This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:00 AM. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: NHTSA Looking At Auto-Braking Feature
The National Highway Traffic Administration's David Strickland told a Congressional panel yesterday that they were considering a mandate that would require automakers to put auto-braking systems in cars.
As someone who is generally averse to mandates for technology that takes over the driving experience, I'm not entirely panicked about this decision. It appears the agency's model is the Volvo "City Safety" system, which turns on in slower traffic to stop people from crashing into a car in front of them or, worse, a person. In driving "City Safety"-equipped cars I've never felt the system kick in, mostly because I'm rarely so unobservant that I'm about to run over someone.
So long as it can be turned off and it's only for low-speed driving such a mandate isn't terrible, that being said, the need for sensors (radar, cameras, or both) to implement the system will be yet another reason automaker's will give for the rising price and weight of cars.
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Of course, this isn't final, and it's quite possible the agency will just decide to investigate it further and kick the can down the road.
2nd Gear: Speaking Of Crashes, Your CUV Kind Of Sucks The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested 10 of the most popular small CUV/SUVs on the market… and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. What did they find? The Subaru Forester and the Outlander Sport earn a TOP SAFETY PICK for doing well in their various tests. Maybe we need to make fewer Mitsu jokes.
Specifically, while most vehicles did well in the full-width frontal crash test, almost all of the other toasters sucked it up hard in the IIHS's frontal overlap crash, earning either a poor or marginal. The poor group includes the Escape, Sportage, Tuscon, Encore, Patriot, and Encore while the rest of your small CUVs earn a marginal. Here's what they said:
In one example of poor structure, the front pillar of the Nissan Rogue's door frame was pushed far inside the occupant compartment and after the crash was almost touching the driver seat. The Jeep Patriot was among the worst for restraints and kinematics. The dummy's head slid off the frontal airbag as the steering wheel moved 8 inches up and nearly 6 inches to the right. The side curtain airbag didn't deploy, and the safety belt allowed the dummy's head and torso to move too far forward.
3rd Gear: BMW Now Offering A 6-Series M Sport
The "M Sport" line returns for the new BMW 6-Series, which means Alcantara headliners for all my men! This isn't to confuse the BMW 6-series with an actual M vehicle. You can get the M-Sport package in any variation of 6-series and it'll produce exactly the same amount of power as any other similar 6-series.
What you do get is M aerodynamics, or, Maerodynamics as we call them. There's also M light-alloy wheels, or, Mlight wheels as we call them. There's also MLED fog lamps, Mdoorsils, Mblack-painted calipers and Mexhaust pipes. Sadly, there are no Mengines, but if you wanted that why didn't you just buy an M?
Prices range from $80,625 for the 2014 BMW 640i Coupe with the Mpackage all the way up to $94,625 for the 650 Gran Coupe.
4th Gear: The Chinese Are Buying, The Chinese Are Buying
A good read in today's Detroit News gives a glimpse into how automakers are trying to "woo" middle class buyers in Shanghai, the most sophisticated city in the world's biggest car market.
GM, for instance, will show a whopping 50 models at the Shanghai show, ranging from the tiny Buick Encore all the way up to the Cadillac Escalade ESV. Ford will have the new Fiesta ST and Mondeo. Chrysler's going to show off the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, which was designed partly to appeal to Chinese customers (where it will be known as the "Zi You Guang").
The Germans are not to be outdone either, with BMW showing off the 3 Series GT, Mercedes the GLA, and the VW CrossBlue concept. The Japanese will also be there, hoping to avoid negative attention.
5th Gear: Will Fiat End Up In Detroit Or Turin?
Fiat/Chrysler is now a truly global company, with headquarters in both Italy and the USA. But where will the final HQ end up? According to the Freep that's all still up in the air, although Marchionne says they need fully staffed offices in both regions so who really cares?
What's apparently holding up the decision is a lawsuit that will determine how much change Fiat's going to have to put out for the 41.5% of Chrysler currently owned by the UAW health care trust.
A Chrysler spokesperson says Marchionne's real office is a plane, but it's worth pointing out that Chrysler's Auburn Hills offices are full while the Turin office has less than 100 corporate Fiat staff.
Reverse: A Home In Warren
On this day in 1956, executives from the Detroit-based automotive giant General Motors (GM) dedicate the new GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. Costing around $100 million—or about half a billion in today's dollars—to develop and staffed by around 4,000 scientists, engineers, designers and other personnel, the GM Technical Center was one of the largest industrial research centers in the world.
Neutral: How Do You Feel About Auto Braking? More unnecessary, government-mandated technology? Useful? Anyone have a car with it currently active?
Photo Credit: Getty Images