Auto Numbers: Something to Consider

The math is. . .surprising

By Gary S. Vasilash

A few numbers.

In the first three quarters of 2021, these are the U.S. sales numbers of the leading luxury brands:

  • 259,237 BMW
  • 245,864 Lexus
  • 230,855 Tesla
  • 213,708 Mercedes

That’s right: Tesla outsold Mercedes.

And then there is this, the market capitalization (on 11/11/21) of the three companies that were once known as the “Big Three”:

  • GM: $89.14 billion
  • Ford: $77.5 billion
  • Stellantis: $64.21 billion

(It is worth noting that in addition to Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Mopar and Ram, Stellantis includes Abarth, Maserati, Open, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, DS Automobiles, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Lancia, Peugeot, and Vauxhall. Meaning it is a much larger company back when it was part of the Big Three.)

Here’s the kicker:

  • Tesla: $1.068 trillion

Tesla could buy all three.

But then what would become of its value?

Euros to Make More EV Batteries

Mercedes joins Stellantis and TotalEnergies

By Gary S. Vasilash

If nothing else, you’ve got to give General Motors credit for naming the jv company it is running with LG Chem for electric vehicle battery development “Ultium,” because it sounds like something from the Marvel Universe, which isn’t an entirely bad thing when it comes to attracting younger buyers for the EVs GM will have in dealerships.

Contrast that name with a Europe-based battery company, one that had been established by Stellantis and TotalEnergies (the company that used to be simply named “Total” before it recognized the need to expand its portfolio beyond petroleum) and has now been joined by Mercedes-Benz:

Automotive Cells Company.

Hope no one stayed up too late at night trying to come up with that.

They should have had the packaging designers work on the name because it is suitably of-the-moment. (Image: ACC)

ACC is also being supported by the French, German and European authorities because they don’t want Europe to be left behind when it comes to battery tech.

The company is still young, having been established in August 2020. With the addition of Mercedes, the investment is on the order of seven billion euros. Each company has a one-third equity stake.

By 2030 it may be making 120 GWh’s worth of batteries.

Given that both Stellantis and Mercedes have aggressive EV plans, they’re going to need capacity.

Stellantis, Fiat & (RED)

Culture and addressing the needs of those who are at risk

By Gary S. Vasilash

The Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin, Italy, is probably known by people who aren’t automotive manufacturing aficionados because it is the plant with a test track on its roof. It opened in 1926 and closed as a factory in 1982. It was subsequently repurposed through the design of architect Renzo Piano and now stands as a multi-functional public space.

(Image: Stellantis)

Stellantis, the company that now owns Fiat, has opened a new museum dedicated to the Fiat 500, Casa 500, at Lingotto.

What’s more, the company has created La Pista 500, the largest roof garden in Europe: there are more than 40,000 plants on the 1.2-km track where cars like the 500 were once tested.

And coincident with those efforts, the company announced the launch of the New (500)RED , a trim model of the electric vehicle that s associated with (RED), the organization established in 2006 to initially fight AIDS, but which has subsequently expanded its efforts to other diseases.

Bono, a co-founder of (RED), said of the announcement, “This partnership with FIAT, Jeep and RAM is a powerful shot in the arm for (RED)’s fight against pandemics and the complacency that fuels them. It’s hard to believe that 15 years on from (RED)’s founding we are now fighting another tiny virus … but it’s even harder to see the virus of injustice that marked the AIDS pandemic is alive and well during COVID. Less than 5 percent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, while vaccines are plentiful in Europe and America. We have to do more and fast to support the hundreds of millions of people who don’t yet have access to the vaccines, therapeutics or sufficient PPE. Because unless this pandemic is defeated everywhere, no one will be safe anywhere.”

FIAT, Jeep and RAM are committing a minimum of $4 million, between 2021 and 2023, to (RED).

Tavares on the Industry

Stellantis CEO talks about what the company that makes everything from Peugeot hatches to Ram pickups is doing in a period of automotive transformation

By Gary S. Vasilash

Carlos Tavares, Stellantis CEO, made some interesting comments during a session with the Automotive Press Association yesterday. In a wide-ranging interview with Joe White of Reuters, Tavares talked about subjects ranging from the chip shortage to “American e-muscle” to the lead North American brand for electrification (Jeep) to supply chain (“We have 110 models and approximately 4,000 parts per model”) to agility (“Being agile is part of our business. . . . This is an industry that is continually hit by crisis. . . .So we need to be mentally and physically agile”).

Earlier in July Tavares laid out the plans that the fourth-largest OEM on the planet has when it comes to electrification, including an investment of more than €30 billion through 2025 in electrification and software development.

Stellantis CEO (center) at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant with plant manager Andy Ragalyi. (Image: Stelllantis)

The company intends to have 70% of its light-vehicle mix in Europe to be low-emissions vehicles (LEVs) by 2030 and more than 40% LEVs in the U.S. in the same period.

One of the questions, of course, is China, where Stellantis isn’t as strong as some of its competitors.

Tavares said that they will be bringing Opel to China as an all-EV brand. He noted that the vehicles will not be compact but large, explaining that German brands have a reputation in China that is not one of diminutive models, so they will take that into account.

But one of the more interesting things he said in the APA interview was something he didn’t fully articulate.

He said that they are going to be executing an “innovative business model” in China.

In May it was announced that Stellantis and Foxconn had come to a strategic agreement through which the two will be working together on electric vehicles. China is the initial market for those EVs.

Presumably there will be more to it than some sort of additional collaboration with Foxconn or other contract manufacturers.

Tavares talked about how the industry is presently in a “very transformative” period.

Odds are he’s not going to be making transformation in small bits.

A Jeep Cherokee By Any Other Name

Naming cars is hard

In light of the kerfuffle between Stellantis, owner of the Jeep brand, and the Cherokee Nation, whose chief, Chuck Hoskin, Jr., told Car and Driver that the Stellantis marque really ought to give up the name “Cherokee” for its Grand Cherokee and Cherokee vehicles as a matter of respect, we thought we would bring you names that poet Marianne Moore came up with for Ford in 1955 when it was searching for a name for what would become the Edsel.

Here are some of them, cited by Poetry Foundation (where else?):

Hurricane Accipter
The Impeccable
Symmechromatic
Thunderblender
The Resilient Bullet
Intelligent Bullet
Bullet Cloisoné
Bullet Lavolta
The Intelligent Whale
The Ford Fabergé
The Arc-en-Ciel
Arcenciel
Mongoose Civique
Anticipator
Regna Racer
Aeroterre
Fée Rapide

Moore’s final suggestion: Utopian Turtletop.

If you think about it, “Anticipator” would be a good name for a Level 2+ or higher autonomous vehicle.

Incidentally: Moore was no poetic slouch. Among her many writing awards are the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.–gsv

Why the Big 6 (But One) Abandoned Small Cars: It’s Not Just the Margins

Americans are big. Really big. Which might explain the absence of small cars (or almost any cars) being offered by the major OEMs

The accepted wisdom seems to have it that one of the primary reasons why vehicle manufacturers are getting out of cars and pouring more resources into crossovers is because they can make better margins on the latter. Which may be true, but is likely only part of the story.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American adults are, well, large. The average male over 20 is 5-foot 9-inches, weighs 199.8 pounds and has a 40.5-inch waist. The average female is 5-foot 3.5-inches, tips the scales at 170.8 pounds, and has a 38.7-inch waist. According to the CDC, 73.6% of adult Americans are overweight.

Seems like a fairly compelling rationale for large vehicles.

So what’s someone who wants to buy a small car to do? Well, the answer to that is “Look for something that is not all that small.”

That is, of the U.S. Big 6 automakers—GM, Ford, Stellantis NA, Nissan, Toyota and Honda—only GM has a car that can be considered “small.”

Chevrolet still offers the Spark. This car has a 93.9-inch wheelbase, is 143.1-inches long, 62.8 inches wide, and 58.4 inches high. It has a passenger volume of 83 cubic feet, and a cargo volume behind the rear seat of 11.1 cubic feet.

2021 Chevy Spark. Small. But big. (Image: Chevrolet)

The next smallest is the Fiat 500X, although the company positions it as being a crossover rather than a car, but for the sake of argument, let’s include it since it has a design that is very much like the now-departed (and tiny) 500. The 500X is gargantuan compared to the Spark, with a 101.2-inch wheelbase and length, width and height dimensions of 167.2, 73.2 and 63.7 inches, respectively. It has a passenger volume of 91.7 cubic feet and cargo area behind the rear seat of 14.1 cubic feet.

Then there’s the Nissan Versa. It has a wheelbase of 103.1 inches—9.2 inches more than the Spark—and an overall length of 177 inches, or almost three feet longer than a Spark. Its other dimensions are 68.5 inches width, 57.3 inches height, a passenger volume of 88.9 cubic feet and a cargo volume of 14.7 cubic feet.

Whereas people might associate “Honda” with “small cars,” with the Fits remaining on dealer lots the only ones left, the smallest car in the lineup is the Civic Hatch. Which isn’t all that small. It has a 106.3-inch wheelbase, is 177.9 inches long, 70.8 inches wide and 56.5 inches high. It has a passenger volume of 97.2 cubic feet and a cargo volume of 25.7 cubic feet.

The smallest Toyota car is now the Prius, which has a wheelbase of 106.3 inches and an overall length of 180 inches—or more than three feet longer than a Spark. It is 69.3 inches wide, 57.9 inches high, and offers 93.1 cubic feet of passenger volume and 27.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

Finally, there’s Ford, the company that was the first mass producer of passenger cars, the company that is now shifting its offerings away from, well, passenger cars. It currently has two cars on offer, and production has stopped for the Fusion, so that leaves the Mustang. Which is a completely bizarre thing to have in the context of a Spark. But here it is. The Mustang has a 107.1-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 188.5 inches. It is 81.9 inches wide, 54.3 inches high, and has a passenger and cargo volume of 82.8 and 13.5 cubic feet, respectively.

But consider this: the Spark actually offers more passenger volume than the Mustang. Not much more (0.2 cubic feet, or about the size of a football). But more.

So it might be a reasonable choice for a big American looking for a small car.–gsv