Ford is feeling itself, Ford also lost billions in Brazil and pedestrian deaths in America are soaring. All that and more in The Morning Shift for May 20, 2021.
1st Gear: Ford’s Swagger With The F-150 Lightning Is Palpable
The electric F-150 Lightning debuted last night, after its reveal earlier thanks to Joe Biden. This car is a competitor to future cars like the Lordstown Endurance, the Bollinger B2, the Rivian R1T, the Hummer EV Pickup, the electric Chevy Silverado, and the electric Ram, whenever Stellantis decides to pull its head out of its ass and build an electric Ram.
There is one rival, though, that has gotten more attention than all of those, because it is the most ridiculous. I’m speaking, of course, of the Tesla Cybertruck, which will start production later this year. But that is a truck designed for Californians with brains the size of a peanut, while Ford is pitching the electric F-150 as something more practical.
It’s got eleven electrical outlets, you might have heard, some of them in the “Mega-Power Frunk,” which is one of the dumbest marketing coinages of recent times. This thing will be more than enough to power campsites, as Ford will seek to portray it as a great overlanding vehicle, but maybe even better for construction.
What it is also better than, Ford says, is the Cybertruck. Ford’s CEO Jim Farley sat down for an interview with Nilay Patel at The Verge to make his case. The whole interview is worth a read, but here is the bit about the Cybertruck:
You brought up the idea of customers not wanting a spaceship —obviously what you’re talking about there is the Cybertruck, right? Tesla did something very bold with the Cybertruck, it is a triangle on wheels. It looks absolutely nuts. Some people are very taken with it.
It kind of feels like with the Mach-E, you entered a little bit of Tesla’s territory, sedans — you brought it up yourself. And with the Cybertruck they’re trying to bite a little bit of yours. How is that competition going?
It’s all good. It’s all good for the customer.
That Mach-E and the Tesla Y, they are different customers. 70-plus percent of our customers for Mach-E — and we’re completely sold out — are new to Ford. It’s all good. That’s good for everyone. We’ll be in a competition of who does the most OTAs [over-the-air updates] that matter the most for customers.
And on pickup trucks, all I’ll say is there are lots of flavors of soda, but there’s only one Coke, and there’ll be lots of electric pickup trucks; there’s only one F-150.
Do you ever think about just wilding out on Twitter to compete with Elon directly?
Look, I have to tell you that I have nothing but respect for Tesla.
It was one of the most magical things that happened in our industry, to see a company so single-minded, so focused on simplicity and really reinventing the customer experience. We’ve had some moments on Twitter actually around BlueCruise.
Ford’s a customer company. We’ve been in business for 118 years because we’re focused on customers, especially in these kind of iconic spaces like Mustang or Bronco or F-150. I admire companies that are like us who are focused on customers. And I think they’ve done a great job. It’s just pickup truck customers are a little bit different.
This is an amusing bit of condescension. Tesla is a fantastic company, Farley insists, but Tesla should shut the fuck up when the grown-ups start talking. I don’t even know if he’s wrong, exactly, but Ford’s new car launches have been garbage for a couple years now, so if I were Farley I would probably check myself. It’ll be around this time next year when we can start judging the winners and losers.
2nd Gear: Meanwhile, In News Ford Would Rather You Not Read
Ford bailed on production in Brazil earlier this year, presumably because they were losing lots of money down there. Reuters has now seen new documents that confirm that Ford was indeed losing lots of money.
Previously unreported corporate filings show the scale of the financial woes that led to the decision. Ford had burned through $7.8 billion, the bulk in accumulated losses but also some cash injections, according to the documents filed in Sao Paulo state, where the automaker is registered in Brazil.
Add to that the $4.1 billion that Ford will shell out to extricate itself from its commitments, and the price tag for the Brazilian operation rises to almost $12 billion.
Almost all the losses and cash injections were in the past eight years, when the company has lost about $2,000 for every car it sold, Reuters calculations based on the filings and sales data indicate.
Ford, which does not separate out Brazil from South America in its financial results, declined to comment on the losses, cash injections and calculations.
But wait until the F-150 Lightning gets there.
3rd Gear: The Biggest-Ever Increase In Pedestrian Deaths
Pedestrian deaths on the roads of America have been rising for a while now, in part because of the preponderance of big trucks and SUVs. A new report says that the situation is getting worse, in a time when car travel has actually been down.
From the Detroit Free Press:
New data released Thursday by the Governors Highway Safety Association for the full year show “the largest-ever annual increase in the pedestrian death rate” since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration established its Fatality Analysis Reporting System in 1975, according to the association.
Based on a preliminary data analysis, the association said 6,721 pedestrian deaths in 2020, which would represent a 4.8% increase over the previous year’s 6,412. That change is notable, but the “shocking and unprecedented 21% increase” in the pedestrian death rate to 2.3 per billion vehicle miles traveled happened as Americans drove fewer miles because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions and lockdowns that accompanied it.
“The increase in pedestrian fatalities, especially against the backdrop of large, pandemic-related declines in motor vehicle travel, is especially concerning,” Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting, who conducted the data analysis, said in the announcement. “We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to these unacceptable numbers of pedestrian deaths.”
How, who, and where pedestrians have died is predictably depressing, per the GHSA report:
- Drivers struck and killed a larger proportion of Black, Indigenous and People of Color traveling on foot than expected based on their respective share of the population, while people on foot classified as white/non-Hispanic accounted for a considerably smaller proportion based on population. This reinforces the need for racial equity and community engagement to be centerpieces of comprehensive pedestrian safety action plans.
- Most pedestrians are killed on local roads, in the dark and away from intersections. During the past 10 years, the number of drivers striking and killing a pedestrian after dark increased by 54%, compared to a 16% rise in pedestrian fatalities in daylight.
- Alcohol impairment by the driver and/or pedestrian was reported in nearly half of traffic crashes that resulted in a pedestrian fatality.
- Although passenger cars are the largest category of vehicles in fatal pedestrian crashes, over the past decade the number of pedestrian deaths in crashes involving sport utility vehicles (SUVs) increased at a faster rate – 69% – than deaths in crashes involving passenger cars, which increased by 46%.
4th Gear: Daimler And Shell, The Oil Company, Are Working Together On Hydrogen Fuel
Oil companies are well-aware that almost everything is trending away from oil, so they are busy setting up new lines of business. In Shell’s case, that means a new agreement with Daimler to set up hydrogen refueling stations for Daimler’s hydrogen trucks.
Under the agreement, Shell will from 2024 launch heavy-duty hydrogen-refuelling stations between the green hydrogen production hubs at the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands and in Cologne and Hamburg in Germany.
Daimler Truck meanwhile aims to start delivering heavy-duty hydrogen trucks to customers in 2025.
“The plan aims to continuously expand the hydrogen powered freight corridor, which will cover 1,200 kms by 2025, in order to deliver 150 hydrogen refuelling stations and around 5,000 Mercedes-Benz heavy-duty fuel cell trucks by 2030,” the two companies said in a joint statement.
5th Gear: Tesla Is Running Into Headwinds In China
Tesla’s ambitions in China are vast though the road for Tesla there has, in recent months, gotten pretty bumpy. There was the protest at the Shanghai Auto Show, for example, though, more to the point, sales have been slowing, Bloomberg reports.
In April, 11,949 China-built Teslas were registered in the country, according to data from state-backed China Automotive Information Net. That’s down sharply from a record 34,714 registrations in March.
A Shanghai-based Tesla representative said in a WeChat message the sequential decline was linked to a two-week adjustment to an assembly line for the Model Y SUV and increasing export volume. The company is accelerating production to get cars delivered to customers as soon as possible.
Separate data that China’s Passenger Car Association released last week showed Tesla sold 25,845 locally made vehicles in April, down from 35,478 units in March. Of those vehicles sold in April, 14,174 units were exported, due in part to demand from the European market, PCA said.
This is in all likelihood a blip for Tesla, as the day it gives up on China is the day Tesla gives up, period. The freaks that monitor Tesla’s stock price on a continual basis, however, will be plenty interested.
Reverse: Man Flies
Roosevelt Field is now, of course, the site of an extremely mediocre shopping mall.
Neutral: How Are You?
I did my bi-weekly exercise last night — a walk to the liquor store and back — and I noticed that significantly fewer people were wearing masks outdoors, perhaps because of loosened CDC guidance last week, though also likely because New York is reopen now or something. Anyway, stay classy and get vaxxed.