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Hybrids Are In Again And Toyota's Seizing The Moment

Gas prices have people talking about EVs, but hybrids are cheaper and widely available now.

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Image for article titled Hybrids Are In Again And Toyota's Seizing The Moment
Photo: Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP (Getty Images)

Toyota’s laggard ways are working to its benefit, more factories in Michigan have halted production and Lewis Hamilton’s aversion to racing in Saudi Arabia is all just a big misunderstanding, according to Saudi Arabia. All that and more in this Friday edition of The Morning Shift for April 1, 2022. I promise none of this is made up.

1st Gear: Hybrids Seem Passé Until Gas Prices Rise

Toyota may just win back U.S. quarterly sales honors from General Motors, according to a projection by Cox Automotive. As Bloomberg explains, part of Toyota’s success can be attributed to the Japanese automaker’s ability to source semiconductors more reliably than its competition. The other reason is its lineup, which is stacked top to bottom with hybrids.

Toyota’s strategy to move cautiously into electric vehicles while aggressively wagering on hybrids — which are very efficient but still burn gasoline — is paying off. One thing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting spike in energy prices is showing us is that many consumers won’t just tolerate paying big sums at the pump while waiting for EVs to become more available and affordable.


The automotive press, including myself, should be eating humble pie over this. I’ve written about Toyota’s strange trepidation around pure-electric vehicles many times before around these parts. It just always seemed odd to me that the company responsible for endearing hybrids to the public has seemingly lagged behind everyone else on battery EVs.

Gas prices in 2022 have probably convinced more people to start thinking about EVs that otherwise wouldn’t have. But until there’s a greater quantity of affordable EVs out there and the general public feels a little more confident in the infrastructure, those curious customers won’t be buying them. Instead they’ll be buying hybrids, which are readily available and don’t necessitate a shift in driving or commuting habits. Again, from Bloomberg:

Some automakers, seeing Tesla’s growth, have gone headlong into EVs and moved away from hybrids. GM has ditched them altogether. In the long term, that’s the correct move. But if geopolitics continue on the current path and energy prices remain volatile, hybrids will be a popular choice for consumers who can’t yet afford an EV. Last year, hybrids were 7.5% of sales in the U.S., more than double the market share for EVs, according to AutoForecast Solutions. Both segments are all but certain to grow this year.


Toyota’s caution is paying off. It probably won’t forever, but it is right now.

2nd Gear: The Arteon Has Been Recalled — Along With Some Other Volkswagens, Too

The German automaker is staring at a recall of more than 100,000 hybrid vehicles over a fire risk. The good news for Americans is that Volkswagen hasn’t gotten around to offering any partially-electrified cars on this side of the pond. The bad news is that, nevertheless, the Arteon is included in this. Sure, there are a bunch others, but the Arteon is my favorite and should be your favorite, too.

Having acknowledged the Arteon, this covers other Volkswagen nameplates including the Tiguan. It also reaches Audi, Seat and Skoda models, too. From Reuters:

Some 42,300 owners of Volkswagen Passats, Golfs, Tiguans and Arteons worldwide will be notified. Volkswagen brand Audi has to recall 24,400 vehicles, while Seat and Skoda are also affected.

There is a risk of fire in vehicles that connect a conventional combustion engine to an electric drive and are charged through a socket due to an insufficiently insulated high-voltage battery, added the spokesperson on Thursday.

German daily Bild cited the KBA regulator as saying “inadequate fastening of the engine design cover can lead to contact with hot parts and subsequently to fire”, adding that 16 such cases had been reported in Germany.


I never considered how Volkswagen has almost totally ignored hybrids in the States this entire time. It must have had its hands full cheating diesel emissions.

3rd Gear: Ford And GM Stop

Production, of course. Two of the Big Three will idle plants in Michigan next week. Part shortages are the culprit, as ever. From Reuters:

No. 2 U.S. automaker Ford said it would suspend production at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant next week, where it builds the Mustang, due to the global semiconductor shortage.

GM said that because of a temporary part shortage it would cancel production next week at Lansing Grand River assembly, where it builds the Cadillac CT4, Cadillac CT5 and Chevrolet Camaro. GM said the production halt was not related to chips but provided no other specifics.


Pour one out for the CT4 buyer — there were apparently about 7,250 of them last year. I haven’t met one in real life, but I hope they’re happy.

4th Gear: Washington State Establishes Minimum Pay And Other Basic Rights For Uber And Lyft Drivers

Washington has just become the first state to sign a minimum pay standard into law for ride-hailing drivers. It was backed by the Washington Drivers’ Union, per Engadget, but as it also codifies that Uber and Lyft drivers are not employees, it’s not a straight up win for labor. From Reuters:

Drivers across the Northwestern state will earn a minimum of $1.17 per mile and 34 cents per minute with a minimum pay of $3.00 per trip.

Under the new law, drivers will also have access to paid sick time, family medical leave and long-term care programs, and be eligible for workers’ compensation, a U.S. government-mandated program that provides benefits to workers who become injured or ill on the job. Drivers will also be able to appeal should they be removed from the apps.

In Seattle, which passed its own ride-hail pay standard in September 2020, drivers will continue to earn minimum rates of $1.38 per mile and 59 cents per minute at a minimum of $5.17 per trip.


Before this, only Seattle and New York City had established minimums at the city level. It’ll be interesting to see which states follow suit.

5th Gear: “You Tell Me Exactly What You Want, And I Will Very Carefully Explain To You Why It Cannot Be”

Hours before seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton was effectively held hostage in Saudi Arabia along with his team and the teams of 19 of his fellow competitors, he expressed uneasiness racing in a country known for grave human rights atrocities. He related that he’d received a letter from the family of a 17-year-old boy due to be executed. A short while later, an oil refinery just 10 miles from the track was struck with missiles, and all the drivers were told they’d either have to go on with the show or, potentially, be stalled from leaving the country.


Well, it’s been almost a week since all of ... that, and Saudi Arabia’s minister of sport Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal has said he’d welcome to opportunity to sit down with Hamilton and have an “open discussion.” From

“I told him openly and frankly that you can speak to me. Let’s sit down, discuss what are your issues, and understand where we are, because a lot of these things, you read a lot about Saudi Arabia but you don’t see what are the details.”

Prince Abdulaziz said Saudi Arabia wanted to be as open as possible about addressing concerns expressed by outsiders, which is one of the reasons why it wants the spotlight on the country through major sporting events like F1.

“We could have said we don’t want a headache, let the international community condemn us as much as they like and have controversy but no one interferes,” he said. “But we didn’t.

“We’re here for an open discussion and that’s what I said, with the FIA and F1. We should sit together and understand the situation, because we’re here together.”


Prince Abdulaziz makes a cogent point here. Perhaps if Hamilton understood why Saudi Arabia, say, executed 81 people in a single day, he’d feel more comfortable with racing in the country. This can all be resolved with an honest, patient, judgment-free chat — the kind you stage when you have absolutely no intention of changing your behavior at all, but want to pretend like you’re listening. Saudi Arabia is great at that, and F1's pretty damn good at it too, to its own credit.

I’d like to tell Hamilton he shouldn’t sit down anywhere within Saudi Arabia’s borders across from any government personnel unless he wants to be threatened with not leaving again, but the guy’s pretty smart. I figure he knows that already.


Reverse: It Didn’t Look Like This For Long

Image for article titled Hybrids Are In Again And Toyota's Seizing The Moment
Photo: Ford

The original Ford GT/101 was revealed to the public in England on this day in 1964, 58 years ago, according to Supercar Nostalgia. A few days later it was sent to the U.S. in time for the New York Auto Show. The car later known as the GT40 and looking quite different in race trim wouldn’t be successful for the next two years; then, it was really successful. There’s a movie about it, if you’re curious to know more.

Neutral: GR Corolla

We like it, you like it. Toyota hasn’t shared a starting price yet, but it’s almost irrelevant — you just know they’re going to be marked up to hell anyway. What number would have you willing to put a deposit down? Let’s talk.