Elon Musk Is Absolutely Desperate To Sell Cars In China

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Elon Musk is fawning over China, Jaguar thinks it can sell an expensive EV in India, and we are still short of chips. All that and more in The Morning Shift for March 23, 2021.

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1st Gear: Elon Wants To Sell Lots Of Cars In China

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is a car salesman, on balance no different than the person you meet at your local used lot, despite all of his pretensions otherwise. He’s willing to sell his wares to anyone at the right price, in other words, but his biggest priority is selling his wares period.

In this way, it’s not surprising that he is all-in on China, though it is sort of jarring to hear him fawn over them so much, as he did in a recent interview with Chinese state television.

From The Wall Street Journal:

In a short interview with Chinese state television published three days after he sought to reassure Chinese politicians about concerns that the company’s vehicles pose a national security risk, Tesla’s CEO said he was impressed by the carbon emission goals set out in the country’s latest five-year economic and social blueprint that was agreed upon earlier this month.

“I’d like to strike an optimistic note and I’m very confident that the future of China is going to be great and that China is headed towards being the biggest economy in the world and a lot of prosperity in the future,” he told state-run broadcaster China Central Television in an interview clip published Tuesday.

“China in the long term will be our biggest market, both where we make the most number of vehicles and where we have the most number of customers,” he added.

[...]

Mr. Musk praised China’s commitment to fighting climate change in the 90-second interview clip. Chinese President Xi Jinping said last September that China will reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and aims to be carbon neutral—net zero carbon-dioxide emissions—by 2060. Pledges from Japan and South Korea followed soon after; they said they would reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

“These are very aggressive goals and I think they are great goals and I wish other countries had these goals,” the Tesla founder said of China’s targets.

These are, like I say, the words of a salesman who wants to reassure his client, and I don’t think Elon is wrong, really, that China will eventually be Tesla’s biggest market, but, still, it all sounds a little Trumpian in the end.

2nd Gear: Meanwhile, In Germany, Tesla Apparently Needs Someone To Manage Its Plant

I don’t really know what’s going on here, but here is an item from Automobilwoche:

Four months before Tesla’s new European factory is scheduled to begin production, the automaker is still looking for a plant manager despite reports that former Daimler manager Rene Reif had agreed to take up the role, sources familar with the matter told Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News.

Reif took early retirement in November from his job as head of the Mercedes-Benz plant in Berlin and was due to begin working at Tesla in January, German union IG Metall had said.

The factory in Gruenheide, about 25 miles from Berlin, eventually will have an annual output of up to 500,000 vehicles. Initially, the plant will build the Model Y crossover. Battery production is also planned.

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This happens a lot with Tesla, in that there will be high turnover, or some person is on the outs and quickly replaced by another person, or someone will be named to a job and then not get that job in the end, which is the kind of thing you see in companies that are poorly run. It seemingly hasn’t hurt Tesla so far, however.

3rd Gear: The Chip Shortage Has Japan’s Government On The Move

The global chip shortage will soon be a boring memory we can all forget, but, in the meantime, Japan’s government is mobilizing to contain the effects of a fire last week at a semiconductor plant there.

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From Bloomberg:

Japan’s government and businesses are racing to bring a fire-damaged automotive chip plant back online, underscoring how important the component has become in a supply chain already under strain because of booming demand for semiconductors.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is mobilizing to help Renesas Electronics Corp., one of the top providers of chips used in car electronics, procure equipment after a fire broke out at one of its plants Friday. The nation’s automakers, who depend on Renesas to supply semiconductors, are dispatching workers to the damaged site to help with recovery activities.

The widespread and coordinated efforts reflect the importance of the auto sector and chips for the world’s third-largest economy. The two sectors are at the top among Japan’s export categories, with 9.6 trillion yen ($88 billion) of motor vehicles sold abroad in 2020, along with 4.1 trillion yen in chip exports. Renesas’ stoppage comes as global automakers face a shortage that’s estimated to knock 1.5 million units off of vehicle production, largely in the first half.

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4th Gear: Jaguar Thinks It Will Sell The I-Pace In India

Jaguar is owned by Tata Motors, which is based in Mumbai, India, so it is not surprising that it is putting its electric I-Pace on sale there, though it is kind of funny how out of step the I-Pace is with the Indian market.

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From Bloomberg:

Jaguar Land Rover unveiled its all-electric SUV in India on Tuesday but its sticker price — twice that of an entry-level Tesla Inc. — will put it out of reach of most consumers in the South Asian nation.

The I-Pace’s starting price is 10.6 million rupees ($147,000), which compares to an estimated cost of around $68,000 for a Model 3 after export expenses. That’s going to be a tough sell considering that in India, about 75% of all auto sales occur in the $10,000 and under bracket.

Jaguar is hoping to make inroads in a market where the shift to electric vehicles is happening far more slowly than other parts of the world due to a lack of charging infrastructure, high costs of battery powered-models and a reluctance by banks to finance purchases. By 2040, only about one-third of new passenger cars sold will be battery-powered in India, versus around 70% in China and Germany, according to BloombergNEF.

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My colleague Jason Torchinsky said all the way back in 2012 that the Indian car market is the most interesting in the world, and, in 2021, it’s still hard to argue with that.

5th Gear: Zeekr Is Official

Reuters’ sources said last week that Zeekr, a new car brand from Geely meant to challenge Tesla, would be a thing. And so it is.

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From Reuters:

China’s Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd said on Tuesday it and its parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group will form a joint venture for electric vehicles (EV) and launch a new brand called Zeekr, after its profit fell 32% last year.

In a stock exchange filing, Geely Automobile said the venture will work on research and development, purchase and sale of smart electric vehicles under Zeekr brand.

Geely Automobile and parent Zhejiang Geely Holding Group will jointly invest 2 billion yuan in the new venture. Geely Automobile will own 51% of the new company, it said.

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Reverse: Big Ship

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It’s hard to overstate how big of a deal Titanic was, my cousin saw it multiple times in the theater, like tens of thousands of other teenage girls. It’s the third-highest-grossing movie ever. Before it came out, everyone was so sure that James Cameron and his big dumb ship movie was going to be an epic failure.

Neutral: How Are You?

I don’t know where you are at but I will never read a history of the past year, or fiction about it, or anything about 2020 ever. I would read, however, some fiction about how great it’s gonna be when this is all over.

DISCUSSION

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Elon's Backdoor Musk

China is currently holding two Canadian businessmen (known as the two Michaels) on fake charges in retaliation for Canada carrying out a US extradition request on Meng Wanzhou.

You're never safe in China.