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Hyundai Is Becoming Tesla's Biggest Threat

Plus, Renault sells Lada back to Russia, mask mandates return to U.S. car factories, and more.

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Photo: Hyundai

Audi, Tesla, GM, Ford, Stellantis, and probably everyone else are having production issues, while Hyundai could be a sleeping EV giant. All that and more in The Morning Shift for May 16, 2022.

1st Gear: Hyundai

Now, before anyone gets too upset, I’d like to recognize that Hyundai’s EVs and Tesla’s cars are, really, in different categories, given that Tesla is basically what American luxury looks like these days, while Hyundai makes EVs that are decidedly non-luxurious despite being very nice cars. That said, Tesla also likes to pretend that its cars are for the masses, even though a $25,000 Tesla is not coming any time soon, and probably never will.


All of that said, it is striking just how far Hyundai has come in the EV space, and, very, very quietly could be one of Tesla’s biggest threats, especially with a Genesis EV in the works. Scoff if you want, but that’s what we all did with Hyundai in the ‘90s, before they became a true powerhouse.

From Automotive News:

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group was comfortably No. 2 in U.S. EV registrations in the first three months of the year — and has a long-term plan to become a global EV leader by the end of the decade. The group will make a Genesis EV at its Alabama factory this year and build a new U.S. assembly and battery plant for Hyundai and Kia models.

While industry stalwarts such as General Motors and Volkswagen have boasted about their future commitments to EVs, Hyundai and Kia have been selling well-regarded EVs since the middle of the last decade. The Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV, both subcompact crossovers, are still among the most affordable long-range EVs on the market.

The automaker’s second-generation models — the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 — are drawing acclaim just a few months after launching in the U.S. Fully loaded versions have been compared favorably to Tesla’s popular Model Y. Base versions compete with models from Ford, VW and Toyota.

“Hyundai and Kia’s new EVs are shaping up as a boon to their hopes of establishing dominance at the still-early stages of the EV market share race,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds. “Whereas the South Korean organization once had to really prove their value to the American consumer, they now seem to be in a much more comfortable, enviable position near the forefront of the EV trend.”


Hyundai has been helped by the fact that Nissan has mostly let the Leaf languish, and Toyota until very recently seemed not to give a damn about EVs, and also that Tesla seems committed to its strategy of ignoring model years, making Tesla’s current car lineup a bit long in the tooth. (Tesla’s last new car, the Model Y, started regular production in early 2020.)

Meanwhile, Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury arm that is swiftly going electric, will have three new EVs by the end of next year, and there will also be the Kia EV9, a a big SUV, along with the Hyundai Ioniq 6. Don’t look now, but there’s a real volume player in the EV game and it may not be Tesla.

2nd Gear: Renault Will Sell AvtoVAZ For A Single Ruble

We heard some rumblings of this in April, but The Wall Street Journal reports today that it is official: Renault will sell the Russian automaker AvtoVAZ to a Russian-state-affiliated research institute of some sort.

Renault said Monday that it was handing over its stake in Russian car maker AvtoVAZ to NAMI, a state-backed automotive research and development center. Renault said it was also transferring ownership of a factory in the center of Moscow, which makes vehicles under the Renault and Nissan brands, to the city’s government.

Renault didn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal, but people familiar with the deal said the company was selling both assets for the symbolic sum of one ruble each.

“Today, we have taken a difficult but necessary decision; and we are making a responsible choice towards our 45,000 employees in Russia,” said Renault Chief Executive Luca de Meo.

Renault can exercise its option to buy back its stake in AvtoVaz at predetermined intervals over the next six years, people familiar with the deal said. The buyback option doesn’t apply to the Renault factory in Moscow, which Renault executives believe will be merged with the rest of the AvtoVaz operations anyway, these people said. The price of any buyback will take into account any investments made in AvtoVaz while it is under NAMI’s stewardship, the people said.


Renault, in other words, would like to wash its hands of Russia for now, at least until there isn’t so much heat, at which point it would like to go back in.

3rd Gear: Audi Temporarily Halts Production of the A4, A5, and A8 in Germany

This is because of supply chain issues, which is because of the war in Ukraine, and pandemic lockdowns in China, and the shortage of semiconductors in general, according to Automotive News. Production of the A4, A5, and A8 will be shut down all week.

The supply situation “remains volatile and short-term changes are always possible,” an Audi spokesman told Automotive News Europe by email.

The A6/A7 model family will continue to be manufactured in Neckarsulm as usual. That also applies to the sports cars R8 and E-Tron GT, which are built at the Boellinger Hoefe site in Heilbronn, according to the spokesperson.

Audi has also extended short time working for employees at its Neckarsulm and Ingolstadt sites until May 31 because of supply chain difficulties.


4th Gear: Tesla’s Shanghai Plant Still Not Up to Speed

Tesla had planned to increase output starting today, but, according to Reuters, that is no longer happening.

Tesla Inc has delayed a plan to restore production at its Shanghai plant to levels before the city’s COVID-19 lockdown by at least a week, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.


The latest memo said that it plans to stick to one shift for its Shanghai plant for the current week with a daily output of around 1,200 units. It also said that it would now aim to increase output to 2,600 units per day from May 23.

Challenges remain for Tesla to double the number of workers living and sleeping near production lines to maintain “closed-loop” operations, said a person familiar with the matter.

Companies in Shanghai are only allowed to reopen if they can operate under such an arrangement, which requires workers to be isolated.

There are also uncertainties over supplies, as factories of suppliers and logistics in Shanghai and surrounding areas have yet to be restored to normal, the person added.


Tesla CEO Elon Musk is very proud of the company’s workers in China, even though they work in conditions that seemingly are out of the end times.

5th Gear: The Big Three Are Also Dealing With Pandemic Complications, But In The U.S.

GM, Ford, and Stellantis said Sunday that they would be restoring mask mandates at some of their sites in Michigan, because of soaring COVID cases there.


From Reuters:

Six counties in southeastern Michigan - including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw - are again listed by the CDC as having high COVID-19 levels. The CDC recommends wearing masks indoors in public settings in those counties.

Ford said it was temporarily reinstating a face mask requirement at all of its plants located in areas deemed high-risk by the CDC.

Stellantis said that starting on Monday, “company-issued face masks will again be required for employees, contractors and visitors at all Stellantis facilities” in those Michigan counties. The company added, “it is expected that the requirement will be in place for the next two weeks.”

GM said it “will be implementing COVID protection measures at our facilities in Oakland, Wayne, Livingston and Macomb counties given the CDC has now listed them as high risk.”

The United Auto Workers union said Sunday if “a facility is located in high-risk counties as identified by the CDC, they will require masking and physical distancing.”


According to The New York Times, fewer than two-thirds of Michigan adults are vaccinated, and I might suggest that the remaining people get jabbed, but if you haven’t been vaxxed by now I fear you might never.

Reverse: Luigi Villoresi Born

In the ‘50s, he drove for Ferrari and finished third at Monza twice.


Neutral: How Are You?

I’ve been spending my off-hours reading about high finance, because our office is in midtown, indeed in the same building with some investment firms, so I find myself rubbing shoulders with these types. I have read nothing so far to convince me that it is anything other than a very sophisticated form of gambling.