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The U.S. Is Looking Into An Alleged German Automaker Price-Fixing Scandal: Report

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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 as you prepare for another beautiful day under the sun. Get happy.

1st Gear: (Allegedly) Cheating On More Than Just The Diesels

Alright, maybe don’t get so happy yet.

U.S. Justice Department officials are looking into allegations of German automakers conspiring on various parts of car development to put other manufacturers at a disadvantage, a person claiming familiarity with the matter told Bloomberg.


There is no indication that the U.S. has opened a formal investigation, Bloomberg says, but the allegations are that this German cartel conspired on technology, strategy and parts to give themselves an advantage. Reports yesterday were that Volkswagen was holding a secret meeting to get things back in order.

Here’s the lowdown on the situation the U.S. might now be getting involved in:

That acknowledgment came after Der Spiegel reported last week that the biggest German car manufacturers — Daimler AG, BMW AG and Volkswagen AG, as well as VW’s Audi and Porsche brands — may have colluded for decades.

According to the Spiegel report, the five German car brands met starting in the 1990s to coordinate activities related to their vehicle technology, costs, suppliers and strategy as well as emissions controls in diesel engines. The discussions involved more than 200 employees in 60 working groups in areas including auto development, gasoline and diesel motors, brakes and transmissions. Talks may have also involved the size of tanks for AdBlue fluid for diesel autos, which is at the heart of the emissions-cheating case in which VW pleaded guilty earlier this year, the magazine reported.

The Spiegel article said that one aim of the collusion was to obstruct competition, with the carmakers agreeing on costs for components and technical details such as convertible roofs.


A spokesperson for the Justice Department—as well as ones for BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen—declined to give Bloomberg a comment on a possible review of it all.

In other words: “Nothing going on here, folks. Get back to work and let the big kids settle this one.”

2nd Gear: Another Takata Death

Australian police said Monday that the recent death of a man in Sydney was likely due to a faulty Takata airbag, Reuters reports. The Takata airbags, which were part of the largest automotive safety recall in history, have been linked to at least 17 deaths worldwide so far.


Even Takata’s recalled airbags are having problems, with 2.7 million recalled cars being recalled yet again recently and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration beginning to look into other replaced airbags. Investigators in the Sydney car crash aren’t sure if the airbag had been replaced, Reuters says:

The death of the man in Sydney this month, which involved a Honda CRV fitted with Takata-manufactured airbags, may be the 18th linked to faulty airbags by the Japanese auto parts maker and the first such death in Australia.

Investigators said the man was struck in the neck by a small fragment of an airbag that was subject to a worldwide recall. Takata’s airbag inflators can degrade over time, spraying metal shards around a vehicle when the airbag is deployed. ...

Takata did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An Australian consumer watchdog group told Reuters after the crash that it was looking into what information both the government department for vehicle safety and car manufacturers were giving owners of affected vehicles about the recall—i.e., why it’s actually important to get the thing replaced.


3rd Gear: The 2017 Dodge Challengers Are Having Some Challenges

Nearly 8,000 2017 Dodge Challengers are being recalled in the U.S. for their tendency to roll away while in park, which is probably due to their undeniable need to get to the drag strip. You’re not taking them there? Fine. They don’t need you. They’ll go themselves.


The affected Challengers are the ones with 5.7-liter V8 engines and eight-speed automatic transmissions, Automotive News reports. The report also says 390 cars in Canada and 119 elsewhere are included in the recall. From Automotive News:

According to an FCA statement, drivers may shift into “park” while the engine is running, “erroneously believing their vehicles are in ‘park’ because their shifters and instrumentation may indicate so.” Then, if the drivers exit the vehicles without setting the parking brake, as FCA recommends, the vehicles could roll.

FCA will update transmission software to “better enable drivers to engage ‘park,’” according to the statement.

FCA said in the statement it is unaware of any injuries or accidents related to the problem, adding that the recall is unrelated to any previous FCA campaign.


Hm. It seems like the correct phrasing there would be that the cars erroneously show they’re in park, considering that any normal person would think a car is in park if it says “park.”

Details... who needs ‘em?

4th Gear: That Whole ‘Europe’ Thing Was Even Expensive For GM To Leave

General Motors wasn’t having the best time marketing its Opel and Vauxhall brands in Europe. Opel was bleeding money, and in February, GM saw no real way to turn it around soon. Reports said the company lost more than $20 billion in the European market between 1999 and this year.


After 90 years in Europe, GM pulled out entirely in March by selling Opel and Vauxhall to France’s PSA Group. And with Automotive News reporting that profits from the second quarter dropped by 42 percent this year, the company had to pay a big chunk of money to get out of there. From Automotive News:

The company recorded a loss of $770 million from discontinued operations, which include the sale of its Opel and Vauxhall operations to PSA Group of Europe. Excluding those costs, the company recorded a profit of $2.43 billion, down 11 percent from a record second quarter in 2016.

Revenue from continuing operations fell 1.1 percent to $37 billion, mostly due to lower volumes.

In North America, earnings before interest and taxes declined 7.2 percent to $3.48 billion, also due to a decline in sales.

GM’s continuing operations topped Wall Street estimates for a ninth consecutive quarter. The earnings were equal to $1.89 a share, compared with a projection of $1.69.


Even after beating Wall Street expectations, GM has hordes of unsold vehicles sitting around in America. To help ease the pain, the company’s chief financial officer told Automotive News that GM would build 150,000 fewer cars during the second half of this year than it did in the first.

5th Gear: Drive Free... For Less Than Two Hours A Day

Driving is Great and Fun, as we all know, but it might have some less-than-fun side affects. The Independent reports that researchers in Britain found that in addition to being bad for your heart, sitting behind the wheel for more than two to three hours a day could make you less intelligent.


From the Independent:

The researchers analysed the lifestyles of more than 500,000 Britons aged between 37 and 73 over five years, during which they took intelligence and memory tests.

The 93,000 people who drove more than two to three hours a day typically had lower brainpower at the start of the study, which kept on declining throughout, at a faster rate than those who did little or no driving.

A similar result was also found for those watching TV for more than three hours a day, who also had lower average brainpower at the start of the study which fell faster over the next five years.


The same research found that cognitive skills actually went up when using the computer for two to three hours a day, the Independent reports. That makes your resident Jalopnik staff about halfway safe from cognitive decline over the next few decades.

As our lovely and caring blog overlord Patrick George would say: “More blogs, teens!”


Reverse: It’s Not About The Money, Money, Money

Actually, it is, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority does need your money, money, money. On July 25, 1953, subway fares in NYC rose from 10 cents to 15 cents and tickets were replaced with tokens, according to the MTA.


Just think: 15 cents to ride a scary underground train that wouldn’t have air conditioning for another 14 years. Fun!

Neutral: Have You Done Your Takata Recall Yet?

It may not actually work, but at least go do it. We’ve asked this before and we’ll ask it again. GO DO IT.