Automotive

Toyota Somehow Made Money In All Of This


Illustration for article titled Toyota Somehow Made Money In All Of This

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The Morning ShiftAll your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn’t your time more important?

Toyota is still making lots of money, Dieselgate is neverending, and AAA says that modern driving assistance tech is bad. That and more in The Morning Shift for August 6, 2020.

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1st Gear: Toyota Reports A $1.5 Billion Second-Quarter Profit

That is down 74 percent compared to last year but that is also not a loss, which many automakers have reported for the April-May-June period. Toyota is healing.

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From the Associated Press:

Although all the world’s automakers have been hurt badly by the outbreak, Toyota managed to stay in the black for the quarter, highlighting the resilience of the manufacturer of the Corolla subcompact, Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury models.

Japanese rivals, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., as well as Detroit-based General Motors Co. slid into red ink in the latest quarter.

Toyota is projecting a 730 billion yen ($6.9 billion) profit for the fiscal year through March 2021, down 64% from the previous fiscal year.

Toyota officials said the sales decline was bottoming out, with sales expected to gradually return to near-normal levels later this year.

Toyota said the recovery was going better than it had expected.

Toyota still sold over a million cars globally in the April-May-June period.

2nd Gear: The SF90 Stradale, Ferrari’s First Plug-In Hybrid, Is Delayed

It was supposed to be here by now but has been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company said this week.

From Automotive News:

The delay has affected Ferrari’s earnings outlook for the year. CEO Louis Camilleri said during the supercar maker’s earnings call this week that it was “the predominant reason for the adjustment to the midpoint of our earnings guidance for the full year.”

“We are confident that deliveries to our clients will begin early in the fourth quarter, but the ramp-up in production will inevitably be delayed,” Camilleri said.

[…]

Ferrari CFO Antonio Picca Piccon said during the call that a softer product mix, reflecting the SF90 Stradale delay, accounted for a lower profit margin. The supercar will sell for 430,000 euros ($509,000) in Italy, nearly 100,000 euros more than Ferrari’s current most expensive series car, the 336,000 euro 812 GTS 12-cylinder roadster.

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Ferrari still expects to make over a billion euros this year, while the SF90 is expected to be out sometime in the fourth quarter of this year, after supply chain issues. Apologies to the dozens of people waiting to purchase.

3rd Gear: Dieselgate

Reuters reports that four more Audi execs have been indicted over Dieselgate, which first came to light in 2015 and in which the fallout has seemingly been endless.

The four are accused of fraud, false certification and criminal advertising, the prosecution office said in a statement.

[…]

The indictment, directed at three former board members and one head of department who is already retired, relates to a total 434,420 cars of the Audi, VW and Porsche brands which were mostly sold in the U.S. and Europe, it said.

The four are accused of having prompted the development of engines steered by an illegal software function which made engines produce lower emissions when operating in test conditions than when in regular driving operations.

The prosecution asserts that the accused former board members knew of the practice at various times between October 2013 and September 2015 and still carried on with sales, or did not prevent them from taking place.

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Dieselgate seems increasingly quaint in a pandemic world and a world in which European emissions regulations have gotten much stiffer and everyone has pretty much moved on. I’m always for accountability at the top, though, no matter how long it takes.

4th Gear: VLF Sues Karma

The former GM executive Bob Lutz co-founded VLF in 2012 and the company I guess is still kicking around? At least, it’s kicking around enough to have filed a lawsuit against Karma Automotive, the Chinese electric car startup that VLF says stole its plans for a luxury Hummer-type vehicle.

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From Bloomberg:

VLF claims it shared its plans for a “luxury Humvee” with Karma last fall as part of a proposed partnership to produce the vehicle for the Chinese market, only to have Karma try to cut it out of the deal.

VLF is asking for at least $18.5 million in damages to cover its investment in the Humvee project and its share of the projected profits.

[…]

Karma Chief Strategy Officer Greg Tarr declined comment on the lawsuit. A lawyer for VLF also declined to comment.

VLF claims that, despite signing a non-disclosure agreement, Karma Chief Executive Officer Lance Zhou used the shared designs to secretly contact the U.S. company’s manufacturing partners in an effort to bring the electric Humvee to market in China on its own. According to the lawsuit, Karma was motivated to steal by financial desperation.

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I will be earnestly shocked if either of these companies ever makes a dent in pretty much anything.

5th Gear: AAA Points Out The Obvious

Driving assistance systems pretty much across the board do not work well, AAA said today based on a study.

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Here’s Reuters:

“AAA has repeatedly found that active driving assistance systems do not perform consistently, especially in real-word scenarios,” Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations, said in a statement.

[…]

The AAA study evaluated a 2019 BMW X7 with “Active Driving Assistant Professional,” a 2019 Cadillac CT6 with “Super Cruise,” a 2019 Ford Edge with “Co-Pilot360,” a 2020 Kia Telluride with “Highway Driving Assist” and a 2020 Subaru Outback with “EyeSight” technology.

While lane-centering and changing technology worked better on a test course with clear lane markings, the systems accounted for 73% of all disengagements in real-world driving.

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And a bit more from AAA itself:

AAA automotive researchers found that over the course of 4,000 miles of real-world driving, vehicles equipped with active driving assistance systems experienced some type of issue every 8 miles, on average. Researchers noted instances of trouble with the systems keeping the vehicles tested in their lane and coming too close to other vehicles or guardrails. AAA also found that active driving assistance systems, those that combine vehicle acceleration with braking and steering, often disengage with little notice – almost instantly handing control back to the driver. A dangerous scenario if a driver has become disengaged from the driving task or has become too dependent on the system. AAA recommends manufacturers increase the scope of testing for active driving assistance systems and limit their rollout until functionality is improved to provide a more consistent and safer driver experience.

[…]

AAA tested the functionality of active driving assistance systems in real-world conditions and in a closed-course setting to determine how well they responded to common driving scenarios. On public roadways, nearly three-quarters (73%) of errors involved instances of lane departure or erratic lane position. While AAA’s closed-course testing found that the systems performed mostly as expected, they were particularly challenged when approaching a simulated disabled vehicle. When encountering this test scenario, in aggregate, a collision occurred 66% of the time and the average impact speed was 25 mph.

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None of this is terribly surprising for anyone who has used any of these systems, as while they are all varying degrees of good, they are also all requiring pretty close attention. A lot can go wrong fast.

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