Toyota is considering raising its prices in the U.S. and Europe because of rising production costs, Tesla employees are being roped into Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, and Abarth found that driving fun, little cars makes you happy – who knew! All this and more in The Morning Shift for Tuesday November 1, 2022.
1st Gear: Toyota Eyes Price Hikes as Production Costs Boom
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but everything’s getting more and more expensive right now. As inflation threatens to wreak havoc on our grocery shop, Toyota looks to be hopping on the price hike bandwagon soon as well.
According to Automotive News, the Japanese automaker is considering raising its prices here in the U.S. and in Europe as it struggles to stay on top of spiraling build costs. It follows the news that the company posted a loss here in North America last quarter. Automotive News reports:
“Executives warned of the looming adjustments saying they are needed to offset surging input costs that drove the Japanese juggernaut’s North American business to a regional operating loss in the latest quarter. The big question is how much of a hike customers will be willing to bear.
“‘We are really racking our brains trying to come up with the appropriate pricing level,’ Chief Communications Officer Jun Nagata said at Toyota’s Nov. 1 quarterly earnings announcement. ‘We have begun to reflect those higher prices into the vehicle as much as possible.’
“Price increases are also being eyed in Europe, which also fell to a regional quarterly loss. Toyota struggled to absorb a worldwide cost surge exceeding $2 billion in the July-September period.”
Automotive News adds that Toyota has already raised “prices in line with rising material costs and inflation.” But, the new increases could be “more aggressive” for the company to remain profitable.
2nd Gear: Tesla Employees Dragged into Musk’s Twitter Takeover
It finally happened, after months of “will he, won’t he,” Tesla boss Elon Musk finally took over the reins at Twitter last week with a dramatic wave of firings and rumors of a shake-up in the way the social media platform verifies users. Now, Musk is bringing his full-time job into his hobby and has dragged Tesla employees into the fray.
According to CNBC, Musk has pulled more than 50 employees away from Tesla’s Autopilot team and brought them into the fold at Twitter. CNBC reports:
“According to internal records viewed by CNBC, employees from Musk’s other companies are now authorized to work at Twitter, including more than 50 from Tesla, two from the Boring Company (which is building underground tunnels) and one from Neuralink (which is developing a brain-computer interface).”
The employees shifted away from the ultimate goal of self-driving cars and into the new mission of slightly fewer bot accounts at Twitter include director of software development Ashok Elluswamy, director of Autopilot and TeslaBot engineering Milan Kovac and senior director of software engineering Maha Virduhagiri. CNBC adds:
“Several Twitter employees told CNBC over the weekend that Tesla employees now at Twitter have been involved in code review at the social network, even though their skills from working on Autopilot and other Tesla software and hardware do not directly overlap with the languages and systems used to build and maintain the social network.”
3rd Gear: EV Batteries Have a Lot of Hurdles to Overcome
It might feel like electric vehicles are the hottest thing since sliced bread, as automakers continue parading out newer, shinier models with even more range. But, according to a new report from Reuters, mass-production of electric cars is staring down the barrel of a raft of “supply chain and geopolitical headwinds.”
Reuters cites a report from S&P Global Mobility, which it says has warned of a “slowing” EV adoption as “a fragile supply chain marred by geopolitical tensions could hit the planned expansion of electric vehicle (EV) battery production.” Reuters reports:
“The auto industry information provider said original equipment manufacturers’ battery-electric and hybrid vehicle sales aspirations will face strong headwinds as they scramble for raw materials, with annual market demand for lithium-ion batteries pegged at about 3.4 Terawatt hours (TWh) by 2030.
“S&P Global Mobility also said soaring prices of critical battery metals threaten the profit margins of suppliers and automakers, with issues around the production of these metals boosting prices for components and vehicles.”
Reuters reports that the steps between excavation and assembly of EV batteries are of a particular challenge, which sounds like a lot of steps. It added that achieving the current EV volume goals “will require a steep growth curve for a burgeoning industry.”
4th Gear: GM Battery Plant Workers Want to Join UAW
Workers at General Motors’ Ohio battery plant, which was opened in August in partnership with LG, are facing a struggle as they attempt to unionize. More than 900 workers at the plant have reportedly signed cards authorizing the United Auto Workers union to represent them, but the move has so far not been recognized by either GM or LG.
Now, Automotive News reports that the UAW has filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to allow it to represent workers at the Ohio Ultium plant. Automotive News reports:
“The UAW said it had filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of approximately 900 workers at Ultium Cells after a majority of workers had signed cards authorizing the union to represent them.
“‘By refusing to recognize their majority will, Ultium – which is a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution – has decided to ignore democracy and delay the recognition process,’ UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement.”
According to Reuters, a representative from the Ultium plant said it “respects workers’ freedom to choose union representation and the efforts of the UAW to organize battery cell manufacturing workers at our Ohio manufacturing site.”
Bloomberg adds that “organizing the Ultium plant would be the union’s first move into EV-battery manufacturing.” As such, the UAW is eager to secure “good wages and benefits for the workers” at the Ohio plant.
5th Gear: Abarth Proves That Driving Fun Cars Makes You Happy
If you ever wanted proof that driving nice cars on fun roads can make you happy, then boy have I got good news for you. Fiat performance wing Abarth has been conducting tests with a raft of its fun little cars and studied the emotional responses of the drivers. It found that happiness was the “most prominent” emotion among drivers and passengers.
According to Yahoo News, the tests were carried out in the UK by Abarth and researchers from Loughborough (pronounced luff-bruh) University. Participants drove around a race track in various Abarth cars while researchers used heart rate sensors and facial recognition to monitor their responses. Yahoo News reports:
“Working alongside Loughborough University, the performance car brand carried out the experiment with its F595, 595 Essesse and 595 Competizione models. Participants were put through a number of driving challenges at Mallory Park, Leicestershire, including hot laps and precision driving tasks.
“The results showed that the ‘most prominent’ emotion experienced during the test was happiness, both by driver and passenger.”
Interestingly, it wasn’t all fun and games for the participants of the study. Apparently, when they rode shotgun alongside a professional driver that pushed the car to its limits they “experienced short bursts of fear and shock,” as well as the aforementioned happiness.
Reverse: 65 Years of the Mac’
Neutral: What Car Makes You happy?
If driving a cutesy little Abarth around a race track is enough to make British drivers happy, what would it take to perk up an American gearhead? Is there a car that always puts a smile on your face whenever you drive or see one?