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Saudis Appear to Be Key to Taking Tesla Private

Facing lawsuits, SEC probe, CEO Musk offers more details on privatization plan.

by on Aug.13, 2018

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed a few details about the plan to take the EV maker private he teased last week.

In a Monday morning blog post, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has offered some critical new details about the plan, first announced last week, to take the battery-carmaker private, pointing to a Saudi sovereign investment fund as the potential source of funding — though he also cautioned it would be “premature” to offer full details at this point.

Last Tuesday, the 47-year-old chief executive set off alarm bells when he posted a tweet declaring his interest in taking Tesla private at a price of $420 per share. The news sent investors scurrying to snap up Tesla stock which quickly approached an all-time high before settling back two days later.

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With virtually no details offered, Musk and Tesla quickly came under scrutiny from analysts, investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission which has begun to probe his comments to see if they violate federal securities law. Tesla now faces two lawsuits, as well, alleging the Tuesday announcement was really a “nuclear attack” on short-sellers. (more…)

Trump Wants Boycott of Harley-Davidson

President tweets support of motorcycle boycott.

by on Aug.13, 2018

President Donald Trump has once again turn his focus on Harley-Davidson, with support of a boycott of the American motorcycle maker.

President Donald Trump is attempting to rally Harley-Davidson owners to boycott the company if it moves any of its production overseas.

In a tweet, Trump said that “many” Harley owners were going to boycott the company. The company earned the president’s ire after it announced plans to build some motorcycles at overseas locations to avoid the steel tariffs put in place by the Trump administration as well as the retaliatory taxes enacted by the European Union in responses.

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The company said it would lose as much as $100 million annually due to the move, which would raise the price of the motorcycle by more than $2,200. It also noted that all bikes sold in the U.S. are made in the U.S. (more…)

Can the Flintstones and Jetsons Sell America on EVs?

New ad campaign brings back two classic cartoon families.

by on Aug.13, 2018

The Electrify America ad campaign plays up the fun-to-drive aspects of battery-cars as much as their environmental benefits.

There’s an electrified revolution heading for your local showroom, with dozens of hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles coming to market over the next few years. The challenge the industry faces is getting consumers to plug in. All forms of battery-based vehicles accounted for barely 3% of the total U.S. market last year.

Building awareness is a key goal for Electrify America, the project backed by $2 billion from Volkswagen, part of the settlement of its diesel emissions scandal. The 10-year effort makes its public debut this week with an ad campaign pitching the virtues of battery-electric vehicles. And to help get the message across, it’s borrowing the theme music from two Boomer-era cartoon shows, the Flintstones and the Jetsons.

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The first spot, dubbed JetStones, features a number of new battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, and will air on national and local cable television, with a radio version running in both English and Spanish. At the same time, Electrify America will begin placing a network of high-speed charging stations across the country.

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Apple Brings Back Top Engineer for Project Titan

Field's return has some wondering if a full-on vehicle is in the works.

by on Aug.10, 2018

Is Apple CEO Tim Cook getting the band back together? The company rehired one of its former engineers, Doug Field, for Project Titan.

Apple rehired Doug Field, one of its top engineers, after he left Tesla Inc. last month and assigned him to report to the leader of the Project Titan team.

Field spent five years at Tesla as the company’s top engineer. He left the company this summer under unusual circumstances. His hire also creates a unique circumstance as well — is Project Titan now focusing on creating a full-blown vehicle again instead of just a self-driving car system?

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Field is returning to work for Bob Mansfield, who has been overseeing Project Titan for the past several years. Mansfield was the person who, reportedly, moved the Apple’s car project from a full-on vehicle to just a self-driving system. (more…)

Car Dealership Numbers Holding Steady in US

Online sales not hurting auto dealers yet.

by on Aug.10, 2018

Auto dealership levels are virtually unchanged year-over-year, according to a new report.

Urban Science released statistics and insights today from its 2018 mid-year Automotive Franchise Activity Report, indicating continued stability in the number of automotive dealerships in the United States.

As of July 1, 2018, there were 18,252 dealerships (rooftops), a 0.2% increase from the Jan. 1, 2018, total of 18,213. The number of franchises, or brands a dealership sells, also experienced a period of stability, slightly decreasing from 32,029 on Jan.1, 2017 to 32,024 as of July 1, 2018.

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Despite the shrinkage of “brick-and-mortar” retailing that has emptied shopping malls across the country and threats from online sales, car dealerships, the centerpiece of automotive retailing are holding their own, according to a new study by Detroit-based Urban Science. (more…)

California Thumbs Nose at Trump on Clean Air Standard

State plans to adhere to Obama-era rules.

by on Aug.10, 2018

California plans to stay with its tougher, Obama-era fuel economy and emissions standards.

The California Air Resources Board has come out swinging in its battle with over clean-air and fuel efficiency standards.

CARB, which will bear the burden of any clash with the administration, re-affirmed its commitment to the standards set in place by an agreement between the State of California and the Obama administration to ensure that cars and light-duty trucks for model years 2021–25 continue to meet standards that protect public health, save consumers money, and fight climate change.

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“Dirty, gas guzzling vehicles are a direct assault on public health and foreclose our ability to rein in air pollution and greenhouse gases,” said CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols in a statement. “California will take all actions to ensure that the smart standards we developed in partnership with the auto industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles stay in place.” (more…)

China Locks Down American-Made Mercedes SUVs

Brake problems cited, but move comes as trade war heats up.

by on Aug.10, 2018

China has placed a hold on U.S.-built Mercedes-Benz SUVs due to a "problem" with the rear brakes.

Chinese customs agents are holding up a shipment of American-made Mercedes-Benz SUVs, ostensibly due to technical issues, but the timing of the move raises questions, coming just as the trade war between the U.S. and China heats up.

Following a move by President Donald Trump to impose new tariffs on Chinese goods, the Asian giant responded with its own new duties, including an additional 25% tariff on vehicles made in the U.S. That move will impact not only products from Detroit manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors but also European carmakers with U.S. assembly operations such as Mercedes’ parent Daimler AG.

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According to the Chinese, two Mercedes models, GLE and GLS SUVs produced between May 4 and June 12 of this year, are being help up at the port in Shanghai due what customs authorities have described as a “safety risk.” (more…)

Tesla Stock Tumbles Hard as Questions Mount About Proposal to Go Private

Investors are “raising a lot of sensible questions,” while the SEC also begins sniffing around.

by on Aug.09, 2018

Investors -- along with the SEC -- are raising concerns about CEO Musk's proposal to take Tesla private.

Barely two days after euphoric investors started snapping up Tesla stock, buoyed by a tweet from CEO Elon Musk suggesting the company was ready to go private, gravity has set in. After nearing an all-time record, Tesla’s share price settling back to barely above where it started.

While the battery-carmaker’s board – along with at least one major investor — has cautiously backed the idea, saying it will now explore the idea of taking Tesla private, there appear to be more questions than answers. One of the uncertainties is how the SEC is viewing what happened this week, the federal agency set to take a close look at Musk’s suggestion that “Funding (is) secured” to make the transition once Tesla stock hit $420 a share.

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That number was certainly a big jump from where TSLA shares began the day on Tuesday, just over $340 a share. By the end of the day it had rocketed close to Tesla’s record closing of $389.61. But concerns were apparent almost immediately with some analysts pointing, among other things, to the “420” in Musk’s tweet, a number more often used as slang for marijuana.

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Infiniti Set to Reveal “Electrified” Concept at Pebble Beach

Show car will “underline the electrified performance theme."

by on Aug.09, 2018

Infiniti is offering a tease of its Pebble Beach Concept.

It’s going to be a busy week when everyone starts rolling into California for the week-long celebration leading up to the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Automakers from around the world are promising to use the Concours and related events as backdrop to unveil an array of production cars and concepts later this month.

That includes Infiniti which today dropped some hints about the electric luxury model it will launch on the Pebble Beach show. While the Nissan luxury brand is being coy about details, it hints that the show car will “underline the electrified performance theme” that it has announced for future products, virtually all models set to be offered with some form of battery-based drivetrain – with an emphasis on plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles.

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“Our new concept provides clues to where the Infiniti brand is heading,” said the brand’s design director Karim Habib, in a statement accompanying this teaser image. “For us, electrification means performance – our electrified cars will be powerful, efficient, and a joy to drive, and the new concept is a physical representation of our electrified performance future.”

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China Retaliates; New Tariffs Hit U.S. Auto Exports, Jobs

BMW, Mercedes, Ford, other makers could be hard hit, forced to cut American production.

by on Aug.09, 2018

The BMW X5 is the #1-selling American-made vehicle in the Chinese market.

The auto industry has found itself at Ground Zero as the U.S. and China escalate their trade war.

After the latest move by the Trump Administration to target Chinese imports, the Beijing government has announced it will strike back with 25% tariffs on $16 billion in imported U.S. goods. China previously enacted new duties on $34 billion worth of goods, bringing the total to $50 billion. And with the White House threatening to add another $200 billion to the U.S. list, the trade war could escalate rapidly.

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The latest round sees the Chinese Ministry of Commerce placing an additional 25% duty on a list of American products that includes coal, crude oil and metal scrap, as well as automobiles and motorcycles. A number of automakers could be hit hard by the new sanctions, including Ford Motor Co., Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

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