Good Morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st Gear: Well That’s A Bit Of A Contradiction
When the Tesla Model 3 was first unveiled, Tesla CEO Elon Musk proudly announced that ever 3 would come with Tesla’s ultrafast supercharging system as “standard.” What that seemed to imply was that Supercharging in the 3 would work much like it already does in Tesla’s existing Model S and Model X – you’d just drive up, plug in, and after 20 minutes or so, you’d have an 80 percent charge and that would be that. No money would change hands, beyond the money you spent on a bog-standard Model 3.
To date, we wanted to keep it really straightforward and easy. So that’s why the Superchargers are set up, at least to date for people who bought the cars, as free long-distance for life. Obviously that has, fundamentally, a cost. I don’t want to make this some big news headline, but the obvious thing to do is decouple that from the cost of the Model 3. So it will still be very cheap — and far cheaper than gasoline — to drive long-distance with the Model 3, but it will not be free long distance for life unless you’ve purchased that package.
There did remain a bit of an open question of how Tesla planned to deal with the hordes of Model 3 owners, of whom 373,000 have already put down a deposit, at Supercharging locations. And Tesla does plan to bring the number of Supercharger locations up to 7,000 units.
Still, that’s quite a departure. The Supercharger system is what makes electric cars work. And furthermore, the Supercharger system is the one thing that could make the Model 3 succeed where every other electric car will inevitably fail.
All of that being said, Musk did say that it would be “very cheap.” That’s a bit vague, but we’ll see how much it costs, and how many buy it.
It sounds like this one would be a one-time purchase thing, but I’m already envisioning a strange scenario. Will it be possible to purchase some Supercharger juice for one-time use? If not, will people go to plug in their Model 3s, because people are dumb, and find that it doesn’t work? Will they then be stranded? Will they have to call a tow?
We’ll find out soon enough.
2nd Gear: Are Defective Airbags Still Being Sold To The Public?
From Phil LeBeau at CNBC:
More defective Takata airbags in cars would not be good.
3rd Gear: Volkswagen Wants Its Own Battery Factory
One of the problems with electric cars, at least on the manufacturing side, is that they require a hell of a lot of batteries. More batteries than manufacturers for computers, phones, and the like can churn out. This has led to Tesla building its own battery factory, and now Volkswagen (which doesn’t have very many electric cars yet) wants to build its own as well, according to Automotive News:
Volkswagen Group is considering building a battery cell plant in Germany that could rival Tesla’s “Gigafactory” as the automaker looks to sell 1 million electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids by 2025.
VW may invest as much as 10 billion euros ($11 billion) in the plant, according to press reports.
VW is saying no firm decisions have been made yet, but if the company is thinking of spending that kind of money, we may be getting ready to see some interesting electric models from them pretty soon.
4th Gear: French New Car Sales Are Up
This probably has nothing to do with Paris banning old cars, but the French are buying new cars. Probably just to be safe, just in case Paris gets in the banning mood some more. Via the Wall Street Journal:
The rebound in France’s car market continued in May, with new-car registrations rising 22%, helped by standout performances from French brands, growth for VolkswagenAG despite the diesel scandal, and more working days than in the same month last year.
New car registrations, a proxy for new car sales, rose to 175,834 vehicles in May, according to data from the country’s car manufacturing association CCFA. Adjusting for the difference in the number of working days, registrations rose 4%.
And yet, with all of their stunning popularity, we can’t get any Renaults here. A damn shame.
5th Gear: Honda Went To Some Lengths Just For Their NSX Factory
Virtually every company does some sort of competitive benchmarking, where they buy another manufacturer’s cars and see how they stack up. But Honda basically did competitive benchmarking just for the factory that builds the new NSX, the Detroit Free Press reports:
...the manufacturing engineering team visited about 25 plants to see how other automakers make their best cars.
They toured plants operated by Audi, Corvette, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Porsche and even Sutphen — a Dublin, Ohio-based manufacturer of fire trucks.
“With some we had to take the general customer tour,” D’Souza said. “But others were very open with us.”
McLaren was very cooperative, D’Souza said, because Honda and McLaren are partners in Formula 1 racing and the two companies trust each other. Porsche only allowed the Honda team to take a general customer tour.
That’s ice cold, Porsche. But also pretty funny.
Reverse: Nissan Motor Company Founded
On this day in 1934, the Tokyo-based Jidosha-Seizo Kabushiki-Kaisha (Automobile Manufacturing Co., Ltd. in English) takes on a new name: Nissan Motor Company.
Neutral: What Would You Do In Tesla’s Supercharger Situation?
Tesla’s building Superchargers as fast as it can, but there will eventually need to be about just as many Superchargers as gas stations in the world, if not more, to satisfy demand. Tesla’s hoping to cool off demand for the extra-fast and extra-convenient electricity by apparently charging some sort of one-time fee. But if the fee is cheap enough, everyone will still go for it, and the problem doesn’t go away. Sure, Tesla gets some more money, but it doesn’t get to the crux of it.
So what would you do?