Ford is in a period of deep self-reflection, NHTSA is interested in a fatal Tesla crash in California and Jaguar is taking. That and more in this Tuesday edition of The morning shift before February 21, 2023.
1st gear: Ford’s problems
Ford has been through it lately, production of the F-150 Lightning ceased And production of the Escape ceasedall after CEO Jim Farley had a while. What this actually means for new car buyers is hard to say. Brand reputations take years or even decades to build or destroy. Take for example Hyundai, which sold cars that were really bad in the United States for years before it got better and reorganized its brand and is today one of the most respected car manufacturers.
Ford is in a weird middle position here: its products are very good, or at least a lot of people like them, but they also have an undeniable problem with quality. Farley was promoted to solve this, but the task would apparently be too great for one man. This hasn’t really caught up to Ford in terms of reputation – people still consider Fords to be fairly well-built American cars, even if they to take them in for recall after recall. But over time it could.
Anyway, Automotive news had a big story on the matter on Saturday:
According to NHTSA, Ford has conducted the most U.S. recalls in the industry in the past two years.
Going forward, the company plans to redesign the manufacturing process so that vehicles have less content for assembly workers to install, Farley said. He hopes to cut the number of fasteners in a vehicle by half, he said, and move to larger castings with fewer parts, similar to Tesla.
But getting there has proved difficult.
“The bias is so high for how we’ve done things,” Farley said.
After a group within Ford called Team Edison created the Mustang Mach-E, Farley said it became “crystal clear” what to do.
“Our bias never gets us to 8 percent [EV profit] margins,” he said. “We have to design the vehicle completely differently. We have to manufacture it, buy it and sell it in a completely different way. That has been a big transition.”
Perhaps deeply concerning to Farley, Ford Executive Chair Bill Ford also delivered the dreaded vote of confidence in his CEO.
Bill Ford said he is still confident that Farley is the right person to solve the automaker’s problems.
“I think this is the best leadership team in my memory,” he said. “Jim is a fantastic CEO, and frankly, he’s kind of put together an all-star team.”
More than half of the leadership team is new to the company since Farley took over in late 2020. His collaborators include Doug Field of Apple’s car project and Alan Clarke of Tesla.
Ford said Farley has been able to manage the company on a number of levels.
“Most CEOs skew operationally or they skew strategically; Jim is both,” Ford said. In my experience that is very rare. But he has a lot to do. He actually runs three different companies now.”
I don’t think Jim Farley is going anywhere anytime soon, but Farley seems rightly concerned that the thing he was supposed to fix hasn’t been fixed yet.
2nd gear: Another deadly Tesla crash
There was a deadly Tesla crash this weekend in Contra Costa County, California, according to officials. A Tesla Model S crashed into a fire truck, killing the driver and injuring a passenger. Four firefighters were also taken to hospital. Bloomberg say that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now asking questions:
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Tesla Inc. for more information about one of its vehicles colliding with a fire truck in a fatal accident in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The agency contacted the manufacturer after the Contra Costa County incident over the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend. The county fire department said in a Feb. 18 tweet that a Tesla hit one of its trucks blocking lanes in an earlier accident.
NHTSA has spent the past 18 months investigating how Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system handles crash scenes involving fire trucks and other first-responder vehicles. It’s unclear if the driver in the Contra Costa County incident — who was pronounced dead at the scene — was using Autopilot.
Last week every Tesla equipped with “Full Self-Driving Beta” was recalled.
3rd Gear: Nio’s Export Factory
The Chinese EV manufacturer is reportedly building a new factory in China for affordable EVs that will be exported to Europe. according to Reuters‘ sources. This is apparently due to the declining demand domestically.
The plan to expand the company’s lineup and expand overseas sales comes as electric car sales in China, the world’s largest auto market, decline sharply after ending state subsidies for electric purchases.
Nio plans to launch more affordable EV products under new brands after 2024 as part of projects codenamed “Firefly” and “Alps,” the people said, who declined to be named because the discussions are private.
The new factory will be built in Chuzhou city in eastern China’s Anhui province, they said, adding that the factory will make cars developed under the “Firefly” project, which Nio aims to export to Europe, where customers prefer small vehicles.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An official from the Chuzhou Economic and Technology Development Zone, where the Nio factory will be located, declined to comment.
Chinese media outlet Cailianshe first reported on the development.
Are still unclear when and if Nio will come to the US, although at some point it seems likely. I’m more interested in the fact that automakers are now prioritizing affordable EVs when they weren’t for so long.
4th gear: Jaguar Land Rover has single hubs
These are ‘tech hubs’ in Europe for the development of self-driving cars. This is big news for unemployed engineers in Europe. By Reuters:
The hubs in Munich, Bologna and Madrid will develop self-driving systems for JLR’s next generation of luxury vehicles. JLR already has six global technical hubs: the United States, China and Europe.
JLR, part of India-based Tata Motors (TAMO.NS), said the sites were chosen due to the local availability of digital engineering specialists and will create nearly 100 engineering jobs, focusing on developing driver assistance systems and artificial intelligence systems. intelligence for self-driving cars of the future.”
5th gear: Elon Musk
I can’t really keep the lawsuits against Tesla CEO Elon Musk straight anymore, but today there will be closing arguments in Deleware in a lawsuit over Musk’s compensation package. In this case, a Tesla investor sued Elon and the Tesla board in 2018, arguing that Elon’s pay was too high, and there was a trial in November. Now it comes to a climax. By Reuters:
Richard Tornetta, a small Tesla investor, sued Musk and the board in 2018 and hopes to prove that Musk forced docile drivers to deliver a package of his design that is many times the combined wages of the next 200 highest paid CEOs. It adds to Musk’s fortune, the second largest in the world.
The package allows Musk to buy 1 percent of Tesla’s stock at a deep discount whenever escalating performance and financial targets are met, or else Musk gets nothing.
Tesla has met 11 of the 12 targets as its value briefly surpassed $1 trillion in 2021 from $50 billion when the package was negotiated.
Tornetta’s lawyers argued that Tesla’s board had a duty to offer a reduced pay package or find another CEO and that they should have required Musk to work full-time at Tesla rather than assign him stand to focus on other projects, such as running Twitter.
Tornetta wants the package withdrawn in whole or in part.
Reuters also referred to as Elon “the Musk”, which I’m sure is just an accidental mistake, but also the Musk.
Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick of Delaware’s Court of Chancery must determine whether Musk, who owned 22 percent of Tesla stock in 2018, controlled the company through board ties and his personality, which will determine the outcome of the case.
Backwards: The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing
NASCAR was founded on this day in 1948. I heard there was a race last weekend. I even watched the highlights on YouTube. Were there many crashes? I don’t know, congratulations Ricky.
Neutral: how are you?
I haven’t been in this space for a long time, because I’m a big player now. Just kidding, still a slim chance. I can report that the fit is in good condition and I found a miracle parking spot for it on Sunday, where it will remain all week. The car is now 15 years old, old enough (like myself, honestly) that I’m starting to look at it and think, Goddamnit, you are old.