First it built an EV and then took them back from users and crushed them. Then it made an EV that turned out to be a hybrid. Then it made an EV that’s just a midsize hatchback nobody wants. Now GM has a new plan for an electric vehicle, and I am starting to think the company will do anything to get one in your driveway. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Thursday, June 4, 2020.
GM has such a bad record with electric cars that there was a movie made specifically to drag it for crushing EV1s. That goes back to the 1990s, and everything since has been an exercise in frustration, particularly in the leapfrog-that-wasn’t Volt, marketed as a range-extender electric car though it debuted as a impractical hybrid.
General Motors is developing an electric van aimed at business users, joining a growing list of carmakers planning EVs for the same segment which includes customers such as Amazon.com Inc. and United Parcel Service Inc., five people familiar with the plans told Reuters.
That multibillion-dollar strategy could enable GM, Ford Motor Co. and at least two EV startups to build and deliver more EVs at a time when consumer demand for battery-powered models is still a small fraction of overall industry sales, while targeting a potentially lucrative market segment that Tesla Inc. has yet to address.
GM’s plan to develop an electric van has not previously been reported.
Pardon me for yelling in my own apartment but a fleet vehicle? I think GM is trolling me at this point. It has to be. This is coming from a company that sells all-electric Buicks in China but doesn’t sell them here.
What is it going to take to get GM to go all-in on an EV that people want to buy? That people even can buy?
What Americans are gobbling up are pickup trucks, even in the midst of a global pandemic, and there is nothing that the Big Three won’t do to get them in showrooms. I am talking about pushing the entire government of Mexico to re-open early just to keep any supply chain problems from happening.
It should come as little surprise, then, that line workers are saying that conditions are unsafe where F-150s are getting made, as Bloomberg explains in a wire report:
Ford Motor Co. is fielding complaints from union leaders at plants making the automaker’s most profitable vehicle that the company isn’t adhering to safety measures to keep the coronavirus from spreading on the factory floor.
Two United Auto Workers locals at factories in Dearborn, Michigan, and Kansas City, Missouri, which both make the best- selling F-150 pickup, say Ford isn’t sufficiently protecting workers. Ford’s top manufacturing official denies their allegations, saying in an interview that the automaker has stuck to measures detailed in the return-to-work playbook the company crafted along with the UAW.
The locals have leveled their criticisms after multiple workers at both plants have tested positive for Covid-19 since the facilities reopened on May 18. In Dearborn, the union has filed a formal grievance demanding that the plant be closed until it tests all workers.”
This is a real bad look for Ford, which has been very publicly presenting itself as a caring and reasonable figure in the coronavirus restart. Bill Ford tried to present himself in contrast to Trump, going so far as to get the guy to wear a mask in private. Ford needs more than lip-service to coronavirus precautions here.
In other news of car companies fucking up publicly, Tesla has given up on its impossibly ambitious schedule for opening a factory outside of Berlin against all possible environmental codes and precautions. There has been a lot of back-and-forth, with Tesla at one point getting approval to chop down a forest so that it could build this factory which exists to build cars for people in McMansions to drive to get their lattes without getting gas station guilt. At another point there were concerns about delays over animals’ breeding season, and we wondered, briefly, if Tesla would re-shape Germany’s sense of what kind of eco approvals do you really need. It’s all a case of whose environmentalism matters.
But I’m getting away from the main news, as Bloomberg explains in another wire report:
Tesla Inc. will rework plans for its factory near Berlin to appease environmental critics and ensure its first European outpost can start producing cars in about a year, a senior local government official said.
The electric-car pioneer has faced criticism from local citizens concerned about deforestation and water usage related to the plant’s construction. Initial setbacks included a court- ordered temporary halt in February on clearing trees and a potential fine for ramming piles into the ground before receiving the necessary permits.
This is a fun story to take in, mostly because it involves a new-school “eco” car company showing its ass when it comes to old-school environmentalism. Never be surprised when Tesla over-promises and ends up late.
Here in America, coronavirus has had a clear impact on car sales: we have stopped buying everything except for pickup trucks. In Japan, there has been a similar focus in what has suffered in sales during the global pandemic, and it’s foreign cars, as the Japan Times reports:
Sales of new foreign vehicles plunged by a record 46.4 percent to 12,522 units in May as the coronavirus hindered marketing activities and kept people at home, an industry body said Thursday.
By brand, Mercedes-Benz was the top seller at 2,694 units, though this spelled a tumble of 40.7 percent from last year. BMW was second at 1,706 units, diving 53.9 percent.
Volkswagen was third at 1,605 units, slumping 57.4 percent, followed by Audi in fourth at 1,072 units for a 45.7 percent fall.
I am not going to say that this is conclusively because of COVID-19. Let’s not forget that there is a new Toyota Century out, and it’s possible everyone in Japan has been buying that instead of whatever A8.
Couldn’t be me! But y’all are apparently flying again, because airlines are going nuts at the moment. American Airlines, for instance, is boosting flights by 74 percent to meet “surprise” demand, as Bloomberg reports:
American Airlines Group Inc. will boost July flights 74% from its current schedule as U.S. travelers freed from shelter-in-place orders rush back more quickly than expected. The move spurred a rally across the industry.
The busiest days next month will have about 4,000 flights, up from 2,300 in June, said Vasu Raja, American’s senior vice president of network strategy. That’s equivalent to 40% of capacity a year earlier, compared with 30% in June, the airline said Thursday.
American’s expanded schedule builds on recent indications from rivals that customers are starting to make their way back onto planes after fleeing in April because of the coronavirus pandemic. While traffic is still weak by historical standards, the airline’s trends suggest that the worst has passed. Load factor, or the average share of seats filled per plane, climbed to 55% last week from 15% in April.
American isn’t alone, as Emirates and Etihad Airways are doing similar jumps, to snatch more names out of the headlines.
Or should I ask if we’ll have flying cars before GM gets an attractive EV in American showrooms?