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Tesla has reached the top, the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance is back, and Mary Barra. All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 27, 2022.

1st Gear: Tesla Takes The Throne

Tesla is American luxury, whether you like it or not. In recent weeks and months, the question has been whether it would, finally, take the luxury throne here, by sales. According to a new report from Cox Automotive, it did just that in 2021, undoubtedly helped by navigating the chip shortage better than its rivals.

From Automotive News:

The 89 percent surge in EV sales last year put deliveries of battery-electric vehicles at 487,460, of which 352,471 were Tesla vehicles built at the company’s Fremont, Calif., plant. Compared to luxury rivals that sell mostly combustion-engine vehicles, Tesla fared well, Cox said.

“Tesla didn’t only dominate the EV market, Tesla dominated the overall luxury market, outselling Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz in the U.S.,” Cox said.

A separate report by Cox estimated Tesla brand sales in the U.S. last year at 352,471, a 71 percent increase over the 205,600 units sold in 2020. Tesla sales in 2021 came mostly from the Model Y crossover at 190,393 and Model 3 sedan at 121,877, Cox said.

BMW brand sales last year were 336,644 and Lexus came in at 304,476 deliveries, according to Cox and manufacturer data. Mercedes struggled with semiconductor chip supplies and sold 276,102 luxury vehicles in the U.S. last year, according to the automaker.

Tesla has had a big week, announcing on Wednesday that it had recorded a second consecutive year of profits, while also saying that the Semi, Roadster, and Cybertruck would be delayed till 2023 and that the $25,000 Tesla is seemingly dead. At this point, it’s hard to see anything stopping its momentum, poised as they are for more growth in 2022, despite stiffer competition in the American market. Tesla is also becoming, I fear, just another car company.

2nd Gear: The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Partnership Isn’t Dead Yet

The automakers said Thursday they would be working together over the next several years to make 35 new EVs by 2030. They will spend €23 billion on it, most of which has been previously announced, though there was still some question over the alliance’s future, after the disaster that was Carlos Ghosn.

From the Financial Times:

The €23bn joint plan comprised “not much” new money, Renault deputy chief executive Clotilde Delbos said, although the alliance would pay jointly for a new platform, or underlying car architecture, which would be used for Renault and Nissan models.

She added that the alliance had more than a decade of experience in battery cars and would have a significant advantage over higher spending rivals such as VW.

“We don’t start from scratch,” she said. “We know what is going to please the customer . . . So in our view, we have a very intelligent way of spending the money and sharing what is best for each one of the worlds of Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi,” adding there is no need to spend extra billions beyond what was announced.

The companies would work with the same suppliers for key components, and said they aimed to cut battery costs by 65 per cent by 2028. Nissan will lead the alliance’s efforts in mass producing all solid-state batteries by middle of that year, to realise cost parity with gasoline-powered cars in the future.

Under the plan, Nissan will release an electric car to replace the Micra, its smallest model, which will be manufactured by Renault in France.

It’s easy to underestimate Renault, Nissan, and Mitsubishi, but they have shown, if nothing else, resilience.

3rd Gear: CEOs Endorse Biden’s Climate Plans

Prominent business leaders met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday to talk about the Build Back Better plan that is currently stalled in Congress but that Biden still keeps hope of passing. GM CEO Mary Barra was there among them, offering her blessing.

From Reuters:

General Motors(GM.N) CEO Mary Barra noted the Detroit automaker is making big investments in EV and it needs key provisions in the proposal “that are going to uncap EV credits.”

[…]

Biden would increase the current $7,500 EV tax credit to up to $12,500 for union-made U.S. vehicles and create credits of up to $4,000 for used vehicles. The bill would also again make GM and Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) eligible for tax credits after they hit the 200,000-vehicle cap on the existing $7,500 credit.

[…]

The bill also includes a 30% credit for commercial electric vehicles. Build Back Better would allocate $3.5 billion for converting U.S. factories for production of electrified or fuel cell vehicles and revive incentives that could generate $3.7 billion for automotive communities by 2031.

“It is vital that we have that (EV manufacturing) in the United States,” Barra said Wednesday. She called $52 billion in separate proposed funding for semiconductor production “a national imperative.”

Like Biden, I, too, remain foolishly optimistic that the Build Back Better plan will pass in some fashion.

4th Gear: The U.S. Department Of Transportation Has A Plan To Decrease Road Deaths

It is a little hard to parse, but, more concretely, it does involve eventually mandating automatic emergency braking in cars for both cars and pedestrians, and also technology to prevent drunken/impaired driving.

From Automotive News:

To address vehicle safety the department plans to follow through on major auto-related provisions in the infrastructure law, which provides nearly $14 billion in new funding for road safety, including $4 billion for improved crash data collection and other vehicle safety programs.

The law, in part, directs the agency to publish a notice on proposed updates to NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program and issue a final rule that requires new vehicles to be equipped with an advanced drunken and impaired driving prevention technology.

The transportation department will develop proposals to update NCAP and provide a longer-term roadmap for the program this year. It also plans to consider a rule-making effort on vehicle safety standards for the impaired driving prevention technology by 2024, according to a document outlining the safety strategy.

By 2024, the department also expects to initiate a rule-making to mandate automatic emergency braking and pedestrian automatic emergency braking on new passenger vehicles —another provision in the infrastructure law.

It sounds like automakers are onboard.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents most major automakers in the U.S. as well as some suppliers and tech companies, welcomed the department’s strategy, citing the group’s “shared goal” of zero fatalities on U.S. roadways.

I’m most interested in the tech that will help prevent pedestrian/cyclist/motorcyclist deaths, because for years now there’s been a bias toward protecting drivers and passengers instead of pretty much everyone else, as cars have gotten bigger and heavier.

5th Gear: Stellantis Buying A Majority Stake In GAC

You remember GAC, don’t you? The Chinese automaker once had ambitions of breaking into the U.S. market as soon as 2019, which didn’t happen. Stellantis was already in on GAC, owning half of it. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that it will soon own 75 percent.

Stellantis STLA 2.98% NV—which also owns the Chrysler, Peugeot and Fiat brands—will increase its stake in a partnership with China Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., Ltd. to 75% from 50%. Financial terms weren’t disclosed and the companies are still working on the details of the deal, which remains subject to the approval of the Chinese government.

China moved to scrap joint-venture rules in 2018 as trade tensions soared with the U.S. After the U.S. called for a level playing field in the world’s biggest auto market, Beijing pledged to phase out rules requiring foreign auto makers to share factory ownership and profits with Chinese companies by 2022.

BMW AG has said it would pay about $4 billion to take control of its partnership with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd. Volkswagen AG announced plans to increase its stake in a joint venture with China’s JAC Motors to 75% from 50%.

I hope GAC does come to the U.S. some day. The more the merrier.

Reverse: Shelby



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