Tesla Remains A Rorschach Test

Illustration for article titled Tesla Remains A Rorschach Test
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Toyota bought Lyft’s self-driving unit, Lotus wants to go all-electric by 2028, and Tesla. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 27, 2021.

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1st Gear: Tesla Had A Big Quarter But It’s Still Impossible To Know What To Make Of This Company

I’ve said it before, but Tesla is a Rorschach test. On one hand you’ve got the stans, on the other hand you’ve got the skeptics, on the other other hand you have the agnostics, on the other other other hand you have the Teslatheists.

Count me in a fifth-handed category, which is neither stan nor skeptic nor Teslatheist nor agnostic but simply someone who believes Tesla is a regular car company and there isn’t much more to it. Its stock price is a joke, yes, but that is the world we live in. Anyway, its quarterly earnings report yesterday brought out all of the takes, as it tends to do.

The skeptics, for example, smell blood in the water. From The Wall Street Journal:

Shares traded slightly lower in after-hours trading on Monday, and the air has come ever so slightly out of Tesla’s stratospheric stock price. Shares are down about 16% from the peak in early January, but Tesla’s market value still tops $700 billion, or more than five times the combined value of Ford and General Motors. Ford sold more than half a million cars in the first quarter in the U.S., more than double Tesla’s world-wide total. If Tesla extended its first-quarter results for the next three quarters, the stock would trade at about 200 times this year’s adjusted earnings.

Tesla’s electric-car market share has eroded in established markets like Western Europe and the U.S. as larger car companies like Volkswagen, Ford, and General Motors have finally gotten serious about the electric market. Tesla has lately been setting sales records in China, but homegrown competitors are emerging there, too.

In other news, Tesla CEO Elon Musk will host Saturday Night Live on May 8, which will make an already unfunny show even less amusing. According to CNBC, some SNL cast members aren’t enthused exactly.

In an Instagram story, Bowen Yang responded to one of Musk’s tweets about his upcoming appearance. On Saturday, Musk had tweeted, saying “Let’s find out just how live Saturday Night Live really is.”

Yang reacted at first with a frowning face. Then, he posted Musk’s tweet with a message above: “What the f—- does that even mean?”

Andrew Dismukes, another cast member, also gave his take in an Instagram story. Over a photo of SNL alumna Cheri Oteri, which looked like a magazine cover, Dismukes wrote “ONLY CEO I WANT TO DO A SKETCH WITH IS Cher-E Oteri.”

A third cast member, Aidy Bryant, subtly criticized Musk, too. In an Instagram story, Bryant shared a tweet from former presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders. In it, Sanders criticized the sharp wealth inequality in the country, noting that “the 50 wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than some 165 million Americans” and he called that “a moral obscenity.”

Sudi Green, a writer for SNL, shared the same Sanders’ post, too.

I’m assuming that all of these SNL people simply aren’t looking forward to a week in the office having to humor some random rich guy with zero self-awareness. Solidarity.

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2nd Gear: Lotus Going Electric

Lotus unveiled the name of its last internal combustion engine car Tuesday. It also said it planned to go all-electric by 2028.

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From Reuters:

British sports carmaker Lotus said on Tuesday it will invest more than two billion pounds ($2.8 billion) in new technology and in massively expanding production of its sports car models, and it hopes to switch to selling only electric cars by 2028.

The Hethel, England-based firm, said its owners, Chinese firm Geely (GEELY.UL) and Malaysia’s Etika Automotive, will provide the financial muscle so the niche carmaker can ramp up production from an average of 1,500 cars per year to tens of thousands worldwide that will be sold at dealerships or online.

Those investment plans include a new Lotus plant in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Lotus’ Managing Director Matt Windle told Reuters that thanks to Geely’s backing the carmaker has been able to invest in a new automated paint shop for its UK facility and has leveraged the Chinese company’s relationships with suppliers to get better prices.

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It would be foolish to underestimate Lotus, given Geely’s excellent stewardship of Volvo. I, for one, am excited for Lotus to live long and prosper.

3rd Gear: CT4, CT5, And Camaro Production Will Be Restarted In Michigan

It has been halted since March because of the chip shortage. This is great news for all the people lining up to buy CT4s, CT5s, and Camaros.

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From Automotive News:

Production at the [Lansing, Michigan] plant, which builds the Cadillac CT4 and CT5 sedans and the Chevrolet Camaro sports car, is slated to resume May 3. Some areas of the plant will run on partial shifts this week to support general assembly next week, GM said.

GM’s assembly plants in Bupyeong, Korea, which export to the U.S. the Buick Encore, Chevy Trailblazer and Chevy Trax, resumed production on one shift Monday after downtime last week.

The chip shortage has crippled the industry for months. At the end of March, U.S. light-vehicle inventory had shrunk to 2.4 million vehicles, the fewest in more than a decade, according to LMC Automotive.

LMC expects the chip shortage to slash North American production by nearly 550,000 vehicles in the first half of 2021. Automakers won’t be able to make up even one-third of that loss before 2022, LMC said.

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4th Gear: Toyota Buys Lyft’s Autonomous Unit

Uber bailed on its autonomous unit in December, and now Lyft is doing the same exact thing.

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From The New York Times:

Lyft will sell its unit devoted to developing autonomous vehicles to Woven Planet, a Toyota subsidiary, the companies announced on Monday. Woven Planet will pay $200 million in cash for Level 5, Lyft’s self-driving car initiative, and will follow up with additional payments of $350 million over five years.

[...]

Lyft still will have a team focused on implementing third-party self-driving technology and will continue to collect data from trips to help train autonomous systems, the company said.

“Not only will this transaction allow Lyft to focus on advancing our leading autonomous platform and transportation network, this partnership will help pull in our profitability timeline,” Lyft’s president, John Zimmer, said in a statement.

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Lyft, but especially Uber, was premised on the possibility that they would eventually be robotaxi companies, reaping big profits in return. That possibility now seems out the window for both, making me wonder what their future is, given that both lose billions.

5th Gear: France Is Coming To The Aid Of Auto Workers Whose Jobs Are Threatened By EVs

EVs require fewer parts than internal combustion engine cars, which mean that fewer workers will be required to build them, which means that fewer people will have jobs. This is how capitalism works, though in more refined countries they are figuring out ways to mitigate the effects. Like in France.

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Via Bloomberg:

France unveiled a 50 million-euro ($60.5 million) fund to retrain workers making cast-metal auto parts whose jobs are at risk as the industry shifts to electric vehicles.

“The situation of French foundries is worrying,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday at a press conference. “Our production is too small, too scattered, and the market position is not the most promising for the coming years.”

The government will contribute three fifths of the fund and French rival carmakers Renault SA and Stellantis NV will pay for the rest, he said.

[...]

“We know there will be difficulties,” Le Maire said. “We are preempting them and doing the maximum to protect workers.”

France has 355 foundry businesses employing some 30,000 workers, with half of them tied to the automobile industry, the minister said. An EV requires four times less iron alloy than a diesel equivalent.

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Reverse: RIP Pontiac

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The fifth-generation GTO remains seriously underrated.

Neutral: How Are You?

I got my second dose Saturday, which knocked me out for the past couple of days, but I’m better now. The nurse was like, “See you again for your booster shot in six months.”

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

DISCUSSION

yeardley68
hoser68

Reverse: 10-20 years ago, if I got a rental car, it would be a Pontiac. And it was going to suck dead rats through a straw. If I returned the car with the same number of interior parts as it had when I left the parking lot, it was a miracle. I know of at least 3 trips where I got back and found a knob or handle that fell off the rental and ended up in my carry on. Hot, hard to see out of, impossible to read instrumentation, etc. For at least a decade, when the rental person gave you a key with a skinny triangle on it, you knew you were going to regret it.

Now those cars don’t exist. I can’t think of the last time I saw a Grand Am or a Grand Prix from that error (yes I spelled that right) being advertised for sale. Closest thing is an occasional G6 Convertible that comes up for sale.

Already, when people think of Pontiacs, they think of GTOs, Trans Ams, Firebirds, G8s and the like and act like the complete crap that infested rental car lots for at least a decade never existed. It’s like Stalin’s photographs.  It’s a matter of time before nobody remembers that Pontiac every made anything not cool.