Follow us on social media:
0:00 GM’s Barra Faces Big Problems
1:21 Cruise Continues in Japan, Dubai
2:36 NTSB Wants Speed Limiters in Cars
3:53 Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Tesla
5:07 Use A Phone to Buy Your Mercedes
5:31 Honda Invests in Making Batteries
6:09 NIO Hits 2,100 Battery Swap Stations
7:21 NIO Targets Maybach S-Class
7:57 ONE Gets into LFP Storage Business
8:23 Heat Pumps Help EVs In Cold Weather
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
GM’S BARRA FACES BIG PROBLEMS
GM CEO Mary Barra probably can’t wait for this year to end. It hasn’t been a good one for her. First, GM’s EV launches have been riddled with production problems. Second, it just went through bruising contract negotiations with the UAW and ended up with a contract that will significantly raise its labor costs. And third, GM Cruise, its robotaxi business, ran into a buzz-saw of safety complaints in California. That led GM to stop all rides in the U.S. pending a review of its processes and procedures. Yesterday, Kyle Vogt, the tech entrepreneur who helped found and run Cruise, resigned from the company. So far this year Cruise has lost $2.6 billion. It still has $2.1 billion in cash, but that means it either has to start generating a lot more revenue or get a lot more investment before that money runs out. Not surprisingly, Wall Street doesn’t like what it’s seeing. GM’s stock is down 17% this year and its market cap has fallen to only $38 billion.
CRUISE CONTINUES IN JAPAN, DUBAI
But maybe GM’s pause with Cruise is just related to the American market. Reuters reports that Cruise is still testing its autonomous cars on public roads in Japan and Dubai, countries that are not known for their product liability lawsuits. As we said before, Mary Barra is probably shy when it comes to any kind of safety problem because of the disastrous way that GM handled its ignition switch defect nearly a decade ago. She has to tip-toe carefully. GM has poured billions into Cruise and Barra is counting on it to generate $50 billion a year in revenue by the end of the decade. So she has a lot riding on it, maybe even her job. But a study done by the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan shows that Cruise robotaxis get in about one third fewer accidents than taxis with human drivers, which were operating within the same geo-fenced area. So even if robotaxis aren’t perfect, it looks like they’re still safer than cars with a human being behind the wheel.
NTSB WANTS SPEED LIMITERS IN CARS
Speaking of safety, the National Transportation Safety Board wants NHTSA to mandate speed-limiters in cars to help prevent speeding. The NTSB is citing a fatal crash in Las Vegas where a driver was traveling 103 MPH in a 35 MPH zone and ran a red light, striking a minivan and killing a family of seven. The driver, who also died in the crash along with a passenger, was found to be high on PCP and cocaine. The NTSB doesn’t have the authority to make new laws and regulations, so it’s calling on NHTSA to mandate technology that would warn drivers if they’re driving above posted speeds or even automatically reduce a car’s speed to the limit. The NTSB also wants more educational campaigns about speeding, tougher punishments for speeders and make speed-limiter technology a part of the New Car Assessment Program rating system. But we think mandating speed-limiters could be dangerous. For just one example, what about those times when you’ve got to stomp on the gas to avoid getting hit by another vehicle?
JUDGE DISMISSES LAWSUIT AGAINST TESLA
An antitrust lawsuit against Tesla was dismissed by a U.S. Judge. The suit accused Tesla of forcing customers to pay high prices and endure long wait times for repairs because the EV maker monopolized the market for maintenance and replacement parts. The complaint also said Tesla vehicles must be repaired at approved service centers and can only use Tesla parts. But the judge dismissed the suit because she said the plaintiffs couldn’t prove they were unaware of the problem before they bought their vehicle and the judge said they didn’t prove Tesla forced them into using its services and parts.
USE A PHONE TO BUY YOUR MERCEDES
Mercedes is making it easier for customers to lease its vehicles in Germany by allowing them to do it digitally, even on your phone. Every step of the leasing process can be done online within a few minutes and it is all legally binding. Mercedes says it plans to offer the service to other markets and for business customers but it did not say where or when it will happen.
HONDA INVESTS IN MAKING BATTERIES
Honda is buying shares in a company that it plans to make EV batteries with. It’s purchasing nearly 2.5 million shares in Yuasa, a company that makes batteries for all kinds of products. Honda will now control about 5% of Yuasa’s shares and the two are also forming a new battery joint venture. In Particular, they plan to research and develop lithium-ion batteries and battery production methods for EVs. But Yuasa makes batteries for motorcycles and power products, like ATVs and wave runners. So, I could see the partnership spilling over into other areas as well.
NIO HITS 2,100 BATTERY SWAP STATIONS
Battery swapping continues to grow in China. NIO has opened nearly 800 new swap stations this year, which brings its total to over 2,100. It says it has completed more than 32 million battery swaps to date and now averages 60,000 in a day. Chinese automaker GAC also started getting into battery swapping last year and just signed a deal with a tech company that will provide it with a digital platform where users can locate and pay for its charging services, which includes battery swapping. GAC has been slow to roll out the services. Only two of its models offer battery swapping and it’s not available on every trim level. It also cut back on initial plans and will build 500 swap stations by 2025, instead of 1,000. But GAC has partnerships with Honda and Toyota, so there’s potential to expand. However, incentives also play a role in the adoption of the technology. China currently exempts anyone from the EV battery tax if the model has battery swapping capability.
NIO TARGETS MAYBACH S-CLASS
Speaking of NIO, it’s drawing a bead on the Maybach S-class from Mercedes-Benz. Car New China reports that NIO will unveil a flagship luxury sedan next month to compete with the Maybach in China. It’s said to cost about $140,000, will sit on NIO’s NT3 EV platform and will use an autonomous chip that NIO developed in-house. NIO probably gave us a hint of its proportions and packaging two years ago when it unveiled the Eve concept car.
ONE GETS INTO LFP STORAGE BUSINESS
How are battery companies going to make up for the slowdown in EV sales? Well ONE, or Our Next Energy, is partnering with General Electric’s sustainable energy division called GE Vernova, to supply it with LFP battery modules for its Solar & Storage Solutions business. And energy storage is going to play a big role in upgrading electric grids all around the world
HEAT PUMPS HELP EVs IN COLD WEATHER
I think by now everyone knows that EVs lose range in cold weather – yes, I know. ICE vehicles lose range in the cold too, but we’re talking about EVs – and according to data from Recurrent, the average EV today loses about 30% of its range when temperatures fall to 0-degrees Celsius or 32-degrees Fahrenheit. The best performer is the Audi e-tron, losing just 16% of its range and the worst is the VW ID.4 at 46%. What’s surprising is that both these vehicles are based on the MEB platform, but the e-tron features a heat pump, which helps keep the battery at optimal temperature, and the ID.4 does not. It’s amazing how big a difference that one bit of tech makes. Tesla, which also uses a heat pump, performs well with the Model 3, Y & X all losing 24% of their range in the cold.
But that brings us to the end of today’s show. Thanks for tuning in.
Thanks to our partner for embedding Autoline Daily on its website: WardsAuto.com