Something Fishy Is Going On With Toyota's Diesel Trucks

Something Fishy Is Going On With Toyota's Diesel Trucks

Happy Monday! It’s January 29, 2024, 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.

The Toyota Land Cruiser Is Back Baby!

1st Gear: Toyota Stops Shipping Diesel Vehicles Over Test ‘Irregularities’

It’s been a rough couple months for Toyota. First, its subsidiary Daihatsu admitted that it might have faked three decades of crash tests, and now the company’s diesel engines are under similar scrutiny. From Reuters:

Toyota Motor said it would suspend shipments of some models including the Hilux truck and Land Cruiser 300 SUV after finding irregularities in certification tests for diesel engines developed by affiliate Toyota Industries

A special investigative committee found irregularities during horsepower output testing for the certification of three diesel engine models.

Ten models use the affected engines globally, Toyota said, including the Hiace van, Fortuner SUV, Innova multi-purpose vehicle and Lexus-branded LX500D SUV.

Between the crash tests, the engines, and the lobbying, it seems Toyota isn’t exactly big on the whole “regulation” thing. For most of us, that’s the kind of approach that leads to prison, but Toyota may have the money to make things work out.

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2nd Gear: We Have Too Much Lithium For EV Batteries, Actually

Plenty of folks out there are concerned about the lithium used in EV batteries — specifically, they’re concerned that the Earth may simply not have enough of the element to go around. As it turns out, that may not be the case. From Bloomberg:

Australia’s biggest lithium mine has become the latest battery-metals venture to feel the pain from faltering demand growth, with output set to be trimmed as prices sink.

Production from Greenbushes in Western Australia is likely to be reduced as sales drop and inventories rise, according to part-owner IGO Ltd. Output guidance for spodumene concentrate — the lithium-bearing material — was cut to a range of 1.3-to-1.4 million tons this financial year, down 100,000 tons.

A slump across battery materials has upended projects worldwide as gluts emerge, even as optimism about the outlook for electric vehicles persists. With prices in free fall, miners are imposing production cuts and seeking to rein in costs. In Australia, Pilbara Minerals Ltd. said recently it’s unlikely to pay a dividend, Core Lithium Ltd. will cut jobs, and some nickel mines will be halted.

Of course, no matter how much lithium is contained in any one mine, it’s worth remembering that we may not actually need all of it. There’s always enough to go around, depending on the choices made around how to allocate it.

3rd Gear: The Lobbying Battle Over AM Radio Has Formed Some Weird Alliances

AM radio is stuck in a weird place. It’s logistically important — American highways are still dotted with signs telling drivers which AM station to tune to for up-to-date information on conditions — but it’s not really a thing anyone (aside from my mom) uses for entertainment. Carmakers want it gone, lawmakers want it to stay, and that’s led to some weird sides being taken. From the Wall Street Journal:

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WASHINGTON—A motley crew of AM radio advocates, including conservative talk show hosts like Hugh Hewitt and federal emergency officials, are lobbying Congress to stop carmakers from dropping the old medium from new vehicles.

Tesla, Volvo, and BMW are among the companies that have already stopped providing AM tuners in some models. Last year Ford said it would join them—until CEO Jim Farley reversed course “after speaking with policy leaders.”

The legislation has united lawmakers who ordinarily want nothing to do with one another. Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Ed Markey (D., Mass.) are leading the Senate effort, and on the House side, Speaker Mike Johnson—himself a former conservative talk radio host in Louisiana—and progressive “squad” member Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan are among about 200 co-sponsors.

Radio is objectively a good way to get information out to drivers — it doesn’t involve the use of your eyes, meaning you can keep them focused on the road, and it’s easy to access from the driver’s seat without too much distraction. Only time will tell if that’s enough to save it.

4th Gear: Rivian Poaches Apple Hardware VP

Rivian’s been in an interesting spot as of late. Deliveries and profits have been up, down, up again; folks have been hired and fired and hired. The company, for its part, has kept trucking along through all the disruptions — intent on competing with the big kids. Now, it seems hopeful another new higher-up will help. From Automotive News:

An Apple Inc. veteran who led work on home devices and helped start efforts to develop an electric vehicle is leaving for Rivian Automotive Inc., marking yet another senior departure for the iPhone maker.

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DJ Novotney, a vice president of hardware engineering, informed colleagues Friday of his exit, according to people with knowledge of the matter. He will become senior vice president of vehicle programs at Rivian, the maker of electric SUVs and trucks, and report to CEO RJ Scaringe, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing unannounced matters.

Novotney, who worked at Apple for nearly 25 years, was known as a senior lieutenant to many of the company’s top hardware engineering executives. He was instrumental in the development of several generations of the iPod and iPhone, and was tapped by former hardware chief Dan Riccio to help lead development of the iPad, the people said.

Apple folks seem like a good fit for Rivian, since both companies take their attention to detail to an absurd degree. Apple specifically times how long it takes an iPhone box to open — to build suspense — while Rivian placed reading lights in the R1S’s liftgate so you can enjoy a book while sitting in the truck’s open rear. They both like minutiae, so long as that minutiae supports the user experience.

Reverse: God Willing, We Will Prevail, In Peace And Freedom From Fear And In True Health Through The Purity And Essence Of Our Natural Fluids

On The Radio: Porter Robinson & Madeon – ‘Shelter’

Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter (Official Video) (Short Film with A-1 Pictures & Crunchyroll)

There are many music videos that are Very Good, but only one that can be the best. This is it. I’m sorry if you have another favorite, but Shelter is unimpeachable.