The Big Electric Truck War Is Here But EV Pickups Still Don't Seem Like A Sure Bet

All that and more in The Morning Shift for June 8, 2021.

Illustration for article titled The Big Electric Truck War Is Here But EV Pickups Still Don't Seem Like A Sure Bet
Photo: Ford

Electric trucks! Electric trucks?

1st Gear: Electric Trucks

The Ford F-150 Lightning has been unveiled, so has the Tesla Cybertruck, so has the Rivian R1T, so has the Hummer EV Pickup, so has the Lordstown Endurance, and the Bollinger B2. We will soon be awash in electric trucks. The only problem is that, as I’ve noted, towing range is most likely going to be real bad on all of them.

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Well, that isn’t the only problem, as the Financial Times reports:

“We’ve targeted about a 10 per cent margin,” [GM Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson] said. “That’s been in place for a long time, and I think we’re making great strides to there . . . We’ve got a good trajectory to manage through that transition [from petrol to electric] and keep those margins intact.”

Besides watching profit margins, manufacturers also will need to convince would-be buyers that an electric pick-up has the same capacity as a traditional pick-up. Hauling a boat or camper eats into how many miles an electric pick-up can drive without needing to recharge, and “unless the lake is 150 miles or less from your home . . . it does start to limit what you can do”, Jominy said. Even though pick-up owners may only need to tow a couple of times a year, they are unlikely to want to compromise on power, again suggesting that for manufacturers “to be successful they’re going to have to attract new customers to pick-ups”.

There are also questions about customer acceptance in parts of the US where pick-ups are popular, but political conservatism feeds scepticism of electric vehicles.

Pam Cotton Conn owns a dealership in Carol Stream, Illinois. She said she was “ridiculously excited” about the F-150 Lightning, with a front trunk where the engine used to be and business owners’ potential to save on gas and maintenance. She advertised the truck’s unveiling to the dealership’s customer base and received an email from a man annoyed by the new product’s perceived political ramifications.

But that was a single person on a 19,000-strong mailing list, she noted, and for those who prefer trucks with traditional engines, they are still for sale.

The FT is a bit ham-fisted here in talking about conservativism and electric trucks, but its basic point rings true. I can easily imagine the same crowd that refuses to get vaccinated and still believes Trump is president will have a hard time buying in until they have to. (It’s also possible that the “no more foreign oil” types will rush onboard, but maybe that kind of 2000s Republican doesn’t exist anymore.) Still, the towing thing is a real problem.

2nd Gear: The Apple Car Still May Or May Not Happen

No one seems to give a shit about Apple’s planned car, which has surprised me because I am of a generation that used to give a shit about every Apple move. I think no one cares about the car because it is still so hypothetical. Here is a Reuters story that claims that it is less so:

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is in early-stage talks with China’s CATL (300750.SZ) and BYD (002594.SZ), about the supply of batteries for its planned electric vehicle, four people with knowledge of the matter said.

The discussions are subject to change and it is not clear if agreements with either CATL or BYD will be reached, said the people who declined to be named as the discussions are private.

Apple has made building manufacturing facilities in the United States a condition for potential battery suppliers, said two of the sources.

CATL, which supplies major car makers including Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), is reluctant to build a U.S. factory due to political tensions between Washington and Beijing as well as cost concerns, the two people said.

3rd Gear: Tesla Loses A Veteran Executive

Jerome Guillen has been with Tesla for more than 10 years, overseeing the development of the Model S and, lately, the Semi. He is now out, reports Reuters. He didn’t last long on the Semi.

Long-time Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) executive Jerome Guillen, who oversaw its Semi electric trucks slated to be launched this year, has left the company, Tesla said on Monday, barely three months after taking over the role.

[...]

He was one of Tesla’s top four leadership members, including CEO Elon Musk.

Dan Levy, a Credit-Suisse analyst said in a note the departure is “negative given Guillen previously viewed as central to Tesla” as he was “arguably key in stabilizing auto biz post Model 3 launch” in 2017.

Tesla is yet to begin delivering its battery-powered Semi electric commercial truck, with Musk saying in recent months that battery cell supply constraints could delay its mass production to 2022.

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You might say that this portends bad things for the Tesla Semi, except executive turnover at Tesla is common and Tesla always seems to get by. I’ll be interested when Tesla loses someone and it visibly hurts, though that would probably only happen if Elon bounced.

4th Gear: Tesla Back Up In China

Tesla sales were up there in May compared to April, but Bloomberg also says that may not mean much.

The electric-car pioneer reported wholesales of 33,463 locally made vehicles last month, compared with 25,845 in April, China’s Passenger Car Association data showed Tuesday. Of the May figure, 11,527 were exported, compared with the 14,174 vehicles that were shipped overseas, mostly to Europe, last month. The number of cars that went to the local market alone in May soared 88% from April.

The wholesale figures may not necessarily reflect the level of retail demand Tesla fields directly rather than through traditional dealerships. Investors have been concerned about blowback from a high-profile protest at the Shanghai auto show in mid April and a spate of crashes that may have soured public opinion toward the California-based company. Customer orders fell by nearly half in May from April, according to tech news website The Information. Representatives from Tesla in China declined to comment on the report last week.

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5th Gear: GM’s Cruise Gets Approval To Run Driverless Test Cars

Cruise and Waymo are well ahead of Tesla when it comes to developing autonomous vehicles, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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From Automotive News:

The state’s Public Utilities Commission authorized the company’s request to operate prototype autonomous vehicles that could transport the public. Cruise is the first autonomous vehicle developer included in the commission’s Driverless Pilot program to get a permit to do so, according to a Friday release from the commission.

Cruise, which is majority-owned by General Motors, won’t be allowed to charge passengers for rides. The company is required to submit a passenger safety plan and quarterly reports about its AVs, according to the release.

Cruise also won another requisite testing permit from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. It is separate from the commission’s permit.

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Reverse: Porsche

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Neutral: How Are You?

Today has gotten off to a bad start but there is a frozen pizza in my future and I’m going to drive the Volvo XC40 Recharge later.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.

DISCUSSION

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newnamesameme

Is kinja being kinja for anyone else? When i go to notifications and click on a reply to me it just sort of plops me down into the middle of the comments and sometimes i cant even see the comment at all even if i click through all of them?