Amidst a global pandemic, economic crisis, and the continuing march of climate change, are Americans wholeheartedly switching to compact cars? Of course not! We’re running companies at capacity to feed us SUVs. All that and more in The Morning Shift for August 28, 2020.
America, a country allergic to hatchbacks and minivans, remains infatuated with trucks and SUVs. The latter is pushing Hyundai to the limit, as noted in a Bloomberg wire report:
Hyundai Motor Co.’s U.S. plant is running flat out to meet demand for sport-utility vehicles, and the company’s top North American executive says it will need to consider expanding production capacity if that continues.
Hyundai’s assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama, which makes the Sonata and Elantra sedans and Santa Fe SUV, is running three shifts at full capacity, and the automaker is investing $400 million to expand the facility to build a compact pickup truck, the Santa Cruz, in 2021.
“Total production, once we stabilize from Covid, will be close to 400,000 units, and we will need more,” he said. “At some point we will have to discuss about potentially increasing capacity.”
Hyundai should not make any effort to increase capacity to meet American truck and SUV demand; America’s demand for trucks and SUVs is limitless. To attempt to quench that thirst is impossible, and trying to do so will transform you into a withering skeleton of your past self. See: GM.
Speaking of GM, the company chose to pull some of its star engineering talent away from the beloved Corvette program to EVs. It seems weird that a company that still managed to post a $6.58 billion profit last year would have to pick and choose with its top engineers as it tries to transition to EVs, but that’s just me.
InsideEVs has learned that the Corvette Engineering team, which contains some of the top talent at the automaker, is being moved from Global Products Programs to the Autonomous and Electric Vehicles program team, which is led by Ken Morris. While this may seem like snoozy corporate machinations to some, it’s actually a pretty big deal.
In practical terms, the shift will see Tadge Juechter stay on as the Executive Chief Engineer for Global Corvette. He has been involved with the Corvette program for its past three generations. Ed Piatek, the Corvette Chief Engineer will have a new role and title: Chief Engineer - Future Product. Finally, Josh Holder is being named Chief Engineer for Global Corvette, taking Piatek’s place.
GreenCarReports managed to get comment from GM on the switch:
“General Motors is committed to an all-electric future. I’m excited to be putting the team that redefined supercar performance, design and attainability in key roles to help us integrate and execute our EVs to those same high standards.”
I appreciate that GM is going full retro-’90s. First it actually makes the midengine CERV III prototype of 1990, now it’s transitioning to EVs like it did with the EV1 of ‘96.
To be fair to GM, hiring for EV and AV tech is a challenge these days, as noted in a Bloomberg wire report on Rivian hiring a former Tesla hotshot:
Nick Kalayjian, who spent more than a decade at Tesla, will join Rivian as executive vice president of engineering and product, said the person, who declined to be named. Most recently he was a senior vice president at San Francisco-based Plenty Inc., according to his Linkedin profile.
While Kalayjian is not a direct hire from Tesla, the movecould exacerbate tensions between the two automakers with legal proceedings underway over Rivian’s hiring practices. Palo Alto, California-based Tesla sued Rivian last month, alleging an “alarming pattern” of poaching employees and stealing trade secrets. Tesla says four of its former employees had taken sensitive proprietary information with them when they went to work for the electric-car rival. In response, Rivian filed a motion to dismiss saying Tesla was trying to scare its own employees from leaving the company.
Several startups in the increasingly crowded EV space have hired scores of former Tesla employees, including Lucid Motors Inc., Proterra Inc. and Rivian. Many include senior postings. For example, Lucid’s current chief executive officer, Peter Rawlinson, was with Tesla between 2009 and 2012 and served as chief engineer on that automaker’s Model S.
I feel for Rivian. It’s kind of hard not to hire ex-Tesla people at this point.
This is a bit of a bummer as it appears to orphan an interesting car from Fiat. Automotive News Europe reports:
In a letter sent in late July and obtained by Automotive News Europe, FCA asked its suppliers to immediately stop any research, development and tooling construction activities on future B-segment (small/subcompact) cars.
FCA had already told suppliers in March to temporarily suspend the development of five small cars for the Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia and Jeep brands because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
FCA had updated its small-car platform so that it could be used by a new family of small cars with gasoline and diesel engines and battery power. The Fiat New 500 full-electric minicar, which arrives in European dealerships in October, is underpinned by the platform. The New 500, which is built in Turin, will not be offered in North America.
FCA’s new small cars will switch to PSA’s Common Modular Platform (CMP) small-car architecture. The platform underpins the Peugeot 208 and 2008, the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa and new Mokka, and DS3 Crossback. All these models have internal combustion engine as well as full-electric variants.
This isn’t technically car news, but I’m sure it will have some influence on the never-ending Ghosn case so I felt like you should know it. Via Bloomberg:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would resign to undergo treatment for a chronic illness, ending his run as the country’s longest serving premier in an announcement that surprised some members of his party.
Abe confirmed reports that he was dealing with ulcerative colitis, a chronic digestive condition that also forced him to step down as premier in 2007. He said he would stay on until leaders of his Liberal Democratic Party hold an internal vote to pick a successor, and then he would like to remain a lawmaker after handing over power. A general election isn’t due until October of next year.
An air show involving military jets at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany turns tragic on August 28, 1988 when three jets collide in mid-air and fall into the crowd. Sixty-nine of the 100,000 spectators died and hundreds more were injured.
Toward the end of the NATO-sponsored show on August 28, Italy’s Frecce Tricolori team, flying Aermacchi MB 339 jets, began their routine. The team was led by Lieutenant Colonel Ivo Nutallari, who attempted a crossover move in which his plane passed very close to the other team jets. Nutallari miscalculated the daring move and his jet collided with the main group. Three of the jets exploded in mid-air, causing wreckage and jet fuel to rain down on the crowd. The three pilots died instantly, as did approximately 30 spectators. Even more people were seriously injured, many with critical burns. Over the course of the next two months, about 30 other victims died in hospitals because of their extensive burns.
Buying demographics are always changing. Certainly it seems like auto companies want the very next stage of the car world to be just “trucks and SUVs but they’re EVs now.” I’m not entirely convinced that’s how things will play out.