BMW, Toyota, Everyone Is Deepening Ties with China

BYD showing off its first mass-market EV back in 2008. Photo: Getty Images
BYD showing off its first mass-market EV back in 2008. Photo: Getty Images
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There’s a mid-engine Corvette out in the world now, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the auto industry has stopped working. There’s a lot of development in China and more in The Morning Shift for Friday, July 19, 2019.


1st Gear: Toyota Partners with Chinese No-Longer Startup (?) BYD to Build EVs

I remember when BYD was the company that drove my old boss through the Detroit Auto Show, maybe illegally. And I also remember when Toyota seemed monolithic to such a degree that it would never have to partner with anyone on anything. But times change, as Reuters reports:

Toyota Motor said it would develop battery electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries with BYD Co Ltd, in a sign it was ramping up partnerships with Chinese players as planned to build affordable EVs for the world’s top auto market.

In a joint statement, Toyota and the Chinese electric automaker said on Friday that they would develop sedans and sport utility vehicles, which would then be sold under the Toyota brand in China before 2025.

Toyota has been super late to EVs, otherwise occupying itself during the pre-Recession boom years with important work like, uh, hydrogen fuel cells that can’t be driven anywhere. I guess this is how it’s catching up.

2nd Gear: BMW Partners with Chinese Tech Company Tencent for Self-Driving Development

BMW is also on the catch up side of things as it recently dumped its top boss for being slow on EVs and new tech. As such, it’s not a huge surprise it has a new partnership to speed things up. I guess it’s also not a huge surprise that the partner company is Chinese. That’s Tencent, and it and BMW are opening up a new computing center, as a new Reuters report details:

The establishment of the center “will support BMW’s autonomous driving development and innovation in China,” Jochen Goller, head of BMW’s China operations, said in a statement.

“BMW can, therefore, develop autonomous driving solutions that fit better with the specific driving conditions in China.”

BMW said the new computing center will leverage Tencent’s cloud computing and big data, and provide the automaker with infrastructure needed to develop the autonomous cars.

3rd Gear: Profits Down at China’s Geely

Meanwhile, the largest purely domestic Chinese automaker, Geely, is having a hard time, as Automotive News China reports:

Geely Automobile Holdings, China’s largest domestic carmaker, warned its net profit in the first half dropped about 40 percent from 6.7 billion yuan ($974 million), reflecting a sharp decline in sales during the period.

The company issued an alert about the profit slump in filings on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, where it is listed.

Geely attributed the profit plunge to a “greater-than-expected decrease” in sales and efforts to reduce dealership inventories in the first six months.


The report goes on to note that Geely deliveries are down 15 percent, and the company has cut its annual sales target by 10 percent.

If I was one of the companies that Geely has acquired over the past few years, most recently Lotus, I might be a little worried.


4th Gear: Renault Boss: What, Me Worry?

Please enjoy this wonderful bit of reporting by the Associated Press on the continuing drama of Renault-Nissan, which is doing fine! just fine! at least according to Renault:

Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard has expressed confidence that the French automaker’s alliance with Nissan remains on track following the appointment of a new board at the Japanese firm in the wake of the scandal involving Carlos Ghosn, who chaired both companies.


I’m sure if you asked Nissan, it would say the same thing. For sure.

5th Gear: Why China’s Railway Through Kenya Stops Short

The story of China’s infrastructure development in Africa is fascinating, and there’s a very informative new piece in Bloomberg on why China has a colossal railroad to nowhere at the moment, a once-prestige project that now cuts through almost all of Kenya:

Gleaming concrete sleepers run across a new railway bridge in Kenya, the latest stretch of a Chinese-built line from the coast all the way to Uganda.

Only, it doesn’t quite reach the border. Instead, the railroad ends abruptly by a sleepy village about 75 miles west of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, the tracks laid but unused.

Construction of what was intended to be a flagship infrastructure project for Eastern Africa was halted earlier this year after China withheld some $4.9 billion in funding needed to allow the line’s completion. Beijing’s sudden financial reticence appeared to catch the governments of Kenya and Uganda off guard: Both may now be forced to reinstate a colonial-era line in a bid to patch the link and boost regional trade.


The article goes on to cite a Deloitte report that China is the financier for “one-in-five projects and constructing every third one” in Africa. It’s a wild read, and you should go through it in full.

Reverse: They Went Into Lunar Orbit Today

After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. 


Neutral: Why Can’t Toyota Go Alone?

First the Toyobaru Twins, then the Supra, now this. What happened, man?

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.


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