+++ ALFA ROMEO is in trouble. The Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) premium brand was outsold by the Tesla Model 3 in Europe during the first half 37,476 to 29,059. A positive way to spin this is by saying it’s an indication that car buyers in Europe are warming to electric cars. Another glance at the sales chart, which shows Alfa Romeo’s 6 month sales are down 42 % compared with the same period last year, provides even more bad news. Alfa Romeo was also outsold by its 1-model, 1-market sister brand, Lancia, which managed to deliver 34,693 Ypsilons through June in Italy. In addition, Alfa Romeo was overtaken during the first half by Jaguar and Porsche while even Lexus, which sold 27,267 vehicles in the half, is a threat to pass the Italian marque. The decline at Alfa Romeo has been rapid as it sold more than 120,000 vehicles globally last year largely because of strong demand in the U.S. and China. Unfortunately, Alfa Romeo U.S. sales were down 26 % during the half and the overall China market’s decline is not helping. July’s European sales figures were even less encouraging, with Alfa Romeo’s deliveries dropping by 56 % in Italy, 66 % in France and 70 % in Spain. The Guilia has struggled in a slumping segment. Even sales of the Stelvio are fading. Those 2 models were the start of a €5 billion investment plan announced in May 2014 that predicted Alfa Romeo’s global sales would reach 400,000 by 2018. That did not happen, and relief in the form of a new model will not come until 2021 when the Tonale compact SUV is due. Another concerning sign is that Alfa Romeo is seldom talked about during FCA’s presentations. Not one question was asked about Alfa Romeo during the last 3 conference calls with analysts on FCA’s financial results. Previously, FCA executives, led by Alfa Romeo diehard Sergio Marchionne loved to hype the brand’s unlimited future. That tune has changed since Mike Manley succeeded Marchionne after he passed away last July. The last time Alfa Romeo was mentioned during a results call was in October 2018 when Manley explained why it had been a mistake to put the brand under the same boss as Maserati. During the same call Manley said, “Alfa Romeo does not make a contribution in our business plan”. He quickly corrected himself to say, “in our performance this year”. He was right the first time. +++ 

+++ ALPINA ’s flurry of new model launches looks set to continue, with prototypes of its version of the new BMW 8 Series Gran Coupé having emerged. It’s the latest of a number of test mules seen in the last few days, including a new 3 Series-based B3 and the brand’s take on the new X7. While the former was expected, the 2 new models will take Alpina’s range of BMW-derived models to 8. As with the B3 and XB7, the 8 Series version will wear the tell-tale addenda of an Alpina model. These include bespoke bumper designs, the trademark multi-spoke wheel design and unique badging. It’s likely that the same treatment will be applied to the 2-door coupé and cabriolet 8 Series models in due course. Likely to be called the B8, the new Alpina 4-door will make use of the M850i’s twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre petrol V8 rather than the full-fat M8’s version. However, it will be tuned to a power output of 608 hp. Using the identically powered B5 for comparison, that would translate to a 0-100 km/h time of well below 4 seconds and a top speed breaking the 320 km/h barrier (Alpina doesn’t use electronic speed limiters). We can also expect Alpina’s highly acclaimed chassis engineers to work their magic on the 8 Series, giving it a unique suspension tune that prioritises comfort just as much as handling. The interior, too, will receive upholstery upgrades as part of the usual makeover. No details of the B8’s launch have been released yet, but given the M8 is due to go on sale in the next couple of months, I expect a debut in the first half of 2020 at the latest. +++ 

+++ When I met up with ASTON MARTIN boss Andy Palmer recently, he’d had a pretty torrid time. Financial results were not what he, or the markets, wanted, resulting in a drop in share price for this newly floated company. “I’ve had better weeks”, he admitted. While Aston Martin had been courting publicity in the run up to floating, the attention when things haven’t been going so well has seemed even greater. What has disappointed me most is the amount of vitriol that has been aimed personally at Palmer, and by one of Fleet Street’s supposedly more respected titles, too. Sure, when you put yourself up there, you have to expect a fair amount of questioning. But this went too far: Palmer has always done what he thinks is best for a British car company. Incredibly, Palmer was relaxed when I met him. But then again, he’s never more at home than when behind the wheel and talking passionately about product. And it’s this product that points to Aston’s future, one that some commentators could do with taking a good look at. This time next year, not only will Aston’s first all-electric car, the Rapide E, be with customers, but the crucial new DBX will also have been launched. There was a camouflaged DBX tucked away in one of the garages right by us; it would have been rude not to take a look! This is a car that will change the company, boosting production and sales, and delivering crucial jobs in Wales. Beyond that is more product with sound business sense and a great deal of desirability behind it. Aston Martin’s revival under Palmer has always been a long-term plan as investors and commentators should realise. There were always going to be bumps in the road along the way. But from where I’m sitting, the future for Aston Martin, its employees and its owners is still looking good. +++ 

+++ Earlier this year, AUDI chairman Bram Schot openly speculated about the future of the R8. During the company’s annual general meeting, the executive asked “Do we need a successor with a combustion engine? Does this fit in with our vision?” Schot didn’t provide answers, but it appears Audi is moving forward with plans for an R8 successor. Audi has approached Rimac about the possibility of collaborating on a high-performance electric vehicle that would replace the R8. Details are limited, but the car is reportedly known at the RS e-Tron and could be launched in 2023 or 2024. The vehicle would reportedly be built by Audi at their Bollinger Höfe plant, but a lot of the development work would reportedly be outsourced to Rimac. The company won’t just play an important role in the developing the model either as sources have told that Rimic would also supply the powertrain. Speaking of the latter, the car is envisioned to have 4 electric motors that produce a combined output of roughly 950 hp. This setup would reportedly enable the all-wheel drive model to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in just 2.5 seconds. Other rumored specifications include a 95 kWh solid-state battery pack with a wireless charging system. The batteries are also slated to have a fast charging capability and enough power to deliver 483 km of range. Furthermore, the 2-seater is slated to have an aluminum monocoque chassis and active aerodynamics. That sounds pretty impressive and the car is rumored to start at less than €200,000. Of course, nothing is set in stone and plans may change as Schot has previously expressed his desire to “concentrate maximum resources on our key projects” and eliminate model complexity. He also criticized the company for being “involved in too many projects for several years”. A high-performance electric supercar isn’t exactly a key project, but the R8 has been an important halo model for the 4-ring brand. That being said, the previous R8 e-tron was a failure as less than 100 units were sold. +++ 

+++ Former Tonight Show host Jay Leno knows a thing or two about cars, so it’s interesting to learn he’s fully behind ELECTRIC CARS . Leno said there’s “almost no reason to have a gas car unless you’re doing long-haul duty”. He went on to taut the benefits of going electric by saying EVs are faster than many conventionally powered cars and they require little to no maintenance. In particular, Leno praised Tesla as he said the company has effectively solved the “battery problem”. That’s, of course, a reference to range anxiety and Leno noted the Model S can travel up to 595 km on a single charge. That’s more than enough for the typical commute and many electric vehicles now have ranges in excess of 322 km. However, studies have shown consumers aren’t totally on board with EVs as 58 % still have concerns about range. Recharging times are also an issue as a separate study found 74 % of people would only be willing to wait 30 minutes or less to receive a charge that delivers approximately 320 km of range. While electric vehicles still face some hurdles, Leno contends they’re the future as he believes the internal combustion engine will eventually suffer the same fate as the steam engine did over a century ago. As he stated, “I predict that a child born today probably has as much chance of driving in a gas car as people today have been driving a car with a stick shift”. That’s an interesting comparison for a couple of reasons as stick shifts are celebrated by enthusiasts and they’ll likely be the ones clinging to the petrol engine. +++ 

+++ In the United States, FIAT doesn’t mind that it’s a niche brand. At least that’s according to Pieter Hogeveen, head marketing executive for Fiat in North America. Since returning Stateside in 2011, Fiat has sold close to 400,000 vehicles. But its annual sales volume has dropped significantly since its reintroduction. That’s mainly due to Fiat only selling small cars and a lack of fresh product. The brand, however, still thinks it can attract new buyers, particularly younger ones. How? By relying on heritage, driving fun, and value. Hogeveen outlined the status of Fiat in North America. Even with the Italian marque’s lack of volume, Hogeveen still sees a business case for Fiat in the U.S. “I think if you take a look at our customers and following, there’s a place for unique vehicles in the U.S. market”, he said. With the 500X, Fiat has an entry in one of the fastest growing segments, the subcompact crossover class, and expects it to make up the bulk of sales as SUV demand continues to grow. Unlike Mini, Fiat intends to preserve its identity as a small car specialist but remain a mainstream brand so it doesn’t price itself out of its market. “We know price and small cars go hand in hand, and we have to make sure we offer value at every price point”, said Hogeveen. “Fiat has always been a value brand, and moving away from that would not make sense”. I asked Hogeveen whether we’ll see larger vehicles in Fiat’s lineup, and although he couldn’t comment on future product, I’m suspecting that the 500L and 500X are the biggest it’ll offer. What you can expect are more special editions and packages to keep current offerings interesting. However, there’s a fine line between too much and not enough customizability. “People like customization but if you have too many trims you create confusion”, Hogeveen said. The 500X lineup shrunk down to three trims to make it easier for consumers to get exactly what they want but the extensive exterior and interior color palette remains. The switch to an all turbocharged engine lineup is part of Fiat’s move to offer more engaging vehicles to drive. The refreshed 2019 500X is the final vehicle to receive the update with the new 1.3-liter turbo-four replacing the old 1.4-liter unit. Hogeveen also revealed that 40 % of 124 Spiders sold are Abarths, further justifying the case for fun-to-drive vehicles. As for what’s next, Hogeveen said Fiat is looking closely at industry trends but declined to comment on North America specifically. At the 2019 Geneva auto show, Fiat debuted the all-electric Centoventi Concept, an EV with four removable batteries and a range of 100-500 kilometres on a charge depending on how many you use. Last June, FCA’s 5-year plan outlined Fiat’s electrified future. The lineup will also focus mainly on the 500 and Panda families, and move the brand to a more premium position in the European market. The next Fiat 500 is expected to debut in 2020 as an EV with its own dedicated platform. A second model, which could revive the Giardiniera name, is expected to follow after. For now, Fiat will stay the course in North America until the electrified new-generation models arrive starting in 2020. I suspect the new 1.3-liter turbo-4 could be the last gas-only mill before the transition to electrified powertrains. Seeing as that engine is the basis for the Jeep Renegade plug-in, which is tipped to come to the U.S., I wouldn’t be surprised if that system comes to the U.S. in the 500X, too. +++ 

+++ Somewhat lost among the reams of juicy details (495 horses! Less than 60 grand! No manual?!?!) that gushed out recently about the all-new mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette was the fact the C8 uses what GENERAL MOTORS has referred to as its Global B electrical architecture. GM officials on hand during the reveal of the new Corvette, including the car’s chief engineer, Tadge Juechter, pointed to Global B as one of the key elements behind how Chevrolet was able to deliver what many thought would be a far more expensive car. It’s all about economies of scale, and Global B, announced earlier this year, will scale its way into almost every GM vehicle by 2023. Hence the company did not have to spend who knows how much to develop a bespoke system for the C8. Today’s cars are essentially rolling computers as is, and tomorrow’s will be ever more sophisticated. Like your laptop or smartphone, cars of the near future will need even more processing power, faster data downloads, and the hottest software; and it all needs to be protected by the latest in cyber security. This is at the core of what Global B is about. The volume of data cars generate is already massive, and massively important to vehicle operations. Techs use it to detect and diagnose issues, and various onboard systems analyze data generated to make decisions about everything from damper settings to throttle mapping to lane departure detection. Various systems also communicate and share data with one another to help synchronize vehicle operations. And it’s only going to get more complicated as autonomous features, battery-electric-powered vehicles, and enhanced connectivity options continue to proliferate. To that end, Global B was developed to handle roughly 5 times the data flow as GM cars on the road today, as much as 4.5 terabytes of data processing power per hour, according to the automaker. That’s a lot of bytes to chew on, and even that might not be enough to handle what’s to come, especially when cars start communicating with other cars and the surrounding infrastructure. Indeed, communication is also a huge part of the equation, and thanks to materially faster Ethernet connections and the infrastructure to handle the coming 5G revolution, GM cars will be better wired up to move all that data around the car and to and from the cloud. Although several automakers, including GM and most notably Tesla, have already used OTA (Over The Air) tech to upgrade software and diagnose vehicle issues, Global B will presumably ramp up OTA updates to include a much wider range of uses, some of which we hope will be some fun stuff. Say, for example, you want to take your fancy new mid-engine Corvette to the track, someplace like the National Corvette Museum circuit in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Theoretically, you could have an OTA update download the car’s optimum suspension settings for the circuit. Then, after you do your hot laps, you could upload your times to a database where you could see how you did against the likes of other C8 owners who lapped there. Sort of like Gran Turismo in real life. Turning the car into a communication device also opens the door to phase in software systems that might not be quite ready for prime time yet, such as advanced autonomous tech. Right now, we’re seeing thatwith Tesla and its Autopilot system, which according to the automaker will be upgraded through OTA updates. Presumably, GM’s Super Cruise system could undergo a similar evolution. Then there’s the potential downside. Imagine your infotainment system being bombarded with coupons to your favorite restaurant or deals on new tires or ads for your local mega store that pop up as you drive by it. I can already see the advertisers and marketers salivating in the distance. Not to mention how automakers would envision using your data in other ways you might not like. The pitfalls are many. This future connectivity is great and all, but without a hardened security system, your data and more could be at risk, another hazard of the New Automotive World Order. Hackers relish a challenge, and you can be assured automakers will need to be on guard against cyber attacks. GM’s in-house team of electrical software and hardware engineers have reportedly baked in several measures designed to thwart the bad geeks. In addition, GM engaged cybersecurity communities and other like-minded organizations in order to keep abreast of and aid its efforts to limit future threats. (One thing we’d like to see hacked: a way to turn off GM’s stop/start system). GM is certainly not alone in developing an electrical vehicle infrastructure along the lines of Global B, but it’s the kind of effort that not only attempts to future-proof its cars but also helps keep the world’s most affordable supercar still affordable. And I’m down with that. +++ 

+++ HONDA is cutting back on of the Accord and Civic at its Marysville Auto Plant and Honda Manufacturing of Indiana sites. Earlier this week, it was reported that the Japanese car manufacturer was “slashing” production of the CR-V, Accord, Acura ILX and Acura TLX at its Marysville, Ohio production site. Honda has since clarified the exact production adjustments it is making, following a statement in April that changes were being made at its Ohio plant. As of August 1, Honda has temporarily suspended its second shift on Line 1 at Marysville. Current plans call for production on this line to “return in a few years” but, until then, the Accord and Civic that will be primarily impacted by this change. A statement issued by the automaker says that pausing the second shift at Ohio will also affect the Honda Manufacturing of Indiana facility, as both sites build the CR-V and some CR-V production will be shifted to Indiana. Honda added that the move will “not impact Acura production at this time. To provide a bit of additional context, this change is really about maintaining Honda’s sales discipline and smart management of our business by aligning supply with current market demand and then using this time to update manufacturing capabilities to prepare for new technologies including electrification”, Honda spokesperson Chris Abbruzzese added in a statement. “While market demand continues to shift from sedans to light trucks, Honda remains committed to a robust sedan business as passenger cars remain popular, particularly among young and multicultural car buyers, who are critical to Honda’s future”. However, sales for the Accord have fallen by 5.9 % this year, while demand for the CR-V has increased by 2.5 % as the reasons for those changes. +++ 

+++ The president of INDONESIA , Joko Widodo said he signed a decree that lays out government support to build an electric vehicle (EV) industry in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. Widodo did not elaborate, but a draft of the decree showed it contained a series of incentives to boost production and purchase of EVs. Widodo said in the statement that the key to the EV industry is in the construction of the batteries they run on and the “raw materials to make a battery: cobalt, manganese and others, we have in this country”. Resource-rich Indonesia has been seeking to carve out a downstream industry based on its supplies of nickel laterite ore, which is used in lithium batteries. “The business strategy can be designed in this country so that we can get ahead of others in building an inexpensive electric car industry, which is competitive because the raw materials are here”, he said on the sideline of an event at the headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Widodo warned that building such an industry would take longer than “a year or 2”, because it must also create a new market. The draft regulation seen by Reuters gives automakers reductions in import tariffs for machinery and materials and lower luxury taxes for buyers, among other things. Widodo also suggested that city administrations across the country could provide more incentives, such as free parking or free administrative fees, to further support adoption of EVs by private consumers and public transportation firms. Indonesia aims to become an EV hub for Asia and beyond with a target to start EV production in 2022 and for the share of EV output to reach 20 % of total car production by 2025. Indonesian authorities said Toyota, which has the biggest market share in the domestic car market, and Hyundai would invest $2 billion and $880 million in the country, respectively, to develop EVs over the next few years. +++ 

+++ KEYLESS ENTRY SYSTEMS have become increasingly common and they’re an apparent boon for owners and car thieves. The proliferation of keyless entry systems and push button ignitions mean that many new vehicles can be stolen in a matter of seconds. To demonstrate how fast this can happen, 7 different models which were all equipped with keyless entry and start systems, were tested. Security experts then attempted to ‘steal’ them using specialized equipment. According to the results of the test, the DS3 Crossback was easiest to steal as the team managed to get into the car in 5 seconds and drive away it in 5 seconds later. The Land Rover Discovery Sport was also found to be easy to steal as it took experts 10 seconds to get into the crossover and 20 seconds to drive it away. Some models come with key fobs that feature motion detection technology. This means the key fobs will stop emitting a signal when they’re stationary. The technology is featured on key fobs from Audi, BMW, Ford and Mercedes. This meant the team wasn’t able to get inside or steal the Audi TT RS Roadster, BMW X3, Ford Fiesta or Mercedes A-Class when the key fob was deactivated. That’s good news, but they keys aren’t perfect as they’ll emit a signal when you move and have them in your pocket or purse. If thieves get that signal, the vehicles are relatively easy to steal. The TT RS Roadster was broken into in 5 seconds and driven another 5 seconds later. Both the BMW X3 and Ford Fiesta took 40 seconds to get into and another 20 seconds to drive away. Lastly, the A-Class required 30 seconds to get into and 20 seconds to drive away. Interestingly, the only car that couldn’t be stolen was the Land Rover Discovery. Land Rover uses ultra-wide-band radio technology on some of its latest models, which transmits a wide range of signals from the key, meaning thieves can’t lock onto the signal and fool the vehicle. Experts were able to get into the vehicle after 20 seconds, but they couldn’t drive away in it. It is outrageous that some car makers have introduced keyless entry and start systems without making them anywhere near as secure as the traditional alternatives they’ve replaced. A small number of brands is taking security seriously, but more needs to be done. +++ 

+++ While most types of airbags provide lifesaving protection in a crash, the IIHS discovered that KNEE AIRBAG don’t offer much, if any, additional protection. This is despite the fact that knee airbags have become extremely common, so much so that they’re standard equipment on popular cars. The organization gathered data from its internal crash testing as well as that from real-world crashes, and compared injury results between vehicles with and without knee airbags. In real-world crashes, knee airbags barely reduced the likelihood of injuries from 7.9 % for cars without them to 7.4 % for cars with them. In the IIHS’s controlled testing, it found that in moderate overlap frontal tests, the airbags had no effect. In the small overlap frontal test, the airbags slightly increased the risk for injury around the legs, though they also slightly reduced the risk for head injuries. These results do prompt the question as to why automakers are still adding this feature. The IIHS suggests they may be helpful in required government testing for occupants that aren’t wearing seatbelts, and IIHS only tests with belted-in dummies. And, I should be clear, the IIHS isn’t suggesting that knee airbags are dangerous or should be avoided. They may simply be unnecessary as currently implemented. That said, it’s disappointing that knee airbags don’t appear to provide any significant benefits (or at least, to belted occupants, as IIHS suggests). But considering their frequent inclusion as standard equipment, it’s also fortunate that they aren’t dangerous according to this study. Knee airbags shouldn’t be a reason to take a car off your shopping list for right now. +++ 

+++ The long-awaited new LAND ROVER Defender is just around the corner. One of the most important upgrades made to the new Defender is the fitment of an air suspension as an option. It will be height-adjustable and will be more capable off-road than the more traditional coil spring setup that will come standard with the vehicle. According to Andy Deeks, the man in charge of the Defender’s durability and reliability program, the air suspension is active: “The air system actively monitors temperature in the dampers and protects the vehicle by changing the parameters of the suspension as you’re driving”. Deeks says that Land Rover has tested 200 new Defender prototypes around the world. Additionally, the British car manufacturer has fitted a fully-built Defender to a custom rig which shakes it around for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 2 months to simulate 10 years or 240,000 km of use. A big focus among the development team for the new Defender was ensuring that it is much more composed on the road than the previous-generation, Deeks added. “To be a global car you need lots of different benchmarks, because what the Middle East market considers to be the benchmark car is different to America, Europe, China. The old Defender is tough, because it’s uncomfortable to drive quick. Whereas this thing is very comfortable to drive quickly. And as a result it’s been designed to be super durable and robust”. A presentation for the new Defender recently announced that the new SUV will be offered in 90, 110, and 130 versions and with 6 different powertrains. +++ 

+++ Canada’s MAGNA INTERNATIONAL trimmed its sales forecast for the second time this year, as weak global demand and the impact of U.S.-China trade tensions pushed down vehicle production in North America and Europe. The roughly $200 million cut was not as bad as feared and the company’s profit beat analysts’ consensus forecasts, sending its U.S.-listed shares up 4 % in trading before the bell in New York. But the numbers were another sign of the pain the North American automotive industry is beginning to face from a series of major political shocks to its supply chains and cost base. Automakers have warned that tariffs on metals and other items resulting from president Donald Trump’s trade war with China will add billions of dollars in costs to vehicle production and assembly. The European auto sector has also been struggling with worsening consumer sentiment as well as concerns over the potential fallout for demand and manufacturing of Britain’s exit from the European Union. Magna said it now expects total sales of $38.9 billion to $41.1 billion, compared with its previous estimate of $39.1 billion to $41.3 billion. “Given expectations by many for a guidance cut (similar to other suppliers during earnings season), we believe the bar was likely solidly cleared”, Credit Suisse analysts said. The company had previously cut its forecast in May, citing higher-than-expected costs in certain advanced driver assistance systems programs, lower anticipated sales from a transmission joint venture in China and a decline in vehicle production. Magna (which assembles cars for BMW, Daimler and Jaguar Land Rover) also cut its forecast for light vehicle production volume in North America to 16.6 million from 16.7 million. For Europe, it was trimmed to 21.4 million from 21.5 million. Brokerage TD Securities attributed the beat at the company’s complete vehicles unit, which assembles and manufactures cars, to some one-off benefits. Analysts at Credit Suisse also flagged a beat at the company’s power and vision segment, that makes mirrors and lights, despite deteriorating conditions in China. Total sales fell 1.5 % to $10.13 billion in the latest quarter, with global light vehicle production down 6 %. +++ 

+++ TESLA stood by its Model 3 safety claims in the face of regulatory scrutiny, while documents showed the top U.S. automotive safety watchdog issued at least 5 subpoenas since last year seeking information about crashes involving the company’s vehicles. Tesla, led by billionaire Elon Musk, has said the Model 3 “was engineered to be the safest car ever built” with the lowest probability of injury of all vehicles ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Regulators challenged that view last year. The NHTSA sent a cease-and-desist letter to Tesla on Oct. 17, for making “misleading statements” over safety ratings of the Model 3. Saying it was “not the first time” Tesla had disregarded its guidelines in a manner that could confuse consumers and “give Tesla an unfair market advantage”, the agency also referred the issue to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which investigates unfair or deceptive acts within commerce. Asked for comment, Tesla pointed to its response to the October letter, in which it said its claims were based on NHTSA’s own data. In its October letter, NHTSA said Tesla disregarded the difference in relative weights between its vehicles and others, making accurate comparisons impossible and misleading consumers. “It is therefore inaccurate to claim that the Model 3 has ‘the lowest probability of injury of all cars’ or that Model 3 occupants are ‘less likely to get seriously hurt’ or ‘have the best chance of avoiding a serious injury,’ wrote NHTSA chief counsel Jonathan Morrison, adding that such statement violate NHTSA’s guidelines. In its response, Tesla denied it had made the claim that the 5-star rating makes it the “safest vehicle”, rather that Tesla said publicly the car was engineered “to be the safest car ever built”. The Model 3 had received the top rating on the agency’s 5-Star Safety Ratings Program that uses 3 crash tests and a rollover resistance assessment. The U.S. Department of Transportation released the documents after legal transparency group PlainSite obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Safety groups have criticized Tesla and Musk for being unclear in statements about the capabilities of its partially autonomous driving feature called Autopilot, which falls short of a full self-driving system that would have no need of driver intervention. Following a death involving Autopilot in 2016, the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates accidents, faulted Autopilot for lacking system safeguards. The documents revealed that NHTSA sent Tesla at least 5 subpoenas from April 2018 through March 2019 related to vehicle crashes, with a request for information about another crash sent in June. At least 3 of those crashes, which occurred during the last years, caused fatalities: in Delray Beach and Key Largo, Florida and in Mountain View. It was unclear from the documents whether Autopilot was engaged. +++


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