Tesla Fights The Good Fight


Forget the electric thing... this is a better future we can achieve now.

Forget the electric thing… this is a better future we can achieve now.

Regular readers of my work probably consider me something of a Tesla skeptic, and the record doesn’t exactly dispute the charge. But as I’ve maintained throughout my criticisms of other automakers, criticism is hardly a sign of disrespect or antagonism. In fact, as a lifelong resident of the West Coast of the USA, Tesla represents the closest thing I have to a hometown team in the auto industry. Perhaps I’m out of touch with the self-esteem-centric values of our times, but I firmly believe that critical analysis is the most constructive contribution the media can make to the health of a company or industry. Certainly the history of the US auto industry confirms the fact that companies can drift dangerously and self-destructively out of touch with reality in the absence of regular gut checks from an independent media. [Continue Reading]

World War Car: Send In The Hedge Funds

Masters of the Universe tend to leave a lot of fingerprints...

Masters of the Universe tend to leave a lot of fingerprints…

As information technology made global markets a reality in the 1990s, a wave of thought espousing a liberal-democratic “end of history” became widely popular. Thanks to markets and democracy, it was believed, the patterns of the preceding centuries would be replaced with a new global peace, maintained by transnational business bonds whose mutual benefits would prevent democracies from pursuing antagonistic agendas. In certain ways, the theory has proven more than mere wishful thinking: one can imagine far more friction occurring between China and the US, were these two largest economies in the world not woven so tightly together. And yet, in the auto industry, where the line between free market multinational and “national champion” has often been a thin one, the subtext of geostrategic competition seems to be seeping through more and more of the news.

Bertel’s report on the lawsuit against Ferdinand Piëch and Wolfgang Porsche is a prime example of the suspicion, if nothing else, that the US government’s involvement in the auto industry has aroused. Naturally Der Spiegel, the original reporter on the lawsuit, didn’t assert the involvement of the NSA… but in the post-Snowden and post-bailout world, German commentators can’t help but wonder where Singer’s information comes from. Basic logic suggests precisely what can not be reported: How do you know that Piech and Porsche used hardened cell-phones and unbreakable codes, if you haven’t tried breaking in? Though a vocal proponent of free markets, Singer is no longer living in the 1990s; thanks to an arms race in government support for auto industries, his lawsuit’s implication of secret information about Germany’s national champion automaker forces it into the wider context of  US “geonomic” tactics that appears to  include sending Goldman Sachs into Libya instead of the Marines.

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Chart: Volkswagen Hits The Wall Again In The US Market

Not again...

Not again…

When Volkswagen announced that it would attempt to triple its US sales between 2009 and 2018, my fellow Daily Kanban editor Bertel Schmitt greeted the announcement with a picture of flying pigs. Long a dominant force in Europe and Asia, Volkswagen has long struggled in the profitable US market, frustrating the firm’s efforts to become the king of the global auto game. But with a new line of lower-cost sedans and the firm’s first US plant since the Westmoreland disaster, VW put some real heft behind its latest assault on the most lucrative (if no longer the largest) market for cars.

And as of the end of last year, it almost seemed like the goal was within reach; with 438,133 US VW-brand sales in 2012, Stefan Jacoby’s long-ago 2013 goal of 400k-450k sales and a profit was as good as achieved. But with 2013 winding to a close with the auto market running hot on strong credit markets, VW’s goal seems to have suddenly evaporated. With 342,000 units sold through October, VW would need back-to-back record months to even crack 400,000 units.

Automotive News [sub] reports that, whith a flat spot in VW’s product cadence, dealers are getting angry. And sure enough, a look at VW’s core model sales reveals that the brand truly is on the “roller coaster” one dealer describes.

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