Waymo ready to launch first commercial AV service, Get ready for AutoMobility LA

The age of robotaxis is ready to launch:  Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo division is preparing to launch the first-ever commercial autonomous vehicle service in early December, according to a source familiar with the plans. It will be run under its own brand and compete directly with mobility companies like Uber and Lyft. It won’t be a splashy opening, but the start of a trial run in suburbs around Phoenix. That’s where Waymo’s Early Rider Program has been tested with a group of 400 volunteer families who’ve been taking autonomous rides with the company for more than a year. This news coincided with a comments made by Waymo’s chief John Krafcik speaking at Wall Street Journal’s TechD D.Live conference on Tuesday. Krafcik said the service will start with a small group of riders in the Phoenix area but will be expanding in the coming months. Passengers can pay for rides and corporate customers such as Walmart Inc. are planning on having their customers shuttled to the chain’s stores in these vehicles. Earlier this year, Waymo announced plans to buy thousands of vehicles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tata Motors’ Jaguar Land Rover to expand its self-self-driving vehicle fleet.

VW ramping up to mass produce EVs:  Volkswagen said it will convert three German factories to build electric vehicles — to meet expected demand and complete its commitment to zero emission vehicles made after the diesel-emissions scandal broke three years ago. The VW plant in Emden, which currently builds the VW Passat, would build electric cars from 2022 onwards, and its factory in Hannover would also start producing EVs the same year. Together with the company’s current Zwickau plant, it will make for Europe’s largest network for the production of EVs in Europe, the company said. This week, the German automaker also announced it will be spending 44 billion euros ($50.2 billion) on EVs, digitalization, autonomous driving and new mobility services by 2023. That will make for a plan 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) more compared to last year’s planning round by VW.

Tesla buying trucking companies, facing more investor suits:  Tesla chief Elon Musk tweeted Thursday that the company has acquired a few trucking firms to meet its delivery targets. The real challenge for Tesla this year has been building and delivering enough Model 3 compact electric cars to come close to meeting its earlier commitments to do so. It will shave off at least a month of time that it takes by using rail to get its electric cars to the East Coast. “We bought some trucking companies & secured contracts with major haulers to avoid trucking shortage mistake of last quarter,” Musk wrote without revealing details on the acquired companies.

Along with getting through hellish production schedules, the company has had to face a mounting crisis over Musk’s infamous August tweet on taking Tesla private. It will be likely be leading to two or three separate groups of securities fraud lawsuits, according to lawyers for shareholders. It would run the gamut of shareholders and their claimed losses, from traditional longtime institutional investors to others shorting the stock or holding options. The case presents “so many different types of investors and investments, long and short,” U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said at a hearing Thursday in San Francisco. “That may have some effect on how I measure who has the greatest financial interest.”

Get ready for AutoMobility LA and LA Auto Show:  AutoMobility LA will be taking place Nov. 26-29, 2018, in Los Angeles, featuring speakers and workshops on the latest in autonomy, connectivity, electrification, the sharing economy, and more. It’s the prelude to the 2018 LA Auto Show, which runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 9 at the LA Convention Center. More than 60 debut vehicles are scheduled for this year’s AutoMobility LA, with nearly half making their world premiere. Jeep will be rolling out a pickup, and Kia is expected to have multiple vehicles make their world debut, including one of the brand’s best-selling cars. Audi has confirmed that the e-tron GT concept 4-door electric performance coupe will make its global premiere at AutoMobility LA.

Keynote speakers during AutoMobility LA include Giovanni Palazzo, CEO of Volkswagen’s Electrify America, talking about “Racing to Create an Open, Fast-Charging Network Ready for a Tidal Wave of EVs.” Ted Klaus, VP and executive engineer of Honda R&D Americas, will discuss “Safe Swarm: Preparing Highways for the Autonomous Future.” Ned Curic, VP of Amazon Alexa Automotive, will speak on “Now We’re Taking: Amazon Alexa.”

Other speakers include: Luke Schneider, CEO of Silvercar, Audi’s app-based car rental service; Megan Stooke, CMO of General Motor’s Maven car-sharing service; and Jenny Ha, senior exterior designer at Lucid Motors.

Amazon bringing in delivery fleet operators, Jaguar Land Rover upping its EV investments

Amazon building delivery network:  Amazon has taken another step to disrupt transportation through its new Delivery Service Partners program, which is creating a network of small business owners operating fleets of up to 40 delivery vehicles. Hundreds of small business owners may join, which could further take share away from UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service. Those joining the new network will get training and use of logistics technology from Amazon. Participating businesses can get discounts on vehicles, uniforms, fuels, and insurance. In recent years, Amazon has been building its logistics and transportation presence through air freight delivery, heavy-duty trucks, and the Amazon Flex network of independent contractors. President Donald Trump has criticized Amazon for getting the U.S. Postal Service to deliver its packages at bargain prices and for paying “little or no taxes to state & local governments,” according to one of his tweets.

Looking at the Big Picture: Green Auto Market’s take on developments impacting the auto industry, global economy, and clean transportation.

Jaguar Land Rover has upped its investments in electrified vehicles by 26% — now up to 13.5 billion pounds ($18 billion) over the next three years. The British automaker plans to offer electrified versions of all its nameplates. The company has seen its diesel vehicle sales drop and low profitability led to negative cash flow. JLR plans to produce by 2025 three versions of all its vehicles, including those powered by petroleum fuels, batteries, or a combination of both. The automaker will only offer all-electric versions of its product lineup if there is enough demand, a company spokesman said. This year has seen introduction of the Jaguar I-Pace all-electric crossover. The company plans to use its China factory to produce an EV such as the I-Pace, where competitive brands Audi to Mercedes are investing money to dominate that part of the market.

Volt getting faster charger:  General Motors has cut charging time down for the 2019 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid nearly in half by doubling the kilowatt capacity. The new 7.2 kilowatt charging system reduces the charging time from about 4.5 hours to 2.3 hours with a 240-volt outlet, GM said Thursday. The enhanced charging system is standard on the Volt Premier trim and will be available as an option on LT trim for the 2019 model year. Range will remain the same on the 2019 model, with 53 miles of battery only and total range of 420 miles on gasoline and electricity.

Tesla Model 3 hits more snags:  Tesla’s struggles to hit Model 3 production continue, with a fourth assembly line added this month under a tent at its Fremont, Calif., plant. Reaching the 5,000 units per week by the end of June isn’t looking good. Battery supplier Panasonic has been facing supply shortages, which would affect Tesla at the Nevada Gigafactory. There have also been two fires at the Fremont plant this month that forced temporary production halts. Reaching the overall target has been a missed mark for Tesla ever since the beginning of Model 3 output.

Hyundai enters energy storage market:  Hyundai Motor Group is working with Finnish corporation Wärtsilä for second-life electric vehicle batteries to reach the growing energy storage market. The global partnership will combine HMG’s expansion in electric vehicles with Wärtsilä’s growing energy business, which includes 67 GW of installed power plants and advanced energy storage technologies and software created through the acquisition of Greensmith Energy. It will tap into Wärtsilä’s existing customer and channel networks across 177 countries globally. Hyundai joins up with several other global automakers, such as Nissan, Tesla, and BMW, now serving the energy storage market.

Lyft raising more capital:  Ride-hailing firm Lyft has raised $600 million in a funding round led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, a subsidiary of Fidelity Investments and a prior Lyft investor. The company could raise up to $1 billion if its able to secure a strategic investor. Prior rounds have included General Motors and Chinese ride-hailing leader Didi Chuxing. Lyft has raised over $4.91 billion in venture capital and private equity funding, according to Crunchbase data. It’s market valuation is now at about $15 billion, double what it was during an April 2017 valuation. Lyft continues to battle Uber for ride-hailing and ride-sharing customers, and has been slowly expanding its presence beyond the U.S. market.

Kroger entering autonomous delivery business:  Grocery retailer Kroger is offering same-day autonomous vehicle deliveries through a partnership with self-driving vehicle startup Nuro. A pilot project will start this fall in several markets yet to be announced. It will use Nuro’s electric pod vehicles for short-range deliveries. The startup hopes to have a strong presence in “last-mile delivery” in markets such as groceries, dry cleaning, meals, an item left at a friends house, and other services. Kroger, which runs the Ralph’s grocery chain, has been getting ready to compete directly with Amazon and its grocery delivery service.

 

Feds working with CARB on clean vehicle rules, Ford and Postmates testing self-driving deliveries

Working out fuel economy and emissions rules:  Federal officials met last month with California Air Resources Board members to work out differences in fuel economy and emissions standards. On Dec. 15, William Wehrum, head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration deputy chief Heidi King, and Mike Catanzaro, a senior White House aide, discussed goals with CARB officials on maintaining one set of national requirements for automakers in the cars they sell, according to Automotive News. Automakers have been asking the Trump administration to be lenient on fuel economy standards based on the realities of new vehicles being sold with gasoline prices staying low and consumers being more interested in trucks and SUVs. California has taken a more independent, stringent tactic on its zero emissions rules. “We’ve had productive conversations under way with CARB and I would hope those conversations continue to be productive,” Wehrum said. “I think a shared goal is to maintain one national program.”

AeroVironment’s TurboDX chargers:  AeroVironment introduced TurboDX, the company’s next-generation EV charging station for commercial, workplace, utility and residential customers around the world, during CES 2018 in Las Vegas. TurboDX includes 120 and 240 volt charging in a durable, reliable, fast, and safe solution adaptable to a wide range of users’ needs. It’s been certified by Underwriters Laboratory to North American UL Standards for safety and reliability. European variants are certified to IEC standards and bear the CE Mark. Chinese configurations have met CQC certification. An OEM-branded version of the TurboDX has begun manufacturing in China and will ship to customers starting this month.

Hydrogen stations in Japan:  A consortium of 11 companies have signed an agreement to scale up deployment of hydrogen stations and fuel cell vehicles in Japan. A new company will be started up in the spring of 2018 to develop refueling stations. The list includes Toyota, Nissan, Honda, financial institutions, and oil and energy companies including Air Liquide Japan. One of the targets will be to have 160 stations in place fueling 40,000 fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

Ford testing self-driving deliveries with Postmates:  During CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Ford Motor Co. announced a test project being conducted with the Postmates delivery service. City dwellers and workers can tap into the convenience of having deliveries made through a quick and easy process on their mobile device. It will support future efforts to deliver meals and store purchases to consumers though self-driving vehicles. Both the merchants and the consumers’ experiences will be explored during the test project.

In late August, Ford began placing a self-driving test car through a trial project with Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s Pizza employees carried out pizzas for delivery in a Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle in an Ann Arbor, Mich., test project. Users were able to track the delivery through Domino’s Tracker mobile app.

Ford safety engineers and a few other researchers went on these delivery rounds to make sure it was being carried out safely and accurately. Consumer opinions about the Domino’s ordering and delivery experience were also tapped into.

Postmates is distinct in the market for delivering just about anything – fast food, restaurant meals, groceries, and hardware store items. Much larger companies, such as Amazon, and exploring deliveries and forging their own alliances in all these areas.

Last year, Uber created an alliance with McDonald’s to bring Happy Meals and other menu offerings to those who order it. Automakers see huge potential in forging alliances with technology companies and mobility services like Lyft. Consumers and employers are showing high demand for specialized mobility services that remain fast, efficient, and affordable. It’s much better than being stuck in traffic and looking endlessly for a place to park.

Tesla resets target dates for Model 3 production, VW partnership for smart mobility services

Newsworthy stories:  Tesla Inc. is slowly ramping up to meet its original production target for the Model 3, moving the 5,000 unit target into the second quarter. In its quarterly statement this week, the company announced that it delivered 1,550 Model 3 small sedans in Q4 2017, up from 220 the previous quarter. Tesla expects to reach a 2,500 unit weekly rate by the end of the first quarter, and the 5,000 per week milestone by the end of the second quarter. It was a good quarter and year for the electric automaker, with 101,312 of the Model S and Model X vehicles delivered in 2017 – a 33% increase over 2016. It was the best quarter ever for Tesla, with 15,200 Model S and 13,120 Model X vehicles delivered, representing a 27% increase over Q4 2016. As for the new Model 3, the company will “continue to focus on quality and efficiency rather than simply pushing for the highest possible volume in the shortest period of time.”…………. Westport Fuel Systems Inc. has entered into a development and supply agreement with Tata Motors for their 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder natural gas spark-ignited commercial vehicle engines to meet the Indian government’s new Bharat Stage VI emission standards, scheduled to take effect in April of 2020. Westport Fuel Systems has been working with Indian automaker Tata Motors since 2012, most recently working together on developing their next generation of natural gas spark-ignited engines to meet the BS-VI emission standards. Upon completion of the program, Westport will be supplying the critical natural gas components to Tata Motors, including advanced gas injection systems and controls…………..  CALSTART’s Clean Transportation Summit – California: 2030 will be taking place March 26-27 at the Sacramento Convention Center. This summit succeeds the Clean, Low Carbon Fuels Summit, which ran annually for the past five years with the purpose of building political support for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The first day of this year’s summit kicks off with concurrent sessions focused on electrification, Low NOx Natural Gas Vehicles market development, voucher incentives, and opportunities and issues for autonomous, electric and connected vehicles. The day concludes with a reception followed by a full day of General Session programming. Early bird discount registration will end on January 25. Learn more about the event here……………  U.S. car owners now lease almost 80% of battery electric vehicles and 55 percent of plug-in hybrids, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The lease rate for the country’s entire new vehicle purchases has been around 30% recently. However, Tesla does not reveal how many of its vehicles are leased. Consumers seem to be turning to leasing for the payment savings and because used vehicle values for electric vehicles have been weak in the marketplace. Consumers concerned about used vehicle values also tend to expect that the next generation of EVs with new technology and longer range will have stronger value on the used car market……………. California would ban the sale of new vehicles powered by fossil fuels in 2040 under legislation introduced Wednesday in the state Legislature. If passed, it would be a significant part of the state’s drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. The law would require that all new vehicles sold after Jan. 1, 2040, would be zero emission vehicles such as battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. “We’re at an inflection point: we’ve got to address the harmful emissions that cause climate change,” said Democratic Assemblymember Phil Ting, the bill’s author.

VW adding to its automated mobility presence:  The Volkswagen Group and self-driving technology company, Aurora Innovation, announced a strategic collaboration ahead of the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Aurora Innovation also signed a deal with Hyundai this week, similar to its alliance with VW, to bring its self-driving software into commercial use. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., and Pittsburgh, Penn., Aurora designs and builds self-driving technology, partnering with automakers to integrate, pilot and deploy advanced self-driving platforms into vehicles. Founded by CEO Chris Urmson, Chief Product Officer Sterling Anderson and Chief Technical Officer Drew Bagnell, Aurora is working to solve today’s most complex AI, automation and engineering challenges to improve transportation and positively impact cities. Urmson had played a leading role at Google’s self-driving car unit, before it became Waymo.

The collaboration between VW and Aurora aims to bring self-driving electric vehicles in cities as Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) fleets. The collaboration will bring together a world-class engineering team to the ongoing development of software and hardware for driverless vehicles, and for mobility services for urban and rural areas. Cities can use the smart mobility solutions to help solve their traffic, pollution, and traffic safety challenges.

Automakers have been making serious investments in mobility and autonomous technology companies in the past two years. Ford acquired on-demand shuttle service Chariot in 2016 and then bought a majority stake in self-driving startup Argo.AI for $1 billion. Daimler now owns Hailo, MyTaxi, Taxibeat, and Ridescout. General Motors owns Cruise Automation and has a stake in Lyft.

Volkswagen’s MOIA division is preparing to bring mobility services to cities around the world. In early December, MOIA unveiled an all-electric car at the TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin event. It’s been designed to provide usable space for up to six passengers. It will make its official debut in service on roads beginning in Hamburg in 2018, where the company expects to put about 200 cars on the road at first. It’s based on ridesharing for users who seek to pool their vehicle use.

For Today: Tesla semi-tractor is being delayed yet again, Waymo promoting the safety of self-driving cars

Another delay on Tesla truck:  The Tesla semi-tractor heavy-duty truck is being delayed yet again, this time until mid-November. Resources will go instead to fix production bottlenecks for the Model 3. Another priority, in which Musk tweeted about, is diverting resources to help bring Puerto Rico back through battery production to help the island recover from hurricane devastation. Residents have been going without electricity. Tesla was below its production target to build more than 1,500 Model 3 units in the third quarter. The company had just delivered around 220 Model 3 sedans and produced 260 during the quarter. Earlier this week Tesla reported that “production bottlenecks” had left it behind the planned ramp-up for the Model 3.

Charging study:  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published a study on the state of charging stations in the U.S. The study looked into best practices for avoiding wasting funds on charging equipment that could be the wrong type or located in the wrong places. There are quite a few variables to consider including the ratio of plug-in hybrid to battery electric vehicles. Plug-in hybrids have smaller battery packs than all-electrics; they charge faster and become depleted more quickly. Drivers do have the advantage of running out of battery power and getting there powered by a gasoline engine.

Waymo public education drive:  Waymo is teaming up with non-profit groups to talk Americans into believing in the safety of self-driving cars. Google’s self-driving car company is teaming up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the National Safety Council, and the Federation for Blind Children in a campaign called “Let’s Talk Self-Driving.” Waymo also emphasizes that autonomous vehicles can eliminate most alcohol-related fatal crashes, and would offer the blind a transportation option. The company said the public awareness ad campaign will begin in Arizona on Monday. That’s where Waymo has been doing a lot of its self-driving car testing. The ad campaign will be delivered through digital ads, outdoor billboards, fuel pump advertising, and radio spots.

 

For Today: BMW up in plug-in sales, Sustainable fleet series at AltCar Expo

BMW up in plug-in sales:  BMW and Mini sold 8,138 electric vehicles in July, up 52.7% year-over-year. Models come under the BMW i and BMW iPerformance brands, along with the new plug-in hybrid Mini. Plug-in vehicles made up 4.5% of marketshare for all of the company’s vehicle sold last month. For the year, the automaker has delivered 50,711 plug-in vehicles, up a huge gain of 74.8% for the year.

Governments competing for autonomous vehicle mantle:  The push for autonomous technology is pitting cities and states against each other in a race to be the first to lead the way. The payoff is expected to come from economic gains and bragging rights in technology innovation; not to mention other gains expected from self-driving vehicles. Nevada and Michigan are implementing several test projects, and California continues to play a leading role. Strategy Analytics, a research firm, predicts that the “passenger economy,” a segment emerging based on autonomous vehicles will grow from $800 billion to $7 trillion by 2050.

Sustainable Fleet Series:  Early bird registration of $18 will end August 18th for fleet managers, sustainability directors, business owners, legislators, and others attending AltCar Expo & Conference. This will take place Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, at the Santa Monica Civic’s East Wing. Use the registration code AC17EB for the 67% discount. The Sustainable Fleet Series is a brand new seminar offered by NAFA,  with writing a Sustainable Fleet Plan being one of the topics discussed. This introductory session will be available to those attending AltCar 2017, the 12th annual conference sponsored by the city of Santa Monica.

 

 

 

For Today: Mazda goes sustainable, car2go increasing ridership

Mazda sustainability drive:  Mazda just released details on Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030 that includes the first ever commercialized gasoline engine with a compression ignition. That will bring 20% to 30% more fuel efficiency than current models on the market with Mazda’s Skyactiv technology. The corporate sustainability campaign will shoot for 2019 to roll out the new Skyactiv-X and its first electric vehicle. That could be coordinated with its Toyota alliance for jointly developing EVs. Sustainable Zoom-Zoom is structured around reducing corporate carbon dioxide emissions, well-to-wheel, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

Uber battle continues:  Former Uber chief Travis Kalanick won’t be returning to his previous job leading the ride-hailing company, co-founder Garret Camp said. The company is committed to bringing in a new “world-class CEO to lead Uber,” he said in an email to challenge a news report published in Recode. Kalanick stepped down in late June, seven years after starting the global giant with a group of Silicon Valley buddies. The pressure was intensifying following a series of revelations of questionable business practices, including being a bad place for women to work. Kalanick told Recode that he is “Steve Jobs-ing it,” which means he thinks Uber will have to bring him back to lead the company to victory, as Apple had done with Jobs. Several Uber board members disagree with Kalanick.

car2go seeing growth:  Daimler’s car sharing unit, car2go, reported that its usage increased 40% year-over-year in the first half of 2017 compared to a year prior. That’s taking place at 11 North American locations with 4.5 million trips taken so far this year. Members are spending 33% more time traveling this year than last. The company is in discussions with other cities about car2go opening shop there, with the company emphasizing the environmental and economic benefits of using its one-way carsharing model.

For Today: Will Apple build its own autonomous electric cars? GM builds first self-driving Bolts

Apple Project Titan:  During an interview with Bloomberg Television last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is making autonomous vehicle technology a top priority. There’s been a lot of speculation over whether Apple will one day take its secret Project Titan electric autonomous car to its own factories. Cook wouldn’t speak to that topic, but did admit that autonomous vehicles is one of three technologies directing artificial intelligence in Silicon Valley – up there with electric vehicles and ride-hailing services. “We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects,” Cook said. “It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.”

Proterra funding:  Electric busmaker Proterra just closed another funding round with $55 million coming through BMW i Ventures and Al Gore’s sustainability focused investment firm Generation Investment Management LLP. “More than ever before, cities are looking for sustainable transportation solutions that can reduce pollution efficiently and effectively. Proterra is incredibly well positioned to help accelerate the growth of sustainable cities and continue our transition to a clean energy economy,” said Gore, the former vice president and climate change activist who serves as chairman at Generation Investment Management.

Autonomous Bolts:  General Motors just announced that it has finished building 130 autonomous Chevy Bolt test vehicles at its plant in Lake Orion, Mich. That means the company is now capable of mass producing autonomous Bolts and other self-driving models. CEO Mary Barra has said GM is the only automaker capable of building high-volume autonomous vehicles in its assembly plant. GM will also working with ride-hailing firm Lyft on testing these vehicles with Lyft drivers.

For Today: Lots more Tesla factories coming, 2 million EVs worldwide

Several more Tesla factories: Tesla has some very big plans in store, according to CEO Elon Musk during yesterday’s annual shareholder meeting. The company may need to build at least three and possibly as many as 10 or 20 new factories to keep up with expected demand. That will include the current models, the upcoming Model 3, and the Model Y crossover, which Musk says is the next new vehicle in development for a 2019 launch. It will be the company’s most popular vehicle ever, he said, so a lot more new factories will be needed; and to support more Gigafactory battery production. Other hot topics included whether to change board member seats to annual instead of staggered three year (which failed), and safety concerns for Fremont, Calif., plant workers (Tesla is dealing with it, Musk said).

Latest in automated tech: Bosch and TomTom have brought a first-ever to automated driving – high-resolution maps. Video data is being used from radar signals with billions of individual reflection points. Automated vehicles can use the map to determine their exact location in a lane down to a few centimeters, Bosch said. It will enable these vehicles to reliably determine their location at all times. Reflection points are formed everywhere that radar signals hit – for example, on crash barriers or road signs – and reproduce the course a road takes. It speaks to safety during a time when industry leaders like Bill Ford are asking questions about how autonomous vehicle technology will really work; and how it will respond to emergencies and unexpected occurrences that happen while driving.

2 million EVs: There were about two million plug-in electrified passenger vehicles on roads around the world by the end of 2016, according to an International Energy Agency report. That number was next to zero just five years earlier; however it’s still just 0.2% of light-duty vehicles, according to the report. Last year saw a surge in sales – 60% more than in 2015, with much of that taking place in China. “China was by far the largest electric car market, accounting for more than 40% of the electric cars sold in the world and more than double the amount sold in the United States,” the IEA wrote in the report. “It is undeniable that the current electric car market uptake is largely influenced by the policy environment.”

For Today: Ford changes over chief executive as profit pressure mounts, California sees leap in electric car sales

Ford changes over CEO:  Ford’s Mark Field is stepping down as chief executive as profit pressures increase from shareholders. He’ll be replaced by Jim Hackett, who’s known for his efforts transforming the world’s largest office furniture manufacturer, Steelcase, and hiring popular University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh while serving as athletic director. He most recently served as chairman of Ford Smart Mobility, a new division created last year to oversee Ford’s ventures in autonomous vehicles and mobility services. Ford Motor Co.’s share price has dropped 39% since Fields took over the CEO job from Alan Mulally in 2014, and the company’s U.S. auto sales are down 5.1% year-to-date. Fields has been pouring billions into self-driving car projects and ride-sharing units. While the company hasn’t introduced any new plug-in vehicles in its lineup lately, Fields did have big plans for increasing Ford’s electrified vehicle presence in China and adding slowly to Ford’s electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles, including the all-new hybrid police car. Several other management changeovers were announced by the company, including moving Jim Farley up to executive vice president and president, Global Markets. Fields had been seeing increasing pressure from shareholders lately, which was heightened earlier this month during the annual directors and shareholder’s meeting. Officially, the company said Fields has chosen to retire after 28 years with the company. Hackett, the new CEO, is being placed in a similar role to ex-Boeing executive Alan Mulally, an outsider brought in to stabilize the company in 2006. Executive Chairman Bill Ford compared Hackett to Alan Mulally during today’s announcement. “Alan captured the hearts and minds of our employees and made them feel not only could we win but that we would win,” Ford told reporters. “I think that’s something that you’ll see very much with Jim. Jim is a cultural change agent.”

PEV sales in California way up:  California saw a 91% increase of plug-in electrified vehicles during the first quarter compared to that same time period in 2016. All-electric vehicles led the way at 13,804 units sold, with the Chevy Bolt doing especially well at 2,735 vehicles sold during the first quarter. Tesla models and the Nissan Leaf also did well. Plug-in hybrids performed well, making up 10,466 units sold, a 54% increase over last year. Conventional hybrids like the Prius were down almost 10% during the quarter at 22,328 sold. The Toyota Prius Prime did well in the plug-in hybrid category. PEV sales made up 2.7% of new vehicles sales in California during the first quarter.

BMW wants leadership in electric:  BMW CEO Harald Krueger said the German automaker is focusing more on electric vehicles and connectivity than on increasing vehicles sales. Last year, the company reached its highest sales level at 2.37 million units sold from the BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce brands. It reached sales of 62,000 plug-in hybrids and 25,000 all-electric i3s last year. The goal is to hit the 100,000 units sold mark this year with electrified vehicles. While the company is committed to selling more battery-powered cars, Krueger sad that fuel cell vehicles will be important in the company’s future plans, as well.