It’s been a bad few months for GM’s driverless car startup Cruise, including an incident where one of its robotaxis dragged an injured woman underneath itself for 20 feet and the subsequent suspension of its service by the State of California. And now its founder and CEO, Kyle Vogt, has resigned. What’s going on here?
It’s Thanksgiving Week here in America and we’ll be celebrating the way we always celebrate: Eating too much and working too much. Speaking of working too much, Tesla’s lawyers get a lot of work but they seem to earn their money, as they did in a recent lawsuit over repairs.
This year I’m grateful for data, and there’s some new CPO data that’s a little surprising. Plus, the Vegas F1 race seemed to go pretty well.
Cruise CEO Resigns!
In what’s definitely the biggest CEO resignation of the weekend (just kidding, I got 9,000 emails from The Information over the OpenAI drama), Kyle Vogt has resigned. Here’s what he had to say:
Today I resigned from my position as CEO of Cruise. (1/5)
— Kyle Vogt (@kvogt) November 20, 2023
That whole thread includes none of the drama of what’s actually happened and basically says to his employees ‘You’re great, you’ll be great, see ya!’
Reminder, here’s some of what happened, as detailed previously:
- A non-robotaxi car hits a pedestrian. A Cruise robotaxi senses the incident but then didn’t realize it ran over the pedestrian and managed to drag her another 20 feet or so.
- Cruise, as alleged by the California DMV, withheld some of the footage. This led to the suspension of their driverless car license
- A Cruise vehicle stopped at a scene where a mass shooting was taking place and appeared to be blocking emergency vehicles (the police say it was not blocking emergency vehicles).
- Cruise robotaxis repeatedly stop all in one place for no obvious reason.
Vogt leaving is a big deal because the coder/engineer/executive formed the company after helping Twitch grow into a huge company that Amazon acquired for nearly a billion dollars. While his public-facing statement is pretty positive, Reuters got the internal email, which says a little more:
“As CEO, I take responsibility for the situation Cruise is in today. There are no excuses, and there is no sugar coating what has happened. We need to double down on safety, transparency, and community engagement,” he wrote in the email, reported exclusively by Reuters.
I think all of those things are true. Also, to be fair, it’s extraordinarily difficult to make this work. I think Cruise’s technology is likely among the best out there, but I also think the automotive industry has tried to sell the idea that all of us should be beta testers for their technology and I think that’s wrong.
The biggest challenge of driverless cars is that, for them to work, they need a ton of data. The only way to get good real-world data is to be in the real world. But to do that safely they probably need attentive drivers, which is a huge expense, and so these companies have convinced governments around the world to let them test.
Judge Rules Tesla Doesn’t Have A Service Monopoly
An antitrust lawsuit was filed against Tesla by consumers saying that, because of the company’s position, it was able to force customers to wait for long periods for repairs and pay high prices. Anecdotally, I’ve heard similar complaints from other Tesla owners.
The lawsuit, however, didn’t make it very far.
In a Friday night decision, U.S. District Judge Trina Thompson in San Francisco said customers in the proposed class action failed to show either that the alleged problems were “not generally known” when they bought their vehicles, or that they could not predict the costs to keep their vehicles running.
“To be sure, plaintiffs allege that defendant misled them about…how much maintenance its EVs are designed to need and how long that maintenance ought to take,” Thompson wrote. “But nowhere do plaintiffs allege that consumers are in fact unaware of the supposedly supracompetitive prices and exorbitant wait times.”
I think Tesla’s whole ‘Look at how cheap EVs are relative to regular gas-powered cars’ angle is a bit overblown, but I also agree with the judge that anyone who buys a Tesla should know by now that service isn’t going to be straightforward.
Certified Pre-Owned Sales Down 10.1% In October
Here’s a surprising bit of data from Cox Automotive:
In October, certified pre-owned (CPO) sales experienced a slight decline, falling by less than 400 units from October 2022 to reach 207,189, a year-over-year decrease of 0.2%. However, this decrease is more pronounced compared to September, as month-over-month CPO sales were down by over 23,000 units, or 10.1%. One less selling day contributed to both year-over-year and month-over-month declines.
“CPO sales came in surprisingly weak in October, down 10% from September,” said Chris Frey, senior manager of Economic and Industry Insights at Cox Automotive. “Consumers may have chosen new over nearly new in October. With growing inventory levels, we saw healthy new-vehicle sales in October.”
That sounds right to me, actually. I think that CPO will certainly grow over the next few years, but you can also get a new Stellantis product for the cost of a CPO from many other brands, so why get a used car?
Ok, The F1 Race Was Pretty Good
Vivaaa Las Vegas pic.twitter.com/YwHEVKy4fp
— Mahir ???????????????? (@ScrewderiaF1) November 19, 2023
You know, for all the concerns over the F1 race, it actually ended up being a pretty good race. Yeah, Max won again, but getting to that result was not obvious and the track ended up being a lot more fun than most of the modern courses we’ve seen.
Here’s our pal Jenna Fryer from the AP with the vibes:
Fans were forced to leave at 1:30 a.m. Friday morning after witnessing just nine minutes of track activity. The second practice started at 2:30 a.m. and ran until 4 a.m., and instead of an apology, F1 simply offered $200 credits to the LVGP merchandise store to any ticket holders who had only purchased Thursday access. A class-action lawsuit was filed Friday against the Las Vegas Grand Prix.
It made it critical for F1 to deliver a good race Saturday night and, even though it was Verstappen’s sixth consecutive victory, it was one of the most spirited events of the season. Additionally, a track that had been likened to a “flying pig” because of its layout was praised for its raciness.
The Big Question
How did you think the F1 Las Vegas race went? If you didn’t watch it, why not?