General Motors is now behind California, Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” beta is now $4,000 more expensive than it was a little more than a year ago and Lotus has reason to be optimistic about the future. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Monday, January 10, 2022.
1st Gear: GM’s Finally Starting To Get How This Works
Three years ago, the Trump administration challenged California’s ability to set its own emissions standards — standards that a number of other states have also adopted. General Motors backed that decision, while Volkswagen, BMW, Ford and Honda instead chose to compromise with the state on voluntary targets that were more stringent than Trump’s rolled-back regulations.
Now GM has changed its tune, with Reuters reporting on January 9 that the automaker has once again formally recognized California’s authority to set its own rules:
The automaker made the commitment to recognize California’s authority in a letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom. GM said in the letter it is “committed to complying with California’s regulations.”
Soon after Joe Biden was elected president, GM in November 2020 reversed itself and no longer backed an effort by the then-Trump administration to bar California from setting its own emissions rules.
“GM is joining California in our fight for clean air and emission reduction as part of the company’s pursuit of a zero-emissions future,” Newsom said. “This agreement will help accelerate California’s nation-leading commitment to tackling the climate crisis.”
This support also makes GM’s vehicles eligible for California government fleet purchases, the story adds.
Last June, GM publicly began to align itself with California’s trajectory but then argued that it needed two years to meet the state’s targets because vehicles in development for 2021 and 2022 were designed under the previous administration. It could have stuck to its own plan the way those four other automakers did, knowing full well that Trump’s lax objectives would surely be eliminated if he wasn’t reelected — but it didn’t.
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The direction of the federal government oscillates on most things but especially climate change-related issues with every administration change. If you’re a business, the most prudent thing to do is hold yourself to relatively stricter standards so you’re not screwed the second more progressive rules are enacted, as they inevitably will be at some point. Everyone else realized this ages ago, and you’d imagine that GM, being no spring chicken itself, might have caught onto this at some point in the last 100 years. Better late than never, I suppose.
2nd Gear: Chrysler’s Feeling Itself, Or At Least Pretending To
One of the standouts reveals of last week’s CES was the Chrysler Airflow concept — a seemingly production-minded EV that Stellantis promises will be on sale by 2025. But three years ain’t exactly tomorrow, and so Chrysler brand CEO Christine Feuell now has the unenviable task of trying to hype the public up on a vision that won’t actually be realized until the middle of the decade. From Automotive News:
“We’ve got the commitment of our CEO to invest in a brand-new portfolio of products over the next few years, and also the resources that are needed to develop and launch the products,” Feuell told Automotive News. “It’s not just enough to come out with a great product and rebuild the brand, you have to make sure that the customer experience is also there to fulfill their needs at every step of the process from search, to purchase to on-board to ownership.”
Perhaps it doesn’t matter that the Airflow will take a while to get here; the brand’s survived on scraps for so long, with all but a respectable minivan and an ancient sedan at its disposal. On the flip side, the Airflow is going to look especially behind the curve if we’re getting a glimpse of it this early, two or three years before production. I hope this isn’t exactly the version of the car that’ll be in showrooms.
Chrysler’s future as a brand rests with this car, so I would’ve expected Stellantis to play this one a bit more carefully, or that the Airflow would be much closer to production than it apparently is. Then again, we’re talking about a company that continually evangelizes EVs and its commitment to them to the public, while discreetly bemoaning the costs attached under its breath.
3rd Gear: You Pay Extra For Fuller Self Driving
The price of Tesla’s Level 2 driver-assist system will increase from $10,000 — as it stands now — to $12,000 on January 17, CEO Elon Musk revealed on Friday. When the feature first entered public beta testing in October 2020, it cost $8,000, Reuters points out.
That’s for the one-time charge; the monthly subscription fee will stay the same for the time being but will “rise when FSD goes to wide release,” according to Musk.
The continual hikes probably frustrate those interested in using the feature, but then again, Tesla has a history of concealing the real cost of its tech. When it introduced the system as a subscription feature last summer, it quietly tacked on a $1,500 hardware charge for older models to become “Full Self-Driving capable,” even though it marketed its entire range as having the ability to run the software as far back as 2016 and used to perform those hardware upgrades for free.
4th Gear: Canada Wrestles With Vaccine Mandates For Truckers Crossing The Border
The Canadian Trucking Alliance estimates that the country’s new vaccination mandate for border-crossing truckers could force as many as 16,000 of them off its roads, Reuters reports:
The mandate is the first policy measure taken since the pandemic began that could limit cross-border trucking traffic. Trucks crossed the border freely when the border was closed for 20 months because they were considered essential to keep supply chains flowing.
“We don’t anticipate significant disruptions or shortages for Canadians,” the source said.
Trudeau has championed a strict inoculation policy for civil servants and federally regulated workers, and the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus appears to have strengthened his government’s resolve to stick with the policy.
Industry groups and opposition parties say it is a bad idea, especially at a time when the Bank of Canada is eyeing its first interest rate increase since October 2018.
Produce prices in Canada have risen dramatically during the pandemic, and the fear is that a worsening shortage of drivers will merely exacerbate the problem across a range of goods:
“Everyone has been talking about inflation. And this is just going to continue to fuel that,” said Steve Bamford, chief executive of Bamford Produce, an importer and exporter of fresh fruit and vegetables based in Ontario.
The cost of bringing a truckload of fruit and vegetables from California and Arizona doubled during the pandemic due to the existing driver shortage, Bamford said. Fresh foods are sensitive to freight problems because they expire rapidly.
Here in the U.S., the Biden administration stated in November that all essential foreign travelers must be vaccinated by January 22. Senate Republicans have fought back against that mandate, specifically for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canadian border.
5th Gear: Lotus Actually Had A Good Year, Relatively Speaking
Hats off to the folks in Hethel, who marked its best year in global sales in a decade in 2021. From a press release:
Retailers sold 1,710 new cars in 2021, the year the iconic Elise, Exige and Evora ended production. That compares with 1,378 sales in 2020, an increase of 24%. The Elise was the global top-seller as fans sought to secure a piece of automotive history via the highly specced Sport 240 Final Edition and the Cup 250 Final Edition models.
Sales performance was impressive across the globe. In Europe, the UK was up 29%, with Belgium the star performer up 37%. North American retailers covering USA and Canada were up 111% year-on-year, which was also their best performance in 10 years.
The very last of the Elise, Exige and Evora rolled off the production line in December. It’s worth pointing out that Lotus hasn’t been able to offer the Elise and Exige on our shores in years. That won’t be true of the new Emira, however, which is due to enter production this spring. Maybe if Lotus can stick to that plan, it’ll follow up with a strong 2022. Or, this’ll be a rebuilding year on the way to bigger (and I mean that literally) things.
Reverse: The Other People’s Car
It was on this very day in 2008 that the Tata Nano officially launched. Our Torch, who knows a thing or two about cars most people despise, said it was way better than the world’s cheapest car had any right to be.
Neutral: What Creature Comforts Are Non-Negotiable For You?
I don’t need much in a car. My Fiesta ST is barebones, cause it’s literally a shoe with a peppy engine and the right transmission. But damn if I don’t love having a warm butt, especially this time of year. Couldn’t live without the heated seats — even if the ones in my car suck, relatively speaking. What luxury is non-negotiable for you?