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. Consider them your “desert island” stories, should society collapse in the imminent future.
1st Gear: You’re Trying To Tell Me Carmakers Are Only In It For The Money?
Carmakers continually talk about how much their newest waves of driver-assistance technologies will save lives. It’ll save your life, if you follow whatever ad campaign is new right now. You might think that these carmakers, so concerned with your wellbeing, would do everything they could to get this safety tech into as many cars as possible, as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
That’s not how it’s happening.
The current generation of driver assistance technologies, the ones that are taking us down the path towards full autonomy and self-driving cars, is expensive as hell, as noted in a new report put together by The Detroit News. The main point is that these advertised as life-saving features like adaptive cruise control, self-steering that keeps you in your lane and automatic braking are completely out of reach of anyone who’s not buying a higher-level car, and can cost more than $1,500 even if you’re in the market for it. The Detroit News explains:
Here’s an example of the complicated pricing for the 2018 Chevrolet Traverse: If you go shopping for a base-model Traverse L that starts at $30,925, you can’t get blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert or rear park-assist. Those are available on mid-level $36,095 LT trims, but you’ll have to pay extra to get them.
Go for the $45,995 front-wheel drive Traverse Premier trim, and you can opt for a safety package that adds low-speed automatic-braking, collision alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and front pedestrian detection — but you’ll have to pay an additional $475 to get it. Only on the $48,895 all-wheel-drive Premier trim do all of those features come standard.
GM’s cross-town competitor the Ford Escape starts at $23,850. To get the Safe and Smart package with rain-sensing windshield wipers, auto high-beams, blind-spot detection, cross-traffic alerts, lane-keeping and adaptive cruise-control with forward collision-warning, you’d have to buy — at minimum — the $25,605 Escape SE trim, and then opt for the $1,295 Safe and Smart package on top of that.
Read the full report here.
I’m sure that the auto industry will sort this all out once full autonomy shows up. It’s for our safety, right?
2nd Gear: Netflix Doc On VW Sponsoring Tests On Monkeys Has VW Shook
A few weeks back, Volkswagen argued that a recent Netflix “Dirty Money” documentary covering VW’s diesel cheats included discussion of the company sponsoring a group that tested diesel fumes on monkeys. The whole gassing things isn’t a good look for Volkswagen, and the company asked for a few months for everyone to, uh, calm down.
Yesterday, the judge threw out the request, as Reuters reports. Nice try.
3rd Gear: Toyota Prius Software Fix Blamed For Cut In Mileage
Lawsuits are streaming in against Toyota from Southern California Toyota dealers and owners that a recent safety fix to software controlling the hybrid system in the Toyota Prius, aimed at cutting overheating, saps the car’s trademark fuel economy, as The Los Angeles Times reports:
About 800,000 Toyota Priuses in the U.S. were recalled in 2014 to address overheating that damages the car’s inverter, a key part of the electrical power system. A lawsuit brought last year by one of Southern California’s largest Toyota dealers asserted that the software fix did not solve the overheating problem and could lead to an abrupt loss of power. A related complaint by the dealer is now under review by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Academic experts contacted by the Los Angeles Times said it is likely the software change reduced the car’s fuel efficiency. And a lawsuit this month in federal court makes allegation that Toyota “concealed from consumers that the software reflash decreased the fuel efficiency — defeating the very purpose of owning these hybrid vehicles.”
I’m so jaded at this point that I’ve given up hope that any car will ever be clean or environmentally friendly.
4th Gear: Marchionne Rakes In The Millions
The big news about FCA recently has been the UAW scandal with millions of dollars being swindled away from union members, or if not that then the company’s struggles to get Alfa Romeo going in the United States, or if not that then the diesel cheating crisis going on with Ram trucks.
Sounds like a good time for FCA boss Sergio Marchionne to make a ton of money, per Automotive News:
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne collected shares valued at about 29 million euros ($35.7 million) for the three-year period ended in 2016, according to the Italian-American automaker’s 2017 annual report filed Tuesday. He also earned 9.68 million euros ($12 million) in base compensation and bonus for 2017.
Marchionne reportedly needs a replacement. Sounds like a good gig, if you ask me.
5th Gear: Daimler’s Gonna Have That Tesla Semi Rival In 2021, We Promise
Daimler announced today that it will have an electric semi truck of its own called the eActros in production in 2021, as Reuters reports.
Daimler claims that its range should be 124 miles, which is way down on Tesla’s claimed 500 miles. But the real question is which company actually puts this stuff into production when it says it will. I have my doubts about the Silicon Valley side.
Reverse: It Begins
Neutral: When Do You Think You’ll Have Driver Assistance Tech In Your Car?
Do you even want it?