Welcome back! Thanks for reading. Please share this newsletter and tell your friends they can subscribe here.
Smart Brevity count: 1,563 words (about 6 minutes)
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Detroit automakers are facing technological disruption, whipsawing government policies and economic uncertainty.
Driving the news: Just-completed labor contracts between Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers union yielded $22.7 billion in planned investment in U.S. factories over the next four years, adding or securing 25,400 jobs.
Why it matters: The spending commitments provide a measure of stability for American auto workers in a rapidly transforming industry, while also giving President Trump something to boast about in industrial swing states.
There's only one new car plant going up in Michigan, but the state and its workers are undoubtedly the big winners from the latest round of labor bargaining.
Two big factors — technology and trade — are driving the increased investments.
"You've got to put a lot of money on the table right now."— Kristin Dziczek, CAR's vice president of research
Between the lines: The USMCA, which replaces the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, allows current trade flow to continue but sets stricter rules — and in turn higher costs — for parts and labor rates. For automakers to avoid tariffs:
How it's playing out: With ratification complete, companies are beginning to disclose details about where the money's going.
The bottom line: In an unsettled environment, the business risks are high, but automakers have no choice but to keep investing if they want to stay in the game.
Go deeper: Driven by greed: Alliance of FCA, union leaders fueled decade of corruption (Detroit News)
PSA's Carlos Tavares (left) and FCA's Mike Manley. Photo: Courtesy of FCA
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is merging with France's PSA Group to create the world's fourth-largest automaker, a deal intended to help both companies bear the cost of new technologies like electric and self-driving cars.
The big picture: The merger also gives Peugeot's parent a long-desired entry into the U.S. and will help FCA catch up in fuel-efficient powertrains.
Yes, but: The merged company will have some glaring problems.
The bottom line: Tavares, who will lead the combined entity, is an industry wizard, but pulling this off will likely be the most difficult challenge of his career.
Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky. Photo: Courtesy of Argo AI
First came the hype, then the disillusionment. But the rollout of self-driving cars is happening as it should — gradually and safely — Bryan Salesky, CEO of Argo AI, a leading developer of automated driving technology, tells Axios.
The big picture: Self-driving vehicles could help improve safety, reduce traffic congestion and improve access to transportation for many, but those benefits will come slowly and as part of a larger transportation system, Salesky said.
"All these business models will be messy at first," he predicts, as companies try to figure out what works and where to invest over the next decade.
What to watch: Ford plans to launch a limited fleet of AVs using Argo's self-driving technology in Miami, and then Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas, starting in 2021.
A man using a phone while driving. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
The more drivers use assisted-driving systems, the more comfortable they become with the technology — and the more likely they are to misuse it, according to new research from AAA and Virginia Tech.
What they found: After becoming accustomed to driving with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, drivers were nearly twice as likely to engage in distracted driving behavior (texting, adjusting the radio) compared to when they were driving without the systems.
"This new research suggests that as drivers gain more experience using ADAS technology, they could develop complacency while behind the wheel," said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "Over-reliance on these systems can put drivers and others in dangerous conditions during critical moments."
Virginia Tech researchers compare the risks of learning to trust ADAS technology to other industries.
The bottom line: Getting people to trust ADAS technology — without over-relying on it — is going to require concerted education efforts.
Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/picture alliance via Getty Images
Scientists at IBM have developed a new battery that extracts materials from seawater rather than from metals like cobalt, which is expensive and hard to come by.
Why it matters: If IBM's claims are true, it could speed the introduction of fast-charging, low-cost electric vehicles.
What they're saying: IBM says its technology is cheaper, faster and more energy-efficient than today's lithium-ion batteries.
To try to commercialize the technology, IBM is partnering with the research wing of Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz, battery electrolyte supplier Central Glass and battery manufacturer Sidus.
"The goal would be, within a year or so, to have the first working prototype (of the battery)," Jeff Welser, vice president at IBM Research, told Reuters.
Data collection: What does your car know about you? We hacked a Chevy to find out (Geoffrey A. Fowler — Washington Post)
Exiting: Share Now, formerly Car2Go, is leaving North America (Andrew J. Hawkins — The Verge)
Unexplained: Boeing's Teflon CEO (Dan Primack — Axios)
Volvo's V60 Cross Country wagon in the wild. Photo: Courtesy of Volvo
This week I'm driving the Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country, which is like an exotic animal.
Why it matters: In a world dominated by SUVs, the V60 station wagon is indeed a rare breed. Sadly, wagons are déclassé among Americans, which is a shame because it's a great alternative to what all your neighbors are driving.
Under the hood: The T5 comes with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged I4 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, good for 250 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque.
The bottom line: If you're hunting for something a little different, the V60 Cross Country is a special breed.