Toyota Thinks It Has Finally Turned The Corner

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Toyota is going back to full production in Japan, a monitor says that the UAW is still far from perfect, and now selling to rental car companies is cool or something. All that and more in The Morning Shift for November 12, 2021.

1st Gear: Toyota Is Back

Toyota has been less hit by the chip shortage than other automakers, which industry observers say is because Toyota is a supply chain guru. It got hit nonetheless, with factory slowdowns like all the rest. Now, Toyota says it is going back to full production in Japan in December, with global production forecasted to be ahead of what it was last year.

From Automotive News:

Global production will reach 800,000 units in December, up from 760,000 units the same time last year as the company was racing to recoup output from the pandemic slowdown.

Toyota said all 14 plants and 28 production lines in Japan will be “operating normally” for the first time since May.

The country’s biggest automaker also kept its production forecast unchanged at 9 million units for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022. The automaker plans to manufacture 500,000 vehicles overseas and 300,000 in Japan next month.

[…]

In announcing the December production plan on Friday, Toyota cautioned that there is a “continuing shortage of some parts” but that the company was working with suppliers to “deliver as many cars to our customers as quickly as possible.”

Toyota said last month that it expected output to recover in December and that the company would do all it can to make up lost volume later in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022.

Make of this what you will, as we’ve had conflicting signals from automakers, including many who have said that chip shortage will continue next year. But Toyota isn’t the world’s biggest automaker for nothing.

2nd Gear: GM Will Make 10 EV Models For South Korea

But it’s not clear, for now, where GM will make them, though I’d guess China, where GM already makes EVs. GM announced as much on Friday, at a media briefing in which executives were a bit coy.

From Reuters:

General Motors Co (GM.N) will launch 10 electric vehicles (EVs) in South Korea by 2025, but has no plans yet to manufacture EVs in the country, Steven Kiefer, the head of GM’s international operations said on Friday.

[…]

Kiefer’s visit after a Korean labour union delegation went to Detroit in June had led to speculation in local media that he could announce new EV production plans.

“We are not announcing any plans yet to produce electric vehicles in the country, so stay tuned for that,” Kiefer told a media briefing.

I’m assuming that at least one of these 10 EVs might be called affordable, which is more than you can say for any GM EV in America that’s not currently under recall for catching on fire.

3rd Gear: The UAW Still Has A Lot Of Work To Do

Just this week, another former UAW official was accused of embezzling union money, which came on the heels of a whole other corruption scandal that the auto workers’ union is still reeling from. One difference is that, now, the UAW has an independent monitor as part of a deal with the feds. That monitor issued his first report Thursday, and it wasn’t all good news for those thinking that the UAW is all cleaned up, even after efforts to do so.

From Reuters:

Neil Barofsky, a former federal prosecutor, said in his first report the UAW must “take more affirmative measures to fully eradicate the strong remnants of the ‘toxic’ culture that characterized its recent past and still remain present today.”

[…]

Barofsky said the UAW has not done “enough to respond to repeated warnings about the pressing need to transform its culture.” He added he “currently has 15 open investigations.”

[…]

Barofsky also disclosed that he closed an investigation into allegations [UAW President Ray Curry] in 2017 accepted use of football tickets the UAW had obtained in a vendor contract. Barofsky determined not to bring charges and instead referred the matter to the union’s ethics officer.

Curry said in the email he had voluntarily repaid the value of the tickets. “Despite this ruling, I am personally pained that any question whatsoever was raised as a result of any action on my part,” he added.

Ray Curry has apparently learned nothing, so color me shocked that there are ethical questions over something he did.

4th Gear: Hyundai’s Whistleblower Is Taking A Victory Lap

Kim Gwang-ho was awarded $24 million from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the first and thus biggest award of its kind, in exchange for information about safety lapses. That is enough money to change anyone’s life, though Kim says it is well-deserved.

Kim’s action led to an agreement last year by Hyundai and its affiliate, Kia, which are among the world’s top 10 automakers by sales, to pay a record civil penalty of $210 million over recalls involving nearly 1.7 million vehicles.

Kim, who plans to set up a YouTube channel to teach people how to expose their employers’ bad behaviour, learned about the U.S. law through training that Hyundai provided, and which inspired him to come forward, he said in an interview.

“(The amount) is not incredible or anything like that, I’d say it’s about right,” Kim said in the living-room of his home in the city of Yongin, south of Seoul, the capital.

“It’s the right amount when you look at what I had to sacrifice, how much I had to work on this,” added Kim, who said his action cost him his job and severed ties with long-time colleagues.

“After my report, I believe that automakers now know that anyone can blow the whistle and they cannot hide anything.”

Hyundai Motor Group did not have comment.

That is badass, to be honest, righteously going after your employer through a program they told you about — and winning.

5th Gear: Rentals

In the old days, by which I mean before the pandemic, when renting a car was fairly straightforward, it was not uncommon to rent a car and be given the most uninspiring, soulless piece of machinery seemingly ever built. You know what I mean: an automatic Dodge Durango, a base Ford Focus, maybe even a Chrysler 300. This is because automakers never really loved selling to rental car companies, because rental car companies buy in bulk at lower prices than consumers, and thus automakers tended to give rental car companies the cars they made that no one else wanted. May we never forget the Malibu Classic.

Well, Hertz is buying 100,000 Teslas now, and, according to the Financial Times, that culture may be changing as a consequence. Or, at least, EVs are changing how rental car companies and their customers think about rental cars.

But for EVs, rentals are a marketing tool that could accustom drivers to the technology, analysts say. They could be especially important for Tesla, which lacks dealerships where potential buyers typically go for test drives. That makes Hertz’s move a “genius idea”, said Mike Ramsey, analyst at Gartner. “You get the ability to socialise the car across the whole United States.”

EVs still account for only 2 per cent of car sales in the US. Enterprise Holdings — the largest US car rental company with the Enterprise, National and Alamo brands — said its customers were using rentals to try out EVs. Turo, a Daimler-backed peer-to-peer rental company, reported the same trend.

Enterprise, family-owned and St Louis-based, said its fleet of 1.85m cars contains EVs from Tesla, Nissan, Hyundai and Volvo Cars spin-off Polestar. It has “recently rolled out thousands of EVs so we can further test them. This is helping us to better understand the overall experience related to charging, range and our own operational needs,” the company said.

[…]

Avis Budget, whose shares have soared this month, has worked with car manufacturers over the past year “to optimise a product line for electric vehicles” and with EV infrastructure companies “to tackle logistical hurdles about . . . absorbing these vehicles at scale,” Brian Choi, chief financial officer, told investors on November 2.

“Our assumption is that some [electric vehicles] will be rented by EV-interested consumers who want experience,” said Michelle Krebs, analyst at Cox Automotive. “The more experience people have with new technology, the more comfortable and accepting they are to it.”

I’ve said it before, but an EV rental is a great way to give EVs a go, for the nervous. It won’t be the full experience — you’re probably not going to charge it at home, for example — but it should give you enough of the flavor.

Reverse: American Airlines Flight 587

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