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0:00 Toyota Targets Rolls-Royce & Bentley
1:26 Toyota Workers Demand Record Bonus
2:28 Car Dealers Beg Biden To Delay EVs–Again
3:19 Lincoln Slashes U.S. Dealer Network
4:05 Porsche Says EU Could Delay ICE Ban
5:00 Renault Grows Hydrogen Business
6:20 GM Says Fuel Cells Not Ideal for Light Vehicles
7:01 Honda Prologue EV Starts At $48,800
8:03 GM Cruise Under DOJ & SEC Investigations
9:21 BMW Uses Auto Tech to Help German Lugers
This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
TOYOTA TARGETS ROLLS-ROYCE & BENTLEY
Move over Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Toyota wants a piece of your action. According to Forbes, Toyota will spin off its Century models into a standalone global luxury brand that will compete at the top of the luxury market, well above Lexus. Forbes was told the plans by an unnamed Toyota executive at the Tokyo auto show. And Wards also reports that the company has filed trademarks for the Century name in several different countries. The Toyota Century sedan has been around since the late 1960’s and is currently made for the Japanese market, typically used to chauffeur around business executives or politicians. But last September, Toyota also revealed the Century SUV that costs $170,000 and earlier this month at the Tokyo show, it introduced a bespoke version of the SUV called the GRMN that costs $220,000. This is the model that is said to first be going to global markets, like Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas and will be offered in both right and left hand drive. And these models could be extremely profitable for Toyota, which dovetails perfectly with our next story.
TOYOTA WORKERS DEMAND RECORD BONUS
Japanese autoworkers almost never go on strike. And they probably won’t this time either. But they’re demanding record bonuses from Toyota, which expects to post an eye-popping operating profit of more than $30 billion when its fiscal year closes at the end of March. Autoworkers in Japan don’t get paid by the hour, they get paid by the month. And at the end of the fiscal year, they get a bonus, which works out to several months of pay. Toyota’s union is demanding 7.6 months of pay for the next bonus, up from 6.7 months last year. And it will probably get it. In the past, Japanese autoworkers have been known to wear black armbands to signal their displeasure with management instead of calling a strike and walking off the job. And that sure shows a different cultural approach compared to what unions do in the US, the EU or South Korea.
CAR DEALERS BEG BIDEN TO DELAY EVs–AGAIN
5,000 US dealers sent a letter to the Biden Administration asking it to hit the brakes on new emission standards that will force EVs to hit 67% market share by 2032. Last November, 4,000 dealers sent a similar letter but never got a response. So, maybe more is better? They’re asking the Biden administration to wait until battery supply chains outside of China get developed. And they want it to wait until the public charging infrastructure gets fully built. Here’s our Autoline Insight. The dealers are probably right that getting BEVs to 67% market share by 2032 is too ambitious of a goal. But the supply chains and infrastructure are never going to get built unless there are enough EVs to justify those investments.
LINCOLN SLASHES U.S. DEALER NETWORK
And speaking of dealers. Lincoln is getting rid of more of them. Automotive News reports that the automaker dropped 100 dealerships last year and will cut another 100 this year. That will leave the company with 400 dealerships in the U.S. or about 40% fewer than it had in 2021. Lincoln wants more standalone dealers, so it’s offering buyouts to most that are also paired with a Ford showroom. By trimming its dealer network, Lincoln hopes to boost sales and increase dealership throughput. Lincoln’s sales in the U.S. have been declining for years. In 2023, it sold nearly 82,000 vehicles which is 4,000 fewer than it sold in 2011.
PORSCHE SAYS EU COULD DELAY ICE BAN
The EU had planned to ban new ICEs after 2035, but Porsche’s CFO thinks it could be forced to reconsider this plan due to a slowdown in EV orders. He says there could be a delay in the ban. You may remember that several countries successfully lobbied to exempt new ICE cars sold after 2035 as long as they run on some sort of climate-neutral fuel. And Porsche is one of the bigger players in the development of synthetic fuels.
RENAULT GROWS HYDROGEN BUSINESS
Renault says its hydrogen and fuel cell division, called HYVIA, is starting to make the transition from a pioneer in the segment to a volume producer. It’s going to deliver around 50 versions of its H2-Tech vans, which are based on the Renault Master Van, to an area around the French Alps by the end of this year. That same area eventually plans to have 15 refueling stations, 400 hydrogen-powered commercial vehicles as well as 80 heavy-duty trucks, 50 of which will be retrofitted units. Along with generous regional subsidies of roughly 24,000 – 37,000 euros to buy a commercial fuel cell vehicle, it’s hoping to accelerate the rollout of the segment. HYVIA is also applying its hydrogen fuel cell system to another version of Renault’s Master Van. I believe this is a longer wheelbase version, which allows users to carry more weight and gives them more conversion options. As for the setup, it features a 30-kW fuel cell stack, 4 hydrogen tanks mounted in the floor and a 57 kW or roughly 75 horsepower electric motor. But it also features a 33-kWh battery under the front seats, so it can run on pure electric power as well.
GM SAYS FUEL CELLS NOT IDEAL FOR LIGHT VEHICLES
If you’d like to learn a lot more about the viability of fuel cells, check out the latest episode of Autoline After Hours. Charlie Freese, who runs all of GM’s fuel cell development is on the show, and he has some terrific insights. One thing he talked about is how GM is working on making hydrogen on-site, like for fleets, that would significantly cut the cost of hydrogen since it wouldn’t have to be transported. He doesn’t see much application for fuel cells in light vehicles, but talks about the opportunities in forklifts, mining trucks, aircraft, trains, long haul trucks, and emergency backup power.
HONDA PROLOGUE EV STARTS AT $48,800
Honda released prices of the Prologue EV. The base version with a single motor and an EPA range of 296 miles is priced just a shade under $48,800 including destination. And you can walk that up to a fully loaded, dual motor, all wheel drive version at just under $59,300. Honda is also offering several charging packages including a $500 credit for putting in a Level II charger at your home. Even though Honda announced pricing, it doesn’t expect Prologues in showrooms until sometime this spring. And it will only be sold in ZEV states, plus Texas and Florida, which have turned into EV hotbeds according to Honda. The vehicle will be built by General Motors and though GM has hit a lot of teething problems building its EVs, Honda says there’s a lot of pent-up demand for the vehicle and it’s confident the Prologue will hit its sales targets.
GM CRUISE UNDER DOJ & SEC INVESTIGATIONS
GM’s autonomous unit Cruise is in hot water. Yesterday in a blog post, it revealed that it’s under investigation by both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, over an accident last October where one of its vehicles dragged a pedestrian after they were struck by another vehicle. NHTSA is also investigating the same accident. Cruise commissioned a report from an independent law firm which found the company didn’t intend to mislead investigators. However, it cited “inadequate and uncoordinated internal processes, mistakes in judgment, an ‘us versus them’ mentality with government officials, and a fundamental misunderstanding of regulatory requirements and expectations.” A separate technical review by an independent engineering firm found that the vehicle in the accident had mapping error issues and incorrectly identified the pedestrian it hit as a side impact collision. Since the accident, Cruise has fired nine executives and its CEO and co-founder both resigned. The company has also suspended its driverless operations in the U.S.
BMW USES AUTO TECH TO HELP GERMAN LUGERS
Here’s an interesting one. BMW is using automotive technology and principles to help improve German lugers. Since 2016 it’s been installing sensors on test sleds that record things like speed, acceleration, steering movements, yaw rate and more and then pumps it into a software program to analyze the data. BMW says that it’s collected so much information that it can even help identify the ideal racing line and proper sled setup.
But that’s the end of today’s show. Thanks for making Autoline a part of your day and I hope you have a great weekend.
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