The original German SUV, the Merceds ML in production in Alabama. Production started in 1997. Photo: Daimler
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War has begun, and it’s against “completely over-engined tank models,” as members of the German government put it. There’s war on the horizon, and it’s against SUVs. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Tuesday, June 25, 2019.

1st Gear: Begun, The SUV Wars Have

Governments around the world keep tightening restrictions on how clean cars must be, and yet SUVs continue to boom both here in the United States and abroad. Three left-of-center parties (the Social Democrats, the Left, and the Green Party) in Germany are fed up with it, and want out, as Der Spiegel reports:

Left-wing traffic politician [Ingrid] Lemmers demanded, however, to align the tax relief of company cars on ecological criteria, because 80 percent of SUVs are registered as official cars. In addition, the vehicle tax should be ecologically oriented. The FPD rejected this request. About the motor vehicle tax buyers are already enough grabbed into the bag, said FDP traffic expert Oliver Luksic the “world”.

The Greens want to get the SUV against it with a toll. She should be billed not only temporally, but to the nearest kilometer, also a staggering emission classes is possible. “If you drive a lot and also produce many greenhouse gases with your car, you have to pay more,” said Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Green Party). This is a meaningful contribution to the financing of mobility of the future.

Lemmers is the one who dropped the over-engined tanks line, and also called out the rise in cars getting bigger and bigger, heavier and heavier “ab adsurdum,” which is great.

Here’s a bit more from Lemmers, speaking with Die Welt:

The left-wing traffic politician Ingrid Remmers also criticizes the car companies: “Instead of building less dirty cars, the car industry now relies on particularly large, heavy and even dirtier cars,” says Remmers. “It is utterly absurd to build 1.9 tons of weight to carry an average of 80 kilograms of human beings.”

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I’m intrigued by the plan to specifically call out SUVs as a vehicle type. As a body style, SUVs have managed to become largely as efficient as the sedans and wagons we’re used to by transforming into crossovers.

They have dodged past attempts to bring them down. Maybe they must be targeted directly.

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2nd Gear: BMW: Oh Right, We Should Make Electric Cars, Huh

Remember when BMW was going to turn this whole industry upside down with its “i” cars, the i3, the i8 and then more, with all-electric drivetrains, hybrids, and carbon fiber construction? No? Don’t worry, it seems as though BMW also forgot at some point, and is just realizing that, oh right, it was supposed to go in on EVs and hybrids a while ago before getting distracted with, uh, an SUV version of the 7 Series.

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Anyway, the strict news is that BMW is planning 25 models with hybrid or full electric drivetrains by 2023. This is kicking its timeframe forward, as The Guardian notes:

The company will have 25 electrified models on sale in 2023, two years earlier than previously planned, it announced on Tuesday. More than half of the vehicles will be fully electric.

[...]

Under strict EU rules due in 2021, manufacturers must ensure average emissions from new cars are below 95g of carbon dioxide per kilometre driven or face huge fines. BMW’s models averaged carbon emissions of 128.9g per kilometre in 2018, according to the data company Jato Dynamics.

In response the BMW group plans to increase sales of electric or hybrid vehicles by more than 30% a year up to 2025, slashing average emissions across its three brands: BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce.

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The BMW i3 started production in 2013 and has not been replaced or significantly updated in the intervening years. Just something to think about.

3rd Gear: BMW Gamifies Eco Driving

For some reason it has never exactly been enough to just sell a car that is more efficient than other ones on the market, and all the landmark eco cars have had some kind of onboard games. If you’ve ever driven a Prius you’ll know what I mean. All sorts of onboard screens to tell you how efficiently you’re driving.

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Now BMW wants in. A new BMW press release claims that its next gen of plug-in hybrids will automatically switch into EV mode if they detect they’re in a low-emissions zone in a city center. That’s called “eDrive Zone function,” and it is convenient. But also, games. From BMW:

As a supplement to the BMW eDrive Zone function, the BMW Group is further stimulating an increase in electric driving among its plug-in hybrid customers by means of a novel digital service called BMW Points. The BMW Points app offers a fun source of motivation for PHEV customers to get the most out of their electric drive. Kilometres covered using electric power are rewarded with points. High-voltage battery charging is also rewarded under the BMW Points scheme. In this way, drivers are encouraged to give preference to electric drive as often as possible – not just based on environmental awareness but also out of a sense of competitiveness. By collecting a sufficient number of points, participants can gain access to attractive rewards such as free charging volumes on Charge Now; in the medium term, this will also include products of the Share Now and Park Now brands as well as those available in the Connected Drive Store.

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I guess eco-minded drivers need to be reaffirmed of their sensible buying choice.

4th Gear: Nissan Takes New Steps Against Renault And Consolidation

Here’s a fun one in the ongoing Nissan-Renault drama, detailing how, exactly, the two sides are facing off against each other within their shared corporate superstructure. Automotive News has the story explaining that Nissan shareholders have voted in “sweeping reforms,” and lays out how they’re targeted at Renault:

The reforms ratified by shareholders were in motion for months and are a top Saikawa priority. They create a new board with a majority of independent directors. They also create separate committees overseeing executive nomination, executive compensation and corporate auditing.

The new structure is supposed to improve accountability and transparency, while helping prevent the kind of concentration of power critics say occurred at Nissan during Ghosn’s tenure.

Ghosn’s arrest and allegations of financial misdeeds have plunged the 20-year alliance between Nissan and Renault into chaos. Nissan has leveraged the crisis to push for greater independence and control over its own affairs, while Renault — the Japanese carmaker’s biggest shareholder with a controlling 43 percent stake — tries to push ahead with its vision of greater integration.

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I don’t know if I’m even interested in the motivations of the Nissan-Renault battles anymore, so much as I am intrigued by the actual techniques of how a company fights against itself.

5th Gear: The Union Gets It In

The world deserves better than the UAW a lot of the time, but there are moments when it call comes together, as Automotive News reports:

UAW Local 892 scheduled a vote for members Thursday at the Faurecia auto parts plant in Saline, Michigan, on a tentative contract calling for significant hourly wage hikes and a $2,500 signing bonus.

Highlights of the agreement also call for retroactive pay for new wages as of June 1, vacation time rollover and no increase in workers’ health care costs.

The pact also includes a full-time health and safety representative. The signing bonus would include a $1,500 payment upon ratification and $1,000 in the first full pay period of January.

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The tentative contract would cover about 1,900 people making interior parts for companies such as Tesla, Fiat-Chrysler, and Ford. Hourly wages would also see increases as well.

Collective bargaining: It works!

Reverse: What About Pierce-Arrow And Peerless?

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Neutral: You Are Tasked With Destroying SUVs. What’s Your Move?

Let us imagine that you are a government official of high rank. You, too, are fed up with SUVs getting bought up by every yahoo, sucking gas and hauling... not much other than a single occupant going down the highway. What’s your action plan for getting people out of vehicles bigger, heavier, and thirstier than they need to be?