This week is the 39th anniversary of the film “Ghostbusters,” which is a reference David may or may not get [Editor’s Note: Yes, but only because people at Chrysler said I looked like Rick Moranis. -DT]. The original script, by Dan Akroyd, had the original Ghostbusters flying into space, among all sorts of other wild ideas. Screenwriter Ivan Reitman urged Akroyd and co-writer Harold Ramis to start out at Columbia University and slowly skew the world so the audience would accept what’s happening. He called it his “Domino theory of reality.” A year ago, it didn’t seem possible that the major automakers would give-in to Tesla’s call for using its charging standard. But now? With GM signing on, it seems pretty real to me.
Here’s the full quote from an old Vanity Fair piece on the movie, btw:
Aykroyd and Reitman went to lunch at Art’s Delicatessen in Studio City to discuss the project. “I basically pitched what is now the movie—that the [Ghostbusters] should go into business,” says Reitman. “This was beginning of the 1980s: everyone was going into business.” He also urged Aykroyd to extract the film from the realm of pure fantasy and set it in a modern American city. “I called it my domino theory of reality,” he says. “If we could just play this thing realistically from the beginning, we’d believe that the Marshmallow Man could exist by the end of the film.”
The second domino, here, is GM announcing it’s going to Tesla’s NACS (North American Charging Standard). It’s Slimer in the Sedgewick Hotel. The Marshmallow Man, in this case, is Volkswagen adopting Tesla’s standard. [Editor’s Note: OK, you’re starting to lose me with the references, now. -DT]
After we dive into that it’ll be “just the facts, jack” as John Candy famously says in “Ghostbusters 2.”* Those facts are: Inventory is improving, Corvette deals are hard to come by, BAC is expanding in the United States, and the UK/US are close to a minerals deal.
GM Adopts Tesla’s Charging Standards
It was just two weeks ago that Ford announced it was adding Tesla-style NACS charging ports to its future cars, which would also give Ford owners access to Tesla’s Supercharger network (via an adapter for existing vehicles). I argued that Tesla, no matter how you feel about Elon Musk, should win the charging standards war. From my article:
Tesla was here first and yet, given many attempts to make a better charger, no one really has. CHAdeMO is worse. CCS is worse. CCS Type 2 is no better (Tesla CEO Elon Musk, on a Twitter spaces with Ford CEO Jim Farley yesterday, argued it was bad and “designed by a committee,” which is anathema to someone who is not normally cooperative).
The Tesla connecter is the best and, in the United States at least, the Tesla supercharging network is vastly superior.
Not only is Tesla’s network superior in terms of reliability, about 60% of the fast chargers in the United States belong to Tesla. I suppose GM CEO Mary Barra might have read this piece and agreed with me! Or, more likely, GM saw what Ford did and realized it didn’t make sense not to hold out in defense of a worse design. Here’s what GM said about it:
“Our vision of the all-electric future means producing millions of world-class EVs across categories and price points, while creating an ecosystem that will accelerate mass EV adoption,” said GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra. “This collaboration is a key part of our strategy and an important next step in quickly expanding access to fast chargers for our customers. Not only will it help make the transition to electric vehicles more seamless for our customers, but it could help move the industry toward a single North American charging standard.”
GM also said it’ll save about $400 million doing this, which doesn’t hurt. The wrinkle here is that, hoping to encourage more automakers than just Tesla to make EVs, The White House earmarked a lot of money for charging stations with the CCS standard, as Reuters points out in their writeup of what happened:
The Biden administration made adoption of a rival “combined charging system” (CCS) standard a requirement in order for companies to be eligible for billions of dollars of federal subsidies for new charging stations on some 7,500 miles (12,070 km) of the nation’s busiest roadways. The alliance among Tesla, Ford and GM challenges the White House’s direction.
But Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNBC in May after the Ford-Tesla deal that the industry will eventually converge on one system but that adapters would allow cross- usage.
There’s a lot of Inflation Reduction Act-effect in the Q1 EV sales numbers in the United States, but even accounting for that, the combo of Tesla-GM-Ford makes up more than 70% of electric vehicles sold here. And Transportation Secretary Buttigieg is right, of course, that adapters will help solve this problem, but I don’t see how CCS recovers. If you’re Toyota, BMW, Subaru, Tesla, Hyundai, or anyone else, then it seems easiest to make a quick deal with Tesla and suddenly give your customers a lot more charging options.
The biggest loser here, besides all the charging companies, is Volkswagen. The company is the fourth biggest EV brand in the United States by market share and it also owns most of Electrify America, which is the biggest challenger to Tesla’s Supercharger network. There’s no reason why Volkswagen can’t switch either, I suppose, but it’s going to be hard pill to swallow for the company.
The second biggest loser might be Tesla owners, who will now have to share their charging network with more people and will lose the bragging rights.
BAC Is Coming To The United States
I was surprised to see a Briggs Automotive Company (BAC) Mono at the Greenwich Concours last weekend and, now, it all comes together in my brain: the British car company is going to open up three facilities in the U.S. Market to sell their wild single-seat sports cars, including in Connecticut.
Having recently inaugurated three new facilities in Asia, BAC has unveiled expansion plans for the US market at three state-of-the-art locations: Philadelphia, Greenwich, and Newport Beach. This expansion is set to afford the high-tech single-seater supercar manufacturer – the leader in delivering one-of-a-kind bespoke craftsmanship – an unprecedented retail presence in the country.
BAC USA’s locations will be operated in partnership with RDS Automotive Group, a leading and exclusive automobile retailer that has for over 15 years represented the finest automotive brands from around the world. The multi-dealership agreement will elevate the presence of the Mono range to a new level across the USA.
That last bit makes a lot of sense. RDS operates Lamborghini dealerships in Philly, Newport Beach, and Greenwich. Adding the F1-esque BAC alongside those vehicles is sort of a no- brainer. Kids and adults alike were freaking out over the BAC Mono at the Concours Sport on Saturday. Even my dad stopped to take a photograph.
There’s probably no less-Matt Hardigree car than a BAC Mono, but if they’re this close I feel like I should give it a try. Maybe I can get Parker Kligerman to go drive it with me and find out what a real race car driver thinks.
UK-US Working On A Minerals Deal
The idea of the United States and the United Kingdom working together on a deal under something called the IRA is, of course, extremely amusing. Try telling that to someone in Belfast in 1994 and see how long it takes before someone knocks you on your arse.
Essentially, the big carrot of the IRA is that the materials to make batteries and the batteries themselves have to come from friendly places and, in theory, be assembled in North America to qualify for full discounts. President Biden, whatever you think about him, has been a savvy negotiator and the IRA gives his administration a huge amount of leverage with other nations. In theory, free trade agreements are treaties and thus require Congressional approval, but the more limited arrangements President Biden has made are in a grey area.
Here’s more from The Detroit News:
The so-called “Atlantic Declaration” is the latest of several potential deals the Biden administration is negotiating with key allies to bring them in to the manufacturing spending boom prompted by the IRA, and to ensure automakers and tech and energy companies have access to the minerals they need to roll out carbon-cutting products. Talks are underway with the European Union, and the administration finalized an agreement with Japan in March.
This is sort of a win for everyone. Britain needs a new trade agreement with the US to help stem their Brexit losses, but in the interim this sort of smaller arrangement is better than nothing. The United States wants to have sway over the world as it competes with China and needs support from allies for the War in Ukraine. Automakers get some production flexibility and, more importantly, new sources of precious battery-making supplies. More battery supplies mean, in theory, cheaper batteries for consumers.
The only group potentially on the outs here is labor, who wants to get as many American jobs as possible.
Inventories Up 71%, But Don’t Expect Insane Deals On Everything
The good news is that the latest estimate of U.S. inventory is 1,928,619 total vehicles, or approximately a 52-day supply according to the Cox Automotive and Automotive News Research & Data Center. That’s a 71% increase from this same time last year, right as we head into the hot summer selling season. Sure, a lot of those are Jeep Renegades, but not all of them.
Automakers are not, generally, dumb, and they’re prioritizing building vehicles that are popular and profitable. Thus, availability depends on what you want. Per Automotive News:
Midsize, compact, subcompact and high-performance cars continue to be the only segments with less than a 40-day supply of inventory, according to Cox data. High-end luxury cars, full-size cars, electric vehicles and “uber-luxury” vehicles all had more than 80-day supplies.
A good example of that is the desirable C8 Corvette. The Bowling Green, Kentucky plant where they build these vehicles have been hit by supply shortages, and thus there are exactly zero incentives or discounts on Corvettes according to GM Authority. Still, if you want a RAM 1500, now might be a good time to head to a dealership.
The Big Question
Who is next to fall to the NACS charger in North America? My money is on Toyota/Subaru.
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*This is me testing David. Photos: GM, The White House, Tesla, BAC