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: Hacking!
Expect car hacking to be the next big thing to be scared of in the auto industry. Following the remote seizure of a new Jeep Cherokee by two white hat hackers, Fiat Chrysler ordered a recall of 1.4 million vehicles to fix the vulnerability, which worked through its UConnect infotainment system.
But do similar holes exist in other cars and systems? That’s what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is trying to find out by widening their probe into hacking, via Bloomberg:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the top U.S. auto safety regulator, said on its website an estimated 2.8 million Harman Kardon “infotainment” systems may be affected - - double the number specified in the Fiat Chrysler recall announced July 24.
The Harman Kardon investigation was opened on July 29, according to the agency. Company officials were not immediately available for comment.
NHTSA chief Mark Rosekind said on Friday that his agency is trying to find out how many automakers may have received radios from the same company that supplied Fiat Chrysler, Reuters reported, adding that Rosekind didn’t identify the supplier.
Makes you wonder what else is out there.
2nd Gear: Trucks And Crossovers!
Americans love trucks and crossovers! Well, they love cheap gas and big things, and so that follows. But those segments are doing super great right now! They helped Nissan and Fiat Chrysler to big sales last month. From Automotive News:
Nissan Group’s U.S. deliveries rose 7.8 percent to 130,872 — setting a July record — on strong sales of SUVs and crossovers. The Nissan division set a July record with volume of 120,439, an increase of 6.7 percent. Crossover, truck and SUV volume at the Nissan brand set a July record, up 22 percent. The Murano and Altima also set sales records for the month, Nissan said today.
At Infiniti, sales rose 22 percent to 10,433.
Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. sales, aided by another strong showing by the Jeep brand, rose 6.2 percent to 178,027 vehicles in July, extending the company’s streak to 64 consecutive months.
3rd Gear: Could This Woman Kill Petroleum-Powered Cars?
You know how carmakers have to sell these money-losing electric vehicles in California and states that follow their air regulations? It’s because of Mary Nichols, 70, who heads up the California Air Resources Board, and according to Bloomberg may be the most important auto regulator in the country. “Nichols really does intend to force automakers to eventually sell nothing but electrics,” the story says.
Even if most people outside California have never heard of Mary Nichols, she’s the world’s most influential automotive regulator, says Levi Tillemann, author of The Great Race, a book on the future of automobile technology. “Under her leadership, the Air Resources Board has been the driving force for electrification,” Tillemann says.
Nichols, who drives a tiny electric Honda Fit, acts as if she’s an unstoppable force. California’s goals for the adoption of electric vehicle technology are the most stringent in the nation, but Nichols thinks they need to be even tougher. Regulations on the books in California, set in 2012, require that 2.7 percent of new cars sold in the state this year be, in the regulatory jargon, ZEVs. These are defined as battery-only or fuel-cell cars, and plug-in hybrids. The quota rises every year starting in 2018 and reaches 22 percent in 2025. Nichols wants 100 percent of the new vehicles sold to be zero- or almost-zero-emissions by 2030, in part through greater use of low-carbon fuels that she’s also promoting.
The long profile is worth a read. Also, her husband was the lead counsel for Exxon in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case. I’ll just leave that here.
4th Gear: Will Autonomous Cars Kill The Insurance Industry?
Probably not, no. But that’s one big question we still have to answer when it comes to autonomous cars. One analyst, Meyer Shields, has a scorching take from the Dept. of Hot Takes: that technology will have a big impact on insurers. Via The Detroit News:
Increasingly safe cars, including driverless vehicles, could have the biggest impact on insurers.
“Ultimately, these advances are likely to actually eviscerate the personal auto insurance industry,” Shields said. “The one thing we can’t say with any confidence is how long it will take.”
He’s not the first to make that dire prediction. In 2012, financial industry consulting firm Celent published “A Scenario: The End of Auto Insurance: What Happens When There Are (Almost) No Accidents?” In early 2014, that report’s author, Donald Light, told the Tribune that what he once considered a “provocative but plausible” scenario was now “probable.”
5th Gear: Toyota Experiments With Online Sales
Here’s something that actually isn’t idiotic: Toyota is experimenting more and more with online tools that let you order a car and arrange financing online. Via The Detroit Free Press:
Toyota will use the small Scion brand to test a new web-based system that lets shoppers pick their car, set the price, arrange financing and even take delivery from home, the office, anyplace you can get online.
“People want to spend less time in the dealership,” Doug Murtha, the Toyota vice president who runs Scion told me. It can take a typical buyer around four hours to convince a car dealer to agree to take thousands of dollars from them. The process can be infuriating.
“We’re shooting for an hour,” Murtha said.
They’ve sold a few hundred cars through this system at about 60 dealerships across the country. All 1,000 Scion dealers will get it next year. You can even arrange for the car to be delivered to you, just not in Michigan (and probably other states) where that’s illegal.
How long until the dealership backlash happens?
Reverse: And Now Elon Musk Has One
On this day in 1977, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” starring Roger Moore as the suave superspy James Bond, known for his love of fast cars and dangerous women, is released in theaters across America. The film features one of the most memorable Bond cars of all time–a sleek, powerful Lotus Esprit sports car that does double duty as a submarine.
Neutral: How Worried Should We Be About Remote Car Hacking?
On a scale of 1 to WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE, how much of a concern should this be for regulators, automakers and consumers?
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