It’s a curiously timed shutdown of all domestic production for Japan’s top automaker just after Japan backed Ukraine. All that and more in The Morning Shift for February 28, 2022.
1st Gear: Toyota Shuts It Down
Of all of Japan’s car companies, it is Toyota that’s the standard-bearer for the country, maybe best seen by the close ties it has to the government’s hydrogen initiatives. Anyway, Japan just backed Ukraine, and now Toyota has shut down all of its domestic production over what it claims to be a cyberattack. From Reuters:
Toyota said it will suspend all domestic factory operations on Tuesday losing around 13,000 cars after a company supplying plastic parts and electronic components was hit by a suspected cyberattack.
No information was immediately available about who was behind the attack or the motive.
The attack comes just after Japan joined Western allies in clamping down on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine, although it was not clear if the attack was at all related.
It’ll be interesting to see how this affects production of some of Toyota’s more prestigious models, as well as those that help it comply with tighter emissions regulations. The bZ4X EV is made in Japan, for instance.
2nd Gear: VW Shuts It Down
Volkswagen more directly shut down some of its production over Russia invading Ukraine, idling “two German plants as supplies from Ukraine run dry,” as the Financial Times reports:
Volkswagen has been forced to idle two of its German plants after failing to obtain parts from Ukraine, in the clearest sign yet that Russia’s invasion of its neighbour is disrupting the European car industry’s supply chains.
The carmaker’s Zwickau plant in east Germany will be idle for four days from next week, and the nearby Dresden plant will be closed for three days, a spokesman confirmed, adding it was impossible to say how long the shutdowns would last.
VW has been unable to secure electrical wires from manufacturers in Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter, and realised late on Thursday that it would have to cut back production. VW declined to name the supplier.
Much like Toyota, VW’s top EVs are made in its home country. The Zwickau plant makes ID models, so this will be interesting to see how things shake out for VW’s regulatory compliance.
3rd Gear: Toyota Has Low Expectations For Its Worst-Named Car
We might not need to worry all that much about Toyota’s bZ4X production, as Toyota itself doesn’t expect to sell all that many of these things, per Automotive News:
At an early test drive event outside Tokyo last week, Toyota dodged questions about how many it expects to build and sell after the bZ4X goes on sale in mid-2022.
Daisuke Ido, general manager of ZEV Factory where Toyota is developing a fleet of new EVs, would only say that volumes are expected to grow with wider EV adoption.
But Japan’s Nikkei newspaper, citing suppliers familiar with Toyota’s planning, reported that the automaker has targeted just 60,000 vehicles worldwide in the bZ4X’s first year, and then a decline to about 50,000 the next. By comparison, Toyota sold 407,000 of the comparable RAV4 crossovers last year in the U.S. alone.
These numbers are a little controversial, as Toyota will be making bz4Xs in China, and they aren’t factored in here.
Still I have to wonder if Toyota is actively trying to tank the sales on this thing. How do you even say bZ4X? Is it not “busy forks?” “Buzz-axe?” I am perplexed.
4th Gear: Rivian Promises That It Could, At Some Point, Potentially, In The Future, Sell A Lot Of Cars
Rivian forums might not be exactly busting with people saying that they have actually received any Rivians, but Rivian the company is happy to say that, at some point, maybe not now, but certainly in the future, eventually, at a time, lots of people will be buying and receiving Rivians, as Reuters reports:
Scaringe, responding to a question about how big Rivian could become by 2030, said the company had the brand position “to build out a portfolio ... to allow us to really work toward building a position of 10% market share within the EV space.”
He called the global semiconductor chip shortage the “most painful” constraint in the push to build production. The California-based startup produced 1,015 vehicles last year, coming up short of its target of 1,200 due to supply-chain constraints.
Scaringe said Rivian had replaced some chipsets in certain parts with other chipsets that are easier to get. He said the global shortage would be a factor through the rest of the year.
5th Gear: Here’s A Good Podcast On Teamster Organizing Truckers At Ports
The country’s major trucking crisis could probably have been averted if trucking companies simply paid their workers better and offered better working conditions. You know who helps with both of those things? Unions! Anyway, here’s a nice podcast from Bloomberg on the Teamsters working to unionize truckers working ports. Here’s B’bergs blurb:
Some truckers make good money and have a high degree of control of their schedule. Others work for low pay under exceptionally difficult conditions. Port truckers, in particular, have dealt with poor pay, high debts, wage theft, and other difficult conditions. But an effort is being made to organize for a better situation. On this episode, we speak with Ron Herrera, Director of the Teamsters Port Division, on the union’s efforts, as well as how it fits into broader supply chain stress.
Reverse: U.S. Launches Discoverer 1, A Secret Spy Satellite That Fails To Reach Orbit
On February 28, 1959, we shot Discoverer 1 off the coast of California for a polar orbit, declared that it had reached orbit, and then it was never seen, heard, or tracked again. Here is a fun story about this small American lie from 2009, coming after the program’s full nature was declassified in 1995, per NASA.
Neutral: How Is Your Union Representation?
My buddy just joined the Teamsters (working in manufacturing in California) and seems to be enjoying it so far. I’m just happy he has healthcare now that he bought a mountain bike.