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Tesla Gigafactory In Nevada Plagued By Worker Injuries: Report

Topline: While states often compete to attract thousands of new tech jobs, a USA Today investigation uncovered a host of issues—from workplace injuries to housing shortages—at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory in recent years, showing the darker side of big corporate factories.

  • According to the investigation by USA Today, workers at the Tesla Gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada, have been struggling with workplace safety issues for the last few years, with some incidents not even getting reported as required by law.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had to send inspectors onsite more than 90 times in three years, whereas other factories in the area on average only had to see an inspector once during that same period, the report found.
  • Injuries occurred routinely, at least three times a month, with some—including amputations, one of which USA Today describes in grisly detail—never even getting recorded by Tesla.
  • Emergency responders have been hard-pressed to answer regular calls from the factory in recent years: In 2018, for instance, there was an average of more than one 911 call per day coming from the factory, spanning everything from workplace injuries to medical concerns, according to USA Today’s report.
  • The arrival of 7,000 new workers when the plant opened has also exacerbated an already critical housing shortage and homelessness issue in the Reno area: Gigafactory employees found it hard to find an affordable place to live, with several resorting to living in tents or cars, the investigation found.
  • Traffic has also increased exponentially in the surrounding area, with roads leading to the massive factory—which is only 30% complete—getting routinely congested.

Key background: In 2014, Nevada beat out other states competing to be the new home for Tesla’s ambitious battery factory project, which the company promised would become one of the world’s biggest factories. State officials rushed through a $1.3 billion tax abatement package—the largest in Nevada’s history—to incentivize Tesla to move there. But when complications emerged from the influx of new workers, state and local governments were ill-prepared and had little financial resources to address them.

Today In: Money

Further reading: This isn’t the first time safety issues have been reported at a Tesla factory. A Forbes investigation earlier this year found that Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, had racked up more fines and workplace safety violations than any other car factories.

Tangent: Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Tuesday that the company plans to build its fourth Gigafactory in Berlin, Germany.

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I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes, covering breaking news—with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I’ve reported at Money Magazine, The Villager NYC, and The East Hampton Star. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018, majoring in International Relations and Modern History. Follow me on Twitter @skleb1234 or email me at sklebnikov@forbes.com

Source: Tesla Gigafactory In Nevada Plagued By Worker Injuries: Report

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Union organizers say hundreds of construction workers walked off the job at the Tesla Motors manufacturing plant east of Reno to protest the increased hiring of out-of-state workers for less pay.

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Tesla Model Y Will Crush The Crossover Competition, Here’s Why

There’s a lot of EV crossover competition coming down the pike but don’t expect established gas-engine automakers to suddenly wrest the EV market from Tesla.

In short: The Tesla Model Y will dominate the EV crossover category because it’s the most recognized EV brand – certainly in the U.S.

With over 500,000 VIN registrations for the Model 3, it’s not a giant leap of faith to see the Model Y – with a starting price of $39,000 for the 230-mile range version – garnering market share and mind share quickly.

Crossover competition has arrived

Yes, the EV crossover competition has already arrived in the U.S., including the Audi e-Tron, Hyundai Kona EV, Jaguar I-PACE, and the Kia Niro EV – not to mention the 2020 Chevy Bolt (with an upwardly revised range of 259 miles), and the Nissan Leaf S Plus.

Today In: Innovation

But, remember, all the above EVs are from traditional automakers. They’re ICE vehicle makers first, EV makers second. And right now EVs are a distant second in sales. Don’t believe me? Go visit the U.S. dealer lots of any of those car manufacturers. It’s wall-to-wall gas-engine vehicles (with a few exceptions in markets like Los Angeles).

Still don’t believe me? Check out this sales chart from InsideEVs for the month of September. The much-vaunted Audi e-Tron sold a whopping 434 copies, the Hyundai Kona EV 190, The Jaguar I-Pace, 160, Kia Niro EV 90 etc.

Even if you allow for lack of availability because the above are just coming on the market, long-established nameplates like the Nissan Leaf (in its current iteration as the 226-mile-range Leaf S Plus) and the BMW i3 are not going gangbusters, with sales of just over 1,000 for the Leaf and half that for the i3 in September.

The only EV really in the running at all in September was the Chevy Bolt* with 2,125 copies sold, according to InsideEVs.

And the Model 3? Over 19,000 sold in September, about 8 times the closest competition. It’s not ludicrous to expect that the Model Y will post monthly numbers certainly higher than, for example, a Bolt EV. And probably much higher.

Model S and X will bow to the Model Y, launch to happen in summer

Meanwhile Tesla is ramping up production of the Model Y earlier than expected.

Regarding Model Y, we’re also ahead of schedule on Model Y preparations in Fremont, and we’ve moved the launch timeline from full 2020 to summer 2020. There may be some room for improvement there, but we’re confident about summer 2020.

Elon Musk, October 24, 2019, third quarter earnings conference call (via Seeking Alpha).

And Tesla’s priorities are pretty clear as the company gets ready for Model Y production. In responding to a question from an analyst on the October 24 call Musk said:

The Model S and X are really niche — they’re really niche products. I mean, they’re very expensive, made in low volume. To be totally frank, we’re continuing to make them more for sentimental reasons than anything else. They’re really of minor importance to the future.

Musk also mentioned that Tesla will “build out more facilities for Model Y production at Shanghai.”

Production glitches are the X factor

Of course, a surge in Model Y deliveries in, let’s say, early 2021 is dependent on Model Y manufacturing being as ready as Musk claims. And the CEO has a tendency for excessive bullishness and exaggeration when it comes to expectations.

Barring an unforeseen event, however, Tesla is more ready now for large-scale mass production than it was back in July of 2017 when it faced a year of production hell and was in the throes of becoming a high-volume car manufacturer.

NOTES:

The Long Range and Performance variants of the Model Y —which you can order now from Tesla’s website – start at $48,000 and $61,000, respectively.

*In the spirit of full disclosure, I drive a 2018 Chevy Bolt.

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I was a founding member of CNET news and hardware editor at CNET, a contributing technology reporter for the New York Times, and a reporter and editor at the Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly — the latter in Japan, where I lived for ten years. Currently a contributing reporter for Fox News.

Source: Tesla Model Y Will Crush The Crossover Competition, Here’s Why

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Electric Truck Unicorn Rivian, Backed By Amazon And Ford, Lands $350 Million Investment From Cox

Rivian, an innovative truck startup planning to produce all-electric pickups and SUVs that’s backed by Ford Motor Co. and Amazon, said Cox Automotive is investing $350 million and may partner with it on future business operations.

Led by 36-year-old founder and CEO RJ Scaringe, Plymouth, Michigan-based Rivian has ginned up excitement in the auto industry with its plans to launch a line of long-range, rechargeable light trucks, including the R1T pickup and R1S SUV, built off a highly functional “skateboard” platform that integrates the battery pack, drive components and suspension system. Ford invested $500 million in April and Amazon led a $700 million round in February.

Cox, which owns an extensive range of businesses related to auto sales and services, including consumer information sites Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, retailer data services Dealer.com and Dealertrack, and automotive auction business Manheim, will also explore ways to help Rivian with service operations, logistics and digital retailing.

Today In: Business

“We are building a Rivian ownership experience that matches the care and consideration that go into our vehicles,” Scaringe said in a statement. “Cox Automotive’s global footprint, service and logistics capabilities and retail technology platform make them a great partner for us.”

A Clark Kent look-alike with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT, Scaringe has refined his ideas for electric vehicles over the past decade and could prove to be a major competitor to Tesla’s Elon Musk, who has his own plans for battery-powered trucks, ranging from a pickup to 18-wheel semis.

Rivian aims to begin production and sales of its first two models from late 2020, building them at the former Mitsubishi Motors Corp. assembly plant in Normal, Illinois, that it purchased in 2017 and is renovating. The company already has more than 1,000 employees and wants to begin selling its electric vehicles internationally from 2021.

Both the R1T and R1S are to have electric range of up to 400 miles per charge–well more than any of Tesla’s current EVs–and they are priced from $68,000 and $72,500, respectively.

Rivian’s fundraising in the past year has been prodigious and totals at least $2 billion with Cox’s investment. Still, it declined to provide an estimate valuation or confirm what stake is owned by Scaringe. In addition to the funding from Ford and Amazon, it raised $450 million in an earlier round that included Saudi Arabia-based investment group Abdul Latif Jameel, Su­mi­tomo Corp. of Japan and London’s Standard Chartered Bank.

“We are excited by Rivian’s unique approach to building an electrified future and to be part of the positive impact its products will bring to our roads and the world around us,” said Sandy Schwartz, president of Cox Automotive. “This investment complements Cox Automotive’s own commitment to environmental change through our Cox Conserves efforts.”

Along with its equity stake and potential business operations, Cox Automotive will have a seat on Rivian’s board.

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From Los Angeles, the U.S. capital of cars and congestion, I try to make sense of technology-driven changes reshaping transportation, cities and how we get around. I’ve tracked global automakers, advanced vehicle tech and environmental policy for more than two decades, including 15 years at Bloomberg, and squeezed in stints in the financial and corporate worlds. What’s your story?

Source: Electric Truck Unicorn Rivian, Backed By Amazon And Ford, Lands $350 Million Investment From Cox

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Why A BMW Painted With ‘The World’s Blackest Black’ Is Unlikely To Hit The Road

Topline: BMW rolled out its first vehicle painted with “vantablack”, known as the world’s blackest black⁠—and although the company claims it would like to see the car on the road, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

  • The BMW X6 was selected as the first vehicle to receive the inky-black paint job and will debut in September’s Frankfurt Motor Show.
  • Vantablack in its purest form absorbs all light, without reflecting any back.
  • To make sure the X6 didn’t appear completely two-dimensional, the vantablack paint used on it reflects back 1% of light.
  • Although X6 designer Hussein Al Attar said he “absolutely” could see vantablack joining BMW’s lineup of color options for car buyers, the automaker has no immediate plans.
  • According to Ben Jensen, CTO of vantablack developer Surrey Nanosystems, “The limitations of vantablack in respect of direct impact or abrasion would make this an impractical proposition for most people. It would also be incredibly expensive.”

Chief critic: Auto enthusiasts. They question why a car needs to be painted with vantablack, especially since it won’t be for sale anytime soon. And safety studies show that regular black cars are already more dangerous to drive over lighter-colored cars⁠—chances of crashing a black car at dawn and dusk are 47% higher than that of a non-black car.

Key background: Developed by Surrey Nanosystems in 2014, the pigment in vantablack is made from tiny bits of carbon. Originally designed to be used in outer space, vantablack can be applied at temperatures hundreds of degrees below freezing. It has also been used in space cameras to block out light from the sun, letting the devices take clearer photos of distant stars and galaxies.

Surprising fact: The “vanta” in vantablack stands for Vertically Aligned Nano Tube Array.

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I’m a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I hold a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previous bylines: Gotham Gazette, Bklyner, Thrillist, Task & Purpose, and xoJane.

Source: Why A BMW Painted With ‘The World’s Blackest Black’ Is Unlikely To Hit The Road

Another Alfa Romeo Comeback Story May Be Ending

After a brief surge, Alfa Romeo's comeback plan looks to have stalled, outsold in Europe by Lancia.

Has yet another Alfa Romeo comeback story fizzled out before it ever really got going?

It’s hard to see it any other way, with the fabled Italian sports and premium brand outsold in Europe for the first half of the year by its ignored, underfunded Fiat Chrysler Automobiles stablemate, Lancia.

Alfa Romeo has five models on its books, including the 4C sports car, the dated MiTo three-door hatch, the just-facelifted Giulietta five-door hatch and the expensively developed Giulia sedan and Stelvio crossover.

Lancia, on the other hand, sells just one car – the eight-year-old Ypsilon five-door hatch. It might be a legendary name, with some of the most desirable cars ever built on its books and with multiple World Rally Championships to its name, but its reputation for quality is so bad in Europe that it has retreated to just one market: Italy.

FCA analyst Fiat Group World pointed out that Alfa Romeo sales fell to 29,187 in the first half of 2019, while the Ypsilon, based on the budget Fiat Panda, managed 34,691 sales in Italy alone.

Alfa’s sales fell 42 percent year-on-year in Europe, while Lancia’s rose 29 percent with an ancient product that wasn’t terribly good to begin with.

It has been an across-the-board pummeling for Alfa, with its business sales dropping from 33,400 last year to 19,200 this year, while its private sales fell 40 percent.

It was hammered in France, where its sales fell 61 percent, but the biggest concern will be its collapse in its home market of Italy, where it dropped 47 percent to only 14,700 registrations.

The clunky, one-market Ypsilon is single-handedly embarrassing Alfa Romeo.

The clunky, one-market Ypsilon is single-handedly embarrassing Alfa Romeo.

In a frightening buyer revolt, only 5000 Alfas were privately registered in Italy in the first half of the year.

Even the newest Alfa model, the Stelvio, saw its European sales drop by 18 percent this year to just 13,800 registrations as it was overtaken by updates to rivals like the BMW X4.

The heavily publicized Giulia sedan, which shares its expensively developed rear-drive architecture with the Stelvio, saw its sales fall 44 percent to 5767 registrations across Europe.

There was more bad news in the US, where it sold 9037 cars in the first half; down on the 12,265 it sold in 2018.

Alfa is twinned with Maserati within the company and the Modena-based brand at least has plans to pull its product lineup into the next decade with a range of plug-in hybrids, a Porsche Macan-testing crossover and an all-electric sports car.

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I have been testing cars and writing about the car business for more than 25 years. My career began in daily newspapers and developed into editorship of two automotive magazines. I’ve been based in Italy as a freelancer for more than a decade, covering the European car business, with a focus on product testing and product development for readers around the world.

 

Source: Another Alfa Romeo Comeback Story May Be Ending

Elon Musk And The Mirage Of Tesla In India

Elon Musk smiles while speaking to members of the media outside federal court in New York, U.S., on April 4, 2019. (Natan Dvir/Bloomberg)

Elon Musk smiles while speaking to members of the media outside federal court in New York, U.S., on April 4, 2019. (Natan Dvir/Bloomberg)

© 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP

Will Tesla chief Elon Musk finally bring his much sought after electric cars to India within a year?

That’s what he said while speaking with a team of students from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, who were competing in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition 2019. Suyash Singh, who was taking part in the hyperloop competition with a team called Avishkar, confirmed the comments by Musk through email.

But Musk has said this before, as recently as March this year.

In response to a question on Twitter on when he would bring Tesla to India, he wrote, “Would love to be there this year. If not, definitely next! [heart] India.”

The dangling started in April 2016 when Musk tweeted that India was being added to list of countries where Tesla’s relatively affordable Model 3 would be available. Although its price tag of $35,000 made it out of the reach of most Indians, that didn’t tamp any of the excitement around the idea. At the time Musk also said the company would also bring a “India-wide Supercharger network.” Tesla owners in the U.S. can juice up the depleted batteries of their cars in 75 minutes on a supercharger.

But that soon hit a road bump of prohibitive Indian rules. “Maybe I’m misinformed,” Musk tweeted, “but I was told that 30% of parts must be locally sourced and the supply doesn’t yet exist in India to support that.”

Last year he wrote: “Would love to be in India. Some challenging government regulations, unfortunately. Deepak Ahuja, our CFO, is from India. Tesla will be there as soon as he believes we should.” But then the company announced in January that Ahuja would be resigning from his role.

While it’s anyone’s guess on when Tesla will actually be available for sale in India, if ever, the country’s electric vehicle market is slowly picking up steam. New Delhi has a target that 30% of vehicles sold across all segments will be electric by 2030.

For financial year ending March, India saw sales of 3,600 electric cars, 126,000 two-wheelers, 500 buses and 700 three-wheelers also known as autorickshaws, according to CRISIL, an S&P Global company.

The nascent industry got a boost last week when ride hailing giant Uber announced it intends to launch electric autorickshaws in several cities in the coming months for which it has partnered with battery maker SUN Mobility, a joint venture between solar power company SUN New Energy System and electric mobility company Virya Mobility 5.0.

New Delhi has laid out $1.4 billion in subsidies over three years for electric buses, three-wheelers, four-wheelers that are registered as commercial vehicles as well as private motorbikes and scooters. The majority of Indians still travel by those modes rather than personal cars. It also plans to order Uber and its homegrown competitor Ola to convert 40% of their respective fleets to electric by 2026.

CRISIL Research expects a gradual pick-up in EV adoption in India to be led by three-wheelers and two-wheelers over the next five years.

However, for a real pick up in the sector, the country needs to beef up its charging infrastructure, says Hetal Gandhi, Director, CRISIL Research. India had only 352 publicly accessible chargers in 2018 in comparison to the 275,000 chargers in China, according to International Energy Agency. “Greater availability of charging infrastructure would aid in electrification of buses and taxis,” said Gandhi.

That apart, local manufacturing and assembly of battery packs for the EVs would also go a long way in reducing the cost of these vehicles, she added.

Should those actually kick in, it might make the market attractive enough for Musk to actually make good on those tweets.

I write about business and development in the Subcontinent. In the past I’ve worked at AFP, The Wall Street Journal, Mint, Forbes Magazine and Reuters. You can find me on Twitter: @mbahree or contact me on email: Megha.Bahree@gmail.com.

Source: Elon Musk And The Mirage Of Tesla In India

Hybrid Pioneer Toyota Finally Unveils Its First EV, The C-HR

The C-HR is Toyota's first-ever EV.

The C-HR is Toyota’s first-ever EV.

Some automotive analysts have recently suggested that Toyota missed the boat when it comes to electric vehicles. That could not be farther from the truth.

While not the first to mass-market an EV — that honor went to the Nissan Leaf in 2010 — Toyota has been methodically electrifying its lineup since it pioneered that world’s first hybrid—the Prius—back in 1997. In fact, of the 60 odd models (in Japan) in its range, well over half boast some form of electrification. We should of course note that by electrification, we are referring to vehicles powered by either a pure electric powertrain or a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell setup.

And electrification is the operative word here. Because while Toyota may not yet have a pure EV on the market, its hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell cars like the Mirai all have electric motors, battery packs and power control units that EVs employ. The technology is there. It’s just that the hybrid powertrains contain a gasoline engine component, which depending on the vehicle, either powers the drive wheels or merely acts as a generator to charge the batteries. Indeed, the Mirai is an electric car with hydrogen as its fuel.

I spoke with a Toyota executive recently who said that, “We might not have an EV in our lineup at this moment, but we have the necessary technology to release one almost immediately when the time is right.” He added that the company has been gauging market reaction to EVs, while it progressively electrified its entire lineup, a task that will be completed by 2025. That’s right. By 2025, every Toyota and Lexus vehicle will be propelled by some form of electric powertrain.

As far as Toyota’s “when the time is right” comment goes, it would seem as though the time to launch a pure electric car is now. At April’s Shanghai Motor Show, Japan’s No 1 carmaker unveiled their first-ever EV in China, the C-HR and Izoa battery-electric crossover concepts. Technically the same car, they are manufactured by different joint ventures. The reason why the same car has two names is because Toyota operates multiple joint ventures in China with GAC calling it C-HR and FAW referring to it as the Izoa.

While the company was not offering up any range details or specifications on its powertrain, we did learn that the concept sits on the same Toyota New Global Architecture that underpins the popular Camry and Corolla. Another thing we can infer from the C-HR is that if Toyota can mount an electric powertrain in this small crossover then there is a fair chance that other models like the RAV4 or Corolla, which also employ the TNGA platform, can also be made into EVs.

What we’re seeing here is just the start of a wave of EVs that Toyota says will number at least ten by 2025.

In a career that spans 30 years, I have written about automobiles, innovation, games, luxury lifestyles, travel and food.

Source: Hybrid Pioneer Toyota Finally Unveils Its First EV, The C-HR

Toyota’s new car subscription company Kinto is gamifying driving behavior — TechCrunch

Toyota has officially launched Kinto, a company first revealed late last year that will manage a car subscription program and other mobility services in Japan, including the sale and purchase of used vehicles as well as automotive repair and inspection. Kinto is jointly funded by Toyota Financial Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota, and Sumitomo Mitsui…

via Toyota’s new car subscription company Kinto is gamifying driving behavior — TechCrunch

Tesla Says Plant Worker Injuries Stayed Flat In 2018 Amid Production ‘Hell’

Tesla’s push to more than double production of its electric vehicles last year wasn’t pretty; in fact CEO Elon Musk said it would be “hell.” In 2018 the injury rate at its main assembly plant stayed flat as the company expanded safety procedures and contended with news stories that highlighted worker injuries and questioned the thoroughness of its injury reporting practices……….

Source: Tesla Says Plant Worker Injuries Stayed Flat In 2018 Amid Production ‘Hell’

2 Reasons To Sell Tesla: $920M And $26,250

A little more than two months from now, Tesla — in which I have no financial interest — could have a considerably lower cash balance. How so? The terms of a $920 million convertible bond make me think that come March 1, Tesla will have to part with at least a third of its remaining cash. Is Tesla stock overvalued? On January 18, Tesla traded at 22% below its June 2018 all-time high and it lost 13% of its value in the wake of CEO Elon Musk’s decision to cut 7% of its employees……..

Source: 2 Reasons To Sell Tesla: $920M And $26,250

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