The Changing Of The Guard Is Official At Honda

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Honda has a new CEO, Kia begins its Carnival ramp-up, and Renault. All that and more in The Morning Shift for February 19, 2021.

1st Gear: Honda Confirms It Has A New CEO

It was only Wednesday this week when sources told Reuters that Honda’s research and development chief would become its CEO, news that Honda denied. Except now Honda’s R&D chief has become its new CEO, the company confirmed with a press conference and everything.


This is apparently a bid to keep up with the Teslas.

From Reuters:

Japan’s second-biggest automaker by sales, Honda Motor Co, said on Friday its chief executive, Takahiro Hachigo, would step down and be replaced by Toshihiro Mibe, its head of research and development, on April 1.

Mibe, 59, who has worked with Hachigo to push through structural reforms, has been president of the R&D unit since 2019, following stints in engine development and the drive-train business after joining the company in 1987.

“We would consider using external insight or potential alliances among other actions to make decisions without hesitation,” Mibe told a news conference at which he called for Honda’s “major transformation at great speed”.

His appointment, first reported by Reuters this week, comes as Honda races to catch up in the field of all-electric cars and faces competition from new entrants and tech giants such as Tesla, Apple and Amazon.

“He has been looking into the future, a direction that Honda should be taking,” Hachigo told the conference, attributing Mibe’s expertise in environmental technology and energy and his attentiveness to changes as reasons for the choice.


Honda is in a weird middle ground, in which it is in many ways doing just fine, but I could see it getting caught flat-footed in five years’ time if the transformation to electric cars really takes hold and it’s left being like, “Come buy the Honda Insight.”

2nd Gear: The Kia Carnival Is Coming!

The artist formerly known as the Kia Sedona is not a minivan, you fool. It is a “multi-purpose vehicle,” a term which has been around for a while but one that always flummoxes me. All vehicles are multi-purpose?


Anyway, Kia has begun the ramp-up.

From Automotive News:

The Carnival will be unveiled Feb. 23 and will be the first vehicle in the U.S. to feature Kia’s new logo and badging.

Kia said the Carnival MPV will push “the boundaries of design and innovation to become a multifaceted and unexpected companion.”

Based on a preview image released by Kia, it will offer three rows of seating, room for seven or eight passengers and “bold and boxy” styling that resembles the brand’s recent latest utility vehicles such as the Telluride, Sorento, and Seltos.

The changes are designed to remain viable in a market shifting away from traditional minivans and embracing crossovers and SUVs. While the minivan segment continues to shrink, it remains a key entry point to some brands for buyers, notably families, that want more functionality (think multiple cupholders and storage bins), more flexible seating and easier entry and exit in a vehicle.


An “unexpected companion” is my favorite description of a new minivan in probably forever.

3rd Gear: Renault Has A Record Loss

For most automakers this would count as bad news. Indeed, it is for Renault as well. It’s just that Renault is the kind of company — partially owned by France itself — that I feel like will persist through thick and thin and always be with us.


All that means is we probably shouldn’t worry too much that Renault is forecasting very bad things for 2021.

From the Financial Times:

Renault suffered a record €8bn loss in 2020 and has warned of a difficult year ahead because of sluggish demand and a global microchip shortage that has rocked the industry.

The carmaker and its alliance partner Nissan, which contributes to the French group’s income, were badly affected in the first half of last year as the pandemic hit demand across Europe.

The net loss was worse than the €7.8bn predicted by analysts, but performance improved from July onwards, with Renault describing 2020 as a “year of contrasts”.

The operating margin was 3.5 per cent in the second half of the year and Renault generated positive automotive operational free cash flow, although the company still suffered a net loss of €660m.


It has been a year of contrasts indeed. Still can’t believe the Twingo is dead.

4th Gear: Daimler Isn’t Jazzed About Its Electric Car Brand In China

China has been moving pretty swiftly toward EVs but somehow Daimler’s EV brand there, Denza, is not doing so hot. Bloomberg says that Daimler is now putting the brand “on notice.”

Daimler AG Chief Executive Officer Ola Kallenius said the success of the latest Denza crossover will determine the future prospects of the Chinese electric-car brand with partner BYD Co. Ltd., following years of lackluster sales.

“The cash investment is behind us” for the model, Kallenius told reporters Thursday. “Now we look how Denza develops and then we’ll make decisions.”

Tepid demand for Denza’s EVs has raised concerns as the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars works to lift returns. BYD declined to comment.

Daimler and BYD established the brand a decade ago to tap growth in the Chinese new-energy vehicle market. While sales have taken off, fierce competition in price-sensitive volume segments is posing a challenge with regard to profitability.


5th Gear: Uber Remains Bad

The headline on this Reuters story is so plain it is almost shocking. “Uber drivers entitled to worker rights, top UK court rules in blow to business model.” As in, Uber’s whole business model is exploiting its workers.

A group of Uber drivers are entitled to worker rights such as the minimum wage, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday in a blow to the ride-hailing service that has ramifications for millions of others in the gig economy.

In a case led by two former Uber drivers, a London employment tribunal ruled in 2016 that they were due entitlements that also included paid holidays and rest breaks.

Uber drivers are currently treated as self-employed, meaning that by law they are only afforded minimal protections, a status the Silicon Valley-based company sought to maintain a long-running legal tussle.

“The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses Uber’s appeal,” judge George Leggatt said on Friday.


It could still take several months for the details of Friday’s decision to be worked at a further employment tribunal hearing to sort through practicalities over sums owed to drivers, according to lawyers.

Law firm Leigh Day says eligible drivers may be entitled to an average of 12,000 pounds ($16,780) in compensation. It represents more than 2,000 potential claimants.


Uber simply isn’t defensible.

Reverse: John Paul Jr.

It is the late race car driver’s birthday. He had a weird life.


Neutral: How Are You?

I suffered some gastrointestinal issues earlier this week, which is my favorite illness. Love to evacuate all the bad shit. Happy Friday.