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Rivian’s Big Recall Is Making Investors Nervous



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Photo: Steve DaSilva

Rivian’s investors are unhappy with its recalls, Renault and Nissan are looking to renew their vows, and Audi is considering a new factory in the United States. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Monday, October 10, 2022.

1st Gear: Rivian And The Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad Year

Rivian makes some truly fantastic automobiles. The company behind those cars, however has taken hit after hit after hit this year — many of them self-inflicted. Most recently, Rivian recalled over 12,200 cars (from a company that’s only delivered a bit over 13,000), and the stock market is none too pleased. From Reuters:

Shares of Rivian Automotive Inc (RIVN.O) fell 7% on Monday after the electric-vehicle maker recalled nearly all its vehicles, exacerbating investor concerns that the company may not be able to meet its annual production target.

The Inc-backed (AMZN.O) firm on Friday recalled about 13,000 vehicles due to a possible loose fastener that could cause a driver to lose steering control.

Rivian has so far delivered 13,198 vehicles since it started selling in the third quarter of last year.

Rivian’s shares have fallen 67.3% this year due to a selloff in equities driven by an uncertain macroeconomic environment and a production forecast cut.

As far as possible teething problems for a brand-new car company go, “one nut might not be totally tight” isn’t the worst-case scenario. But a bolt this important, unnoticed on this many vehicles, will be costly for the company to fix.

2nd Gear: Renault And Nissan Try Moving Into Separate Bedrooms

Renault and Nissan have a complicated past and present, with both companies (as well as the French government) owning bits of each other. This arrangement has been strained since Carlos Ghosn was spirited out of Japan, but it seems both companies are still interested in trying to make things work. For the kids electric vehicles. From Reuters:

Renault (RENA.PA) and Nissan (7201.T) said on Monday they were in talks about the future of their alliance, including the Japanese automaker considering investing in a new electric vehicle venture by its French partner.

The talks, which could prompt the biggest reset in the alliance since the 2018 arrest of longtime executive Carlos Ghosn, have included consideration of Renault selling some of its Nissan stake, two people with knowledge of them said.

Negotiations are expected to continue ahead of a Renault investor presentation in early November, when the French carmaker is expected to give an update on its new EV unit, which is code-named “Ampere”.

Renault owns about 43% of Nissan, which in turn has a 15% stake in its long-term partner, in which the French state also has a 15% holding.

Renault is looking to win Nissan as an investor in its new EV venture, which it is setting up alongside a separate combustion engine unit, essentially splitting out the higher-growth and investment-hungry portion of its auto business.

In exchange for investing in the EV venture, Nissan is looking to Renault to reduce its stake in the Japanese automaker, a person familiar with the talks said.

The arrangement where Renault owns almost three times as much of Nissan as Nissan owns of Renault has never seemed entirely equitable between the two corporate giants. Maybe this arrangement will give Nissan a bit more autonomy in its day-to-day operations.

3rd Gear: The Inflation Reduction Act May Bring Audi Manufacturing To The U.S.

It seems the Inflation Reduction Act has had two main genres of response from automakers. Some have decided to whine about the legislation, claiming it violates international trade agreements, or something. But others have taken the simpler option: building U.S. factories for EVs. From Automotive News:

Federally funded electric vehicle tax credits contained in the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law this summer have Volkswagen Group, and especially Audi, taking a hard look at expanding its manufacturing footprint in North America — potentially including what would be Audi’s first plant in the U.S.

In an exclusive interview, Oliver Hoffmann, head of technical development for Audi, said the new rules “will have a huge impact on our strategy here” in North America.

“To be honest, we are looking right and left: What can be the opportunity for us to get together with a strong [Volkswagen Group] in the background,” said Hoffman, speaking from Audi’s design center in Malibu, Calif. “And now we are on the way, especially as the rules changed and as you know there is big spending of the government for EVs, with special circumstances, and we are looking forward to how we can meet these requirements.”

He continued, “For us, we have big opportunities within the group to make this happen, with our platform spreading strategies, this is a big opportunity for us. And we will look where we want to produce our cars in the future.”

At this stage, it’s far too early to know whether Audi will start up E-Tron production in the U.S. or simply slap a four-ring badge on an ID.4 crossover. Or, who knows — maybe one of those legal challenges survives, and Audi never moves any production stateside.

4th Gear: Tesla Is Doing Well In China, But Not Too Well

Tesla is a dominant force in the U.S. EV market, but it doesn’t top the list for China. Like a cryptocurrency-obsessed Wile E. Coyote, it can never quite catch rival EV maker BYD. From the Wall Street Journal:

Tesla Inc. hit a record of more than 83,000 electric-vehicle deliveries from its recently upgraded Shanghai factory in September, according to data released by the China Passenger Car Association.

The plant delivered 83,135 EVs last month, an 8% increase from August, according to data released by the association on Sunday. The American EV maker still trailed Chinese rival BYD Co., which topped the charts for EV deliveries last month with almost 95,000 units, up 14% from August. BYD’s total sales, including hybrids, were a combined 201,000 units in September. BYD also broke its own records in September, in EVs as well as total sales.

In July, Tesla suspended operations for several days to upgrade its assembly lines to increase production capacity. Its Shanghai plant can now crank out more than 750,000 a year, the company said at the time.

Maybe that new production capacity will help Tesla compete, but BYD is making its own moves to increase sales. To quote acclaimed scientist Ishirō Serizawa: Let them fight.

5th Gear: Oh Good, Those Bentley Buyers Were Made Whole

When the Felicity Ace sank it took nearly 200 Bentleys with it to the murky depths. Sure, some people lost truly irreplaceable cars in the tragedy, but there was a more important question on many people’s minds: Will the rich people who bought brand-new Bentleys be OK? Reader, it seems they will. From Automotive News:

There’s certainly never a good time for a massive ship carrying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of vehicles to catch fire and sink.

But for bespoke luxury brand Bentley, what tragically happened to the Felicity Ace in February in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic weirdly may have been a case of the wrong ship … at the right time.

Why? Because unlike other massive car carriers that regularly ferry Volkswagen Group vehicles from Europe to customers and dealerships in North America, the Felicity Ace didn’t have 40 to 70 Bentleys aboard, as is typical, among the roughly 4,000 vehicles on that particular sailing.

It had a whole lot more than that: 189, each carrying an average price tag of about $300,000, according to a Bentley spokeswoman.

Yet, with quick action and thanks to a bizarre set of global circumstances, Bentley — which manufactures each of its vehicles by hand in its single factory in Crewe, England — was able to replace every one of its sunken treasures, including custom-designed Mulliner models, delivering the last of them in September.

Let this be a lesson to you: your irreplaceable, sentimental, 1996 Honda Prelude SiR can die without a single tear shed. But if someone’s high-dollar luxury car, purchased to show off to The Poors, is hurt, it’ll be replaced at any cost.

Reverse: The Most Super Of Men

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