The UK’s new strain of coronavirus is wreaking havoc, the VW copycat SUV tech case is developing and Michigan is simply too slow to get at Tesla. All that and more in The Morning Shift for December 22, 2020.
France was quick to close its somewhat wet border with the UK and halt travel amid a new strain of coronavirus in Britain. This is bad for us, as humans, and it’s bad for cars, as an industry. Toyota has closed shop in both the UK and France a few days early, before Christmas and New Year’s, because of what Bloomberg titles “virus border chaos.” Via B’berg:
Toyota will halt production in the U.K. and France starting Tuesday due to transport delays caused by the spread of a mutant strain of coronavirus that has led several countries to close their borders with Britain.
The closures have “disrupted the transportation of parts,” Toyota spokeswoman Shino Yamada said in an emailed statement.
The automaker builds the Corolla compact car in Burnaston, England, and the Yaris small car in Valenciennes, France.
Toyota expects things to re-open on December 29 in France and January 5 in the UK, but we’ll see how that goes.
Your favorite deep sea monster SUV maker Ssangyong has hit a rough patch, as the Financial Times reports:
South Korean carmaker Ssangyong Motor has filed for bankruptcy after failing to repay creditors, a move analysts said signals that the government is unlikely to bail out pandemic-hit companies that have foreign backers.
Ssangyong, 75 per cent-owned by Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra, has filed for court receivership and warned of massive disruptions to its operations after defaulting on loan payments of about Won60bn ($54.4m).
Officials are concerned that rescuing Ssangyong to save local jobs would send the wrong signal to other foreign-invested carmakers, analysts said.
“If the government bails out Ssangyong, GM Korea could ask for another round of financial support and Renault Samsung could also make a similar move. It just cannot bail out everyone,” said Lee Hang-koo, executive adviser at Korea Automotive Technology Institute.
GM Korea has been in a very weird spot as of late, threatening to pull out of the country only a few years after a government bailout of its own. GM Korea has also been getting into it with its union, and I hope it doesn’t screw things up for my sweet and cherished Ssangyong, too.
Last month, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) tried to halt imports of pretty much all of the VW Group’s premium SUVs, saying that they had ripped off JLR’s patented Terrain Response technology.
Now the Feds have opened up a probe on the subject, as Reuters reports:
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) said Monday it is opening in investigation into whether Volkswagen Group infringed on patents held by Jaguar Land Rover for a system used for off-road driving.
In November, Jaguar Land Rover filed a complaint with the ITC seeking to prevent the import of some VW, Porsche, Lamborghini and Audi models with “certain vehicle control systems” that allegedly infringe on its patents.
The models are the Lamborghini Urus, Porsche Cayenne and Audi’s Q8, Q7, Q5, A6 Allroad, and e-tron vehicles and the VW Tiguan. The ITC said it has made no decision on the merits.
I find this case petty and funny, in that I find it impossible to believe that any Lamborghini Urus buyer would find a lack of Terrain Response modes a dealbreaker.
For some reason Michigan’s legislature turned anti-Tesla this year, putting up a bill to remove an exemption for the direct-sales brand in the state. Somehow this stupid plan has met a stupid end, at least for now. Michigan was too slow to get it done, as Automotive News reports:
Legislation in Michigan that would have removed an exemption for Tesla Inc. from the state’s ban on direct vehicle sales will not pass this year.
The Michigan Senate did not vote on the amended legislation, which passed out of the state House this month, before it wrapped up its two-year legislative term late last week. Any bills not passed before the end of the term are considered dead and must be reintroduced in the new year.
Just let us buy cars on the internet, thank you.
There is a really lovely story in Automotive News today about Volvo’s upcoming EV, which is almost certainly a high-riding sedan version of the XC40, as AN lays out:
Volvo’s global head of commercial operations, Lex Kerssemakers, said in early 2019 that the successor to the V40 would be higher-riding because the extra height would help accommodate batteries needed to create a full-electric version.
When Volvo outlined is compact car strategy in 2016 it showed two CMA-based concepts: the 40.1, which was a near match to what would become the XC40, and the 40.2, a sleek, high-riding sedan.
It is with that in mind that I find this quote Volvo gave Automotive News very funny:
Volvo has released few details on the model, which will be shown March 2, but has revealed it will share the compact module architecture (CMA) with its first EV, the XC40 Recharge crossover.
When asked about the new model, Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson told Automotive News Europe that it would have a “more streamlined body” than the XC40 Recharge.
“We will keep you a bit in the dark until we show the car, but I promise you it will be a very good-looking car,” he added.
Samuelsson said the new model would not be a successor to the recently discontinued V40 compact hatchback, which competed in a price segment below where Volvo wants to be.
We all know, Volvo. We all know.
December 22, 1894: Dreyfus affair begins in France, via History:
French officer Alfred Dreyfus is convicted of treason by a military court-martial and sentenced to life in prison for his alleged crime of passing military secrets to the Germans. The Jewish artillery captain, convicted on flimsy evidence in a highly irregular trial, began his life sentence on the notorious Devil’s Island Prison in French Guyana four months later.
The Dreyfus case demonstrated the anti-Semitism permeating France’s military and, because many praised the ruling, in France in general. Interest in the case lapsed until 1896, when evidence was disclosed that implicated French Major Ferdinand Esterhazy as the guilty party. The army attempted to suppress this information, but a national uproar ensued, and the military had no choice but to put Esterhazy on trial. A court-martial was held in January 1898, and Esterhazy was acquitted within an hour.
In response, the French novelist Émile Zola published an open letter entitled “J’Accuse” on the front page of the Aurore, which accused the judges of being under the thumb of the military. By the evening, 200,000 copies had been sold. One month later, Zola was sentenced to jail for libel but managed to escape to England.
It wasn’t that long many months ago that a buddy of mine was quitting a job because his boss wasn’t taking any precautions for COVID-19. Now I wonder how many of you out there have had your work stopped for coronavirus precautions, and how many of you found yourself in a similar position to my friend, quitting for your own safety?