A very normal look.
Good morning! It’s Thursday, September 28, 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: Trump’s War On Electric Vehicles
Former President Donald Trump reportedly told supporters at an event at a non-union auto-supplier in Michigan on Wednesday that electric vehicles would “spell the death of the U.S. auto industry” since they cost too much and consumers don’t want them.
Trump made the decision to hold this Michigan rally rather than attend Wednesday night’s Republican debate in California. It also comes just one day after President Joe Biden met with striking UAW members at a GM plant in Wayne County, Michigan. UAW President Shawn Fain invited him to come.
The back-to-back visits to Michigan by Biden and Trump, who could be headed toward a 2024 rematch of the 2020 election, have put the national political spotlight on Michigan nearly two weeks into the UAW’s historic strike against the Detroit 3.
But Fain said Tuesday there would have been “no point” in meeting with Trump while he was in town, calling the former president unfriendly to labor and noting that he chose to speak at a nonunion shop.
“The ultimate show of how much he cares about our workers was in 2019, when he was the president of the United States,” Fain said on CNN. “Where was he then? Our workers at GM were on strike. ... For two months, they were out there on the picket lines. I didn’t see him hold a rally, I didn’t see him stand up at the picket line, and I sure as hell didn’t hear him comment about it. He was missing in action.”
Fain reportedly stopped short of endorsing Biden, but he said that Trump’s lack of support for union workers “speaks for itself.”
Many folks within the auto industry have raised concerns that the transition to EVs means fewer people will have jobs. That’s because it doesn’t take as many people to build EVs as it does internal combustion vehicles. Fain has said that part of the reason the union is on strike is that it is seeking “a just transition” from ICE vehicles to electric.
2nd Gear: A Bill To Protect Auto Union Workers
House of Representatives member Haley Stevens, a Democrat from Michigan, has reportedly reintroduced legislation that would require bidders on government vehicle contracts to disclose information that could impact union workers. From Automotive News:
The bill — called the Union Auto Workers Job Protection Act — would require those bidders to disclose all plant locations where the vehicles will be made, prevailing wages at those locations, the number of temporary workers employed and any Occupational Safety and Health Administration or National Labor Relations Act violations.
Contract winners also would be required to seek written permission from the relevant federal agency if they wish to move vehicle production to a different location and must provide same-day notification to the affected labor unions when seeking this permission.
They also would be required to disclose the average, minimum and maximum hourly wage at the proposed plant, among other requirements.
The bill reportedly comes after the U.S. Postal Service awarded a multibillion-dollar, 10-year contract to Oshkosh Corp.’s defense subsidiary to build up to 165,000 mail vehicles in 2021. Those vehicles would be made of a mix of interal combustion and electric models. The company later announced it would actually be building vehicles in Spartanburg, S.C., rather than Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where it employs union labor.
“Unions built the middle class and when companies bid for and win federal vehicle production projects because of their skilled union workforce, we must make sure it’s the union workers who won the contract that get the work,” Stevens said in a statement. “When the USPS bid for new trucks, the winning bidder unexpectedly moved production away from a union facility. This bill prevents that type of bait-and-switch.”
The bill, which Stevens previously introduced in April 2022, is endorsed by the UAW and the National Resources Defense Council. It is co-sponsored by more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers in the House, including fellow Michigan Reps. Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell, Rashida Tlaib and Shri Thanedar.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to you to find out that there aren’t any Republican co-sponsors on the bill.
3rd Gear: Tesla Autopilot Death Trial Starts In CA
Opening statements are reportedly set to begin in the first U.S. trial over allegations that Tesla’s Autopilot system led to a death. The results of this trial could be incredibly impactful for similar cases across the country. From Reuters:
The trial, in a California state court, stems from a civil lawsuit alleging the Autopilot system caused owner Micah Lee’s Model 3 to suddenly veer off a highway east of Los Angeles at 65 miles per hour (105 kph), strike a palm tree and burst into flames, all in the span of seconds.
The 2019 crash killed Lee and seriously injured his two passengers, including a then-8-year-old boy who was disemboweled, according to court documents. The lawsuit, filed against Tesla by the passengers and Lee’s estate, accuses Tesla of knowing that Autopilot and other safety systems were defective when it sold the car.
Tesla has denied liability, saying Lee consumed alcohol before getting behind the wheel. The electric-vehicle maker also claims it was not clear whether Autopilot was engaged at the time of crash.
For years now, Tesla has been offering its Autopilot and Full-Self Driving beta driver-assist programs under the guise of “beta testing.” CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly said the two systems would be crucial to the company’s future. However, the programs have drawn a whole lot of regulatory and legal scrutiny recently after years of operating without much oversight.
Tesla won a bellwether trial in Los Angeles in April with a strategy of saying that it tells drivers that its technology requires human monitoring, despite the “Autopilot” name. A Model S swerved into a curb in 2019 and injured its driver, and jurors told Reuters after the verdict that they believed Tesla warned drivers about its system and that driver distraction was to blame.
The stakes are higher in the trial this week, and in other cases, because people died. Tesla and plaintiff attorneys jousted in the runup about what evidence and arguments each side could make.
Tesla, for instance, won a bid to exclude some of Musk’s public statements about Autopilot. However, attorneys for the crash victims can argue that Lee’s blood alcohol content was below the legal limit, according to court filings.
The trial is reportedly expected to last a few weeks. We’ll know a whole lot more soon.
4th Gear: VW Production Running Again After IT Outage
Volkswagen says that it suffered a major IT outage on Thursday, and it caused most of its German plants to halt production. However, the issue was resolved overnight, and it’s global production network was back up and running again. From Reuters:
The incident, which VW said began at 1030 GMT on Wednesday and was disclosed late that evening, impacted the entire Volkswagen group, which includes the Porsche AG brand and Audi, highlighting the vulnerability of network infrastructure at Europe’s largest carmaker.
“The IT infrastructure problems in the Volkswagen network were resolved during the course of the night and the network is stable again,” Volkswagen said, without providing details on the impact or cause of the incident.
VW reportedly said it’s unlikely that an external attack was the cause of the incident. It also declined to comment about the size and scope of the outage as well as what products were impacted and if there were any financial implications to the shutdown.
“The affected applications are currently being restarted. The global production network is up and running, and production is expected to proceed as planned,” it said, adding individual systems may still be affected during a transitional phase.
The outlet reports that the outage impacted VW’s German sites in Wolfsburg, Emden, Osnabrueck, Hanover, Dresden and Zwickau. It also took out component factories in Braunschweig, Kassel, Chemnitz and Salzgitter.
Reverse: I Could Do This If It Wasn’t For My Knee
Neutral: Please Do Not Make More People Watch Zach Wilson
On The Radio: Billy Joel - “I Don’t Want To Be Alone”
More from Jalopnik