Nothing Will Stop America’s Hunger For Cars

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What COVID-19 has not brought to a standstill is America’s appetite for new cars. We can’t crank them out fast enough, according to the largest U.S. auto lender. All that and more in The Morning Shift for December 10, 2020.


1st Gear: America Isn’t Making Cars Fast Enough

At least we’re not according to Ally Financial Inc. and America’s car dealers, as Bloomberg reports:

Ally Financial Inc., the largest U.S. auto lender, said carmakers should get busy.

There’s enough consumer demand for manufacturers to ramp-up output of new models but not enough supply, Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Brown told investors at a conference on Tuesday.

“Factories have to get back to work,” Brown said, noting he’s been in discussions with Rick Hendrick of Hendrick Automotive Group, of Hendrick Automotive Group, which has 95 dealership locations across the country. “When I talk to his stores directly, they tell me their biggest challenge is lack of new-car inventory. The factories aren’t producing enough.”

I am not sure that what America really needs is more people at work in factory jobs, but I’m also not exactly sure our economy is set up for any alternative.

2nd Gear: It’s Quiet For Tesla: Great Wall Plans Upscale EV

If Americans know Great Wall Motors at all, we know it as a Chinese pickup truck maker. Great Wall has been busy expanding its scale over the past few years, though, with a cute retro city car and a luxury brand as well. Now Great Wall is looking at the Tesla market, as Reuters reports:

China’s Great Wall Motor plans to launch a new standalone brand for upscale electric vehicles, sources familiar with the plan said, as automakers in world’s biggest car market pursue growth in EVs.

Great Wall has a 50-50 partnership with BMW in China and the two automakers are building a plant to build combustion-engine and electric variants of BMW’s Mini brand and Great Wall cars.

The Chinese automaker currently builds Ora cars, an affordable full-electric brand in Baoding, the city where Great Wall is based.

Ora cars are absolutely adorable not-quite-Smart knockoffs, and I’d love to see the same company do a Tesla rival.

3rd Gear: At Least Someone Is Still Trying To Make Self-Driving Cars Happen

Uber might have ditched the AV business, showing as much confidence for the market as I have, but at least somebody is still poking around at the Johnny Cab market.


Cruise, the GM-affiliated AV startup, has started testing cars in SF, as the Detroit News reports, speaking with my old boss Ray Wert:

The company set a goal to deploy fully self-driving vehicles in a major U.S. city without a driver behind the wheel by the end of this year. It has now dispatched a few of these vehicles on a few San Francisco streets.

“Cruise is now in the early stages of operating our self-driving vehicles on the streets of San Francisco without a driver behind the wheel,” Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said on a call Wednesday.

Cruise spokesman Ray Wert said the company will keep a safety operator in the passenger seat during the beginning stages of testing. The operator can stop the vehicle in case of an emergency, “but does not have access to standard driver controls. Eventually this safety operator will be fully removed.”


4th Gear: Three Recent COVID Deaths At FCA

Every time there are COVID deaths among auto workers it feels particularly tragic, like a number of systems have failed them. From the Detroit Free Press:

COVID-19 is hitting autoworkers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles once again.

Two workers at Warren Truck Assembly have died recently, according to the company.

That follows the death last month of a forklift operator who worked at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. The man’s death followed a monthlong battle with COVID-19, according to his obituary.The deaths of the Warren Truck workers elevate a grim toll connected to the plant.. Although it’s not clear where the workers contracted the virus, six workers from the plant have died since the start of the pandemic. FCA said it believes the exposure of the latest Warren workers happened elsewhere.


5th Gear: Enjoy This Wild Story Of Oil Speculation

I can’t fully parse out the details of how nine dudes from Essex made three-quarters of a billion dollars trading while the price of oil dropped into the negative dollars a few months back, but the story around them the fascination with their gumption, the investigations into whether or not what they did was legal do intrigue me. If we understand the market to be a scam, it’s always fascinating to see what happens when someone who isn’t expected makes their way in. Does the system try to muscle them out, or pretend that they were meant to be there all along?


These are great narratives, and Bloomberg has some good writing and illustrations of “Cuddles” and his gang of broad boys here:

U.S. authorities and investigators from Nymex trawled through trading data for insights into who exactly was driving the action on April 20. According to people familiar with their thinking, they were shocked to discover that the firm that appeared to have had the biggest impact on prices that afternoon wasn’t a Wall Street bank or a big oil company, but a tiny outfit called Vega Capital London Ltd. A group of nine independent traders affiliated with Vega and operating out of their homes in Essex, the county just northeast of London, had made $660 million among them in just a few hours. Now the authorities must decide whether anyone at Vega breached market rules by joining forces to push down prices—or if they simply pulled off one of the greatest trades in history. A lawyer for a number of the Vega traders vehemently denies wrongdoing by his clients and says they each traded based on “blaring” market signals.


There’s also a great video discussing the operation here, which delves into some of the questions of who is allowed entry into the world of big money bets in finance.

Reverse: Ford Didn’t Invent The Car But He Sure Sold A Lot Of Them


Neutral: What Car Do You Wish You Could Have Bought New?

There’s a part of me that dreams about walking into a Datsun dealer in the 1970s, flush with cash, and springing for a 510 two-door to commute in during the week and rally on the weekends. But this nostalgia is probably misplaced. An SR20 swap would be decades away!




An International Harvester or Studebaker Truck.

I want a full size truck that isn’t the big three. The closes thing we have is the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan.