Opinion

Elon Musk Calls Chinese Automakers The ‘Most Competitive In The World’

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The chip shortage took another bite out of GM, Ford is boosting F-150 Lightning production, and also Tesla. All that and more in The Morning Shift for September 17, 2021.

1st Gear: Elon Musk Now Has Nothing But Good Things To Say About China

Tesla has had a bit of a rocky road in China as of late, with protests, and a recall of almost every car the company has sold there. But Tesla is there for a reason, which is that China is the biggest car market in the world. Also, since Tesla is intent on taking over the world or something, it must remain viable — nay — rapidly expanding in China. According to Bloomberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tried to be chummy about it on Friday.

Elon Musk praised Chinese automakers as “the most competitive in the world” at an online forum Friday, where the Tesla Inc. chief also touched upon data security and the nation’s “great potential” as a market for electric vehicles.

[…]

“I have a great deal of respect for the many Chinese automakers” for driving EV technologies, Musk said during a spiel that barely lasted three minutes. He noted that the country’s carmakers are particularly strong on software. “Public sentiment and support for electric vehicles is at a never before seen inflection point because they know it is the future,” he said.

The billionaire had more praise for China later in the day, replying to a tweet from the official Xinhua News Agency on the completion of a three-month space mission. “Congratulations on a successful mission!” he wrote on Twitter.

True salesmen and social media influencers never change.

2nd Gear: Elon Is Also Trying To Be Reassuring On Data Security

China banned Teslas from its military facilities in March, ostensibly over concerns about security, since Teslas are equipped with all sorts of cameras for the driver assistance functions. Musk claimed Friday that Tesla was working on better data security likely in part related to that.

From Reuters:

Electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) will work with global regulators to ensure data security, Chief Executive Elon Musk told an industry event in China on Friday.

[…]

“With the rapid growth of autonomous driving technologies, data security of vehicles is drawing more public concerns than ever before,” Musk told the World New Energy Vehicle Congress on the southern Chinese island of Hainan via videolink.

In May, Reuters reported that staff at some Chinese government offices had been told not to park their Tesla cars inside government compounds due to security concerns over vehicle cameras.

Tesla later said it had established a site in China to store car data locally.

3rd Gear: More Chip Shortage Pain For GM

GM said Thursday that it would have more downtime at some of its plants because of the chip shortage. As always, you can tell which cars are most profitable and which are less profitable, as the less profitable ones are always the ones to go down first.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The company said Thursday it will add to scheduled downtime at seven plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The move builds upon curtailments that have slammed GM and the broader auto industry throughout the year as supply constraints on computer chips continue to hold back car production.

Some production lines at two of GM’s Michigan sites—responsible for work on models including the Chevrolet Traverse, the Buick Enclave and the Cadillac Black Wing—will now likely have downtime through September, the company said. At three factories in Canada and Mexico, production stoppages for the Chevrolet Blazer and Equinox SUVs have been extended as well. And at a plant in Kansas, the restart of Chevrolet Malibu production, which has been down since February, has been delayed to November.

I’m not sure I knew that Malibu production has been non-existent since February in Kansas, but, given GM’s manufacturing priorities, that makes sense.

4th Gear: Hyundai Has A Robot Guard Dog

Hyundai completed its purchase of the robot-maker Boston Dynamics earlier this year; the Korean company has now unveiled its first project with its new partner, which is a guard dog robot that might one day be stealing the jobs of guard dogs everywhere. It is called the “Factory Safety Service Robot.” It will go into operation at a Kia plant in South Korea.

From Hyundai:

The Robot is based on Boston Dynamics’ quadruped robot, Spot, with applied artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous navigation, teleoperation technologies, and computing payload (AI Processing Service Unit) developed by the Group’s Robotics Lab for the Robot’s usage in various industrial tasks.

[…]

With an integrated thermal camera and 3D LiDAR, the Robot is able to detect persons around it, monitor high-temperature situations and potential fire hazards, and perceive whether a door is open or closed. The Robot can be remote-controlled through a secure webpage that provides a livestream of its movements around the plant, enabling office personnel to remotely observe industrial areas. The Robot’s AI technology also allows the Robot to detect dangers and send alarms to managers through the secure webpage.

Based on these functions, the Robot provides real-time sharing of photos of on-site situations and an activity log with the control center as well as support a rapid response in the event of an emergency by sounding an alarm on the control webpage. Managers can switch to manual teleoperation whenever needed to conduct a closer look at important industrial sites. It is also possible to connect multiple Factory Service Safety Robots to the control system to simultaneously check various zones.

The quadruped robot is able to navigate through narrow spaces as well as identify blind areas that are hard to see with the human eye. Applying the Group’s technologies to Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot also provides the Robot with enhanced autonomy features. Based on the Group’s experience with development of service robots, the Robot is equipped with diverse technologies suitable for autonomous patrol services within industrial site environments, including task management and deep learning-based vision technology.

That is all well and good but I’ve never gotten comfortable even just looking at Boston Dynamics’ ‘bots. This one is no exception.

Image for article titled Elon Musk Calls Chinese Automakers The 'Most Competitive In The World'

Photo: Hyundai

No thanks.

5th Gear: Ford Will Spend Hundreds Of Millions More On F-150 Lightning Production

That would be $250 million more, the company said Thursday, while also hiring 450 new employees. It sounds like Ford used the reservation system for Lightning exactly as it was intended: as a gauge for interest, and to adjust production accordingly.

From Automotive News:

Ford said the investment and jobs will be spread across its Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center and Rawsonville Components Plant. The added investment will help Ford build 80,000 electric trucks per year, up from an original plan to build 40,000 annually.

Executives say they boosted the planned production based on strong demand. Ford has received more than 150,000 reservations for the electric pickup, in the form of refundable deposits, which is scheduled to go on sale by the middle of next year.

“We knew the F-150 Lightning was special, but the interest from the public has surpassed our highest expectations and changed the conversation around electric vehicles. So we are doubling down, adding jobs and investment to increase production,” Executive Chair Bill Ford said in a statement. “This truck and the Ford-UAW workers who are assembling it in Michigan have a chance to make history and lead the electric vehicle movement in America.”

Eighty-thousand Lightnings per year is still not that much, given that Ford sold 787,422 F-Series trucks last year, but it’s a start.

Reverse: Space


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