Mercedes-Benz is the latest company to leak your personal information, Panasonic just made a fortune divesting itself of Tesla and a chipmaker might actually try to make semiconductors for cars instead of PlayStations. All this and more for this happy Friday edition of The Morning Shift for June 25, 2021.
The bad news is the German automaker inadvertently made the data of nearly 1,000 customers — including “self-reported credit scores, driver license and social security numbers and credit card information” — available on a cloud storage platform for anyone to see. The information was entered by customers and shoppers on its websites, and the websites of its dealers, between January 2014 and June 2017.
So if you were in the market for a Mercedes-Benz four to seven years ago, this might include you! But hey, look at it this way — at least you’ll get free credit monitoring for two years as a make good, Reuters reports.
Mercedes said any individual who had credit card information, a driver’s license number or a social security number included in the data will be offered a complimentary two-year subscription to a credit monitoring service.
You and Merc are square then, right? At least until the next time it plays fast and loose with your personal data. And hey — if it isn’t them, it’ll be someone else. I recently got a notice in the mail because the company that made the moccasins I bought for my dad for Christmas got hacked. This is just the way the world is now.
Specifically $3.6 billion, because it just sold its stake in Tesla. It had bought 1.4 million shares in Tesla 11 years ago for $30 million so, you know, it made out OK.
Why ditch Tesla now, though? Panasonic wants to diversify its EV battery business, which seems like a good idea. Unlike in 2010, more than two automakers produce mass-market electric cars now. Also, it’s tired of Elon Musk’s bullshit. But hey, you didn’t hear me say that — Reuters did:
Panasonic’s battery business is dominated by Elon Musk’s Tesla, but the two firms have had a tense relationship at times with executives trading barbs publicly.
Panasonic bought 1.4 million Tesla shares at $21.15 each in 2010 for about $30 million. That stake was worth $730 million at the end of March 2020. The shares have gained almost seven fold since then and closed up 3.5% at $679.82 apiece on Thursday.
“The impact of crypto assets may have pushed Tesla’s share price above its intrinsic value, making it a good time to sell,” said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute.
Musk said in February his firm bought bitcoin and would take payment in the cryptocurrency, a decision he later reversed, and his comments on Twitter drive swings in the price of such assets.
There’s little reason to keep your cart firmly attached to the most temperamental horse ever, especially when you no longer have to. Another company might not be so prudent and conservative, but remember, this is Panasonic — a firm that mostly makes microwaves and electric trimmers, but also batteries for electric cars. Panasonic contains multitudes.
President Biden is finding that you can ram an infrastructure bill through Congress, so long as you’re prepared to chip away at it until it represents a fraction of whatever you wanted to accomplish in the first place. I say this because Biden said Thursday that he and a bipartisan group of Senators had finally achieved an agreement, though it looks a little different than it did when it started, as The Hill efficiently explains:
A $7.5 billion investment in electric vehicle infrastructure and another $7.5 billion in electric buses and transit as part of its overall $579 billion in new spending on infrastructure projects. That compares to Biden’s initial proposal for spending $174 billion to “win the EV market.”
$73 billion to upgrade power infrastructure, including building “thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines,” in comparison to Biden’s initial proposal for spending $100 billion.
Originally, the charging network portion of the bill — which seeks to install 500,000 chargers across the country by 2030, with a focus on rural and low-income communities — comprised $15 billion of the overall $174 billion total, as did the amount earmarked for electric buses. A sizable chunk of the original plan also included expanding rebates for for EV buyers, which does not appear on the latest fact sheet released by the White House.
Really any consideration for building out charging stations is both long overdue and desperately needed at this point, so it’s good that was retained in favor of continued rebates which would obviously spur adoption but are less critical in the long term.
A man is suing Tesla in California state court for tacking on fees to its “free unlimited Supercharging” for those who don’t vacate their charging stalls “almost immediately” after charging is completed, according to Bloomberg.
To convince early customers to buy Tesla’s electric vehicles, the company promised them free Supercharging for life. But to deal with congestion at the Supercharging stations, Tesla imposed a “Supercharger fee” on customers who didn’t return to their vehicles almost immediately after they had been charged, [plaintiff Kevin] Shenkman said in the complaint filed in state court in Alameda County.
“To compound the matter, when a customer, such as plaintiff, who has been promised free Supercharging for life, refuses to pay such ‘Supercharger fees,’ Tesla cuts off Supercharging access entirely, thus disabling a feature for which customers paid thousands of dollars extra to obtain,” Shenkman said.
I’m of two minds here. On one hand, congestion is an issue and overcrowding stations everyone needs to use isn’t good for anyone, save for the person in the stall. Tesla has every right to impose limitations on its promotion, and rescind it if it’s not used the proper way. There are always terms and conditions to this shit, and any rational person should understand that.
On the other hand, this is inevitably what happens when you lure folks with the promise of what is essentially free money. Perhaps Tesla could have gone lengths to carefully explain the nuances of the program and how users must agree to act to benefit from it, but then of course, nuance isn’t really the Tesla way.
The semiconductor shortage sucks for everyone, but it sucks worse for automakers. Reason being, big chipmakers like TSMC are all too eager to churn out silicon for iPhones and graphics cards, but they stand to earn less manufacturing less-sophisticated chips for cars. So they make less of them.
One chipmaker with facilities in New York, Singapore and Dresden, GlobalFoundries, is honing in on that underserved but still extremely important corner of the market. From Bloomberg:
While the three largest foundry players, led by TSMC, get much of the kudos for driving chip manufacturing into new frontiers, the reality is that most semiconductors simply don’t need to be the most-advanced. Chips used for radio communications, to control display screens, regulate power, or operate tiny motors do just fine with technology that debuted a decade ago. And that’s the sandpit in which New York-based GlobalFoundries plays.
This is why its $6 billion plan to boost capacity globally in 2021 and 2022, including raising output at its Singapore facility by around 50%, makes sense. It might even go further toward solving the current chip shortage than the $100 billion TSMC expects to spend over the next three years. The Hsinchu-based company, which controls around half the made-to-order chip market, is crucial to ensuring Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Nvidia Corp. get the most powerful chips available. Yet only 28% of its revenue last year came from products made using older technologies 1 and just 3% of sales were to the automotive sector, one of the hardest hit by the current shortage.
When the pandemic first hit and supply chains dried up, automakers were the first to suffer because they were at the back of the list behind every tech company. That’s why you probably didn’t have any trouble buying a new smartphone last year, and still can’t find the new car you’re looking for today. Today there’s more uses for semiconductors than companies able to make them, so here’s hoping those who can follow GlobalFoundries’ example.
On this day 47 years ago, in 1974, the safety-forward Bricklin SV-1 was unveiled to the public in Michigan. I’ll say no more because wouldn’t you know Torch just wrote a story on it!
Last weekend I went to Formula Drift in Englishtown, New Jersey. The event was sort of a wash out, but as my friend and I walked along a road right behind one of the grandstands, I noticed a dude in a straw hat and a photo credentials vest leaning over a chainlink fence flipping double birds to somebody. Their back was turned so I couldn’t see their face and would’ve just kept walking on, but my friend — who’s less shy than me — chipped up. “Who we flippin’ off?” he asked the stranger.
The man turned around, laughing. The man was Raphael Orlove. And the recipient of his bold gesture? “Some dude from Staten Island,” Raph told us.
These are the wonderful chance encounters we get to have now that we can actually go to races again — particularly for those of us in the Northeast, where lots of things are happening very soon. IMSA’s Six Hours of The Glen is this weekend, followed by a shorter race at Watkins Glen the following week and then one at Lime Rock after that in mid July. I’ll see you there!