Notable reads and other tidbits
The U.S. Department of Justice has asked Tesla for documents related to its branded Full Self-Driving and Autopilot advanced driver-assistance systems, the automaker disclosed in a securities filing.
Cruise received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test its custom-built Origin vehicle on public roads. Meanwhile, city officials are trying to pressure regulators to slow down the deployment of Cruise and Waymo robotaxis in San Francisco.
A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles would cause a major increase carbon emissions due to the onboard computing power needed to run them.
TuSimple is facing even greater federal scrutiny. The WSJ reported (based on unnamed sources) that representatives of the U.S. national-security panel have urged the Justice Department to consider economic-espionage charges against leaders of TuSimple.
GM and Ford earnings dropped this week and they couldn’t have been more different. GM printed money, and importantly, seems to have kept costs in check and shored up its supply chain. GM has taken its supply chain efforts all the way to mining. The company said in its Q4 earnings that it invested $650 million into Lithium Americas as part of an agreement to develop a mine in Nevada.
Meanwhile, Ford CEO Jim Farley said the company left about $2 billion in profits on the table in 2022. The company earned $10.4 billion in net income (on adjusted basis) last year, falling well below its own guidance and missing Wall Street’s expectations.
The causes? Well, there were a few costly expenses that also put a dent in Ford’s bottom line, including a $7.3 billion writedown on its Rivian investment and another $2.8 billion for its investment in Argo AI. But the real culprits were (and are), that the company is spending way too much on materials, shipping costs and production, inferior quality that has led to too many recalls and inefficiencies throughout its operations.
While Ford is optimistic that it now has the right plan in place to fix this mess, it did warn of headwinds including pressure to lower prices. And guess what? Yup, Ford is already lowering prices. The company announced last week it had increased production and cut the price of its all-electric Mustang Mach-E crossover, the latest automaker to join an EV price war started by Tesla.
Tesla reported earnings last week, but its 10K dropped a few days later and contained some interesting bits. We noted the DOJ investigation above. The 10K also disclosed that Tesla recorded a $204 million impairment loss in 2022 on its bitcoin holdings. The loss was offset by $64 million in profits from bitcoin trading, leaving the automaker with a net loss of $140 million.
Electric vehicles, charging & batteries
Bollinger Motors filed a lawsuit against Munro Vehicles, and its head designer, over alleged breach of contract, patent infringement and trade dress infringement.
BMW said it will invest 800 million euros ($866 million) to expand its operations at its factory in central Mexico to produce high-voltage batteries and its next-generation of electric vehicles known as Neue Klasse.
Nissan finally showed a physical version of the Nissan Max-Out EV convertible concept. Will it be an electrified GT-R successor?
Rivian is cutting 6% of its workforce for the second time in less than a year. When I interviewed founder and CEO RJ Scaringe on the Disrupt stage last October he said that of Rivian’s nearly 15,000 employees, about half were focused on future products, including people working on updated drive units and battery packs. Now, future products are important. But that figure seemed shocking to me (anyone else?) because the company had yet to master production of its three existing products.
The U.S. Treasury Department updated the vehicle classification standard, revising a definition that determines which EVs are eligible for clean vehicle tax credits. Vehicle models like the Cadillac Lyric, certain trims of the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the five-seater Tesla Model Y now qualify for the $7,500 EV tax credit.
AEye, the lidar company, hired Matt Fisch as CEO and as a member of its board.
Aurora Innovation hired Ossa Fisher as president as the autonomous vehicle company prepares to commercially launch its self-driving trucks business next year.
General Motors hired Zach Kirkman, the former head of Tesla’s corporate development, to a similar position. Kirkman’s title at GM is vice president of corporate development and global mergers and acquisitions.
Volvo Cars appointed Jeremy Offer as head of global design. Offer succeeds Robin Page, who will remain with Volvo Cars as senior advisor.
A proposed Colorado bill would require ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft, as well as delivery services, show customers and drivers how much of the payment for a ride goes to the driver and how much to the company before the customer can give a tip.
Hotai Motor, the Taiwanese automotive conglomerate, exposed reams of personal customer data from its car rental and carshare unit, iRent, until a security researcher found the data online last week. Even then, it took the company a week — and the intervention of the Taiwanese government — to act.
Remember when all the SPAC news was about some big deal or an eye-popping stock-price jump? Well, now it seems that much of the news surrounding SPACs — when a company goes public by merging with a blank-check company — falls into the official “ruh-roh” category. So, I’m creating a new category for the occasion.
Arrival going through another restructuring — this time led by a newly appointed CEO — that will slash its workforce by about 50%. This is the commercial EV company’s third restructuring since July 2022.
Getaround, a peer-to-peer car-sharing company, had two bits of bad news. The company received a delisting warning from the New York Stock Exchange because its stock price has traded below $1 for the past 30 days. A day later, Getaround laid off about 10% of its staff.