Not content with just launching a range of electric SUVs, Vietnam’s VinFast might also enter the electric pickup segment, and Stellantis has been forced to halt production at one of its Italian factories yet again. All that and more in The Morning Shift for June 24, 2022.
1st: VinFast Might Enter the Pickup Game
Vietnamese car maker VinFast has had a pretty rapid launch onto the U.S. car scene. The firm has plans to open a production facility in North Carolina, has a handful of showrooms opening across the country, and will begin deliveries of its first electric crossover later this year. All this in the three years since it began making its first car.
Not content with resting on its laurels, the firm now says that it could one day add an electric pickup truck to its lineup here in America. The potential pickup would join the brand’s VF8 and VF9 all-electric SUVs.
According to Reuters, chief service officer for VinFast U.S., Craig Westbrook, told an Automotive Press Association event in Detroit that a pickup truck could be on the cards for the firm in the future. As per the report:
“‘We want to serve the needs of the market,’ he said in response to whether VinFast would ever look to sell an electric pickup. ‘If we decide that’s what the market needs and that fits our brand especially, and I think it absolutely could, yeah. It’s something we should consider’.”
The electric truck from VinFast would join the likes of the Ford F-150 Lightning, GM’s Hummer EV and the Rivian R1T. And, given VinFast’s (so far reasonable) track record on delivering on its promises, might there be yet another electric pickup we see on the road before the Cybertruck?
2nd: Einride will Test Self-Driving Trucks on U.S. Roads
Another week, another company promising to bring self-driving trucks to the U.S. This time it’s Swedish firm Einride, which has just been granted a license from the NHTSA to begin testing its autonomous trucks stateside.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Einride will partner with GE Appliances o begin testing its fleet of self-driving trucks here in America. The first test truck will operate between two of GE’s Tennessee warehouses after federal regulators approved the program.
Einride will run its test vehicle between the two sites for two weeks in the third quarter of 2022. It will see one of Einride’s ‘Pods’ run on public roads alongside regular trucks and cars. According to the WSJ:
“Einride calls its stubby, snub-nosed vehicles Pods. They have room for about 10 pallets of freight, or about 57,000 pounds. There is no onboard driver and they are managed by remote operators, who may monitor several vehicles at a time, according to Einride. Those remote operators take actions drivers would typically make, such as calling someone when a vehicle gets stuck at a gate.”
3rd: Mercedes Maybe Isn’t Selling its Van Arm
In recent months, Mercedes-Benz has been attempting to refocus itself on high-end, premium vehicles. Things like the G-Wagen, S Class and its bougie SUVs. But that high-end focus doesn’t really align itself with the firm’s van business, which is the vehicle of choice for delivery drivers and vanlifers alike.
But after a German media report claimed that the firm was considering selling off the business, Mercedes has reaffirmed its commitment to continue making excellent panel vans. According to Reuters:
“The weekly Manager Magazin on Thursday said a possible sale of the vans business - previously seen as sacrosanct - was being discussed as a measure of last resort, citing supervisory board sources.
“’This is pure speculation which we expressly deny,’ a company spokesperson said when asked to respond to the report.”
The company’s defense of its van-making business came just a month after the firm said it was “trimming the tree at the bottom” to try and improve its profits. This is businessman-speak for cutting down its offering of cheaper cars and focusing on the higher-end, more profitable sections of the car market.
4th: Stellantis Halts Italy Production Again
The shortage of computer chips is continuing to wreak havoc on the car world. While GM has cut features from some cars to reduce the demand for chips, Stellantis has instead cut production.
Reuters reports that the Jeep and Fiat owner will once again shutter its factory in Melfi, Italy, this month due to a shortage of semiconductors essential to its output. The stoppage follows a similar closure at the site last week. As per Reuters:
“The new stoppage –which will follow a production freeze between Friday last week and Saturday this week – means the Melfi plant will have only been operating for seven days in June, UILM metalworkers union said in a statement.”
Stellantis added that production issues were also affecting its sites in France. A spokesperson for the firm told Reuters that it didn’t expect to “see a stabilization until the end of 2022.”
Stellantis isn’t the only firm to be facing supply chain issues right now, of course. Polestar was forced to curb its production estimates for the year as a result of setbacks, and firms such as BMW have also trimmed out some features that were reliant on semiconductors.
5th: GM Starts Charging for Cruise Rides
If you like getting taxis, but don’t like making small talk with the driver I’ve got good news for you. General Motors is now allowed to start charging customers for rides in its self-driving Cruise cars on the streets of San Francisco.
According to Reuters, Cruise will start charging passengers in San Francisco for rides in its driverless cars, which have become a common site in the city both with and without an additional safety driver. As per Automotive News:
“The fared driverless rides are currently taking place in the northwest third of the city, the self-driving tech firm said on Thursday, adding that it would expand the service.”
The firm has been offering free rides to passengers in the city since February. There, they are able to take a daytime ride in an autonomous car with a safety drivers, or evening trips in fully autonomous vehicles.
The Verge reports that Cruise will charge a $5 base rate, plus an additional fee for each mile covered. According to the site:
“The cost for riding in one of Cruise’s driverless vehicles will vary depending on the length of the trip and the time of day. According to an example provided by the company, a customer taking a 1.3-mile trip would pay $0.90 per mile and $0.40 per minute, in addition to a $5 base fee and 1.5 percent city tax, for a total of $8.72.”
Reverse: Juan Manuel Fangio
Argentine Formula 1 driver Juan Manuel Fangio was born on June 24th 1911. Fangio was one of the sport’s pioneers, winning three out of seven races in the inaugural 1950 World Championship.
While driving for Alfa Romeo, he went on to win the world title in 1951 and won a further four championships between 1954 and 1957 while driving for the Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Maserati teams.
Neutral: Difficult decisions
I’ve had a pretty good run with my bike since I got it, managing to only ride in the nice, sunny New York weather. But I got stuck in the rain last night and my brakes DID NOT work, so I feel like it’s in need of some work. It’s an old frame, so I can’t really fit disc brakes, so I think some updated rim brakes might be on the cards. Deep down I know I’m fighting a losing battle with trying to make this bike great again, so a bit of me thinks I might have to make the difficult decision to sell it and buy something that works.