First Toyota with Solid-State Batteries Will Be a Hybrid

First Up 01/11/22

Birchwood Automotive Group's Diverse Staff Makes Stronger ‘Family'

Cultural diversity and gender equality are playing key roles in hiring practices among dealers who want their work forces to more accurately reflect their customer base. "[The] strategy is constantly revised to build cultural capacity in our workplace and promote inclusion for all our team members and our customers," Darryl Tuck, general manager of Birchwood Lexus in Winnipeg, Manitoba, told Automotive News. The store provides employees training such as communication and cultural-competency workshops, and it offers opportunities to "celebrate and share our team members' stories and backgrounds, offering a personal glimpse into our rich backgrounds of culture, language, celebrations and so on," Tuck said. "With Lexus and all our dealerships, we highlight various team members by video," said MaryAnn Kempe, chief human resources officer for the 23-store Birchwood Automotive Group. "They share their cultures, language and heritage with all team members. For more on how Birchwood celebrates diversity in its 1,100 employees, click here.

Car Dealers Buy Up More Dealerships, Betting High Prices, Low Inventory Will Persist; Just Not as Extreme

Some of the nation’s biggest auto dealer chains are betting in the most direct way that some of the changes in auto retailing since the COVID-19 pandemic are here to stay. That is, the big chains are buying up other dealerships at a record pace, according to firms that broker dealership mergers and acquisitions. Forbes reports that there’s a widespread expectation among the buyers that high prices and low discounts are the new order of things, driven by a relative scarcity of product, and not just a temporary blip. The record pace of dealership buyouts shows that the big dealership chains expect dealership profitability to get even better. In a recent dealer survey, 79 percent of dealer respondents said they expect profits to increase in the next 12 months, said Erin Kerrigan, co-founder of Kerrigan Advisors, Irvine, Calif. Kerrigan recently predicted a record number of at least 350 dealership transactions nationwide in 2021, representing more than 600 franchises. Through the third quarter, she said transactions in 2021 were up 21 percent vs. a year ago. For more acquisition trends, click here.

In the Big Shift to EVs, Supplier Forecasts Differ

As established automakers and industry newcomers talked up new electric models at CES last week, major suppliers for many of those vehicles have significantly different forecasts for how quickly consumers will buy them. Take ZF Group and Magna International, the world's third- and fourth-largest suppliers. ZF anticipates EV production accounting for about 45 percent of global vehicle output by 2030, with EVs representing 49 percent of all vehicles assembled in North America. "We see the U.S. certainly catching up globally to the other major markets," said John Hawkins, ZF's vice president of electrified powertrains for North America. Magna, meanwhile, sees EV sales accounting for only about 20 percent of the global market by 2030, with the U.S. coming in below the global average. According to Automotive News, the discrepancy between the two suppliers' forecasts underscores the lingering uncertainty over how quickly the new-vehicle market will shift toward EVs. Their forecasts may differ, but ZF and Magna agree that North America will be slower to adopt EVs than Europe and China. For more predictions, click here.

Arizona’s Auto Aspirations Make for Unlikely Ally in Canada’s EV Tax-Credit Fight

From its arid desert climate to its mercurial, center-right politics, the southern border state of Arizona hardly seems to have much in common with Canada beyond winter-wary snowbirds. But, according to the Toronto Star, President Joe Biden’s controversial plan to use protectionist tax incentives to promote U.S.-made electric vehicles, which threatens misery for the Canadian auto sector, is making for all kinds of strange bedfellows. With its proximity to both Silicon Valley and the U.S.-Mexico border, without the high taxes and regulation of tech-savvy neighbor California, the Grand Canyon State is striving to play host to the looming EV revolution — a vision endangered by Biden’s scheme. “We just want, from a federal policy standpoint, a fair and balanced approach so that consumers can buy the products that they want. Whether they’re produced in states like Arizona or other states across the country, we think prudent policy to induce consumer behavior should be done fairly,” said Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. For more on why Arizonans and Canadians are working together to oppose UAW-only EV credits, click here.

First Toyota with Solid-State Batteries Will Be a Hybrid

In an interview during CES, Toyota announced that its first vehicle to use solid-state batteries will go on sale by 2025. Car and Driver reports that the first Toyotas to use the new batteries will be hybrids, rather than fully electric vehicles, making it possible the first to get the new battery could be the Prius. Compared to the lithium-ion batteries used in the current crop of EVs, solid-state units promise better range, quicker charging times, and a longer battery life. More development is needed, however. Back in 2020, Toyota said that it was working on prototypes powered by solid-state batteries, and now in a video interview with Autoline during the 2022 CES technology how, Toyota confirmed that it will begin selling vehicles with solid-state batteries by 2025. In the interview, Gill Pratt, Toyota's chief scientist and head of the Toyota Research Institute, said that Toyota is aiming to "commercialize" its solid-state batteries in the first half of this decade. Surprisingly, Pratt said that the first Toyotas to receive the new batteries will actually be hybrids instead of fully electric vehicles. Click here for more why Toyota is employing this strategy.

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