I can’t believe I am typing this, but once again the Taiwanese postal service has snubbed yet another foreign government. All that and more in The Morning Shift for February 18, 2021.
1st Gear: U.S. Sent Taiwan A Letter About The Automotive Chip Shortage And Taiwan Claimed It Didn’t Arrive
A brief catch-up: We know 2020 was a horrible year for the car market. Semiconductor chips, necessary to both the tech industry and the car industry, were hit with a shortage. Semiconductor suppliers favored the tech industry and not the car industry, and now with auto demand returning, car-producing Western nations are trying to get the semiconductor-producing nation of Taiwan to hook them up.
This has not been going all that great, as Taiwan really has all of the chips in its corner, if you don’t mind the pun. My favorite case was when Germany sent Taiwan a letter asking to sort this whole thing out, please, and Taiwan claimed it did not receive the letter. The story was great not only in that sending a letter seemed like such low effort, but also that Taiwan didn’t even acknowledge it. What a snub!
Anyway, the Biden administration claimed it was getting serious about the chip shortage, and you know what that means! Yep, we sent Taiwan a very polite letter, as Bloomberg reports:
President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, has sought the Taiwanese government’s help resolving a global semiconductor shortage that’s idling U.S. car manufacturing plants, according to a letter reviewed by Bloomberg News.
In the letter, Deese thanked Taiwan’s minister of economic affairs, Wang Mei-hua, for her personal engagement on the microchips shortage and relayed concerns from U.S. automotive companies.
What did Taiwan say about this very strongly worded...thank you note? Take a guess:
Wang told reporters Thursday that she hasn’t received a letter from Deese and reiterated that Taiwan’s chipmakers are trying to resolve the supply constraints.
That’s gotta hurt.
Apple has been getting bounced around the car industry like a hot potato as of late. Hyundai passed it off to Kia; Kia didn’t want it. This all comes after the whole Project Titan went into stasis back in 2016. Now, one of the program’s veterans is bouncing out, as Bloomberg reports:
Apple Inc.’s self-driving car team lost one of its longest-serving leaders, a potential setback to the technology giant’s efforts to compete in the auto industry.
Benjamin Lyon helped form Apple’s original autonomous electric car team in 2014 as its most senior manager working on sensors. He remained on the team through its various reboots over the past several years, and most recently led a self-driving car sensors team reporting directly to Doug Field, Apple’s vice president in charge of the car project.
Bloomberg News identified Lyon as one of 11 managers reporting to Field and leading Apple’s work on a self-driving car last month. Lyon is leaving to join space and satellite startup Astra, the Alameda, Calif.-based company said Wednesday in a statement. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
I remember there being a wave of former Tesla execs fanning out to make the wave of EV startups like Faraday Future and Lucid. I wonder what an Apple exodus looks like to the world of AV startups.
If it’s not an earthquake in Japan, it’s “freeze-offs” making a natural gas shortage. Something is always disrupting auto manufacturing somewhere in the world. This one hits the car industry in Mexico, as Reuters reports:
General Motors and Volkswagen are suspending some of their operations in Mexico due to a natural gas shortage, while Audi will adjust production in line with supply, the automakers said in separate statements Wednesday.
GM said it was forced to halt operations at its plant in the central city of Silao on both Tuesday night and on Wednesday, and would resume once the gas supply returned to an adequate level.
The gas shortfall also prompted Volkswagen to announce it will suspend production on its Jetta model on Thursday and Friday, and on its Taos and Golf models just on Friday, the company’s Mexico unit said.
Somehow the Carlos Ghosn case continues, this time with the father-and-son team accused of helping Ghosn flee Japan trying to not get what’s coming to them, as Reuters reports:
An American father and son accused of helping former Nissan Motor Co Ltd Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee trial in Japan have asked U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to halt their impending extradition to the East Asian country.
A Feb. 3 letter to Blinken seen by Reuters Wednesday from the Taylors’ lawyers said “we do not believe there is any good reason to surrender these two American citizens.”
The Justice Department declined to comment. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The letter suggested the charges “are explained by the government of Japan’s desire to save face, or at least to be perceived to be doing something to address their embarrassment.” The letter asked at a minimum that the extradition be delayed until the men received their second COVID-19 vaccine doses.
The car industry started its rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020, and that goes for financing arms as well. GM’s captive finance unit doubled its profits on all of your leases and whatnot, as Automotive News reports:
GM Financial more than doubled fourth-quarter profits and boosted loan and lease originations as General Motors’ sales and average transaction prices rose.
GM Financial’s net income surged to $776 million during the latest period, GM’s captive finance company said in a statement last week.
GM’s average transaction price during the fourth quarter rose 6 percent to $43,855, according to TrueCar.
GM Financial financed 41 percent of GM’s retail sales in the quarter, up from 38 percent a year earlier. Berce expects GM Financial’s share of GM loans to be consistent or slightly higher this year.
My dream would be a bike lane on every block, a bus line to every neighborhood, a train line between every city. Something comprehensive and nationwide. I can’t think of anything that would get more cars off the road.