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0:07 CA County Says Tesla Can’t Reopen Assembly Plant
0:38 Elon Musk Says Tesla Will Move HQ Out of CA
1:30 Tesla’s China Sales Down
2:10 U.S. New Car Sales Pick Back Up
2:52 Dealers Need to Worry About Cybertheft
3:39 Mario Andretti Wants Ferrari to Join IndyCar
4:48 Skoda Dune Buggy That Never Made Production
5:46 Design Work Better During Lockdown
6:53 FCA Announces Winner of Student Design Contest
7:33 Can You Identify This Old Car?
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CA COUNTY SAYS TESLA CAN’T REOPEN ASSEMBLY PLANT
Elon Musk sure stirred up a storm of controversy over the weekend. He announced that Tesla would re-open its assembly plant in Fremont, California today. But health officials in Alameda county, where the plant is located, say it’s not safe to reopen, even though Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, said that manufacturing operations in the state could reopen. So Musk filed a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court against those Alameda health officials.
ELON MUSK SAYS TESLA WILL MOVE HQ OUT OF CA
But then he went further than that and tweeted out, “Frankly, this is the final straw. Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately. If we even retain Fremont manufacturing activity at all, it will be dependent on how Tesla is treated in the future. Tesla is the last carmaker left in CA.” This sent shock waves through the state, which has strongly supported Tesla since it first got going. Remember when the California Air Resources Board gave Tesla EV credits for offering automatic battery swapping even though the company never sold cars who’s batteries could be swapped? Even so, California will not want to lose Tesla to Texas. It was painful enough when Toyota bolted from the Golden State and ran to the Lone Star State.
TESLA’S CHINA SALES FALL
Tesla is not the only automaker chomping at the bit to resume production. All the other automakers want to do the same thing. But none of them are attacking or suing health officials or threatening to move to another state. Musk must be under a lot of pressure. Reports out of China this morning say Tesla’s sales in China fell 64% last month after rising in March. The China Passenger Car Association says Tesla sold only 3,635 Model 3s last month even though the rest of the EV segment rose nearly 10% and the overall market rose more than 4%.
NEW CAR SALES STARTING TO RECOVER
Meanwhile, in the U.S., Autonation, which is the largest automotive retailer in the country, says new car sales are already recovering. It saw a big increase in sales in the second half of April, though sales are still down overall. It also reports that sales of vehicles from GM, Ford and FCA were down only 4%, while import brands were down 5% and luxury brands were down 9%.
DEALERS NEED TO WORRY ABOUT CYBERTHEFT
With showrooms closed, more dealers are turning to online sales. But that’s leaving them more vulnerable to cybertheft. That’s why the National Automobile Dealers Association is advising dealers to take steps to prevent identity theft while selling vehicles online. Wards reports that it recommends dealers use anti-cybercrime products, like identity verification tools, from reputable companies. The NADA also recommends hiring vendors with technology for transmitting and storing sensitive information. Many dealers hadn’t embraced selling vehicles online before the pandemic but now they’re being forced to and they need to take the necessary steps to protect themselves from cybertheft.
MARIO ANDRETTI WANTS FERRARI TO JOIN INDYCAR
There’s talk to restart Formula One races in July but the sport’s chairman warns there’s, “the remote possibility of no racing in 2020.” So, as teams and companies are getting hammered financially, F1’s announcement to lower the budget cap before the coronavirus hit looks even more wise now. And some are pushing to cut it even more to reflect the global financial crisis. The lower budgets would help close the competitive gap but not all teams are in favor of the move. Ferrari is opposed to lowering the cap and says that hundreds of jobs would be at risk. Racing legend Mario Andretti has an idea how Ferrari could still employ those workers. He says IndyCar’s Roger Penske should sit down with Ferrari to discuss a possible collaboration, “Not only as an engine supplier, but also as a chassis builder.” Right now the chassis are supplied by Dallara and powered by either Chevrolet or Honda engines. Ferrari did develop an IndyCar back in 1985 but it was never put into a race.
SKODA DUNE BUGGY THAT NEVER MADE PRODUCTION
The Meyers Manx, which is based on the VW Beetle is the best-known beach-going dune buggy, but before becoming a part of the Volkswagen Group, Skoda also developed a dune buggy around the same time as the Manx. In 1973 work started on a door-less, open-top vehicle, called the Buggy Type 736. It was based on the Skoda 110 and featured a 45 horsepower 4-cylinder engine. And if it looks like kids are working on the car, they are. Apprentices from the company’s vocational school were tasked with completing 4 of the 5 prototypes by hand. The vehicles were never made and only one of the five prototypes, that was restored by those same students, sits in the automaker’s museum.
DESIGN WORK BETTER DURING LOCKDOWN
Working from home has been a big adjustment for just about everyone, including automotive designers. I just interviewed Ralph Gilles, the Head of Design at FCA. And despite the circumstances, he says the quality of the sketches is amazing and, in some cases, better than what he was seeing in his design studios.. Here he is talking about what differences he’s seeing.
Ralph Gilles, Head of Design, FCA
“Detail. Just the amount of detail the designers are going into. How thorough their sketches are. Sometimes I’ll see one theme but then they’ll go deeper into that theme and show me the details of the lamps or the detail of the doors and just getting into the very intricate stuff that normally they don’t have time to do. So that’s what I mean. And the volume of work is quite impressive. The competition, cause the other thing that’s happening when I have these reviews, they tend to project one image at a time, so I’m really focused. You have to imagine when I go to the studio, there’s a wall of sketches. So I may not notice that one sketch sometimes at the bottom right. I tend to go back at night and do it but now that we’re on these systems, everybody has my attention and each other’s attention. So everyone’s staring at that sketch so they’re like “Oh my God, I better bring the heat.”
You can watch the full interview with Ralph on our YouTube channel. Just search for the Autoline Network.
FCA ANNOUNCES WINNER OF STUDENT DESIGN CONTEST
And speaking of FCA and design, it announced the winners of its Drive for Design contest. It’s a competition for high school students, who were asked to sketch a Ram truck of the future. FCA partnered with EyesOn Design and the College for Creative Studies to pick the winners. The top spot went to a 12th grader from California, while two 11th grade students from Michigan rounded out the podium. Part of the prize includes sketching demonstrations from FCA’s design team. FCA began the competition in 2013 in order to make students more aware of automotive design as a career.
CAN YOU IDENTIFY THIS OLD CAR?
Before we go, we need your help. Viewer Paul Digney sent us this photo and wrote, “This belonged to the grandfather of a friend of mine. We are struggling to figure out what it is. The picture is from the 30’s but maybe the car is a late 20’s model. The badge is just below the level where you can read it but it has a “6” under a name that is on an incline. The 2nd or 3rd letter may be a “B”. That’s all we’ve got.” I have no doubt that several of our Autoline viewers are going to figure this out pretty quick, so once you know, let us know!
But that wraps up today’s show, thanks for watching and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow.
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John McElroy is an influential thought leader in the automotive industry. He is a journalist, lecturer, commentator and entrepreneur. He created “Autoline Daily,” the first industry webcast of industry news and analysis.