Listen to “AD #3440 – Tesla Sends 200 Chinese Engineers to Fremont; U.S. Car Sales Up Sharply; Farley Chops Management at Ford” on Spreaker.
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0:08 U.S. Car Sales Up Sharply
1:16 Bentley Doubles Profit on Bespoke Models
2:32 Farley Chops Management Layers at Ford
3:24 Tesla Sends 200 Chinese Engineers to Fremont
4:48 Honda Working on Pod Cars
6:05 Toyota Trailhunter Takes a Bow at SEMA
7:00 More EVs at SEMA
8:33 Chinese OEMs Eye Overseas Markets
9:18 Mercedes Reveals U.S. Price of EQE
9:50 GAMIC Is Shark Tank for Auto Innovators
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
U.S. CAR SALES UP SHARPLY
New car sales in the US market shot up sharply last month. The SAAR, or seasonally adjusted rate came in at 14.9 million, the healthiest it’s been since January, and much higher than the 13.2 million it hit in September. Automakers sold over 1.1 million vehicles, and some automakers had a spectacular month. Ward’s Intelligence says sales were up because inventory levels are increasing while prices are a bit lower. GM saw its sales jump 57% as it was able to start shipping vehicles that were already built but missing some parts. Subaru shot up 37%, Mazda was up nearly 34%, Tesla was up 33% and Toyota was up 32%. Mercedes, Nissan, Hyundai-Kia, JLR, and the VW Group all posted better sales. But some posted lower sales including BMW, Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, Stellantis and Volvo.
BENTLEY DOUBLES PROFIT ON BESPOKE MODELS
Bespoke luxury cars have been around for over 100 years. Bespoke is something that is made specifically for its user and at some luxury brands owners can pretty much order anything they want on their cars. And of course, they pay a lot to get what they want. So now we seem to be entering something of a golden age of bespoke luxury cars that are made in extremely low volume. All the luxury brands are jumping in on the action. Meet the latest one, the Bentley Bentayga Odyssean Edition. They’re only going to make 70 of them, and they start at a cool $334,000. Bespoke models like this have really paid off for Bentley. In the third quarter, it sold just over 11,000 cars, up only 3%. But its revenue shot up 28%. And it more than doubled its operating profit to $568 million dollars. Bespoke models are so profitable because they don’t require more fixed costs and luxury buyers will happily pay for the markup to get something that is truly exclusive.
FARLEY CHOPS MANAGEMENT LAYERS AT FORD
More management changes at Ford. Joy Folatico, who was running Lincoln, is retiring and will be replaced by Diane Craig, who was running Ford’s International Markets Group. Stuart Rowley, who once ran Ford’s European operations, and Steven Armstrong, who ran operations in India and South America, are also retiring. Meanwhile, Jim Baumbick is taking on even more responsibility. He’s now the vice president for product development, cycle planning, internal combustion engine programs, and quality. Here’s our Autoline Insight. CEO Jim Farley is clearly flattening Ford’s management structure, literally taking out several layers of management, all with the goal of getting the company to move faster.
TESLA SENDS 200 CHINESE ENGINEERS TO FREMONT
Tesla is sending a small army of engineers and production staff from its Shanghai factory to its Fremont plant in California in an effort to boost production. Bloomberg reports around 200 people will be sent to Fremont and the project will last at least three months. Tesla recently upgraded its Shanghai plant with new equipment and it’s now able to produce 1 million plus vehicles a year, double what it previously could make. The Fremont plant has the capacity to build 650,000 vehicles a year. And thanks to the Shanghai updates, Tesla was able to significantly improve wait times for a vehicle in China. It’s now down to 1 to 4 weeks from a previous high of 22 weeks earlier this year.
HONDA WORKING ON POD CARS
Honda says it wants to help create a society where everyone has stress-free access to the freedom of mobility. So, starting this month it will test a couple of autonomous vehicles in Japan. What we find most interesting is that Honda is taking a similar approach to Tesla to understanding the vehicle’s environment. Rather than lidar and radar, the vehicles will only use image data captured by cameras to determine the best route. And it will do this without the use of high definition maps. This tech will be demonstrated in a small vehicle that can hold up to 4 people and will still have a safety driver on board. But the future plan is to use it in a small ride-hailing pod-like vehicle that might only hold one or two people and will be able to understand human-like phrases and gestures. The other vehicle Honda is testing is kind of like a robot servant that follows you around like a dog. It can hold objects or help guide you to your destination, even in a crowded area. It’s able to recognize and remember distinctive characteristics of the user, so it knows who it’s following. Honda says it hopes to have technologies like these available by 2030.
TOYOTA TRAILHUNTER TAKES A BOW AT SEMA
The SEMA show is all about showing people just crazy they can go with their car, truck or SUV. But soon Toyota truck buyers won’t have to do much modifying at all to hit off-road trails with confidence. It’s going to show off a tricked-out version of the Tundra, called the Trailhunter, that previews a future trim line for its trucks, which will be designed specifically for overlanding. Toyota says these will be highly capable trucks with trail-ready components straight from the factory. I think we can expect to see similar features that are displayed on the show truck, like a Trailhunter-specific suspension setup, skid plates, roof rack, new bumpers, unique wheels and off-road tires. No word on when we’ll see our first production Trailhunter truck, but Toyota does say it will provide more information next year.
MORE EVs AT SEMA
Speaking of SEMA, we’re happy to see that there will be a lot more electrified vehicles at this year’s show. It feels like an EV might be harder to modify than your typical ICE vehicle, but Ford is demonstrating that might not be the case. Since EVs like the Mustang Mach-E GT already have gobs of torque, tuners focused in on cosmetics. This one features a new front lip, custom spoiler, new fender arches and flares and even clear wheel covers to fit over the custom wheels. Or it shows how you could go in completely different directions with the F-150 Lightning. The Race Support vehicle is ready for an off-road rescue with underbody skid plates, Raptor wheels and roof rack. While the Swiss Army Knife Lightning is ready for some low-rider cruising. And we think this hybrid Maverick looks like the perfect parts truck for any shop.
CHINESE OEMs EYE OVERSEAS MARKETS
Look for the Chinese auto industry to really start expanding overseas, says Joe McCabe, the CEO of Autoforecast Solutions. He says Chinese automakers and suppliers really don’t have a choice. By 2030 he says there will be 112 Chinese different car companies with 105 car brands. They’re going to saturate their home market and will only be able to survive by expanding overseas, including the US. McCabe says Guangzhou Automobile Group, Chery Automobile, BYD, Geely Auto and SAIC Motor already have plans to enter the US market later in this decade.
MERCEDES REVEALS U.S. PRICE OF EQE
Mercedes is pricing the US version of its EQE electric sedan at just over $76,000 including destination charges. That’s the base price. The top of the line 4MATIC all-wheel-drive model starts at $92,650. The EQE comes with a 90.6 kWh battery that provides an EPA estimated 305 miles of range. It will go on sale in the U.S. by the end of the year.
GAMIC IS SHARK TANK FOR AUTO INNOVATORS
Have you ever had an idea that you thought would be perfect to sell to the automotive industry? Maybe you have but really don’t know how to get it going. Or maybe you’ve developed a pretty good idea but need a lot more funding. That’s what the Annual Global Automotive and Mobility Innovation Challenge is all about. They call it GAMIC. Think of it as kind of like a Shark Tank for automotive startups. They’re taking applications right now and there is no cost to enter. It doesn’t matter what your idea is–manufacturing, materials, cyber security, simulation, hardware, software, whatever–GAMIC is just looking for good ideas. It’s sponsored by the SAE and the Michigan Innovation Center and they’ll help you get your ideas in front of the people who can fund it or buy it. Check out the link in the transcript or description box, and get your application ready. The cutoff date for entries is December 18.
But that’s it for today, thanks for watching.
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Seamus and Sean McElroy cover the latest news in the automotive industry for Autoline Daily.