Mercedes Only Just Missed Getting Emissions Fines

Illustration for article titled Mercedes Only Just Missed Getting Emissions Fines
Photo: Daimler

Hybrids did the heavy lifting, Saudi Arabia is leaning on Lucid, our Transportation Secretary quit and we’re short on chips. All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 8, 2021.

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1st Gear: The Smart EV Came To The Rescue, I Guess

Europe got serious about auto emissions in 2020, and Daimler claims it only juuuuuust dodged getting fined, as the Financial Times reports:

Germany’s Daimler comfortably reached EU-wide carbon emissions targets in 2020 because of a last-minute boom in the sale of electric and hybrid cars, the boss of the Mercedes-Benz-owner said.

Ola Kallenius said on Thursday the company sold 160,000 electrified Mercedes cars during the pandemic-ridden year and a further 30,000 electric Smart cars, avoiding millions of euros in fines.

[…]

It was only a “tremendous ramp-up” in sales of electric vehicles in the second half of 2020 that enabled the manufacturer to hit the targets, Mr Källenius said.

[…]

Pure electric vehicles sold in 2020 were counted twice, in order to ease the transition.

Let it not be forgotten that leasing an electric Smart was basically free (9.90 Euros a month) for a while.

The suddenness of Daimler’s compliance somehow sounds fishy to me, but I would never expect a car company to cheat on anything relating to emissions.

2nd Gear: Saudi Arabia Wants To Bankroll A Lucid Factory There

Saudi Arabia wants to move away from oil economically and in terms of image, so it’s no surprise that the sovereign wealth fund there wants to bankroll a Lucid factory, something it’s talked about before. As Bloomberg reports today:

Lucid Motors Inc. is in talks with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to build an electric vehicle factory potentially near the Red Sea city of Jeddah, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move would mark a significant expansion for Newark, Calif.,-based Lucid. Saudi Arabia is trying to become a Middle Eastern hub for manufacturing EVs as it diversifies its economy from oil.

The $360 billion Public Investment Fund, already a shareholder in Lucid, will provide much of the money for the site at the King Abdullah Economic City, the people said, asking not be named because the discussions are private. Plans are advanced but could change, the people said. PIF and Lucid have also considered Neom, a new city being developed in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, as a possible site for the plant.

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Lucid has had the same basic car in a near-production holding pattern for a number of years now and has basically just needed a factory since, what, 2017? I’m ready for it to be on sale.

3rd Gear: Chao Out

Two weeks to go for the administration and now Elaine Chao calls it quits, as Bloomberg reports:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced she is resigning from President Donald Trump’s cabinet after supporters of the president breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in protest of his election loss.

“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed,” Chao said in a statement on Twitter. “As I’m sure is the case with many of you it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

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At this rate, nobody will be working in Washington by day’s end.

4th Gear: The Auto Industry Is Short Of Chips

As VW warned a month or so ago, the auto industry is running short of semiconductor chips and expects to have production troubles because of it. Problems have already hit Honda, as Automotive News reports:

Honda Motor Co. said it is weighing production cuts in Japan due to a global shortage of automotive microchips. Several other global automakers and suppliers also said they have been impacted.

Honda plans to reduce domestic output by 4,000 units in January, a slowdown mainly affecting the Fit small hatchback at Honda’s Suzuka plant, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Friday. The bottleneck might result in the loss of tens of thousands of units through March for Honda, the report said. The cause is a tight supplies of computer chips for cars.

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The Financial Times elaborated on the cause of the problems, quoting an unnamed auto executive that carmakers are second-tier buyers next to tech companies:

“With lead times of six to nine months, the semiconductor industry has not been able to scale up fast enough to meet this unexpected growth in automotive demand,” it added, saying overbooking at silicon foundries was part of the problem.

Renault, Daimler and General Motors are also among the companies grappling with a looming shortage.

According to industry insiders, some carmakers could see production reduced by 10-20 per cent a week from February if fears over shortages are realised.

“The problem is that we are lower down the chain than companies like Apple and HP,” said one executive. “The auto sector doesn’t pay as much for its semiconductors.”

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5th Gear: I Would Have Thought COVID Would Have Hit China’s Car Sales More Than 1.9 Percent

The sales of passenger cars were down just over 6 percent in China, but commercial sales brought things back up, as Automotive News China reports:

China’s new-vehicle sales dipped 1.9 percent to 25.27 million last year, according to a preliminary tally the China Association of Automobile Manufacturer released Wednesday.

Demand for new commercial vehicles such as trucks and buses jumped 18 percent. But deliveries of new light vehicles including sedans, crossovers, SUVs, multipurpose vehicles and minibuses fell 6.1 percent, the group estimates.

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I would have thought that Covid would have made a bigger dent in car sales over there, but things seem pretty much back to normal where this all kicked off.

Reverse: He Was A Volunteer Paramedic In WWI

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Neutral: How Is The Vaccine Rollout On Your End?

I know nobody who has gotten it, and I have received no contact about it. I am, perhaps, not expecting I’ll be doing a lot of car events in 2021.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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I Would Have Thought COVID Would Have Hit China’s Car Sales More Than 1.9 Percent

Probably because they did an actual lockdown and have dealt with controllable numbers of new cases over most of 2020....