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Self-driving cars that could crash too much; dealers that want more money; and Dyson’s late analysis. Please enjoy our auto industry and mobility briefing for 1st June to 7th June 2020. A PDF version can be found here.

Before you read the detail, what were my favourite stories of the past week…?

  • Never Too Much A study by a US insurance think tank reckons that self-driving cars won’t save as many lives as many had hoped. They challenge the oft-repeated mantra that 90% of accidents could be avoided because they say that unforced errors are only responsible for 30% of crashes. There is a caveat though: in most other crashes, human error is still to blame via speeding and illegal manoeuvres. They conclude that autonomous vehicle developers need to make their products drive conservatively than people do — but doesn’t everyone already know that?
  • Gimme Some More Indian dealers reckon that margins are too thin and OEMs should top them up to around 7%. If they don’t, the dealer association fears many outfits will go out of business. But, with the much-predicted demise of the traditional dealer (even before coronavirus), is that so much of a worry?
  • Too Little, Too Late Dyson revealed yet more details about the company’s abandoned electric car. The videos and blog glory in the no-compromises design details the team found when planning their massively expensive SUV. The project’s demise was blamed on dieselgate “suddenly” transforming the competitive marketplace and shrinking the sales potential. But, since the project was abandoned in late 2019 and dieselgate happened in late 2015 (and isn’t responsible for the surge in electric vehicles anyway), why did it take so long to realise the car would lose money?

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

BMW (history)

  • Unveiled the new 4 Series. (BMW)

FCA (history)

  • Running a series of tests with hybrid electric vehicles that only operate in electric mode within city limits. BMW has long ago committed to operating such a mode. (FCA)
  • Robot making arm Comau will be spun off after PSA and FCA merge. (Reuters)

Geely (includes Volvo) (history)

  • Kandi Technologies reported Q1 2020 revenue of $6.4 million, down (65)% and a net loss of $(1.6) million. (Kandi)

General Motors (history)

  • Will run many US plants during the traditional early July shutdown period to recover lost production. (Detroit News)
  • CEO Barra says GM will emerge from coronavirus with a permanently lower cost base. (Reuters)
  • GM’s Cruise self-driving unit wrote to employees of rival Zoox offering them new jobs and expressing the view that if Amazon’s much-rumoured takeover of Zoox goes ahead, their bonuses will be reduced. (Reuters)

Nissan and Mitsubishi (history)

  • A Nissan representative in Lebanon got himself in hot water after he said in an interview that IMF aid for Lebanon’s economy was conditional upon Carlos Ghosn’s extradition to Japan. After denying the comments, he suffered the indignity of having journalists publish an audio recording. (Arab News)
  • Recalling 1.9 million cars to fix problems with the hood latch. (Detroit News)

PSA (history)

  • Relations between managers and German labour representatives at Opel appear to have hit a rough patch with unions complaining that the announcement about the closure of the transmission plant and forge in Russelsheim was presented to the workforce as though they had agreed to it. (FAZ)
  • Announced a joint venture with Punch Powertrain to develop and manufacture dual clutch transmissions. Punch will contribute facilities and PSA will put up some cash. PSA said it was part of a plan for powertrain to remain vertically integrated. (PSA)

Renault (history)

  • The French government finally put pen to paper on Renault’s €5 billion credit guarantee. (Renault)

Tata (includes JLR) (history)

Tesla (history)

  • Developing a 12-seat minibus for use in tunnels dug by CEO Musk’s pet project The Boring Company, according to  officials are considering commissioning a tunnel for their local airport. (OCR)

Toyota (history)

  • Toyota reportedly expects to exceed prior year production volumes (on a monthly basis) in North America by September. (Reuters)
  • Toyota formed a joint venture with several Chinese OEMs including FAW, Dongfeng, BAIC and GAC) to promote fuel cells for commercial vehicles. (Toyota)

VW Group (history)

  • CEO Diess reportedly told senior managers that the company was about to undertake a cost cutting drive, but did not provide much specific information, beyond an intent to reduce non-production material costs by 20%. He also apparently confirmed that not all brands will be profitable in 2020 — something that could already be inferred from the group’s financial guidance. (Manager Magazin)
  • Lifted a production freeze on the next generation Golf after solving a software problem affecting the emergency calling function. About 30,000 cars will be recalled to fix the error. (Handelsblatt)
  • Lamborghini’s CEO seems comfortable that sales are recovering, despite job cuts at competitors McLaren and Aston Martin and sister company Bentley. (Yahoo)
  • Bentley finally said goodbye to the V8. (Bentley) It will soon be doing the same to around 1,000 employees — about 25% of the workforce at the brand’s Crewe headquarters. The Bentley battery electric vehicle will be delayed by a year, to 2026. (ITV)


  • Aston Martin is laying off up to 500 people in a move that will cost £12 million. The firm expects to save £18 million per year through the move, plus other spending reductions. (AML) InvestIndustrial, one of the main shareholders when the firm went public, cut its share in Aston Martin to 5%. (Reuters)
  • Mahindra Electric believes that the Indian market for electric vehicles will take off in 2023. (Autocar)
  • Fuel cell powered truck maker Nikola had its stock market debut. (Forbes) The company’s recent purchase of hydrogen production equipment suggests each filling station will cost more than $6 million. (Nikola)
  • Dyson published more details (including a video) about its abandoned electric car effort. Curiously, the company appears to blame VW’s dieselgate scandal for causing traditional OEMs to pile into the electric vehicle market, and “suddenly” diluting the market share the firm had hoped to achieve. (Dyson)
    • Significance: Since dieselgate started in 2015, and (in any case) the increase in electric vehicles has far more to do with the success of Tesla and regulations in the EU and China, it isn’t clear why Dyson didn’t realise the scale of competition until 2019 — a lack of competitive analysis perhaps?

News about other companies and trends

Economic / Political News

  • US light vehicle industry of 12.21 million units fell (30)% versus prior year. (Wards)
  • German passenger car registrations in May of 168,148 units dropped (50)% versus prior year. (KBA)
  • France had 96,310 passenger car registrations in May, down (50%) on a year-over-year basis. (CCFA)
  • Spanish registrations of 34,337 passenger cars in May were (73)% worse than prior year. (ANFAC)
  • May Italian registrations of 99,711 passenger cars were (50)% down on prior year. (UNRAE)
  • UK registrations of 20,247 new passenger cars in May fell (89)% on a year-over-year basis. (SMMT)
  • Germany launched an automotive stimulus package consisting of across the board sales tax cuts (3%) and increased incentives for electric vehicles (an extra €3,000 off the list price). There is also money set aside to fund research into new technologies and to provide charging infrastructure — including charging points at all filling stations. (FAZ)


  • The boss of Endurance Technologies is on the hunt for acquisitions. (Autocar)
  • Meritor aims to sack about 8% of the salaried workforce. (Meritor)
  • Wheel maker Borbet terminated its collective bargaining agreements in Germany, saying the coronavirus put the company in dire straits. Unions said they would fight it. (IG Metall)


  • UK dealer Vertu Motors said initial sales were promising and that, despite plans by rivals to downsize (Lookers is shedding 1,500 jobs), the company thinks scale is the way forward.  (Reuters)
  • The body representing Indian dealers claims its members are given too little profit by the OEMs (the article contains a detailed table), and that margin levels need to double to make their businesses viable (presumably coming at the expense of OEM profits, rather than transaction prices). (Autocar)
  • Indian online car sales portal CarTrade is reportedly raising $43 million. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Online used car seller Vroom is hoping for a valuation of $2.3 billion when it completes its IPO. (Reuters)

Ride-Hailing, Car Sharing & Rental (history)

  • Singaporean short term car rental service Smove shut up shop. (Deal Street Asia)
  • Didi Chuxing’s boss said taxi journeys in China during May were at the same level as the prior year. Ride hailing firms normally like to tout double digit quarter-over-quarter growth rates. (Deal Street Asia)

Driverless / Autonomy (history)

  • A study by a US insurance think tank concluded that fully autonomous cars would only reduce accidents by around 30%, rather than the 90% improvement many advocates have touted. However, the headline assumed that such vehicles will not drive more conservatively than humans today, with a further 40% of accidents attributed to speeding or illegal manoeuvres; conditions that self-driving vehicles are explicitly being trained to ignore (in addition to the compounding benefits of having more cars on the road driving within sensible limits). (IIHS)

Electrification (history)

  • Mahindra Electric believes that the Indian market for electric vehicles will take off in 2023. (Autocar)
  • Nikola’s recent purchase of hydrogen production equipment suggests each filling station will cost more than $6 million. (Nikola)


  • Mitsubishi Corporation and NTT now own 30% of mapping company HERE, joining existing shareholders Audi, Bosch, Continental, BMW, Pioneer, Intel and Mercedes-Benz.  (HERE)


  • Electric scooter firm Superpedestrian raised $15 million and acquired bicycle rental service Zagster. (PE Wire)
  • Aviation firm Kitty Hawk canned its flying car project, preferring to concentrate on larger vehicles. (Kitty Hawk)
  • Autonomous robot firm Otto Motors (a unit of Clearpath Robotics) raised $29 million. (Otto Motors)
  • Brazilian bicycle rental firm Tembici raised $47 million. (Reuters)
  • Autonomous robot developer Locus Robotics raised over $40 million. (Locus)


Find our archive here.