By on October 6, 2020

As the manual transmission gradually joins the wheel-mounted throttle lever in the automotive history trash bin, we’ve been wondering which manufacture would be the next to take a bold stance against be-clutched vehicles. Today we have our answer, thanks to a tweet explaining the brand’s research boss had indicated Mercedes-Benz doesn’t have room for manuals in its current restructuring program.

“The head of @MercedesBenz’s R&D operations, Markus Schaefer, has confirmed the company will ‘eliminate manual transmissions’ as part of cost-cutting initiatives that will also see a ‘substantial reduction in platforms’ and a ‘very dramatic reduction in combustion engines,'” automotive journalist Greg Kable explained via social media on Tuesday.

(Read More…)

By on September 8, 2020

General Motors announced it will be taking an 11-percent stake in Nikola on Tuesday. It even said it would be actively helping the startup produce the hydrogen/battery-powered Badger pickup, sending the firm’s already-insane share price through the roof. Nikola shares were up 30 percent before the trading day even began, with the General seeing some positive changes in its own stock. Things only improved from there for both companies as news of the partnership continued to spread.

The deal is costing GM $2 billion and allots it one board member of its choosing in exchange for its manufacturing expertise.

(Read More…)

By on July 10, 2020

Amazon

As you read earlier this morning, Rivian founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe isn’t all that impressed with the ability of some EV startups to wow Wall Street with lofty talk and exciting, but perhaps empty, promises. He’s more concerned with getting product out the door.

It’s perhaps because of Rivian’s conventional approach to car building that big-name firms seem more than willing to put their cash behind it. On Friday, the EV startup landed another bundle, and it’s a big one. (Read More…)

By on July 9, 2020

Fisker Inc. is reportedly in talks to go public after seeing how well other electric vehicle manufacturers (prospective or otherwise) have performed on Wall Street this year. In case you missed it, Tesla became the most valuable automaker on the planet this summer, while startup Nikola saw its shares explode through the ceiling ⁠— despite having never manufactured a single product for purchase.

It seems like complete madness, so it aligns perfectly with just about everything else that’s happened in 2020.  (Read More…)

By on March 3, 2020

Waymo CEO John Krafcik announced Monday that his company amassed $2.25 billion in its external investment round. Considering Waymo is owned by Google parent Alphabet, one of the richest companies in the world, you’d think it’d be able to float some extra funding into autonomous development. However, even a company worth an estimated $1 trillion knows it’s better to source capital from outside the business — that must be on the first page of every tech company’s playbook.

Seen widely as the firm currently riding the tip of the autonomous spear, Waymo already operates self-driving shuttle programs (with a safety driver) in Arizona, with plans for expansion. The new funding aims to further those goals; however, with autonomous targets being missed by just about every company that bothered making them, we’ll wait to see what happens. The company is currently focused on getting its Waymo Driver system into more vehicles, starting with EVs and Class 8 trucks.  (Read More…)

By on February 27, 2020

Subaru Ascent

In an effort to build more things where they’re needed, Subaru of Indiana Automotive will spend $158 million expanding its Lafayette plant. Construction begins this summer.

The cash covers a standalone service parts facility and an add-on to the existing plant, home to the Ascent, Outback, Legacy, and Impreza. That addition will see the automaker’s only non-Japanese facility build the transmissions needed to serve a growing market.

As you’ve read here, Subaru expects to spend 2020 selling. (Read More…)

By on February 26, 2020

Last year, Toyota and Pony.ai announced a pilot project to test autonomous vehicles in Chinese cities, with an aim to continue working together on self-driving projects in Asia. The time for strengthening the relationship is now, with Pony confirming it had received a $400 million investment from the Japanese automaker as part of its latest funding roundup.

Toyota doesn’t have an exclusive arrangement with the startup and is free to work with other companies. Pony already has other investors on board, operating autonomous testing hubs in California, Beijing, and Guangzhou. However, the investment from Toyota could mean it’s about to become a whole lot more important to the business, as the pair are already discussing new ways to collaborate once they’ve finished fielding testbed Lexus RXs to sharpen the firm’s software.  (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2020

2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class Power - Image: Mercedes-Benz

In November, Daimler announced a restructuring plan that called for the elimination of 10,000 jobs, claiming the effort would result in an estimated 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in savings by the end of 2022. Chairman Ola Källenius may just be getting warmed up.

According to German outlet Handelsblatt, sources within the company claim austerity measures will be expanded at Tuesday’s investor conference. Källenius is said to raise the job cut figure to 15,000 while scaling back (or dropping) several side businesses that aren’t turning a profit. As well, the automaker will likely axe a few models that don’t fit in with the core brand’s luxury image, starting with the Nissan Navara Mercedes-Benz X-Class. (Read More…)

By on January 31, 2020

BMW Group has delayed the development of a next-generation Mini Cooper, citing a need to reduce cost and comfortably navigate Britain’s trade relations with the European Union after Brexit.

Considering Europe has had since June of 2016 (when the referendum took place) to figure all this out, it feels silly that the region is still in a panic. Yet that’s reality in which we live. Despite the United Kingdom voting to withdraw from the European Union years ago, the decision received an immense amount of pushback. Negotiations stalled, arrangements went unmade, and the UK eventually voted in a gaggle of Conservatives in the last election — giving them a strong majority in Parliament.

That new political makeup, which includes Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meant Brexit could finally happen. But it doesn’t undo the wasted years that failed to produce a comprehensive trade deal between the UK and EU, or the resulting complications. (Read More…)

By on November 25, 2019

A new report indicates that BAIC Motor Corp, Daimler’s primary Chinese joint-venture partner, wants to increase its stake in the company. Currently, BAIC owns 5 percent of the German automaker (purchased in July) with rumors swirling in October that the firm wanted to increase its investment. There were also claims that Geely was attempting to stand in the way of the prospective deal.

While not Daimler’s main squeeze in Asia from a production perspective, Geely actually owns 9.7 percent of the company — giving it quite a bit of leverage. As such, there were murmurings that Geely put the kibosh on any ideas BAIC had on investing further. Geely has rebuffed the accusation. “We are a long-term investor in Daimler. We do not react spontaneously to any volatility and we support Daimler’s management and their strategy,” the firm explained.

Be that as it may, there appears to be a minor power struggle between the two Chinese companies. Both seem interested in strengthening their influence and happen to find themselves in each other’s way.  (Read More…)

By on November 15, 2019

Volkswagen Group has decided to increase spending on the development of electric and digital technologies over the next five years to 60 billion euros ($66 billion USD). The automaker estimated the revised strategy amounts to slightly more than 40 percent of its investments in property, plant and equipment, and all research and development costs during the planning period.

Of that sum, 33 billion euros are expected to go directly toward the development of new electric vehicles. The increase allocates roughly €12 billion annually for hybridization, electric mobility and digitalization. The old plan set aside 8.8 billion euros per year. (Read More…)

By on September 17, 2019

Image: Toyota

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas is slated to receive a $391 million investment earmarked for streamlined pickup production. The manufacturer wants to merge the Tacoma and Tundra models onto a common platform, something we’ve mentioned in the past, and Toyota’s Tuesday announcement solidifies those rumors.

The new platform is meant to make hybridization easier and provide the basis for the entirety of the automaker’s global truck line — including SUVs like the Sequoia. (Read More…)

By on September 10, 2019

 

2020 Ford Escape

It should surprise no one that the fortunes of a car company aren’t solely tied to the quality or relevance of the vehicles they produce. Much also hinges on Wall Street’s confidence in the place and, as of now, the money mavens don’t seem to have much conviction in Ford at all.

Moody’s, the investor services company which rates fixed-income debt securities, has downgraded Ford’s credit to junk status. They kicked it out of Baa3 and into Ba1 territory, which is the first rung of junk, a term which simply translates into non-investment speculative grade debt. This preceding phrase causes your author’s mind to spin even more than it does after studying assembly instructions for an IKEA Vittsjö shelving unit.

(Read More…)

By on September 4, 2019

Last year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced a €5 billion plan to set the table for more palatable electric vehicles — including hybrids — and boost capacity utilization at its Italian facilities. Roughly one fifth of that total will go toward the launch of a compact crossover from Alfa Romeo and Fiat’s upcoming Panda hybrid.

Numerous Italian trade unions (AQCF, FIM, FISMIC, UGLM, and UILM), after speaking with the manufacturer, have confirmed the Pomigliano plant will undergo some retooling in preparation for the new models. Meanwhile, FCA confirmed the cost to Reuters — stipulating that the total investment for the two models would be “closer to 1 billion than 500 million euros.”  (Read More…)

By on August 1, 2019

Last week we played a round of Armchair Alternative History where we discussed missed opportunities in the automotive industry. Conversation focused on actions automakers didn’t take when they should’ve.

Today is round two. Let’s go back and erase things that actually happened.

(Read More…)

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