More Than 2.5 Million Cars Have Unrepaired, Urgent Recalls Right Now

Ford Explorers are manufactured on an assembly line at a Ford plant.
Ford Explorers are manufactured on an assembly line at a Ford plant.

Good morning! It’s Thursday, May 18, 2023 and this is The Morning Shift, your daily roundup of the top automotive headlines from around the world, in one place. Here are the important stories you need to know.

1st Gear: Over 2.5 Million Served

There sure are plenty of recalls these days, aren’t there? Even worse, it’s worrying number of urgent recalls: the kind that require owners to park away from structures due to a fire risk, or potentially even stop driving their cars entirely. Carfax monitors this stuff, and they have it on good authority that 20 to 25 percent of recalls go unrepaired. As of right now, the company tells Automotive News more than 2.5 million vehicles in the U.S. have outstanding, unaddressed urgent recalls:


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This is the first time Carfax has specifically analyzed urgent recalls — part of their efforts to address the 20 to 25 percent of all recalls that typically go unrepaired, Patrick Olsen, editor in chief for Carfax, told Automotive News.

“Do not drive” notifications advise owners to cease operating their vehicle because a safety issue has led to an increased risk of accidents or physical harm, and “park outside” recalls occur when a vehicle is at risk for fire.

Takata airbags are the most famous contributor to “do not drive” recalls, Olsen said. The largest automotive recall in history, 67 million of these airbags have been recalled due to a potentially lethal defect.

The urgent recalls encompass about 200 different models from a variety of brands and model years. A “park outside” order was issued Tuesday by Stellantis for 219,000 Jeep Cherokee SUVs from the 2014 to 2016 model years.

The states with the most cars affected by active, urgent recalls are California at No. 1, followed by Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio. For California, Texas and Florida, the count is over 200,000. It’s worth pointing out that the way recalls have gone lately, remedies aren’t always available as soon as the problem is publicized. In other words, it may not be that the owner’s being negligent; there might be nothing they can do other than wait for the manufacturer to come up with a solution or their dealer service department to get the necessary parts in.

Recalls have been very wide ranging thus far in 2023, not unlike 2022. Mercedes-Benz kicked things off with a bang in January, recalling more than 320,000 SUVs for a water intrusion leading to a possible engine stall. That’s the kind of recall you expect to hear about.

Less so are the gimmes, like loose lug nuts on the Ford Bronco and Ranger, or faulty passenger seat weight sensors in the Volkswagen Atlas that mean the airbag on that side may not deploy in the event of a crash. VW’s “fix” for that one until it replaces sensors later this year, by the way, has been to direct people simply not to sit in that seat. This is what happens when cars are continually getting more complicated but testing isn’t being stepped up in kind.

2nd Gear: Geely Now Owns More Of Aston Martin

The Chinese manufacturer that owns Volvo and Lotus just increased its stake in Aston Martin for a total of 17 percent. Remember that Geely also owns quite a few shares of Mercedes-Benz, and Aston and Mercedes are very closely linked these days. From Financial Times:

The Chinese carmaker spent £234mn increasing its holding, becoming the third-largest shareholder after the consortium of investors led by Aston Martin chair Lawrence Stroll, and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and placing it ahead of Mercedes-Benz.

Geely bought 42mn shares from Stroll’s consortium, and was issued with 28mn new shares at 335p each, a substantial premium over Wednesday’s closing share price of 231p. The deal raises £95mn for Aston Martin.

Aston Martin shares on Thursday rose 22 per cent to 283p.

Geely has reached a new agreement with the UK-listed company that will mean it gets a board seat, and it agreed not to increase its holding above 22 per cent until August 2024. [...]

Geely chief executive Daniel Li told the Financial Times Future of the Car Summit in London last week that the company “loves the brand” and wanted to “generate synergies” with its current business that includes Lotus and Polestar.

Stroll on Thursday said the relationship with Geely “offers us a deep understanding of the key strategic growth market that China represents, as well as the opportunity to access their range of technologies and components”.

Geely has had its eye on Aston Martin for quite a while. In 2020 it engaged in a bidding war with chairman Lawrence Stroll to buy the brand. Though Geely lost, it’s maintained a presence in the room and has been slowly increasing its stake since. And that’s not entirely the worst thing for Stroll, who wouldn’t mind a footing in China.

3rd Gear: Kia Looks To Mexico

Kia operates a plant in northeast Mexico that may play an important role in helping the brand produce electric vehicles right here in North America, something it would very much prefer to start doing as soon as possible. From Automotive News:

According to a Facebook post by Samuel García, governor of the Mexican state Nuevo León, company officials have expressed interest in investing $1 billion to upgrade their existing factory near Monterrey to produce new EVs.

Getting Kia’s Mexico plant into the EV and batteries business would speed up the localization of its product line in North America, a crucial step for HMG, which controls the Hyundai, Genesis and Kia brands. [...]

The Mexican governor, García, is traveling in Korea this week for the 2023 Korea-LAC Future Cooperation Forum, hosted by Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition to representatives from Latin American countries, officials from Korea’s business and government circles are in attendance, according to a release from the Ministry’s office.

García has been vocal in promoting Nuevo León’s position as a high-tech manufacturing center, calling it a “strategic place to invest.”

If Nuevo León sounds familiar, that’s because it will also be the site for Tesla’s next Gigafactory. At present, the Kia plant makes the Rio and Forte. Nuevo León governor Samuel García has said the company would replace or supplement them with two EVs — possibly smaller models that will sit beneath the existing EV6 in the range.

4th Gear: Tiny Vans

Toyota, its small-car subsidiary Daihatsu and Suzuki have partnered on a new kei-class “micro-van” aimed at Japan’s delivery industry, Reuters reported Thursday:

The van, which will come in Toyota, Daihatsu and Suzuki-branded versions, is slated to have a range per charge of about 200 km (124 miles) and be released by the end of the current financial year running to March 31, 2024.

Daihatsu, which became a Toyota subsidiary in 2016, will produce the vehicles, the companies said in the statement.

The van will be classed as a “kei” vehicle, which are low-powered, low-taxed domestic fare.

Micro kei vehicles are hugely popular among businesses and households to deliver agriculture produce, parcels and other goods in urban areas and the countryside in Japan, in part due to their relatively cheap price.

Kei models accounted for 40% of 78.8 million four-wheel vehicles owned in Japan at of the end of February, showed the latest transport ministry data.

It’s staggering that kei cars still claim nearly half the market in Japan, especially when they have limited sales potential outside the country. The Japanese government even reduced incentives for kei car buyers nine years ago, and their share of the nation’s roads still hasn’t dwindled in any meaningful way. Long live the kei car.

5th Gear: TuSimple In Trouble

Autonomous trucking software startup TuSimple will soon lay off 30 percent of its American workforce, the company announced Thursday. Courtesy Reuters:

TuSimple Holdings Inc said on Thursday that it will restructure its U.S. operations and reduce headcount by 30% as it looks to preserve its balance sheet.

The autonomous driving technology company also said it is no longer seeking strategic alternatives for its Asia Pacific unit.

Its shares fell about 8% in premarket trading.

The move comes days after the firm received a delisting notice from Nasdaq for not filing its quarterly report on time.

The restructuring is expected to cost the company between $12 million and $13 million, it said in a statement, adding that the layoffs will only impact its employees in the U.S.

Between government concerned of unchecked, unsafe self-driving software and espionage linked to China, TuSimple has had anything but a simple existence over the last year and change.

Reverse: Jackie Cochran Makes History

On this day in 1953 — 70 years ago — Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to shatter the sound barrier. Cochran also claimed the world air speed record for a time that Betty Skelton attempted to break, though Skelton’s run was called off due to engine failure.

Meet Jacqueline Cochran

On the Radio: Soundgarden — ‘Mind Riot’

Credit: Soundgarden via YouTube

Today we remember Chris Cornell.

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