America does love a boring car, but a boring EV? The Nissan Ariya thinks it has what it takes. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Monday, November 15, 2021.
1st Gear: Tesla Redefined The Desirable Electric Car. What If… We Pretended That Never Happened?
Nissan’s EV program asks the question: What if Tesla never happened? What if we just... kept selling the same basic lithium-ion electric car as we’ve been doing since the 1990s, cars that look like, drive like, act like everything else on the road?
Tesla’s sales have shown that the simple, conservative method is maybe not the way to customers’ hearts, but Nissan thinks it has a hit on its hands with its Ariya crossover, as Automotive News reports:
Rather than have dealers order the Ariya at launch, Nissan will take reservations directly from potential customers.
It’s a distribution approach gaining momentum for yet another industry trend: Automakers are struggling to get their retailers enthusiastic about stocking and selling electric vehicles.
Nissan will announce the start of Ariya reservations this week. The Rogue-sized model will be Nissan’s entry into the bustling compact-EV-crossover segment when it goes on sale in the U.S. in the second half of next year.
Early interest has been strong. The Ariya has garnered about 135,000 hand raises from potential customers, according to an update shared with Nissan retailers this month.
Hand raises are not necessarily purchases, but I do wonder if normal EVs can survive in a post-Tesla market in a way that they couldn’t before they turned from eco-curiosities into the current hot car trend.
In any case, I’m excited to see how Ariya sales actually stack up when the time comes.
2nd Gear: Reminder: Giga Is Just A Tesla Word For ‘Normal’
Bloomberg has a drawn out story today asking if Elon has what it takes, a kind of sports journo writing about the top player in the league story. “If Elon Musk Is Modern Day Henry Ford, He’ll Have to Prove It in Germany” gets into some news, but mostly I enjoy it for this great tidbit.
It details Elon and the stock market talking up production methods that are perhaps less endemic to Tesla than they might have you believe.
“The big picture here is that Tesla has the opportunity to completely reinvent the car manufacturing process for vehicle production and factories,” Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley’s top auto analyst, wrote in a report last month. “Tesla is building the car factory of the future.”
Musk summed up Tesla’s pursuit in a simple way early this year. “With our giant casting machines, we are literally trying to make full-size cars in the same way that toy cars are made,” he tweeted in January.
On billboards strewn about Tesla’s factory when it opened to the public for a day last month, Tesla said it would inject aluminum into the world’s largest die-casting machines, which will then clamp the metal using 6,100 tons of pressure — a force equivalent to 1,020 African elephants standing on the tool to form parts.
The plant will house eight of these machines, with Musk aiming to eventually stamp out the two biggest parts of its Model Y sport utility vehicles — the front and rear underbodies — each with just one piece of metal. The current Model 3, by contrast, comprises 70 metal pieces just for the rear underbody.
While Musk has used a term for these machines — “Giga press” — that suggests Tesla conjured them in-house, this isn’t the case. The company has been buying them from Idra Group, a closely held Italian company that’s sold them to three customers on three continents and is in talks with other carmakers and major suppliers.
As ever, “giga” is just a Tesla word for “normal.”
3rd Gear: Mexico, Canada Also Mad About Biden’s U.S.-Made EV Support
In addition to foreign automakers that build cars in the United States without union representation, our neighboring countries are pissed at Biden’s union-made American EV support, as the Financial Times reports:
Joe Biden will meet the leaders of Mexico and Canada this week as his plans to encourage Americans to buy electric cars made in the US have sparked furious opposition from two of America’s biggest trading partners.
The so-called three amigos summit, to be held at the White House, will take place for the first time since 2016, and comes as senior officials in Mexico City and Ottawa have complained that Biden’s plans to kickstart EV manufacturing in the US break international trade rules.
The opposition of some of the US’s closest allies to a flagship climate policy poses a political and diplomatic dilemma for Biden. The president has pledged to both lower tensions with trading partners following the tumultuous tenure of Donald Trump, and to use industrial policy to boost green industries like electric car manufacturing.
Although not yet passed into law, Biden’s broader $1.75tn legislative package contains proposals to offer a tax credit of $7,500 for electric vehicles made only in the US from 2026. Another $4,500 of tax credits are available for purchasing electric cars made with union labour.
I cannot believe how salty everyone is over these EV subsidies. We don’t even buy that many EVs here.
4th Gear: Toyota Forming ‘Team Japan’ To Boost Internal Combustion
I guess “Team Pollute The World” was taken. From InsideEVs:
Toyota’s continued resistance to BEVs is becoming more and more prevalent. Just days after refusing to sign a climate pledge aiming to phase out fossil-fuel vehicles by 2040, Toyota has organized a team to promote the combustion engine in the electric age. ‘Team Japan’ consists of Toyota, Subaru, Mazda, Kawasaki and Yamaha. The group will work together on the development of greener fueling options as well as hydrogen tech.
The coalition will see the five companies develop carbon-neutral fuels for racing, meanwhile Toyota and Mazda will together develop a 1.5-liter Skyactiv-D engine powered by biodiesel. Subaru will work with Toyota for 2022’s Super Taikyu Series endurance season, with both companies collaborating to make a biomass-derived synthetic fuel. Furthermore, Yamaha and Kawasaki are considering working on a hydrogen engine for motorcycles.
Toyota clearly believes other solutions such as hydrogen will play their part in a sustainable future, an idea Tesla CEO Elon Musk has labelled “mind-bogglingly stupid” in the past. Despite all this, Toyota still intends to compete in the BEV space through the bz4x crossover which will arrive in mid-2022.
I respect Toyota’s strong commitment to not giving a shit about looking or sounding bad talking down EVs it hasn’t invested in.
5th Gear: Please Enjoy This Article Asking If ‘Built To Order’ Cars Can Last
Car dealerships are like motorcycles; we’d never let them happen if they were invented today. The idea of pumping out a ton of cars that people might want, as opposed to just letting them order them, is absurd in the age of online shopping. Only someone deeply entrenched in the world of auto dealerships would think they’d still make sense, which is why I enjoy this article from Automotive News asking “Can Ford’s build-to-order strategy work in long term?” Let us enjoy:
Diggs said built-to-order vehicles have accounted for at least half of Seelye Ford’s sales in the past few months.
He sees an advantage for small retailers that often lose business to larger auto groups with more inventory. Having fewer vehicles on the lot also would reduce dealers’ floorplan costs.
“If you tell me I can keep a third of the inventory and still sell as many if not more cars, as a dealer, I’m in,” he said.
The approach is designed to save Ford money as well.
During the company’s second-quarter earnings call with Wall Street analysts, Farley said having an order bank forces Ford to reduce complexity and “put pressure on our industrial system to deliver quickly.” He also suggested the automaker would need fewer discounts to push slow-selling vehicles off lots.
“I know we’re wasting money on incentives,” Farley said then. “I just don’t know where. With an order-based system, we will have much less risk of that.”
Car dealers are one of those jobs I’m not sure anyone is going to miss.
Reverse: Great Name
Neutral: What’s The Most Interesting Non-Tesla EV?
I suspect the only real “desirable” EV of this generation, the one people will really seek out, is going to be the VW I.D. Buzz. As for everything at the moment, it’s all good but a bit bland. Nothing that would have changed the landscape of things like Tesla did. Or am I wrong?