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: It’s A Helluva Town
Wednesday and Thursday this week are the press days for the 2016 New York Auto Show, and your Jalopnik staff will be there dutifully covering the whole thing in some exciting new ways. (No living in a van this time, thank god.)
What can we, the enthusiasts, expect to care about at the show this year? A few things of note: an updated Nissan GT-R, the U.S. debut of the Jaguar F-Type SVR, the Genesis G70, the new Camaro ZL1, most likely a hardtop Miata of some sort, and hopefully more. There are seldom big surprises at the New York show, but we’ll see.
I lose sleep just thinking about all the exciting cars!
2nd Gear: The New NSX Plant Is Kind Of A Big Deal
We like the new Acura NSX just fine so far, and unlike the old NSX, this one’s from Ohio, not Tochigi. And our pal David Undercoffler over at Automotive News has a good story on the $70 million plan where it’s built in Marysville, which also serves as a lab to create technology for other cars. Worth a read in full but here’s a highlight:
Next month, after a long wait, Honda’s 206,000-square-foot Performance Manufacturing Center here will begin building the first NSX supercars for customers around the world. Tucked in a low-slung, nondescript building that used to be a parts supply warehouse, the center is a $70 million test bed for production methods that should eventually spread throughout Honda’s global manufacturing empire.
“The point with this [center] is, if we can do something with eight cars, can we do it with 800?” said Clement D’Souza, the center’s chief engineer. “Can we expand that or take that technology and apply it to our other plants?”
Potential advances include an innovative paint process, experience gleaned from working with one of the NSX’s main elements — aluminum — and new tools and assembly procedures.
Honda has filed for 12 patents for items created in-house for NSX assembly, including a reclining roller chair that a technician sits in as he wheels under a completed vehicle for quality control, and a lift with integrated lights.
Can I get one of those chairs?
3rd Gear: VW’s Hometown Is A Palace Of Sadness
Six months into Dieselgate with no resolution is starting to really take its toll on Volkswagen. That includes the German company town of Wolfsburg, which basically revolves around the automaker. Reuters has a report on how it’s in a tough spot too:
People in Wolfsburg are also worried about VW’s failure to agree with U.S. authorities on how to fix rigged U.S. cars. Another concern is a risk of internal strife at VW headquarters as managers and labor bosses start hammering out a new wage contract next month for 115,000 workers in western Germany.
“It feels like a persistent stream of bad news,” said Thomas Ilsemann, managing director of travel agency Flugboerse in the city center. “VW is anywhere but on solid ground.”
Ilsemann said the main factor weighing on his business was fear of terror attacks at holiday destinations.
Nevertheless, bookings by temporary VW staff, whose jobs are less secure than those on open-ended contracts, are falling, he said. Also, executives from some local component suppliers opted not to attend the Detroit auto show, an industry fixture, in January.
4th Gear: BMW Streamlines Production
A few years ago a front-wheel drive BMW would have been unthinkable, but as the automaker seeks to grow and cut costs, a new FWD architecture is making its home in several vehicles. And BMW will split factories into RWD and FWD ones, Automotive News reports:
“Our aim is to reduce production costs by 5 percent year over year,” said Oliver Zipse, BMW’s manufacturing chief. “Streamlining platform allocation is a crucial element in attaining this goal,” he said on the sidelines of the company financial results presentation on March 16.
BMW has 10 full assembly factories in its global network, including plants in England and the Netherlands that build Mini vehicles.
In future four plants will build only fwd vehicles and five will build only rwd vehicles. An exception to the fwd/rwd rule will be BMW’s plant in Tiexi, China, which will continue to build both types of vehicles. All factories will be able to produce four-wheel-drive cars because BMW’s fwd and rwd platforms are also 4wd capable.
5th Gear: Say Goodbye To Buttons?
One more from Automotive News: suppliers are set to make a killing over the next few years on sophisticated tech to make new car interiors more smartphone-like, and that means fewer traditional buttons and switches.
That’s kind of hilarious, since most of the “reliability” dings against modern cars comes against phone pairing, navigation systems, touch screens and other tech features. But, hey, they’ll figure it out:
Automakers have taken these complaints to heart. After Ford Motor Co. received numerous complaints about the usability of its MyFord Touch user interface, it introduced a redesigned version with eight control buttons under the console screen.
But these are temporary setbacks, Boyadjis argues. He points to the results of an IHS survey that asked 4,000 car shoppers how they would prefer to use their smartphones while driving.
Seventy-five percent favored the vehicle’s speech recognition, 70 percent wanted to use the center console’s touch screen, and 69 percent preferred steering-wheel controls. Respondents were allowed to choose more than one option.
And that’s why automakers continue to shift from conventional buttons to touch screens, steering-wheel controls, voice recognition and gesture controls.
Reverse: Forza Senna
Neutral: Which Buttons Are Essential On Cars?
I like the new 2016 Honda Civic, but the touch screen doesn’t allow for any physical buttons to control the heat and A/C. That’s not good. When do screens and voice systems go too far?