BMW Is Back To Big Profits

Illustration for article titled BMW Is Back To Big Profits
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

BMW is doing well, Elon Musk tries to clarify things after a deadly Tesla crash, and Ferrari hired a guy from Top Gear. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 20, 2021.


1st Gear: BMW Has Brushed Off The Pandemic

This time last year, automakers were in an absolute panic about their business, as most everyone was about almost everything. Fast forward to now and they have almost all bounced back quite nicely. The current problems aren’t that the pandemic has rendered them unable to build or sell cars but mainly global supply chain issues.

Luxury automakers have fared the best. That includes BMW, which said this week that it made a whole lot of money in the first quarter of 2021.

From Reuters:

BMW’s (BMWG.DE) first-quarter earnings bounced back more strongly than expected from a pandemic-ravaged first three months of last year, the German carmaker said on Monday, helped by higher prices and strong Chinese demand.

In an unscheduled release, the company said its earnings before tax leapt by 370% to 3.76 billion euros ($4.53 billion), according to preliminary figures, with sales growing in all major regions and across brands.

It noted particular strength in China, as well as positive price developments and high demand for used cars, and added earnings had exceeded market expectations.

Whenever you hear automakers complain about government regulations or complain about all the money they have to spend developing EVs, just remember that every single one of them (non-startup division) makes a lot of money.

2nd Gear: Blowback For Tesla In China

Tesla opened its factory in Shanghai over a year ago now, and it has been full speed ahead there ever since, selling tens of thousands of cars in a market that is the biggest for EVs in the world, and key to Tesla’s future.


Except now some seams are showing. At Auto Shanghai on Monday, a woman complaining of failing brakes staged a protest that went viral, which was embarrassing for Tesla. On Tuesday, the Chinese state itself reminded Tesla who was in charge, perhaps in response to Monday’s events.

From Bloomberg:

The trouble started early on Tuesday when China’s state-run Xinhua news agency released a piece that said the quality of Tesla’s electric vehicles must meet market expectations in order to win consumers’ trust. The Palo Alto, California-based company should address consumer hesitation over purchasing its cars after issues ranging from malfunctioning brakes to blazes during the vehicles’ charging emerged, the article said.

A few hours later, the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China Central Committee weighed in, posting a commentary on its WeChat account that said the automaker should respect Chinese consumers and comply with local laws and regulations. Making an effort to find the cause of problems and improve features is something any responsible business should do, and Tesla hasn’t done that, the Communist Party body that oversees China’s police, prosecutors and courts said.


Tesla’s China honeymoon appears to be coming to an end at a time the U.S. automaker is facing increasing competition from a slew of younger, cashed up local EV players like the U.S.-listed Nio Inc. and Xpeng Inc., which also enjoy the support of municipal governments. Their presence at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show was telling, with their large, shiny booths overshadowing exhibits from some of the more traditional carmakers.


In all likelihood, this will be just a blip for Tesla. It’s found a way to grease the wheels of its existence so far in China and I’m sure it will find a way to do so again. It would be a mistake for Tesla, though, to ignore the rising competition, both there and elsewhere.

3rd Gear: Elon Musk Weighs In On That Deadly Tesla Crash

Two men died Sunday after a Tesla they were riding in crashed in Texas, with no one in the driver’s seat. It’s unclear to me how a car drives with no one in the driver’s seat without the use of some type of semiautonomous driving feature, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that is exactly what happened yesterday, based on data logs that have been recovered “so far.”


Tesla’s Level 2 driver assist systems, branded as Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” are separate products, to be clear, and, despite the purported safeguards there is plenty of evidence to suggest they don’t always work. Also, I’m not even sure if I blame Musk these days, because, after years of deadly Tesla crashes tied to Autopilot, if you believe his tech is safe and keep using (or misusing) it, at some point that is on you.


And that is fine — we live in a free society and you are free to do almost any stupid thing you want — but, still, most of the time I wish Elon would simply shut the fuck up.

4th Gear: Subaru Will Temporarily Shut Down Its Indiana Plant Because Of The Chip Shortage

God, someone end the chip shortage. I never want to type the words “chip shortage” ever again.


From Reuters:

A Subaru spokeswoman said 15,000 vehicles for North America would be affected.

She said that a continued global shortage for chips, rather than a recent fire at Renesas Electronics Corp’s (6723.T) chip-making factory, was the main factor behind the suspension.


This is all so tedious!

5th Gear: Man Gets Job

Charlie Turner has been at Top Gear in various roles for almost two decades, currently Editorial Director of Top Gear Magazine, but he said Tuesday he would be leaving to become Chief Content Officer at Ferrari.


Reuters said Turner is doing that to make something something content.

Turner will take up the position this summer to lead Ferrari’s push to become “a world-class producer of high-quality multimedia content across all platforms”, the Italian company said.

He will lead development of Ferrari’s commercial content relationships with leading global media organisations as well as digital and social media platforms, it added.


There is very little separation in the motoring journalism world between automakers and the people doing motoring journalism, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Turner and Ferrari have batted around the idea of Turner joining Ferrari for months if not years, such is the coziness. There is nothing to envy about all of this, to be clear, something you realize in the first five seconds of any auto industry happy hour.

Reverse: Danica


Neutral: How Are You?

I have, finally, begun to register a minor pandemic-related weight gain, which gives me no pleasure to report. It turns out that sitting on your ass all day is bad?

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.


Porschebago Redux, formerly Mini Mid-life Crisis

See that beautiful BMW in green with a tan interior at the top of this article?

Your dealer will never stock that color combination.