Audi and FAW Group, the state-owned partner it is effectively required to have in order to preferential treatment from the Communist Party of China, received some good news this week. Government officials have approved the duo for a new, jointly operated production facility in Changchun.
With Volkswagen Group having shifted its focus toward China in recent years, the market has become all-important for the German company. VW is currently the top-selling brand for the entire region, with its Audi subsidiary typically being the highest volume premium automaker from Europe. Building in China is good optics for brands hoping to remain popular there and has the added benefit of placing manufacturing complexes closer to relevant suppliers, especially if you’re swapping to electric vehicles.
Delayed by the semiconductor deficit, the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale is here and nearly ready for production.
It’s gone through some subtle changes since its 2019 debut at the Geneva Motor Show. But the Tonale, which I recently learned isn’t Italian for toenail, has remained true to the concept. The traditional Alfa grille has been retained while the razor-thin headlights have been widened slightly to make the signature LED elements more visible. But it’s otherwise indistinguishable from the concept without popping the hood or examining the non-fungible token (NFT) that comes with the car.
It seems this calendar year will improve in terms of supply chain challenges for many auto manufacturers, with a general consensus that new chip sources will alleviate some of last year’s snarls. Still, one forward-looking group of analysts have peered into a crystal ball and determined all hands might not be out of the woods quite yet.
The final Volkswagen Passat has rolled off the assembly line in Chattanooga, Tennessee, ending the model’s extended run on the North American market.
Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and introduced in 1973 using the VW/Audi B1 platform, the Passat arrived in the United States as the Dasher and was sold as a midsized luxury vehicle to people in the market for an imported economy car. The model carried different names in other parts of the world and even saw a few unique monikers used in the U.S. (e.g. Quantum) to help differentiate between the hatchback, sedan, and wagon variants sold throughout the 1980s. But it was officially known as the (B2) Passat by 1990, regardless of format.
Toyota Motor Corp is currently having to contend with idle factories in Asia, reducing the automaker’s estimated output by over 47,000 units this month. Shockingly, it’s not alleged to have anything to do with the semiconductor shortage that’s been wreaking havoc on Western markets.
With chip production having been localized primarily in China and Taiwan, Asian suppliers have had better access to them. But Eastern markets have still been subjected to other routine plant closures due to supply chain restrictions stemming from the pandemic. Existing protocols in China, combined with renewed restrictions in Japan, have created a situation impacting numerous automakers with Toyota announcing this week that it probably won’t reach its goal of manufacturing 9 million cars this year — though it made sure to include the ongoing semiconductor issue as relevant.
The all-electric roadmap at General Motors continues apace. This week, the company announced plans to form a joint venture with a group called POSCO Chemical, an outfit that has nothing to do with our News & Social Media Contributor despite sharing a curiously similar surname.
GM’s plan calls for the parties to construct a facility in North America which will process critical battery materials for The General’s new Ultium electric vehicle platform. Note well: these are the gubbins planned to be used in upcoming rigs like the Lyriq and Hummer EV, not the maligned Bolt EV.
Production of the 2022 Lucid Air started this week, adding another automaker to the North American roster. The manufacturer held an event on September 28th, inviting Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, relevant executives, big-time investors, select media outlets, and customers who dropped $170,000 to purchase the limited Dream Edition of the electric vehicle.
While often framed as a Tesla ripoff, Lucid Motors has been setting its sights so high that it hardly feels like a fair assessment. Because the Air is offering one of the most impressive all-electric spec sheets in the industry right now and should probably worry the competition.
Despite EV startups taking a lot of flak for habitually overpromising, sometimes on a level that approaches criminal fraud, things appear to be going rather well at the Rivian factory. Founder and CEO Robert Joseph “RJ” Scaringe announced that the company started building its very first production units on Tuesday.
With the necessary regulatory certifications in hand, Rivian can now begin delivering vehicles directly to customers and the timing couldn’t be much better. The electric brand had said it was basically done with prototypes and ready to spin up the assembly lines for the final product late last month. While this still placed it a bit behind schedule, the company now says it has all the necessary certifications from the relevant regulatory agencies (NHTSA, EPA, CARB, etc.) and an automobile that’s been federally approved for sale.
Ford appears to be pulling out of India, with the automaker confirming plans to end production there by next year. While a sizable automotive market — fifth just behind Japan, with about 2.5 million sales annually — the region never felt like a good fit for Blue Oval. Ford’s cash cows have long been upsized SUVs and pickup trucks, whereas India has an obvious penchant for small automobiles prioritizing value above all else. This left the automaker with a paltry market share estimated below two percent and likely explains why it’s no longer interested in manufacturing vehicles there.
In Thursday’s announcement, the company confessed to having accumulated operating losses of more than $2 billion over the last decade — hence the need for restructuring. But it won’t be cutting ties with India entirely, as it wants the region to handle Ford Business Solutions and help with customer support services via the relevant information centers.
Despite being one of the only manufacturers not to incur heavy production losses over the global semiconductor shortage, Toyota has announced that its luck has finally run out. The automaker is estimating that it will need to cut assembly by 40 percent this September.
It’s not alone. Both Ford and General Motors have announced they’re also stifling production this week to account for a deficit of chips. Even Volkswagen Group has been cautioning that it might schedule more downtime going into the fall. But that’s basically been the story for all of 2021. Toyota just happens to be the newest inductee.
Tesla Gigafactory has been hit with more red tape than a last-minute Christmas present and is reportedly nearing completion. Elon Musk even suggested the facility could be producing vehicles by the end of October. However, some of the language emanating from his recent 0n-site engagement has us wondering what the odds are on that becoming a reality. The facility has already been delayed on more than one occasion by environmental activists and bureaucratic hang-ups. Though it now appears to be within a few weeks of commencing operations, Tesla’s CEO didn’t sound overly optimistic about the target.
On Friday, Musk met with Armin Laschet — Germany’s leading Conservative candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor — to tour the grounds of Gigafactory Berlin (technically Gruenheide). Though the main event was Elon’s preceding meeting with local Brandenburg officials that have not yet given final approval on the facility, citing ecological concerns.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Oberkanone Hippo Raptor
- MaintenanceCosts There's a reason why Dodge trucks were a distant third in sales until the '90s. And this one needs a whole new interior. Hard pass.
- SCE to AUX "awesome patina"The ad is better than the car. 1983 with new belts - I'll go up to $1000 since it runs.
- Kcflyer Seems like a nice enough vehicle. But hard to imagine there are not much more compelling options for 65 grand.
- MaintenanceCosts This was one of the only good engines Subaru ever made wrapped in a body made of human repellent.