Volkswagen Threatens To Move Some Production Out Of Germany Because Of European Gas Crisis

Volkswagen Golf 8, Golf 8 Variant Production, Assembly Of Wheels.

Volkswagen mulls over a massive move, an Australian company feels it can fix American EV charging woes, Ford ran out of blue ovals. 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.

Volkswagen Loudly Ponders A Big Move

Volkswagen Tiguan, Touran, Seat Tarraco Automated Door And Hatch Assembly.
Photo credit: Volkswagen

Desperate times can sometimes call for desperate measures, and Volkswagen’s considering a measure that’s more drastic than most. Bloomberg reports that due to the European gas crisis Volkswagen may shift new vehicle production out of Germany.

Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker, said Thursday that reallocating some of its production was one of the options available in the medium term if gas shortages last much beyond this winter. The company has major factories in Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which are among European countries most reliant on Russian gas, as well as facilities in southern Europe that source energy from elsewhere.

“As mid-term alternatives, we are focusing on greater localization, relocation of manufacturing capacity, or technical alternatives, similar to what is already common practice in the context of challenges related to semiconductor shortages and other recent supply chain disruptions,” Geng Wu, Volkswagen’s head of purchasing, said in a statement.

Um, holy crap. Shifting more production away from Germany could really hurt the German automotive industry. If Volkswagen decides to move production to southern Europe, both positions and suppliers may not follow with the move. However, this story is far from over yet. We still need to see how gas supplies play out beyond winter, plus Volkswagen employs some 295,000 workers in Germany and they won’t go down without a fight.

[Ed note: It’s time for a little Uncle Matt Puts On His Tin Foil Hat adventure. Could Volkswagen transplant a ton of production from Germany so swiftly? Perhaps, but it would be extremely difficult and VW has apparently secured all the energy they need for the winter. Is this discussion, then, meant to throw an elbow into labor for some concessions? Perhaps. Even better, given that the government is trying to balance support for Ukraine and rising costs of everything associated with energy, could this be a way of VW trying to get politicians to provide more temporary relief to fuel costs? – MH]

A New Charging Challenger Approaches

Tritium Charger
Photo credit: Tritium

Public charging station reliability sucks, but one company is hoping to change that. Anyone who uses non-Tesla chargers frequently runs into issues trying to charge their vehicle. [Ed note: I can’t even count they times I’ve experienced or witnessed non-functioning chargers at this point. It’s more often that I see a charging issue than have no charging issue. – MH] Automotive News reports that Australian charging company Tritium will enter the U.S. market with a focus on reliability.

Tritium’s innovation? Design and construct the universal fast chargers as a system of smaller modules. Each part of the charger can be pulled out by a mobile service technician, who can determine which module is not operating and plug in a replacement.

“Having top uptime is going to become a major differentiator for charging,” [Tritium CEO Jane] Hunter said. “These are a complex piece of power electronics. If you use them a lot, they will break. It’s a cycle time issue. But the new module we’re producing now has 99 percent uptime.”

Uptime of 99 percent is a very bold claim and one that’s hard to justify without first defining uptime. However, having more service providers is generally a good thing for consumers, and Tritium’s modular approach seems sound in principle. The company plans to make its PKM150 DC chargers in Lebanon, Tenn., with the equipment expected to fulfill Buy America Act standards by the first quarter of 2023.

GM To Spend Big On EV Drivetrain Manufacturing

2024 Chevrolet Equinox Ev 3rs 130

Beyond battery plants and changes to assembly plants, building heaps of electric vehicles will require plenty of drive units. Reuters reports that GM plans to spend $760 million converting its Toledo powertrain plant to make electric drive units.

“Once the plant is converted, it will produce GM’s family of EV drive units, which convert electric power from the battery pack to mechanical motion at the wheels,” GM said, adding the plant will produce transmission products while building drive units simultaneously during GM’s EV transition.

The Toledo facility currently employs approximately 1,500 people. Many autoworkers have expressed concerns about the shift to EVs and if it would impact current auto employment.

Building EV drive units at a gearbox plant makes a lot of sense considering drive units use reduction gearsets so some worker skills will be transferable. However, we still don’t know whether the plant will see 100 percent of positions maintained in the shift from exclusively gearboxes to electric drive units, so let’s wait before calling this a victory.

Ford Runs Out Of Blue Ovals

2023 Ford F 150 Heritage Xlt 01
Photo credit: Ford

The Wall Street Journal reports that Ford has to delay shipping some F-Series pickup trucks due to running out of emblems. In news I’m sure is completely unrelated: Tribar, a Michigan-based company that makes emblems, among other things, had a big mess-up recently. News outlet M Live reports that several months back, a now-former Tribar employee released carcinogenic hexavalent chromium into the sewers in Wixom.

In Tribar’s Aug. 19 response, the company says “Mr. Johnson” “decided on his own to push the contents of Tank A through the WT plant; he did not reach anyone higher up for authorization.”

Such a potentially disastrous employee screw-up often brings about what, in industry terms, can be described as a clusterfuck. Water discharges were reportedly verboten for weeks, which may have impacted emblem production.

It’s worth noting that while Tribar has supplied Ford emblems in the past, the company may not necessarily supply the affected Ford badges. It’s entirely possible that supply chain issues lay in the hands of another supplier. Either way, it’s a bit embarrassing to run out of badges.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. Happy Monday, everyone. It’s shaping up to be a rainy week here in Toronto, but the weekend presented a few clear opportunities to do car things. What automotive activities did you get up to last weekend? Whether you put away a summer car, bought something new, or simply went on an ice cream run, I’d love to hear what you got up to.

Lead photo credit: Volkswagen

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49 Responses

  1. Point #1- Fuck you VW. The poor of Northern Europe are facing the risk of freezing to death over the winter due to a lack of natural gas while Ukrainians are under a brutal assault against their very existence as a nation, and you have the gall to even bitch about how this is affecting your ability to sell cars? Seriously, go suck the tailpipe of one of your cheater diesels.

    Point #4- “Mr. Johnson pulls a total dick move.”

      1. Brilliant! Let’s free up more natural gas for the poor by laying off workers right before the winter, thus greatly increasing increasing the number of people who will be struggling to afford gas!

        Go to the kitchen and get yourself a cookie.

  2. The German auto companies and other industries are definitely struggling with energy limitations and dramatically higher costs so it is a real problem. That said, yes, the VW announcement is a shot over the bow of the unions ahead of an upcoming negotiation.

  3. If anyone was curious about the current state of American EV charging infrastructure, the killer distinguishing feature being advertised by the newest competitor is “well, our shit probably won’t be broken literally half the time, maybe.”

    1. Drove from the Bay Area to Riverside and back over the weekend in my Tesla and I stopped at 6 different supercharger stations and every charger seemed to be in working order at every station. Just buy the Tesla and move on. The third party charging SUCKS.

  4. Not only did it dump into the sewers in Wixom Michigan, it drains into the Huron River which flows west through a whole chain of lakes, down through Ann Arbor, through Ypsilanti, Belleville, Flat Rock and into Lake Erie

  5. “VW has apparently secured all the energy they need for the winter.”

    How exactly would they do this? I doubt they have months worth of LNG storage available at the plants. More likely they have already contracted for enough gas to last the winter, but I sure wouldn’t be feeling confident in those contracts right now.

    1. “VW has apparently secured all the energy they need for the winter.”

      “How exactly would they do this? I doubt they have months worth of LNG storage available at the plants”

      Coal, bunker oil, sewage, trash, old tires, bridges, dieselgate memos, customer goodwill, shareholder confidence,…

      There’s lots of things VW can burn if they really DGAF.

  6. One of the best suggestions I’d heard for EV charging is for gas stations to get into it. Other than possibly the behind-the-counter vices (tobacco/vape and lottery) the highest-margin item at any convenience store is hot food and the market shifting from *maybe* running in for a second to pay and seeing impulse items to hanging out long enough to ingest a sit-down meal would make up for the increase in dependence on travelers/near-total collapse of local traffic due to home charging.
    That being said, the next nut to crack is home charging for renters.

    1. Sure, in-store purchases are the main income stream for any gas station. The problem with expanding into any sort of meal service is multi-faceted. You first have to purchase the actual equipment. Then, you have to have quality control over the product. After that, there is the obvious problem of waste products (which happens at every restaurant ever. I’m just gonna skip over the next 12 obstacles, including health code hurdles, to make that idea work and go straight to labor costs, which would be untenable.

      There is a 7-11/Mobil right by my place that tried to do fresh pizzas for awhile. That damn oven has been broken for two years. A hot dog roller is one thing, but full-on cooking? Do you want to do that for $15 (or whatever)/hour and no tips? That’s why those places are unicorns other than on the highway.

      1. There is a 7-11/Mobil right by my place that tried to do fresh pizzas for awhile. That damn oven has been broken for two years. A hot dog roller is one thing, but full-on cooking? Do you want to do that for $15 (or whatever)/hour and no tips?

        Funny you should mention that. The DFW airport 7/11 serves pizza which I had just last week for $5 (Sure I had to sign up for the app to get that price but it took my old, long disconnected phone # and spam email account no problem). It was by FAR the cheapest food option and fed me for the whole rest of my trip. I dunno how the cashier felt about working “for $15 (or whatever)/hour and no tips” but she was professional and polite even given the late hour.

        How was the pizza? Better than the Little Caesers and Pizza Hut I remember. About average for frozen pizza.

      2. I mean, it’s not exactly a new thing. Lots of gas stations have a fast food place attached. QuikTrip, Sheetz, and Wawa all have pretty decent food options built-in.

    2. This is really smart I think, esp. since gas stations tend to have a fair amount of unused space at the perimeters.

      Would also be nice (for those of us with ICE vehicles) to not have gas stations totally driven out of urban/suburban areas. This could be a way to have both type of energy available.

      And isn’t BP’s current take on its name is “Beyond Petroleum?” Perfect chance to prove it guys!

  7. Just as an aside – I need another update from OZ.

    Did the dingos eat David? Did the huntsman spiders carry him off to their secret lair? Was he knocked out by a kanga?

    Seriously though, I hope he’s having a good time with the craziest project ever.

  8. Volkswagen is just rattling their saber. If they carry through they can fall back on their diesel defense. Ve vere chust vollowing orders!
    Can’t believe Ford would delay deliveries over badges. Ebay has all the badges you need. Don’t make it so hard for people to spend money on your product.
    My car activity on Saturday usually involves going for a drive in the country around 5:00 PM and listening to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me on NPR.

  9. Finland only gets a little of their energy from gas, and Valmet is already making MBs. Made Boxsters and Caymans before, probably could rekindle relationships with VAG pretty easily.

  10. For vehicle related activities, on Saturday we visited the Route 66 Mother Road Festival, and on Sunday the Prairieland Steam Show.

    The latter had a garden tractor tractor pull, which was not a sport I realized existed, but now need in my life.

  11. Finally finished the Z3 glove box reinforcement and diet, along with replacing the broken antenna amplifier base. Now the car’s back to the condition I bought it in! Just in time for winter.

    Refreshed the weather seals on the Colorado’s tonneau cover so it actually has a function besides just hiding stuff out sight.

    Didn’t get to the son’s new-to-us 2007 Accord with 10k miles on it… it needs a bunch of fluid replacements, and it started raining just as I was going outside to do it. I really should pay someone to do them, but he doesn’t need it until October, so I plan to do it myself. Which means I’ll pay someone in a couple weeks and eat the cost of all the fluids I have laying around (see “what I didn’t do to the Z3”) because I ran out of time.

  12. Car stuff this weekend? Aside from Woodward on Friday night, I didn’t do anything. We got new carpet last week, so I spent Sunday building my new desk in one of the rooms. Saturday we had to drive my MIL to the airport, and hit a couple breweries so there wasn’t any time that day either.

    I still need to get the new starter in the ’81 Z28, swap to the new aluminum body bushings, and tighten up the exhaust underneath for good measure. Car’s been up on stands since the week of the dream cruise and I have not been able to get back to it.

    The Cruze Diesel, I still need to investigate the AC Compressor – thus far that is the only reason I can see as to why the belt snapped halfway up the state driving up North on labor day weekend (about 150 miles from home and from our destination). The belt itself looks to be in great shape – no cracking, all the writing is still visible, nothing feathering off the sides. Just an incredibly clean break.

  13. “It’s time for a little Uncle Matt Puts On His Tin Foil Hat adventure. Could Volkswagen transplant a ton of production from Germany so swiftly? Perhaps, but it would be extremely difficult and VW has apparently secured all the energy they need for the winter. Is this discussion, then, meant to throw an elbow into labor for some concessions? Perhaps.”

    Yes Matt, this is the correct understanding in large part. This is all about VW using their megaphone to threaten the works councils. “You’ll take massive layoffs and cuts in wages regardless of what the contract says, or we’ll just pull up stakes.” Every company is telling workers to prepare for unexpected temporary shutdowns and temporary layoffs.

    Union busting is very much in vogue again, especially post-COVID. VW’s stance has changed starkly; in 2014, they voluntarily recognized UAW members in Chattanooga even though the vote failed – after VW and IG Metall both vocally supported it. Then in 2019, VW was aggressively against another attempt by UAW to unionize and busted out the same playbook you see at Starbucks cranked up to 11. Mandatory meetings with swag organized by Littler Mendelson.
    Breaking a Works Council in Germany though? Yeah, no. They have actual protections from shit like that. And as you might recall – they went full on union-busting in 2019. And Germany’s their next target. Every factory has an independent, local that bargains for that factory alone, and exercises considerable authority. They can’t make big changes without works council approval, period. The works council controls half the seats on the board.
    So it’s VW saying “you can eat shit or you can die.” Take massive cuts on the tail end of one of their most profitable years ever, or they’ll turn it into a ‘business case for closing the plant’ which it’s much harder to fight.

    “Tritium’s innovation? Design and construct the universal fast chargers as a system of smaller modules. Each part of the charger can be pulled out by a mobile service technician, who can determine which module is not operating and plug in a replacement.”

    … so they invented interchangeable parts. Hey guys? Hate to break it to you, but ElectrifyAmerica’s garbage is also interchangeable parts. Fuck, if I was really bored, I could give you a complete BOM. Aside from the skin, it’s all off-the-shelf hardware. Your computer can be serviced the exact same way because hey guess what? Yeah.
    Which is the fucking problem. Made in China below the lowest standards junk breaks. All the time. POS (Point Of Sale) software written by 20 year olds is shit. Always. Building on the absolute cheapest connectivity option? Of course the network’s not working. List goes on.
    You can’t make garbage reliable, no matter how ‘easy’ it is to swap. That ultimately just means your FE’s will last a whole 3 to 6 months before burning out from having to do dozens of repairs a day because you saved a few cents on weatherproofing to make it ‘easier to swap.’

    And the chargers will still be down all the time.
    So yeah. Not innovation and just utter bullshit.

    Building EV drive units at a gearbox plant makes a lot of sense considering drive units use reduction gearsets so some worker skills will be transferable. However, we still don’t know whether the plant will see 100 percent of positions maintained in the shift from exclusively gearboxes to electric drive units, so let’s wait before calling this a victory.

    On this one, I honestly would say unless GM is deliberately cutting and outsourcing, it’d stay at 100%. and possibly increase. GM has already put more than $100M into Toledo Propulsion just in the past two years. $75M last year, $39M the year before. Both were not refits but MAJOR capacity increases. And Toledo will be making EV drive units in addition to existing.
    And the biggest expansion they just made? 10 speed light and medium duty truck transmissions, which definitely are not going anywhere any time soon. Toledo is probably GM’s single most important transmission plant in the world, and one of the only factories they have that can do certain specialized work. The result of investing over $1B in the past 10 years.

    Would not make sense to cut back in any way at a plant that’s been repeatedly expanded and continues to run flat-out to this day. I expect they’d prioritize retraining folks working on the 6L-family to the EV work; it’s far cheaper than training from scratch.

    “What automotive activities did you get up to last weekend? Whether you put away a summer car, bought something new, or simply went on an ice cream run, I’d love to hear what you got up to.”

    I learned that it’s basically impossible to jack up a Saab 9-3 Viggen’s back half without a lift. And then I spent the rest of the weekend eating Motrin like Tic-Tacs because of the contortions I made trying to find a safe central jack point.

      1. I wish I drank like a siv.

        Last time I drank.. I SLID my car with bleu cheese dressing and no croutons INTO A DITCH!
        Wanking is nice.. but gets boring. I can only look at Porsche 935s for so long before my wang explodes.

    1. Dude… I understand 1000%.

      I havent smiled since August of ’62. I also havent gone 5min without hearing my name.
      I can not go around telling some such certain people… PLEASE SHUT THE EVER LIVING, MOSES TAPDANCING THE FUCK UP!!!!

      Its… not nice. However.. it does make my beards grow longer.

  14. Our current (non-Tesla) charging network seems a lot like what you would expect if there was some financial incentive for building chargers, but not so much for actually providing charges to cars. I’m sure it’s a coincidence.
    Eventually someone will figure out a way to monetize people spending 20 – 45 minutes on their property. Vapes, beers and lottery tickets might not be the best answer. Where do people spend that long in a parking lot? Grocery stores? Laundromats? A movie theater that moves your car when it’s charged?

  15. Installed a DRL module in the Miata so that I will be less invisible while driving around, and also replaced the clutch hydraulics. (This is on top of replacing all the transmission-side clutch hardware a couple of weekends ago.)

    The Miata clutch line is one of the biggest design problems with what is mostly a pretty well-designed little car. It has this completely baffling little loop-de-loop in it that makes a great bubble trap, and some of the fittings are in truly sadistic locations. I ripped all that out, put in new master & slave cylinders (my master cylinder was failing) and replaced the factory line with a one-piece braided steel unit.

    Upon test driving the car, I realized that I was not actually crap at operating a manual transmission, like I’d thought I was for years. I’d always had trouble pulling away smoothly from a stop, and attributed this to my own lack of skill. However, after replacing basically every single part of the clutch system from the flywheel all the way up to the master cylinder, smooth starts were suddenly effortless! It was an absolutely night and day difference. Turns out I’m plenty good enough with a stick at least for normal driving—the problem was just that the whole clutch system was on its last legs.

  16. Started mapping this fall’s weekend leaf-watch route: started up the Blue Ridge Parkway, then cut north toward WV. About 130 miles so far, but looking to add a bonus leg up into WV as I saw an evil jagged road on Maps that heads up near White Sulfer Springs. I like to have different elevations & micro-climates along the route. I’ll take the loop every week or two for the next couple months & watch the changes.
    Plus, as the leaves fall, backyard cars will become visible along the small backroads I mainly frequent: good fodder for bad decisions!

      1. Ah, the nerf football. Even better was the basketball hoop you put over a door. Many many games of HORSE in my life with that. This may be gross, but I can still remember the taste of the Nerf sponse material.

        My weekend, may as well dump that here…. The CTS interior lights are acting up again. Swapped out the Left Rear door actuator, not it. Diagnosed with my Foxwell, but all the doors seem to be okay. Ordered a Right Rear actuator, calling Chuck-n-Eddies to see if they have a BCM module. PIA. At least it’s not February.

        1. “This may be gross, but I can still remember the taste of the Nerf sponse material.”

          Why do I know exactly what you mean? Was I really chewing on Nerf foam as a child? Is that why I can’t remember doing it? 😉

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