The Tesla Model S and Model X are losing their base battery pack, Ford and VW might announce something big soon, Brexit bad news, and also other bad news involving job cuts and airbags. All that and more in the Morning Shift for January 10, 2019.
1st Gear: Tesla Model S and Model X are Losing Their Base 75 kWh Battery Pack
Yesterday we learned in an extremely official press release that Tesla’s Model S flagship sedan and its Model X SUV will soon no longer be available with the 75 kWh battery, which offers the least range in either vehicle’s trim lineup, but also the lowest cost by far.
I wad kidding about the press release part. The news was an Elon tweet, of course:
The 75 kWh Tesla Model S costs $76,000 versus $94,000 for the next trim up, called the 100D. The 75 kWh Model X will run you $82,000 versus $97,000 for the 100D. Details about the move are scarce for now, but it seems like Musk’s announcement represents $18,000 and $15,000 base price hikes for the S and X, respectively, though we don’t know if another battery option will eventually slot in below the 100D.
A number of news sites, including CNET’s Roadshow, imply that the move could be a way for Tesla to help reduce any possible overlap in its lineup, specifically between the bottom end of the Model S range and the top end of the Model 3 Range, the $62,000 “Performance” model. It is worth mentioning that Electrek thinks that pulling the 75 kWh option could mean that a new pack based on Tesla’s 2170 cells versus the 18650s currently in the S could be on the horizon. But back in the summer of 2017, Musk said on Twitter that there were no plans to put 2170s into the S and X, so who knows.
We’ve reached out to Tesla to learn more.
2nd Gear: Ford and Volkswagen Might Announce Next Week a Plan to Join Forces
We’ve been hearing murmurs about some sort of VW-Ford partnership for a while now, with Bloomberg mentioning a potential commercial vehicle collaboration back in June, and then in October writing about a more general alliance between the two automakers that could help them share product development costs, especially those associated with autonomous vehicles.
German newspaper Handelsblatt then wrote in November that, in addition to sharing autonomous vehicle development costs, VW could potentially share its MEB electric car platform with Ford in exchange for internal combustion engine tech and pickup truck expertise.
In the October Bloomberg story, the news site quotes The Blue Oval’s CEO, Jim Hacket, as saying “we’re going to talk about these strategic partnerships in the near future.” Well, it turns out that the near future may end up being Tuesday, with Reuters writing yesterday:
Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) and Ford Motor Co (F.N) will unveil a deeper alliance next week that goes beyond cooperating in commercial vehicles in a move meant to save the automakers billions of dollars as they develop new technologies, two people familiar with the plan said on Wednesday.
“A global alliance is expected to be announced,” one person said, adding that the pact will be unveiled next Tuesday during the Detroit auto show. The companies have previously said any alliance would not involve a merger or equity stakes.
We don’t know exactly what this “alliance” would entail, but Reuters’ sources imply that it would include “the pooling of resources in autonomous technology and VW investing in that Ford business, and Ford licensing Volkswagen’s MEB electric vehicles platform,” much like what Handelsblatt mentioned before.
We’ll see what happens on Tuesday.
3rd Gear: Rolls Royce’s Brexit Contingency Plans
Just this week, we wrote about Aston Martin’s Brexit contingency plans, which Reuters said the company “had no choice but to authorize” in December out of concern that Britain might leave the EU without a trade deal. Those plans include stockpiling cars built in Germany to avoid potential tariffs, and also shipping cars by air and not by sea due to customs issues.
Turns out, another band of boujee British bespoke buggies, BMW-owned Rolls Royce, is feeling the pressure of Brexit, too, with Reuters writing:
Carmaker Rolls-Royce called on the British government to avoid a disorderly Brexit and said it was building up some stock, expanding warehouse capacity and training suppliers for customs changes in case Britain leaves the EU without a deal.
“We are highly dependent on a proper, working frictionless chain of goods and this whole company hinges on just-in-time deliveries,” Chief Executive Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes told reporters.
“We urge the government to avoid any hard Brexit,” he said.
Oetvoes then went on to say that building Rolls Royces outside of Great Britain wasn’t going to happen, so they’re just going to need to solve this thing somehow.
This is just what the already-reduced-to-almost-nothing British auto industry needs.
4th Gear: VW Snags Apple Executive and Former LMP1 Engineer Alexander Hitzinger
VW is getting a new technical development head, with Reuters reporting that Alexander Hitzinger—who had been working for Apple’s “Project Titan” electric car project—is slated to assume the new role immediately. The news site details some of Hitzinger’s new roles, writing:
Alexander Hitzinger, 47, will also take group-wide responsibility for VW’s efforts to develop self-driving vehicles as well as offer ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS), an initiative that seeks to keep drivers behind the wheel of its cars even if they don’t own them.
It’s worth noting that Hitzinger has worked in the Volkswagen Group before, coming from the Red Bull Formula One racing team in 2011 to be the technical director for Porsche’s LMP1 program.
Someone who can develop complex race cars, and who has experience working in one of the most technologically advanced software companies on earth—seems like he might be a decent fit for a self-driving car development head.
5th Gear: More Takata Recalls at Toyota
Toyota just announced in a press release another phase of its Takata airbag recall, this time involving 1.3 million vehicles in the U.S. that have front passenger airbag inflators with non-desiccated ammonium nitrate propellant, which can degrade and cause the inflator to violently explode, possibly sending shrapnel into a vehicle occupant.
The affected vehicles in the U.S. include:
certain 2010-2016 Model Year 4Runner, 2010-2013 Model Year Corolla, 2010-2013 Model Year Matrix, 2011-2014 Model Year Sienna, 2010-2015 Model Year Scion XB, 2010-2012 Model Year Lexus ES 350, 2010-2017 Model Year Lexus GX 460, 2010-2015 Model Year Lexus IS 250C, 2010-2015 Model Year Lexus IS 350C, 2010-2013 Model Year Lexus IS 250, 2010-2013 Model Year Lexus IS 350 and 2010-2014 Model Year Lexus IS-F vehicles.
If you have those vehicles, get them fixed please.
Reverse: The Toyota and Mazda Plant is Headed for Alabama
Today’s reverse gear brings us all the way back to the year 2018, when—after many months of scoping out a bidding war between states—Mazda and Toyota announced that their new sweet home will indeed be Alabama.
Reuters reported at the time:
Toyota Motor Corp and Mazda Motor Corp said on Wednesday they will build a $1.6 billion joint assembly plant in Alabama that will employ up to 4,000 workers...
The plant will produce 300,000 vehicles a year and should open on a 2,500-acre former cotton field in 2021, about 14 miles from Toyota’s engine plant in Huntsville.
Even with that one fish-related complication, the groundbreaking ceremony took place in November.
Neutral: What Do You Think About the Variety in Tesla’s Lineup?
Would you like to see Tesla keeping a lower-cost Model S as an alternative to a Model 3? Or do you think it makes sense for the S to be significantly pricier as a way to differentiate itself?
Correction Jan. 10, 2018 11 A.M. ET: Tesla pricing in this article has been changed from Tesla’s “after savings” figures to “before savings.”