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We're One Big Step Closer To Losing No-Speed-Limit Highways In Germany

Raphael Orlove Jan 24, 2020. 10 comments
The Morning Shift All your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn't your time more important?

Jeep and Suzuki are breaking EU emissions rules, Uber is trying to butter up Washington, and VW is having a hard time focusing. All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 24,.2020.

1st Gear: Germany’s Staunchest Advocate For No-Speed-Limit Highways Just Took A Step Back

Environmentalists in Germany have been trying to put speed limits on the country’s infamous de-restricted Autobahns since the 1970s, but the country has held tight to its idiosyncratic ways. The automotive conservatism has long been led by the ADAC, kind of like a super version of the AAA, but that may be changing, as Germany’s Der Spiegel reports through Google Translate. I speak German, but translation takes a while and it’s early:

The ADAC has given up its decades-long rejection of a speed limit on highways. Germany’s largest automobile club is “no longer fundamentally” against a speed limit. That said the ADAC Vice President Traffic, Gerhard Hillebrand, the dpa news agency before the 58th traffic court in Goslar, which runs from 29 to 31 January. The ADAC has around 21 million members.

“The discussion about the introduction of a general speed limit on motorways is emotionally conducted and polarized among members,” said Hillebrand. “That is why the ADAC is currently not stipulating the question.”

Objectification is urgently needed. The effects of a speed limit should be urgently clarified in a comprehensive study. “This would provide a reliable basis for decision-making.”

Most of the Autobahn is already restricted (typically with 120km/h or 75 mph limits) but there are still sections here and there where you can drive as fast as you yourself feel is safe given the conditions. The idea is higher speeds mean more emissions, and Germany hates to see its forests polluted, its climate changed.

If it goes, we’ll be losing part of the last bit of the old, optimistic, freewheeling sense of the car. But if we’re honest, that’s been gone for a long time.

2nd Gear: VW Having A Hard Time Selling Off Non-Car Side Of Business

VW’s head honcho gave some interview today with Bloomberg about how it’s chasing Tesla, as every automaker likes to say time and time again. But developing EVs isn’t cheap, and VW’s actual business efforts to back that plan up are having a slightly hard time. Bloomberg also reports that VW is having a hard time jettisoning part of its non-automotive business, in particular MAN Energy:

Volkswagen AG is disappointed with the offers so far for its MAN Energy Solutions division, according to people familiar with the matter, potentially dealing another blow to the German automaker’s efforts to focus on cars.

[...]

Abandoning a sale of MAN Energy Solutions would mark a setback for VW’s efforts to concentrate on its core passenger car operations, which are requiring heavy spending to make the transition to electric vehicles. It sold a smaller-than-expected 10% stake in the Traton SE heavy-truck division in an initial public offering last year after months of delays and a previous attempt to divest the Ducati motorbike division was shot down by key stakeholders.

[...]

VW decided about nine months ago to review strategic options including a sale of the specialist in large engines used in ships and factories. It also put industrial transmissions maker Renk AG, on the block. The power engineering group, which includes both Man Energy Solutions and Renk, has an sum-of-the-parts value of 2.5 billion euros ($2.76 billion), according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Michael Dean.

Saying you want to take on Tesla and actually having the money to do so are two very different things

3rd Gear: Suzuki And Jeep Diesels Have Been Breaking EU Regulations

It’s convenient to understand Dieselgate as a specifically Volkswagen-related problem. Its corporate culture putting pressure to cheat in the face of its giant diesel sales push. But diesels not meeting emissions standards is an industry-wide problem, as even today we got news of two new violators in Europe, as Reuters reports:

Suzuki’s Vitara and Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel models both violate emissions rules and must be fixed or face a ban on sales across Europe, the Dutch road authority RDW ruled on Thursday.

Acting as the reference regulator for the European Union, the RDW said it had found both the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Vitara had used “prohibited emissions strategies” that led them to emit higher levels of harmful nitrogen oxide on the road than under testing conditions.

The authority said Jeep had developed a software fix and that the authority had ordered the company to recall the model across Europe to roll it out.

It added that Suzuki had yet to find a credible solution for the Vitara.

I love the idea of diesel engines, with good torque and great longevity, but pressing them harder into the role of acting as totally normal passenger cars seems to have screwed them.

4th Gear: French Prosecutors Still Investigating Ghosn’s Party At Versailles

You’d think people would just stop bugging you after you pulled off an international escape hiding in an instrument case, but no! Reuters reports that french prosecutors are still investigating that one time that Ghosn held a giant Nissan party at Versailles:

French prosecutors investigating a party that former Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn threw for his wife at the sumptuous Palace of Versailles will, in the next few weeks, ask judges to examine the case, bringing prosecution a step closer.

The prosecutors have been investigating whether Ghosn — now in Lebanon after fleeing last month from prosecution in Japan on financial misconduct charges — knowingly used company resources to throw the party for private purposes.

[...]

The lawyer said Ghosn had offered to pay back the €50,000 ($55,470) cost of renting the venue for the party.

“Carlos Ghosn is ready to answer French justice,” Le Borgne said. “Regarding his possible travel to France, things are complicated,” he added, citing a travel ban imposed by Lebanese prosecutors and an international Interpol notice posted by Japanese authorities seeking Ghosn’s arrest.

What I don’t understand is why French authorities would be trying to punish anyone for having a party at the global symbol of French riches and luxury. Couldn’t be me!

5th Gear: Self-Driving Car Prototypes Coming To Washington DC, Texas, New Mexico

We have two stories from the self-driving-car-development world. The first is pretty plain, that Waymo says it’s expanding its test regimen to include New Mexico and Texas, as Automotive News reported off this Waymo tweet:

And Uber is looking like it’s trying to butter up regulators by expanding testing into Washington, DC, as Automotive News also reports:

Uber Technologies Inc. will put self-driving vehicles on Washington roads Friday with human drivers in control, the ride-hailing company said on Thursday, as it seeks to collect data for future deployment of fully self-driving vehicles.

Uber is collecting similar road data to support development of self-driving in Dallas, San Francisco and Toronto with human drivers in control. The goal is for computers to operate the vehicles eventually.

The company said it hopes “this first round of manually driven data collection will lay the foundation for testing our vehicles in self-driving mode in Washington, DC.”

Uber is operating self-driving cars in autonomous mode in Pittsburgh with safety drivers behind the wheel but only during daylight hours.

Given how AB5 has gone, I’m sure Uber wants as much help as it can get in the regulatory field.

Reverse: Is This What All Our Cars Now Become After They Get Crushed?

Neutral: What Are The Last Vestiges Of Earlier Eras Of Automobilia?

I am always charmed that NASCAR still exists, slowly but surely modernizing a fairly old-school format, and I also feel like we’ll someday look back on our current method for enforcing speed limits with sporadic cops as incredibly outdated. What parts of the old car world do you still see in your day-to-day?

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