July 15, 2024
Column: EVs are making this a very uncomfortable time

Anybody who thinks the transition to electric vehicles will be soft-n-easy had better read this week’s issue closely.

We tell you about the change on a number of fronts this week.

It’s fair to say that a few decades ago, the Detroit auto industry freaked out when it discovered what an amazing machine Toyota was in how is built cars, designed them to be built smoothly and worked constantly to bring down costs.

But we tell you on Page 1 that Toyota is now doing its own freak-out as it discovers what an amazing machine Tesla is in turning out EVs. Toyota is overhauling its organization to catch up with Tesla.

But turn the page and you’ll read this news: Tesla itself is now rethinking how it builds EVs. Elon Musk told the audience for his March 1 Investor Day presentation that Tesla intends to launch a new vehicle platform that will cost half what Tesla’s older platforms cost to build. (And by the way, it’s those older Tesla models that are freaking Toyota out.)

The point isn’t “who’s the best?” The point is that everything’s up for reconsideration.

Nissan, which helped light the fuse on the EV segment more than a decade ago, is also rethinking its North American manufacturing and sourcing strategy for EVs, we report on Page 3. It will involve an overhaul of its production lines, product lines and supply lines here.

The necessary changes can be abrupt.

The situation at Stellantis’ Jeep Belvidere plant outside Chicago provides a good example. Belvidere has turned out classic models since 1965, like the original Dodge Charger, the Chrysler Imperial and New Yorker and the Dodge Neon. And since 2007, Belvidere workers have been pumping out Jeeps.

But the plant just went dark as Stellantis prepares for an EV future.

In a story on Page 4, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares acknowledges that such transition is “very uncomfortable,” but it must be done.

“The reality of the transformation of the market is the reality that we need to face,” Tavares told reporters in response to questions about Belvidere. “And that’s something that we should not run away from.”

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