On Wednesday, Buick formally committed itself toward an “all-electric portfolio” by 2030 — saying that it would be embarking on a brand transformation that would fundamentally change the company forever. This includes an entirely new horizontally oriented badge that doesn’t stray too far from Buick’s traditional tri-shield design.
“The Buick brand is committed to an all-electric future by the end of this decade,” stated Duncan Aldred, global vice president, Buick and GMC. “Buick’s new logo, use of the Electra naming series and a new design look for our future products will transform the brand.”
The automotive sector is currently suffering from ongoing component shortages and supply chain bottlenecks stemming from regional restrictions relating to the pandemic. However, it’s assumed that those problems will gradually abate, only to be supplanted by a global deficit of the raw materials necessary for battery production. Analysts have been warning about the shift toward electric vehicles, spurred on by government regulations, for years. But they’re starting to get some company from within the auto industry.
On Tuesday, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares suggested that there was a very real possibility that manufacturers could begin confronting serious issues in terms of battery production by 2025 if the shift toward EVs continues at pace. Though his concerns aren’t limited to there being a new chapter in the already too long saga about parts shortages. Tavares is also worried that Western automakers will become overwhelmingly dependent upon Asian battery suppliers which already dominate the global market.
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has explained that the automaker would very much like to get back in to the United States’ good graces now that it has cut ties with Russia. With the future of Europe looking shaky, VW is hoping to maintain its position as the best-selling brand in China and start making inroads in America after burning a few bridges there.
Despite the Dieselgate scandal being seven years in the rearview mirror, the automaker is still coping with the resulting financial penalties and the resulting decision to scale back its U.S. aspirations a tad until its electric models hit the road. But the company has always had an issue understanding what American drivers wanted, resulting in boom and bust phases for the company until it manages to solve the puzzle. The most common issue was an inability to adhere to ever-changing emissions standards. But there are also periods where the manufacturer was snubbed for offering subpar electrical equipment or simply having a lineup that was out of sync with American tastes. But Volkswagen has historically enjoyed a resurgence after making the necessary changes and Diess is hoping for another comeback.
When Subaru announced the latest WRX sedan, it was made perfectly clear that it would arrive without the high-performance STI variant metaphorically in tow. After attempting to push performance versions of the Impreza sedan into becoming their own thing for years, the 2022 model year saw the WRX jumping onto the Subaru Global Platform. This resulted in a more mainstream vehicle we assumed would need additional time in the relevant skunkworks garage before it could reemerge as the aggressive, rally-inspired, no-nonsense WRX STI.
But Subaru is now saying that there won’t be an STI for this generation. According to the manufacturer, “future sports and performance cars should evolve to meet the needs of the changing marketplace and the regulations and requirements for greenhouse gasses (GHG), zero emissions vehicles (ZEV), and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE).”
Despite Stellantis making formal announcements that it will be investing 30 billion euros ($34 billion USD) into its novel electrification strategy, CEO Carlos Tavares has been making it sound as if the automaker’s plan was crafted under duress. He’s been telling European media that the widespread adoption of EVs is primarily being pushed by politicians who are ignoring the environmental risks and logistical shortcomings.
“What is clear is that electrification is a technology chosen by politicians, not the industry,” he said told the press this week.
Stellantis has announced plans to shift the Chrysler brand to an all-electric lineup by 2028, presumably because it doesn’t know what else to do with it anymore. Though, considering the make’s long and storied history, the change almost seems fitting.
When the French bought up Fiat Chrysler Automobiles from the Italians in 2021, the namesake brand had already been losing steam under the Germans. But they were adopting the company after years of mismanagement from Americans, who had taken the marque from being arguably the most luxurious and technologically advanced the United States had to one that had to be saved from bankruptcy by government intervention on more than one occasion. Suffice it to say, Chrysler has enjoyed some of the sweetest highs and pathetic lows imaginable. But it always seems to rise from the ashes thanks to some innovative decision that ultimately helps redefine the industry — which is why Stellantis is leading its own EV offensive by reviving the Airflow name.
On Tuesday, Toyota Motor Corp. announced a commitment of 8 trillion yen ($70 billion USD) toward the goal of achieving carbon neutrality someday. Though the concept of any multinational manufacturing entity totally nullifying their carbon footprint seems kind of laughable, so we’ll be referencing this as another electrification strategy — which is still a big deal considering how EV averse Toyota has been thus far.
Despite being an environmental trendsetter with the Prius Hybrid, Toyota has been hesitant to formally commit itself to transition its lineup toward being reliant on battery power. However, President Akio Toyoda has just proudly confirmed that the Japanese automaker would be earmarking the funds for exactly that purpose, noting that the brand (along with Lexus) would be spending the money through 2030 to make sure its global sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) reach 3.5 million vehicles annually. Though the most enjoyable aspect of the release was the direct manner it was presented, with Toyoda-san being impressively honest about modern automotive trends.
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares has said that the growing pressures being placed on automakers to shift toward electric-vehicle production are unsustainable and run the risk of the public getting subpar products at decidedly higher price tags. While we’ve seen automotive executives lambast new energy vehicles before, it’s grown rarer as governments around the world have continued incentivizing their existence and investors have been pouring money on startups delivering literally nothing more than the mere suggestion of more electrification.
Tavares’s words come from the Reuters Next conference, running counter to the event’s prevailing narrative of encouraging technological progress and social change. Attendees tend to be political officials, heads of finance, NGO leaders, and business executives sympathetic to the cause. But the Stellantis CEO definitely went off-script when he listed some of the shortcomings of electrification, adding that he felt the costs were “beyond the limits” of what was realistically feasible. It’s his belief that pursuing electrification at the current pace doesn’t take into account the larger financial picture.
Nissan Motor Co. has confirmed plans to invest 2 trillion yen ($17.65 billion USD) over the next five years to accelerate its electric vehicle development program. Like most major manufacturers, the automaker wants to launch a bevy of electrified products over the next decade and derive a relevant portion of its income from EVs.
As explained by CEO Makoto Uchida on Monday as part of the “Nissan Ambition 2030,” the plan is to launch 23 new vehicles with some amount of electrification while it attempts to implement solid-state batteries into three concept vehicles that supposedly foreshadow future lineups. These include the battery-electric “Surf-Out” lifestyle pickup, “Max-Out” sports convertible, “Chill-Out” regular car, and “Hang-Out” adventure crossover. Though all three appear to be little more than drafts of vehicles Nissan would eventually like to build, boasting technologies that we’re not sure are feasible. For example, the Hang-Out is featured with a polygonal purple awning that oozes impossibly out of the vehicle’s roof. It lacks realism, which ended up being a central theme of the Nissan Ambition 2030 presentation that was broadcast on Monday.
Cadillac is expected to have lost one-third of its U.S. dealerships this year — going from nearly 900 physical locations at the start of 2021 to an estimated 560 by year’s end.
But there’s allegedly no need to worry about the brand because this is part of a planned electric offensive. Last year, Cadillac asked dealers to spend the capital necessary to install charging stations, update their service centers, and retrain staff to better tackle EVs or take a buyout before the automaker’s first battery-driven car (the Lyric crossover) hits the market early in 2022. It would seem that a meaningful portion of the whole decided to bow out, which Cadillac seems totally fine with.
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has been facing off with the company’s German workforce for weeks over the changing nature of the business. VW vowed to transition itself toward an all-electric lineup following the 2015 diesel emissions scandal. But the necessary steps to get there haven’t been universally appreciated.
The general assumption has always been that electric vehicles would result in massive layoffs across the industry by nature of their needing fewer parts than internal combustion vehicles. But Volkswagen seems worried that it’s falling behind smaller rivals and needs to take decisive action to make sure it’s not outdone by firms operating in the United States and China. The proposed solution is an industrial overhaul designed to fast-track VW’s electrification goals. Unfortunately, German labor unions are convinced that this plan would incorporate massive layoffs and have become disinclined to offer their support. The issue worsened in September when Diess told the supervisory board that a slower-than-desired transition to EVs could result in 30,000 fewer jobs.
Like the rest of the world, the automotive industry is currently living in two distinct realities. Labor unions and part suppliers have been sounding the alarm that electric vehicles will require far fewer hands to manufacture and will ultimately lead to their demise. But battery firms, establishment politicians, and most automakers have claimed that transitioning to EVs is entirely necessary and will result in there being a surge of high-paying jobs to replace those lost.
Then there are claims you can’t quite wrap your head around, like the one Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess reportedly made to the supervisory board in September. The Diess Man asserted that VW would lose 30,000 jobs if it transitioned too slowly to electrics, framing the situation around Tesla arriving in Germany and fresh competition from Chinese manufacturers. While it’s certainly possible that VW could take a hit as its rivals move on Europe, the premise that it’s going to cost the business jobs is sort of bewildering when just about every analyst agrees that electrification will result in a leaner workforce across the board.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has announced a plan to construct the Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit that would allow EV drivers to enjoy a scenic, coastal drive without being distracted by fears of range anxiety. Having recently returned from the Mitten state, I can say that its current charging infrastructure is about what you’d expect. You’re bound to find something in the urban hubs, likely with a little help from navigational apps. But the spaces between aren’t going to be of much help and the situation only worsens as you head north along the Eastern coastline where charging points are particularly sparse.
But it’s Lake Michigan that draws the most tourists in a given year, so Whitmer’s team has elected to plot the stations on the Western side of the state to encourage visitors. As a byproduct, leadership said this will also prove that the region is committed to electrification and serious about supporting the evolving automotive industry.
Cadillac’s instance that it be the first brand owned by General Motors to go entirely electric has resulted in a shrinking U.S. dealership network, though perhaps a healthier bottom line for GM in the long run. It may also foreshadow the trajectory of other brands committed themselves to EVs and give us a sense of what the dealer landscape might look like in a decade or two.
Over the last few years, American luxury brands have been attempting to grow in select markets they believe will bring in new, affluent customers by building experience centers that mimic high-end airport lounges. Cadillac even briefly moved its base of operations to New York City as a way to gain distance from its rustbelt background and ingratiate itself into high society. More recently, Lincoln introduced a Central Park-themed Navigator as both have been trying to lay down roots in parts of California after ceding a large share of the market to the competition decades earlier. But GM’s insistence that Cadillac become an all-electric brand (with Lincoln also targeting a glut of EV sales by 2026) seems as though it could create complications, even if the end result is a major victory.