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The Chip Shortage Can’t Stop EV Enthusiasm

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Two Rivian R1S SUVs

Photo: Steve DaSilva

Electric car sales are booming, Mazda sees signs suggesting slow spring sales, and Nissan can’t get enough chips out to its Mississippi plant. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Thursday, November 10, 2022.

1st Gear: (Tears For Fears Voice) Eve-ry-bo-dy Wants Electric Cars

EV registrations are skyrocketing, according to registration data collected by Experian. But there’s one company that’s underperforming the rest — and doing so to such a degree that it drags the whole average down, Harley-Davidson style. What brand might that be? Tesla. From Automotive News:

Tesla has parlayed early-mover advantage into a mile-long lead over the auto industry in electric vehicle sales.

But the Empire is beginning to strike back with a battalion of competitively specced and priced electric models.

The conga line of new vehicles is putting pressure on Tesla, which saw its share of new-vehicle registrations slide 2.8 percentage points to 65.4 percent through September, according to data from Experian Automotive.

While Tesla dominates the segment, its year-over-year registrations grew 50 percent in the year’s first nine months.

In contrast, legacy automakers and non-Tesla startups saw a 71 percent surge in EV registrations through September, with 183,750 registrations among 22 brands.

People are still buying Teslas, but enthusiasm seems to be slowing relative to the rest of the EV market. A 71% sales increase for every competitor sets a precedent that the company just can’t match. Ah well, at least its stock is still doing well.

2nd Gear: Mazda Forecasts A Slow Vehicle Market In Spring

It’s no secret that the U.S. economy is going through a bit of a rough patch. While many automakers have decided that this is a non-issue, Mazda is preparing to see slower sales. From Reuters:

Vehicle demand in the United States is strong for the rest of the year but its economy is expected to slow after the spring as interest rates rise, Japan’s Mazda Motor Corp executives on Thursday.

“As for the U.S. market from next spring onward, we believe that the economy will gradually slow down,” said Yasuhiro Aoyama, senior managing executive officer. “As the tight semiconductor market is still continuing, the supply-demand relationship is not likely to loosen so easily.”

Rising interest rates and inflation would prompt consumers to buy lower grade models, Aoyama added.

The Hiroshima-based automaker has lowered its global sales target by 133,000 units, or roughly 10%, to about 1.2 million due to carrier vessel shortage and production cuts triggered by chips shortage.

Automakers have had a profitable ball recently, with low-interest rates fostering high demand during a time of constrained supply. But as that demand dwindles, what happens to car manufacturers?

3rd Gear: Nissan Cuts Production For Want Of Chips

That time of constrained supply? It’s still here, by the way. Nissan’s feeling the heat, as a lack of chips impacts its ability to build Titans, Frontiers, and Altimas. From Reuters:

Nissan Motor Co’s (7201.T) U.S. arm said Wednesday that supply chain issues will force it to trim production this month at its Canton, Mississippi, assembly plant.

The Japanese automaker said it will cut some production days in November for its Titan and Frontier pickup trucks as well as its Altima sedan. The cuts, which were reported earlier by Automotive News, are expected to be similar in December. A memo to dealers seen by Reuters said the cuts were “due to supply chain disruptions related to ongoing semiconductor chip shortages in the industry.”

Nissan told dealers despite the cuts “total shipments to retailers are still forecasted to be up quarter over quarter.” The company said “the long-awaited start of sales for the next generation of Nissan EVs will begin before the end of the calendar year” as it aims for 40% EV sales by 2030.

A dearth of Altimas is truly a hit to American car enthusiasm. What car will take up the mantle of being incredibly, unusably damaged, yet still passing you on the highway at triple-digit speeds in the right lane?

4th Gear: The EU Wants To Limit Brake Pad Pollution

New European emissions regulations are on the horizon, but it won’t be long before the continent bans internal combustion entirely. Once that happens, what emissions are left to regulate? Particulates, it seems, from tires and brakes. From Financial Times:

All new automobiles sold within the EU will have to limit the particle pollution from brake pads, under proposals to be introduced ahead of a ban on combustion engine vehicles in the bloc from 2035.

The Euro 7 rules, announced on Thursday, are a simplification of previous European emissions standards for cars, trucks and vans. Regulations will eventually cover a broader range of pollutants such as microplastics from tyres. They also set rules for the durability of batteries in electric vehicles.

However, environmental groups said the proposals were a missed opportunity and criticised the “historic failure” of the industry to reduce toxic air pollution.

Anna Krajinska, from the campaign group Transport & Environment, said the European Commission proposals were “so weak, the auto industry might have drafted them themselves”.

Thierry Breton, EU internal market commissioner, said the auto sector was “committed to a very large transformation to decarbonise” and that Brussels wanted to introduce “an affordable reform that is not too much of a burden on consumers and industry”.

He also noted that his team had focused on “road dust” emissions from tyres and brakes as these would ultimately become the main source of air pollution once combustion engines were phased out.

EVs, thanks to regenerative braking, already burn through pads and rotors far more slowly than most ICE vehicles. But I, as a millennial, will surely miss my regular inhaled diet of microplastics.

5th Gear: Elon Musk Wants Car Companies To Keep Advertising On Twitter

Elon Musk bought Twitter, if you weren’t aware. So far, this seems to have gone extraordinarily well for him — so long as you ignore the tanking Tesla stock, complete loss of trust in the platform’s verification and scam prevention policies, and — oh yeah — immediate advertiser exodus.

Elon Musk said rival automakers should continue to advertise on Twitter following his acquisition of the social-media company, pledging not to give unfair advantages to Tesla Inc. as he leads both companies.

The world’s richest man, speaking in a town hall for advertisers that was broadcast on Twitter Spaces, added that he hopes his fellow auto executives will be more active on the platform.

“We will try to be as fair as possible,” Musk said Wednesday.

Musk is essentially holding up a boombox playing Peter Gabriel right now, beneath the windows of Stellantis executives. Actually, has he tried literally doing that? It can’t hurt.

Reverse: The Lake, It Is Said, Never Gives Up Her Dead

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