Writing about flailing hedge funds is decidedly not what we got into car writing for, but it’s worth noting that this week’s short squeeze of GameStop stock bears many similarities to events that unfolded in 2008 when Porsche tried to gain control of the voting shares of Volkswagen stock. No idea what we’re talking about? Count yourself lucky.
This Week in Sheetmetal
Tesla’s Model S and Model X get major updates this year. The steering wheels have been replaced with steering yokes and will have no stalks (the old Model S and X had a stalk for shifting gears and another to engage cruise control and/or Autopilot). There’s a small screen integrated into the center console for the benefit of backseat passengers. Tesla says it has updated the cars’ powertrains and battery packs, and expects 520 miles of range from the Plaid+ model. Without a stalk, how will you shift gears? CEO Elon Musk, who managed this week to work his way into that GameStop story, says the cars will “guess.”
We spied the interiors of the 2022 Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, so we now know—or at least strongly suspect—that the Expedition will adopt the Mach-E’s large center screen and the Navigator will get a larger but still horizontal screen.
Mini has updated the Cooper, Cooper S, and JCW with new exterior styling and improved standard infotainment and driver assistance offerings.
BMW launched the 627-hp M5 CS as the pointy tip of the M5 lineup. It’s 230 pounds lighter than an M5 Competition and should go from zero to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds (we think it’ll be even quicker). Top speed is a governed 190 mph, and it’ll be available in the United States some time in 2021.
Sign of the Times
It was another big week for EVs, as President Biden said he would direct the federal government to start replacing its 645,000-vehicle fleet with American-made EVs. The executive order Biden signed on the day he made those comments didn’t actually include any language on EVs, but the President has hinted at this before, so it’s likely a real strategy.
General Motors announced Thursday that it is planning to phase out sales of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles in favor of EVs by 2035, that the company’s U.S. factories will be carbon neutral by 2030, and that the whole company will be carbon neutral by 2040. Last fall, California governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order of his own that would ban the sale of combustion engine gasoline vehicles in 2035. This may be the first sign that that’s a realistic goal.
Meanwhile, Tesla posted its first full year of profitability and analysts said they expect the company’s deliveries to increase by at least 50 percent from the 499,550 vehicles it delivered in 2020.
Chip Woes, Cont’d
The shortage of semiconductors that has forced automakers to pause production at plants across the world continues, and now governments are getting involved. A German Economy Minister asked a Taiwanese official to help address the shortage by encouraging a Taiwanese company that is the world’s largest supplier of semiconductors to prioritize the needs of the automotive industry (particularly the German branch) in its production plans. The German government is also planning to provide assistance to German chip manufacturers in an attempt to reduce reliance on Asian suppliers.
Perhaps relatedly, GM has announced a plan to buy chips for the self-driving and infotainment systems in its next generation of vehicles from QualComm, a U.S.-based chip manufacturer.
Look for The Lady and the Dale, an HBO documentary series about the extraordinary scams of Elizabeth Carmichael, a woman who pitched a fuel-efficient three-wheeled car in the 1970s. The show premieres on January 31.
Stellantis’s CEO Carlos Tavares outlined his plan to make the new company a success. Spoiler alert: it involves capitalizing on the company’s brand capital and saving money by sharing engineering and parts amongst the brands.
A few automakers have said they’ll sit this year’s Super Bowl ad season out, but Volvo is trying a different strategy: the safety-conscious automaker says it will give away up to $2 million worth of cars if there are one or more safeties during the Big Game. Read about how to sign up for your chance at a prize here.
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