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: What Are Deadlines, Really?
Elon was supposed to come out with his master plan revealing Tesla’s upcoming product strategy last week. Instead he played with some rockets or something that look really cool and are supposed to go to Mars at some point or “whatever,” as he revealed in this tweet:
He followed up this morning that, uh, he’ll have this product plan ready any minute. Just a second.
As anyone who has made it through the public school system can tell you, deadlines are made up, nothing matters, and nobody really cares anyway.
(Editor’s Note: Today’s edition of The Morning Shift was late. - M.B.)
2nd Gear: Nobody Wants To Be Tesla Right Now
Even Elon doesn’t seem too enthused about having to deal with Tesla business, but he’s got nothing on how freaked out the rest of the car industry is by their most recent autopilot hysteria. Look at Nissan; it’s in the midst of a publicity campaign for its own semi-autonomous tech and has made a sudden turn towards cautious wording about what current autopilot tech can do. From Automotive News reporting from Japan:
“This is not self-driving. It is, rather, a driver-assistant system,” Executive Vice President Hideyuki Sakamoto said while unveiling the technology at a news conference Wednesday, July 13.
The distinction is important as autonomous driving systems come under heightened scrutiny following the fatal crash of a Tesla Model S into a tractor-trailer in the U.S.
The Tesla was operating in Autopilot mode. It raised some questions about whether drivers were lulled into a false sense of security by the technology.
“From the beginning, we worried about that situation,” said Kiwamu Aoyanagi, a manager in Nissan’s autonomous driving and advanced safety development group.
Nissan’s tech, as it exists now, can steer and brake for the driver, like a Tesla can. Nissan won’t let you take you hands off the wheel for more than a few seconds before freaking out, however. It’s another sign of caution in this litigious industry in the face of Tesla’s arguably too fast/too wild progress.
3rd Gear: Volkswagen Pledges Compensation To Dealers
Volkswagen has begun making promises to compensate American dealerships for its losses in the wake of Dieselgate, the Wall Street Journal reports from a meeting the company held in New Jersey, that bastion of American corporate honesty. One NJ VW dealer described things in the only way you’d hope a New Jersey car dealer would:
“Volkswagen’s compensation for consumers is very generous, but it was done with a gun to their head,” Mr. Kalafer said. “We want to know what restitution Volkswagen is going to give to dealers, because we have not put a gun to their head.”
The WSJ did not get any specifics about how VW will pay back its less-than-happy dealers, but that VW is even admitting they will have a plan soon is noteworthy.
4th Gear: General Motors Forces Bankrupt Supplier To Re-Open
General Motors will give a big earnings report on Thursday, sure to show yet another quarter of strong profits and happy investment in semi-autonomous tech, as the Wall Street Journal reports. The future sounds clear for GM. The present, however, is more confused.
GM had to get a court order to restart production at a little family-owned supplier in Massachusetts last week, Automotive News reports:
Clark-Cutler-McDermott Co. of Franklin, Mass., is GM’s sole supplier of certain acoustic damping materials, such as dash insulators, wheelhouse liners and floor insulators. In June, the company sent its workers home, and since it was a just-in-time vendor, GM had no reserve inventory of components.
GM nearly had to suspend all of its North American production, but it got the court order it needed to force-restart the supplier. Clark-Cutler-McDermott is still in need of a buyer.
5th Gear: Aston Martin Recalls Door Locks That Aren’t Broken
On a stranger note, Aston Martin has to recall 6,000 cars to fix door locks that aren’t broken. The company’s convertibles auto-lock the interior locks when the exterior ones are engaged, which is against U.S. regulations, as CarScoops reports:
The problem revolves around the interior door locks, which by design are disabled when the doors are locked from the outside. It’s a particularly beneficial feature for convertibles, in which locking the doors when parked with the roof down is only as secure as a hand reaching in and unlocking it from the inside.
Unfortunately for Aston Martin, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demands that the door locks be operable from the inside of the vehicle, even if it’s equipped with a system like Aston installs that prevents the doors from being locked with someone inside.
You gotta love NHTSA sometimes.
6th Gear: There’s A New Front-Wheel-Drive BMW!
Thankfully, we’ll never have to see it. Well, obviously you’re seeing it now in the above picture, but you’ll never see it on the road. This is the new 1 Series Sedan. yes, that’s actually it’s name. The car is for the Chinese market only, as BMW announced in its official press release, so please ignore it and forget it exists.
Neutral: What Do You Think About The Current State Of Semi-Autonomy?
Do you think companies like Nissan are being too cautious, or has Tesla been too reckless? Your thoughts are welcome.