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 to get you through Tuesday and onto Wednesday.
1st Gear: Garbage SUV Headlights
Do you own a midsize SUV? Do you feel comfortable driving at night? Hm, no? Maybe that’s because your headlights aren’t very good. A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety looked at 37 midsize SUVs, and only rated two—two—as “good.”
This is the fourth group of vehicles that IIHS has tested and evaluated since it began rating headlights in 2016. The recently adopted headlight ratings by the IIHS have resulted in less models being awarded as an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ as headlights must rate in the “good” or “acceptable” range to be nominated.
“As a group, midsize SUV headlights perform slightly better than the other SUVs and pickups we evaluated last year, and that’s encouraging,” IIHS senior research engineer Matt Brumbelow said in a statement. “Still, we continue to see headlights that compromise safety because they only provide a short view down the road at night.”
What it boiled down to, the News reports, is the type of light source in a headlight: halogen, high-intensity discharge (HID) or LED. The two “good” vehicles had HID light sources; the rest ... didn’t.
The study reportedly says the Kia Sorento and Ford Edge had a terrible lack of visibility on straightaways, and both received dismal ratings. Sorry, you two.
2nd Gear: Unions Support NAFTA Reform
It took awhile, but President Donald Trump recently put into motion his plan to reform the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. No matter what the changes entail, the move’s going to have some impact on the auto industry. And according to the Detroit Free Press, labor unions are all about it.
Trump, who campaigned with the slogan “America First,” has found support on the issue of NAFTA from trade unions that typically oppose the policies of Republican politicians. Unions, in general, applauded the Trump administration in January when it decided to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation trade agreement.
“Since NAFTA, our trade surplus with Mexico has vanished and hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs have been lost. Most of these job losses have been in manufacturing,” UAW Legislative Director Josh Nassar said in a letter submitted to the trade representative on June 6.
The comments came by way of letters submitted to the U.S. trade office, which set a deadline of Monday evening for public comment on the administration’s announcement to withdraw or renegotiate the agreement. The Free Press says the unions are fully supportive of the deal, “as long as issues such as currency manipulation, rule enforcement and rules of origin are updated and enforced.”
To put it lightly, there’s a lot on the table.
3rd Gear: Apple CEO Still Wants To Do The Car Thing
Apple’s ambition for self-driving cars has shrunk over time, but the tech giant is ready to play ball now, having recently secured permits to test autonomous vehicles on California roadways. And now Apple CEO Tim Cook is explaining exactly what it is he wants to accomplish.
Speaking with Bloomberg, Cook said autonomous systems are difficult to work on, but it’s a “core technology that we view as important.”
“There is a major disruption looming there,” Cook said on Bloomberg Television, citing self-driving technology, electric vehicles and ride-hailing. “You’ve got kind of three vectors of change happening generally in the same time frame.”
Just like its colleagues in Silicon Valley, Apple has been inking deals with driving partners, as well, to jockey for a position in the automotive industry of the future. Bloomberg notes it invested $1 billion in ride-hailing service Didi, and he even left open the possibility of one day manufacturing its own car, despite the mess that was its first stab at producing one.
“We’ll see where it takes us,” he told Bloomberg Television. “We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.”
4th Gear: Ghosn Getting Some Extra Loot
Carlos Ghosn, the face of Nissan and a million other things, is a busy fellow—and bankers for the Renault-Nissan alliance have apparently concocted a plan to deliver him an undisclosed bonus where millions of euros, according to Reuters, which figured out the scheme by way of catching a glimpse at some documents.
Under the preliminary proposal, Renault (RENA.PA), Nissan (7201.T) and Mitsubishi (7211.T) would pay the Dutch-registered company a share of new synergies from their carmaking alliance, set to top 5.5 billion euros ($6.2 billion) next year.
The funds would be passed on as cash and stock bonuses to “encourage executives to pursue synergy opportunities”, according to a presentation by Ardea Partners, an investment banking firm advising Ghosn on closer alliance integration.
Renault-Nissan didn’t want to comment, expectedly, and here’s the most likely reason why: Ghosn’s beefing with Renault’s biggest shareholder, and this proposal would require the carmakers to pay “8 percent of each annual increase in synergies achieved,” Reuters reports.
In a hypothetical year where new projects with Mitsubishi saved 1 billion euros, 80 million would be added to the bonus pot.
Reuters adds that one-third of that bonus pot would be reserved for the six top seats in the Renault-Nissan alliance: chairman, and CEO of each marker.
Guess who occupies four of the six seats? Ghosn, of course.
5th Gear: Gore Gets Behind Electric Bus Maker
Maybe you remember Al Gore, former vice president, longtime environmentalist and inventor of the very internet you are currently reading.
Well, Bloomberg reports he’s dropping serious loot to support Proterra, a Silicon Valley electric bus maker. Bloomberg explains:
The Silicon Valley maker of electric transit buses said Tuesday it raised $55 million as it prepares for a possible initial public offering later this year. Generation Investment Management LLP — whose chairman is the former vice president — led the round. It was joined by BMW i Ventures, the corporate venture capital team founded by BMW Group in 2011.
“This round was unplanned. It came together because two specific investors wanted to own a part of what we’re doing,” Proterra Chief Executive Officer Ryan Popple said in an interview. “Everywhere you look there’s a crappy old diesel bus that needs to be replaced with an electric bus.”
Indeed, and that’s why environmentalists recently lashed out at the operator of New York City’s public transit system for securing 200 diesel buses as part of a plan to address the closure of its busiest subway line in 2019. The reason mirrored Popple’s quote above.
But Popple told Bloomberg cities are taking action in wake of President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords, and more have put out clean energy objectives and goals. So, that makes for a positive note to end on.
Reverse: Not Bad For 1895, Eh?
Neutral: NAFTA Reform
Do you think the labor unions are going to fall on the right side of history with this one?