Tesla continues facing factory obstacles, Volkswagen’s Electrify America setting up chargers at Walmart locations

Tesla facing workplace investigation and non-stop factory:  Tesla Inc. continues battling obstacles as it becomes a mass-production automaker, facing a charge over unsafe working conditions and a decision to keep the factory going 24/7. California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) opened inspection of Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., factory on Tuesday over possible under reporting by the electric carmaker of work-related injuries and illnesses. The inspection may have come from a an article by the Center for Investigative Reporting claiming the misreporting by Tesla with the charge that the company lowered the number of injuries in the official count by stating some were minor or due to personal medical conditions. Tesla denied the accusations in a blog post, calling the publication an “extremist organization working directly with union supporters to create a calculated disinformation campaign against Tesla.”

More Tesla workers are needed, with the automaker starting around-the-clock production schedules this week at the Fremont plant. It’s being done to ramp up from the recent report of over 2,000 Model 3s being built  up to 6,000 units a week by the end of June. One more shift will be added to general assembly, body, and paint, CEO Elon Musk write in an internal company email. That news came out after the company took another day of stopping production of the Model 3 to improve automation and address production bottlenecks. About 400 workers will be added per week for several weeks to handle the increasing output, Musk wrote. 

Calstart supporting electric airplanes:  Calstart and two cities have launched the Sustainable Aviation Project, which is described as “the nation’s first production all-electric aircraft project designed to develop pilot training opportunities using zero emission electric airplanes.” Calstart’s partners are the Northern California cities of Reedley and Mendota, with funding being provided by the Fresno County Measure C through the Fresno County Rural Transportation Authority. The electric aircraft will reduce both air and noise pollution, and will be able to fly for 60 minutes between charges with a 30-minute reserve. The typical flight training session lasts about 60 minutes. Charging can be done at four regional airports in Fresno County.

Electrify America at Walmart:  Volkswagen AG’s Electrify America unit will be installing more than 100 electric vehicle charging stations at Walmart store locations in 34 U.S. states by mid-2019. The Walmart stores will support Electrify America’s goal to set up 2,000 chargers at nearly 500 charging stations across the country by June 2019, with some able to provide fast charging. Wayne Killen, Electrify America’s senior director for infrastructure, said that 80% of the Walmart charging stations would be at store locations alongside highways, while the remaining 20% would be in metro areas. That will support giving EV owners more options for charging during road trips including cross-country journeys along Interstate 10 between Santa Monic, Calif., and Jacksonville, Fla.; and along Interstate 80 that goes from San Francisco to Teaneck, N.J.

Nissan preparing to launch electric robotaxis in early 2020s, Protean Electric bringing in-wheel electric drive over to Olli

Nissan and DeNA testing robotaxis:  Nissan Motor Co. is preparing to launch electric robotaxis in the early 2020s — but as for now, more real-world testing needs to be done. Last month in Yokohama, Japan, about 300 people participated in test rides in the Easy Ride robotaxis, which are built on modified Nissan Leafs. Easy Ride taps into Seamless Autonomous Mobility, which was developed by Nissan from NASA technology, for the automaker’s fleet operation system. Unexpected occurrences are being tested, such as road construction or an event filled with cars and pedestrians blocking traffic. The robotaxi will have support from in-vehicle artificial intelligence and staff working at a control center monitoring the rides. Nissan is counting on its collaboration with DeNA, a Japanese mobile gaming and communications giant. Easy Ride comes with a DeNA-designed smartphone app, where users can hail a taxi by choosing a time slot and where they want to be picked up from a list of preset destinations. Riders view a tablet computer installed inside the car about recommended events in the area; and users are also sent discount coupons for restaurants participating in an Easy Ride affiliate program.

Model Y starting next year as debt grows:  Tesla Inc. won’t be slowing down anytime soon, with debt mounting to increase Model 3 volume and start up production of its Model Y sport utility electric vehicle. Two sources told Reuters last week that the Model Y compact crossover companion to the Model 3 sedan will start up in November 2019. The sources said that CEO Elon Musk is accepting preliminary bids for supplier contracts on the Model Y. The sources said that suppliers are estimating annual production of 500,000 Model Y vehicles in the U.S. at the Fremont, Calif., plant, with a second factory in China producing a much smaller volume, likely in the tens of thousands. The company had estimated reaching 500,000 vehicles produced this year as the Model 3 is ramped up; Tesla is not reaching that level yet and is unlikely to hit the target. Musk is likely to seek more capital to add the Model Y to its product lineup. Tesla is now burning cash at a rate of more than $2 billion a year. During an interview with CBS’s Gayle King, Musk conceded that the electric carmaker’s robots involved in its Fremont factory process probably slowed down production. Another challenge has been a “crazy, complex network of conveyor belts, and it was not working so [Tesla] got rid of the whole thing,” he said.

Volvo rolling out electric truck:  Volvo’s new FL Electric is being rolled out as a delivery truck targeted to cities banning fossil-fuel powered vehicles. The all-electric 16-ton truck will have between two and six lithium-ion batteries with 100-300 kWh, capable of taking the truck up to 186 miles through six batteries. The truck maker says charging time will be one to two hours with DC fast charging, or up to 10 hours on AC with the 300-kWh battery capacity. Volvo Trucks is bringing its experience over to the FL Electric from producing more than 4,000 electrified buses since 2010. “With attractive incentives, agreed standards and a long-term strategy for urban planning and expansion of the charging infrastructure, the process can go much faster,” said Jonas Odermalm, head of product strategy, Volvo FL and Volvo FE at Volvo Trucks.

Protean and LM working on self-driving electrified shuttles:  Protean Electric is bringing its in-wheel electric drive system over to autonomous vehicles through a new strategic partnership with U.S. vehicle manufacturer LM Industries. LM is known for building Olli, a self-driving electric shuttle bus. The partnership will start with providing the eDrive system for Olli. Beyond that, the companies will work on new technologies to accelerate future autonomous and transportation-as-a-service (TaaS) vehicle production.

LM Industries focuses on open-source vehicle design. “Open platforms are a critical piece of LM Industries’ strategic vision, allowing us the flexibility to work with innovative companies like Protean Electric and quickly integrate new technologies that let us make great product,” said John Rogers Jr., CEO and co-founder of LM Industries. “Protean Electric’s eDrive technology with in-wheel motors and integrated power electronics, make power-train components obsolete and vehicle digitization easier. It will help us revolutionize self-driving vehicle design creating more space for passengers.”

Protean Electric has been building alliances with other partners including last year with
Consolidated Metco to develop an electric in-wheel drive system to provide hybrid-electric solutions for the medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle markets. In 2016, a funding round with Chinese investors was carried out, including GO Scale Capital, Zhejiang VIE Science & Technology Co. Ltd., and Tianjin THSG Corporation. The funding has been used to ramp up production in China of Protean’s PD18 product line, and for new product development and formation of a manufacturing joint venture with Zhejiang VIE.

Tesla sees investor and shareholder support wane, NADA and INRIX studies on car ownership and driving

Tesla seeing impact of a difficult year:  Tesla Inc. has been seeing some of its support wane from investors and shareholders as the company hits a rough period of increasing challenges. On April 2, the stock took a dive and hit a one-year low at $244.59. It’s gone back up to around $303 today, but that’s much lower than the 52-week high of $389.61. There’s also been a few critical analysis reports coming out, which have been pervasive in the Seeking Alpha commentaries lately. The challenges are coming from Tesla missing the mark on Model 3 production, a fatal crash in a Model X involving the Autopilot system, the trade war with China that’s likely to hurt Tesla, and tensions with workers played out in a labor complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board. Investors want to see the electric carmaker reach a steady production level on the Model 3 and avoid raising additional capital and debt this year. ”Tolerance for the brand’s history of missed numbers is likely at an end,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader.

Hyundai and Kia wireless charging project:  Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center, Inc. (HATCI) and Mojo Mobility, Inc., have completed a three-year project to develop a fast-charging wireless power transfer system on a test fleet of five Kia Soul EVs. The project was in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. HATCI and Mojo, a wireless technology company, worked together to develop a compact wireless charging system that is capable of transferring more than 10 kW to the vehicle for fast charging while targeting an 85% grid-to-vehicle efficiency. The project also studied durability, safety, and performance. Wireless charging takes place through an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two coils — a transmitter on the ground and a receiver on the bottom of the vehicle. The driver simply parks the car above the transmitter to begin charging and then energy is sent through an inductive coupling to an electrical device, which uses that energy to charge the electric vehicles’ battery.

NADA and INRIX studies on car ownership and driving:  U.S. consumers aren’t ready to sell off their personal vehicles and get all their mobility needs met through autonomous vehicles, or through ride-hailing or car-sharing services, according to a National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) study. The study tapped into consumer focus groups and a national survey on the future of personal transportation. Only 11% of respondents were interested in giving up their personal vehicles to switch over entirely to other modes of transportation — and that crossed over all the demographics of age, geographic region, education, and income levels. Only 6.5% of them found car ownership to be a hassle. The survey found that ride-hailing services provide some great benefits — especially in urban areas and in places where parking is an inconvenience.

Connected car data firm INRIX just released a study showing that there are some differences in attitudes of consumers doing a lot of city driving and those living outside in more residential areas. The findings of its first Cost of Driving study were released yesterday, which calculated vehicle ownership costs for 30 major cities in the U.S., U.K., and Germany. The study found that traffic- and parking-related costs made up nearly half of the total cost of car ownership in the U.S. Last year, the average U.S. driver faced the highest total driving cost of $10,288, which was 55% more than the average U.K. driver and 14% more than the average German driver. The costs faced by U.S. drivers includes direct (maintenance, fuel, insurance, and parking and toll fees) and indirect/hidden (wasted time and carbon, parking fines and overpayments). Traffic- and parking-related costs made up nearly half (45%) of the total cost of ownership in the U.S. — making mobility services like Uber and Lyft more appealing. The INRIX study indicates that for consumers living in cities, it’s likely there will be less vehicle ownership and more use of alternative mobility options.

The long-term changeover from personal vehicles to more use of alternative transportation modes — ride-hailing and car-sharing services, carpooling and vanpooling, public transportation in buses and trains, electric scooters, bicycling, and walking — will likely take several more decades to see any real impact on auto sales and the number of vehicles on roads and city streets.

The NADA study made reference to Uber, Lyft, Zipcar and Didi Chuzing (China’s largest ride-hailing service) in February signing a statement of principles supporting a mandate that all autonomous vehicle in urban areas be part of shared fleets — not personally owned. That appears to be the most likely scenario to how automated mobility will grow in the U.S. and other countries — through partnerships between mobility services, technology giants, and automakers that have government backing. It will all take several more years of testing to overcome concerns about driver, passenger, and pedestrian safety.

 

Tesla may be blocked by China tariffs, What it will take for EVs to be mass producible

Challenges increasing for Tesla:  Tesla Inc. continues experiencing a very tough period as China included electric vehicles on its list of additional tariffs — as the trade war escalates with the Trump administration. Other automakers could be hit by SUV tariffs if enacted, but having joint venture alliances with Chinese companies will soften the blow. China is Tesla’s largest foreign market, and Tesla competitors will have a real advantage in China. CEO Elon Musk continues facing a wave of serious challenges. During the Q1 earnings call this week, the company announced that production and sales of the Model 3 have been increasing, with 2,020 Model 3s built during the last week of March up to about 5,000 units a month expected in about three months. But the company’s $10 billion debt load is a much more pressing issue, with cash dwindling and its bonds continuing to slide after the company’s credit rating was cut. Tesla has about $1.2 billion in debt maturing over the next year, and analysts expect the company will burn through $2 billion of its cash this year. There’s also the second fatal crash related to Tesla’s Autopilot system from the March 23 fatality of Tesla Model X driver Walter Huang on U.S. 101 in California when his electric SUV slammed into a highway barrier. The National Transportation Safety Board on Sunday said it was “unhappy” that Tesla had released information about the crash, expects to issue a preliminary report on its findings in a few weeks.

ACT Expo speakers announced:  Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo just released its speaker list for the event taking place April 30 through May 4 at the Long Beach Convention Center. The keynote presentation will be made by Jay Craig, CEO and president of Meritor, a leading component manufacturer, on how the company had to change its strategy to integrate electric vehicle components into its portfolio. Other featured speakers include: Thomas Madrecki, Director of Urban Innovation and Mobility, UPS; Michael O’Connell, Vice President Supply Chain, Fleet Sustainability, Frito Lay; Mary Nichols, Chair, California Air Resource Control Board; Heather Tomley, Director of Environmental Planning, Port of Long Beach; Madhav Acharya, Technology to Market Advisor, ARPA-E Department of Energy; Elizabeth Fretheim, Director of Sustainability, Walmart; Timothy Papandreou, Strategic Partnerships Manager, Waymo; and Janea Scott, Commissioner, California Energy Commission. You can view the full agenda here.

How EVs can go mass market:  A new study by McKinsey & Co. in partnership with A2Mac1, a provider of automotive benchmarking services sees 2017 as a benchmark year with 1.3 million EVs being sold worldwide, a 57% increase over 2016 sales. While that stays at about the 1% level for global new vehicle sales, the study explores steps that will need to be taken to make it up to 25% of new vehicle sales by 2030. To become mass producible, four factors will need to be addressed, according to McKinsey.

One of them focuses on building “native” EVs (new battery electric models on their own platforms) is quite costly in the form of engineering hours, new tooling, and other factors, the cost savings will become substantial compared to non-native EVs. The weight of the cables is coming down in EV powertrains, and there are less parts being used than earlier versions of their EV models. Another advantage is having fewer compromises to make in EV architecture and bodies, allowing for an average of 25% larger battery pack volume. These and other changes in new EV models are bringing longer range, more power, and faster charging. The purchase price is coming down for new EVs and a few older models like the Nissan Leaf.

Green Auto Market would add another factor to future EV sales: prepare for incentives drying up. The US appears to be going here faster than other countries, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s statement released this week, which was as many had expected it would be. Fuel economy and emissions standards appear to be softening up. Federal funding for alternative fuel vehicles and tax incentives for electric vehicles will also see little support. The U.S. may be going here sooner than other countries, but it is a factor in all of them as EV incentives eventually fade away. Costs will eventually be coming down through cheaper battery packs, and manufacturing uniformity and flexibility as the McKinsey study recommends. Manufacturers and dealers may have to fill some of that void with other incentives — rebates, zero percent financing, trade-ins, fleet discounts, etc.

EPA emissions ruling expected to soften up, Mack Trucks rolling out geofencing for emissions improvements

EPA ruling on emissions coming out soon:  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be releasing its final ruling on the fuel economy and emissions standards this week, as the deadline approaches Sunday, April 1. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to announce a cut in the standards and issue a new rule-making timeline. The new standards could be released as early as this summer. Bloomberg and Reuters, citing anonymous sources, reported on Friday that the second round of rule, covering 2022-2025, will be relaxed. Automakers had asked the Trump administration to stick to the original April 1 deadline, and to block the Obama administration’s late decision to accelerate and end the review. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has differing concerns than the EPA under the Obama administration. Margo Oge, the former EPA official who helped develop the fuel economy and emissions standards, said she is worried that NHTSA is preparing to “gut the 2025 program.” Her concerns have been raised by reports in Bloomberg that NHTSA was considering options such as dropping fleetwide fuel economy to 35.7 mpg by 2026, down from the 46.6 mpg target set under the Obama administration.

Nissan wants to maintain EV lead:  Nissan wants to maintain its market leader position in electric vehicle sales gained through the Nissan Leaf by launching eight new EVs and hitting a one million annual EV sales target by 2022. The new strategy will also mean bringing out 20 new models with autonomous driving technology to 20 markets by that time. All of its Nissan and Infiniti models will have 100% connectivity by that time, the company said. The Japanese automaker plans to increase global annual revenue during that time to 16.5 trillion yen ($160.0 billion), from the 12.8 trillion yen ($120.0 billion) announced in the fiscal year that ended last month. That will come through a sustained 8% operating profit margin, Nissan executives said at a briefing on Friday at Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama, Japan.

Mack Trucks finding fuel savings at ports:  Volvo Group’s Mack Trucks will be using “geofencing” technology to switch over a plug-in hybrid truck between electricity and diesel in a pilot program. Mack trucks is testing out an automated GPS-based system that can switch between multiple modes of operation to reduce diesel consumption and air pollution. The geofencing utilizes GOA and radio-frequency identification technology at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which has been able to increase fuel savings in the 25-to-30 percent range. The ports have become a hub for alternative fuel testing; that includes a Cummins Westport project testing low NOx natural gas engines, Toyota testing a fuel cell electric drayage truck, and a few battery-electric BYD drayage trucks moving freight from the ports to area warehouses.

 

Mahindra and Ford partnering on an EV, Investigating the Uber autonomous vehicle crash

Mahindra and Ford developing EV:  Mahindra Group and Ford Motor Company today announced they’ll be jointly developing new SUVs and a small electric vehicle. The companies see it as an opportunity to leverage Ford’s global reach and expertise and Mahindra’s scale in India and its successful operating model. One of the SUVs will be a midsize sport utility vehicle built on the Mahindra platform; it will be sold independently by both companies as separate brands. They’ve also agreed to evaluate co-development of a compact SUV and electric vehicle. They’ll also be working on connected car solutions for consumers. Mahindra has been bringing EVs to the Indian market in recent years, including the e20 through its Reva subsidiary.

Outlander PHEV important for Mitsubishi sales:  The Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid crossover vehicle could a “halo vehicle” for the brand in the U.S. to help increase sales. Hitting 130,000 vehicles sold per year in the U.S. is part of a three-year strategy unveiled late last year. The all-new Eclipse Cross crossover vehicle will also help increase sales, said Don Swearingen, COO of Mitsubishi Motors North America. The Outlander PHEV has seen strong sales results in Europe in recent years, and was finally launched in the U.S. late last year. It’s getting a national advertisement now in the U.S. and will have a national social media program, and some dealers are probably going to launch their own local market advertising programs to support Outlander PHEV sales, he said.

Investigating Uber autonomous vehicle fatality:  Toyota Motor Co. has suspended its self-driving car test drives to assess the situation following the pedestrian fatality in Tempe, Ariz. That fatality involving an Uber test vehicle and driver prompted the ride-hailing firm to suspend its tests in Tempe, Ariz., Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. Toyota has put its fleet of autonomous test vehicles on hold in Ann Arbor, Mich., and in the San Francisco area. Self-driving startup NuTonomy has put its Boston test vehicles on hold after city officials requested it after the Arizona fatal crash. Ford and General Motors are continuing their tests on public roads; Waymo and Lyft declined to comment on the status of their self-driving car test fleets since the fatal Uber collision.

There was a safety driver behind the wheel at the time of the Uber fatality, which raises the question of what the driver should have done to intervene; and if the driver would have been unable to stop the collision. Tempe police reported that a video from the Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a woman on Sunday shows her moving in front of the self-driving car suddenly, a factor that will affect conclusions made by investigators. Since then, more news has been reported on the findings. The onboard cameras showed that the operator didn’t have his eyes on the road, and that the pedestrian was visible for at least a second before the crash took place.

The National Transportation Safety Board opened an investigation into the fatal accident earlier this week. It’s the second autonomous vehicle technology fatality being investigated by the NTSB after the May 2016 crash that killed a Tesla driver while using the Autopilot semi-autonomous system. In September, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said operational limitations in the Tesla Model S played a major role in the May 2016 fatal crash. In January, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and NTSB sent investigators to research a crash that took place that month between a Tesla vehicle traveling in semi-autonomous mode and a fire truck in California.

UAW filing string of charges over Tesla’s Fremont plant, Ford faces set of challenges for profit and electrification

Tesla vs. UAW:  Labor relations are getting worse between Tesla Inc. and its factory workers in Fremont, Calif., which the UAW is using to file a string of unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. As was reported last week, conditions have been difficult for management and labor in Fremont as Tesla ramps up the Model 3 production line to try and reach goals that had been set last year. The UAW complaints may present another challenge for Tesla management to overcome to reach these targets and retain a stable workforce. The union conflict had been publicized in February 2017 when Tesla employee Jose Moran posted a blog article detailing harsh working conditions. Moran said that some of these workers had contacted the union because of it. In October, Tesla fired about 700 workers, which CEO Elon Musk said was part of routine performance reviews. Volkswagen has faced similar efforts from the UAW to organize its plant in Chattanooga. The union lost a vote in 2014 to unionize factory employees, but has successfully organized a group within the plant to stay with it. Workers in the greater Bay Area, where Fremont is based, have been known to be more supportive of unions than in other parts of the country; but the UAW and all the other major unions in the U.S. have been losing support and membership for several decades. Convincing a majority of the workforce to bring in the union is very difficult to carry out.

Nordic region strong in EV presence:  A new report from International Energy Agency recognizes the Nordic region (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) for taking the global lead on electric vehicle adoption. With nearly 250,000 electric cars sold in the region by the end of 2017, the five countries represent about 8% of the total number of these vehicles that have been sold around the world. Norway, Iceland, and Sweden have the highest ratios of EVs per person in the world. Norway leads the way with a 39% market share of electric car sales, the highest globally, and the Nordic region follows behind China and the U.S. as the third largest EV market for sales. Policy support has been behind much of the growth, according the IEA report. Successful programs have included measures reducing the purchase price of EVs, tax cutes, local incentives that exempt on road-use charges and parking fees, and policy support for the the charging infrastructure.

Ford CEO facing performance pressure:  Ford’s announcement last week that it will be taking on Toyota as the U.S. leader in hybrid sales comes at a time when Ford CEO Jim Hackett is being pressured to lead the company through a transition over to more profitable trucks and crossovers, electrification, and smart vehicle technologies. Last week, Ford said it will be replacing more than 75% of its North American lineup and adding four nameplates in the next two years. By 2020, the automaker hopes to see pickups, utilities, and vans making up 86% of its sales, up from about 70% today. The automaker will be selling eight utilities in North America, up from six today.

Ford says it will be offering a hybrid variant — either a traditional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or both — on every new utility it adds or redesigns going forward. The automaker expects to go from its current spot at No. 2 in hybrid sales to taking away the top spot from Toyota by 2021.

The automaker’s corporate moves have been aimed at refining its financial and market strength in the U.S. market along with its global presence. The global strategy has been heightened by China’s booming auto market and that government’s push for new energy vehicles.

Taking a look at its current sales in the U.S. vehicles shows that the company has a long way to go for hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric vehicles. As for Toyota’s U.S. electrified vehicles, the company sold 3,889 Prius Liftbacks in February. For the year, it has sold 7,900 in the U.S., slightly edging out the Ford Fusion Hybrid. The Toyota Prius C is at 1,527 and the Prius V is at 1,040 vehicles sold for the year. The Prius Prime plug-in hybrid has so far sold 3,546 units.

Ford is discontinuing the C-Max hatchback after six years on the U.S. market. U.S. production for the C-Max Hybrid will end in mid-2018, according to Automotive News, and production for the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid model has already ended. The C-Max has been the automaker’s worst-selling mass-market U.S. nameplate.

Analysts and shareholders have kept the pressure on Ford to improve financial and stock performance. The company has been accused of being too reliant on low-margin car models and outdated SUVs.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is thought to have tipped the auto industry more toward trucks with praise he’s received for killing the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 and emphasizing the Jeep SUV and Ram pickup. That’s helped FCA see its profits rise, which has grabbed attention with groups of shareholders.

The Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Impala may be pulled off assembly lines as the truck switchover continues. That would be ironic on the electrified vehicle side. Ford’s Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid have been fairly strong in U.S. sales.

Tesla seeing problems at Fremont plant, Ford wants to be greener than Toyota in hybrid sales

Chaotic conditions at Fremont plant:  Tesla appears to be experiencing what CEO Elon Musk last year called “manufacturing hell” at its Fremont, Calif., assembly plant as pressure mounts to increase Model 3 production. CNBC reported Wednesday that a current Tesla engineer estimated that 40% of parts made or received at the Fremont factory require rework. Sometimes, the parts need to be shipped back out of the plant for rework, and in other cases, vehicles seem to be pulled off the assembly line for repairs before being shipped out. Questions are being raised out how effective Musk has been managing the company through a difficult conversion to a mass market manufacturer. The electric automaker has been seeing other problems come up, including three of its top financial executives leaving recently. News came out earlier this week that the company stopped production in Fremont to adjust equipment that can increase the production rate. Production was reportedly suspended from February 20 to February 24 to make these changes. Some of the problems have also been traced back the Gigafactory battery plant near Reno, Nev. But most of the problems seem to be coming from the Fremont plant.

Maven bringing out shared GM vehicles:  General Motors will be launching a pilot project this summer that will enable GM vehicle owners to rent out their vehicles when they aren’t using them. Testing will start this summer through the automaker’s Maven car-sharing unit, said people familiar with the matter. They’ll be able to have their vehicles available on Maven’s platform. Other drivers can rent out the car and will share their revenue with GM. It could be ideal for Uber and Lyft drivers who need a car to carry passengers and generate income. Maven customers could use the borrowed cars for typical car-sharing purposes, such as driving to work or going out to buy groceries or pick up their kids at school. It’s one of several moves GM is taking to become a major mobility service company.

Tesla opening burger joint in Santa Monica:  Tesla will be opening up a what CEO Musk had tweeted about – “an old school drive-in, roller skates & rock restaurant” in the Los Angeles area where customers could grab a meal while their electric cars are being charged. The electric carmaker has applied for permits to build the restaurant and to place chargers outside the building in Santa Monica. If granted approval, Tesla will open up the burger joint at 1401 Santa Monica Blvd., which is currently being operated as a used-car lot. Tesla had already tried something similar last year by adding a “lounge” with a coffee shop at its Supercharger station in Kettleman City, near Bakersfield, Calif. The company is working at winning back disappointed customers who had complained they had nothing to do while their Tesla Model S, X, or 3, was being charged.

Ford wants to be hybrid vehicle leader:  Ford Motor Co. wants to become known as an even greener carmaker than Toyota in the next few years. Ford wants to beat Toyota as the top seller of hybrid vehicles in the U.S. in three years. Other plans include bringing in two off-road SUVs and creating hybrid or electric version of its other utility vehicles. It will eventually make up seven out of eight Ford vehicles sold each year starting in 2020, the company said.

“We’re moving past hybrids as a science project,” Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global markets, told reporters. ”They’re an accepted, reliable technology, and we want to make them as emotional and valuable as the desirable EcoBoost.”

Light-duty trucks – pickups, utility vehicles, and vans – will make up 86% of its sales by 2020, up from about 70% today, the company said. The company will be offering a hybrid variant – traditional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, or both – with every new utility it adds or refreshes from now on.

EPA chief Pruitt wants to keep California in check, Daimler Trucks exec sees diesel winning for now

Trump administration vs. California:  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt gave a strong indication the federal government is going to soften up on fuel economy and emissions standards, and may be in conflict with what the state of California is planning to do. During an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday, Pruitt said that California won’t be able to “dictate to the rest of the country what these levels are going to be.” The EPA is facing an April 1 deadline to decide on whether the Obama administration’s late ruling on 2022 to 2025 fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions will be kept in place. Pruitt also dismissed an offer by California to consider easing its current standards in exchange for extending them beyond 2025. The state is working on its own standards through 2030. “Being predictive about what’s going to be taking place out in 2030 is really hard,” Pruitt said. “I think it creates problems when you do that too aggressively. That’s not something we’re terribly focused on right now.”

Tesla still in talks with Shanghai:  China’s Shanghai province is having talks with Tesla Inc. over building a Tesla manufacturing plant locally. While Tesla CEO Elon Musk last week called that future relationship into question, the Shanghai government said in a press statement that communication between the two sides has always been positive with the shared goal of growing China’s new energy vehicle market. Musk’s tweets last week had been directed at President Donald Trump to help get a “fair outcome” in trade agreements with China. He’s like to see China open up its market and not demand the usual 50-50 joint venture companies with Chinese automakers. Tesla may be allowed to own its factory under a separate rule allowing provinces to establish “free trade zones.” The pressure is on Tesla to increase its presence in China and other markets to sell the Model 3 as the production rate speeds up. News came out this week that the company stopped production in Fremont, Calif., to adjust equipment that can increase the production rate. Production was reportedly suspended from February 20 to February 24 to make these changes.

Diesel winning over clean fuels in trucking:  Kary Schaefer, general manager of marketing and strategy for Daimler Trucks North America, during a keynote speech last week at the Work Truck Show’s Green Truck Summit in Indianapolis, said that diesel is winning for now over alternative fuels. Daimler Trucks is taking natural gas and electricity seriously as alternative fuels, but neither will be taking the lead away from diesel anytime soon. Daimler’s Freightliner Trucks subsidiary showed off several natural gas-powered trucks in the exhibit hall. The truck maker’s Fuso division is rolling out the eCanter electric medium-duty truck and the E-Fuso Class 8 electric truck. But for now, diesel is still the most efficient and cost-effective fuel, the Daimler executive said. While natural gas and battery-powered have become the most talked-about alternatives to diesel, their limitations are causing fleets to look more carefully at their options, she said. Charging and alternative fueling stations are very limited in comparison to ample diesel stations across the country. There’s also the question of realistic range for the vehicle. Electric trucks are particularly vulnerable to temperature, cargo loads, and speed traveled on highways in having enough range to carry out the freight hauling goals of fleet operators. Schaefer does see gains being made in new connected vehicle technologies, including active safety systems. She also supports the idea that green goes beyond tailpipe emissions; managers are encouraged to bring sustainability practices into their strategic planning while reducing cost and waste. Other highlights at the Green Truck Summit included XL Hybrids introducing the Ford F-150 XLP plug-in hybrid pickup, which can improve fuel economy by up to 50%. Lightning Systems showed off an electric Fort Transit cargo van that’s adding a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that can extend range by 200 miles.

More Chevrolet Bolts will be made this year to meet global market demand, Geneva Motor Show showcasing European makers becoming more Tesla-competitive

More Chevy Bolts coming off assembly line:  General Motors will be building more Chevrolet Bolts later this year to meet rising global demand, said CEO Mary Barra on Wednesday during a CERAWeek energy conference speech in Houston. The company declined to clarify specific numbers. Last year, GM reported selling 23,297 Bolts in the U.S. Barra said that the Lake Orion, Mich., assembly plant can be easily adjusted to build more Bolts. Barra also called for expansion of the $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicle purchases. GM vehicles will be seeing that incentive phase out later this year unless the cap is lifted. The automaker’s commitment to zero-emission vehicles – battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – will stay in place regardless of changes to federal fuel economy standards, Barra said.

Shareholders backing generous pay package for Musk:  Two of Tesla’s largest shareholders are supporting a move to reward CEO Elon Musk with a compensation package valued at $2.6 billion, to keep him around for several more years. Baillie Gifford & Co. and T. Rowe Price Group Inc., which combined own about 14% of Tesla stock, appear likely to go that way during a March 21 special meeting of the board. It comes from a compensation plan proposed in late January offering Musk 20.3 million stock options that will be carried out in 12 increments if market-value measures and other financial goals are met. The company would have to reach about $650 billion in market value for the full award to come through, which equates to about a 12-fold increase in current market valuation. It’s a much larger version of compensation Musk received in 2012 for hitting company targets. Musk currently owns about 20% of Tesla. He and his brother Kimbal Musk, a company director, won’t be voting on the plan during the March 21 meeting.

European makers compete with Tesla at Geneva auto show:  The Geneva International Motor Show, which started this week and runs through March 18, has become a showcase for automakers to take on Tesla for electric vehicle sales. It follows close behind the Tesla Model S beating the Mercedes-Benz S class and BMW 7 series in European sales for the first time. This year will see even more pressure as the Tesla Model 3 in higher production numbers than the Model S and Model X.

Volkswagen unveiled the I.D. Vizzion concept car, an all-electric midsize sedan scheduled to launch in 2022 and will be sold as the flagship model for the I.D. electric subbrand. Its Audi division is showing off its E-tron Sportback, and its Porsche brand revealed the Mission E Cross Turismo, a new concept version of its upcoming Mission E all-electric car. The Cross Turismo will be a crossover with all-wheel drive and plenty of cargo capacity.

Jaguar’s I-Pace all-electric crossover will be launched this year. At $70,495, including delivery charges, it will be directly competing with the Tesla Model X, which starts at $79,500, excluding shipping. Deliveries to the U.S. will begin during the second half of 2018, Jaguar said.

Mercedes-Benz is displaying the EQC electric SUV, which will be the automaker’s first production battery-electric vehicle. It will also be the fist of its models under the new all-electric EQ subbrand.

British luxury carmaker Bentley unveiled its first plug-in vehicle, the Bentayga Hybrid, during the show this week. The company hailed it as the world’s first luxury plug-in hybrid model. It’s powered by an advanced electric motor with a new-generation V6 gasoline engine.