Cruise finds itself subject to an alleged whistleblower’s letter, Nissan reportedly plans to kill the Leaf, VinFast now has an American retail presence. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
Someone Blows The Whistle On Cruise
A whistleblower claiming to be an employee for GM’s Cruise autonomous vehicle company has reportedly filed a letter to California regulators over claims of sub-optimal safety culture at the firm. Automotive News reports that the letter arrived two weeks ahead of Cruise’s regulatory approval for robotaxi services, making it to the California Public Utilities Commission on May 19. According to Automotive News, the letter itself seems to detail a sort of culture where safety might not be first, including in regard to Cruise’s much-publicized clustering problems where autonomous vehicles would just freeze on the spot. While some clustering problems can be solved remotely, some can’t.
There have been some cases where fallback systems have also failed and it was not possible to remotely maneuver the vehicle outside of the lanes they were blocking until they were physically towed from their location to a facility.
For context, the first widely-reported clustering incident happened on June 28, quite some while after this letter was filed. In addition, the letter is said to allege a culture that puts profit over safety.
Employees generally do not believe we are ready to launch to the public, but there is fear of admitting this because of expectations from leadership and investors.
Regardless of how this shakes out, it’s going to be an interesting time for Cruise. Autonomous vehicles are hard and all sorts of firms seem to be learning that the hard way.
Mini Unveils One-Off Electric Convertible
Alright, this one just isn’t fair. It’s no secret that Fun small cars are great, convertibles are great, and electrification can be great. After rummaging through its parts bin, presumably over an ale or two, Mini has mashed the electric drivetrain of the Cooper SE into a cabriolet body, producing something so ridiculously close to production-feasible that it’s genuinely maddening how Mini’s all like “haha, jk, unless?”
Aside from “THIS TOY IS ELECTRIC” plastered down the sides in one billion point font, [Editor’s Note: Is it just me, or is that typography really half-assed looking? – JT] this electric Mini cabriolet has it all. U.S.-spec reflectors, SE trim bits, zero reduction in (admittedly tiny) trunk space, and that wonderful open-top feeling. Range likely isn’t brilliant seeing how the standard Cooper SE’s rated for 114 miles of range, but speaking from experience, handling is likely wicked good fun. Who knows, maybe an electric drop-top Mini is in the cards for the next generation. Mini has already announced the arrival of its next-generation electric three-door hatchback in 2024, so hopefully a cabriolet arrives shortly thereafter. It’s also worth noting that I didn’t photoshop the fake-looking bird thing [Editor’s Note: That could be real! What is it, a Greylag Goose? Is there a Shazam for waterfowl? – JT] into this press photo, all I’ve done is apply a slight crop. No, I don’t know why Mini went with birds, but I’m glad they did. We could really use more weird press photos in this industry.
Nissan Plans On Killing The Leaf – Report
In “Wow, how could I have ever guessed?” news, Automotive News reports that Nissan plans on not replacing the Leaf once its model life cycle has run its course. Honestly, I can’t say I’m particularly shocked.
Nissan does not plan to bring out a next-generation Leaf and instead will replace it with a new model more tuned to the needs of the modern EV buyer, three sources told Automotive News. Sources were split on whether the Leaf name would continue. Production of the current Leaf should end by mid-decade.
While the Leaf was certainly a pioneer in the modern electric vehicle segment, it’s aged with all the grace of sour cream left on a windowsill. A maximum range of 226 miles with the big battery pack isn’t impressive by today’s standards, and the use of a now-outdated CHAdeMO charging connector seriously hobbles infrastructure support for the Leaf. Seriously, in a decade or so, CHAdeMO connectors will as obsolete as the old J1773 MagneCharge connectors. While the Leaf definitely served a purpose, it’s time to take a bow has come.
VinFast Now Has An American Retail Presence
Vietnamese EV maker VinFast made a massive splash at last year’s Los Angeles auto show with fresh models, American retail plans, and a massive display space. While plans for a U.S. market launch in 2022 seemed ambitious, they really seem to be coming towards fruition. Case in point, VinFast opened six retail stores in California this week, all before vehicles are even on sale.
Actually, it’s not even just that VinFast’s lineup isn’t on sale yet. VinFast’s lineup hasn’t even completed the regulatory approval process yet. While this may seem shocking, it’s actually a good sign. Any EV startup in 2022 with a proper distribution network probably isn’t vaporware, and these corporate-owned spaces that can’t yet sell cars seem like cool opportunities for consumer to check out new EVs without being massively pressured into a sale. Expect more VinFast showrooms to open in the coming months as the automaker continues its U.S. push.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on this edition of The Morning Dump. Happy Friday, everyone! To celebrate, let’s play a game. You have an unlimited amount of money to amass four vehicles, the catch is that none of them can be powered by gasoline. One must be electric, one diesel, one hydrogen, one can use any other propulsion technology, so long as it isn’t gasoline. You probably already know where I’m going with this one. Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo, F11 Alpina D5 Biturbo Touring, Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE protoype, and a sweet vintage Dan Gurney Eagle Deluxe BMX build. How about you? What’s in your dream anything-but-gasoline garage?
Lead photo credit: Cruise