Good morning! It’s Friday, June 30, 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.
Porsche’s Latest Concept Is The Sexy Electric EV HyperCar Of Our Dreams
1st Gear: Customers Won’t Let The ICE Macan Die
Porsche had planned to phase out the existing, internal-combustion-engine Macan in 2025 or 2026, to replace it with an all-electric version. The problem is that the Macan also happens to be Porsche’s best-selling model, and the compact SUV contributed a third of the company’s U.S. sales last year. Naturally, Porsche is now reconsidering the move. From Automotive News:
Now the company will take a wait-and-see approach to go EV-only with its best-selling model, Porsche told its U.S. retailers at a two-day meeting in the Canary Islands this week.
“They are going to review it,” a retailer at the meeting told Automotive News. “They will see how sales go in the next two years.”
Last year, the Macan accounted for a third of Porsche’s U.S. sales.
The dealer said the apprehension about going all-electric with the volume model concerns the lack of well-maintained public charging infrastructure.
“They got customer pushback,” he said. “They realized there are not enough chargers out there” to support the Macan customer base.
At the meeting, attended by Porsche Cars North America CEO Kjell Gruner, executives demurred on plans to follow the auto industry in plugging into Tesla’s Supercharger network.
“[Executives] indicated they are trying to get as many chargers as possible,” the source said. “They know it’s a problem, and they’re trying to figure out how to do this most efficiently.”
Retailers saw the electric Macan and the freshened Taycan fastback arriving next year at the event. Also displayed was the recently revealed Mission X hypercar concept, which will likely evolve into an all-electric 918 successor.
Attendees of the dealer summit reportedly got a sneak peek at the refreshed Taycan due next year as well as the aforementioned electric Macan. Porsche’s corporate personnel also indicated a disappointment that the average age of its customers is over 50, when they’d really prefer it to be somewhere between 25 and 35. As someone at the exact midpoint between 25 and 35 I have some thoughts about this, but you probably know what those are.
To reach out to said demographic, Porsche is urging its dealers to take the youths more seriously. No, really:
Historically, a 24-year-old who walked into the showroom might have been dismissed as not a serious buyer, the dealer said.
Porsche is “trying to get that mentality to change,” he said. Expanding the customer base is essential to driving volume for the niche brand.
Anyway, to bring it back to the Macan, if the company can continue to offer its volume seller at the height of its popularity and roll out an electric variant for willing customers, that would seem like the most prudent move. Porsche doesn’t need to fix what isn’t broken or draw lines in the sand, because it is Porsche.
2nd Gear: The Fusion Plug-In Hybrid Has A Recall
Did you remember Ford offered a plug-in hybrid version of the Fusion called the Energi? Me neither, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does, and it wants owners of 2019 and 2020 model-year examples to know that they should not charge their sedans until they are serviced, due to risks of loss of power and fire. From Auto News:
Owners are advised not to charge their vehicles until the remedy is completed, according to a Ford filing with NHTSA. If charged, the battery energy control module might become damaged because of excessive voltage and current flow.
The number of potential vehicles affected is 14,452. There have been seven fires and 270 warranty claims, according to the filing.
A remedy for the power loss and fire risk is under development. Interim letters notifying owners of the safety risk are expected to be mailed July 10, according to the filing.”
We’re instructing customers with 2019 and 2020 Ford Fusion Energi [cars] that have 30Ah plug-in hybrid cell batteries to not charge their vehicles,” Ford said in a statement. “Until the remedy is available, lowering the battery’s state of charge will reduce the risk of power loss and fire around the vehicle’s battery control module, which is located in the trunk. We are committed to keeping customers informed as we work to resolve this issue.”
Fortunately being a plug-in hybrid, the Fusion Energi never has to be charged and so owners can continue to use their vehicles in the interim. Still not a great look for Ford, which just can’t seem to shake those pesky recalls.
3rd Gear: Audi’s New CEO Has Work To Do
Markus Duesmann is out at Ingolstadt and Gernot Döllner is in. The personnel change at the top was announced this week, amid direct criticism of the brand from Volkswagen Group chief Oliver Blume, who said Audi has got to shape up. Courtesy Bloomberg:
VW Chief Executive Officer Oliver Blume, who’s been leading Europe’s biggest carmaker for less than a year, singled out Audi for falling short of its potential when he outlined measures to improve performance across the group. On Thursday, VW announced Döllner would replace Markus Duesmann, 54, at the helm of the brand, confirming an earlier Bloomberg report.
Döllner earned Blume’s trust by leading Porsche’s product development and overseeing the sports-car brand’s popular Panamera model series. Audi, together with Lamborghini, Bentley and Ducati, generated roughly a third of the VW group’s operating income last year.
Audi’s falling behind in China, a region where it used to be very successful until about five years ago, and was forced to delay forthcoming EV models due to software problems. It’s astonishing that one of the world’s largest automakers never bothered to figure out common-sense software and user experience until now, but then hubris is not a new issue for the German giant.
4th Gear: TuSimple Hits Hard Times
TuSimple, the company that promised to solve heavy-duty, long-haul trucking with self-driving software and recently announced a restructuring effort, is exploring opportunities to sell itself off. One last time, from Automotive News:
Autonomous trucking company TuSimple is considering selling its U.S. business, according to documents filed Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The decision to explore strategic alternatives for the U.S. business, including a possible sale, “was guided by the company’s review of multiple business factors and commercial opportunities,” according to a TuSimple press release.
A company spokesperson said Thursday that the board was “regularly evaluating a range of business factors that includes macro environment, access to capital, commercial partnerships and timelines. Those factors led to the board to make the decision to explore a possible sale at this time. We are very early in the process, so we don’t have any specific prospects that we are able to discuss at this time.”
This is the same TuSimple that formerly partnered with Navistar for manufacturing but no longer is, as well as the same TuSimple that prompted a federal probe with a highway crash and also economic espionage concerns. For those keeping score.
Reverse: Do The Right Thing
On this day in 1989 — 34 years ago — Do The Right Thing was released to theaters. Normally I’d find a more car-relevant item for Reverse, but this one deserves the exception.
Neutral: Porsche Market Research
Are you someone between the ages of 25 and 35 and are you in a position to buy a new Porsche, with the cheapest possible option starting at $62,550? I’m just conducting my own survey is all.