Henrik Fisker throws some shade at Elon Musk, Ford is very excited about the F-150 Lightning, and… Elon Musk. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 26, 2022.
1st Gear: Lightning
The F-150 Lightning, which you apparently can’t order right now because it’s too dang popular (or at least that is what Ford wants you to believe) begins “full production” today in Dearborn, Michigan. All of which has prompted Ford to do a PR blitz. Ford says the F-150 Lightning is the most important car since sliced bread. Or at least the Model T.
Built at the ultra-modern Rouge Electric Vehicle Center within Ford’s historic Rouge Complex, F-150 Lightning is the only electric vehicle that is Built Ford Tough. Ford F-Series has been America’s best-selling truck for 45 years in a row and is second only to the iPhone in revenue among all American consumer products, according to a 2020 study.
“Today we celebrate the Model T moment for the 21st Century at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center,” said Ford Executive Chair Bill Ford. “The Rouge is where Ford perfected the moving assembly line, making it a fitting backdrop as we make history again. The stunning anticipation for F-150 Lightning is a credit to the work of our Ford engineers and designers, and the UAW team members who are building these trucks with pride.”
Ford has unprecedented demand for F-150 Lightning with 200,000 reservations and is expanding the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center to ramp up production to a planned annual run rate of 150,000 in 2023. The company has invested a total of $950 million and created 750 jobs at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center. Ford’s investment in Michigan for F-150 Lightning alone now totals more than $1 billion, with 1,700 recently created jobs spread among five Ford plants in the state, including Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center, where Lightning electric motors and electric transaxles are assembled, and Rawsonville Components Plant, where Lightning batteries are assembled.
“The only electric vehicle that is Built Ford Tough” sounded a little strange to me, though I guess Ford has said over the years that only its trucks are Built Ford Tough (TM). Its cars, on the other hand, are just Built Ford, and the all-electric Mustang Mach-E, well, that isn’t Built Ford Tough either, since Ford says that the F-150 Lightning is the only EV that is. Congrats, I guess, to Mach-E owners, for having a car built by Ford.
2nd Gear: I Fear We Have To Discuss Elon Musk Some More
Telsa CEO Elon Musk is buying Twitter, you may have heard, and probably the funniest news item to come out of that yesterday was Henrik Fisker reacting by immediately deleting his Twitter account.
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The Twitter account of electric-vehicle designer Henrik Fisker vanished shortly after the social media company announced it was accepting a $44 billion buyout from his rival, Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk.
The chief executive officer of Fisker Inc., whose resume includes a stint working with Tesla, said in a tweet Monday that his 86,000 followers should look for him on Instagram for future updates, without providing additional details. Shortly after that, the account returned an error message saying it no longer exists.
While Fisker didn’t explicitly say his move was related to Musk’s deal, it wouldn’t be surprising given their fraught relationship over more than a decade.
Fisker is, on paper, a rival to Musk in manufacturing EVs, though it hasn’t been much of a competition, with Musk lapping the industry so far. I admire his swift decision here, though, and suspect more people will follow suit in the coming months, because Twitter was already a miserable sandbox. Now, it is even more so.
3rd Gear: For Tesla, The Fretting Has Begun
I don’t really think that Elon’s purchase of Twitter will have much effect on what happens with Tesla, as the guy is already pulled in ten million different directions and still manages to shitpost as much as the rest of us. But some investors are worried, Reuters reports, that Elon will get distracted and, I dunno, forget that he’s the CEO of a trillion-dollar car company or something.
Tesla has managed to outrace its problems, but a heavier pull of his focus by Twitter worries investors.
“I fear this is going to be a distraction,” said one fund manager with a significant position in Tesla who asked not to be identified. “He’s juggling supply chains and factory delays and the expansion of the energy storage business and this doesn’t fit at all.”
Shares of Tesla have slid 8 percent since Musk first disclosed his initial stake in Twitter.
Tesla could not be reached for comment, but one insider at the company who asked not to be identified said investor concerns were “overdone” and Musk was still heavily engaged at the automaker.
I think Elon will now think about Twitter more or less as much as he did before, any amount of which is by definition too much.
4th Gear: Apologies, But One Last Item About This
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos thinks that Elon’s purchase of Twitter could be a boon to China, because Tesla has a big presence there and Elon may not want to piss them off if too many people are criticizing China on Twitter. Or something?
In a series of tweets, Bezos drew attention to the EV giant’s close ties with China, the world’s biggest EV vehicle market and home to Tesla’s first overseas factory.
About half the company’s cars sold globally last year were produced at its plant in Shanghai, and Musk has said that figure may double.
“Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?” tweeted Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.
“My own answer to this question is probably not,” he added in a followup. “The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter.”
Prediction: Almost nothing will change.
5th Gear: Aston Martin Is Still Teetering
Well, for basically all of its 109-year existence Aston Martin has been teetering, having gone bankrupt seven times. It was looking dark again a couple years ago, before the Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll rescued it. Then Aston made the DBX, which really seemed to turn things around. Still, analysts aren’t so convinced, Reuters reports.
“It’s precarious and it is possible for this company to go bust,” said Redburn equity research analyst Charles Coldicott. “I don’t think it’s a controversial thing to say even though Aston wouldn’t like to hear it.”
Asked to comment on perceptions of a shaky future, an Aston Martin spokesman reiterated Stroll’s view that the carmaker is well on the way to long-term profitability and that it has adequate access to cash.
“If you put a gun to my head, I would say my base case is Mercedes will acquire the business,” he said. “I don’t know at what price, but I imagine it will be significantly lower than today’s price.”
Mercedes spokesman Tobias Just said in an email the German carmaker is “very happy with our existing cooperation with Aston Martin.”
He declined to comment on the German carmaker’s future plans for its Aston Martin stake if the British carmaker’s turnaround stalls.
Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said while Aston Martin has aspired for many years to be more like Ferrari, its current management has consistently done the right thing, moving its brand upmarket “by underproducing and moving towards more content and more customization.”
“They’re now walking the talk at Aston Martin,” Houchois said. “But it’s a question of how long it takes and if they have the financing to back that up.”
Reuters also talked to Stroll and Aston CEO Tobias Moers, who gave Reuters a tour of Aston’s factory in Gaydon, England. I’m sure Moers and Stroll will be very pleased to see the story this morning, with their optimistic quotes surrounded by dour notes from random analysts.
Neutral: How Are You?
I talked to a very old friend on Sunday who said that his parents are in the market for a new Honda Accord, but that their local dealer had all of six cars in stock, when Before All This they usually had hundreds. Needless to say, he says they’ll be waiting for a bit to buy.