Nonunion automakers don’t like a proposed tax credit, Joe Biden drove a Hummer EV, and get ready for VinFast. All that and more in The Morning Shift for November 18, 2021.
1st Gear: EV Tax Credits
A $2 trillion social spending bill is currently being debated in Congress, and has been for weeks and/or months. Maybe even years, who knows what time is anymore. Anyway, part of it is a $12,500 tax credit for buyers of union-made electric vehicles with American-made batteries. That currently only describes the Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV, which is great news for GM but bad news for everyone else.
Quite predictably, almost everyone else is mad, even though non-union-made EVs will still be eligible for a tax credit, too, just $4,500 less, if the bill passes.
From The Wall Street Journal:
Michigan Democrats Rep. Dan Kildee and Sen. Debbie Stabenow wrote the electric-vehicle tax credit after collaborating with the United Auto Workers and General Motors Co. about the importance of including an explicitly pro-union component, according to Mr. Kildee.
The labor-friendly provision has touched off a fierce lobbying battle by Tesla Inc., Toyota Motor Corp. , and other nonunion auto companies that say Mr. Biden is betraying the environment to help a political ally, the United Auto Workers.
“Biden is a UAW…puppet,” Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk wrote on Twitter, replying to a tweet about the EV tax credits. Tesla, the world’s biggest electric-car maker, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Tesla and Toyota have also, intentionally or not, aligned themselves with cool people like Republicans and Joe Manchin.
Mr. Manchin said that he doesn’t support the extra tax credit earmarked for union-produced vehicles. “To take $4,500 of taxpayers’ money and give it as an incentive is wrong in any condition,” he said last week. “It’s not who we are.”
Eleven Republican governors of states with nonunion auto facilities wrote Congressional leaders last month urging them to apply the tax credits evenly.
“Congress should not enact proposals that favor vehicles produced by one workforce over another, particularly when doing so dramatically limits consumer choice and undermines larger carbon emission reduction goals,” they wrote.
I am a union member, and thus quite biased, though I actually don’t think this tax credit is that big of a deal, as Tesla hasn’t found any less demand even though Tesla buyers haven’t been eligible for the current tax credit in a while. Nonunion automakers also won’t be unionized anytime soon as long as the deck is stacked against workers, which it will always be until Congress fixes American labor law.
Anyway, just pass the dang bill, I’m tired of reading about it and people having takes about it.
2nd Gear: Related: Joe Biden Visits Detroit
Here is Joe Biden, the president of the United States of America, driving a GMC Hummer EV yesterday in Michigan:
Biden, whose dad was a used car salesman, is somewhat of a Car Guy. He’s really a very Boomer car guy, as the owner of a 1967 Chevy Corvette. But he is not very Boomer in also embracing EVs, though he is very Boomer in embracing Detroit and not, very conspicuously, Tesla. It is actually funny the degree to which Joe completely erased Tesla in his Detroit visit Wednesday.
From the Detroit Free Press:
On Wednesday, however, Biden wasn’t talking about obstacles but about accomplishments and the need to do more. Looking at GM CEO Mary Barra, he said the new legislation would be fully paid for, in part, by asking corporations to pay what he considers their fair share. “Sorry, Mary,” he said.
He also gave Barra her due for her call to electrify GM’s fleet. “You changed the story,” he told her, crediting her goal with moving other automakers to embrace EVs. “You electrified the entire American auto industry. You led and it matters. Up til now, China’s been leading in this race but that’s about to change.”
I think Biden’s recollection of EVs perhaps stops at when the government bailed out GM over a decade ago, when it was making the Volt, because Tesla has sold lots more EVs in the interim. I’m fine with that, though, if it means Elon Musk gets insulted in the process, because Elon would say that he doesn’t want any government help anyway. Joe’s visit ended with corny jokes.
After the test drive, which occurred before the speech, [U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint] asked Barra, who was in the vehicle with the president, whether he was a good driver. “Very good,” she said.
“Anyone want to jump in the back, or on the roof?” Biden joked with reporters and attendees after taking a few more laps. “These suckers are something else!”
He also told the audience as he began his remarks:
“There’s a beautiful maroon Corvette over here I’m driving home.”
3rd Gear: Daimler Is Making Its First In-House Electric Motor
There has been some concern that the industry-wide shift to electric cars would come at a cost to jobs, and that has been founded in the fact that EVs require fewer parts, and thus fewer things for workers to make. On Thursday, Daimler gave some of its workers reassurance that their jobs would be safe in the shift to electric, as it said it would build an electric motor at its oldest plant.
Workers who feared for their positions after Daimler said in September 2020 its Berlin site would end production of the 6-cylinder diesel motor within a year would also be offered retraining in software and coding, the German company said.
Investment in the 120-year-old Berlin-Marienfelde plant, previously pinned at a two-digit million euro amount, will rise to a low three-digit million euro amount in the next six years, Daimler said.
The motor, known as an axial-flux motor and designed by the British startup YASA which Daimler acquired earlier this year, weighs a fraction of its diesel equivalent and can boost the range of an EV by up to 7%, YASA’s founder Tim Woolmer told Reuters in July.
Woolmer said at the time that Daimler had briefed YASA to bring costs down in future iterations of its motor so the carmaker could use them across its entire EV range.
4th Gear: Ford Will Be A Chip Maker
Ford has been burned by the global chip shortage like everyone else, though it is making moves to make sure that doesn’t happen again, in the form of a partnership with a chip maker called GlobalFoundries, which is owned by Abu Dhabi.
From The Wall Street Journal:
Ford entered a strategic agreement with U.S.-based chip maker GlobalFoundries Inc. to develop chips, a pact that could eventually lead to joint production in the U.S., the companies said Thursday. They didn’t disclose terms or say how much they might invest in future production capacity.
Ford’s move would go a step further by eventually bringing some chip development in-house. The Dearborn, Mich.-based auto maker said designing its own chips could improve some vehicle features—such as automated-driving capabilities or battery systems for electric vehicles—and potentially help Ford sidestep future shortages.
“We feel like we can really boost our product performance and our tech independence at the same time,” said Chuck Gray, Ford’s vice president of vehicle embedded software and controls.
Part of the agreement with GlobalFoundries is intended to enhance near-term chip supplies for Ford, which has been hit especially hard by the supply crunch relative to many other auto makers. The joint-development work is aimed at producing higher-end chips that would go into vehicles several years out, Mr. Gray said.
This seems like both a short-term solution and possibly a repositioning, as automakers are tech companies now, or at least that’s what they want investors to think. Actually, they would rather investors think of them as startups, even though every automaker except Tesla has been around for decades, because, with EVs, they are really reinventing their whole business model. Being a startup, you see, the possibilities are endless. So, too, Ford hopes, for its stock price.
5th Gear: VinFast Is Coming To The U.S.
The Vietnamese automaker with the best name in the business said Wednesday that it is planning a push into the American market with electric SUVs. Its (planned) business model is somewhat interesting, per the Financial Times.
The company on Wednesday debuted the vehicles in Los Angeles, where it said it would spend $200m to establish a US headquarters as part of a push into North America and Europe. It also plans to open a factory in the US in the second half of 2024, though it has not named where.
VinFast’s parent Vingroup is Vietnam’s largest private conglomerate and has invested $5bn into establishing a car business. The group is controlled by the country’s richest man, Pham Nhat Vuong, who got his start in business in 1993 with a pot noodle business in Ukraine.
The US venture is part of the brand’s first effort at manufacturing and selling full-sized electric vehicles. It will introduce its first EV in Vietnam in the fourth quarter, Michael Lohscheller, VinFast chief executive, told the Financial Times. It already produces electric scooters at a factory in the northern city of Haiphong.
Lohscheller declined to say how much the SUVs would cost, but pledged to offer “reasonable prices”. Customers will rent the battery — the most expensive single component in an electric car — and purchase the vehicle.
“You only rent the battery and then over time get the next generation [battery],” he said. “It brings the monthly cost down. We will be the first to do that.”
Lohscheller, who was previously chief executive of Germany’s Opel and worked in the US for Volkswagen, said VinFast would open 60 stores in California and bypass third-party dealers — a sales channel also used by Tesla, the EV manufacturing pioneer.
I am all ears when it comes to automakers who plan to sell EVs that are different than just heavy $40,000 SUVs/crossovers. Perhaps VinFast will be that, too, in the end, but this battery rental situation is intriguing.
The need for continental time zones stemmed directly from the problems of moving passengers and freight over the thousands of miles of rail line that covered North America by the 1880s. Since human beings had first begun keeping track of time, they set their clocks to the local movement of the sun. Even as late as the 1880s, most towns in the U.S. had their own local time, generally based on “high noon,” or the time when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. As railroads began to shrink the travel time between cities from days or months to mere hours, however, these local times became a scheduling nightmare. Railroad timetables in major cities listed dozens of different arrival and departure times for the same train, each linked to a different local time zone.
Neutral: How Are You?
By law, New York state is not liable for car damage because of potholes or other road problems from November 15 until May 1. November 15, of course, was a few days ago, which means that this is usually the time of year when some legislators get mad about it. That has happened again this year, with some Republicans from Long Island this time. The law has always confounded me, too, but for different reasons, as I agree that New York’s roads aren’t the greatest, but also just slow down and drive more carefully? Very few potholes are unavoidable.