Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st Gear: Can Lucid Make It?
Lucid Motors, the electric startup that unveiled a 400-mile, 1,000 horsepower, possibly $160,000 Air sedan yesterday, seems to be working very diligently to let everyone know it is not Faraday Future. The company was wise to unveil a seemingly production-ready car out of the gate, and ahead of CES too. And it looks good inside and out.
But making cars is hard. It’s expensive, and for newcomers like Lucid the risks are extremely high. It should also be noted that while Lucid has several investors, one of them is Chinese Netflix/LeEco titan Jia Yueting, who is also backing FF and starting his own car company here in the U.S. and may not have as much cash as he says he has. But Lucid swears it is different, despite also receiving a bunch of state incentives for a factory in Arizona that doesn’t exist yet but will start cranking out cars in 2018 if everything goes according to plan.
Via the LA Times:
If plans are met, about 10,000 Airs will be produced by the end of 2018, with eventual full production at about 60,000 a year, a Lucid spokesman said.
The Air will be aggressively priced. The company plans to charge a base price of about $65,000 at full production but said early versions would be more expensive.
The Menlo Park company is funded by the Venrock venture capital firm and by Chinese investors including Jia Yueting.
Jia, a controversial Chinese technology entrepreneur, is also investing in troubled Faraday Future, the Gardena company that’s developing its own electric luxury car. Jia has struggled to raise cash lately, and construction work has ceased at Faraday’s North Las Vegas manufacturing site until the company catches up on tens of millions of dollars in past-due bills to its lead contractor, L.A.-based Aecom.
Lucid’s finances are solid, Rawlinson insists. “We’re a completely different company.”
Assuming all goes smoothly, Lucid plans to manufacture the car in Arizona and start selling it in the U.S. by late 2018. Next up is China.
This will be a company to watch next year.
2nd Gear: Will Autonomy Kill Traditional Car Brands?
No, no it won’t. That’s what this Bloomberg piece offers, and I would argue the opposite is true since someone actually has to know how to make cars and the startups, with their nonexistent factories and theoretical money, aren’t there yet. But anyway:
After a century of building automotive brands based on how they drive, carmakers face an existential threat in the coming age of autonomy. If a customer no longer pilots a vehicle, the marque of its maker may become irrelevant. After all, most people don’t reserve a flight because it’s on a Boeing or an Airbus, so automakers are trying to turn today’s cars into a connected extension of the home or office to keep their names vital.
“In the long term, automotive brands are gone,” said retired General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, 84, who green-lighted BMW’s “The Ultimate Driving Machine” slogan when he ran global marketing for the German automaker in the 1970s. “If you get on a city bus or an airplane, do you care who made it? There won’t be anything left to car brands in 20 years.”
Any diminution of automotive brands would be a seismic shift for the industry. Car companies have derived much of their strength and earnings power from the value of their makes and models. The world’s top 15 automotive brands are worth a combined $256 billion, with Toyota alone valued at $53.6 billion, according to marketing consultant Interbrand.
I don’t buy it but you should read that anyway and weigh in.
3rd Gear: Watson and BMW
Speaking of autonomous tech, here’s an interesting team-up: IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence system could make its way into your next Ultimate Self-Driving Machine. Neat? Via Automotive News:
IBM said today that it has partnered with BMW Group to research how Watson can help with driver-assist functions. A team of BMW engineers will work with IBM researchers and developers at the technology company’s new Watson Internet of Things headquarters in Munich.
Four BMW i8 hybrid sports cars will be connected to IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform “to demonstrate how Watson can enable new conversational interfaces between cars and drivers,” IBM said in a statement today.
“With this agreement, our companies will work together to lay the foundations so that BMW’s drivers can benefit from Watson’s conversational and machine learning capabilities,” Harriet Green, IBM global head of the Watson Internet of Things business, said in the statement.
BMW’s i division, as you may recall, is making the shift away from hybrids and electrics toward autonomous technology. This is one step in that direction.
4th Gear: New Chevy Traverse And GMC Terrain Coming To Detroit
Thank god! More crossovers. It seems that General Motors is doing the Fiat Chrysler thing and putting more of its eggs into that basket. At least it still has forward-thinking cars like the Bolt and cool go-fast shit like the Corvette Grand Sport. Anyway, via Automotive News:
All three vehicles are among the oldest crossovers still on sale in the U.S. None has received a full redesign since GM’s bankruptcy in 2009, as the company prioritized more urgently needed overhauls.
GM’s plans to reveal the 2018 Traverse and Terrain next month were first reported this morning by The Wall Street Journal. A GM spokesman declined to comment on the report.
GM is shifting its focus to crossovers — which are among the industry’s hottest sellers — in 2017 after working primarily on its pickup and sedan offerings in recent years. It recently began selling a redesigned GMC Acadia and is expected to reveal the second generation of the Buick Enclave, which was launched in 2007, at one of the auto shows that follow Detroit.
5th Gear: Musk, Barra and Kalanick Team Up With Trump
It’s a new day in America and Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick of Tesla and Uber, respectively, are set to offer their expertise to President-elect Donald Trump on economic issues. Same with GM CEO Mary Barra. Via The Detroit News:
Trump’s transition team said Wednesday that Musk and Kalanick will be part of a forum that is composed of “some of America’s most highly respected and successful business leaders” that “will be called upon to meet with the president frequently to share their specific experience and knowledge as the president implements his economic agenda.”
Members of the economic panel will be expected to “provide direct input to the president from many of the best and brightest in the business world in a frank, non-bureaucratic and non-partisan manner,” according to Trump’s transition team.
Musk and Kalanick will join General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra on Trump’s economic panel, along with PepsiCo. CEO Indra Nooyi. Barra was one of the initial members of the group that was announced Dec. 2 by Trump.
Reverse: The Balzer Buggy
Neutral: Yeah Or Nah On Lucid Motors?
They seem to be more on the ball than a lot of startups we’ve seen, so I’m not inclined to write it off as vaporware yet. But they do have a lot of challenges ahead.