Good morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.
1st Gear: The Model 3 Is An Object Of Desire
Bloomberg has a fun feature out that is worth reading in full on the people who want a Model 3 so bad that they can’t help but literally stalk it. Here’s part of the opening anecdote, about a wealthy investor who’s been waiting two years for a Model 3:
This is what can happen when the head of an investment firm with a staff at his disposal is also a Tesla super-fan and impatient customer. He sends employees on visits to a Model 3 distribution center in Marina del Rey, California, to count the cars. He tracks Model 3 deliveries on Twitter and Facebook, parsing public posts for evidence of new owners. He also checks in with reservation holders he knows around the country to find out who has gotten their congratulatory email from Tesla.
“You found the crazy guy,” [Ross Gerber] says, laughing about his obsession.
It’s comforting, in some way, to know that being rich doesn’t get you ahead of the line when it comes to getting a Model 3, or at least it hasn’t so far in Gerber’s case. And, as Bloomberg notes, all of this obsessing over the Model 3 is a situation of Tesla’s own making, as production delays have meant they’ve made just a tenth of the number of Model 3s that they promised by this point. Tesla just doesn’t have the cars, and may not have the cars in the future, as Jalopnik contributor Bozi Tatarevic says in the Bloomberg piece:
Bozi Tatarevic, an automotive writer based in North Carolina, first spotted indications of Tesla’s production woes back in December by scouring U.S. import records for parts Tesla buys from overseas suppliers. He focused on wheel covers and small 12-volt batteries used to power some of the Model 3 electronics. By dividing the weight of the shipping pallets by the weight of the parts, Tatarevic came up with some upper limits for Tesla’s possible production, which were lower than Tesla forecast at the time.
“If they only have 2,000 of a part,” he explains, “that means they’re only going to be able to produce 2,000 cars with that part until they get the next shipment.”
Tatarevic has driven a Model 3 and has inspected a stripped-down body of the car. He says the fit and finish of the early models wasn’t up to top manufacturing standards, although the car “handled very well” and he found it well-designed. “Overall, if they can figure out how to build it, I think it will be successful.”
2nd Gear: A Top Executive For Hyundai’s Ad Agency Is On Leave Following Sexual Harassment Allegations
Eric Springer is the chief creative officer at Innocean, which produced Hyundai’s Super Bowl ad this year. He’s now on leave after a female executive producer filed a lawsuit against him and Innocean in January, alleging sexual harassment and bullying. Ad Age has the details:
In the lawsuit, [former executive producer Victoria Guenier] alleges that Springer slapped her on the butt on two separate occasions and routinely used “harassing and/or misogynistic language,” including frequently calling her “Queenie.” In once instance, Springer told her to “pull yourself up by your panties,” the lawsuit alleges. Guenier in the suit says she complained about his behavior in an email, and he responded by standing over her and yelling, “What the fuck were you thinking Victoria writing that fucking email. Putting that in fucking writing. How dare you?”
Guenier further alleges that Innocean’s human resources department “took no steps to investigate the complaints.” HR “made it clear that it did not want to ‘make waves’ to save [Guenier’s] job and career,” the lawsuit states.
Springer sounds like a nice guy. Ad Age also detailed Innocean’s ties to Hyundai:
Innocean Worldwide is backed by the founding family of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. Innocean handles Hyundai advertising in various global markets. The Hyundai Motor Chung Mong-Koo Foundation owns a minority stake in Innocean Worldwide. Innocean Worldwide owns a 60 percent stake in Innocean Worldwide Americas, which handles Hyundai Motor America, and in December bought David & Goliath, U.S. agency for Hyundai affiliate Kia Motors America.
3rd Gear: Tesla Might Still Build A Manufacturing Plant In China, Despite Elon’s Tweets
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, Inc., and one of the most important people in the world, recently fired off some tweets decrying China’s trade policies, which President Trump then proceeded to read. This all might have made Musk’s efforts to build a manufacturing plant in China a bit more complicated, but Chinese officials said Tuesday that everything was still on track.
The Shanghai government, however, said communication with Tesla had always been positive and the two sides “had a shared goal” to propel the development of China’s new-energy vehicle market, referring to full-electric and plug-in hybrid cars.
“Both sides will keep looking thoroughly at plans in China. Currently the details are still under discussion, once anything is confirmed we will announce it as quickly as possible,” it said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
“As Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said openly before, Tesla attaches great importance to its development and plans in China.”
Musk’s tweets presented a far more nuanced trade picture than Trump presented them as, even if our orange president found them useful, for a moment, as a political prop. The Chinese appear to be taking a longer view.
4th Gear: GM Is Planning An Airbnb-Type Service But For Cars
It’s sounding a lot like Turo, which you can use to rent your car to other people when you’re not using it. GM’s service will roll out on its Maven platform and begin testing this summer, according to Bloomberg.
The pilot — which GM will try to grow into a full-fledged business if it’s successful — could mark another step forward in GM’s transition from manufacturer to mobility provider. After GM’s stock stagnated for years as investors fretted over peaking car sales and Silicon Valley’s offensive on the auto industry, the shares rose to a record high in October as its self-driving car plans and services like Maven gained traction with investors.
A spokesman for Detroit-based GM declined to comment. GM’s Maven unit already rents vehicles to individual drivers, including customers looking for short-term wheels as they have through services such as Zipcar. Maven Gig also lends cars to drivers working for companies including Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc. and food-delivery businesses.
Up to this point, GM has owned those cars. By launching a peer-to-peer service, Maven would get access to more vehicles without its parent having to carry more hard assets on its balance sheet.
5th Gear: VW Is Making Huge Investments In Battery Supplies
To the tune of $25 billion, according to Bloomberg, an investment which will probably also raise some eyebrows at Tesla.
The world’s largest carmaker will equip 16 factories to produce electric vehicles by the end of 2022, compared with three currently, Volkswagen said Tuesday in Berlin. The German manufacturer’s plans to produce as many as 3 million electric cars a year by 2025 is backstopped by deals with battery suppliers in Europe and China.
With the powerpack deliveries secured for its two biggest markets, a deal for North America will follow shortly, Volkswagen said. In total, the Wolfsburg-based automaker has said it plans to purchase about 50 billion euros in batteries as part of its electric-car push, which includes three new models in 2018 with dozens more following.
From next year, the 12 brand group will roll out a new electric vehicle “virtually every month,” Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller said at the company’s annual press conference. “This is how we intend to offer the largest fleet of electric vehicles in the world.”
Reverse: The Love Bug Opens
On this day in 1969, “The Love Bug,” a Walt Disney movie about the adventures of a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie, opens in theaters across the United States. The film, which was based on a 1961 book called “Car, Boy, Girl” by Gordon Buford, centered around down-on-his-luck auto racer Jim (played by Dean Jones) who goes on a winning streak after teaming up with Herbie.
Neutral: Will Tesla Be Around In 10 Years?
It’s a hypothetical that we argue about a lot here, and, yet, I still have no idea.