Good morning! It’s Tuesday, November 21, 2023, and this is The Morning Shift, your daily roundup of the top automotive headlines from around the world, in one place. Here are the important stories you need to know.
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1st Gear: Fisker’s Accounting Chief Makes It Two Weeks
Fisker’s chief accounting officer, Florus Beuting, a man who started the job just two weeks ago, is already out at the nascent automaker. Hey, at least he lasted longer than Anthony Scaramucci. From The Wall Street Journal:
Florus Beuting, who was named chief accounting officer in early November, has left the automaker, the company said in a regulatory filing Monday. His exit follows the departure of his predecessor, who left in late October after roughly three years at the startup to take a job with another company, leading Fisker to unexpectedly delay its earnings release.
Beuting resigned from the company Tuesday, a day after Fisker reported third-quarter results, according to the filing.
Fisker is one of a number of automotive startups that are trying to rapidly expand their business amid cooling demand for EVs. The company’s first vehicle, the Ocean SUV, went on sale earlier this year, but sales have been slow to take off as Fisker struggled with parts delays and difficulties shipping its vehicles to the U.S. from Austria, where they are built.
Beuting was previously the chief accountant at PLBY Group, the parent company of the Playboy brand. He was hired by Fisker on November 6, just a little bit before the company unexpectedly pushed back its quarterly earnings report because of the change in executives.
John Finnucan, who had been Fisker’s chief accounting officer since around the time the company went public in late 2020, left on Oct. 27 to join a private company focused on refueling solutions. At the time of Finnucan’s departure, Fisker said his exit wasn’t related to company operations or accounting practices.
Fisker delayed the release of earnings by about a week, saying the gap between Finnucan’s departure and Beuting’s first day at work meant the company was unable to finish preparing all of its financial documents and regulatory disclosures for the period.
The company disappointed Wall Street when it reported third-quarter results, recording worse than expected net loss and revenue. Fisker’s shares tumbled more than 10% in after-hours trading after it released the quarterly results.
Fisker has also recently cut its production target for the year to between 13,000 and 17,000 vehicles. That’s down fairly substantially from its previous target of about 20,000 vehicles.
2nd Gear: Nissan’s Wage Hike For Plant Workers
Nissan is raising top wages for workers at its U.S. manufacturing plants by 10 percent in January following the United Auto Workers union’s contract with the Big Three automakers.
Apparently, about 9,000 U.S. workers in total, including technicians, maintenance and tool and die technicians, will get pay hikes on January 8. Additionally, workers not yet at the top scale will see their wages increase. From Reuters:
Nissan said it is also eliminating wage tiers for U.S. production workers. In recent weeks, Hyundai Motor, Toyota Motor and Honda Motor have all announced they would hike U.S. factory wages after the UAW contract and as the union says it will work to organize nonunion plants operated by foreign automakers and Tesla.
Nissan said the pay hikes reflect its commitment to its employees in the United States “and enhancing our competitiveness.”
The UAW labor deals with General Motors, Ford Motor and Stellantis include a 25% increase in base wages through 2028, including an immediate 11% hike, and will cumulatively raise the top wage by 33%, compounded with estimated cost-of-living adjustments to over $42 an hour.
It also cut the number of years needed to get to top pay from eight years to three years, will boost the pay of temporary workers by 150% and make them permanent employees. The deal also includes significant retirement improvements.
Nissan said over the last three years it has increased wages at its three manufacturing sites by 12-18.5% in total; previously cut time needed to reach top pay from eight to four years; added two paid holidays and increased paid parental leave for production workers.
For decades, the UAW has been unable to organize at auto plants operated by foreign automakers, but UAW President Shawn Fain is looking to change that in the near-ish future.
3rd Gear: Hyundai’s New Plant In Singapore
Hyundai opened its heavily automaker facility in Singapore that is expected to play an important role in the Korean automaker’s electrification strategy in the coming decades. It deploys robotics and new production methods. From Bloomberg:
The Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center Singapore covers seven floors and can make as many as 30,000 electric vehicles annually, according to Hyundai. It has been in operation since early this year, producing Ioniq 5 cars and fully autonomous robotaxis. The Ioniq 6 will join the manufacturing lineup in 2024.
“HMGICS will establish itself as one of two Hyundai Motor Group innovation pillars that will lead the company’s future in the electrification era over the next 50 years,” Hyundai said in a statement Tuesday. “The facility will serve as a testbed for developing future mobility solutions.”
A feature of the 86,900-square meter (935,380-square feet) facility is a so-called cell-based production system, where humans and robots work side by side, replacing the traditional conveyor-belt manufacturing approach. Some 200 robots engage in operations such as assembly and inspection, freeing humans to focus on more creative and productive duties, Hyundai said.
Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, was in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony three years ago. At the time he reportedly described it as a “major step forward” for Hyundai and that it was the “first of its kind” in the world.
The building also features a 618-meter rooftop track for test driving and a smart farm where robots work on producing vegetables, some of which will be used in a restaurant scheduled to open next year. Only 1% of land in Singapore is assigned to agriculture, and the city-state imports 90% of food consumed. It aims to produce 30% of food locally by 2030.
Hyundai Motor Group is planning to build over 3.6 million EVs every year by the end of this decade. It is also building a much larger factory than this one in Ulsan, South Korea that’ll be capable of producing 200,000 EVs per year. It’ll also be building another factory in Georgia with a capacity of 300,000 vehicles per year.
4th Gear: Tesla’s Deal With India
India is getting close to a deal with Tesla that would allow the Austin, Texas-based automaker to ship its electric vehicles to the country starting next year and set up a factory within two years. From Bloomberg:
An announcement could come at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit in January, one of the people said, declining to be identified because the discussions are private. The states of Gujarat, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home base, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are under consideration because they already have well-established ecosystems for electric vehicles and exports, another person said.
Tesla would commit an initial minimum investment in any plant of around $2 billion, one person said, and would look to increase purchases of auto parts from the nation to as much as $15 billion. The US automaker would also seek to make some batteries in India to bring down costs, the person said.
Right now, no final decision has been made and plans can reportedly change, according to folks with knowledge of the project. CEO Elon Musk said earlier this year that Tesla plans to make a “significant investment” in India, and he plans to visit next year.
Representatives from India’s Ministry of Heavy Industries, which oversees the automobile sector, and the ministries of finance, and commerce and industry, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Tesla also didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Breaking into the world’s most-populous nation, where demand for electric vehicles is growing among aspirational middle-class consumers, would be a potential boon for Tesla, which currently has factories in the US, China and Germany. Modi’s government has been pushing to increase domestic manufacturing of EVs and encourage a more rapid adoption of cleaner transport.
Despite those efforts, India’s EV market has a long way to go, with battery-powered cars accounting for just 1.3% of the total passenger vehicles sold last year, according to BloombergNEF. Buyers are hesitant to make the switch due to electric cars’ high upfront cost and a dearth of charging stations.
Tesla currently doesn’t import import its vehicles directly into India because of the high tariffs that are being levied. When the first locally made cars eventually go on sale, they could (in theory) sell for as little as $20,000.
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