In the biggest auto industry whistleblower case yet, a former Hyundai engineer has been awarded $24 million for exposing the company’s knowledge about a design flaw in a certain engine, prone to catching on fire. That and more in The Morning Shift for November 9, 2021.
1st Gear: This Is NHTSA’s Biggest (And First) Award Of This Kind
NHTSA has been having a few bright lights as of late, and this is a big one for the agency, as Reuters reports:
The U.S. auto safety regulator announced on Tuesday its first-ever whistleblower award, handing out more than $24 million to a former Hyundai Motor Co. employee who provided key information about safety lapses at the South Korean carmaker.
The award to former Hyundai Motor engineer Kim Gwang-ho is the biggest ever in a whistleblower case in the auto sector globally, according to law firm Constantine Cannon, which represented the whistleblower.
Kim reported to NHTSA in 2016 that Hyundai was failing to address a design flaw linked to its Theta II engines, which were prone to seizing up and even catching fire.
“This award is the maximum percentage allowed by law … and is the first award NHTSA has issued under its authority,” NHTSA said in a statement announcing the award.
Congress started this whistleblower program in 2015, but it’s been basically dormant, with NHTSA only now preparing its own set of regulations for it.
2nd Gear: Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, You’re Telling Me Countries That Make Cars Are Opposing Climate Regulation To Make Cars Zero-Emission?
But I thought the big, advanced nations of the world love fighting climate change and talking about personal responsibility and recycling and all of that! Why would they ever want to oppose regulations to cut automotive emissions to zero? Oh right. Making cars props up their economies.
From the Financial Times:
A global deal to eliminate new car emissions by 2040 is struggling to attract support from the world’s largest carmakers and governments including the US and China, days before it is due to be revealed at the COP26 climate summit.
Volkswagen has said it would not sign the deal while Toyota is still debating but is highly unlikely to agree, citing the reluctance of key governments to join the agreement, according to people close to the negotiations. The two companies are the world’s largest carmakers.
BMW confirmed it would also not sign the deal, saying: “There remains considerable uncertainty about the development of global infrastructure to support a complete shift to zero emission vehicles, with major disparities across markets.”
The absence of the US and China as well as Germany from the expected deal is one reason several carmakers have held off from agreeing.
Two UK officials confirmed Germany, China and the US had not yet signed up.
I thought VW and BMW were all about making cars clean! Could it be that making EVs is more about … making money than saving the world? That’s nonsense.
3rd Gear: E-Bikes Are The World’s Best-Selling Electric Vehicle
The New York Times has a nice article on e-bikes and their pandemic boom that is not abating. A nice tidbit is that the world’s best-selling kind of electric vehicle is not cars but bikes:
The pandemic bike boom boosted e-bike sales 145 percent from 2019 to 2020, more than double the rate of classic bikes, according to the market research firm NPD Group.
While estimates vary, industry experts put the number of e-bikes Americans brought home in 2020 somewhere around half a million. (In comparison, they bought 231,000 all-electric cars in that time period, according to the Pew Research Center — a rate of about two to one.)
And that growth does not seem to be slowing. Deloitte projected that between 2020 and 2023, 130 million e-bikes would be sold worldwide. At the moment, e-bikes — not cars — appear to be the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, or E.V.That sort of trend has the potential to transform urban transit. In New York City, just over half of all car trips are three miles or less, according to a 2019 study by the analytics company INRIX. Many short car trips could be replaced, hypothetically, with a short, brisk e-bike ride.
I suspect the first thing I’d get if I moved to a city that didn’t have a subway like New York’s would be an e-bike. The second thing would probably be a surgery bill from getting doored by a parked car.
4th Gear: Driverless Trucks Delivering For Walmart In Arkansas
Where else would such a program kick off? From Automotive News:
Self-driving truck startup Gatik has reached a milestone.
Two of the company’s autonomous box trucks are conducting driverless operations along a seven-mile route in Bentonville, Ark., as part of its commercial partnership with retail giant Walmahas rt Inc.
Gatik removed its human safety drivers from behind the wheel — though not the vehicle itself — starting in August. The company disclosed the developments Monday morning.
It is believed to be the first time a self-driving truck company has launched ongoing driverless commercial service beyond infrequent demonstrations. The trucks are running every day, and generating revenue on their route, which connects a Walmart dark store with a neighborhood market.
All of this driverless stuff makes me uncomfortable, and I’d be happier if these jobs were being done by well-paid truck drivers instead. Hell, I’d love to be a truck driver if the pay and hours were good. Modern trucking, however, has gotten deregulated into a mindless grind, which is why it is experiencing a driver shortage.
5th Gear: Nissan Profits Up As Sales Are Down
Nissan used to hit a break-even point after selling 4.4 million cars. As the pandemic and the global semiconductor chip shortage has forced car companies to focus on only building their most profitable models, Nissan now breaks even at 3.7 million units, as Automotive News reports on Nissan’s first-half fiscal results:
The automaker was able to lower incentives in the key U.S. market and boost margins in the fiscal quarter that ended Sept. 30 because of growing demand coupled with tight supplies of vehicles due to production cutbacks amid the global chip shortage.
“Two years ago, we had a problem of how to sell, and that is not the problem today,” COO Ashwani Gupta told a news conference.
CFO Stephen Ma said Nissan’s break even point is now around 3.7 million vehicles a year, down from 4.4 million.
Reverse: Another One Of The Links Between Warmaking And Carmaking
Neutral: What About Your Hyundai?
How have your Hyundai experiences been? I’ve liked the ones I’ve driven, but I’m curious about them in the long term.