Chevy says Bolts are good now, Hummer EV buyers seem insufferable, and VinFast. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 7, 2022.
1st Gear: Bolt
The Chevy Bolt, as you’ll recall, was the subject of massive recall last year because of potential fire related to its batteries. This was highly inconvenient for GM, which at the time and now is trying to convince everyone that electric is the future.
Well, Chevy now says that it’s fixed the issues with Bolt batteries. Chevy thinks you should buy a Bolt now, in fact, and is launching a couple of ads aimed at mothers to hype the car.
From Automotive News:
The ads are designed to “bring forward the broader Chevrolet EV message,” Steve Majoros, director of Chevrolet marketing, told reporters Wednesday.
They will debut during opening day of the Major League Baseball season. One ad, titled “Mom,” shows a driver talking with his mother on the phone for nearly an hour with plenty of battery life left in his Bolt. The other, called “Life Changes,” shows a Bolt technician explaining the ease of EV ownership to an expectant mother.
The two spots will “put EV ownership angst at ease,” Majoros said.
Chevy restarted Bolt production and began shipping the vehicles to dealers this week after resolving the recall, which was linked to a defect in batteries supplied by LG Energy Solution. About 800 units of dealer stock are sellable this month, Majoros said.
The new ads will not address the recall, Majoros said.
“We are not minimizing or making light of the situation. We’re going to always be humble. We’re going to be sensitive,” he said. “But we’re not going to overplay that. We have done a lot of work with … our owners.”
While the Bolt has been a disaster for Chevy, I’m surprised by how little the situation has halted the momentum for EVs, as every automaker and most governments seem to still be going full steam ahead. GM, too, apparently convinced that it is an isolated issue. Anyway, we’re now to the point where we all get to pretend like it never happened.
2nd Gear: Hummer EV
The GMC Hummer EV comes in two versions, a pickup, which some customers already have, and an SUV version, which is coming next year. The Edition 1 pickup, for which reservations are full, starts at $110,295, though according to Automotive News, buyers are loading it up with accessories on top of that, which is perhaps unsurprising since when you are spending $110,295 on something what’s another $5,000 or so between friends.
“Every Hummer is loaded up. Every single one,” said Howard Drake, dealer principal at Buick-GMC Sherman Oaks in Southern California.
Nearly all of Drake’s 17 Hummer Edition 1 customers have spent $4,000 for an exterior lighting package and the hard power-retractable bed cover. That’s on top of the $112,595 price, including shipping.
Many customers also have purchased the tailgate audio system and a kit to store the Hummer’s roof panels in the front eTrunk.
Drake’s dealership sits near star-studded Hollywood and Beverly Hills, Calif. Most of his initial Hummer buyers are household names, including renowned chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck.
More than 66,000 less famous consumers have reserved a spot in line for the pickup or the Hummer EV SUV, which will go on sale in 2023. GMC says that’s enough demand to cover production into 2024.
From December through March, General Motors delivered 100 Hummer pickups, and the vehicle is “running a lot richer than we thought,” Duncan Aldred, vice president of global Buick and GMC, told Automotive News during a media drive last month in Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s turned out great for everyone.”
I appreciated too this bit of historical context:
The accessory frenzy is reminiscent of the way buyers of the previous gas-guzzling Hummer brand jumped on opportunities to personalize their trucks, said Will Churchill, co-owner of Frank Kent Motor Co. in Arlington, Texas.
“We were a Hummer dealer back when the Hummer was originally around, and it was an accessory monster,” he said.
Those of us old enough to remember the original Hummer remember its buyers being aliens, basically, because who would want a giant gas guzzler in a time of skyrocketing gas prices. The new Hummer’s buyers seem similar in that they aren’t really alien, just stupid rich.
3rd Gear: The Biden Administration Had A New Confab With Automakers
This time it included Elon Musk, who is the CEO of Tesla, who previously was seen feeling very left out that the Biden administration didn’t count him or his company among the cool kids. Those days appear to be over, after Musk was included Wednesday in a meeting with White House officials.
The Biden administration said senior officials held a meeting Wednesday with major automotive leaders including Tesla (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk and General Motors (GM.N) Chief Executive Mary Barra to discuss electric vehicles and charging.
The administration said in a statement “there was broad consensus that charging stations and vehicles need to be interoperable and provide a seamless user experience, no matter what car you drive or where you charge your EV.”
Well, it sounds like basically everybody was there.
Ford Motor Chief Executive Jim Farley, Chrysler-parent Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares, Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson and Nissan Americas chair Jeremie Papin were among other auto leaders who took part in Wednesday’s meeting, which discussed U.S. funding to “create a national network of 500,000 chargers.”
Also attending were Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu.
Executives from Hyundai Motor America, Subaru of America, Mazda North America, Toyota Motor North America Mercedes-Benz USA and Kia Motors America also took part.
I’m assuming what was said was something along the lines of “We need more chargers amirite?!” and lots of grunts in agreement.
4th Gear: Tesla Is Having Something Called A ‘Cyber Rodeo’ In Texas Today
It sounds like heaven or hell, depending on your persuasion.
From The Wall Street Journal:
Tesla Inc. is slated to open the doors to its new Austin-area auto assembly plant on Thursday, less than a month after inaugurating a similar factory in Germany.
The event, dubbed the “Cyber Rodeo,” is a homecoming for Tesla, which moved its headquarters to the Austin area last year from Palo Alto, Calif. The event is set to kick off at 4 p.m. local time and Chief Executive Elon Musk said he plans to speak around 9 p.m. The gathering’s title borrows from the name of Tesla’s long-awaited Cybertruck electric pickup, which the company has said it plans to make in Texas.
There will also be a live stream of the event, if you’re into that.
5th Gear: VinFast Is Going Public
VinFast is a Vietnamese EV maker that has been making a lot of noise lately, with the announcement last month that it would be building a plant in North Carolina. It said Thursday that it is filing for an initial public offering in the U.S., apparently the latest to try and capitalize on the market’s fervor for EVs, powered originally by Tesla.
A source familiar with the matter said VinFast would probably look to raise about $2 billion from the offering.
“VinFast is moving ahead with its plans but the timing of the IPO is very much open,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There needs to be a window to get the IPO done and it could easily take a couple of months.”
A unit of Vietnam’s biggest conglomerate Vingroup JSC (VIC.HM), Vinfast said it had not determined the IPO size and price range.
“There are options to look at. We are still considering a lot of options,” Chief Executive Le Thi Thu Thuy told reporters on the sidelines of an event to showcase the company’s new VF8 battery-powered SUV.
She said the IPO was planned for the second half of this year as one option to fund a plant planned in North Carolina and U.S. expansion.
Someone from VinFast has emailed me twice now about meeting up at the New York Auto Show next week and, you know what, I just might do that.
Reverse: Walt Hansgen
Hansgen died on this day in 1966, five days after crashing in practice at Le Mans. He also drove in Formula 1 and finished twice in the Indianapolis 500. From UPI:
Neutral: How Are You?
It’s finally, really spring in New York, which means that temperatures are in the 50s and it is forecast to rain most of the day.