Toyota’s lagging ways are working to its advantage, more factories in Michigan have halted production and Lewis Hamilton’s aversion to racing in Saudi Arabia is just a big misunderstanding, Saudi Arabia says . All that and more in this Friday edition of The morning shift for April 1, 2022. I promise none of this is made up.
1st Gear: Hybrids Seem Passed Until Gas Prices Rise
Toyota could well regain the honors of General Motors’ US quarterly sales, according to a projection from Cox Automotive. As Bloomberg explains, part of Toyota’s success can be attributed to the Japanese automaker’s ability to source semiconductors more reliably than its competitors. The other reason is its range, which is stacked top to bottom with hybrids.
Toyota’s strategy of cautiously switching to electric vehicles while betting aggressively on hybrids – which are highly efficient but still consume gas – is paying off. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting spike in energy prices shows us that many consumers will not tolerate simply paying large sums at the pump while waiting for electric vehicles to become more available and affordable.
The automotive press, myself included, should eat a humble pie on this. I wrote about Toyota’s strange apprehension around purely electric vehicles many times before around these parts. It’s always struck me as odd that the company responsible for endearing hybrids to the public apparently lags behind everyone else on battery-electric vehicles.
Gasoline prices in 2022 have probably convinced more people to start thinking about electric vehicles, which otherwise wouldn’t have been the case. But until there is a greater supply of affordable electric vehicles and the general public feels a little more confident in the infrastructure, these curious customers won’t buy them. Instead, they’ll buy hybrids, which are readily available and don’t require a change in driving or commuting habits. Again, from Bloomberg:
Some automakers, seeing Tesla’s growth, have gone headlong into electric vehicles and moved away from hybrids. GM has completely abandoned them. In the long run, it’s the right decision. But if geopolitics continues on its current course and energy prices remain volatile, hybrids will be a popular choice for consumers who cannot yet afford an electric vehicle. Last year, hybrids accounted for 7.5% of sales in the United States, more than double the market share of electric vehicles, according to AutoForecast Solutions. Both segments are almost certain to grow this year.
Toyota’s caution is paying off. It probably won’t be forever, but it is now.
2nd gear: the Arteon was recalled, along with other Volkswagens
The German automaker is considering a recall of more than 100,000 hybrid vehicles due to a fire risk. The good news for Americans is that Volkswagen hasn’t had time to offer partially electrified cars on this side of the pond. The bad news is that, nevertheless, the Arteon is included in this. Of course, there are plenty of others, but the Arteon is my favorite and should be your favorite too.
After recognizing the Arteon, this covers other Volkswagen nameplates, including the Tiguan. It also reaches Audi, Seat and Skoda models. From Reuters:
Some 42,300 Volkswagen Passat, Golf, Tiguan and Arteon owners worldwide will be notified. The Volkswagen Audi brand must recall 24,400 vehicles, while Seat and Skoda are also affected.
There is a risk of fire in vehicles that connect a conventional combustion engine to electric propulsion and are charged via a socket due to an insufficiently insulated high-voltage battery, the spokesperson added on Thursday.
German daily Bild quoted the KBA regulator as saying that “inadequate fastening of the engine design cover can lead to contact with hot parts and subsequently a fire”, adding that 16 such cases had been reported in Germany. .
I never thought about how Volkswagen has almost totally ignored hybrids in the US this whole time. He must have had his hands full to cheat against diesel emissions.
3rd gear: Ford and GM stop
Production, of cours. Two of the Big Three will idle factories in Michigan next week. Parts shortages are the culprit, as always. From Reuters:
No. 2 U.S. automaker Ford said it will suspend production next week at its Flat Rock assembly plant, where it builds the Mustang, due to global semiconductor shortages.
GM said that due to a temporary parts shortage, it will cancel production next week at Lansing Grand River Assembly, where it builds the Cadillac CT4, Cadillac CT5 and Chevrolet Camaro. GM said the production shutdown was unrelated to the chips but did not provide further details.
Pour one for the CT4 buyer – there was apparently about 7,250 of them last year. I haven’t met any in real life, but I hope they are happy.
4th Gear: Washington State Establishes minimum wage and other basic rights for Uber and Lyft drivers
Washington just became the first state to sign a minimum wage standard into law for rideshare drivers. He was supported by the Washington Drivers’ Union, by Engadget, but since it also codifies that Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t employees, that’s not a direct win for Labour. From Reuters:
Northwest State drivers will earn a minimum of $1.17 per mile and 34 cents per minute with a minimum wage of $3.00 per ride.
Under the new law, drivers will also have access to paid sick leave, family medical leave and long-term care programs, and will be eligible for workers’ compensation, a government-mandated program. American that provides benefits to workers who get injured or sick on the job. Drivers will also be able to appeal if they are removed from the apps.
In Seattle, which adopted its own transit pay standard in September 2020, drivers will continue to collect minimum fares of $1.38 per mile and 59 cents per minute to a minimum of $5.17 per ride.
Before that, only Seattle and New York had set city-level minimums. It will be interesting to see which states follow suit.
5th gear: “You tell me exactly what you want, and I’ll explain very carefully why it can’t be”
Hours before seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton was effectively held hostage in Saudi Arabia along with his team and the teams of 19 of his fellow competitors, he expressed discomfort run in a country notorious for serious human rights atrocities. He said he had received a letter from the family of a 17-year-old boy who was to be executed. Shortly after, an oil refinery just 10 miles from the runway was hit by missiles, and all the pilots were told they had to either keep the show going or, potentially, be prevented from leaving the country.
Well, it’s been almost a week since all… this, and Saudi Arabia’s Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal said he would welcome the opportunity to sit down with Hamilton and have an “open discussion”. From Motorsport.com:
“I told him openly and frankly that you could talk to me. Let’s sit down and discuss your problems and understand where we are, because a lot of these things, you read a lot about Saudi Arabia but you don’t see what the details are.
Prince Abdulaziz said Saudi Arabia wants to be as open as possible to address concerns expressed by foreigners, which is one of the reasons it wants to put the country in the spotlight through major sporting events like the F1.
“We could have said we don’t want headaches, for the international community to condemn us as much as they want and for there to be controversy, but no one is intervening,” he said. “But we didn’t.
“We are here for an open discussion and that’s what I said, with the FIA and F1. We should sit down together and understand the situation, because we are here together.
Prince Abdulaziz makes a relevant point here. Maybe if Hamilton understood why Saudi Arabia, say, executed 81 people in a single day, he would feel more comfortable with running in the country. All of this can be resolved with honest, patient, non-judgmental conversation – the kind you stage when you have absolutely no intention of changing your behavior, but want to pretend to listen. Saudi Arabia is excellent in this area, and F1 is damn good tooto his credit.
I would like to say to Hamilton that he should not sit anywhere within the borders of Saudi Arabia in front of a member of the government unless he wants to be threatened with no more walk away, but the guy’s pretty smart. I guess he already knows that.
Reverse: it didn’t look like this for a long time
The original Ford GT/101 was revealed to the public in England on this day in 1964, 58 years ago, according to Supercar nostalgia. A few days later it was sent to the United States in time for the New York Auto Show. The car later known as the GT40 and quite different in racing finish would not be successful for the next two years; then it was really succeeded. There’s a movie about it, if you’re curious about it.
Neutral: GR Corolla
We love it, you love it. Toyota hasn’t shared a starting price yet, but that’s almost irrelevant – you just know they’re going to be marked up to hell anyway. How many would you be willing to pay a deposit? Let’s talk.