Tesla Settles Another Deadly Autopilot Crash Case Without Going To Court

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto (Getty Images)
Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto (Getty Images)

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, May 29, 2024, 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: Tesla Settles Deadly Model S Crash Case

Tesla has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently. If it’s not recalls on its products, then it’s manufacturing issues, likesharp edges on its flagship Cybertruck leaving one owner in the emergency room. Now, the electric vehicle maker has been forced to settle a case out of court following a deadly crash involving one of its cars running the Autopilot advanced driver assistance tech.


Tesla was facing a court battle over a 2016 crash involving a Model S electric sedan equipped with the Autopilot tech, which resulted in the death of a passenger. Now, the EV maker has settled the case out of court without going before a jury, reports Automotive News. As the site explains:

Tesla Inc. has reached a deal to resolve a lawsuit over the death of a Model S passenger in a fiery 2016 crash, marking the second time in two months the electric-vehicle maker has avoided a jury trial in California over a fatal wreck.

The plaintiffs claimed that driver Casey Speckman lost control of the 2015 Model S when the car suddenly accelerated on its own, hitting a tree and bursting into flames. Speckman’s boss, Kevin McCarthy, who was in the passenger seat, allegedly survived the impact but died in the blaze ignited by a battery explosion, according to his family’s complaint in state court in San Jose. The suit blamed the “propensity of the vehicle to catch fire, as well as the defective design of the door latch system entrapping him in the vehicle.”

While the claimants argued there were issues with the car that Speckman was driving, Tesla maintained through the whole process that there were no issues with the Model S. In fact, it initially argued that Speckman kept her foot on the accelerator pedal and didn’t attempt to hit the brake before crashing.

However, the company lost its bid to dismiss the case when a judge ruled that Tesla couldn’t prove that the plaintiffs had no evidence to refute its own version of events. Before the case could head to court and face a jury, the two parties reached a confidential agreement last week.

The settlement is the second such deal reached by Tesla this year, following an agreement that was reached in a high-profile suite involving an Apple engineer who was killed in 2018 when their Model X veered off the road.

2nd Gear: VinFast Could Delay $4 Billion U.S. Plant As Sales Struggle

Companies hoping to take the electric vehicle world by storm are in a bit of a pickle these days. Slowing sales in the U.S. and consumer preferences pointing towards hybrid models has led automakers like Ford to delay plans, GM pivoted its focus onto hybrid cars and Volkswagen delayed the launch of its next electric model. Now, the trend has hit Vietnamese automaker VinFast, which was hoping to take the fight to Tesla.

VinFast launched its first electric models in America back in 2023 and had plans to massively expand its footprint in the U.S. thanks to a new production site. However, plans for a stateside factory are now on hold, reports Reuters. As the site explains:

Vietnamese electric car maker VinFast is looking at further delaying a planned $4 billion factory in North Carolina, a person briefed on the matter said, as the loss-making company struggles to gain favor with U.S. consumers.

VinFast announced in 2022 that it would build an EV and battery factory in the United States with an annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles, seeking to take advantage of the Biden administration’s efforts to approve subsidies for EVs made in America.

The facility here in the States was initially slated to open in July 2024, but was soon pushed back to 2025. Now, Vinfast is considering a further delay to the project as its sales in the U.S. flounder.

Last year, the company shifted less than 1,000 models in the U.S. amid poor reviews for its products and competition for legacy automakers entering the EV space.

3rd Gear: Faraday Future Scraps Production Targets

On the subject of struggling electric vehicle makers, let’s check in with Faraday Future. After finally delivering its first cars to customers in the middle of 2023, the cursed automaker has now tempered expectations for its future and slashed production targets for the year ahead.

Faraday Future had initially pledged to sell between 20,000 and 22,000 cars over the course of 2024. However, the Wall Street Journal reports that the LA-based EV maker has cut this target from its forecasts for the year. As the site reports:

Faraday Future Intelligent Electric is withdrawing its production target guidance for the year, becoming the latest electric vehicle maker to warn about the state of the market.

Shares dropped 13% to $1.02 in after hours trading. The stock had surged 69% since the beginning of the year through Tuesday’s close, but it has lost 98% of its value over the past 12 months.

The L.A.-based company on Tuesday said the decision, which comes less than two months after Fisker withdrew its outlook for vehicle sales of 20,000 to 22,000 this year, has been driven by current market conditions and funding levels.

The move means that Faraday is just the second EV maker in the past week to alter its outlook for the future. Its scrapping of the 2024 target follows Tesla’s decision to pull its lofty 20 million vehicle sales ambition for 2030.

4th Gear: Volkswagen Says It Has A Cheap EV To Tackle China

All those stories about dwindling EV sales, missed deadlines and slashed targets don’t seem to be putting Volkswagen off its mission to take the EV market by storm, however, and now the company appears to be working on a new electric car that people might actually want to buy.

Despite the company delaying the launch of its ID.7 electric sedan just this week, VW is now reportedly working on a budget-friendly electric car that could tackle the wave of cheap EVs coming from China, reports Reuters. As the site explains:

The target is to produce electric vehicles for the European market priced at around 20,000 Euros ($21,746), Volkswagen said, adding that a world premiere was planned for 2027.

“It’s about entry-level electric mobility from Europe for Europe,” Volkswagen Chief Executive Oliver Blume said in a statement. “In doing so, we combine a clear commitment to Europe as an industrial location, a European industrial policy and ultimately act in the interests of European customers.”

The project, dubbed ID.1, comes as Chinese rivals, some of which command a 30% cost advantage over Western peers, are muscling into Europe to grab market share and attack established carmakers on their home turf.

Currently, the ID3 is VW’s cheapest electric offering, starting at around 40,000 Euros, which is about $44,000 today. As it stands, the Chevrolet Bolt is the only new EV in America that comes close to that price point, and it’s getting cut from production while a new model is in the works.

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