Carmakers face up to political risks

Adel Murad
Updated 11 November 2017
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Carmakers face up to political risks

Political risks facing carmakers in the next decade could exceed environmental pressures and may lead to drastic strategic changes in the industry. There are several examples of future political risks faced by car companies in the immediate future.
In Britain, exit from the EU poses grave risks to car companies operating from the UK. Some executives have been vocal about this risk, calling on the UK government to give assurances it cannot give at this stage. Aston Martin’s CEO Andy Palmer called for more clarity on “Brexit” while Didier Leroy, VP of Toyota, said recently: “We cannot stay in this kind of fog when we don’t know what will be the output of the negotiations.” Toyota has a plant in Britain that employs 3,000 people and intends to invest $317 million when the “fog” clears.
Meanwhile, Dieter Zetsche, Daimler’s CEO, said from Stuttgart that the policies of US President Trump are a risk for German carmakers. Trump is championing the protection of US carmakers and has criticized import of German cars to the US as “unfair trade.”
VW’s Seat is preparing contingency plans to move its headquarters from Catalonia if the political standoff with Madrid gets worse. This will affect 14,000 workers in Martorell, near Barcelona. Development of a new Seat SUV has been put on hold.
China, too, is imposing restrictions on car imports in efforts to support its emerging car industry. One of the measures taken by China is imposing escalating quotas for electric cars starting in 2019. This has compelled companies to invest heavily in an expensive technical leap with slim profit margins. Large profit margins in the Chinese markets are a thing of the past.
There are other risks facing the industry including the need to cut costs; demands for wage rises of up to 6 percent by workers’ unions; the danger of investing in the wrong technology and the huge investment needed to develop electric vehicles and autonomous driving.
Leaders of car companies are to be commended for chartering a viable future in these turbulent times.
• Adel Murad is a senior motoring and business journalist, based in London.
Email: [email protected]


Tesla production leader Doug Field exits company

Tesla produced 5,000 of its Model 3 cars, along with a combined total of 2,000 Model S and Model X vehicles. (AP)
Updated 03 July 2018
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Tesla production leader Doug Field exits company

SAN FRANCISCO: Tesla on Monday confirmed that the head of Model 3 production, who went on leave after chief executive Elon Musk took over his duties, will not be returning.
The departure of engineering senior vice president Doug Field came as California-based Tesla appeared to have finally hit a self-imposed goal of cranking out 5,000 Model 3 electric cars in a week.
Tesla co-founder Musk fired off a Twitter post over the weekend saying “7,000 cars, 7 days.”
In a note to investors on Monday, Analyst Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities said that in the preceding week, Tesla produced 5,000 of its Model 3 cars, along with a combined total of 2,000 Model S and Model X vehicles.
Tesla has been under pressure to increase production to show it can operate profitably and at the kind of scale needed to be considered a major auto company.
Musk has been managing the Tesla production line, which has been rejiggered to pump out cars faster.
Field will not be returning to the company, according to Tesla.
“After almost five years at Tesla, Doug Field is moving on,” a company spokesman told AFP.
“We’d like to thank Doug for his hard work over the years and for everything he has done for Tesla.”
Tesla announced in June that it was cutting nine percent of its workforce to enhance profitability, but said the move would not affect an ambitious production ramp-up of its Model 3 sedan.
The job cuts are part of a company-wide restructuring to address excess staff in some areas due to the company’s speedy growth, Musk said in an email to employees.
The cuts concern salaried staff but not production workers and will not affect Model 3 output targets, said Musk, who characterized the downsizing as an acknowledgement of the need to focus more on costs.
“Given that Tesla has never made an annual profit in the almost 15 years since we have existed, profit is obviously not what motivates us,” Musk said in the message.
“What drives us is our mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable, clean energy, but we will never achieve that mission unless we eventually demonstrate that we can be sustainably profitable.”
Shares of Tesla closed the formal trading day down 2.3 percent to $335.07 but regained some of that ground in after-market trades.