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Joe Biden Is Good News For Electric Vehicles

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Joe Biden at the Detroit Auto Show in 2017.
Joe Biden at the Detroit Auto Show in 2017.
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)

Mazda has swung to a loss, Polestar is in a funny fight with Citroën, and Joe Biden. That and more in The Morning Shift for November 9, 2020.

1st Gear: The Next President Will Mean A Lot For Electric

It’s honestly been strange having absorbed the news on Saturday that former Vice President Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States, while our current president lobs an increasingly unlikely set of hail marys in an effort to overturn that result.


It’s not going to work! If you go to this very second there is a banner on the bottom that reads, “JOE BIDEN ELECTED PRESIDENT.” I don’t know what the future holds, but Trump skulking away to one of his golf clubs and tweeting about rigged elections as Biden is inaugurated seems certain.

Moving on to the more relevant question: What will Joe Biden be doing with The Cars? Liz Blackstock covered much of this on this website Saturday, but here’s more from The Wall Street Journal this morning. The long and short of it is more electric, less chaos:

A self-proclaimed “car guy” who showed off his 1967 Chevy Corvette in campaign ads, Mr. Biden has pledged to create 1 million auto-sector jobs as part of a broader plan to support clean energy and tackle climate change. He has also said he’ll toughen fuel-economy regulations, incentivize electric cars and take a collaborative tone on trade.

Car executives say the president-elect’s intentions to throw the government’s weight behind electric vehicles will aid the industry’s investment in this technology.

Executives, dealers and analysts say they expect Mr. Biden’s administration to push for stricter—and, for companies, more expensive—limits on tailpipe emissions. However, they say he could end a standoff between the federal government and California that has been dragging on the industry.

Vince Sheehy, president of Sheehy Auto Stores in Washington, D.C., said he’s hoping Mr. Biden brings a more stable regulatory environment for the automotive industry and can avoid competing federal and state standards.

“It is my strong preference that we would have a gradual approach guided by the federal government and not individual states,” Mr. Sheehy said. “That patchwork approach just wreaks havoc.”

Expanding U.S. manufacturing is also expected to remain a focus for Mr. Biden. But car-industry lobbyists say he is unlikely to employ Mr. Trump’s favored tactic of threatening tariffs on vehicles and auto parts.

“There may be stricter policies, but they’ll be predictably strict,” said Kristin Dziczek, an economist at the industry-backed Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.


It is, in hindsight, incredible that GM, Toyota, Subaru, Fiat Chrysler and others all sided with the Trump administration over emissions rules last year, in contrast with Ford, Honda, VW, and BMW et al. This was only ever going to go one way, even if Trump had won reelection, because of global markets. Man, imagine siding with the Trump administration over anything.

2nd Gear: Mazda Is In A Bad Way

Mazda is a bit more fragile than companies like GM, Toyota, and Volkswagen, because it is much smaller than them. The pandemic, particularly, has not been kind.

From Automotive News:

Mazda booked an operating loss of 7.6 billion yen ($72.0 million) in the quarter ended Sept. 30, compared with an operating profit of 18.8 billion yen ($178.0 million) the year before, the automaker said in an earnings announcement on Monday.

At the net level, Mazda plunged to a loss of 26.3 billion yen ($249.1 million) in the July-September period, from a net income of 11.4 billion yen ($108.0 million) a year earlier.

Revenue slid 14 percent to 739.1 billion yen ($7.00 billion) in the three months. Global retail sales declined 12 percent to 334,000 vehicles; wholesale volume fell 18 percent to 255,000.

CEO Akira Marumoto said the pandemic slowdown forced the company to delay its mid-term business plan goals by one year. It now expects to achieve global sales of 1.8 million units and operating profit margin of 5 percent in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2026.


3rd Gear: Car Sales In China Continue To Be Back

China has mostly recovered from the pandemic, which means that its economy is roaring again.


From The Wall Street Journal:

Auto sales in China rose for a fourth straight month in October, as the country’s rebound from the coronavirus pandemic gained momentum.

Sales increased 8% in October from a year earlier to just under 2 million vehicles, the China Passenger Car Association said Monday. Growth in the higher end market outpaced that in the mass market, rising 30% from last year, the association said, continuing a trend that has persisted through the recovery.

China’s strong rebound has made it a much-needed source of strength for global auto makers whose sales are still weak in some Western markets that are now facing the prospect of a resurgence in infections.

The virus has been brought largely under control in China for several months, and retail sales more broadly began to grow again on a yearly basis in August amid a return in consumer confidence, according to the official National Bureau of Statistics.


4th Gear: Polestar Can’t Operate In France Because Of A Trademark Dispute With Citroën

The dispute is over whether their logos are too similar.

Here is Polestar’s:

Image for article titled Joe Biden Is Good News For Electric Vehicles
Photo: Polestar

And here is Citroën’s:

Image for article titled Joe Biden Is Good News For Electric Vehicles
Screenshot: Citroen

From Automotive News:

A trademark dispute over its logo has left Polestar, the electric-vehicle brand owned by Volvo Cars and Geely, temporarily unable to launch its cars in France.

Ruling in a case that dates back to 2017, a French court has found that Polestar’s logo is similar enough to Citroen’s “double chevron” design as well as the logo of DS Automobiles, formerly a Citroen sub-brand, to potentially confuse car buyers.

The court, in a ruling dated June 4 and published in July, ordered Polestar to pay Citroen 150,000 euros in damages as well as legal fees, and banned the use of the Polestar logo in France for six months.


In its ruling, published on July 12, the court acknowledged that any link between the logos “appears weak,” but said that because the brand’s logo had been in use for 100 years and was so well-known in France, “there is a risk that the chevrons used by Polestar could evoke those used by Citroen.”

The court ordered Polestar to pay Citroen 150,000 euros ($178,000) in damages, which it said represented 0.05 percent of Citroen’s average annual advertising spending in France, as well as 70,000 euros in legal fees. It also barred Polestar from using the logo in France for a period of six months.

So the earliest French buyers could see a Polestar 2 would be early in 2021.

This dispute seems highly petty and idiotic and as such I love it.

5th Gear: Woven City

This will be an interesting project to keep tabs on, as Toyota tries to create a modern utopia. It’s called Woven City, and Toyota is closing a factory to make way for it.


From Automotive News:

Few undertakings are as symbolic of Toyota’s determination to transform itself from an old-school, metal-bending automaker into a next-generation, digitally driven new mobility player.

Next month, Japan’s biggest automaker will shutter a 53-year-old assembly plant that makes some of its most niche nameplates. In its place, Toyota will erect a fanciful city of the future.

Toyota Motor Corp. announced the creation of this so-called Woven City in January at CES, with scant details about the living laboratory for towns of tomorrow.

Now, President Akio Toyoda is putting more meat on its bones, talking about mixed mobility grids, underground transportation ducts, a starter population of 360 residents and more.

“We are going to change ourselves from an automobile company into a mobility company,” the scion to the founding family said during the company’s financial results announcement Friday, Nov. 6.

“In this plan, we are going to utilize this location to develop products that can create profit and value for us in the future,” said Toyoda, who is trying to reinvent the company to better compete in an age of upheaval wrought by electrification, connectivity and artificial intelligence.


All utopias are doomed of course, but this will be fun to watch.

Reverse: Berlin

There is seemingly a drought of historical car news today, so, instead, I offer a different kind of transportation story, in that the free movement of peoples is always a transportation story. Also lots of Wartburgs and Trabants had quite a time that day.


Neutral: How Are You?

I am sick with the disease of doomscrolling and so I spent much of last week reading FiveThirtyEight; that also meant I was pretty certain that Biden would win almost from Wednesday morning. That said, I wasn’t expecting to lose my shit on Saturday when the networks called it.


I was in Brooklyn doing some grocery shopping and had just left a market when horns started honking and people opened their windows and started shouting. Some on the street were hugging, some crying, some whooping. I didn’t have to check my phone to know it was all over.