Ford has realized that, well, a lot of its employees have been doing just fine working from home. All that and more in The Morning Shift for March 18, 2021.
The funny part of all this is that Ford is calling its plan a “hybrid” work model, which means I will only ever think about old Ford Escapes when reading about it. From the Chicago Tribune:
It’s a question occupying the minds of millions of employees who have worked from home the past year: Will they still be allowed to work remotely — at least some days — once the pandemic has faded?On Wednesday, one of America’s corporate titans, Ford Motor Co., supplied its own answer: It told about 30,000 of its employees worldwide who have worked from home that they can continue to do so indefinitely, with flexible hours approved by their managers. Their schedules will become a work-office “hybrid”: They’ll commute to work mainly for group meetings and projects best-suited for face-to-face interaction.
Some of this seems to be about making employees happy and some of it seems to be about corporate efficiency. Ford highlighted that it won’t need the expense of cubicle farms, soul-crushing or no, when it spoke with Bloomberg about the switch:
“No more cubicle farms,” Jackie Shuk, global director of Ford’s real estate unit, said in an interview. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible to be a Ford employee.”
Bloomberg also highlighted that this will be for office workers not factory workers:
Ford will have to carefully manage perceptions since it’s giving flexibility to some employees and not to others. The pandemic laid bare how dependent the society is on the physical presence of blue-collar workers from the factory floor to the grocery counter. But the idea of white-collar employees logging on safely at home, while lower-paid employees risk their health to show up in person, has been an added source of resentment in an already stratified U.S. economy.
I don’t know if I would necessarily care if other people were stuck in cubicles if I was working on the line, but that’s just me.
EVs are still a sliver of the car market, and no matter how much promise they offer for the future, what are they doing for auto companies right now? The answer is that they’re boosting stock values, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
After years lamenting that their shares were undervalued, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Volkswagen AG and other blue-chip car manufacturers are seeing sharp share-price gains this year as they embrace the new technology.
Ford is up 49% so far this year, while GM’s shares have surged 48%. VW’s stock is up 55% and even briefly rose 29% in intraday trading one day this week when the company held a “Power Day” event, saying it would build six EV battery factories in Europe alone over the next 10 years. VW has this week also eked ahead of SAP SE to become the most valuable stock on the German DAX index.
How much do car companies really value EVs themselves, and how much do they just value what they do for stock prices? Who could even tell the difference?
Tesla thrives on having a public figurehead like Elon to send out endless boasts on Twitter, so it’s no surprise that the company didn’t really rein in his account, as a new lawsuit alleges. The case seems to hinge not on people generally mad at Elon’s bad memes, but that they think his bad Twitter ops are hurting the company’s value, as Business Insider reports:
Elon Musk was able to post “erratic” tweets about Tesla that led to government investigations because the company’s board failed to control its CEO, a lawsuit by a Tesla investor alleges.
The board had “consistently failed” to appoint an independent general counsel, investor Chase Gharrity said in his lawsuit. The company lost three general counsels in 2019, he added.
The lawsuit against both Musk and the board focuses on how Musk’s comments on Twitter allegedly violated a 2018 settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which removed him from the company’s board and stipulated his tweets should be approved in advance by the company.
Stockholders deserve better!
What’s great about EVs is their silent operation and complete freedom from gas stations. Also people talk a lot about how much money they can or can’t save with them. We’ll soon see how big of an attraction that really is in the UK, as the government just priced Teslas out of a big subsidy, as Bloomberg Green reports:
U.K. transport authorities on Thursday cut a purchasing bonus for electric cars, vans and trucks to 2,500 pounds ($3,491) from 3,000 pounds, and lowered the price of models qualifying to less than 35,000 pounds. While the previous ceiling of less than 50,000 pounds meant most Model 3 variants got the aid, none will qualify under the new rule.
The U.K. government has been under pressure to plug a hole in the country’s finances left by the pandemic. It argues that buyers of higher-priced EVs can afford to make the switch from combustion-engine cars even without the aid, and that the number of battery-powered models costing less than 35,000 pounds has increased almost 50% since 2019.
I get the feeling that people aren’t ever really buying a Tesla for budgetary reasons, but this will be interesting to keep an eye on.
How are things going for Nikola after the whole “the head of the company got exposed as a fraud” thing? Not great. Its strategic partner Hanwha, which it meant to provide solar farms, has sold off half its stake in the company, to the tune of about $180 million, as Bloomberg reports:
Hanwha, which Nikola has described as a key partner and strategic investor, plans to sell 11.05 million shares, or 50% of its current stake in the Phoenix-based company, according to a securities filing Wednesday. Hanwha Corp. is the publicly traded holding arm of the group, a conglomerate spanning financial services, chemicals and solar energy.
The amount to be sold is worth about $180 million based on Nikola’s closing price of $16.39. Nikola shares fell 3.5 percent to $15.82 in premarket trading.
It has said Hanwha will supply third-party solar farms with panels needed to generate electricity for production of “clean energy” hydrogen for a planned network of refueling stations in the U.S. Hanwha bought its stake in 2018, two years before Nikola gained a public stock listing in June through a reverse-merger with a special purpose acquisition company.
I’m starting to wonder if this Nikola thing is going to work out!
Or is your workplace starting to embrace flexibility for people not having to commute anymore?