Tesla Is Here To Stay

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Tesla is doing just fine, Volkswagen isn’t, and Waymo. All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 21, 2021.

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1st Gear: Tesla Is Up Big In California

I’ve said it before, but Tesla has long been a Rorschach test. Many people will look at the company and CEO Elon Musk’s antics and declare it to be a massive fraud. Many others will look at the company and see an inspirational future. Many others will simply buy a few Tesla stocks and count their winnings at the end of the day. Still others will tweet about how much they personally hate Elon, because they are emotionally feeble.

None of it really matters. The company sells electric cars and quite a few of them but not really that many in total compared to others. Tesla sold about 500,000 cars globally last year. GM sold almost six times that just in the US.

In any case, it’s more and more undeniable that Tesla is here to stay. It’s profitable now. Joe Biden, who loves electric cars, is the president. In California, where Tesla is based (and where I am until the end of February), Teslas and electric chargers are everywhere. This is the future! Consider making a 2021 goal having less consternation about it.

From Reuters:

Tesla Inc’s vehicle registrations in the U.S. state of California jumped nearly 63% during the fourth quarter compared with last year, largely due to the success of the company’s Model Y, according to data from Cross-Sell here, a research firm that collates title and registration data.

The automaker reported better-than-expected 2020 vehicle deliveries earlier this month, driven by a steady rise in electric vehicle adoption, even though it narrowly missed its ambitious full-year goal of half a million deliveries during a punishing year for the global auto industry.

The report released on Wednesday showed registrations in California, a bellwether for the electric carmaker and its largest U.S. market, recovered from a third-quarter low of about 16,200 vehicles to around 22,117 vehicles in the three months ended December.

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I have never been a Tesla stan or hater, mostly just a curious observer, but if Tesla ever made a small electric car that costs $20,000 I would buy it in an instant. An affordable electric car, what a prospect.

2nd Gear: Alfa Romeo Will Have Another Go

It appears likely that a few brands will die as a result of the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Groupe PSA. The question is which ones. Automotive News reports that yet another turnaround plan is planned for Alfa Romeo, the 9,000th in the company’s recent history:

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said on Tuesday at a news conference to introduce the new group that he recognizes “the high value for Stellantis of both the Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands.”

“Our intention is to study how to support the profitable growth of those brands and we believe we are going to find a way to make them progress,” he said.

Tavares said the creation of Stellantis would bring production efficiencies and savings on purchasing and development, which he described as a “shield” that could make it less expensive to launch new models and carry out business plans.

Analysts welcomed the new leadership at Alfa Romeo.

“The appointment of Jean-Philippe Imparato to head Alfa Romeo is a clear commitment to the brand and determination to fill the group’s relative void in premium brands,” Philippe Houchois of Jefferies said in a note to investors.

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The vote of confidence from Tavares for Alfa and Maserati feels more like a death knell, and, indeed, it’s been hard to justify their existence for a few years now. Still, a world without either would feel ... strange.

3rd Gear: Honda And Cruise And Japan

Honda and GM’s range of various partnerships (most recently including collaboration on EV production) continues to grow. The two companies have teamed up on Cruise. It’s also now going to Japan.

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From Automotive News:

Under the plan announced Wednesday, Honda Motor Co. will receive the first self-driving test vehicle from Cruise for assessment in Japan this year. After that, Honda plans to also start a mobility-as-a-service, or MaaS, enterprise in Japan using the Cruise Origin autonomous shuttle.

The autonomous driving test vehicle, called Cruise AV, will be based on the Chevrolet Bolt. The Cruise Origin is a box-like people mover being jointly developed by all three companies. Cruise is majority owned by GM.

Honda spokeswoman Yu Kitagawa said the Japanese carmaker is still discussing details and that it is too early to say how many vehicles will be used or when the programs begin.

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4th Gear: Speaking Of Autonomous: Waymo!

I can’t really tell where people are at with autonomous vehicle tech. For a few years everyone said that it would definitely happen at some point, then everyone said it would never happen. In 2021, we seem to have reached a middle ground.

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Waymo has been leading the efforts at most stages, both as the most likely to get there first and the most likely to get there safely, as opposed to other efforts like Tesla and Uber.

Bloomberg reports that that hasn’t changed:

Ever since Google launched its self-driving-car project in 2009, the industry had followed up on abundant hype and easy financing with blown deadlines, catastrophic mistakes, and underwhelming products. “The reason the industry feels depressed today is of its own making,” Oliver Cameron, co-founder and CEO of the robotaxi startup Voyage, said shortly before Waymo’s announcement. “It’s been a mismatch of expectations that the industry has brought upon itself.” When the sci-fi future finally arrived, it felt way behind schedule.

“For years, people mismanaged their optimism,” says Reilly Brennan, founding partner at the San Francisco venture capital fund Trucks. “But in 2020 they mismanaged their pessimism.”

Now comes the painstaking work of bringing the technology to the broader market. Waymo’s progress seems to have spurred the competition. In December, General Motors Co.’s self-driving-car unit, Cruise, said some of its test fleet in San Francisco would begin running without a safety driver at the wheel—albeit with a human on the passenger side to intervene in case of emergency. And Apple Inc. has decided it, too, wants to build self-driving cars, though it doesn’t expect to produce a vehicle for at least five years.

Over the next 12 months, Waymo and other autonomous-vehicle developers are poised to begin offering robotaxi services in more places, most likely on sunny, spacious streets in carefully chosen parts of California, Florida, or Nevada. Eventually, long-haul trucks and advanced cruise-control systems capable of handling highway miles without human intervention will begin to connect these “islands of autonomy,” creating a network of robot roadways.

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5th Gear: VW Missed Its Targets

Europe brought down the hammer on emissions targets this year, and a lot of automakers there weren’t exactly ready but because of the pandemic sales (and driving and emissions) were off and so for a bit there it didn’t seem like fines were gonna be a thing. Except at Volkswagen they are, to the tune of €100 million.

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From the Financial Times:

Volkswagen, the world’s largest carmaker, will pay more than €100m in fines after narrowly missing strict EU emissions targets in 2020, despite launching its flagship electric vehicle during the year.

The group, which includes the Audi, Porsche and Seat brands, said its fleet-wide emissions in Europe stood at 99.8 grammes of CO2 per kilometre driven, roughly half a gramme short of the goal set by Brussels.

The miss is a blow for VW, which has sought to remodel itself as an electric vehicle superpower in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal, and plans to eclipse Tesla by selling 26m battery-powered cars this decade.

Domestic rivals Daimler and BMW have both confirmed they were compliant with the new rules, thanks to a late surge in demand for plug-in hybrid vehicles.

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This is the way of things now. The Biden administration is already reinforcing emissions standards here, per The New York Times.

In additional executive orders, Mr. Biden began the reversal of a slew of the Trump administration’s environmental policies, including revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline; reversing the rollbacks to vehicle emissions standards; undoing decisions to slash the size of several national monuments; enforcing a temporary moratorium on oil and natural gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; and re-establishing a working group on the social costs of greenhouse gasses.

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Reverse: Toyota? Toyota!

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Neutral: How Are You?

I didn’t check the news when I woke up today for the first time in years. Felt good!

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

DISCUSSION

shanemorris
Shane Morris

I’m not anti-Tesla, and I think the reporting about Tesla has been fair. Their cars have suffered from quality issues. I don’t like how their “self driving” cars have been marketed, because it has led the public to believe “Autopilot” (not actually autopilot) is more autonomous than it really is.

Tesla just has some strange adherents. I’m also critical of brands like... *checks notes*... Stellantis, which is not a sci-fi show, but an automotive group. I joke about my wife’s yawn-spec RX350 because it’s the most boring yet competent car you can own. Why yes, my wife is a realtor. How did you guess?

It’s okay to be critical of a car company when they make stupid decisions. I can’t count how many jokes I have made at the expense of Nissan. Tesla, to their credit, has never made a Murano cabriolet.

Tesla isn’t going anywhere, and I am glad they forced automakers to compete in the electric market. There is a book called “Trickster Makes This World” by author Lewis Hyde, and it details how the personalities of the periphery push society forward. Elon Musk is a “trickster” in how he operates. Often through manipulation or other underhanded means, Musk has gotten things accomplished in a space where he otherwise had no experience, and it made his peers uncomfortable. Sometimes, he pushed too far; See — stock manipulation.

But I can’t deny that Tesla has made automakers react, speed up timelines, and offer the future. We do need to get off fossil fuels in cars. Planes are a long ways away, but cars and trucks we can control. I personally believe it is our moral duty to future generations to curb anthropogenic climate change, but I’m probably less alarmist than most. (Read “Apocalypse Never” by Mike Shellenberger.) With that said, continuing to manufacture internal combustion powered cars is a non-starter.

Someday in the future, ICE cars will be the classics you only roll out on the weekend. It’ll be hard to find a gas station to fill up your tank. That’s change, and it’s good. Change isn’t scary. Mostly, Tesla represents change, and as human beings, change is scary.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that last night while I was high, I bought a BMW i3 used for $14K. How do you think I should tell my wife?