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0:00 Musk Threatens to Reincorporate Tesla in Texas
1:01 January Car Sales in China Can Be Misleading
2:04 EVs Blamed for Guardrail Problems
3:08 Polestar in Full-Blown Crisis
4:33 F1 Rejects Andretti
5:36 Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari?
5:57 BMW Partners with Dassault for Digital Twins
6:30 Ford Reduces Explorer Build Complexity by 90%
8:19 Ford to Hand Out Free NACS Adapters
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This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
MUSK THREATENS TO RE-INCORPORATE TESLA IN TEXAS
As we reported yesterday, a judge in Delaware told Elon Musk he can’t have that $55 billion pay package at Tesla. Not surprisingly, Elon isn’t happy. He says that “Tesla will move immediately to hold a shareholder vote to transfer state of incorporation to Texas” from Delaware. Elon even held a poll on Twitter asking his followers if Tesla should incorporate in Texas and unsurprisingly they overwhelmingly voted in favor of it. The Delaware judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by a Tesla shareholder that claimed the company misled investors about its compensation plan for Musk. Tesla can restructure the pay plan and present it to shareholders for a vote. But Musk wants to avoid that by reincorporating in Texas instead.
JANUARY CAR SALES IN CHINA ARE MISLEADING
If you’re seeing headlines that Chinese car sales are way up, don’t believe them. Automakers are posting their sales for January and the growth rate looks astonishing. BYD was up 33% compared to a year ago. NIO was up 18%, XPeng was up 58%, Li Auto up 105% and Zeekr up 302%. But that was compared to a year ago, when the Chinese New Year fell in January, and the country essentially takes a two week vacation. So when you look at month over month sales, instead of year over year, the story changes significantly. BYD’s sales were down 40%, XPeng was down 58%, Li Auto was down 38% and Zeekr fell 6%. It looks like we’re going to have to wait until the end of February to get a clearer picture of what’s really going on in the Chinese market, because comparing this January to last January can be really misleading.
EVs BLAMED FOR GUARDRAIL PROBLEMS
EVs typically weigh 20-50% more than gas-powered vehicles and that’s becoming a growing concern of safety advocates. Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a warning about the safety risks if an EV crashes with a lighter vehicle. And now a new study from the University of Nebraska is getting a lot of headlines because it says EVs can easily crash through highway guardrails because of their heavier weight. Guardrails have a capacity of 5,000 pounds. Researchers crashed a nearly 4-ton Rivian R1T truck into a guardrail, which it easily tore through and didn’t slow down until it hit a concrete barrier several yards away. And while most reports are focusing on EVs, the study points out that most full-size pickups and SUVs also exceed the 5,000-pound capacity. The researchers say more testing needs to be done in order to create barriers that can minimize crashes for both light and heavier vehicles.
POLESTAR IN FULL-BLOWN CRISIS
Polestar looks like it’s in a full-blown crisis. It’s no longer going to be part of Volvo and will be absorbed into Geely instead. Like most EV companies, Polestar’s stock has taken a beating, down 83% last year. And its sales have fallen short of what it promised. Last year it delivered 54,600 cars worldwide and only 9,772 in the US market. For the segment it serves, that’s not nearly enough to be a viable business. Worse, it needs $1.3 billion to keep the lights on until 2025 when it expects to become cash flow positive. That was too much money for Volvo to hand over, which is why Polestar will transfer to Geely’s control. Even though Geely promises to keep Polestar as an independent brand, we wonder if that’s realistic. Remember, Polestar started out as a Swedish racing team. Then it became the performance brand for Volvo. And then it was spun off as a separate company as an all-EV brand.
F1 REJECTS ANDRETTI
Formula 1 fans hoping to see a US team added to the grid are disappointed today. Despite the growing popularity of F1 in the U.S. and getting the thumbs up from the FIA last October, American racing team Andretti Autosport, which led by racing icon Michael Andretti, had its bid to join Formula 1 in 2025 rejected by the sport’s owner and commercial rights holder Liberty Media. It said it didn’t think the Andretti team would be competitive and therefore wouldn’t add any value to the sport. There’s still a possibility of Andretti making its way into F1, but not until 2028. Liberty says it would look differently on its application if Andretti is using a GM power unit. Cadillac has always been on board as a sponsor for Andretti and announced in November that it had formally registered with the FIA as a Formula 1 power unit manufacturer starting for the 2028 season.
HAMILTON TO FERRARI?
Speaking of F1, reports say the winningest driver in the racing series’ history is leaving for the most iconic team in the sport. Lewis Hamilton is said to be joining Ferrari in 2025. He’ll replace Carlos Sainz to race alongside Charles Leclerc. An official announcement could come as early as this week.
BMW PARTNERS WITH DASSAULT FOR DIGITAL TWINS
BMW is getting new technology that will help it develop cars faster. It partnered with Dassault Systems to integrate its 3DEXPERIENCE tech into the automaker’s future engineering platform that will be used by all the engineering groups within the company. More than 17,000 employees will be able to work with a virtual twin of a vehicle so they can make changes or get approvals in real time anywhere around the world. The platform can also be expanded into other areas like modeling and simulation.
FORD EXPLORER GETS 90% REDUCTION IN BUILD COMPLEXITY
Here’s something we’re probably going to see a lot more of. Ford did a mild refresh of the Explorer, all with the idea of keeping sales steady, but also making the vehicle more profitable. The styling changes are fairly subtle. The front end features a new grille design with pronounced air intakes at the corners of the bumper. The taillights are sleeker and seem to carry across into the tailgate. Inside, a bigger 13.2” screen sits in an instrument panel that’s been made to look softer and warmer. There’s also a sound bar that sits on top of the IP, just like in the Mustang Mach-E. With such subtle changes, Ford is really emphasizing improvements in connectivity and infotainment. Alexa is built-in for voice control of many functions. And when it’s parked, you can watch YouTube or Prime Video. Interestingly, Ford is dropping the hybrid version, because fewer than 5% of customers ordered it. However, the Police Interceptor version will still offer the hybrid setup. Engine choices include a 2.3 liter four or a 3-liter V6. And for the first time, Blue Cruise is available on the top two trim lines for hands free driving. Speaking of which, Ford cut the number of trim lines from 8 to 4. It also made a number of features standard, like heated seats, adaptive cruise control and a towing package. By simplifying the line-up, Ford reduced the build complexity by 90%, which is going to take out significant cost. And that’s a formula we’re going to see a lot more of: do a mild refresh, take out build complexity, and make the vehicle more profitable to offset that UAW contract and losses on the EV side of the business.
FORD TO HAND OUT FREE NACS ADAPTORS
And speaking of Ford, it’s giving out free Tesla charging adapters. CEO Jim Farley posted on social media that eligible owners in the U.S. and Canada will soon be able reserve a complimentary adapter, which will give them access to V3 Superchargers and above. Ford says it will actually start building its EVs with the Tesla NACS charging port in 2025.
INSIDE THE MID-SIZE PICKUP WAR WITH TOYOTA’S SHELDON BROWN
Toyota dominates the mid-size pickup segment with the Tacoma. It outsells the Chevy Colorado, Ford Ranger, Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline and GMC Canyon put together. What’s the secret to its success? Well, we want to know too. That’s why we’ve got Shelden Brown, the chief engineer on the Tacoma coming on Autoline After Hours today. He just finished doing a complete redesign of the Tacoma and that truck is bristling with new ideas and innovations. So we invite you to join John and Gary for a deep dive into the mid-size pickup wars, along with Richard Truett from Automotive News when the show goes live at 3 pm eastern time.
But that brings us to the end of today’s show. Thanks for tuning in.
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