Michigan Lawmakers Hate Rivian, I Guess

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Carvana has turned its founders into billionaires selling cars online. Tesla has fought tooth and nail to let you sidestep dealers. Now Michigan... wants to keep startups like Rivian from doing the same. All that and more in The Morning Shift for September 25, 2020.

1st Gear: Tesla Gets Special Treatment

Michigan is making moves to ban EVs from direct sales, with the exception of Tesla, as Automotive News reports. This is strange, as it would mean Tesla would get one set of rules while Rivian (a Michigan local) would get another. Per AN:

A Michigan House committee passed a bill Thursday that would prevent electric vehicle manufacturers beyond Tesla from selling directly to consumers in the state, setting up a battle between franchised dealerships and EV startups over the direct-sales model.

Michigan’s House Bill 6233, which would codify into law a settlement reached by Tesla and the state of Michigan in federal court this year, would exempt the EV maker from the state’s ban on direct vehicle sales. But rival electric startups, such as Rivian, contend the bill would prevent them from selling directly in Michigan by carving out an exception that applies to Tesla only.


Rivian is not abundantly pleased, by the sound of it:

The settlement “to us — as we analyzed that, as our lawyers and others have read this — means that it should be applicable to us,” said James Chen, Rivian’s vice president of public policy, who testified before the state House panel Thursday. “And, certainly, you would think that it should be because otherwise what Michigan is doing is applying the law one way to one manufacturer and applying the law another way to another manufacturer, which is unconstitutional.”

In an interview, Chen said, “These changes into the law are sending a strong signal to all companies that Michigan is not welcome, or is not open, to new companies.”


I don’t get why Michigan would mess with a new Michigan auto company, but maybe the intricacies of state politics are just too complicated for me to understand. Or the dealership lobby really is that powerful.

2nd Gear: EVs Get The “Energy Independence” Treatment

Back in the Bush Years, people talked about hybrids in terms of reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Everything was getting framed as a national security issue, so it makes sense that people talked about hybrids as some kind of way to fight Al Qaeda, or whatever.


Today’s focus on China means that EVs are now getting a similar treatment, as the Financial Times reports:

The US must urgently build up an electric vehicles industry or risk becoming dependent on China for its automotive future, a group of senior military and business leaders have warned.

China is in the process of consolidating control of the supply chain for electrified transport — from mineral extraction and battery production to manufacture and sales of the vehicles themselves — according to the group, Securing America’s Future Energy, which campaigns for US energy security.

Failure by US authorities to counter Chinese dominance within the next five years risks the “withering of the US automobile industry” and the loss of millions jobs supported by the country’s auto sector today, said Admiral Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, who sits on SAFE’s energy security leadership council. 


This sounds to me like people trying to justify their jobs. Alternately, it’s hammers seeing everything as nails. But it is informative to think of how people in positions of power view the world.

3rd Gear: Former VW Superboss To Be Tried For Market Manipulation

I once spoke with Martin Winterkorn at the height of his powers pre-Dieselgate. Double-breasted suit, surrounded by minions, indomitable.


It is incredible to see such a reversal for the glowering figure, now to be tried for market manipulation in relation to VW’s cheating “clean diesel” tech. At issue is that VW wasn’t fair to its stockholders, as the Financial Times explains:

Former Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn will face trial in Germany on charges of market manipulation in the run-up to the diesel emissions scandal, after a court near the carmaker’s headquarters agreed to hear the case in full.

The 73-year-old — who resigned as chief executive in 2015, just days after VW revealed 11m of its vehicles were fitted with software that could cheat pollution tests — is accused of not informing investors of the defeat devices’ existence in a timely manner. 


VW should have been transparent with them that it was breaking the law, I guess!

4th Gear: UK Car Production Down Almost Half

Remember when car production was restarting a few weeks back? No? You have completely lost your sense of time during quarantine? Fair. In any case, production is back down after its restart in the UK, as the Financial Times also reports:

UK car manufacturing fell 44 per cent last month compared with a year earlier as domestic orders dried up and exports fell, in the second worst month since car plants restarted after lockdown


August output for UK buyers fell 58 per cent to just 7,795 vehicles, in what is typically a quiet month, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The number of cars made for export fell 41 per cent to 73,443 cars, compared with the same month a year earlier.

With coronavirus cases rising and stricter socialising measures in place across the UK, the industry is worried about the impact on the sales it desperately needs to maintain factory levels. 


5th Gear: Speculation About 5G Hits The Car World, Too

This is a somewhat speculative article from the LA Times, based on some incomplete information, but it is something worth watching. Lexus owners are finding that some of their car’s tech suite is going away come 5G, as old 3G networks get eaten up for the new stuff.


This could affect more automakers (OnStar is the what people have their eyes on) we just don’t know for sure, yet, per the LA Times:

Simi Valley resident Patrick O’Bryan received an email from Lexus the other day notifying him that his 2016 RX 350’s Enform wireless emergency services will be terminated Oct. 31, 2022, as existing 3G technology gives way to 5G.

These services include the emergency-assistance button, automatic collision notification, enhanced roadside assistance, remote engine start, remote door unlock and vehicle finder help.

The change will affect an unspecified number of Lexus vehicles sold from 2010 to 2018.

“These are regular features for expensive cars,” O’Bryan, 76, told me. “I never dreamed they would end.”


Again, there’s no clear answer that this would hit other automakers, but we don’t know exactly:

The most widely used onboard emergency system is General Motors’ OnStar service.

“At this time, we have not communicated any changes in service with our customers,” said Stuart Fowle, a GM spokesman.

But he told me that “as the industry leader in connected vehicles for the past 24 years, we are experienced in connectivity evolutions.”

I asked if that meant GM covered the cost of past wireless upgrades.

Fowle said this was unnecessary because older vehicles equipped with 2G systems were still compatible for the most part with 3G and 4G standards.

“The exception to this is in Canada, where the 2G network was decommissioned in 2015,” he said. “In that scenario, we updated Canadian customer hardware at no cost.”


Worth keeping an eye on!

Reverse: Getting To School Counts As Transportation, So It’s Within Our Purview


Neutral: What Other Rules Don’t Apply To Tesla?

We saw how Nikola tried some of the Tesla model and got axed for it. What else gets the special treatment for the Fremont automaker?