Volkswagen Isn't So Sure About That Whole Supercar Thing

Illustration for article titled Volkswagen Isn't So Sure About That Whole Supercar Thing
Photo: Bugatti

Volkswagen is giving its supercar strategy a rethink, Tesla is switching up its batteries in China, and Ford just issued a huge recall. All that and more in The Morning Shift for September 30, 2020.


1st Gear: What Will Bugatti Look Like In 10 Years?

Making and selling supercars has always been a highwire ordeal, purely as a business proposition. Now, Reuters reports that Volkswagen is rethinking its supercar business, one that was cherished and fostered by former VW chairman Ferdinand Piëch but may not have the same support under current leadership.


Volkswagen is reviewing the future of its high-performance brands Lamborghini, Bugatti and Ducati as part of broader quest for more economies of scale as it shifts to mass producing electric cars, senior executives told Reuters.

Volkswagen’s management board and directors will look at the carmaker’s strategy at a meeting in November and are working on a new “to do list” as the company tries to more than double its value to 200 billion euros ($235 billion), one executive said.

The review could result in technology partnerships for the high-performance sports car and superbike brands, restructuring, or other options up to and including a listing or sale, two executives, who declined to be named, said.

They said Volkswagen, which also owns VW, Audi, Porsche, Seat and Skoda, is looking at whether it has the resources to develop electric platforms for its smaller brands at a time it is investing billions to transform its more mainstream cars.

Among the non-supercar brands, Porsche and Audi seem untouchable for now. Both are still highly successful by almost any measure.

2nd Gear: Third-Quarter Sales Will Probably Be The Best Of 2020

This isn’t a surprise so much, as there is pent-up demand because consumers spent much of the second quarter not buying new cars. The year-over-year numbers are still down, of course.


From Automotive News:

U.S. light-vehicle sales fell 22 percent to nearly 9 million through August, according to J.D. Power and Cox Automotive.

J.D. Power and LMC Automotive expect 3.5 million retail sales in the third quarter, down 6.2 percent from the third quarter of 2019, but a smaller decline than in the first and second quarters, when sales fell 13 percent and 23 percent.

The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales will hit 15.7 million in September, J.D. Power and LMC project, or about 200,000 vehicles higher than Cox’s projection and about a million higher than ALG’s.

The SAAR tallied 15.2 million in August and 17.2 million in September 2019. It has inched up every month since bottoming out at 8.74 million in April.


3rd Gear: Ford Recalls 620,246 Cars

It’s all to do with possibly defective operation of backup cameras.

From Automotive News:

Ford is recalling 620,246 vehicles in the U.S. because of a poor electrical connection that may cause the rearview camera to display intermittently a blank or distorted image, increasing the risk of a crash, according to NHTSA documents.

The recalled vehicles are from the 2020 model year and include certain Ford Edge, Escape, Expedition, Explorer, F-150, F-250 SD, F-350 SD, F-450 SD, F-550 SD, Mustang, Ranger and Transit vehicles. The 2020 Lincoln Corsair and Nautilus also are part of the recall.

The automaker said it is not aware of any accidents or injuries related to this defect.

A Ford spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As always, it’s good to periodically check to see if your car has an open recall.


4th Gear: Nikola

The truck startup remains busy today as its nascent partnership with GM is on the rocks because of, well, lots. It had previously said that the partnership was anticipated to be sewn up by today, but that hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, it issued a thirsty press release this morning apparently designed to remind the world Nikola still exists, in some form, in some fashion. Here is a representative paragraph:

This innovator/integrator business model is not uncommon in the next-generation technology space. At Nikola, we are laser-focused on pursuing the quickest, least capital-intensive path to market, in combination with our own intellectual property. If our partners have a less expensive, more efficient solution that works with and in our designs, we very intentionally want to go with that. This is in the best interest of our company and our shareholders – and, simply put, is the smart business decision. In line with our strategy, Nikola will continue to partner with world-class companies that will enable us to save billions of dollars and years in development.


5th Gear: Tesla Batteries

I guess batteries are the new thing we will be hearing about for the next several decades, in the same way that we used to hear about cylinders and engine sizes. It is all far less interesting, but part of the point of electric cars is that they are less complicated machines.


From Reuters:

U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc is poised to start selling some Model 3 vehicles made in China equipped with cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, two people familiar with the matter said.

Currently the Model 3 electric sedans made at the carmaker’s Chinese plant use nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) batteries. The starting price for the vehicles is currently 271,550 yuan ($39,900) after factoring in government subsidies.

Tesla will announce the product change as early as Thursday, the two sources said. They declined to be named as the matter is confidential.

Tesla was not immediately available for comment.

Reverse: James Dean

I recommend reading this post in full, as it gets insanely dark. I had no idea!


Rumor has it that Dean’s car, which he’d nicknamed the Little Bastard, was cursed. After the accident, the car rolled off the back of a truck and crushed the legs of a mechanic standing nearby. Later, after a used-car dealer sold its parts to buyers all over the country, the strange incidents multiplied: The car’s engine, transmission and tires were all transplanted into cars that were subsequently involved in deadly crashes, and a truck carrying the Spyder’s chassis to a highway-safety exhibition skidded off the road, killing its driver. The remains of the car vanished from the scene of that accident and haven’t been seen since.

Wütherich, whose feelings of guilt after the car accident never abated, tried to commit suicide twice during the 1960s—and in 1967, he stabbed his wife 14 times with a kitchen knife in a failed murder/suicide—and he died in a drunk-driving accident in 1981. Turnupseed died of lung cancer in 1995.


Neutral: On That Note, How Are You?

I watched approximately 10 minutes of the debate last night. It was all as expected!

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.



Neutral: CNN summed the debate up perfectly - one pundit literally called it a shitshow, another called it a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a trainwreck. And I think they undersold it. I can’t blame the moderator - the only way to control Trump would be to have a remotely controlled cattle prod up his ass. That might just shut him up.

Just unbelievable to me that anyone with functional braincells would vote for Trump for President again. The first time - OK, he was a novelty, and Hillary Clinton was a devisive candidate to say the least, plus good old-fashioned misogyny. But after the past four years?? Especially THIS year???