Tesla lost big, Toyota is talking flying car, and GM. All of that and more in The Morning Shift for October 5, 2021.
1st Gear: Tesla Ordered To Pay Millions To A Former Employee
The case of Owen Diaz, a former Tesla worker who sued the company for racial discrimination, has been percolating for years. On Monday, Diaz won big in federal court in California, to the tune of $137 million in damages that Tesla was ordered to pay by a jury.
“I believe that’s the largest verdict in an individual race discrimination in employment case,” said David Oppenheimer, a clinical professor of law at Berkeley Law. “Class actions are of course in a different category.”
Tesla’s vice president of people, Valerie Capers Workman, sent an internal email late Monday that the company subsequently published in a blog post on its website titled “Regarding Today’s Jury Verdict.”
Workman wrote she was “at the defense table for Tesla every day during the trial because I wanted to hear firsthand what Mr. Diaz said happened to him.” The post said that “the Tesla of 2015 and 2016 (when Mr. Diaz worked in the Fremont factory) is not the same as the Tesla of today.”
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The n-word was “pervasive and virtually everywhere” at Tesla’s plant in Fremont, California, a lawyer for Diaz said in closing remarks at the trial. Workman’s email, meanwhile, is in contrast to what Tesla lawyers argued in court.
In court, Tesla argued that it never intended to disregard the rights and safety of African-American workers placed by the staffing agency at the plant and that all incidents reported by Diaz were investigated and resolved.
In her closing arguments to the jury, Tesla attorney Tracey Kennedy said “Mr. Diaz’s story simply doesn’t make sense” in light of his encouragement to his son and daughter to take up jobs at the company. She also said Diaz’s claims weren’t supported by the evidence.
Tesla does not respond to requests from the media for comment, but it’s likely that the company will appeal the verdict and possibly get the jury award reduced. Still, this is a big win for Diaz, no matter how you look at it.
2nd Gear: The Toyodas Dream Of Flying Cars
This is according to an American Toyota executive, who says that the Toyoda family still wants to make them happen. Toyota is in the middle of building an entire city for the development of all sorts of technologies, and this executive is the one handling that, so he has some reason to have insight on the flying car aspect.
From Automotive News:
James Kuffner, a director at Toyota Motor and the CEO of the Woven Planet subsidiary overseeing construction of Woven City, said taking flight was a passion of the founding family.
“It’s been a dream of the Toyoda family to build a flying car,” Kuffner said while outlining plans to develop the Woven City, with its mixed mobility system, green energy grid, sustainable agriculture practices and diverse population of artists, families, entrepreneurs and inventors.
“I used to watch many TV shows about flying cars, and maybe someday Woven City can become the area that introduces flying mobility to Japan and the world,” the American executive said.
Toyota is already dabbling in electric vertical take-off and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft.
It has invested in a Japanese air mobility startup called SkyDrive, and in January 2020, Toyota announced a $394 million investment into a big U.S. rival, Joby Aviation. Last month, Honda joined Toyota in the pursuit, announcing plans to commercialize its own eVOTL aircraft by 2030.
I think I’ve said it before but I would put down at least $3.26 that flying cars will never happen in my lifetime, or at least “flying cars” as they are popularly understood, which is what Bruce Willis had in The Fifth Element.
3rd Gear: New Car Sales In The UK Are The Worst In Decades
Car sales in the UK have been very, very bad for a while now, and September wasn’t any different, according to the Financial Times. September was supposed to be better there because of a bump in sales due to the way the UK assigns license plates to their cars. But it simply wasn’t.
Registrations fell almost 35 per cent in September, according to data released on Tuesday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. September is typically the second busiest month of the year for the industry because of the second annual number plate change.
Dealers reported 215,312 new vehicles registrations last month, 34 per cent down on September last year — when sales were also hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown — and an almost 45 per drop on the pre-pandemic 10-year average. The sales figure is the lowest since the “two-plate” system was introduced in 1999.
“This is a desperately disappointing September and further evidence of the ongoing impact of the Covid pandemic on the sector. Despite strong demand for new vehicles over the summer, three successive months have been hit by stalled supply due to reduced semiconductor availability, especially from Asia,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive.
Richard Peberdy, UK head of automotive at KPMG, said the figures was likely to “disappoint for a plate-change month that typically sees a noticeable boost in new car registrations”.
He added that the supply chain shortages and a hangover of some Covid-related production problems were compounded by inflation in parts of the economy that was “also spooking motorists and businesses into tightening spending”.
If you, like me, have no idea what the British “two-plate” system is and why that would factor into car sales, here’s an explainer on the British plate system from Autotrader. The long and short of it is that in Britain you can judge how old a car is from its license plates, with new plates issued every six months, in March and September. Cars with newer plates are more valuable and also cost less to insure.
4th Gear: GM Wants 600 Miles Of Range From Its Batteries
GM announced this morning that they are going to build a 300,000 square foot building in Warren, Michigan, for battery development. They appear to be prioritizing range with the new facility, which will be known as the Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center.
From the Detroit Free Press:
There, engineers will work to advance technologies such as lithium-metal, silicon and solid-state batteries along with improving production methods that can be used at battery cell plants such as GM’s joint ventures with LG Energy Solution in Lordstown, Ohio, and Spring Hill, Tennessee, and other undisclosed locations.
“The key to making EVs affordable will be the cell cost in the battery packs,” said Ken Morris, GM vice president of electric and autonomous vehicles.
GM hopes to develop EV battery cells that can deliver 500 to 600 miles of range on a single charge and reduce the cost to make those batteries by 60% of what it currently costs from LG Chem to power the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV.
Six-hundred miles is more or less the distance between New York City and Detroit, which Google says is a 10-hour drive, which is more than a lot of people would want to drive in one day. Which makes me wonder who 600 miles of range is really for. If you are one of those guys who likes to talk about that one time you drove all day and all night from Chicago to Seattle or whatever, I offer my congratulations. You are the only one who has ever done that.
5th Gear: Daily Chip Shortage Update: Still Bad
This is according to Martin Daum, the CEO of Daimler Trucks. Daum says that Daimler Trucks will deliver fewer trucks this year because of ... well you know why.
“We will certainly be delivering less than we could have sold, and that also applies to next year,” he said at a roundtable with journalists on Tuesday, echoing recent warnings from competitors like Traton (8TRA.DE) that profits could fall in the second half due to supply chain issues.
“It’s a fight over every chip,” Daum said.
While passenger vehicle producers such as BMW (BMWG.DE) or Daimler (DAIGn.DE) can increase prices to offset chip losses, truckmakers do not have this flexibility, he said.
Still, the company has committed to a 15% fixed-cost reduction from 2019 levels by 2025, and cuts are “well underway”, he said. A concrete update will be provided at the company’s Capital Markets Day on Nov. 11.
Daimler Trucks is now part of Daimler, but will be spun off later this year, to make both companies more palatable for investors. When that is complete, Daimler Trucks will be the world’s biggest truckmaker.
Reverse: It Must Be Said That Enzo Ferrari Was Not A Great Race Car Driver
Neutral: How Are You?
I’ve had a lot of packages shipped to me lately via the good old United States Postal Service. The tracking information is garbage, and it might take a week to get here, but, on the upside, postal workers have a key to my building and I never miss anything, unlike with UPS or Fedex. Sometimes, the Postal Service even delivers things to my front door. This situation is probably specific to New York City, but my current review of the USPS is: chaotic good.