Tesla Is Going In On Crypto

Illustration for article titled Tesla Is Going In On Crypto
Photo: Raphael Orlove
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Welcome to the most Tesla story imaginable: The EV company is investing $1.5 billion into Bitcoin and plans to accept the cryptocurrency for its cars, as Bloomberg reports. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Monday, February 8, 2021.

1st Gear: $1.5 Billion Into Bitcoin And Will Let You Pay With It

At times it’s hard to differentiate between Tesla: the company that makes only electric cars and Tesla: Elon Musk’s car company. Some days Tesla feels like the former. Today it feels like the latter. Via Bloomberg:

Tesla Inc. has invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin and expects to start accepting the cryptocurrency as payment, Bloomberg News reports.

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That’s pretty much the whole article. The only other line in it is that Bitcoin hit $43,000 after the news, and it’s now around $44,000. That’s a small but meaningful record, and it makes sense. Tesla getting in on Bitcoin represents “the biggest company yet to back the controversial cryptocurrency,” as another Bloomberg article notes.

2nd Gear: Mercedes Wants Its EVs To Start Making Some Money Around Here

While Tesla’s path seems paved with dreams and aspirations, the rest of the auto industry’s plunge into EVs is more leaden. Currently, Mercedes-Benz wants its electric vehicles to start paying the rent around here, or at least pick up some of the clothes it leaves lying around, as the Financial Times reports:

Mercedes-Benz will earn as much from electric cars as its luxury combustion engine models by the end of this decade, its chief executive said, becoming the first premium German automaker to provide a precise target for the turning point in profits.

Ola Källenius, boss of Mercedes owner Daimler, revealed the timetable after the company announced it would divorce its car arm from its trucks unit in an attempt to ape the soaring market valuation of electric auto pioneer Tesla.

“Our task is to take the healthy business model of today and to prove to ourselves and to the financial markets that we can have healthy returns when we become a dominant electric company,” Källenius told the Financial Times. 

This must mean that German auto executives and engineers are currently working feverishly to develop new ways of getting profit margins on EVs. They’ve got to be trying to invent new kinds of leather, putting optional sunroofs in the floorboards, anything to make these cars bring in more cash. How do you AMG a car that has no engine?

3rd Gear: Nissan Dealer Apprehensive About Upcoming Ariya EV

Automotive News went out and interviewed a Nissan dealer anticipating the all-electric crossover coming to showrooms soon. The guy tried to sound as positive as possible, I guess. Via AN:

“The Ariya offers style and design in our biggest segment,” Smith, president of Smith Automotive Group near Atlanta, told Automotive News. But the dealer is not sure Americans are ready for the battalion of EVs being trotted out by automakers.

“It remains to be seen what the appetite for the U.S. consumer is for a volume electric vehicle,” Smith said.

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Smith pointed out that the Leaf reached its relatively high sales volume on the back of discounts and government incentives, “[s]o we don’t know what the true demand will be for the Ariya.”

High praise!

4th Gear: Cadillac Dealer ‘Doesn’t Want To Put All Our Eggs In One Basket’ With EVs

Cadillac also has an EV push coming and has been having a time with its dealers getting them onboard. Automotive News also interviewed a prominent Cadillac dealer and reached a particularly strange kind of optimism. AN spoke with David Butler, who is Cadillac National Dealer Council chairman and “executive manager of Suburban Collection, a Michigan-based dealership group with 33 automobile brands in 54 locations in Michigan and California.”

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Butler talked about the joy of not having to explain things to customers, and also having the Escalade to fall back on:

“Cadillac understands that for us to make it easier for the customer, they have to make it easier for us,” said Butler. “This ties into setting up the future EV world that’s going to be coming upon us.”

[...]

Cadillac also launched Cadillac Live — a digital showroom with live agents — just before the pandemic hit last year.

“It just came out timing-wise perfectly,” Butler said. “It’s really easy for a salesman on the phone with a customer to say, ‘Go into Cadillac Live to see a whole presentation of the product that we’re talking about.’ “

[...]

But even with a thinner network awaiting EVs, gasoline-powered vehicles such as the Escalade SUV will be part of Cadillac’s sales for the foreseeable future, Butler said. Sales of the redesigned 2021 Escalade rose 6.4 percent to 9,454 in the fourth quarter.

“The adoption rate of EVs is a moving target. We don’t want to put all of our eggs in one basket,” he said.

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This is the all-in attitude that is going to take EVs to the next level!

5th Gear: China Investigating Tesla Quality Again

We talk a lot about Chinese electric car companies, but the country’s generally strong EV market means there are tons of Teslas on the roads over there. I would never intimate that the Chinese government launching investigations into the American company setting up shop over there would entail any kind of conspiracy, but only because I think Tesla makes enough problems for itself regarding quality. Reuters reports:

China’s State Administration for Market Regulation said in a social media post on Monday that its officials along with those from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Ministry of Emergency Management, Cyberspace Administration and Ministry of Transportation had met Tesla “recently,” without giving a date.

The regulators urged Tesla to operate according to China laws and protect customer rights.

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Reverse: Road Rage Used To Be America’s #1 Threat

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Neutral: What Is An Even More Elon Move Tesla Could Do?

I think making its workers wear robo-arm suits is up there, but I don’t know what else.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

Neutral: Move his company’s HQ to a secret volcano lair? Shave his head and appear in every video carrying a white cat? Reveal that Tesla’s quest for dominance of the EV market also involves an intricate plan in which one day all Tesla vehicles on the road imprison and hold their owners for ransom?