Automotive

Jeep’s Stinky Detroit Plant Is Getting Investigated For Racial Discrimination


The Jeep Grand Cherokee, made at Mack

The Jeep Grand Cherokee, made at Mack
Photo: Jeep

If you just bought a Jeep Grand Cherokee, I have bad news about the factory in which it was built. All that and more in The Morning Shift for March 14, 2022.

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1st Gear: If I Were Jeep, I Simply Would Have Not Polluted My Neighborhood

We’ve written about Jeep’s troubled Mack Assembly Plant before, that the factory in Detroit building Jeep Grand Cherokees is releasing stinking gas into its neighborhood. Now the EPA is investigating if its pollution counts as racial discrimination, as the Detroit News reports:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will investigate the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to determine if it racially discriminated against a lower-income, majority-Black neighborhood in approving an emissions permit for a new Jeep plant in Detroit.

The EPA is acting after five residents whose properties now back up to the Mack Assembly Plant on the city’s east side filed a civil rights complaint in November against EGLE.

It failed to do its diligence, the Beniteau Street residents argued, by not conducting a cumulative impact analysis of the plant owned by Stellantis NV prior to approving the permit. The result, they said, is discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in violation of federal law.

[…]

Months after the Mack plant began deliveries of the three-row Jeep Grand Cherokee L SUV in June, the EGLE hit the plant with three air-quality violations following complaints from neighbors about a smell from its new paint shop and is working with the automaker on a compliance plan, which is expected to include a fine.

The plant has 30 days to respond.

2nd Gear: Ford’s EV Plans: We Can Build A Better VW

Ford had a big European EV day today, and here are some of the main news points. The first is that it has a fancy fresh electric crossover to announce, and it will be based on a VW, per Automotive News:

Ford Motor Co. said it will launch seven full-electric vehicles in Europe including a battery-electric version of the Puma small crossover, its best-selling passenger car in the region.

The three new full-electric passenger cars and four new electric vans will be launched by 2024 and will all be built in Europe, Ford said in a statement on Monday.

The first EV will be a midsize crossover that will go into production at Ford’s factory in Cologne, Germany, this year. The crossover will use Volkswagen Group’s MEB electric platform that underpins the VW ID4, among other VW Group models.

Ford had already said it would build a new EV in Cologne, but this is the first mention of the model’s body style.

Europe is somewhat used to these kinds of cross-company rebadge situations, as seen in various vans and subcompacts. (The Toyota Aygo/Citroën C1/Peugeot 107 spring to mind.)

3rd Gear: Ford’s EV Plans: Our Vans Are Going Zero-Emissions And We’ll Make Batteries In Turkey

Also new is a big battery plant in Turkey, as the Financial Times reports:

US carmaker Ford is to expand its electric ambitions in Europe as it doubles its investments in Germany, installs a battery factory in Turkey and phases out all emissions from its vans by 2035.

The announcements come a week after the group split its businesses into battery-powered vehicles and engine models, in a global restructuring to take on electric car pioneer Tesla.

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Vans seem to make a lot of sense for EVs technically and thematically, in that they’re big boxes that can fit big battery packs. They also work fine doing repetitive short trips. Chrysler’s first modern EV was a minivan, actually, and Ford’s first EV was a van, though that’s getting sidetracked in a tangent.

4th Gear: Ford’s EV Plans: We Can Train Our Dealers

The simple thing to do when selling a new electric car is to just get rid of dealers altogether and let people buy cars online, as Tesla does.

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The other thing to do is to drag your current dealer network kicking and screaming into the modern era, a plan that has had mixed results. (Look at Cadillac if you want a pointed example.) Ford, however, is feeling positive, as Automotive News reports:

Ford Motor Co. is developing a novel idea to train its retail network on how to properly sell and service electric vehicles: take them back to school.

The automaker and its dealer council plan to launch an initiative called Electric University, a multiday educational program operated near Ford’s Dearborn, Mich., headquarters that would give salespeople, service technicians and parts department staffers a crash course on all things EV.

“We’re going to be able to send our people and immerse them in the world of electrification,” Tim Hovik, Ford’s National Dealer Council chairman, told Automotive News. “This really is a transformative time in history. Everything we’ve ever done before … this is a different world.”

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5th Gear: My Favorite Car Startup Is Having A Meltdown

I have yet more bad news about the lovable Electric Last Mile Solutions Inc., which laid off nearly a quarter of its staff the other day. Electric Last Mile Solutions is a SPAC-backed startup that is taking some cheap Chinese electric vans and rebranding them as some kind of delivery revolution, which is simple and to the point and I love it, questionable financing and wordy name aside.

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The new bad news is that it’s getting an SEC investigation, as Bloomberg reports:

Electric Last Mile Solutions Inc. said it’s under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, just weeks after both its chairman and chief executive officer resigned following an internal probe of improper stock purchases.

The electric-vehicle startup learned of the investigation by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement on March 7, according to a regulatory filing Friday. The company also said it’s withdrawing previous guidance and will need to raise cash to get vehicles to market.

The disclosures mark a long fall for the company, which bought a former Hummer factory and outlined plans to sell delivery vehicles to the likes of FedEx Corp. ELMS, as it’s known, was carved out of China’s Chongqing Sokon Industry Group Co. and went public via a SPAC deal in December 2020 at a value of $1.4 billion.

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Reverse: Please Enjoy A Little NorCal History:

On this day in 1961, a bunch of pilots on government-issued meth crashed some nukes into the middle of California. From Wikipedia:

On 14 March 1961 an aircraft accident occurred near Yuba City, California. A United States Air Force B-52F-70-BW Stratofortress bomber, AF Serial No. 57-0166, c/n 464155, carrying two nuclear weapons departed from Mather Air Force Base near Sacramento. […] The crew ejected, the aircraft broke up and four onboard nuclear weapons were released. The weapons’ multiple safety interlocks prevented both a nuclear explosion and release of radioactive material. LTC McGill, based on his SAC experience, blames the aircrew failures on the use of dexedrine to overcome tiredness on the 24-hour flight preceding the accident.

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Neutral: What Was America’s Worst Auto Plant?

I’ve been reading a book on GM in the 1990s, and it’s still staggering just how many plants got closed and shut down. I am curious if you remember any standouts.

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