With The CEO’s Selections For Top Posts

At Volkswagen, workers get a seat on the board, because Europeans broadly have more respect for their workers than Americans do. That is complicating things at Volkswagen, as CEO Herbert Diess is trying to fill the chief financial officer and top purchasing officer jobs, and encountering resistance for his choices, likely because Diess wants the new people to cut costs, and, with that, likely jobs as well.


From Bloomberg:

Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess is struggling to win support for his picks to fill top executive posts and is pushing the automaker’s board to back more significant reforms, according to people familiar with the matter.

The automaker’s works council is opposing Diess’s candidates to succeed CFO Frank Witter and fill the vacant purchasing chief position, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are confidential.

The two roles are key to Diess’s efforts to cut costs and boost efficiency at VW, which just approved a 150-billion euro ($178 billion) investment plan.

Diess, 62, is running into fresh internal resistance after making slow progress untangling the company’s unwieldy conglomerate structure and focusing on its main car operations.


Spokespeople for VW and the works council declined to comment. Representatives for the Porsche and Piech family, who own the majority of the company’s voting shares, didn’t respond to requests for comment.


4th Gear: Hood Ornaments

Here is an extremely fun story at Bloomberg about luxury car hood ornament history. I don’t have much to add here, except to say hood ornaments — like all automotive esoterica — have fascinating histories.


A snippet:

A bohemian at heart, and ever-present in the elite motoring circles of the day, [British sculptor Charles Sykes] also created Rolls-Royce’s icon, called the Spirit of Ecstasy. His idea for Rolls-Royce was meant in part to convey that the car traveled so smoothly that a fairy riding on the hood wouldn’t be disturbed. So he cast an ornament based off the sprite form of a friend’s mistress, Eleanor Thornton. Early versions show Thornton with billowing robes that evoke the winged goddess Nike with a finger to her lips, inviting viewers to keep the secret of her affair.

Meanwhile, in Italy, Ferrari’s prancing black stallion came as a gift bequeathed to Enzo Ferrari by the countess mother of flying ace Francesco Barraca, who was shot down over Northern Italy during World War I. Barraca flew with the cavallino rampante emblazoned on the side of his war plane. “Put my son’s prancing horse on your cars. It will bring you good luck,” the countess told Ferrari, according to legend.

Porsche’s singular black horse, buried in the red-and-black Swabian hood badge, came as a nod to the city of Stuttgart’s equine mascot; the badge itself is based on the Free People’s State of Wuerttemberg’s ancient coat of arms. (It was Austrian engineer Franz Xaver Reimspiess who designed the logo of Porsche’s parent company, Volkswagen. He led development of the German Tiger tanks used during World War II—and headed Porsche’s undercarriage design team until his retirement in 1966.)


5th Gear: Brexit Is Still A Disaster

Brexit is one of the biggest self-owns I’ve ever seen, along with that one time we elected Donald Trump as our president, though at least we finally fixed that. Britain, meanwhile, has not at all fixed Brexit. The car industry there is warning of doom and gloom, as they have been for a while now.


From Reuters:

Britain’s car industry body called on Brexit negotiators to agree to a deal by the end of 2020, saying failure to do so could cost the sector 55.4 billion pounds ($74 billion) in tariffs by 2025 and undercut its ability to develop the next generation of zero-emissions vehicles.

A “no deal” Brexit would cut UK vehicle production by two million units over the next five years, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

“With scant time left for businesses to prepare for new trading terms, the sooner a deal is done and detail communicated, the less harmful it will be for the sector and its workers,” the SMMT said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We have already spent nigh on a billion pounds preparing for the unknown of Brexit and lost 28 times that to COVID,” George Gillespie, the president of the SMMT, said on a webinar. “We need a future trading relationship that works for automotive.”


Reverse: Bridge Collapse


Here is some video:

Neutral: How Are You?

I will be fetching an extremely overpriced turkey from the butcher this morning, as groceries are my only real indulgence in these pandemic days unless you count burying money into emergency savings account in preparation for the end times.


Tomorrow, I will be eating said turkey and doing my annual rewatch of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, the definitive Thanksgiving movie. Happy Turkey Day everyone!