Something’s Going On At VW

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Golf 8 production in Wolfsburg

VW likes talking about one thing: switching to new, flashy EVs. What it doesn’t like talking about (other than the reason why it is switching to EVs) is what’s going on with its conventional cars. All that and more in The Morning Shift for October 20, 2021.

1st Gear: Behind All The EV News, Big Production Cuts At VW

VW loves to hype its EV and tech developments (here’s a new missive from boss Herbert Diess), but what is somewhat less publicized is what’s going on with its gas-burning models. They are … in cut mode, as Reuters reports:

Volkswagen has produced just 300,000 cars at its main Wolfsburg plant so far this year, a company source with knowledge of the matter said, the lowest figure since 1958 and far behind its average output before the pandemic.

The plant, which makes cars from the Golf, Tiguan, and Seat brands among others, produced an average of 780,000 vehicles per year in the past decade and the company said in 2018 it aimed to boost this figure to a million.

But supply chain problems meant just under 500,000 vehicles made it off the assembly line in 2020. This year’s output, first reported by Die Zeit weekly, is set to be even lower as the chip crisis sets in.

The reality of the car world at the moment is that the high profit-margin stuff gets seriously prioritized over everything else as automakers feel a general squeeze in semiconductor supply. This means high-volume, low-margin stuff is getting seriously slowed down. Skoda, as Bloomberg reports, is down a quarter million units, for instance.

2nd Gear: Aston Martin Declares That, Uh, Sure, EVs, We’re Getting To That

Aston Martin might be a pretty conventional sports car manufacturer at the moment, with V8 and V12 models on the market like the early ‘90s never ended. But it is going EV! Yep! We’re getting there, as Aston declares:

“I would say a minimum of 50% of our sales will be electric, possibly more,” Aston Martin Chief Executive Tobias Moers said during the Reuters Events Automotive Summit.

That is actually almost the entirety of Reuters’ report on Aston’s EV developments.

3rd Gear: Fisker Still Planning

Fisker is still doing things like “hoping” to produce high-end electric cars to take on mainstream rivals, according to a new report “Fisker plans high-end models to take on premium rivals” from Automotive News:

Electric-car startup Fisker will develop two new, high-end, low-volume models, CEO Henrik Fisker said.

The models will slot above the upcoming Ocean SUV and the automaker’s second car, a mass-market EV called Pear (Personal Electric Automotive Revolution).

[…]

The company is aiming for annual volumes of about 5,000 to 10,000 for each car, compared to 50,000 to 100,000 units for the Ocean and Pear, he added.

The company hopes to launch the two low-volume models in 2024.

I am glad that Fisker is still at it after all these years, signing paychecks for people, keeping the dream alive.

4th Gear: I Do Not Like The Vibes At GM

Perhaps I am being unfair because I have recently been booking some flights through Delta and have been awestruck at how convoluted and fee-ridden air travel is these days, but GM has a relatively new executive who came from Delta, and he’s talkin’ about getting more money through fees. The Wall Street Journal published a story on General Motors Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson, and the vibes seem bad:

GM in recent quarters has been trying to showcase to investors its transition into a technology company that builds cars but also offers other things like car insurance and subscription services, adding revenue streams to its business.

“We’re no longer just a company whose main…or only profit driver is the sale of a wholesale vehicle,” Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson said this week.

The company during its investor event Oct. 6 said it is aiming for operating margins of 12% to 14% by 2030, up from 7.9% last year. The company also said it expects annual revenue to double to $280 billion, up from a five-year average of about $140 billion. GM wants to achieve these goals with the help of new battery-driven electric vehicles, auto-related services and other, adjacent businesses.

All I think of when I hear about “auto-related services” or “subscription services,” I think of not-quite hidden fees and other garbage you find in, yeah, the world of air travel.

5th Gear: Mexican Auto Industry Predicts Sales To Drop 30% If The Government Legalizes Imports

This is a weird one. The government of Mexico wants to allow people to register cars they’ve driven over from the States (or imported from elsewhere) and the local auto industry is very much not about it. From Reuters:

Mexico has published a decree to legalize millions of imported used cars, mainly from the United States, a move that was criticized by the country’s powerful auto sector as allowing “car smuggling.”

The new policy, published in the government’s official gazette late on Monday, tasks local authorities with creating a plan to encourage residents of states that border the United States to officially register vehicles that were driven into Mexico, known as so-called chocolate cars.

[…]

The Mexican Association of Automotive Distributors (AMDA) predicted a drop of more than 30 percent in new-car sales due to the decree and said the move was “a reward for criminal mafia and corrupt bureaucracy.”

The way things sit at the moment has the government not collecting any taxes on these cars already in Mexico, so I don’t exactly know why it would side with the auto industry in this case.

Reverse: Wow This Worked

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