BMW M Designs SUVs Now, Confirming Our Grim Destiny

The only other vehicle engineered from scratch by the M division was a mid-engine sports car.

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I fear the BMW XM is what we deserve, Volkswagen dealers seem very mad, and Elon Musk. All that and more in this Thursday edition of The Morning Shift for May 26, 2022.

1st Gear: BMW XM

The BMW XM is the upcoming flagship car of BMW’s M performance division. The last time M made a standalone car not based on a mainstream BMW model, it was the mid-engine M1, all the way back in 1978. The XM is a statement, in other words, one that reveals a lot about the current automotive landscape and our obsession with big SUVs. In an interview with Autoblog, BMW M’s boss confirmed as much.

“When we did the M1, every car company that wanted to say ‘I have something special’ built a sports car — that was the segment everyone wanted to enter. If you look today at the biggest, most important, and fastest-growing segment, it’s clearly the SUV segment. And, in comparison to other manufacturers, we were still lacking this ultimate expressive luxury flagship at the top of M,” he told Autoblog.

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The XM will be a hybrid, and is also planned to be the most powerful M car ever.

“In our 50-year heritage, we’ve always looked at racing and series-production cars to see where each one is going and what they can learn from each other. We’re continuing this with the XM: it has a V8-electric plug-in hybrid system and [our upcoming entry into the LMDh prototype category] also has a V8-hybrid drivetrain. You can see that when it works for racing, it also works for the high-performance cars.”

Some purists will argue that a coupe with a mid-mounted engine would have been more fitting. Blame the buyers, in this case.

“Of course, there is the Mercedes-AMG G63, the Lamborghini Urus, the Aston Martin DBX, and so on. You see all of these high-end, very expressive models. For the customers, this is something that has been missing at M. That was the biggest demand,” he concluded.

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Big sigh. I mean, I’m sure the car will be absolutely fine, BMW’s response to the Ferrari Purosangue, more or less. It’s hard not to pine for an M1 world, though.

2nd Gear: VW Dealers Mad

Volkswagen announced earlier this month that it was bringing back the Scout brand for a new line of electric SUV, news apparently prompted by a scoop from The Wall Street Journal. VW’s American dealers were surprised, according to Automotive News, and now are very upset. They suspect that VW wants to “create a parallel dealer network.” State dealer associations are in the midst of firing off angry missives to Scott Keogh, the CEO of VW Group of America.

One example, sent Monday from the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, is believed to be broadly representative. In it, NCADA President Robert Glaser wrote:

“Despite repeated assurances throughout the years by Volkswagen that its dealers are ‘partners’ in advancing and promoting VW products, this announcement produced instant dismay and concern among all VW dealers. Certainly, given the strong history of a supportive and effective VW dealer network, even during the diesel-gate fiasco, the clear expectation would be that current VW dealers would be given the first opportunity to enlist as a Scout dealer. However, the widespread belief is that the underlying reason VW is planning to create a parallel dealer network is VW’s intention to reduce the VW dealer count.”

Glaser said the Scout announcement was “very alarming and puzzling — to the current dealer network,” which had spent years asking for the very products that the Scout announcement included, and with no mention of how they would be sold. Glaser also pledged that his organization “will use every legitimate resource available to enforce its existing franchise laws that prohibit VW and all other factories and distributors from selling vehicles in North Carolina in competition with their franchised dealers.” Automotive News left a message with NCADA seeking further comment.

A spokesman for VW Group of America declined to comment on the letters and referred to an earlier statement saying that the company aims to “share more news as it becomes available” about its German parent’s plans for Scout.

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Dealers are perpetually suspicious that they are about to be replaced, and with good reason, because they are middlemen who only exist thanks to state franchise laws. You might feel bad for them, even, if they weren’t so damn profitable.

3rd Gear: VW’s CEO, Meanwhile, Sees Things Getting Better on the Semiconductor Front

VW’s production has also been complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where wiring harnesses and other parts of some VWs are made. The world’s tiniest violin is playing for VW and its production issues, though VW’s CEO said this week that the situation was getting better.

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From Reuters:

Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess said he sees “clear improvement” in semiconductor supplies and expects the automaker’s global production can recover during the rest of this year.

[...]

“The situation from Ukraine is under control now if nothing bad really happens anymore we will not lose too many cars,” Diess said.

Diess and other senior VW executives covered a wide range of topics in a meeting with reporters.

VW plans to decide this year on a site in the U.S. to assemble its proposed Scout brand electric trucks and SUVs, Diess said.

The company is assessing “brownfield sites and some greenfield locations,” he said, using terms for existing manufacturing facilities and open fields where completely new factories could be built.

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There is some talk too in the Reuters story of a possible battery supply shortage in the coming years, which will probably replace the semiconductor shortage eventually as the newest most tedious thing in the auto industry.

4th Gear: A Ford Supplier Was Nervous

Webasto, a German company, makes the removable roof for the Ford Bronco, which was initially botched. Eventually, though, they got it right and are now raking in the cash, according to Automotive News. This is, if nothing else, an interesting look behind the curtain, and a reminder that automakers outsource a lot of the work that goes in to making cars.

“It took a lot of energy, nerves and money,” CEO Holger Engelmann said last week during the German supplier’s annual press conference. He added, however, that the situation is under control.

[...]

Ford continues to struggle with getting enough Broncos delivered to customers, but that delay is because of the chip shortage. Despite this, Ford sold 13,113 Broncos in the U.S. in April — the most of any month since its June 2021 launch.

Webasto needed to make things with Ford right given the magnitude of the Bronco contract.

The deal will generate $2 billion in sales for Webasto over its eight-year lifespan (2018-26).

Webasto estimates the Bronco will account for 20 percent of its overall sales in its Americas region, which includes Canada and Mexico, starting this year and continuing for the next few years.

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5th Gear: Elon Musk

The sad weird clown that is Elon Musk is still in the middle of buying Twitter, despite what he says on Twitter. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that his offer has been rejiggered, probably because Tesla’s stock has been falling in recent weeks and a big component of Elon’s original financing package for Twitter relied on Tesla stock.

Mr. Musk’s funding plan now includes $33.5 billion in equity, up from $27.25 billion, according to a Wednesday regulatory filing. The billionaire Tesla chief executive no longer plans to rely on a margin loan backed by shares of his electric-vehicle company, which are down by about a third since Twitter accepted his bid in late April.

It couldn’t immediately be learned whether the new financing arrangement signaled renewed enthusiasm from Mr. Musk about a deal he recently put into doubt. Mr. Musk said earlier this month that the transaction was “temporarily on hold,” though he later added he was committed to buying Twitter.

The disclosure came hours after Twitter’s chief executive told shareholders the company was proceeding with the deal.

“We are working through this transaction process,” CEO Parag Agrawal said at Twitter’s annual shareholder gathering. “Even as we work toward closing this transaction, our teams and I remain focused on the important work we do every day.”

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Twitter is Elon Musk’s favorite website and I can’t think of anything more embarrassing.

Reverse: Tin Lizzie

It got about 13 to 21 miles per gallon of gasoline and could travel up to 45 mph. Initially selling for around $850 (around $20,000 in today’s dollars), the Model T would later sell for as little as $260 (around $6,000 today) for the basic no-extras model.

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Basically a Chevy S10.

Neutral: How Are You?

Imagine Ford offering a basic no-frills car for $6,000; that, of course, is what Ford pretends the base Ford Maverick is.