Toyota is making tons of money and is looking to cut its product offerings, extreme corruption within the UAW, and is Elon Musk a commenter? All that and more in The Morning Shift for November 6th, 2018.
1st Gear: We Could Make A Few Guesses As To What’s Getting Axed
Toyota, a large corporation, is just swimming in money these days. Practically Scrooge McDuck jumping into his big money pool. The company posted an 11 percent increase in profit, Automotive News reports, to the point where in the last quarter alone it made over $5 billion (yes, billion) in pure profit.
So you, an astute observer of capitalism, can imagine how this is all definitely working out in favor of the customer:
“We are taking a hard look at all of the segments that we compete in to make sure we are competing in profitable segments and that products we sell have strategic value,” Jim Lentz, the company’s North America CEO, said here after the automaker reported a rise in quarterly profits Tuesday.
The company will not abandon passenger cars in a manner seen by rivals such as Ford Motor Co., he said, but it is rethinking offerings in some areas, such as convertibles or coupes.
Now I know what you’re thinking – “convertibles and coupes??”
You don’t have to be an extremely astute observer to note that Toyota doesn’t have a single convertible in its lineup:
Though it doesn’t take the biggest brain genius in the world to guess that the 2019 Toyota Supra, which Toyota actually unveiled a long long time ago but is now claiming will “debut” in Detroit in January because maybe they all think we were hit on the head or something, was probably going to have a convertible variant seeing as it’s heavily based on the BMW Z4, but now may not.
But there’s also the Toyota 86, which is a coupe, and which Toyota seems to despise even making. It refuses to do anything at all with it. More power? No. Convertible? No. Hot update? No. Racey version? No. Luxurious version? No. Hybrid version? No. These aren’t necessarily things I would personally want, but it’s something that a company making five billion dollars a quarter, not in revenue, in actual profit, could conceivably do in about half a minute.
But Toyota refuses. Might as well consider that dead, too.
But the Supra and the 86 would barely be blips on Toyota’s sales radar. The company would need to look elsewhere to slash its lineup in a meaningful way. The Avalon and Camry are relatively new, so they’ll probably be around for a bit. The Prius is an important Toyota icon at this point, so it’s staying, too.
But the Financial Times has a little more from the interview with Lentz:
“We have got a large number of passenger cars,” he said. “You would expect that to come down over time.”
The Yaris Liftback? Can probably kill that one. Same for the regular Yaris, AKA the Toyota iA, AKA the Scion iA, AKA the Mazda 2. That car is a delight and a joy, and therefore doesn’t fit in with much of the lineup. Kill it. The Prius C, too, why not.
Americans who absolutely insist upon a small car will have to make do with the Toyota Corolla, if I had to guess. And no fun versions, either. You’ll eat your gruel and like it.
And I’d be shocked if the Toyota Sienna lives beyond 2021. That thing can just be an SUV.
2nd Gear: The UAW Is So Corrupt That It Was Forced To Do More Corruption
The UAW has been mired in yet another corruption scandal for a while now, and the fallout from its embezzlement scheme revolving around a training center in which officials walked away with mortgage payments, jewelry, and other accoutrements continues.
We’re now at the sentencing phase, where a lot of these anti-labor jerks (because when you steal from unions, it goes without saying that you hate workers) are probably going to end up in prison. But as they beg for their sentences to be lightened, we’re getting a lot of excuses. The best one so far is that they were ordered by their superiors to be corrupt, so they had to be corrupt, or else they would be sent back to the horrors of the factory floor, the Detroit News reports:
The top echelon of the United Auto Workers was so corrupt officials committed crimes out of fear they would lose six-figure jobs, travel perks and expense accounts and be forced to return to the factory floor, according to federal court filings.
Former UAW leaders described a culture of blind obedience during a widespread conspiracy involving the union, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the jointly operated UAW-Chrysler National Training Center.
I really do hope that prison is more comfortable than the floor of Chrysler’s Jefferson North plant. Anyway, America’s auto workers deserve a better union than these jamokes.
3rd Gear: Maybe There’s A New Battery Breakthrough?
With the way the slow, plodding advance of technology actually works, it’s hard to point to any singular thing and say “ah, this is when everything changed,” until it’s like 20 years after the fact. But the guy behind a lot of battery technology today says he’s come up with a new idea, and this one might solve one of the biggest problems with electric cars, Bloomberg says:
Kenan Sahin, 77, says his latest innovation reduces the need for cobalt, a key battery material, to only the most critical areas in order to lower costs. The blueish-gray element is mined mostly in Democratic Republic of Congo and prices have spiked in recent years amid fears of shortages for battery-powered cars.
Sahin’s new invention, called GEMX, can be used in a number of types of nickel-based power packs and has been granted patents in the U.S., the European Union, China and Japan — the major battery manufacturing markets. In Berlin this week for an annual car industry conference, he said he’s in talks with large manufacturers and one has already agreed to buy a license.
It’s bad to base any technology on one, single element in general. It’s worse to base it on an element that mostly comes from only one place. It’s even worse than that to base it on an element that mostly only comes from the Congo, which is pretty much the opposite of social, economic, and political stability.
The world needs something better. (And Congo does, too, frankly, but that involves a big discussion of colonialism, imperialism, corruption, and the resource curse that can cover many books.)
But Kenan Sahin isn’t just some rando tinkering in his garage, as Bloomberg points out:
His story is an unlikely tale of success. After traveling to the U.S. from Turkey at age 16 on an exchange program, he went on to build a customer-service software company that he sold to Lucent Technologies for $1.5 billion. He then pumped almost $100 million of his own fortune into developing cathodes, the mission-critical chemical compounds that determine how far a car battery can run between charges.
So maybe this breakthrough has a better chance than all the other random “breakthroughs.” Here’s hoping.
4th Gear: Truck Weekend
The Discovery Channel does Shark Week, so now the History Channel is doing Truck Weekend, the Detroit Free Press reports:
At 8 p.m. EST Saturday, “Truck Weekend in America” launches six-hours of truck programming that spotlights new trucks, rescue trucks, restoring trucks, how trucks are built in factories, how trucks have transformed our culture.
Truck segments air from 8-11 p.m. EST Saturday and Sunday.
And while trucks are cars and Cars are Good, is this all a big ad for Ford?
The project is a collaboration with Ford Motor Co., manufacturer of the Ford F-Series, America’s top-selling truck for 41 years.
5th Gear: Is Elon A Secret Commenter?
We’ve been convinced—CONVINCED—in the past that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had a commenter account right here on Kinja. We’ve gone so far to try and confirm it that we’ve even had our robo-bretheren at Gizmodo send a direct message to Musk himself on Twitter to try and confirm it, but he denied it. We never went public with the story (does a full draft exist? Who can say!) because on the off chance that we were wrong, we didn’t want to be pointing the big Jalopnik blog-cannon at a random civilian.
We just don’t roll like that. If we’re going to report something, we want to be able to stand by it to the end.
But we’re not the only ones driven crazy by this notion. Automotive News says that the community behind a Tesla forum, the Tesla Motors Club, was consumed with similar thoughts:
Someone using the name Fact Checking started posting at the Tesla Motors Club forum, the Internet’s most active forum for Tesla investors, on Aug. 3. In three months, the user, whose profile information is private, has made more than 1,300 posts, often on topics such as short sellers, what was behind Musk’s thinking on several topics, and even one explanation of orbital physics.
The account’s huge number of posts and apparent deep familiarity with Tesla’s business and Musk’s thinking quickly made Fact Checking a prominent contributor to the forum, but members didn’t start to suspect the person might be Musk until Oct. 4, when Musk tweeted the same joke Fact Checking had made a couple of days earlier. That was the day Musk tweeted a joke with a dropped word: “Just want to that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work. And the name change is so on point!” A forum member pointed out that Fact Checking had used the exact same phrase five days earlier in the Tesla Motors Club forum’s “Market Action” thread.
We all know Musk is Extremely Online, but how Extremely Online is he?
Tesla denied that Musk was indeed the person behind the Fact Checking account, just as Tesla (and Musk himself) denied to us that he’s had a Kinja account.
Maybe I’m Elon? There’s no way for you to tell, really.
Reverse: Cars In History!
On November 6, 1998, President Bill Clinton declares that part of Detroit will become an “Automobile National Heritage Area.” The designation restricted land use and drew attention to what Michigan Congressman John Dingell called “the automobile’s contribution to our history and economic strength and the role of organized labor in that history.”
Neutral: GO VOTE
There is no time for discussing anything today. Use your precious commenting time to go vote instead.