Ford doesn’t see the point in expensive, flashy advertising campaigns around its EVs, the United States Postal Service wants you to know it intends to purchase a handful of EVs, and Mercedes latest EV — which happens to be a $3 million hypercar — will not be sold in the United States. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Thursday, June 2, 2022.
1st Gear: Tesla Doesn’t Do It, So Why Should We?
That seems to be the message from Blue Oval chief Jim Farley, who indicated that he intends to reduce the amount the Dearborn automaker spends on advertising going forward. From Bloomberg:
“We spend $500 to $600 per vehicle on public advertising. Get rid of all of it,” Farley said Wednesday at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference. “If you ever see Ford Motor Co. doing a Super Bowl ad on our electric vehicles, sell the stock.”
Ford is one of the nation’s biggest advertisers, spending $3.1 billion last year promoting its products. But Farley wants to emulate Tesla Inc., which controls the US market for EVs despite not buying traditional advertising. He said Ford hasn’t needed to advertise its new F-150 Lightning plug-in pickup and that it stopped promoting its electric Mustang Mach-E because “it’s sold out for two years.”
“I’m not convinced we need public advertising for” electric vehicles “if we do our job,” Farley said.
His point is that consumers have already decided they want these vehicles, so Ford shouldn’t bother pushing them. Instead, it could put that money toward the purchasing and “post-warranty experience.” You can interpret the first point as Farley seeking a compelling direct-sales model, also like Tesla. Again, courtesy Bloomberg:
“Our model’s messed up,” Farley said. “We spend nothing post-warranty on the customer experience.”
Farley said Tesla has a cost advantage of $2,000 a car because the electric automaker has a direct sales model that doesn’t include car dealers.
And from Reuters:
[Farley] said Ford may have “multiple tiers of dealers” and some will be more specialized as the company launches a second generation of electric vehicles in about four years.
“We have this opportunity to use our physical presence to outperform” newcomers, including tech companies, Farley said, but future standards for dealers “are going to be brutal. They’re going to be very different than today.”
Maybe Farley’s trying to scare dealers away from practices he believes are “damaging the brand.” Then again, this is the same company that is promoting no-sale provisions for high-volume pickups like they’re low-production supercars. The problem is a little more complicated than stopping greedy dealers, but evidently Ford will use what used to be its ad budget to figure it out.
2nd Gear: USPS Wants to “Accelerate” 10,000 Delivery EVs, Whatever That Means
The United States Postal Service wants to “accelerate” production of the battery electric portion of its 50,000-vehicle order from Oshkosh Defense, the company producing its next-generation delivery vans. That works out to just over 10,000 EVs, versus 40,000 internal-combustion vans that are projected to get just 8.4 miles per gallon. From Reuters:
The USPS currently plans to buy at least 10% EVs including 10,019 of an initial $2.98 billion order of 50,000 from Oshkosh Defense. The Postal Service said it is exploring options for accelerating production of the initial 10,019 BEVs toward the front of the line and “anticipates taking advantage of the flexibility built into the contract with Oshkosh to increase the number of BEVs purchased in the initial delivery order.”
The new delivery strategy includes placing large carrier operations inside unused mail processing plants and “dramatically improving transportation efficiency by eliminating unnecessary trips, reducing mail handlings, increasing reliability, and decreasing time to delivery,” USPS said.
USPS told Reuters that it plans to supplement its environmental impact statement (EIS) related to its Next Generation Delivery Vehicles plan.
This, of course, comes after the USPS was sued by a bunch of states for knowingly ordering an overwhelming majority of gas-powered trucks that pose no efficiency or environmental benefit over their predecessors:
In April, 16 states, four environmental groups and the United Auto Workers filed lawsuits seeking to block USPS’s plan to buy mostly gas-powered next-generation delivery vehicles, arguing that the agency failed to comply with environmental regulations when it issued its EIS.
The White House and Environmental Protection Agency also previously asked USPS to reconsider, as have many Democrats in Congress.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a statement Wednesday that USPS’s forthcoming plan to “modernize and aggregate delivery operations will make delivery routes more efficient” and could lead to boosting EV purchases.
DeJoy noted USPS has said it “would continue to look for opportunities to further increase the electrification of our fleet in a responsible manner… A modernized network of delivery facilities provides us with such an opportunity. This is the right approach — operationally, financially, and environmentally.”
EVs are expensive to purchase, and of course the USPS is chronically underfunded. That said, even a hybrid powertrain would be an improvement over the status quo. If the Grumman LLV’s lifespan is any indication, these Oshkosh vans will still be on the road by the time I might start to think about retiring (ha), and I’m 29 now. These are things the USPS probably should have considered a little more critically a year ago. Maybe it just didn’t want to.
3rd Gear: EV Makers Supply First Responders With Vehicle-Specific Firefighting Guides
Putting out a fire involving an electric vehicle introduces many more challenges compared to one with a gas-powered car at the center, and so back in 2021 the National Transportation Safety Board recommended automakers submit more detailed emergency response guides to first responders. A number of them have followed that good advice, per Automotive News:
Eight automakers have improved their emergency response guides for EVs and incorporated vehicle-specific details on extinguishing lithium-ion battery fires, following a recommendation last year by a federal safety agency.
The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday said Honda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Volkswagen and Volvo — along with well electric transit maker Proterra and electric bus maker Van Hool — have completed the actions asked for in a recommendation issued in January 2021 to 22 vehicle manufacturers.
The agency asked those manufacturers to model their emergency response guides on international safety standards and to include vehicle-specific information on extinguishing EV battery fires as well as mitigating thermal runaway and the risk of battery reignition.
Twelve automakers including Ford, General Motors, Tesla and Toyota are making progress on the recommendation, the agency said. Two others — Nova Bus Corp. and Karma Automotive — have not yet responded to the agency’s voluntary request.
This is good news, but after the Bolt debacle I would have expected GM to be in the contingent that responded a little more quickly.
4th Gear: This Cruise Ain’t Free
Autonomous taxis grow up so fast, don’t they? One day they’re being tested in limited pilot programs and blocking first responders from doing their jobs; the next, the company that builds them wants to start charging for rides. That’s what GM’s hoping to do soon, per Reuters:
General Motors Co’s Cruise on Thursday could become the first company to secure a permit to charge for self-driving car rides in San Francisco, if it can overcome objections by city officials.
Self-driving test cars with human safety drivers have become a constant sight in San Francisco, and completely driverless ones are increasingly common too. Turning the cars into a fledgling business in a major U.S. city would mark a milestone in the long, delayed journey toward driverless taxi service. The permit is Cruise’s final hurdle in California.
As you’d suspect, city officials are skeptical:
Citing safety concerns, San Francisco fire, police and transit officials want state regulators to impose restrictions before allowing Cruise’s autonomous vehicles (AV) into the ride-hailing business. They recommend requiring further approval to add more cars and a new working group of state and local officials.
“Deployment of driverless AVs on a much larger scale would increase the likelihood that unusual AV behavior could lead to serious injury or death,” city officials wrote to the California Public Utilities Commission, which is scheduled to weigh Cruise’s permit application on Thursday.
The local officials say a confused Cruise AV briefly blocked a San Francisco fire engine in April that was en route to a three-alarm fire, and days earlier a driverless Cruise car stopped by police appeared to drive away before the officer was done. Cruise said its cars made safe decisions.
Of course, not all of Cruise’s decisions are safe:
Some accidents have led to lawsuits. A bicycle courier and a scooter rider have sued Cruise, and Waymo settled over a 2016 car accident.
Cruise said the car was not self driving during the scooter incident and is fighting the case.
Bicyclist Christopher McCleary, who last month settled his lawsuit, said he has suffered ongoing injuries from crashing into a Cruise car that he said came to an unexpected halt in San Francisco in 2018, and he questions the experimentation of driverless cars in public.
“Unfortunately,” he said by email, “I feel like Cruise ‘learned’ from hitting me and this is actually a sacrifice I had to make to allow Cruise to become ‘better’ at predicting situations.”
Look — you can’t make an omelet without cracking some eggs. In this case, the eggs are the bones of passengers and passers-by.
5th Gear: Sad News for Prospective U.S. Buyers of the AMG One
The complex Formula 1-derived hypercar will not be legally, officially imported to the States, Carscoops has learned following the car’s unveiling yesterday. The culprit? Emissions. Here’s the statement the automaker provided to the site:
“The AMG-ONE was developed with a single goal in mind — a direct technology transfer of the World Championship winning Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 E PERFORMANCE drive unit — conceived for the road. The adaption of a complete Formula 1 drive unit in a road car is unprecedented.
With 1,000+ horsepower, four electric motors, and a blistering top speed of more than 217 mph, every component of the AMG ONE has been designed to redefine high performance. While its engine has its origins in competition, constant development and refinement have left us with a difficult decision for the U.S. market.
In order to preserve the unique character of its F1 powertrain, we have concluded that meeting U.S. road standards would significantly compromise its performance and its overall driving character. We have taken the strategic decision to offer the car for road usage in Europe, where it meets applicable regulations.”
And so the AMG One will be added top the long list of breakthrough automotive engineering feats not technically allowed on American roads, like the Porsche 959. Not terrible company to find yourself in, right? If you do happen to see one on this side of the Atlantic, it’ll likely have been imported under Show & Display exemption.
Reverse: The Driver-Designer
Fifty-two years ago today, we lost Bruce McLaren while he was testing a McLaren M8D Can-Am prototype.
Neutral: Future Visions
I’ve been thinking about classic Need for Speed lately. The Lamborghini (Italdesign) Calà has aged gloriously.