It’s a weird quirk of modernity that every generation seems convinced that the prior generation had it better. Today’s news of one of Toyota’s arms trying to stop buyers in a special new program from talking about their vehicles is fascinating from a journalistic perspective but does seem to underscore why some are dissatisfied with the present state of the world.
While we’re on the topic of dissatisfaction, electric truckmaking startup Volta is following the path of many electric truckmaking startups by… declaring bankruptcy. Tesla isn’t going to be going bankrupt anytime soon, but the automaker has both a major recall and some questionable third-quarter numbers to deal with this week.
A big thanks to Thomas for handling TMD yesterday. Between flying, recovering from the Galpin Car Show, and the baseball ALCS… it was a long day.
Is Toyota’s Social Media Ban The Future?
The Australian car market has slowly been losing its original identity as the realities of automotive globalization have led to the death of Australian-only market vehicles, which is yet more proof that the recent past had its advantages. On the upside, Australia is getting access to vehicles it’s never had before.
Specifically, the loss of the ute has been somewhat softened by the introduction of full-sized trucks to Australia, with both the Silverado and Ram 1500 arriving in the market. Soon to follow is the Ford F-150 and, it seems, the Toyota Tundra.
As the Toyota Tundra is made for the American market in Texas, all vehicles are LHD. It’s going to be Walkinshaw Automotive Group, former maker of all sorts of wild Holden vehicles, that’ll be converting the vehicles to RHD. Only 300 vehicles will be produced as part of a trial group known as the Toyota Insider Program.
As Drive.com.au reports, the perks of being an original Australia Tundra owner come with some downsides:
A letter from Toyota to prospective participants in the Tundra Insider Program advises customers will need to make their vehicles available for frequent detailed technical inspections, and to not share their experiences on social media or with motoring media outlets.
While the more frequent technical inspections are understandable – given the program was established to detect early any rectification work that may be required before ramping up production – the ban on social media activity is unusual given the vehicles will be in the public domain and on public roads.
The social media ban is also at odds with other owners’ groups that have been established on platforms such as Facebook where customers can openly and honestly share their experiences, both good and bad.
Toyota Tundra customers who take part in the ‘Insider Program’ must agree to “avoid any comment about the Tundra on social media, and refrain from mentioning or discussing the lease agreement, or the Tundra itself, with any media outlets.”
That’s right! If you take one of these cars you can’t give it to any lowly blogger or influencer and you can’t talk about it in public forums.
I can completely understand why Toyota is doing this and it’s hard to fault them for trying. The company is turning people into beta testers, essentially.
It’s weird, though, to make someone pay to be a beta tester and then tell them they can’t talk about the vehicle. According to Drive.com.au, the cost of being a part of the program is about $1,200 USD a month for one year (with the possibility of extending to 18 months).
I’ll be disappointed in the Australian media if they can’t get one of these vehicles and then write up an anonymized review.
Also, don’t feel too bad for the Australians as they can still get HiLuxes and Landcruiser 70s.
Volta Files For Bankruptcy
Swedish electric truckmaker Volta Trucks created the first commercially available electric 16-tonne truck, the Volta Zero, which can travel about 95-125 miles. Let’s check in on how that’s going with this press release I just got from them:
Volta Trucks accomplished a great deal from a standing start in 2019, revolutionising commercial vehicle operations for a sustainable future.
We created the world’s first purpose built 16-tonne all-electric truck, including a unique cab and chassis design, that would have contributed to decarbonising the environment and enhanced the health and safety and air quality of urban centres. Piloting in five countries in Europe, we received fantastic feedback, which led to a strong pipeline of highly reputed customers who wanted to introduce our Volta Zero Trucks into their fleets.
However, like all scale-ups in the EV manufacturing sector, Volta Trucks has faced challenges along the way. The recent news that our battery supplier (Proterra) has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, has had a significant impact on our manufacturing plans, reducing the volume of vehicles that we had forecast to produce. The uncertainty with our battery supplier also negatively affected our ability to raise sufficient capital in an already challenging capital-raising environment for electric vehicle players.
With deep and sincere regret, the Board has therefore taken the difficult decision to take steps to file for bankruptcy proceedings in Sweden. The main trading entity of the Group, Volta Trucks Limited, will shortly file for administration in England, with insolvency practitioners from Alvarez & Marsal anticipated to take office. Other Group entities will also shortly file for insolvency proceedings in the relevant jurisdictions.
The Board has not taken this course easily or lightly and is fully aware of the significant impact this will have on the organisation’s dedicated workforce, as well as customers and partners. We would like to sincerely thank the Volta Trucks team and are incredibly proud of their pioneering work to deliver such an innovative zero emission commercial vehicle.
That’s extremely unfortunate for Volta’s investors and employees. Volta joins EV truck/bus startups Lordstown Motors and Proterra in the bankruptcy club.
Tesla Has To Recall About 55K Model X Crossovers
Tesla deserves credit for simplifying the modern automobile and for making over-the-air updates a reality. Today’s story allows me to talk about both of these things.
Cars are complex and full of computers and the ability of automakers to fix small issues without bringing a car into a service center is an incredible innovation, especially for electric cars, which have fewer moving parts that would necessitate an in-person repair.
EVs do have some moving parts, however, including brakes. According to Reuters, Tesla is having to recall about 55,000 Model Xs because the vehicle’s sensors are unlikely to detect low brake fluid levels in the vehicle and warn the driver.
Owners don’t have to do anything as Tesla will fix the vehicles with an over-the-air update. No big deal.
How Bad Are Tesla’s Q3 Financials Going To Be?
This is the part of The Morning Dump where it’s important to qualify that when Tesla has “bad” numbers these are “bad” only relative to Tesla. Most automakers would kill to have the kind of margins Tesla has, so Tesla can only be compared to Tesla.
How is the current Tesla doing versus the old Tesla? Probably not as great.
Global sales fell from the preceding quarter, profit margins have likely slipped because of price cuts, and the Cybertruck pickup failed to launch by the end of September, as forecast earlier in the year by CEO Elon Musk, analysts said.
More specifically, the price cuts haven’t yet done enough to make up for plant upgrades and softening electric car demand. Again, from Automotive News:
Cutting prices seems like a good short-term strategy as Tesla tries to hold on to its EV market share lead in the United States, which shrunk from 62% in Q1 to just 50% in Q3. Still, it’s risky, not only do margins take a hit, but once you lower prices it’s harder to raise them again without offering more value.
Even with the price increases, Tesla saw sales drop year-over-year for the 3, S, and X. Only the Model Y has been growing, thanks to price cuts.
The Big Question
Is this the future? Already, automakers are telling people they can’t flip special models (which is good). This seems different and seems to take us down the slippery slope of bringing us closer to a VaaS future (Vehicles as a Service).