Home » Toyota’s ‘Machine That Changed The World’ Is Being Reinvented To Battle Tesla, BYD

Toyota’s ‘Machine That Changed The World’ Is Being Reinvented To Battle Tesla, BYD

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Lately, I’ve been reading The Machine That Changed The World, the 1990 book about how Toyota’s lean manufacturing system reinvented how cars got built around the world. Being more than 30 years old, it shows its age in some unavoidable ways—the Korean automakers get written off pretty early on, for example—but it’s a fascinating and prescient read about how the Toyota Production System transformed the car industry.

Now it’s 2023, and that dog is having to learn new tricks—this time from Tesla and China’s automakers. That’s our lead story on today’s morning news roundup, along with the latest on Infiniti besides smells, another investigation into a Ford quality issue and why the United Auto Workers union would be pissed about Ford’s big battery loan.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Time to make the donuts. Or do donuts in a parking lot? Either’s fine with me.

Robots, Gigacasting, Batteries, And More Robots: The New Toyota Way

Kato 003
Photo: Toyota

Toyota’s EV skepticism hasn’t been without its merits, in my book. But the market, customer demand and public and private investments are trending heavily toward battery EVs, so it’s got every business reason in the world to want to catch up. And if a new plan unveiled by top engineers and scientists in Japan this month pans out, it’s about to in a big way.

Automotive News has the dispatch about how Toyota’s whole manufacturing system is undergoing a revamp for the battery EV era of cars. And just as Toyota had to teach other automakers how to make cars from about the ’80s on, it is having to adjust its system to match the breakthroughs in manufacturing made by Tesla—whose Model Y this year edged out the Corolla and Hilux for global sales dominance. That seems to have been a wake-up call:

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“Of course, we admit Tesla has wonderful technology,” Yoshio Nakamura, deputy chief of global production, told Automotive News. “But that just motivates us to work harder to catch up. If we are to learn from them, it won’t be a copy. We will improve upon them through kaizen.”

Nakamura and other Toyota top brass showed off their new production technologies during a daylong briefing this month at the company’s Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in the foothills of Mount Fuji. Their goal is to halve the number of production processes, halve the amount of plant investment and halve the amount of production lead time needed to set up for new nameplates.

[…] The reality is that many of world’s newest automotive players have already changed the face of the industry. Newer brands such as Tesla and China’s BYD have given Japan’s old-school metal-benders a shudder. The younger entrants are free of legacy factories and supply chains and unburdened by preconceptions about auto design rooted in internal combustion. They simply think differently, and it shows in low-cost manufacturing that is the envy of any kaizen guru.

The Japanese are already calling this “Tesla Shock.” What a turn of events.

Toyota wants 3.5 million battery EVs (I use that parlance because sometimes they make reference to “hybrid EVs” and “hydrogen EVs) on the road by 2030, more than a third of 2022’s global sales volume. It plans to do this via more intense vertical integration (Tesla also makes a ton of stuff in-house): gigacasting, which “eliminates countless parts by casting the vehicle’s front and back as two giant modules; cars that can drive themselves through the plant during the production process to cut down on assembly lines; a lot of robots to cut down on human labor, which Tesla tried and failed with at the Model 3’s outset but eventually got pretty dialed-in; and a standalone BEV factory in Japan that seems dedicated to reinventing the wheel when it has to.

The goals of all of this will be to significantly cut down the time, labor and costs needed to make lots and lots of EVs at scale, and profitably. Right now only Tesla and China’s automakers excel at this. Can it be done? Toyota’s own culture could be a roadblock, an old friend says:

But many of Toyota’s new production ideas mirror those developed by Tesla, including vertical integration, moving to a rolling chassis, a no-assembly-line approach and a shift to gigacasting, said Sandy Munro, CEO of Munro & Associates in Michigan, which conducts vehicle teardowns and recommends improvements to carmakers.

“The Toyota plan that I see is very similar to the Tesla production plan, and that is good because, currently, that’s the best in the marketplace,” Munro said. “Toyota needs to also look outside for contrary points of view on how to run the company,” he went on, “how to experiment and engineer, how to rethink manufacturing and where to find the new technology.” Munro predicted the biggest obstacle for Toyota will be internal resistance.

Then again, I don’t think Toyota will take losing its sales crown lying down. It’s going to be very interesting to see where this one goes.

UAW Rips Ford’s Battery Loan Deal

A Mustang Mach E At At Tesla Charging Station.
Photo: Ford
Speaking of battery EVs, there’s one group that really isn’t happy about the $9.2 billion loan Ford’s getting for three battery plants with Korean company SK On in Kentucky and Tennessee: the UAW. If you haven’t been paying attention, America’s auto union—long dogged by declining membership, corruption in the top ranks and general ineffectiveness—has a fairly new militant president named Shawn Fain.
 
He seems more in line with, say, Sen. Bernie Sanders than he is one of those old UAW bosses who got fat and happy selling out their union brothers and sisters. And he’s got a fight for jobs on his hands; look at all the Toyota stuff above. The EV era could very likely require fewer workers, and that’s an outcome Fain wants to avoid—and it could well mean he squares off against an incumbent Democratic president with a big environmental agenda.
 
Thus, Fain wants some promises along with the loan’s terms. Here’s the Detroit Free Press:
The head of he UAW on Friday bashed the Biden administration’s decision this week to give conditional approval for a multibillion-dollar loan package to a joint venture between Ford Motor and a South Korean battery maker without including wage, work conditions and retirement demands upfront.

“We have been absolutely clear that the switch to electric engine jobs, battery production and other EV (electric vehicle) manufacturing cannot become a race to the bottom,” UAW President Shawn Fain said. “Not only is the federal government not using its power to turn the tide — they’re actively funding the race to the bottom with billions in public money.”

“Why is Joe Biden’s administration facilitating this corporate greed with taxpayer money?” Fain continued in the statement, which also called the loan a “handout.”

[…] Fain and the UAW have made it clear they want to organize EV battery plants, since the move to manufacturing EVs will likely result in fewer line workers being needed to assemble the cars and trucks. As part of that, they have been pressuring the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress to link the availability of loans and other awards to companies’ willingness to be organized by labor and otherwise hit wage and benefit demands.

The current union contracts expire in September, and contract negotiations are expected to begin next month.

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Another Day, Another Ford Quality Issue

Ford Explorer St Line 2022 1600 04
Photo: Ford

Do you own a Ford Explorer? If so, do you know where it is? I ask because it could roll away, which is probably something you don’t want. Now America’s federal safety regulator is looking into this problem, which has apparently led to more, arguably worse problems after the supposed repair. Here’s the AP, and emphasis mine:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating a Ford Motor Co. recall of more than a quarter-million Explorer SUVs in the U.S. after receiving complaints about repairs intended to prevent the vehicles from unexpectedly rolling away even while placed in park.

The problem, ascribed to fractures of a rear axle mounting bolt that could lead the drive shaft to disconnect, was addressed by a Ford software update designed to apply the electronic parking brake if the drive shaft failed, the agency said. But according to two complaints from vehicle owners, their SUVs behaved erratically following the repair.

In one of those cases, the Explorer would reportedly slam to a complete stop at speeds of up to 30 or 40 miles per hour. In the other, it would reportedly lurch into motion while the driver was attempting to disengage the electronic brake. No injuries were reported in these cases, although the first driver reported striking a utility pole when the Explorer started rolling downhill following an abrupt stop, seemingly because the drivetrain was disengaged.

Not what you want. This could impact a bunch of cars, including 2020 through 2022 Explorers as well as their hybrid, ST and police car variants.

Infiniti Still A Thing, Infiniti Vows

New Infiniti Logo
Photo: Infiniti

These days, Infiniti is up there with MySpace in “things that peaked in the 2000s.” No one is less happy about this than Infiniti’s dealers. While luxury car buyers have their choice of options these days, those Infiniti dealers paid for cars, brick-and-mortar locations, sales staff and all kinds of infrastructure. So they aren’t thrilled these days that the top Infiniti product is… um, hold on, I need to Google this… the QX60? That sounds right, I guess?

Anyway, Automotive News reports that at a meeting with a bunch of dealers in Los Angeles last week, “executives gave retailers what they’ve been clamoring for — assurances that the franchise has a future.” Did it work? The story is low-key scathing, so I’m not entirely sure:

The automaker’s near-term product road map has it pushing into new markets. Global design boss Albaisa and Infiniti brand design head Taisuke Nakamura showed off a redesigned QX80 SUV, a new two-row gasoline-powered midsize crossover and a pair of battery-powered models.

The third-generation QX80 arrives next summer carrying a $100,000-plus sticker and ambitions of poaching business from Cadillac and Lincoln. Infiniti told dealers it expects about 75 percent of the large SUV’s buyers to be new to the brand.

“They are targeting people who make $250,000-plus a year and have at least $1 million net worth,” said a retailer who asked not to be identified.

But for Infiniti — a premium brand in the loosest sense — chasing Cadillac buyers might be more aspirational than realistic.

Oof. The plans include two new EVs, including a Model S-esque sedan and a crossover both built in Mississippi, a new two-row gasoline-powered midsize crossover and that redesigned QX80 mega-SUV. But as one dealer notes, the fear is by the time this metal materializes in the late 2020s, Infiniti and Nissan will be significantly behind on range and tech compared to EV competitors.

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I get the sense a lot is on hold at Nissan while it renegotiates the terms of its weird shotgun marriage to Renault, but the competition isn’t waiting around for them to sort it out.

Your Turn

The EV race isn’t just about battery sourcing—it’s about being able to make these things at scale and profitably. Who do you think shows the most promise in being able to catch up to Tesla and China’s nascent automakers?

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Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago

My money is on Toyota. Both Tesla and China accomplish quick cheap builds by ignoring safety and quality. I bet Toyota catches up quick by combining better ideas with a work force who knows nothing but quality and are in place.
Now Ford and UAW, the handouts would be anything the UAW gets. They have no investment, want to require no show union jobs thereby jacking up the already high cost and as stated just about every week with that union work force quality is job NONE. The union cant build a better car than robots of Tesla or the slaves of china. Noone even the unions think they build better and probably would admit worse build quality.
That union boss is just an extortionists backed by liberal laws allowing terrorism by unions.

Dinklesmith
Dinklesmith
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Hey bud….workers should make good wages. Having higher labor costs isn’t a bad thing on a societal level. I think we should fight corruption in unions but I don’t think that’s any excuse to do away with them altogether.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
11 months ago

I’ll never understand why an electric parking brake is better than a manual cable. One failed on a friend’s car and it cost $1200 to fix. Of course it defaulted to the locked position. And a special curse on whoever decided that a parking brake should release when the car is put into gear.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
11 months ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

Exactly. This is the kind of stupid shit that adds weight and complexity to modern cars. I hate to sound like a luddite, but I dislike modern cars more and more.

MrLM002
MrLM002
11 months ago

Who do you think shows the most promise in being able to catch up to Tesla and China’s nascent automakers?

Ford, and definitely not because of the Mach-e.

BEVs will take over the commercial sector before they’re the public standard when it comes to light duty vehicles. With how complicated modern ICE vehicles are if I ran a fleet I’d want them to be all BEVs. If Ford stopped making Mach-e(s) and instead allocated those resources to making more e-Transits and building an actual electric F-150 (not the 5 seat crew cab short bed only Lightning) Ford would easily dominate the EV fleet commercial space.

A BEV Maverick that is range and cost competitive with the Nissan Leaf would sell like hotcakes as a “Shop Truck” and to municipalities all over the US.

Tesla has the mid to high end BEV market on lock and I don’t see how they’ll lose it any traditional automaker that has to deal with the UAW and godawful dealerships. Avoiding both of those saves Tesla and its customers a ton of money and headaches.

I can see Stellantis finding niches like with the 500e and such where they are successful because Tesla doesn’t offer products in that market, but they likely wouldn’t sell enough vehicles to make a good profit.

As Sun Tzu said ‘Be where your enemy is not’

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Dominating commercial e vans is dominating a market with the least profit potential. The e mustang big profits. The e delivery van? Selling to amazon, fedex, ups or big business who buy based on smallest prices. You must truly be related to the Fords

MrLM002
MrLM002
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Big profits? The Tesla Model Y is a better vehicle in every category, the only reason it sells is because of Anti Tesla people and ‘Ford or nothing’ people.

That e delivery van can become the basis for a e passenger van, and a e minivan, and an e overlanding van, etc.

To my knowledge I have no blood relation to the Ford Family but some of my biological relatives did a lot of business with them back in the day. All but 1 is an estranged relative and he didn’t didn’t deal with Ford much. Personally I think except for Ford’s itty bitty 3 cylinders they haven’t made a good engine since the last Truck 6 rolled off the line and they generally make crap products that look good on paper but fall apart as soon as they go off the dealer lot.

Personally I think Ford’s future is in the commercial market. All the vehicles they build for the civilian market have 10+ recalls per vehicle. If they build ALL of their vehicles to a commercial standard and then sell them to the public they’ll have much more durable vehicles resulting in less recalls which would lead to a better reputation among buyers and businesses.

I feel that the commercial market is the Future for Jeep as well, though Stellantis seems to think that badge engineering is enough for a Jeep to be a Jeep and that all the Jeep people want a European, unibody, 4 door, hard top CUV with a Jeep badge and a Jeep grill slapped on it…

Steve P
Steve P
11 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

But as with the Pinto, don’t you think Ford has already calculated the cost of damage to their brand (sales) through shoddy engineering?

Torque
Torque
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Mock-E (spelled that way intentionally) costs more to make than what Ford makes on each unit’s sale, i.e. Ford is currently taking a loss for every Mock-E sold, same is true for every Ford f150 lightning & E-Transit
Same is true of GM’s electric cars.
The Only auto makers (including approx. 300 Chineese automakers, and all other Asian and European & other American car brands), actually turning a profit on their evs are Tesla, BYD and Axion.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
11 months ago

So Explorers had driveshaft bolts breaking off, making cars roll away………

They fixed this with an automatic parking brake, to keep the car from rolling away when the driveshaft comes off……….

And the automatic parking brake is randomly engaging itself in traffic. Or not engaging, and letting the car roll away.

What a sequence of poor decisions.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
11 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

You would think the smart decision would be a better fastener, but I guess this is Ford that we’re talking about.

Toecutter
Toecutter
11 months ago

On the subject of Toyota’s future plans:

Toyota hopes to reduce the drag coefficient (Cd) to around a tenth of that for existing car bodies (0.20).

https://toyotatimes.jp/en/report/technical_workshop_2023/001_1.html

I don’t see them getting a Cd of 0.02 in a multi-passenger car. The best human powered vehicles approach this, as long as they don’t have any dirt or splattered bugs on them, but even they are around 0.03-0.04. Unless I interpreted the quote wrong, and they intend to achieve a 0.20 Cd value, which is very much doable and it’s possible to go significantly lower, even into the low 0.1X range for a road car.

If Toyota is serious about improving range, this drag reduction is one very effective way to do it. If we want an affordable EV, this is necessary, in order to reduce the amount of batteries needed for that range, and to in turn reduce the production cost of the car.

I’m skeptical Toyota will deliver on solid state batteries. Nor do we really need them. LiFePO4 is more than good enough with the right car design focused on efficiency. It doesn’t have the fire risk of other lithium chemistries and can last decades if configured correctly. Should solid state batteries come to fruition, that will certainly be a welcome advancement, but IMO shouldn’t be the focus. The cars themselves need to be more efficient to allow us to maximize the benefits and minimize the weaknesses associated with EV technology while keeping production costs down.

Whoever figures out the EV equivalent to a stripper Mitsubishi Mirage in the U.S. for under $20k that gets 200 miles range, is liable to sell a crap ton of them, especially if a fuel crisis or resource constraints rear their ugly selves in the near future. Whoever is focused on bloated/wasteful vehicles for rich people will get caught with their pants down when this happens.

Brian Ash
Brian Ash
11 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

We will never see a sub $20k EV, heck sub $30k ain’t likely ever again. Unless you mean with $7500 or greater tax credit. Even if Chinese imports came they likely wouldn’t fall into these categories. I predict in 2-3yrs when EV adoption and prices are still below targets, the govt will begin consider increasing the tax credit to $10k+.

Silent But Deadly
Silent But Deadly
11 months ago
Reply to  Brian Ash

BYD Dolphin just launched into the Australian market. Starts at AU$38,890 before on-roads and without rebates. Taking all that into account, most punters should pay around forty grand on the road. That’s less than US$28,000 for a five door hatch EV with a 9′ wheelbase and 350 km range.

Toecutter
Toecutter
11 months ago

The BYD Seagull gets a 300 km range on the Chinese test cycle, and is even greatly less expensive, around $11,400 USD.

Although it’s not as aerodynamic as it could be, it has a small 30 kWh pack to keep cost down. It very likely would not get that 300 km range on a U.S. highway, and the reality would probably be closer to 200 km in that case.

Work on the aerodynamics, and it could get that same 300 km range on a U.S. interstate at 75-80 mph on that 30 kWh battery pack, and possibly even exceed that 300 km that range figure. You’d need to cut the Seagull’s drag by half to do this. You’d want the car consuming less than 150 Wh/mile at a steady 80 mph on the highway, which CAN be done with a comfortable sedan the size of a Mercedes W123. A drag coefficient around 0.16 with a car of 2.1 m^2 frontal area could do it. You could make it a long wheelbase sedan with enough legroom and headroom that a 7′ tall person could fully stretch their legs out and not at all feel cramped in the back seat, while having a large trunk reminiscent of malaise-era land yachts. This aero would add to the cost of the car, but over a long production run, it would be a lot less expensive per car than adding more batteries to get the desired range. The body pieces and windows would be more expensive to make for certain than those of a normal car, but in mass production, that cost starts to approach that of the raw materials used.

The Chinese company GAC is looking into this sort of aero efficiency. Their ENO.146 has a drag coefficient of 0.146. It’s only a matter of time before something like that makes its way to the consumer market, and the benefits will be too difficult for anyone to ignore. This is low-hanging fruit that the mainstream automakers are ignoring outright, and have generally been hostile to the very idea for nearly a century now. It’s going to bite them in the butt when China rolls out a sub-$15k EV that seats 5 and has an honest 200 mile range on an American Interstate.

Torque
Torque
11 months ago
Reply to  Brian Ash

BYD has a new small 5 door hatch (called the Seagull) that costs the equidistant of $11800 USD sold in China.
No as far as I know, it has not been crash tested by the EU or Austrailia yet.

BYD offers a larger 5 door hatch called the dolphin that starts at £25,490, sized comparable to the VW ID.3
Which is to start sales in Europe this fall. And yes it met Euro crash testing standards…
https://www.msn.com/en-gb/cars/other/new-byd-dolphin-family-ev-prices-to-start-from-25-490/ar-AA1cQNmE

Last edited 11 months ago by Torque
Torque
Torque
11 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Toyota has been promising a solid state evs since 2015, which is similar to how Elon has been promising level 5 autonomy for what the past 4 years now?
Curiously I don’t see press articles pointing out Toyotas Failed fully solid state battery evs like they do with to Elon with autonomous Teslas availability.
In both cases it IS blue ocean territory (in hasn’t been done yet on a commercial scale) so the ‘when possible & when practable’ are both unknowns
In both cases each has reason to talk & not deliver…
In Teslas case it’s the promise of amazing ‘the future!’ tech. Yet delivered.
In Toyotas case… just like oil companies, every day they can delay is 1 more day with profits for well understood existing mature cash cow products

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
11 months ago

What the heck is Infiniti thinking?!? An Armada with an Infiniti badge glued over the Nissan badge won’t sell to anyone. Everyone knows that Nissan is the “budget” Japanese brand that anyone with any respectability wouldn’t be caught dead in, except as a Uber. Infiniti is the luxury market version.

The reason the Escalade sells so well is that it’s a capable vehicle thanks to its bona-fide work truck roots. Being able to be mechanically repaired by any Chevy/GMC dealer since it shares so much in common with the work trucks is a nice safety net. Your Escalade “could” tow a boat if wanted. It “could” go up a muddy trail if wanted. Infiniti doesn’t have those credentials, even if subliminal.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
11 months ago

The Armada/QX80 is the Nissan Patrol, which is actually good.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
11 months ago

Never been a fan of the Toyota Production System and their ‘Kaizen’ junk since we had to deal with it at work, you know the ‘TPS reports’ from office space, every company started implementing Toyota Production System(TPS) processes, so us regular office schleps had to learn fun new words like Kaizen, which is basically let’s have a meeting to say what’s wrong even though we won’t actually spend the money to fix it. Like TPS mainly works for Toyota because they’re Toyota, you can’t just apply that to everything and suddenly profit. Sad it took an Elon(and the actual engineers) to point out there’s an even better way, guess they didn’t get the memo.

The UAW being scared for their jobs reminds me of the SNL sketch where Trump promised coal workers he’d bring back coal mining jobs, “but do they have to be coal mining jobs?” “yes.”. Imagine if farriers had unions 100 years ago that fought these horseless carriages that were coming for their jarbs, America would have the best horseshoe-shaped rims around! Better than the Ronal Teddy Bears!

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
11 months ago
Reply to  Fuzzyweis

Kaizan and 6S give me PTSD to this day.

Usernametaken
Usernametaken
11 months ago

Kaizen at the shop floor level with reasources to make material changes – good. Kaizen sold as idea to the C-Suite so they can have some bumpf to push on shareholders – bad.

6S was genius marketing, create a load of absolute bullshit that any team of people with more than 2 brain cells to rub together doesn’t need and cash those corproate cheques straight to a new (insert luxury item here).

I’ll also go ahead and add that especially in the technoglogical age management won’t like kaizen becasue the root answer is most of them shouldn’t have positions.

Last edited 11 months ago by Usernametaken
Baron Usurper
Baron Usurper
11 months ago

Yeah. It’s just we’re putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now. So if you could go ahead and try to remember to do that from now on, that’d be great. All right!

Cuzn Ed
Cuzn Ed
11 months ago

I hadn’t properly noticed the new UAW president’s name until today. And now i suspect that “Shawn Fain” will forever be “Sinn Féin” in my head.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
11 months ago

“We have been absolutely clear that the switch to electric engine jobs, battery production and other EV (electric vehicle) manufacturing cannot become a race to the bottom,” UAW President Shawn Fain said. “Not only is the federal government not using its power to turn the tide — they’re actively funding the race to the bottom with billions in public money.”

And that’s exactly what it is: it’s a race to the bottom. Full stop.
Because that’s the only way they can compete with countries that use slave labor, and the only way they can make the line go up. (And the line must go up. So sayeth the sacred shareholders.)
So everybody yanks out the brakes and any other safety equipment and looks for the nearest cliff. Which isn’t really a metaphor. They’d be charging you a fee every time you used the brakes if they could. Anything – and I do mean anything – goes at this point.

Shoddily engineered and unsafe products? Greenlit without hesitation, please stop writing emails that can be found in discovery.
Knowingly selling defective airbags? Yeah, any attempt to claim that’s overreaction got taken out back and shot with proof years ago.
Actually performing safety recalls in a timely manner and properly resolving it? Hey look, there’s the recall for the airbags that they still haven’t finished recalling because the replacements from that recall are just as dangerous as the recalled ones!

“Why is Joe Biden’s administration facilitating this corporate greed with taxpayer money?” Fain continued in the statement, which also called the loan a “handout.”

Which is exactly what it is. Period. Full stop. $9.2 BILLION dollars from taxpayers, at an interest rate that would’ve been advantageous in 2018 when a high interest car loan was 1.9%. A loan which is billions more than is actually needed. A loan that is not going to Ford at all; it’s going to “BlueOval SK.” A loan that will only ‘create’ temporary low pay jobs and permanent low stability, low pay, high risk jobs.

That’s why they’re building it in areas with extreme poverty, and extremely low-income. ATVM only requires “prevailing wages for the locality.” Glendale, KY is an unincorporated locality in Hardin County. Not too far from Mammoth Caves. The per-capita income in Hardin County for 2010, was $23,744. Lower in Glendale.
Per Census data, median home value is $160k – well below national average. Poverty rate using the garbage federal numbers is nearly 12%. Per USDA, Hardin County has a ‘food insecurity’ rate of over 12%. While unemployment went down nearly everywhere else, it went up in Hardin County. Over 7% have no health insurance at all (not that there’s any health care facilities. And we know that’s underreported.)

In other words, it’s a deeply impoverished area where they can get away with paying Federal minimum wage ($7.25) and Kentucky is one of the states working overtime to put children to work in the mines.

The problem, ascribed to fractures of a rear axle mounting bolt that could lead the drive shaft to disconnect, was addressed by a Ford software update designed to apply the electronic parking brake if the drive shaft failed, the agency said. 

Oh for FUCK’S SAKE.
Everyone, repeat after me: YOU CANNOT FIX HARDWARE PROBLEMS IN SOFTWARE.
Insert triple facepalm jpeg here.

Seriously, who the fuck at the NHTSA even approved this shit? I don’t care how bad the backlog is, fire that idiot, and start fining Ford for non-compliance. (They literally admitted the bolt breaks and their solution is to actually only replace it only when the customer comes in? Dafuq?)

The third-generation QX80 arrives next summer carrying a $100,000-plus sticker and ambitions of poaching business from Cadillac and Lincoln. Infiniti told dealers it expects about 75 percent of the large SUV’s buyers to be new to the brand.

Excuse me, Patrick? Can you reach out to Infiniti’s dealer relations team? I would very much like to know exactly what drugs they are on. That’s a serious question, because if LSD that bad is going around, I want to steer well clear.

Seriously. I’ve looked at the current gen QX80. (What? It tows!) And you know how I would summarize it in a single word? “Sloppy.” Everything on it was half-assed at best. The “quilted leather” not only felt cheap but looked downright fake. The panel gaps were consistent, but the paint sure as hell wasn’t. The entire cockpit felt exactly like what it is: something that hasn’t been updated since the peak of the Great Recession. (For fuck’s sake, the 2023 still has the tiny LCD between the mechanical tach and speedo.) The ‘high end’ infotainment solution was ‘engineered’ by gluing an iPad over the climate vents and then slapping some Altima parts below it. Which is what about the overall build quality felt like, inside and out.

And the fuel mileage, holy shit, the fuel mileage. This is a VK56VD 5.6L V8, DOHC, all-alloy block and heads, with direct injection, variable cams, cylinder deactivation, and known for <checks notes> severe engine knock problems since 2011. Boy, great stats there. But at least it has 400HP, right?
Except it gets worse fuel mileage than a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8!
(Click the link!)

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
11 months ago
Reply to  Patrick George

I’m holding out for the drugs Toyota’s on. At least dosing on those will be precise.

Paul B
Paul B
11 months ago

I’m a little worried about the NHTSA’s acceptance of Ford’s recall.

It should have gone more like:

Ford: “We have some Explorers where the driveshaft is falling off. We’re going to make it so the parking brake is automatic.”.

NHTSA: “DAFUQ is wrong with you?”.

Ben
Ben
11 months ago
Reply to  Paul B

This feels a lot like the recall they had where engines were failing and spewing flammable fluid into an enclosed area near the exhaust where it could be ignited. The fix? Drill holes in the aero pan of the affected vehicles so the fluid could get out.

90sBuicksAreUnderrated
90sBuicksAreUnderrated
11 months ago

I’m going to push back on the Tesla “manufacturing prowess” narrative because honestly, I still have my doubts. Everyone keeps forgetting that automakers like Ford used to be extremely vertically integrated and there’s a reason they’re not anymore. It’s just too many balls in the air, and detracts from the company’s core competency, which is designing and building compelling products. Toyota pioneered the supplier strategy and ate everyone’s lunch. I understand why Tesla went this way when EVs were still a novel market and it may have been difficult to get supplier partners on board. I remain skeptical that it’s a good approach long-term, especially if you have a more broad and complex vehicle lineup (which Tesla desperately needs if it wants to keep increasing its market share).

Same for the “gigacasting” (by the way, I hate the damn tendency to add “giga” as a prefix to everything automotive manufacturing related these days). Again, gigacasting has disadvantages 1) If you have a more varied product line and 2) In the event that you have to do any sort of body work down the line.

The final point I’ll make is that Tesla *still* struggles with the basics of automotive manufacturing. Things like bad paint jobs, panel gaps and loose steering wheels are still shockingly common, given how small their lineup is and how long they’ve been manufacturing most models. IMO, they can manufacture EVs cheaper than anyone else simply because they’re the first ones to do it at scale, not because they’ve pioneered a bunch of breakthrough technology and process. Once other automakers actually produce their EVs at scale rather than the niche volume we’ve been seeing, the cost savings will follow, that’s just how manufacturing works. It’s not some secret sauce that only Tesla has.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
11 months ago

Yeah the reduction of parts is great for makers, less so for owners involved in any sort of fender bender. Almost guarantees the car will be totalled, but then they have to buy another car, so even better for makers.

Also after giga is tera, so that’ll be cool soon, best get copywriting tera-press, tera-factory, oh dang Subaru already has that Sol-ter(r)a, they’re ahead of the game!

Then after that is Peta…that should be fun for Elon to use, dang he already is!

Drew
Drew
11 months ago

they can manufacture EVs cheaper than anyone else simply because they’re the first ones to do it at scale

Not only that, but keeping the same few models relatively unchanged for longer than most others is a massive cost savings. Reduce your R&D, limit retooling, and your per-unit cost is a lot less than the competition.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
11 months ago

Toyota still demands quality.

And remember, OEM parts are designed by the OEM, not the supplier. Even though your Nissan’s radiator was made by Calsonic, it was designed by Nissan. It’s a Nissan radiator, not a Calsonic radiator.

Also, those Japanese companies still use the kereitsu arrangement, which is still a form of vertical integration to some degree. Denso is part of Toyota, for example.

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago

I respectfully disagree. The big US car manufacturers discovered it is much easier and more profitable to sell a fashion lifestyle accessory than a well-engineered durable tool. So they outsourced large swaths of their engineering to vendors and concentrated on shiny design and sales. This has started falling apart with so many computer and electro-mechanical systems that require perfect design vision and execution of so many parts to have a seamless user experience. More importantly, parts need to be designed for manufacturing from the beginning and be iterated to improve efficiency over the life of the product. A vendor will charge you out the wazoo to change the spec of a part because their tooling is amortized and they were already price-squeezed on the front end.

The bottom line is that Detroit doesn’t have the expertise (or time) to do systems level integration of so many lowest-cost vendors. You might hate their designs but for their primary use cases, Teslas just work and their build cost goes down over time due to constant process improvement.

Clark B
Clark B
11 months ago

Yep, they sell the same models for an extended period of time, and those models are pretty utilitarian when it comes to any kind of physical hardware or styling. Some people like that look and feel, but others want something familiar, or with more features, or with different styling, etc. Tesla is following the VW Beetle model of keeping the same cars in production for a long time, and in the still limited EV landscape that is working well for them. The difference is that the Beetle was always an inexpensive product (and built to high standards at the time). I’m curious as to how that strategy will work out for them in the coming decade.

Bork Bork
Bork Bork
11 months ago

BYD has a bigger lineup than Tesla and they are the most vertically integrated (they are the only ones with their own semiconductor production).

10001010
10001010
11 months ago

“But many of Toyota’s new production ideas mirror those developed by Tesla”

So Toyotas will feature uneven panel gaps?

anAutopian
anAutopian
11 months ago
Reply to  10001010

I’ll take uneven panel gaps over falling wheels.

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
11 months ago

If you want to find out more about how a gigacasting is made, start here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/gigacasting-stellantis-investments-fords-euro-ev-factory-vasilash/

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
11 months ago

Targeting people with a net worth of over a million? $100,000 for a goddamn Infiniti? Listen…I know that the rich are richer than ever and corporate hacks see dollar signs/literally everyone is trying to move upmarket, but Infiniti just doesn’t have the clout to play in that realm. They can try all they want but those things are going to sit for months until they roll out the sub $1,000 a month lease specials they’ll give to anyone with a pulse.

The Escalade absolutely owns that segment, and those looking for something more refined can get an LX, if you want something sportier that gets you a variety of Cayennes or a V8 X7, that’s also Range Rover territory…just, yikes. I get that Japanese corporate culture is extremely rigid, conservative, and insular…but the level of hubris for Nissan/Infiniti to think they have products that can compete in that realm is just astounding.

They’d be better off doing the exact same thing they did in the 2000s…try to beat the Germans at their own game in the entry level/mid tier luxury realm. Their powertrains are already more reliable and they are now licensing transmissions from ZF. Update the goddamn Q50 and…whatever the stupid CVT equipped crossover is and then get back to us. You’ve got to make sure your volume products are appealing before you try to drop some six figure monstrosity to go after the conspicuous consumption/social media crowd.

90sBuicksAreUnderrated
90sBuicksAreUnderrated
11 months ago

I swear that automakers vastly overestimate the size of the “households with $250K+ in income and a net worth of $1M” market. And maybe I’m just too financially conservative, but I feel like even those households $100K is still a lot to spend on a depreciating asset (especially if you’re a two car household). It seems like also ran “luxury” brand has vehicles in this price range these days. The established players with the right vehicles can still swing that, because they’re trusted by these buyers and delivering what their customers want. Infiniti ain’t that. Like you said, they’d be better off leaning into what they are than pretending to be something they’re not. Kinda like Jeep making Grand Wagoneers with a starting sticker of $90K. Ford and GM have owned the full size SUV segment for decades and have a lot of varied offerings; I don’t think Jeep is making a compelling argument with the Grand Wagoneer why someone should go with them instead (at least for that price). Probably why they’re not selling very well.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
11 months ago

The Wagoneer is also a goddamn abomination of a vehicle. It’s bulbous, weirdly proportioned, ridiculously expensive for what it is, and the powertrains are absolute dinosaurs other than the hurricane 6. When it launched with just the 5.7 and 6.4 Hemis I was explicitly asking who it was for….it’s big, unrefined, atrocious on gas, the list goes on.

And if the videos on it I’ve watched are to be believed they made some really bizarre choices with the interiors of the Grand ones….like a McIntosh Audio system, screens in weird places, etc. It’s a product that was DOA, mostly because of hubris. Durrrrr we’re JEEP the name will be enough to sell this dinosaur!

Guess what? It isn’t. The QX80 or whatever will meet the same fate…if not worse, because as bad of a product as the Wagoneers are the Jeep name still means something. Infiniti hasn’t meant anything in a decade at this point.

Last edited 11 months ago by Nsane In The MembraNe
Drew
Drew
11 months ago

The Wagoneer also doesn’t offer anything all that compelling beyond the much cheaper Grand Cherokee. I have significant doubt that anyone buying it is making use of the seating for 8 or the better towing, and the Grand Cherokee can offer something pretty nice for a lot less. The availability of the 4xe is the icing on the cake.

Angel "the Cobra" Martin
Angel "the Cobra" Martin
11 months ago
Reply to  Drew

I just returned to the Bay Area from LA and in the 988 miles I saw 1 Wagoneer. I looked the new pricing up and there are some with 8k discounts already. The Wagoneer seems to be following the Kia Stinger, lots of hype but when it’s really cross shopped there are too many options that are better.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
11 months ago

Durrrrr we’re JEEP the name will be enough to sell this dinosaur!”

Which is weird because you won’t find the word “Jeep” anywhere on the vehicle. Maybe that will be it’s undoing, but I sure see a lot of them roaming around…

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
11 months ago

Too bad there’s no Wagoneer Trackhawk 😛

Drew
Drew
11 months ago

The 250k salary with 1M net worth is a really weird target, but it sort of goes with the Infiniti demographic–if you make 250k and only have a total net worth of 1M, you’ve either just started earning that much or made some poor choices. Either way, you shouldn’t be spending 100k on a car, but the lease deals to anyone with a pulse will happen, targeting the “poor choice” side of this demographic.

Parsko
Parsko
11 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Nissan/Infinity are nothing but a “poor choice” option in every single way. Name one car that is the “best choice”?

My household income is not too close, nor too far away from this, and I would NEVER consider any Inifinity over ANY other vehicle in class.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
11 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

My wife and my household income is right around the mark they’re going for (not trying to brag or anything, money is fake, but it gives some context) and:

1). There is absolutely no way in hell we would consider an Infiniti

2). There is even less of a chance in hell that we’d consider spending anywhere near 6 figures on a car

I have the “nicer” car out of of both of us and it’s my Kona N. She has a CRV with 70,000 miles and says she wants to drive it til it dies…which will be sometime around 2050 knowing Honda. I think the most we’d consider spending on a vehicle would be about 50. Clearly I love cars…but I also know better than to sink a bunch of our resources into a $60,000+ depreciating asset.

Drew
Drew
11 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

Yep, for a bit now, it has seemed like they’ve targeted buyers who couldn’t get into the segment with others. Nissan for those with bad credit who need a car and Infiniti for those who want “luxury” they can’t afford.

I’d be curious exactly how upside down the average Nissan/Infiniti loan is. And how much debt on a previous car is generally rolled in.

Goof
Goof
11 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Go into any tech company.

I’m not talking FAANG. I’m not talking “the Valley.” Go to some rando small tech company in the Texas Triangle, Charlotte, Denver, Boston, Chicago, etc.

The amount of commodity heavily depreciating luxury vehicles will astound you. I’m not talking amongst the older set either, I’m talking the rank and file.

Heck, I’ve a coworker that has eaten an entire new 911 GT3’s worth of depreciation in the past 12 years, and is only driving a Model 3 at the moment. And he’d be right around at Infiniti’s target income!

Then go look at my dad who makes $22/hr and drives a 2006 CR-V, where coworkers (whose wife have the same job!) making the same or a bit less show up in a new $70K pickup truck.

Do not underestimate the insane amount of money people will spend on cars, or… well, anything.

Drew
Drew
11 months ago
Reply to  Goof

I work at a tech company, and you aren’t wrong. A lot of new F350s and more Teslas than anywhere else locally. Some BMW (almost all M) and the occasional Lambo or whatever.

Strangek
Strangek
11 months ago

Infiniti should start with something simple like giving their cars names instead of alphanumeric codes. That way we can differentiate them and maybe even remember them!

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago
Reply to  Strangek

Hey, they paid that ex-Audi guy a gazillion dollars to come up with the idea of naming every model the same letter as Audi’s SUVs.

Drew
Drew
11 months ago

Who do you think shows the most promise in being able to catch up to Tesla and China’s nascent automakers?

Ford is making the battery investment, so they look promising. Toyota surpasses everyone if they can truly make solid-state batteries affordably at the needed scale.

The Korean companies and GM have promising platforms, but they are probably going to be playing catch-up for some time on the vertical integration front.

Of course, any shift in technology could shuffle everything enough that it’s anyone’s game.

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago

I own an Infiniti (2009 G37) and it continues to be a competent reliable RWD sporty sedan. It is truly a shame that they are still selling a version of that car and some clunky Nissan-derived SUVs at this point.

And their savior is a $100K 2-row semi-luxury SUV with an Infiniti badge. Seriously?

JDE
JDE
11 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

I seriously looked at an AWD G37 coupe, but that is just about the only Infiniti I would consider and I am a very small minority of people who want and all weather manual equipped sports car.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
11 months ago

At Ford, quality is…eh, forget it.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
11 months ago

Seriously. They’re back to their 70s level of quality, might as well relaunch the 80s “Quality is Job 1” ad campaign if/when they get back on track.

JDE
JDE
11 months ago

I think they are trying to get back to that with the PRO quality programs just getting off the ground now, but the past few years have really been bad news for Ford. kind of weird that RAM seems to be rather more problem free. That’s ok, with completely new drivetrains coming though, I suspect Stellantis will soon be having the same troubles.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
11 months ago

Given how many 70s F150s are still on the road, that might actually be a pretty generous statement…

Der Foo
Der Foo
11 months ago

Well they did make a lot of them.

You can think of it this way. Quality was crap all across the board for many brands. I think a key to why you still see some, albeit not a lot, is that they were easy enough to fix and people liked them (relative “like”).

I remember many a late night holding a flashlight while my father cursed a Ford back to life.

90sBuicksAreUnderrated
90sBuicksAreUnderrated
11 months ago

It’s pretty wild how far they’ve fallen. They were definitely in the strongest position of the Big 2.5 following the bankruptcy era, having staved off bankruptcy, found a great leader in Alan Mulally and rolled out a variety of compelling products across a bunch of different segments.

Now? I feel like GM and even legacy Chrysler have been running circles around them the past few years. They’re extremely late to the party with any new product, and any and every launch in seemingly the past decade has been botched to an embarrassing degree. If it wasn’t for the staying power of the F150 and their full size SUVs, they’d be in serious trouble.

IMO it seems like they really lack effective leadership at the top. It seems like they’re constantly flailing and chasing the next shiny object, but can’t actually execute or focus worth a damn on the basics. I don’t think Farley is the guy for the moment, it seems like he cares more about his media and twitter presence and making Ford look like some “cool tech startup” than actually getting down in the dirt and fixing these deep-rooted problems. I could be wrong and to be fair these issues existed before he took the helm, but I haven’t been impressed with his tenure at all.

Ben
Ben
11 months ago

They were definitely in the strongest position of the Big 2.5 following the bankruptcy era

Were they though? I know it was popular to point out that Ford “saved” themselves rather than taking a government bailout, but the main reason that happened is Ford was in such bad shape that they were failing before the other two and had to basically mortgage the entire company just to keep the lights on. I suspect that by taking a bunch of private loans at likely high rates instead of sweetheart deals from the government they may have been financially in much worse straits than the other two.

It’s also not clear to me how much of the quality trouble they’re having today can be traced back to Mulally’s cost-cutting. A lot of times those measures can look very good in the short-term but have significant long-term consequences, which conveniently the CEO who implemented them is almost never around to deal with.

It’s a complex thing and likely not the fault of any single person, but quality issues on the level Ford is experiencing don’t happen overnight. The roots likely trace back to Mulally’s time or even earlier.

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago

I worked with a partner company to GM and Chrysler for a short while and I have relatives in upper management at dealerships. It is hard to imagine just how entrenched Detroit’s problems are. Tesla had free money to design a new way to make cars. GM and Ford must placate their unions, relentless dealers, and greedy shareholders, all while operating inefficient manufacturing plants and trying to hive off enough funds to reinvent their businesses. Even if they know what to do, when a public company gets to a certain size, there are so many invested parties that you can’t just go off in a new direction.

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