Following several months of news that Apple Inc. was in talks with battery suppliers to set the company up with the necessary hardware and know-how to manufacture electric vehicles, it looks like the iPhone purveyor is back to square one. Reports have emerged claiming the discussions with China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL) and BYD have stalled.
While the tech giant is said to be keeping a channel open, companies informed Apple over the last two months that they would not be willing to establish teams and U.S. facilities catering exclusively to its needs. While Japan’s Panasonic is still in the mix as a potential partner, it’s looking like the other companies are bowing out. Reasons are said to vary, however, political tensions between the U.S. and China are alleged to be a contributing factor.
Automakers Toyota and Stellantis separately announced plans to construct lithium-ion battery plants in North America on Monday. With regulatory pressures mounting, the industry has been shifting its eggs between baskets to avoid trouble. But the ultimate goal for most brands is to transition toward selling EVs, requiring meaningful action and financial expenditures on the part of manufacturers.
We’ve already seen General Motors and Ford Motor Co. squabbling over who will nestle the biggest battery facilities between America’s Frost and Sun Belts. It’s only fitting that the remnants of the Chrysler Corporation contained in Stellantis walk the path of electrification, especially now that it’s absolutely riddled with European influence. Meanwhile, Toyota is predictably exercising a bit of caution as it similarly navigates how to modernize itself via upcoming lithium-ion plants.
The WiLL branding project in early 2000s Japan was intended to excite and interest younger consumers with stylish products, all of which were marketed as WiLL. At the pinnacle of unique WiLL offerings were three different small Toyotas: The first two were the unpopular and unsuccessful retro-French themed Vi, and the modern-looking, popular, and unsuccessful VS.
Around the middle of VS production, Toyota just knew there had to be a part of the market they hadn’t reached yet and reintroduced the idea of the Vi with a polar opposite stylistic direction. This is the Cypha.
Several Japanese companies embarked on the WiLL sub-brand exercise at the dawn of the new millennium. Miscellaneous WiLL-branded products were introduced alongside a funky new car offering from Toyota, the WiLL Vi.
The baguette-themed retro sedan was an immediate failure amongst the youthful consumers WiLL was supposed to attract, so Toyota had a very quick rethink. Meet VS.
The WiLL project was a short-lived collaborative marketing effort by several Japanese brands, intended to capture the interest and money of youthful buyers. Using emotional engineering, seven companies launched new products in the early 2000s wearing WiLL sub-branding. Included in the myriad of offerings were three different subcompact Toyotas.
And here’s the first one, the WiLL Vi.
Today’s Abandoned History story is one of targeted marketing. In the early 2000s, an amalgam of Japanese corporations combined efforts to reach out to younger consumers via unified branding. Cars, food, appliances – all across Japan new, youth-focused products all wore the same sub-brand: WiLL.
Collectively WiLL asked, “How do you do, fellow kids?”
Seen by some as a moral imperative, electrification is swiftly changing the dynamics of the automotive industry. While automakers spend billions of dollars developing EVs and securing the necessary partners, many are becoming dependent on a handful of companies in Asia for the all-important battery cells needed to power the damn things. It’s gotten so serious that the U.S. government has taken an interest following a December 2019 report from the Institute for Defense Analyses that claimed battery manufacturers had taken on an “outsized importance” in the automotive sector.
It also said the United States would be at a distinct disadvantage if there are supply shortages — which is something that has already happened and is presumed to worsen as more electric vehicles flood into the market over the next few years. The automotive industry is pushing hard into electrification as governments around the world attempt to plot out an elaborate plan to supplant the internal combustion vehicle with EVs. But there are concerns that this has stacked the deck for a small number of suppliers from China, South Korea, and Japan.
With Panasonic having already made plans to ramp down production at the Nevada battery facility it shares with Tesla, followed by a 14-day closure to curtail the spread of the new coronavirus, its business partner has decided to follow suit. Tesla now plans on reducing on-site staff at Gigafactory 1 by 75 percent, according to the local county manager Austin Osborne.
“Tesla has informed us that the Gigafactory in Storey County is reducing on-site staff by roughly 75 [percent] in the coming days,” he explained via the county’s website on Thursday. “Our companies at [Tahoe Reno Industrial Center] TRIC are taking the COVID-19 matter seriously, and regularly report to us the measures they are taking to adhere to the established guidelines while maintaining essential operations. Checking employee temperatures, creating central access, allowing remote work, maintaining workstation distance, and others are occurring.”
Tesla’s lackluster first-quarter deliveries report did more than spook analysts and investors — it also provided the rationale for Panasonic to reevaluate its relationship with the automaker. Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review reports that the battery maker, which partnered with Tesla on the automaker’s Nevada Gigafactory 1, has grown cold feet.
The publication reports the two companies have frozen spending on the Nevada plant, culling plans for an expansion of battery production. Not only that, Panasonic has decided not to invest in Tesla’s Shanghai vehicle/battery production facility.
Already a pioneer in hybrid drive technology, Toyota’s recent push towards fully electric cars has birthed a joint venture with one of the world’s premier battery makers, potentially opening up a massive revenue stream for the automaker.
On Tuesday, the company announced the creation of a joint venture with Panasonic to supply other automakers with a “stable supply of competitive batteries.”
When Tesla Motors began production of its Model 3 sedan, CEO Elon Musk announced the firm was entering into a kind of “ production hell.” He probably didn’t realize just how accurate a statement that would turn out to be. Already contending with a backlog of orders for the Model 3, Tesla simply couldn’t meet the volume targets it set for itself over the last year. It’s now bending over backwards to finish the quarter strong and prove to investors it is capable of turning a profit.
The automaker frequently referenced production bottlenecks as the culprit for the Model 3’s delay. Panasonic, the sole battery supplier for the vehicle, appears to be taking ownership of the issue. “The bottleneck for Model 3 production has been our batteries,” Yoshio Ito, Executive Vice President of Panasonic, said on Tuesday. “They just want us to make as many as possible.”
Whistleblowing Tesla Engineers Say Model 3 Batteries Being Made by Hand, Slowing Production, Creating Potential Fire Hazard
Tesla’s Model 3, described by many as a make-or-break product for the EV startup, has had a very slow launch, with production falling far short of the numbers Tesla had predicted.
CNBC is now reporting that, according to current and former Tesla employees, one of the factors in the launch delay is the failure of Tesla’s battery “Gigafactory” in aptly named Sparks, Nevada to come up to speed. Ironically, the highly automated factory apparently needs so much human hand work that Tesla has had to “borrow” dozens of employees from its partner in the facility, Panasonic.
The first-generation Toyota RAV4 arrived on the market at the beginning of the compact crossover boom. While almost all first-generation models had four cylinders under the hood, there were exceptions. If you were fortunate enough to live in the People’s Republic of California, you could pony up for the electric version and show all your neighbors how conscientious you were. But that’s only part of the story.
The rise and fall of the RAV4 EV is an interesting historical aside, because it shows you exactly what corporate treachery can do.
The company once known mainly for its televisions is growing ever-longer tentacles into the automotive industry.
Panasonic, which is already a major battery supplier for electrified vehicles, has bought a majority stake in a Spanish auto parts supplier, giving it a larger foothold in the automotive realm.
Sparks flew when Tesla teamed up with Panasonic to produce battery packs at the automaker’s Nevada Gigafactory. Of course, it helped that the Japanese battery maker brought $1.6 billion of its own money to the table.
After it tested the waters and liked what it saw, Tesla has now inked an agreement with Panasonic to bring jobs — hopefully long-lasting ones — to Buffalo, New York.
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