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: The Inevitable End of Diesel Will Happen Soon
With electrification becoming increasingly normal and regulators—in Europe at least, we don’t seem to give a shit in America anymore—continuing to tighten clean air laws, we probably would have eventually seen an end to diesel engines in cars. But then Volkswagen went and fired, with great enthusiasm, a giant nail gun into diesel’s coffin.
We will now probably see an end to diesel sooner than would have happened otherwise, and that is something the European Union industry chief confirmed at a Parliament meeting this week. Tougher rules there are coming on how the Europeans test and certify diesel, as well as harsher fines. This is probably the beginning of the end, reports Reuters:
The new measures will eventually take diesel cars off the roads, European Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said.
“Diesel will not disappear from one day to another,” Bienkowska told EU lawmakers on Tuesday. “But after this year of work ... I am quite sure they will disappear much faster than we can imagine.”
Under the draft law, car makers would no longer directly pay testing agency - in a bid to break their cozy relationships. EU nations now have to fund car exhaust testing centers - although they may levy fees from car makers to do so.
Brussels would get powers to carry out vehicle spot-checks and levy fines, while national authorities would be able to peer-review each other’s decisions.
2nd Gear: Meanwhile In America
Volkswagen is showing some signs of life post-Dieselgate, and its luxury brand Audi continued a streak of strong sales in March. For VW, the surge was led by—believe it or not—the Golf SportWagen. From Automotive News:
VW sales gains were led by the Golf SportWagen, which more than doubled its sales in March and helped push the whole Golf family of vehicles up 42 percent in the month. Jetta sales declined by 7.4 percent in the month, while sales of the larger Passat rose 2.8 percent. Tiguan sales also declined in March, dropping 7.1 percent.
At Audi, individual nameplate results were mixed. Sales of the Q5 crossover were up 18 percent, while sales of the smaller Q3 crossover rose 21 percent.
I like the SportWagen. The TDI was the better one, but that’s not an option now, so it’s pretty decent with the gasoline motor.
3rd Gear: Car Sales Cool Off
Speaking of new vehicle sales in March, there’s a lot to be distilled. Basically we’re seeing an end to the record sales numbers that have pervaded the industry in the last couple years, and crossovers are absolutely killing cars in sales. Incentives are way up too.
Here’s more on who is winning and losing from all this from Automotive News:
“A closer look at incentives, inventory levels and car sales illustrates the bi-polar nature of the current market,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher for Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. “Incentives have risen across the board, even on the same truck and SUV models that used to sell themselves. Coupes, hatchbacks and sedans continue to struggle almost universally, setting up a sort of ‘demand race’ between falling cars and rising trucks/SUVs as the overall market teeters between growth and decline. With economic factors slowly improving and automakers pushing ever-larger incentives levers, this pattern could continue for the rest of 2017.”
Even with the March decline in Civic deliveries, volume reached nearly 32,000 and Honda said the compact car was the best-selling car in America on a retail basis in the first quarter of 2017.
“Many automakers are looking for signs of market stability as consumers continue to head toward trucks and SUVs,” said Jeff Conrad, general manager of the Honda Division, in a statement. “But cars are still a compelling choice for many, especially when you have the right formula.”
No matter what happens, you can’t kill the Civic.
4th Gear: Mercedes, Hyundai Pull Out From O’Reilly Factor
Everyone kind of knows Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly is an asshole, but the extent of his assholery is becoming far more widely known as he settles several sexual harassment lawsuits. What does this have to do with cars? Well, both Hyundai and Mercedes don’t want to advertise on the O’Reilly Factor anymore. From Advertising Age:
“We had advertising running on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ (we run on most major cable news shows) and it has been reassigned in the midst of this controversy,” Donna Boland, a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz USA, said in a statement. “The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now.”
Hyundai in its statement said: “Hyundai currently has no advertising running on ‘The O’Reilly Factor.’ We had upcoming advertising spots on the show but are reallocating them due to the recent and disturbing allegations. As a company we seek to partner with companies and programming that share our values of inclusion and diversity. We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as we plan future advertising decisions.”
The New York Times on Saturday reported that five women had received payments totaling about $13 million from either O’Reilly or Fox News parent 21st Century Fox in exchange for not pursuing litigation about their accusations.
His show seems too big to fail, but money talks and bullshit walks. We’ll see if more advertisers follow suit.
5th Gear: Ford Wants A Fully Autonomous Car By 2021
That seems to be the goal for several automakers, including also Mercedes. Via The Detroit News, here’s what Ford’s Ken Washington has to say at an SAE conference:
“At Ford, we are working very aggressively to make this a reality by 2021 by bringing many of the technologies we’ve spoken about, like advanced sensors and the ability to think in computer space like we think as humans to identify objects and make complex decisions ... to a level 4 ride service ...,” he told his audience at Cobo Center.
Reverse: Bill France Jr. Born
Neutral: Will New Vehicle Sales Cool Off In 2017?
And if that happens, what will the automakers do? Several of them have struggled to convince Wall Street of their long-term stability and all this “mobility” shit is a ways off. What’s next?