I Would Not Want To Be Running Chrysler Right Now

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VW lost half its profits last year, Nissan is trying to dodge tariffs, and flying cars. All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 22, 2021.


1st Gear: Stellantis CEO Now Faced With 38 Daily Reports Running FCA-PSA Megamerger

I don’t know what’s more surprising from this report in Automotive News: that Carlos Tavares will be receiving 38 daily reports while running Stellantis (double what he got running the already chimera-like Peugeot-Citroën mass of PSA), or that FCA’s CEO Mike Manley was already fielding 22 daily reports himself. From AN:

Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares will have 38 top executives reporting directly to him at the new automotive group – more than twice as many than at PSA Group, and considerably more than the last two CEOs at Fiat Chrysler.


That number of direct reports is one of the highest in the automotive industry. When Sergio Marchionne merged Chrysler into Fiat to create FCA, he had a total of 28 direct reports. Marchionne’s successor at the helm of FCA, Mike Manley, had 22 functions reporting directly to him. At PSA, Tavares had 18 direct reports.

There are also six deputies, AN notes, meaning that Stellantis will have 44 top executives overseeing nine committees: Business Review, Strategy Council, Global Program Committee, Industrial Committee, Allocations Committee, Region Committee, Brand Review, Brand Committee, Styling Review.

I would not want to be in charge of ensuring the success of any one individual cog in that machine. Maybe I would feel a little relaxation that anything I do is only ever going to be 1/38th of the responsibilities of my ultimate superior.

2nd Gear: VW Lost Half Its Profits In 2020

This is a fun one, as news stories are popping up both that VW lost half its operating profits last year, and also that VW somehow still turned out a profit at all. I guess it’s a glass half full/half empty sort of news item.


Here’s the glass half empty side, coming from Bloomberg and Reuters wire reports in Automotive News:

Volkswagen Group’s 2020 adjusted operating profit nearly halved but the automaker said its vehicle deliveries continued to recover strongly in the fourth quarter.

Operating profit before special items related to the diesel-emissions scandal was about 10 billion euros ($12.2 billion), VW said in a statement on Friday.

The automaker, whose brands include Porsche, Audi and Bentley, had reported an operating profit of 19.3 billion euros in 2019.


And here is the glass half full side, coming from the Financial Times:

While the VW marque stuttered in 2020, with delayed launches of its Golf 8 model and its flagship electric car, the ID. 3, the group’s premium brands enjoyed an extraordinary rebound, particularly in China.

Audi recorded its best-ever quarter in the last three months of 2020, selling more than half a million cars in the period for the first time.

Porsche sales dropped just 3 per cent over the course of the year, and deliveries in China were up by more than 2,000 units on 2019, despite widespread lockdowns and dealership closures. 


In the midst of all of VW’s big EV push, the company still failed to hit its EU emissions targets and got more than €100m in fines. Making cars is hard!

3rd Gear: Nissan To Make More Batteries In UK To Dodge Brexit Tariffs

Nissan runs the UK’s biggest car plant in large part because of import restrictions put on Japanese cars in the 1980s. Now Nissan will be making more batteries in the UK because of Brexit, as Reuters reports:

Following Britain’s departure from the European Union, London and Brussels struck a trade deal on Dec. 24 that avoided major disruption as well as a 10% levy on cars, provided they meet local content rules.

Nissan makes about 30,000 Leaf electric cars at its Sunderland factory, most with a locally sourced 40 kilowatt-hour battery. They remain tariff-free.

But more powerful versions use an imported system, which will now be bought in Britain, creating jobs.

“It will take a few months,” Gupta said. “Brexit, which we thought is a risk … has become an opportunity for Nissan.”


I don’t think the book is at all closed on Brexit and the car world. We’ve seen a lot of increased homogeneity in the global car market over the past few decades (hell, Australia doesn’t even make its own cars anymore) and I wonder if at some point the pendulum will swing back to more local regulation, protection, and production.

4th Gear: Terrafugia Still At It

Geely, a Chinese car company not owned by the government but hell-bent on owning everything else, controls Terrafugia. Apparently, the lights are still on over there:


I’m glad that everyone at Terrafugia is collecting a paycheck, though god knows I don’t think much will come of it. I grew up on the other side of town from the Moller Skycar guy.

5th Gear: Balloon Business Struggled To Reach Profitability In Silicon Valley

I feel like my youth in Northern California was a real heyday for whacko high/low tech schemes. I don’t know how many times I heard about a space elevator, and I think I was reminded of hot air balloons on a daily basis.


It is with that in mind that I enjoyed this New York Times story on some Silicon Valley brainiacs finding a hard time making their scheme to disseminate cell service from the stratosphere using balloons:

Google’s parent company Alphabet is shutting down Loon, a high-profile subsidiary spun out from its research labs that used high-altitude helium balloons to deliver cellular connectivity from the stratosphere.

Nearly a decade after it began the project, Alphabet said on Thursday that it pulled the plug on Loon because it did not see a way to reduce costs to create a sustainable business. Along with the self-driving car unit Waymo, Loon was one of the most hyped “moonshot” technology projects to emerge from Alphabet’s research lab, X.

“The road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped. So we’ve made the difficult decision to close down Loon,” Astro Teller, who heads X, wrote in a blog post. Alphabet said it expected to wind down operations in “the coming months” with the hope of finding other positions for Loon employees at Alphabet.


Honestly, I don’t think the problem here is with the balloons, it’s with the social structure that requires them to somehow make money for somebody. You just wait until I’m typing the same thing for autonomous vehicles.

Reverse: Endless Horrible Car Ads To Follow


Neutral: What Car Brand Would You Like To Run?

Let me at Opel. Just for a minute. Please. it’ll be fun, I swear.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.


I’d like to run Tesla so I can get nerds on the internet to worship me as a god.

Also so I could introduce a gas-powered Model S and make people’s heads explode.