How incentives revived Ontario

In committing billions of dollars to their Ontario assembly plants, the Detroit 3 have signaled that they see Canada as central to their electrification plans — thanks in part to enhanced government incentives.

In January, General Motors committed to a $781 million investment in CAMI Assembly in Ingersoll, Ontario, to build its new BrightDrop EV600 all-electric cargo vans starting in November. That announcement came just a few months after Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, now Stellantis, vowed to spend up to a combined $2.58 billion on two of their plants to build electric vehicles this decade.

“It’s part of the whole package of Canada becoming an electric vehicle center,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions. “There’s a wave of investment going into Canada now to become a center of excellence for electric vehicles.”

But that wave was not inevitable. Indeed, until recently, many industry observers thought the scenario unlikely.

What changed? To a great degree, it was the government’s willingness to provide financial incentives.

Canadian auto manufacturing, particularly among the Detroit 3 automakers, was in rough waters. Canada was the world’s fifth-largest vehicle producer by volume in 1999, with 3.05 million vehicles built. But by 2019, it ranked No. 12 globally, with 1.91 million vehicles assembled, according to the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers.

Ray Tanguay, who was the Canadian and Ontario governments’ auto industry adviser from June 2015 to April 2018, recalled visiting the Center for Automotive Research’s annual conference in Traverse City, Mich., early in his tenure.

“We were not on the map at all. Zero,” he said he learned there.

“Everyone was talking about the U.S., Mexico, China, and when I was pushing to bring up the Canadian story, nobody was listening.”

Tanguay said the new multibillion-dollar investment plans by the Detroit 3 prove that Canada’s global profile is on the rise.

Along with the Canadian union Unifor and many auto analysts, he attributes Canada’s turnaround at least in part to a strategic decision by the federal and provincial governments to step up their financial incentives to lure EV production to the country.

The governments have committed a combined $464.5 million of Ford’s $1.46 billion investment in its Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant, which will exclusively build EV models after the investment. The government incentives will cover about 33 percent of the planned costs.

That is a significant boost from what the governments previously covered for auto manufacturing projects. For example, when Toyota Motor Corp. announced plans to invest $1.1 billion in its Ontario assembly plants in 2018, the federal and Ontario governments each committed $86.6 million, covering about 16 percent of the total cost.

The Liberal federal government, which has made addressing climate change a priority under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has signaled to automakers that it is willing to offer stronger financial incentives for EV projects. And the Ontario provincial government, led by Conservative Premier Doug Ford, is willing to do the same since it sees an opportunity to build up an EV battery supply chain in Ontario.

That was not lost on GM when the automaker was considering where to build its new electric commercial vans, Unifor President Jerry Dias said. (Government incentives for GM and Stellantis have not yet been announced.)

“GM watched the Ford announcement, and they saw the prime minister and premier come out very quickly in support of it,” Dias said. “General Motors saw that the Canadian and provincial governments, really for the first time, were being very active as it relates to electric vehicles.”

GM Canada President Scott Bell, speaking on Automotive News Canada‘s weekly podcast, said the automaker sees itself being “aligned completely” with the Canadian government on climate issues.

In January, GM said it aimed to sell only emission-free vehicles by 2035.

“It’s a natural fit when you put it all together,” Bell said.

Dealers in Texas putting wintry mess in rearview

It’s been a year of storms for Greg Luther.

The first one hit his immune system in January, when the body shop director at Helfman Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep-Ram-Fiat in Houston missed three weeks of work after contracting COVID-19.

Luther had to stave off severe headaches and congestion while losing his abilities to taste and smell.

He was still bouncing back from that episode when another storm hit, this one carrying a load of snow, ice and astoundingly frigid temperatures to Texas that devastated the region’s power and water systems in mid-February.

It also left Luther with burst pipes that caused flooding at his ranch-style home an hour’s drive north of Houston — a place that became unreachable for a few days after the winter blast.

“I’m 47 years old and lived here my entire life and don’t recall anything like this,” Luther told Automotive News. “Our government just wasn’t set up, or whoever’s responsible to make sure we get power wasn’t set up. If it wasn’t for the lack of power, I don’t think many of us would have had the problems that we had.”

Luther is now back to work after a forced four-day hiatus. The Helfman crew was greeted in the storm’s aftermath with a damaged fire suppression system that spewed water into the service drive. The pipes in the wash area outside the body shop took a beating as well.

Those issues are fixed now, and the dealership, like many others in the state, is looking to rebound.

Steve Wolf, the dealer principal, said the store lost power for several days before it returned Feb. 17. The store had to thoroughly check out its dealership management system, Internet and phones before starting back up, and Wolf is now thinking about getting a generator for his store as a precaution.

Employees started returning Feb. 19, a Friday. Things were largely back to normal the next day as transport trucks started delivering new vehicles and customers poured into the store.

“We were back,” Wolf said. “Saturday was rockin’. ”

Friendly Ford of Crosby near Houston made it through the icy period unscathed. But many employees incurred broken pipes at their homes along with the power and water outages that plagued so many.

To help them through this time, Austin Salinas, the general sales manager, said the dealership paid its workers for days they missed. The store was closed for three days before returning with a skeleton crew Feb. 18 and 19.

Friendly didn’t see the sudden influx of store traffic after the storm that Helfman did. Salinas attributed the slower days to people needing to tend to damage at their homes first.

The cold stretch, Salinas said, halted momentum in what had been a nice month for the store. He believes the store lost about 40 sales during its downtime.

Ford can blame the winter storm for at least one lost Bronco sale. Salinas said one customer backed out of a Bronco reservation after pipes failed at her home and she needed to use the money for repairs.

The power outages across Texas have demonstrated the usefulness of a new built-in generator option on the redesigned F-150. Some owners used the feature to power their homes until electricity was restored.

“Our guys have used that as a major selling point this week when they’re presenting this new truck [and] showing everybody the benefits of this new generator,” Salinas said. “And our customers now see the value in that.”

Fernando Varela, who owns four dealerships near Dallas, said the roof of his All Star Ford store in Palestine sagged under the weight of the snow and ice that had accumulated. The roof has since been inspected, and the store is open again.

Varela is focused on taking care of his employees who lost several days of pay, including some who were out for a week. He said the company was “trying to be creative and be fair with some of them because obviously they don’t have control over the situation.”

Helfman’s Luther had a generator at his home that he used to keep some lights and the TV on, though it wasn’t strong enough to deliver another luxury that few Texans previously viewed as essential: heat.

But after the weather warmed up, he said life returned to normal quickly.

“I went out to a couple of restaurants over the weekend, and they were just jampacked,” Luther said. “It was like COVID was over. Every table in the restaurant was full. We haven’t had that in a while.”

Elon Musk satirically encourages SEC to probe his Dogecoin tweets

Elon Musk satirically encourages SEC to probe his Dogecoin tweets

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has no respect for the SEC, but he hopes they look into his recent string of Dogecoin memes and tweets after rumors of a probe by the Commission was rumored to be coming soon.

“I hope they do! It would be awesome,” Musk said to a Twitter follower last night.

Musk has spent the last few weeks encouraging the popular Cryptocurrency by sharing several memes and tweets that have been taken on by his band of followers. Dogecoin is arguably the most popular Cryptocurrency, right up there with Bitcoin, which Tesla purchased $1.5 billion worth according to a filing that the automaker released in January.

Rumors of an SEC probe into Musk’s Dogecoin tweets were first reported by @FirstSquawk on Twitter, who indicated that “sources familiar with the matter” said Musk would be under investigation. However, many were skeptical for a number of reasons. The SEC hadn’t formally released a statement that the investigation would take place, the SEC doesn’t regulate Cryptocurrency, and Musk, who would be the subject of the probe, hasn’t been warned by the agency.

Dogecoin has exploded in 2021, going from less than a cent a share to over eight cents per share during an early February rally. Due to its low cost, some investors cashed in big on the surge, but the Crypto has since settled down to around five cents per share. According to CoinDesk, Dogecoin has increased by 837.82% so far this year.

If Musk were to be under investigation by the SEC, it wouldn’t be the first time he was entangled with the federal agency. After indicating that he could take Tesla private at $420 a share in September 2018, the SEC accused Musk of committing securities fraud, and fined him $20 million, and forced him to step down as the Chairman of Tesla’s Board.

Musk has cast a few jabs in the SEC’s direction, including a not-so-friendly acronym, which the CEO Tweeted in July.

Elon Musk satirically encourages SEC to probe his Dogecoin tweets

Jaguar Land Rover will shed a quarter of its production capacity

Jaguar Land Rover will slash its manufacturing capacity by 25 percent over five years and write off investment in products it’s decided to scrap under new CEO Thierry Bollore.

The British carmaker will take a non-cash charge of about 1 billion pounds ($1.4 billion) in the quarter ending in March related to higher previous spending and projects it won’t complete, according to an investor presentation. The company said last week it was calling off plans to build a battery-powered replacement of the Jaguar XJ sedan.

The Tata Motors Ltd.-owned manufacturer’s new business plan under Bollore, 57, includes making the Jaguar marque all-electric within four years while giving the Land Rover SUV brand more time to make the jump. On Friday, the carmaker said it has lowered its breakeven point to about 400,000 vehicles a year, from 600,000.

JLR’s pivot away from the internal combustion engine is the latest seismic shift in the auto industry driven by stricter emissions rules. It’s poised to be a challenging one for the company, which has struggled to comply with pollution standards and was seeing a dip in demand from China even before the pandemic hit.

The carmaker will introduce six fully electric Land Rover variants in the next five years. By 2030, it expects all of its Jaguar models and 60 percent of Land Rovers sold to be zero-emissions vehicles.

The Porsche Cayman GT4 Is A Superb Sports Car Even With The PDK

The Porsche Cayman GT4 is one of the finest sports cars on the market, and it’s really hard to flaw.

Pretty much the only complaint you will hear leveled against the Cayman GT4 is the long gearing of its six-speed manual transmission. Indeed, second gear will take you to 83 mph (133 km/h) while third pulls through to an extraordinary 114 mph (183 km/h). Does opting for the newly-available seven-speed PDK dual-clutch transmission solve this issue?

Read More: Porsche Cayman GT4, Boxster Spyder, And GTS 4.0 Models Land With A PDK

To find out, Matt Farah recently put a PDK-equipped Cayman GT4 through its paces in the canyons near Los Angeles. The short answer is no, the PDK doesn’t solve the issue of long gearing. This is because second gear in the PDK can hit 79 mph (127 km/h) and third redlines at 108 mph (173 km/h). While those speeds are slightly slower than the manual, they are still higher than one would like to when it comes to enjoying a sports car as special as the Cayman GT4 to its fullest.

Fortunately, the GT4 has a lot going for it. Key to the thrilling package is a 4.0-liter naturally aspirated flat-six that delivers 414 hp and 310 lb-ft (420 Nm), figures that are perfect for a compact sports car like this.

Then there’s the handling. The mid-engined layout of the Cayman remains one of its strong suits and in GT4 guise it dances through the corners in an impressive way. Farah also comments positively on the brakes and is a huge fan of the overall package.