Toyota Bows to SUV-Mania

Photo: Toyota
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Toyota has a new SUV in the works, Fiat Chrysler is dumping money into an electric 500, Volkswagen has plans for its Beetle plant in Mexico, and Tesla. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Thursday, July 11, 2019.

1st Gear: Toyota Will Make a New SUV at Its New Alabama Plant, Not the Corolla

The plant, a collaboration with Mazda in Huntsville, Alabama, was going to make Corollas, currently made (in the U.S. at least) in Blue Springs, Mississippi. But instead it will make SUVs in Huntsville. Which SUV? Apparently an all new one, per Toyota’s press release.

Toyota is shifting future production plans at the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. (MTMUS) joint venture assembly plant as an opportunity to build a new, yet-to-be announced SUV.

This shift is in response to changing market demands and a growing consumer appetite for light trucks and SUVs which are achieving record sales, including Toyota’s best-selling RAV4.

More details related to the future SUV will be released at a later date.

Toyota’s big SUV lineup is pretty full, what with the Land Cruiser, Sequoia, and 4Runner, so this new SUV will likely be something smaller, possibly even smaller than the RAV4. The plant is set to begin production in April 2021, per Al.com:

Toyota said Wednesday it will build a new entry-level SUV at the plant instead of the planned Corolla sedan. “It’s so new they ain’t got a name for it yet,” [Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey] told the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon appearance.

Ivey said Toyota is now expected to open in April 2021 instead of January 2021. The automaker must retool some parts of the plant and make changes in its suppliers, the governor said.

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2nd Gear: Fiat Is Throwing a Bunch of Money Into Electric 500s 

That would be $788 million, according to Reuters.

FCA on Thursday installed the first robot of the future electric 500 assembly line in its historic plan of Mirafiori, in Turin, which will produce 80,000 unit a year, starting from the second quarter of 2020, said Pietro Gorlier, FCA’s chief operating officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

This isn’t a shock, of course, since FCA has previously said they will spend $10.5 billion on its electrification strategy. But it is a nice vote of confidence in the future of the 500. Are small, electric cars are future? One can only dream.

3rd Gear: Meanwhile, FCA Is Trying to Save Face

FCA was going to merge with Renault last month, until it didn’t. Now Chairman John Elkann is saying that, you know, bold moves don’t always work. But FCA should be applauded for being bold, or something.

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Emphasis mine:

The merger proposal made by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to Renault in May was an “act of courage,” but the Italian-American automaker felt the conditions were not right to go ahead, FCA Chairman John Elkann told La Stampa newspaper.

[...]

“Mergers are difficult to make and to manage. There must be the right conditions to go ahead and it’s important to say no when they are not,” [FCA Chairman John Elkann] said in the interview to be published in La Stampa on Thursday. The interview comments were circulated to media by FCA ahead of publication.

“FCA is ready to face the challenges of the new era,” he added.

FCA pushing this interview to the media is a transparent effort to move past the failed merger, though if I were them, I would just pretend like it never even happened.

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4th Gear: Out with the Beetle, in With the Tarek

Volkswagen produced its last Beetle yesterday in Mexico. RIP the Beetle, which has died a few times now. And while I’m told on deep background that Jalopnik Senior Editor Jason Torchinsky has not stopped cursing or crying since, VW has moved on, saying it will build the Tarek at the Puebla, Mexico plant instead. The small(ish) crossover that will sit right below the Tiguan.

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Per Reuters:

With the end of Beetle output, Volkswagen Group will begin producing the Tarek small crossover at its plant in the Mexican state of Puebla in 2020 and sales will start by the end of 2021, VW of Mexico CEO Steffen Reiche said on Wednesday.

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It will also apparently have a different name.

Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen of America, told Automotive News this year that the subcompact crossover would have a different name in the U.S. market.

[...]

The new compact crossover will be a beefed-up version of a model sold in China named Tharu.

“We’ll adapt the Chinese model for this market,” Reiche said during an event at the Puebla plant. “Our version will be the stronger one, the rougher one compared to the Chinese one.”

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5th Gear: Tesla’s Biggest Outside Shareholder Chides Elon Musk

Perhaps, James Anderson, whose firm holds millions of Tesla shares, said, Tesla CEO Elon Musk should try not to overpromise things. Good luck with that.

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Per Bloomberg:

“One should, on the whole, try not to give too many targets that may not be attainable, with specific dates at establishment,” Anderson said Wednesday. “And I don’t think one wants sudden reversals of policy. I hope that’s not too much for a major shareholder to ask.”

Anderson, whose firm holds 13.2 million Tesla shares, said his comment about making goals applies to robotaxis. Musk, 48, said in April that by the middle of next year, 1 million Teslas will be on the road that are fully capable of driving themselves. Weeks later, Musk said autonomy could turn Tesla into a “half-trillion-dollar market cap company.”

Musk, who owns 34.1 million Tesla shares, has made several strategic U-turns in the past year. Ten days after blindsiding many employees with a plan to close all but a small number of the company’s stores, Musk backtracked. And within a span of less than three weeks last fall, he tweeted that he would try to take Tesla private, then abruptly abandoned the pursuit.

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Anderson isn’t selling those shares any time soon, though, saying that Musk has “great gifts and extraordinary achievements.” I prefer Warren Buffett’s advice for Musk.

In April, fellow billionaire Warren Buffett questioned whether the Tesla CEO needed to tweet so much.

“He’s a remarkable guy. I just don’t see the necessity to communicate,” Buffett said in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

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Don’t believe the hype, there’s rarely a necessity to communicate.

Reverse: RIP Skylab

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Neutral: What Is Your Favorite Corolla?

The sixth generation is hard to top, in my mind.

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About the author

Erik Shilling

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.