Elon Musk Mistakes Self-Interest For Smart China Policy

Elon Musk is truly a mixed blessing for anyone seeking to broaden the public’s understanding of the auto industry. On the one hand, he has single-handedly inspired more public interest in the business of making and selling cars than anyone in the last thirty years. On the other hand, he so often arms these newcomers with a profoundly warped perception of this important but widely-misunderstood industry.
Take the Tesla CEO’s recent tweet-storm directed at president Donald J. Trump: though well-calibrated to provoke a response from the belligerent Commander-in-Chief, Musk’s complaints are more personal grievance than big-picture analysis. In agitating against China’s long-established rules for access to the largest car market in the world, Musk is zeroed in on problems that frustrate his ambitions but that hardly trouble the industry’s largest players. And by attempting to provoke Trump to tackle China’s auto industry rules, he risks setting off a trade war that could be devastating to the entire sector.

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Tesla’s EDR About-Face Raises More Questions

After insisting in no uncertain terms that its vehicle data recording systems are not “Event Data Recorders” (EDRs), Tesla seems to have had a change of heart. Bozi Tatarevic, who broke the first story about Tesla’s evasion of EDR regulation back in 2016, followed up today with a report pointing out that Tesla has created a new section of its website with information about what it now calls its EDR systems. As a result of this change, Tesla has made a third-party vehicle data-reading hardware tool, as well as its own retrieval software, available to the public. Daily Kanban congratulates Bozi for his continued leadership on this story, but we do feel called to lay out some context that didn’t make it into his write-up.

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Japan unites industry in push for fuel cell cars, enthusiasm varies

United for hydrogen. (c) Bertel Schmitt

To allow for millions of new cars to be added without suffocating the globe, we need to switch to zero emissions in a hurry. Electric appears to be the way to go, and there are two ways to power the electric motors: Battery, and fuel cell. Batteries are easy, limited in range, and take long to charge. Fuel cells are technically involved, can give the car a long range, and take only minutes to refuel. They have a big drawback: The lack of hydrogen fuel stations. Yesterday, Japan made the first serious attempt to break that deadlock. [Continue Reading]

Grade the Analysts: Chesbrough wins February, Sunde tops leaderboard

Which analyst should you follow to get an early read on monthly car sales? Follow this monthly series, and you shall know.

For February, Charlie Chesbrough of Cox Automotive shot a bull’s eye by coming within 4.8% of the truth. Sadly, he started calling the numbers only this February, and the missing January sorely degrades his chances to become the 2018 overall points champion. Like in any race, you’ve got to be in it to win it. [Continue Reading]

World’s Largest Automakers 2018: The new race begins with VW in the lead

And they are off: The race for World’s Largest Automakers 2018 ended the first of its 12 laps with Volkswagen way ahead of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance and Toyota. Separated by only 529 units, the Alliance and Toyota are neck and neck.

With a 10.1% unit growth over January 2017, Volkswagen continues its strong showing of the last two months of 2017, giving the lie to those who mused that the Germans could have brought a few units forward into 2017 to regain the top spot.

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Toyota: News of the death of the ICE have been greatly exaggerated

It’s not Elvis. It’s a new ICE engine by Toyota. There will be more. (c) Bertel Schmitt

I came home tonight, and Frau Schmitto-san, ever the caring wife, asked: “How was your day?”
“I was at Toyota, they launched a completely new line of gasoline engines, transmissions, drivelines.”

Frau Schmitto-san was perplexed: „They still make those?”

This about sums up the level of EV hype, and its utter disconnection from the truth. The short trip to Toyota was a journey back to reality. [Continue Reading]

Take that, Uber: Nissan starts live tests of its autonomous taxi

Not quite driverless – yet (c) Bertel Schmitt

When Uber came along, the attendant Silicon Valley bombast was that Transport As A Service will leave the auto industry in ruins. It overlooked the minor detail that someone must make the cars that supposedly would be shared. Silicon Valley also did not anticipate what came next: In a first wave, car companies, always in search of new ways to sell cars, bought into the alleged disruptors. GM invested in Lyft, Toyota in Uber. The money was welcome. So were the sold, and leased out cars.

Today, we saw the first ripples of the second wave. Automakers are beginning to compete head-on with the erstwhile disruptors. Today in Yokohama, Nissan started a pilot with self-driving Leaf cars used as autonomous taxis. Partnering with e-commerce company DeNA, Nissan will start its “Easy Ride” service in Yokohama on March 5th, which puts it, according to Reuters, “among the first major automakers anywhere to test ride-hailing software developed in-house, using its own fleet of self-driving electric cars.”   [Continue Reading]

Will China hold our electric future at ransom? Not if Toyota can help it

Toyota’s Akira Kato demonstrates lean neodymium. (c) Bertel Schmitt

If the supply of electric vehicles is to grow as predicted, the demand for strategic materials will increase along with it. The various oil crises of the past, and the wars that came with it, illustrate where such a dependency can lead. As far as electric vehicles are concerned, two choke points have been identified: The supply of cobalt needed to make batteries, and the supply of rare earth minerals needed to make the magnets in electric motors.

There are two ways to address the problem. We can hope it will take care of itself. Or we can do something about it. Toyota is in the second camp, and it aims to reduce the dangerous dependency on neodymium. Expensive neodymium already is the main cost driver in the production of magnets, we heard today at a meeting at Toyota’s Tokyo HQ. If electric vehicles will gain popularity as expected, shortages of neodymium could occur as early as 2025, Akira Kato, general project manager at Toyota’s R&D company, told us today. [Continue Reading]