Trump's Favorite Car Startup Needs More Money

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Trump threw a lot of weight behind the somewhat quizzical Lordstown Motors, which facelifted an electric Silverado and got a GM factory for its trouble. Now the startup needs more federal money. All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 13, 2020.

1st Gear: Biden Will Probably Boost It, Too

Already a favored project of the Trump Admin, Lordstown Motors needs money, as Reuters reports:

Startup Lordstown Motors Corp. said Wednesday it is in advanced talks with the U.S. Energy Department seeking a government loan from a program to help pay for the costs of retooling a factory to build electric trucks.

Lordstown CEO Steve Burns in January 2020 told Reuters the company was pursuing a $200 million loan from the program for a former General Motors factory in northeast Ohio it acquired in 2019.

Burns said the loan would help “us make more (vehicles) once we start” and “pull future vehicles forward a little bit.” The company’s production plan does not require the government loan, but Burns said the loan “puts things on steroids.”

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The idea of Lordstown Motors — America is getting back to manufacturing, and we’re doing electric pickups! — is probably too strong to die even with a change in administrations. Biden loves talking up EV stuff. I don’t think the Trump association will be a scarlet letter for Lordstown, but we’ll see.

2nd Gear: Mahindra Halves Its U.S. Workforce

Are you happy, FCA? You could have helped America’s love for Jeeps, but noooooooooooooooo. You have repeatedly fought Mahindra in court, and now it’s cutting its American workforce in half, as Reuters reports:

Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd has cut more than half of the workforce at its North American unit, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an ongoing legal tussle.

[...]

MANA said in a statement it had furloughed some staff and laid off others due to the pandemic and an International Trade Commission lawsuit which led to an August “cease and desist” order for the Roxor business. It did not provide figures.

Mahindra and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) are in a protracted legal battle over an intellectual property infringement case which has prevented the Indian automaker from selling its Roxor vehicle in the United States.

“This forced us to halt production and furlough our manufacturing team and some additional people across several functions, including the Roxor sales team,” the company said.

This accounts for hundreds of layoffs, which is a total bummer.

3rd Gear: Geely Will Work With Foxconn Because Why Not, Who Else Is Out There?

Geely’s singular quest to own or work with every company on Earth (call us, Geely!) now includes Taiwan’s Foxconn. We’ve been hearing about the iPhone maker wanting in on cars for a while now, but never have had such an established auto manufacturing partner named like this. Reuters explains:

Taiwan’s Foxconn and Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding Group said Wednesday they will cooperate to provide contract manufacturing for automakers.It marks the latest move by Foxconn, a major Apple supplier, into auto production after a tie-up with Chinese electric car startup Byton to help build its M-Byte utility vehicle, and comes amid reports that Apple is likely to launch a self-driving electric car by 2024.For Geely, the partnership will allow it to share its first EV-focused platform, launched in September, with other automakers, according to people familiar with Geely’s plan.

The companies will each hold 50 percent of a venture that will also provide consulting services on electric vehicle technologies to automakers, the companies said in a statement.

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The Foxconn to Geely to Apple connection is interesting, but who knows in what ways it will manifest.

4th Gear: Honda UK Halts Production Again Again

We knew a global chip shortage was threatening to halt car production and well, here we are, as Reuters reports:

Honda said it would halt output at its British factory from Monday to Thursday next week due to COVID-19 related global supply chain issues, the latest production suspension in recent weeks.

“The situation is currently being monitored with a view to re-start production on Friday 22 January,” the company said.

Honda also stopped car output for a few days in December at the Civic plant as some major container ports, such as Felixstowe, struggled to cope with disruption caused by COVID-19, pre-Brexit stockpiling and Christmas.

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Honda has shut down in the UK a few times over COVID and Brexit-related supply issues. I can’t imagine what it’s like working there.

5th Gear: Renaulution Is Coming

Automotive News has a big article today “What to expect from Renault’s new strategic plan,” and it details what’s next for the company that had chased volume over everything under Carlos Ghosn. It’s a nice read, but it is imperative that I share this excellent corporate branding-speak:

De Meo’s plan, which he calls Renaulution, will replace Drive the Future, the last midterm plan from longtime CEO Carlos Ghosn, who stepped down following his arrest in Japan in November 2018 on charges of financial wrongdoing at alliance partner Nissan.

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“Renaulution will replace Drive the Future” is such a good collection of nonsense words that I can expect nothing but success for Renault to come.

Reverse: We Don’t Talk About The Dangers Of Cigars While Driving

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Neutral: What Dead Eco Program Deserved Better?

The graveyard of federally-backed eco startups is sizable, but I have to say that I still feel for the Chevy Volt. It got tied up in Obama’s half-hearted attempt to remake bailout GM into a green company, hated for it, and I wish that it’d been supported better.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

Oh the Volt. The Volt got a raw deal. The COO of my old employer, who could have driven any car he wanted, drove a Volt for years. Now he drives a launch edition Gladiator and his son drives the Volt to school and work. I still see them from time to time and his son said he has filled the gas tank only twice since his dad took delivery of his Launch Edition Gladiator. The Volt is a decent little car.