Tesla’s supply chain wrangling, Polestar’s IP-light strategy and GM’s cringe-worthy naming conventions. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 27th September to 3rd October 2021. A PDF version can be found here.
- Boom, Boom, Pow — Tesla sales rose 73% year over year in Q3 2021. But with a company in growth mode, that isn’t particularly interesting, what is remarkable is that Tesla is managing to grow at a time when other major automakers can’t get their hands on enough chips — and Tesla’s cars are full of more electronics than your average motor. Are rivals studying the company hard enough to see what it has done right, or did it just get lucky with the timing of China and Model Y launches?
- Fine By Me — Polestar is listing through a merger with a special purpose vehicle, a so-called SPAC deal. If it all goes according to plan, the business will be worth $20 billion. For a manufacturer with a single carline (in production), that depends entirely on the technology and manufacturing assets of others, that isn’t bad going. Could this be the start of a new business model where OEMs list each vehicle line as a separate business and let the market decide how to allocate capital?
- Dancing In The Moonlight — GM announced that its connected car software will be branded “Ultifi”. Another meaningless name you might think, until you start to connect the dots with GM’s battery architecture: Ultium. Will we be inundated with a raft of new “Ulti-X” badged initiatives? Dealers as Ultistores, car parks as Ultispaces, negotiating positions as Ultimatums. Can anyone save us from the marketing equivalent of dad-dancing?
News is arranged by company and topic. Stories that apply to more than one company or topic are duplicated.
Find our archive here.
News about the major automakers
- Rolls-Royce announced the brand’s first all-electric car, to be named Spectre, which will launch at the end of 2023. Although the product announcement had be widely expected, the rumours were that the car would be called “Silent Shadow”. Rolls-Royce confirmed that the brand will be fully electric by 2030. (Rolls-Royce)
- BMW is doing so well that the firm increased full year margin expectations as improved pricing and financing profits offset lower volumes. (BMW)
- Mini’s market research shows that in addition to being increasingly receptive to electric cars, younger customers are expecting them to be fun to drive. Overall, around half of US respondents surveyed believe that all-electric cars will outsell internal combustion engine powered counterparts in 15 years. (BMW)
- Shareholders officially approved of the separation of the trucks division, and for the remaining car company to be renamed Mercedes-Benz. (Daimler)
- Announced a fixed price servicing deal for LaFerrari hypercars. Although such offerings are becoming increasingly common they are still unusual for cars this expensive. (Ferrari)
- Collaborating with superstar designers Jony Ive (Apple iEverything) and Marc Newson (industrial designer par excellence) on an unspecified new range of products, which may or may not be cars. The effort will be likely different from the Ford 021C concept Newson developed in 1999. (Ferrari)
- Reported Q3 2021 US sales of 383,805 units, down (27)% versus prior year. Segment exits in small and mid-size car explained about one third of the drop. (Ford)
- Renewed $15.5 billion in credit lines. Ford agreed to special terms with the banks providing the loans that link the interest rate to the company’s impact on the environment from manufacturing and vehicles. (Ford)
- Appointed recent Board appointee Alexandra Ford English to a newly-created head of merchandising role, declaring that the Blue Oval is “becoming a lifestyle brand”. (Ford)
- Announced a new plant in Tennessee that will produce electric pickup trucks and batteries, to be grandly named “Blue Oval City”. The new factory’s size implies that it will be capable of a six-figure annual output of trucks. Because the new plant will not open until 2025, the move still doesn’t address the apparent gap left by Ford’s capacity announcement of a few weeks ago where production of all-electric F-150 was increased, but not to the level of orders. (Ford)
- CEO Farley says Ford is undergoing the biggest change since the Model T. (CNBC)
- Polestar will list via a merger with a special purpose entity, with an expected valuation of $20 billion. Volvo will hold around 50% of the firm once it goes public, boosting the larger brand’s IPO hopes. (Volvo)
- Delivered 446,997 US vehicles in Q3 2021, a dop of (33)% from prior year. Within the figures, GM’s selection of preferred vehicles for allocating scare semiconductor components was clear: high priced models such as Escalade, Suburban and Corvette saw increases amongst the wider sales drop. (GM)
- Announced a smaller Brightdrop van, the EV410, and said that the EV600 had been delivered in GM’s quickest ever programme – 20 months from “concept to commercialization”. Since the production is not taking place in GM’s stated mass-production plant, and GM is not making the units available for general sale (it is placing them with selected customers) the claim is debatable. (GM)
- Said that 100% of US manufacturing will use renewable energy by 2025. (GM)
- Announced that GM’s connected car software, and accompanying smartphone apps, will be branded Ultifi. (GM)
- A shortage of semiconductors means that GM isn’t producing any cars with the Super Cruise advanced driver assistance package. (The Verge)
- Unveiled the Genesis GV60, an all-electric SUV. (Hyundai)
- Kia sold 682,196 cars in Q3 2021, down (2)% versus prior year. (Kia)
- Hyundai sold 894,655 vehicles in Q3 2021, down (10)% versus prior year. (Hyundai)
- Will begin serious talks with Great Wall over a possible takeover by the Chinese carmaker of Nissan’s unwanted Barcelona site. (Nikkei)
Stellantis (formed via the merger of PSA and FCA)
- Sold 410,918 vehicles in the US during Q3 2021, down (19)% versus prior year. (Stellantis)
- Opel’s plant in Eisenach is being furloughed until at least 2022. (Reuters)
- Reported Q3 sales of 241,300 cars, up 73% on a year-over-year basis. Sales and production of the Model S and Model X continued to underwhelm falling (75)% versus Q3 2020. (Tesla)
- Owners joining Tesla’s test of the beta version of its advanced driver assistance (“full self-driving”) are being told not to distribute evidence of the system going wrong because “there are a lot of people that want Tesla to fail”. Reportedly, those opting into the trial are made to sign NDAs (to try a system that in some cases they paid for several years ago). (The Verge)
- Invested in Burro , a company developing autonomous farming robots. (Toyota)
- Subsidiary Woven Planet acquired vehicle software developer Renovo Motors. (Toyota)
- Lamborghini’s restoration department built a one-off replica of the original Countach prototype. With a reported 25,000 hours of labour involved in producing the car, the price tag is probably eye-watering. (Lamborghini)
- Replacing the CEO and CFO of truck unit Traton. (Reuters)
- Nio delivered 24,439 cars in Q3 2021, up 100% on prior year, thanks primarily to the EC6. (Nio)
- Workhorse announced the departure of its COO and CFO. (Reuters)
- Lordstown sold its factory to Foxconn, which will now become the contract manufacturer for Lordstown’s trucks, plus cars from Fisker. (Nikkei)
- Mahindra is reportedly looking at funding options for Pininfarina. (Economic Times of India)
- Rivian’s IPO documentation showed that the firm is spending over $1 billion per year and has almost $1.5 billion of physical assets on the books. (Rivian)
News about other companies and trends
Economic / Political News
- US light vehicle SAAR of 12.2 million in September fell (25)% from prior year. (Wards)
- Bosch and Dana will jointly develop components for fuel cells. (Dana) Dana also held an investor day. (Dana)
- Faurecia launched a takeover bid for Hella. (Faurecia)
- Adient and Yanfeng have dissolved their Chinese joint venture. (Adient)
- Battery maker CATL is acquiring lithium miner Millennial Lithium. (Deal Street Asia)
- Continental is adopting a different divisional structure now that the Vitesco powertrain business has been separated. There will be three units: tyres, COntiTech and automotive. (Continental)
- Hitachi believes that in-wheel motors can improve range by 20%, thanks to reduced losses. (Nikkei)
- ZF increased its stake in software firm DoubleSlash to 51%. (Autocar)
- BP invested in Indian ride hailing service BluSmart. (Deal Street Asia)
- Self-driving truck developer Kodiak Robotics has a new prototype truck. The firm emphasised how “discreet” the new sensor set is, implying that it is somehow naturally easier to set up than worse looking alternatives. (Kodiak)
- Chinese battery swapping firm Aulton raised $232 million. (Deal Street Asia)
- Ola Electric raised over $200 million. (Deal Street Asia)
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