Alleged Whistleblower Levels Safety Claims At GM-Owned Autonomous Vehicle Company Cruise

Morning Dump Cruise Whistleblower

Cruise finds itself subject to an alleged whistleblower’s letter, Nissan reportedly plans to kill the Leaf, VinFast now has an American retail presence. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Someone Blows The Whistle On Cruise

20210408 Baxtowner Cruise Cama Castro 700377
Photo credit: Cruise

A whistleblower claiming to be an employee for GM’s Cruise autonomous vehicle company has reportedly filed a letter to California regulators over claims of sub-optimal safety culture at the firm. Automotive News reports that the letter arrived two weeks ahead of Cruise’s regulatory approval for robotaxi services, making it to the California Public Utilities Commission on May 19. According to Automotive News, the letter itself seems to detail a sort of culture where safety might not be first, including in regard to Cruise’s much-publicized clustering problems where autonomous vehicles would just freeze on the spot. While some clustering problems can be solved remotely, some can’t.

There have been some cases where fallback systems have also failed and it was not possible to remotely maneuver the vehicle outside of the lanes they were blocking until they were physically towed from their location to a facility.

For context, the first widely-reported clustering incident happened on June 28, quite some while after this letter was filed. In addition, the letter is said to allege a culture that puts profit over safety.

Employees generally do not believe we are ready to launch to the public, but there is fear of admitting this because of expectations from leadership and investors.

Regardless of how this shakes out, it’s going to be an interesting time for Cruise. Autonomous vehicles are hard and all sorts of firms seem to be learning that the hard way.

Mini Unveils One-Off Electric Convertible

P90471775 Highres Mini Cooper Se Conve
Photo credit: Mini

Alright, this one just isn’t fair. It’s no secret that Fun small cars are great, convertibles are great, and electrification can be great. After rummaging through its parts bin, presumably over an ale or two, Mini has mashed the electric drivetrain of the Cooper SE into a cabriolet body, producing something so ridiculously close to production-feasible that it’s genuinely maddening how Mini’s all like “haha, jk, unless?”

Aside from “THIS TOY IS ELECTRIC” plastered down the sides in one billion point font, [Editor’s Note: Is it just me, or is that typography really half-assed looking? – JT] this electric Mini cabriolet has it all. U.S.-spec reflectors, SE trim bits, zero reduction in (admittedly tiny) trunk space, and that wonderful open-top feeling. Range likely isn’t brilliant seeing how the standard Cooper SE’s rated for 114 miles of range, but speaking from experience, handling is likely wicked good fun. Who knows, maybe an electric drop-top Mini is in the cards for the next generation. Mini has already announced the arrival of its next-generation electric three-door hatchback in 2024, so hopefully a cabriolet arrives shortly thereafter. It’s also worth noting that I didn’t photoshop the fake-looking bird thing [Editor’s Note: That could be real! What is it, a Greylag Goose? Is there a Shazam for waterfowl? – JT]  into this press photo, all I’ve done is apply a slight crop. No, I don’t know why Mini went with birds, but I’m glad they did. We could really use more weird press photos in this industry.

Nissan Plans On Killing The Leaf – Report

2023 Nissan Leaf 35 Source
Photo credit: Nissan

In “Wow, how could I have ever guessed?” news, Automotive News reports that Nissan plans on not replacing the Leaf once its model life cycle has run its course. Honestly, I can’t say I’m particularly shocked.

Nissan does not plan to bring out a next-generation Leaf and instead will replace it with a new model more tuned to the needs of the modern EV buyer, three sources told Automotive News. Sources were split on whether the Leaf name would continue. Production of the current Leaf should end by mid-decade.

While the Leaf was certainly a pioneer in the modern electric vehicle segment, it’s aged with all the grace of sour cream left on a windowsill. A maximum range of 226 miles with the big battery pack isn’t impressive by today’s standards, and the use of a now-outdated CHAdeMO charging connector seriously hobbles infrastructure support for the Leaf. Seriously, in a decade or so, CHAdeMO connectors will as obsolete as the old J1773 MagneCharge connectors. While the Leaf definitely served a purpose, it’s time to take a bow has come.

VinFast Now Has An American Retail Presence

VinFast VF8 front 3/4 shot
Photo credit: VinFast

Vietnamese EV maker VinFast made a massive splash at last year’s Los Angeles auto show with fresh models, American retail plans, and a massive display space. While plans for a U.S. market launch in 2022 seemed ambitious, they really seem to be coming towards fruition. Case in point, VinFast opened six retail stores in California this week, all before vehicles are even on sale.

Actually, it’s not even just that VinFast’s lineup isn’t on sale yet. VinFast’s lineup hasn’t even completed the regulatory approval process yet. While this may seem shocking, it’s actually a good sign. Any EV startup in 2022 with a proper distribution network probably isn’t vaporware, and these corporate-owned spaces that can’t yet sell cars seem like cool opportunities for consumer to check out new EVs without being massively pressured into a sale. Expect more VinFast showrooms to open in the coming months as the automaker continues its U.S. push.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on this edition of The Morning Dump. Happy Friday, everyone! To celebrate, let’s play a game. You have an unlimited amount of money to amass four vehicles, the catch is that none of them can be powered by gasoline. One must be electric, one diesel, one hydrogen, one can use any other propulsion technology, so long as it isn’t gasoline. You probably already know where I’m going with this one. Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo, F11 Alpina D5 Biturbo Touring, Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE protoype, and a sweet vintage Dan Gurney Eagle Deluxe BMX build. How about you? What’s in your dream anything-but-gasoline garage?

Lead photo credit: Cruise

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37 Responses

  1. Electric – assuming the V60 wagon is disqualified because it’s PHEV, I guess it depends how practical I’m feeling. Lotus Eletre might win for sheer let’s-get-nutsness. The polestar 3 appeals in a way I don’t quite understand. I would buy an yesterday if I could.

    Diesel- X5 with third row, or maybe the v10 touareg if my maintenance budget is unlimited

    Hydrogen – does that new Hyundai track car count? Otherwise whatever. I’d probably prefer one of the 20 year old BMWs to a new Toyota, but ::shrug::. An Aptera solar car would be more interesting in this slot if it could actually be purchased. I like the idea of hydrogen from a potential-to-adapt-gasoline-infrastructure standpoint, but it’s a hard sell where I live today.

    Alternative: custom titanium all-road bike from Firefly or a similar builder. The things they do with bespoke anodizing are ::chef’s kiss::

  2. Unlimited funds includes maintenance and registration of the vehicles, right?

    Since you stipulated these will be in a garage together, for electric I’m going with a Bagger 293, simply to get a garage big enough to put one in.

    I will also need room for a Boeing Business jet for the “other” fuel category. Nothing ostentatious, a 737 will be fine.

    For diesel, I will stick with my manual Sportwagen.

    For hydrogen, one of the Volvo fuel cell trucks could be useful, if a bit bulky to park at the hardware store.

  3. Electric: Taycan.
    Diesel: A pickup; they’re mostly pretty interchangeable to me.
    Hydrogen: Well, that electric/Hydrogen 74 concept would be nice, but I suppose it falls outside the intent of the rules. So whatever has the largest tank, since I am a long way from a station.
    Alternative: Probably nice turboprop commuter plane. Maybe Piper M500. Do I also have unlimited money to get a hangar for it? If not, then a really good whitewater raft would be fine.

  4. It seems that the CHAdeMO plug is the least of the Leaf’s issues. Putting a new plug on would be trivial for Nissan. More of an issue is the air cooled battery pack that limits the Leaf to temperate climates and slow charging.

  5. “You have an unlimited amount of money to amass four vehicles, the catch is that none of them can be powered by gasoline. One must be electric, one diesel, one hydrogen, one can use any other propulsion technology, so long as it isn’t gasoline.”

    Hyundai N Vision 74 Concept, but with a diesel generator unit.
    Hyundai N Vision 74 Concept, but with a … yeah. You get the point.

    1. Well electric I guess that new Cadillac with the great styling and interior, hydrogen I’m going a Goodyear Blimp, diesel Dodge Ram 3500 just because I can’t get even 1 Ice vehicle, and the anything I want I’m going the Beverly Hillbillies Stutz truck on some of grannies rheumatism medicine for a track car.

  6. Hello everyone…. yes, it is I, EL_ULY in the blue flesh.

    Was the Leaf really that bad? On paper it should be a hit.

    The Flush:

    Electric: Ford Lightning (will they make a Thunder Expedition again?)

    Hydrogen: Toyota Whatever it’s called in the new RWD platform

    Diesel: 2001 Ford SuperDuty 7.3L

    Propulsion: That propeller car Jason drove lol

    1. I’m just a guy, but love my Leaf…and contrary to what the other guys says the Leaf never had a combustion problem. One even famously got torched in a wildfire and the battery didn’t catch fire.

      You see the same stuff repeated everywhere about the Leaf, but so long as it fits your use case it’s really quite fantastic.

    2. I mean wasn’t the Leaf as flammable as well leaves? I mean once you got cars bursting into flames by spontaneous combustion and multiple fixes don’t work it’s time to let that name cool down, ice age style like 10,000 years

      1. I don’t recall any overt propensity to catch fire for the Leaf (unlike the Bolt). The main problems with the Leaf were that the batteries aged particularly poorly (likely due to being air-cooled instead of properly chilled like most other EVs), and that the connector they chose (Chademo) is going the route of Betamax. That combined with the already low range EVs from that era had, meant they lost practicality very quickly.

  7. Isn’t the Ariya the Leaf’s replacement? Nissan is marketing it as an SUV instead of a car, but it appears to have similar dimensions to both generations of the Leaf, so it is functionally similar. It is strange to see Nissan is using the vague language of “a new model more tuned to the needs of the modern EV buyer” instead of just mentioning the Ariya.

    1. Considering the price and timing I’d say they want to successfully roll out the Ariya as a midpriced EV crossover before adding decontented models to fill in for the Leaf after 2026 or so.

  8. Electric: e-mountain bike
    Diesel:. dodge ram
    Hydrogen:. Wrangler yj converted to run h2 (need 25kw of solar and ACME at home electrolysis plant as part of my unlimited budget)
    Other: mustang tuned to run on either e100 or methanol

  9. Why aren’t we seeing more electric convertibles? I mean they’re already a bit of a novelty/2nd/toy car for most buyers, a 150-220 mile range, near silent, fun looking/driving vert could be a great seller. Not huge volume, but could get some buyers on board who might otherwise just skip to the usual German stand bys or an automatic Miata.

    1. Yeah, I don’t get this at all. I think it’s nuts that if you want any EV convertible your 2 options are either Tesla Roadster or Smart Electric Drive. Mazda has announced intentions to electrify the Miata, but that could just be a PHEV. I think it’s crazy mini is not making a convertible Cooper SE as they’d pretty much have a monopoly on the niche.

  10. Electric: Chevy Bolt for getting to and from for work.

    Diesel : a 1500 class pickup for towing my travel trailer.

    Hydrogen: fuel cell bus converted to a RV.

    Alternate: Global 7500 (jet-A is not Diesel).

  11. I trust Vinfast more than I trust Tesla

    The Leaf was the first EV produced on such a large scale. It was the best selling EV ever until recently when the Tesla Model 3 overtook it. Even if they stop making this one, they should still use the name since it has some kind of brand cachet being one of the first major electric cars.

    Cruise is run by former Jalopnik EIC Ray Wert/Roy Wort

  12. TBF when I hear the word Cruise. I don’t particularly think of going anywhere fast anyway. At least they named the business accurately.

    Now that ‘compact’ means 74+” wide, I hope that someone will offer a decent ‘subcompact” EV. With the Bolt and Leaf on their way out, the field is thinning, or should I say fattening.

  13. VinFast sounds like the name of a scammy website that claims to research a car’s history but really just steals the identity of people who are too cheap for whatever CarFax charges for a vehicle history report.

  14. Diesel – Super C Motor Home.

    Electric – Land Rover Defender Conversion.

    Hydrogen – Tough as this is small Market. *flips coin* 2022 Hyundai NEXO, sure why not.

    Anything – 1993 or 1994 Impala SS with a propane conversion kit.

  15. Electric – Lucid

    Diesel – F350

    Hydrogen – Doesn’t matter, there’s nowhere to fill up within 2,000 miles of me, so this is going to be a paperweight

    Alternative – Top Fuel dragster

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