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: Automakers Sued Over Apparent Keyless Ignition Carbon Monoxide Deaths
On Wednesday in a Los Angeles federal court, a class action lawsuit was filed against 10 global automakers alleging the companies concealed the risk of death from carbon monoxide poisoning in cars with keyless ignition systems.
The TL;DR version: the lawsuit says drivers thought their engines would turn off if they walked away and took their key fobs with them, leading to 13 deaths from carbon monoxide. The suit names pretty much everybody, from BMW to General Motors to Hyundai. From Reuters:
The plaintiffs said the automakers could have averted the 13 deaths, and many more injuries, by installing an inexpensive feature to automatically turn off unattended engines, and that GM and Ford even took steps to patent a shut-off feature.
They said 27 complaints have been lodged with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since 2009 over keyless ignitions.
“The automakers had actual knowledge of the dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning consequences of vehicles with keyless fobs that lack an automatic shut-off,” the complaint said.
Now I tend to fall more on the consumer protection side of things, but even this one seems absurd to me. These people couldn’t tell that their cars weren’t off? Why did they think their cars would turn off automatically if they just walked away with the fob? Why would you ever walk away knowing your car was idling and wasting gas, especially running in your garage?
I don’t know. This one will probably end in a settlement, a new warning label in your car to MAKE SURE IT’S OFF!, and some kind of engine shutoff feature. Oy.
2nd Gear: Manslaughter Conviction Overturned In GM Ignition Case
Speaking of ignitions, here’s an interesting outcome in the ongoing GM ignition switch defect saga from the AP:
A Pennsylvania judge reversed the involuntary manslaughter conviction of a woman Wednesday after determining a faulty General Motors ignition switch contributed to her crashing into a school bus and utility pole, killing her passenger boyfriend.
LaKisha Ward-Green, 25, of Penn Hills, Pa., pleaded guilty to manslaughter and reckless driving in 2012. She served three months of a one- to two-year jail sentence before her attorneys appealed, eventually citing the GM defect that resulted in the Wednesday court decision.
3rd Gear: The Perfect Conditions For A New Ranger And/Or Bronco
The big news in the truck world yesterday was the possible return of the Ford Ranger and maybe even Bronco to the U.S. market, built here in Michigan no less. But don’t think Ford just woke up and decided this was a swell idea. The Detroit Free Press says there’s a lot of reasons this is happening, and they have to do with the realities of the current market and negotiations with the United Auto Works union. They’re mad the Focus and C-Max production appears headed to Mexico, so Ford needs something in Michigan to replace it: namely, trucks.
First, the F-150 can’t be all things to all people, not when the Colorado/Canyon and Tacoma are so successful:
Caught between growing fuel-economy pressures and increasing segmentation of the truck and SUV markets, the Dearborn automaker is preparing to replace slower-selling compact Focuses and even slower-selling compact hybrids at Michigan Assembly with models that should deliver fatter profits and higher volumes.
Moreover, expanding Ford’s pickup and SUV portfolio would mirror a segmentation trend unspooling across the industry, namely that automakers seldom can afford to cede entire segments to competitors in either the premium or the mass-market spaces.
Enter the “M” word — Mexico — a perennial flashpoint with UAW members who understandably recoil at implied threats during contract talks. That’s especially true when the signals suggest off-shoring production without a clear idea of what, if anything, comes next back home.
In the UAW orbit, Ford’s move created a problem where one didn’t need to exist; heightened tensions in a bellwether plant whose workforce approved a competitive local contract to land Focus production; and pretty much guaranteed that a national contract could not be ratified without official confirmation first of what comes next for Michigan Assembly.
4th Gear: Oh Yeah, That Still Exists
It’s a tough time in the market for hybrids, and the Honda CR-Z — a car that still exists and can be purchased new, did you know that? — has never done that great. So a refresh is coming, reports Automotive News:
A revamped version will go on sale in Japan in October and is expected to hit U.S. showrooms sometime the following month.
The update gets a more sculpted front fascia with a wing-like lip that cups the grille and flares around enlarged fog lights. Similarly dynamic flourishes adorn the rear, while the back tires are pushed out to give it a more planted, solid stance.
That should do the trick!
5th Gear: More On Fiat Chrysler’s Plans
The public wasn’t allowed to the dealer meeting in Las Vegas this week where Fiat Chrysler unveiled basically every new car they’re going to roll out in the next couple years, but some details have trickled out, as they always do. Here’s a bit more from the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Marchionne also unveiled the next generation of the popular Jeep Wrangler SUV and said the vehicle would achieve 30 miles per gallon, according to dealers in attendance. That is a lofty target for a vehicle long viewed as being more rugged than fuel efficient.
A Fiat Chrysler spokesman declined to comment on the meeting. The next generation of the Wrangler, one of Fiat Chrysler’s bigger profit generators, is due in 2017.
A standout of the presentation was a new Dodge Charger, with dealers likening the model to a four-door version of General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Corvette sports car. The company also plans a new Chrysler crossover vehicle, and two new products for Jeep: a small, compact SUV and the long-awaited larger Grand Wagoneer.
Sounds like they’re really going to go nuts with the next Charger after all.
Reverse: Balls Of Steel
Neutral: Which New Fiat Chrysler Product Are You Most Excited About?
They seem to have some cool stuff in the pipeline. The new Wrangler and Town & Country will be huge deals, but I’m mostly looking forward to seeing the new Charger.
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