BMW claims Americans love high-dollar EVs, The U.S. is headed back to the cobalt mines, and Stellantis is somehow being buoyed by Dodge and Chrysler. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Friday, October 7, 2022.
1st Gear: Everyone and Their Mother Wants a BMW EV, Apparently
BMW has a few shiny new EVs in its lineup, and the company’s head of North American sales claims they’re hot commodities. Even pre-sales of the cars, well in advance of their actual production, are doing numbers for BMW. From Automotive News:
Consider this: BMW’s flagship i7 electric sedan won’t arrive at U.S. stores until mid-November. But advance orders for the nearly $120,000 vehicle already account for more than half of next year’s U.S. allocations, BMW of North America sales boss Shaun Bugbee told Automotive News.
Meanwhile, demand for BMW electric models already on the market — the i4 compact sedan and iX midsize crossover — helped lift the brand’s third-quarter sales by 3.2 percent over the prior year. BMW has sold 6,900 EVs in the U.S. this year, including more than 4,300 in the third quarter.
Bugbee said BMW dealers have pre-sold the i4 M50 into the second quarter of next year.
BMW wants to sell more EVs than Tesla in the states, a tall task for an automaker with a fledgling electric lineup. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the i7 looks absolutely fantastic. Fight me.
2nd Gear: Once More Unto The Mines
EV batteries use cobalt as part of their energy-storing process. Cobalt, a mineral, has to be mined from the ground in order to be used. America has cobalt deposits. You see where this is going. From the Detroit News:
Booming demand for batteries powering the world’s shift into electric vehicles is rekindling U.S. cobalt production after a nearly 30-year hiatus.
Jervois Global Ltd. is starting the first U.S. cobalt mine in Idaho on Friday, according to chief executive Bryce Crocker. The mineral sits “at the top of the table” in terms of national security, said Crocker. “There aren’t many new sources of supply, particularly in stable jurisdictions, which is why this mine in the U.S. is very important,” Crocker said. Cobalt hasn’t been produced in the U.S. since at least 1994, according to data from the United States Geological Survey.
While more than two-thirds of the mined metal comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, there’s been an increasing shift among manufacturers to source cobalt from outside the African nation due to allegations of corruption, human rights abuses and the use of child labor there.
The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act also provides incentives for battery materials sourced in the U.S. EVs can qualify for a $7,500 tax credit under President Joe Biden’s climate and tax bill, as long as their batteries contain minerals extracted from or processed in a country with a free trade agreement with the US, and providing part of the components are made or assembled in North America.
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Moving mining out of countries that use child labor seems like a good thing. And of course, no company in the U.S. would ever use underage labor, particularly in the automotive business.
3rd Gear: Stellantis’ Star Brands Are... Dodge And Chrysler?
Traditionally, the big movers in Stellantis’ lineup have been truhgs. Jeeps, Rams: These are the sort of vehicles that sell. But this past quarter, only two brands saw an increase in sales: Dodge, a company that exclusively makes ‘Murican Muscle, and Chrysler, a company that Stellantis seems to have entirely forgotten about. From the Detroit Free Press:
Stellantis sales in the United States were down in the third quarter of this year compared with last, but the 6% decline was better than in previous quarters this year.
The drop in vehicle sales from 410,918 in the third quarter of 2021 to 385,665 in the same period in 2022 was the fifth straight quarterly decline as the industry continues dealing with supply-side issues, including the chip shortage that has limited production in some cases.
The numbers for Dodge and Chrysler were up, 22% and 39%, respectively, while other Stellantis brands were down.
Jeep dropped 18%, Ram fell 4%, Alfa Romeo was down 24% and Fiat was down almost half compared with the same quarter a year ago, selling only 208 vehicles.
I can only assume that Americans have gotten really into minivans and The Lifestyle over these past few months. Maybe the two even go together.
4th Gear: NHTSA Closes Its G159 Tire Probe
Back in the day, Goodyear once created a tire so allegedly dangerous that it gained a reputation for destroying motorhomes. The company finally recalled the tire earlier this year, and that seems to have been enough to sate authorities. From Reuters:
The U.S. auto safety agency said Friday it was closing an investigation it opened in 2017 into the safety of some Goodyear (GT.O) tires used on motor homes that have not been produced in nearly two decades.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber in June said it would recall 173,000 G159 tires size 275/70R22.5 tires used on recreational vehicles because of the potential for catastrophic tread separations.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had sought the recall in February, arguing G159 tires had higher failure rates that “occurred relatively early in the service life.”
Goodyear said earlier it did not believe its tires were defective and questioned if any of those tires were still in use, noting they have not been produced since 2003.
NHTSA said in February that G159 tire defects were “at the center of 41 lawsuits involving 98 deaths and injuries filed between 1999 and 2016.”
Whether or not the tire is dangerous (since the NHTSA probe was cancelled, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a final, official determination), at least the G159 seems to be largely off the roads.
5th Gear: Faraday Future Executives Quit, Citing Death Threats
The internal politics of Faraday Future are in an interesting place right now. There are whistleblowers claiming it’s all a scam, executives saying they fully intend to bring cars to market, and now death threats in the mix. Y’know, normal car company stuff. From Automotive News:
Faraday Future Intelligent Electric Inc.’s executive chair resigned following what the company said were death threats and baseless allegations against certain directors, accelerating a planned transition of the troubled electric-vehicle startup’s leadership.
Two additional board members stepped down this week along with Executive Chair Susan Swenson, the company said Thursday in a securities filing. Adam He was appointed to serve as interim non-executive chair.
The startup has been rocked by a fight over control, which veered into the morbid last month when Faraday reported that criticism of current management has escalated to include “threats of physical violence and even death threats.”
The directors “cited such threats and their fear that their continued association with the company might heighten the risk to themselves and their respective families as the reasons for their resignations,” it said.
I imagine this sort of thing doesn’t happen much at other carmakers, but I guess I don’t know for sure.
Reverse: This Is The Ideal Football Game, Actually
Neutral: What’s Your Halloween Costume?
I’ve been traveling all over this month, and there’s more to come before Halloween. I don’t think I’ll have the time to put together a full, in-depth costume like I did last year. What’re you going to be for the best night of the year?