Tesla makes some revisions after its viral car fire in Shanghai, Carlos Ghosn backs out of a last-minute press conference, Ford gets its data exposed, more automakers team up on self-driving cars, and Geely’s interest in Volvo trucks. All of this and more in The Morning Shift for Friday, June 28, 2019.
1st Gear: About That Viral Car Fire
A surveillance camera caught a Tesla Model S bursting into flames in a Shanghai parking garage recently, with footage of the incident going viral in April. Tesla’s now found out the cause of that fire, Reuters reports, and said it’s revised some vehicle settings in response.
Reuters, citing a post on Tesla’s Weibo account, reports that Tesla said a team investigated the battery, software, manufacturing data and vehicle history after the incident. Tesla said the investigation found that there wasn’t a “systematic defect” in the car, and that initial findings point toward a single malfunctioning battery module at the front of the Model S that caused the fire, according to Bloomberg.
Panasonic supplies Tesla’s battery cells, per Reuters, and cells connected together form modules. Here’s what Tesla did in response to the investigation findings, via Reuters:
The company has revised the charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles via an over-the-air (OTA) software update, to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity, the statement said. [...]
Tesla has said its EVs are about 10 times less likely to experience a fire than petrol-powered cars.
Tesla’s local competitor Nio Inc (NIO.N) said on Weibo on Thursday that some battery modules in its cars might have safety issues as well, and that it would recall 4,803 units after three fire incidents in China.
Reuters reports that electric-vehicle safety is “a growing issue” in China, and it’s no exaggeration: The government is cracking down on EV safety after the Tesla and NIO fires, and there’s more on that here.
2nd Gear: Carlos Ghosn Calls Press Conference; Cancels
Former Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn planned to hold a press conference this week amidst his legal problems, stemming from an arrest in November over alleged financial misconduct while at Renault and Nissan. Actually, it was all a lot more abrupt than that: He called a news conference on Friday in Japan and almost immediately canceled, according to Automotive News.
It took Ghosn two and a half hours to cancel, Automotive News reports, and it’s sort of becoming a pattern—when he called a press conference in April, prosecutors arrested him again before he could hold it.
This time was a personal decision, with Automotive News reporting that Ghosn was talked out of doing it by family and media advisors. A person familiar with what went on said a few things led them to want to cancel, via the story:
Among them was a concern that Ghosn, 65, would be exposed to questions he could not answer publicly due to his legal strategy. There was also concern that Japanese prosecutors would give extra scrutiny to Ghosn’s adherence to bail conditions, should he publicly criticize their case.
Finally, there was the argument that his message would be lost in a swirl of other news currently streaming out of Japan, which is hosting world leaders for the Group of 20 summit.
If you’re not familiar with how we (or Ghosn, more importantly) got to this point, a good reference on everything is archived here.
3rd Gear: Ford Gets Its Data Breached
Data-management company Attunity mismanaged some of its own data and the data of a few of its high-profile customers recently, according to Bloomberg. That includes Ford, which had some of its information-technology architecture and internal project plans out in the open.
This kind of data exposure isn’t new, but it is weird to think about how quickly things can go public from the cloud.
Bloomberg reports that UpGuard, a cybersecurity company, found the data that was left unsecured by Attunity last month. A report from UpGuard went through the details of just how bad it could’ve been had more people known about the unsecured data, but Attunity said it only has evidence that UpGuard accessed it.
Here was some of what was available in the data breach, which wasn’t limited to Ford, via Bloomberg:
The centerpiece was a large collection of Attunity files including administrative and employee passwords to various systems, extensive employee email backups, a roadmap to the company’s virtual network and personal information about Attunity’s employees. The widespread presence of login credentials swelled the potential harm of the data leak, according to UpGuard.
“It’s a category of data breach we refer to as a keys-to-the-kingdom exposure,” said Chris Vickery, director of cyber-risk research at UpGuard.
So far, UpGuard said it had no evidence that any bad actors took advantage of the information when it was accessible online.
Ford doesn’t seem too worried, though, with a spokesperson telling Bloomberg, “We know the kind of information we provide to companies like Attunity, and we don’t believe there’s an issue.”
4th Gear: Subaru and Mazda Join In on Toyota’s Self-Driving Car Venture
Every day, it seems like a new set of automakers are partnering to work on self-driving cars, and that’s probably because they are. Teaming up makes research and development cost less, and Reuters reports that, according to two sources familiar with the matter, the newest team includes Toyota, Subaru and Mazda.
The sources told Reuters that Subaru and Mazda, along with Suzuki, Daihatsu and Isuzu, are actually hopping on board with Toyota’s project—a joint venture with SoftBank called Monet. Monet is working on an on-demand autonomous platform, and already has a lot of investment, according to Reuters:
Monet, announced in October, added investment from Honda Motor Co and Toyota’s truck making subsidiary Hino Motors in March, leaving SoftBank Corp the largest shareholder with a 40.2% share and Toyota owning 39.8%.
When Honda and Hino joined in March, the total investment in Monet was 2.5 billion yen ($23.20 million). It was not immediately clear how much the five new partners are investing in the venture.
Monet declined to comment on the investment, which was first reported by Nikkei. Mazda, Suzuki, Subaru, Isuzu and Daihatsu also declined to comment.
Reuters did report, however, that Monet’s head said earlier in June that the joint venture planned to expand on its investments (and thus, investors). The project wants a simple version of its service in Southeast Asia next year, and, according to Reuters, plans to deploy on-demand buses and cars in Japan in a year as well.
5th Gear: Geely Plans to Hold Onto Its Stake in Volvo’s Truck Arm for a While
There have been some reports that Chinese company Geely might be preparing to sell off its stake in Volvo’s truck arm, which it’s had for a few years now. (The company acquired Volvo’s car division from Ford in 2010, and bought an 8.2-percent equity stake with 15.6 percent voting rights in the truck arm for more than $3.2 billion in 2017.)
But if the sale reports sound a little random to you, that’s because they probably are: An unnamed source close to Geely told Reuters that the company “intends to remain a long-term investor” in Volvo’s truck division.
Here’s the general timeline on how this idea formed, via Reuters:
Geely Sweden Financials Holding AB, its holding group in Sweden, earlier this month borrowed 400 million euros ($455 million) in a zero coupon bond due 2024. [...]
Swedish daily SvD reported on Thursday that the bond’s setup would allow the borrower a choice to convert his securities into Volvo shares after three years and had quoted experts as saying that this was the first sign that Geely could dump its holding.
“This is absolutely wrong. Zhejiang Geely Holding Group will continue to be a long-term investor in AB Volvo,” a source close to Geely said.
A Volvo spokesperson told Reuters that any questions should go to Geely, and that the truck manufacturer has an “open dialogue with its shareholder on many fronts.”
Reverse: Daimler-Benz AG Is Formed
On June 28, 1926, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft and Benz & Cie. merged to become Daimler-Benz AG. It was the beginnings of today’s Daimler AG, and marked the birth of that logo we all know so well: the three-pointed star.
Neutral: Data Exposure
We hear about data leaks, breaches and exposures all the time these days, and how that kind of exposure can also reach us. But is that something that you think about a lot, or do you just spend your time online on cruise control?