An acquaintance of mine recently said he would never purchase an all-electric vehicle and offered up a reason I never heard before. “They don’t come with AM radio,” he said.
While this surprised me, shifting technological preferences have indeed started to change how automobiles and broadcasters interact. As an example, a gaggle of Mazda owners found their vehicles stuck tuned to National Public Radio this February after a local station transmitted an FM data packet that effectively froze the cars’ infotainment system amid the swap to next-generation broadband services. That transition has already caused some interesting problems for the industry and electromagnetic interference has likewise become the default explanation for automakers limiting your frequency band choice in certain vehicles. But it doesn’t explain why some companies are ditching AM radio outright. In fact, a little research has shown a lot of the explanations given by manufacturers leave a lot to be desired.
A few years ago, the industry narrative was that all-electric vehicles would reach financial parity with their combustion-driven counterparts in 2025. The assumption was that this would gradually occur by way of ramping up battery production and leveraging economies of scale. However, reality had a different take, as the world is now confronting record-setting prices across the board. Manufacturer and dealer hikes have resulted in the average invoice of EVs rising to $54,000 — roughly 10 grand higher than the typical transaction price of gasoline-powered vehicles, according to J.D. Power.
With economic pressures spiking the value of all automobiles, hardly anything is leaving the lot for less than it could have been had for in 2020. But the increases seen on all-electric models are actually outpacing the models we’ve been told they’re supposed to replace.
Younger drivers have reportedly had it with the dealership experience, with Gen Z even more disenfranchised than Millennials. Though it’s difficult to imagine anybody visiting a showroom within the last 12 months having any other reaction. Incentives are down, prices are up, and there’s a good chance whatever you wanted to buy isn’t going to be on the lot anyway. Someone saying they had an exemplary dealer experience is becoming about as common as people claiming they enjoy going to the DMV.
However, CDK Global Inc. still opted to conduct a survey in the hopes of determining just how much less tolerant younger shoppers might be compared to older generations. The takeaway probably isn’t going to shock you, even if the sheer volume of first-time buyers that don’t care for dealerships might.
The automotive industry has basically resigned itself to running with lessened production for the foreseeable future. A significant number of automakers have suggested that it might be more lucrative to scale back output, reduce overhead, and focus on achieving broader margins per car during this prolonged period of economic and logistical duress. However, Toyota started the year saying it would do its utmost to raise production output as a way to make up for losses incurred during the pandemic. The company even said it anticipated things to gradually normalize through the spring.
Unfortunately, things have not gone according to plan. By March, the Japanese automaker had lowered its output goal for the fiscal year by 500,000 global units. Another 20 percent was lopped off for the month of April and leadership began expressing concerns that those preexisting goals might be totally untenable. While there were moments with the target actually rose, Toyota has repeatedly been forced to walk those claims back as the realities of the market dashed its dreams. Now, the company is once again cutting planned output for the month of June over supply chain issues with China.
Last week, Volkswagen’s supervisory board reportedly told management that it needed to work on improving the company’s software division. Though that should hardly be surprising considering how often digital glitches have delayed product launches and forced the automaker to issue sweeping recalls.
Software gremlins stymied the launch of numerous ID-badged EVs, the Mk8 Golf, and a handful of other vehicles from VW Group’s many subsidiaries. But the issues have persisted, with customers citing electrical troubles and noting that the automaker’s novel touchscreen interfaces are brutally unresponsive. Some of the problems were deemed so heinous that the company eventually recalled literally every current-generation Golf sold within its native Germany. But it’s going to have to do a lot more if it’s serious about leveraging computer code as the cornerstone of an evolving business model and the board of directors seems keenly aware of that fact.
General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford Motor Co. collectively decided to reinstate masking mandates in Michigan over the weekend — stating that the impacted factories were in areas with high levels of COVID-19.
The automakers had lifted mask requirements for employees after the backlash against government-backed restrictions and mandates hit a fever pitch in March. While protests had begun swelling by the fall of last year, the Canadian Freedom Convoy that was forcibility disbanded in February drew national attention to the issue. Despite Detroit manufacturers suggesting they would walk back restrictions (if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was okay) for months, ditching masks initially involved a series of stipulations about vaccinations and job titles. It wasn’t until public outrage spilled over into the real world that sweeping changes began to occur.
The last few years have certainly been interesting for Nissan. After clawing its way back from financial disaster in the early 2000s, the company endured one of the most high-profile and scandal-ridden management shakeups in automotive history by 2018. It also became desperately unprofitable while incurring negative growth, with the remaining leadership deploying an aggressive restructuring plan designed to help get the business back on track.
Those efforts appear to have been successful.
Best known for manufacturing small electronic devices for companies around the world, Foxconn will soon be branching out to assemble automobiles in Ohio. On Wednesday, the Taiwanese Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (traded as Foxconn) closed on a deal with Lordstown Motors to purchase a 6.2 million-square-foot plant that used to belong to General Motors.
The $230 million deal leaves Foxconn with the facility and 400 Lordstown manufacturing employees it’s supposed to use to assemble the delayed Endurance pickup. Though the long-term plan is to use the plant to become a contract manufacturer akin to Magna Steyr, with an emphasis on all-electric vehicles.
Volkswagen Group is reportedly considering reviving the Scout name for North America. Following the merger of trucking subsidiary Traton and Navistar in 2020, VW found itself in possession of the farm-focused International Harvester. While the brand technically hasn’t existed since 1985, the German company effectively owns its intellectual property — including the Scout name — and is keen to leverage some of its nostalgia for an alleged sub-brand specializing in sport utility vehicles.
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.
Hyundai Motor Group has been considering where to establish its planned EV manufacturing hub for the United States for roughly a year now and is reportedly zeroing in on the State of Georgia as a final destination. It’s even said to have conducted some preliminary meetings with local leaders about the possibility of breaking ground in an area that could be strategically aligned with its existing facilities – namely Montgomery’s Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) and West Point’s Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG).
Aston Martin Lagonda will be seeing new leadership. Tobias Moers will be surrendering his role as chief executive to make way for former Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa.
While the formal announcement was made on Wednesday, rumors about Moers getting the boot had been circulating ever since Aston Martin Racing head Otmar Szafnauer left the company in January after repeatedly butting heads with executive chairman Lawrence Stroll. Szafnauer was said to have resigned, however, reports suggested that the Canadian financier was displeased with his performance. At the time, there were claims that Moers’ head was next on the chopping block.
Rivian Automotive Inc, purveyor of the all-electric R1T and R1S, will receive $1.5 billion in incentives from state and local governments to build a new manufacturing facility in Georgia. Eager to become home to the company’s planned $5 billion assembly plant, the state is offering a comprehensive incentive package that includes tax breaks. The government has a few stipulations, however.
Under the new agreement, Rivian’s factory would be required to produce 7,500 jobs and its existing investment target by 2028 to receive the full $1.5 billion. That includes a sizable battery production site and may explain why the state is offering up the largest corporate incentivization package in its history.
Datsun is dead again and the likelihood of you having any emotions tied to the matter hinges upon whether or not you were driving prior to the 1990s. Formerly a catch-all brand for Nissan’s exports, the automaker eventually decided to unify its products under a single name when Ronald Reagan was in the White House and Max Headroom was talking up the merits of New Coke on cathode-ray tubed televisions.
While the Datsun moniker would grace the odd pickup on the Japanese domestic market after the 1980s, Nissan planned a compressive relaunch of the brand in 2013. The following year, Datsun became a low-cost car marque for Indonesia, Nepal, South Africa, India, and Russia. A few years later, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Lebanon were added to the brand’s list of markets. However, Datsun had announced a retreat from Indonesia and Russia in 2019 and has since confirmed that it will be halting production in India later this year — effectively ending Datsun’s existence once again.
France has grown suspicious of Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares’ compensation, which the government has dubbed irregular and indicative of a need for further financial regulations in Europe. The issue doesn’t appear to have much to do with where the money is coming from, but rather the size of his current payment package.
Tavares oversaw the merger between PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2021 while he was still CEO of the former company. Having previously climbed the ranks at Renault, the executive has served as chairman of PSA’s management board since 2014. Now heading Stellantis, Tavares is positioned to receive roughly $20.5 million in compensation for 2021. In addition to that, he’s reportedly eligible for a stock package worth an extra $34.7 million and long-term compensation of about $27.2 million — which the French government believes is too much.