Slump in oil prices drives green energy takeup in top exporting nations

With oil at below $30 a barrel, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran and Kuwait are looking to curb fossil fuel use at home to maximise exportation profits

The oil price slump below $30 barrel is spurring some of the worlds biggest oil exporters to curb domestic consumption of fossil fuel and invest in wind and solar power, according to government officials session in Abu Dhabi.

A month after the historic climate agreement in Paris, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and other petroleum exporters are in the midst of overhauling domestic energy policies and seeking alternatives to oil and gas for electricity.

The main motive is not reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but cutting back on domestic energy demand that is taking up a rising share of production. Oil exporters would rather sell their fossil fuel abroad than burn them at home, government officials attending meetings of the International Renewable Energy Agency( Irena) said.

Since oil prices began their precipitous slide, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, the UAE and other big oil producers have cut energy and water subsidies, imposed energy conservation measures, and encouraged homeowners to install solar panels in an effort to cut back on domestic consumption.

Speaking on the sidelines of Irenas annual meetings and Abu Dhabis sustainability week, officials said the slide in prices offered further incentive to get off oil at least as a source of electricity.

It is just common sense in my opinion, said Saad Salem Al Jandel, a research scientist at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and a delegate to the Irena meeting.

We are expending so much, something like$ 8bn( PS5. 6bn) to $10 bn on gasoline and power stations, so we want to replace part of it with renewables, and we can also do better with energy conservation and energy efficiency.

Al Jandel went on: Instead of using oil in power generation we might sell it and get hard currency.

Iranian officials have arrived at a similar conclusion. With the lifting of sanctions, Iran was looking to free up more oil and gas for export by cutting domestic demand, Jafar Mohammadnejad Sigaroudi, deputy planning and development in Irans ministry of energy, told the Guardian.

We hope to use our gas for other uses, such as exporting, he told. Draft regulations, due to be adopted by the Iranian parliament in the coming weeks, define a new energy conservation target and realigned costs for gale and solar energy, imposing a social cost for carbon that will help bring the cost of renewables almost at a par with fossil fuel even with oil below $30 a barrel.

Renewables can be the same as fossil fuel because the price of oil is decrease but the cost of transmitting is very high, he said.

The initiatives confound the conventional wisdom that low oil prices deter the transition to renewable energy, a position reiterated by the head of the International Energy Agency in Davos on Wednesday, but are born of harsh necessity.

Since 2000, energy demand among the Middle Eastern oil producers has grown at 5% a year, outstripping China and India. Saudi Arabia, the worlds biggest oil exporter, is now the seventh largest customer of fossil fuels, according to a report from Irena published on Wednesday.

The United Nations agency, which was founded to promote renewable energy and is based in Abu Dhabi, warned the rise in domestic energy risked eating into exports.

Across the oil-producing region, countries are taking measures to cut domestic demand.

Saudi Arabia, which faces a $98 bn budget deficit and is considering listing the state-owned Aramco oil company on the stock exchange, has set a goal of cutting energy demand 8% by 2021.

The UAE, which diverts about a quarter of its production for domestic energy use, this month began charging households for water and electricity. The whole mentality of our people will have to change, said Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the director of energy and climate change. I think in the upcoming 10 years we will see a major change in the whole region.

Kuwait set a target of sourcing 15% of its electricity from wind and solar by 2030, and stimulating houses 10% more energy efficient, Al Jandel said.

Qatar planned to get 20% of its electricity from renewables and reduce water consumption by 35%, according to Irenas report.

Egypt set a renewables target of 30% by 2030, Mohamed Shaker El-Markabi, the countrys energy and renewable energy minister, told the Irena meeting.

Jordan, which imports virtually all of its oil and gas, installed solar panel on the royal household and define a target of sourcing 20% of its energy from solar and wind power by 2025. The monarch imported Tesla electric cars for himself and senior ministers, and the authorities concerned waived the countrys prohibitive automobile import obligations on hybrids and plug-ins.

The reforms just made sense, told Ibrahim Saif, the countrys energy minister.

We had the kind of consumption patterns that were detached or disconnected from international reality, he told the Guardian. It was not that we were utilizing the energy to render commodities or goods. We were utilizing it for transportation. We were use it for cooling down.

Beyond the Countries of the middle east, Russia, the worlds second largest petroleum exporter, is also scaling up its use of renewables, targeting remote regions such as the far east and northern territories.

Alexey Teksler, the first deputy minister of energy, told the Irena meeting that Russia planned to source about 10% of its electricity from renewable sources over the next 20 years.

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A field of solar panel at the King Abdulaziz city of Sciences and Technology, Al-Oyeynah Research Station in Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Fahad Shadeed/ Reuters

Al Jandel said the shifting suggested that the old assumption about competition between renewables and fossil fuels no longer held. The world is genuinely witnessing that there is a distinction between the price of renewables and oil. Oil is going down at the same time as renewables are going down, he told. That means they are separate technologies, separate notions and they do not affect each other.

Its unclear what effect the energy overhaul will have on climate pollution in a region with some of the worlds highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions.

Countries of the states of the region, while breaking their reliance on petroleum, are not necessarily embracing renewable energy sources. The UAE, which committed to diversifying its energy supply several years ago, plans to source 24% of its energy from non-fossil sources by 2021 but about 20% of that would be nuclear, with the first of four reactors at a site near the Saudi border scheduled to come on line in late 2017 or 2018.

Last October, the UAE signed off on a new $1.8 bn coal-fired power plant.

Even so, Anthony Hobley, chief executive of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, said the moves indicate the beginning of the end for the dominance of fossil fuel. The writing is clearly on the wall that we are facing the end of the fossil fuel era, and if your economy depends on that it would be prudent in the extreme to plan for that transition while you still have respectable revenue, he said.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Auto industry’s Trump fear: ‘Everyone dreadeds being subject of a tweet’

Auto executives and analysts are fretting about how Trump will use the bully pulpit of his office and his Twitter account to try and force radical change

I like the car Im in now. Its a Chevrolet Suburban. Made in the USA, Donald Trump told the Detroit News last year when the then presidential hopeful was asked to name his favorite car from his 100-plus vehicle fleet that includes a scissor-door Lamborghini Diablo and a 1956 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud.

For General Motors, Chevys owner, it was nice PR, the latest in a series of endorsements from the Trumps that reach back like a stretch limo to the Cadillac Trumps landlord father Fred used to pick up his rent checks. In the 1980s Donald Trump even worked on building a Trump-branded Cadillac, complete with VCR and paper shredder. The Trumps may be fans of the USs largest car manufacturer but GM, and the car industry in general, should have been paying more attention to the final sentence of his pre-election endorsement: Made in the USA.

Trump hit out at the car industry last week like a drive-by shooter, firing off a series of angry tweets about their outsourcing of US jobs. Those tweets will be the hottest topic this week as Detroits annual car jamboree, the North American International Auto Show, gets started. Its a chance for the industry to show off all its latest products and for its executives to address the media about the future. Trumps blimp-like shadow is overhanging the event as executives and analysts fret about how this overtly interventionist president will use the bully pulpit of his office, and his Twitter account, to try and force a radical change in the way they do business.

Pretty much everybody is dreading being the subject of a tweet. Getting hauled out into the court of public opinion with virtually no warning is not something anybody wants to get engaged with, said Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry, labor and economics group at the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

Inside
Inside Donald Trumps 1988 Cadillac: the best limo in the world had rosewood interiors and was equipped with a fax machine, TV, VCR, paper shredder and built-in safe. Photograph: Jules Annan / Barcroft Images

The auto industry matters to the US and to Trump. Six years after a recession that almost destroyed it, the US car industry has made a miraculous recovery. Last week it reported record sales for 2016. Auto manufacturers, suppliers and dealers employ over 1.5 million people and directly contribute to the creation of another 5.7m jobs, according to the CAR.

Trump won thanks in large part to states where the auto industry is strongest. The Republican candidate took Michigan, home to the auto show and still the industrys hub, from the Democrats for the first time since 1988 with a campaign that tore into companies that have sent those voters jobs abroad, especially to Mexico. Ford bore the brunt of Trumps attacks during the election. Last week it was GMs turn. Then Toyotas.

General Motors is sending Mexican-made model of Chevy Cruze to US car dealers-tax free across border. Make in USA or pay big border tax! the president elect warned via his favorite megaphone, Twitter.

Two days later, he was after Toyota. Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for US. NO WAY! Build plant in US or pay big border tax, he tweeted. Toyotas plans were old news but the tweet came on the same day that its president, Akio Toyoda, had told reporters he was keen to work with the president-elect.

Auto industry jobs across the US.

These were the latest in a series of attacks on major US employers, including Carrier, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, that have so far brought CEOs running, cap in hand, to Trump Tower to make up for their alleged corporate misdeeds. Shortly after the GM tweet, Ford announced it had canned plans to open a $1.6bn plant in Mexico and would add new jobs building electric and hybrid vehicles at a plant in Flat Rock, Michigan. Trump hailed the move: Thank you to Ford for scrapping a new plant in Mexico and creating 700 new jobs in the US. This is just the beginning much more to follow, he tweeted.

Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor for Kelley Blue Book, said Trump was playing to his base and a lot of the voters who put him in office were industrial midwest, blue collar, union workers. All his tweets and pronouncements have been geared to addressing that audience, said Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor for Kelley Blue Book.

Ford had already warned that the car industry was expecting a slowdown in sales, especially of smaller vehicles like the ones that would have been built in Mexico. So scrapping the plan makes economic as well as political sense for the company, but market watchers doubt the industry and Trumps agendas will remain compatible.

GM is expected to start laying off more than 3,000 factory workers in Michigan and Ohio, another state that voted for Trump, starting later this month. Will they defend that decision if Trump goes on the attack?

The car industry is truly international and China is its largest market. GM and its joint venture partners sold 3.87m vehicles in China in 2016, up 7.1% from the previous year. China accounts for a third of GMs sales. Like its corporate peers, GM has so far remained silent over Trumps anti-China rhetoric, but a trade war would be a disaster for the company.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Tesla Asks for Model 3 Factory Volunteers to Demonstrate Haters Wrong

  • Some Model S and X workers may switch to Model 3 line Friday
  • Reaching goal would be ‘incredible victory,’ executive says

Tesla Inc. exhorted its factory workers to prove wrong the “haters” betting against the company and is letting a small number of volunteers join the effort to ramp up output of the crucial Model 3 line.

In a pair of internal memos last week, the heads of engineering and production spelled out measures to free up workers for the Model 3 line and challenged them to reach production goals. Doug Field, the engineering chief, told staff that if they can exceed 300 Model 3s a day, it would be an “incredible victory” at a time when short-sellers and critics are increasingly doubting the company’s ability to fulfill CEO Elon Musk’s vision of building a mass-production electric-vehicle manufacturer.

“I find that personally insulting, and you should too,” Field wrote in the March 23 email. “Let’s make them regret ever betting against us. You will prove a bunch of haters wrong.”

Tesla has been routed this month as analysts and investors have questioned the company’s ability to mass-manufacture the sedan it spent billions of dollars on to quickly expand sales. Bottlenecks at Tesla’s battery factory and assembly plant have undermined that effort, limiting the return on that investment and arousing concern that the company may need to raise more cash.

Shares fell 22 percent this month in New York, the biggest one-month drop since the year it went public. The stock rose 3.2 percent Thursday to close at $266.13. The stock then fell in after-market trading after the carmaker said it would voluntarily recall all Model S cars built before April 2016 to retrofit a power-steering component.

Tesla’s bonds maturing in 2025 traded at 87.25 cents on the dollar, down more than 1 cent, according to Trace data compiled by Bloomberg.

Tesla will suspend Model S and Model X production Thursday and Friday because it’s ahead of target on building those this quarter, Peter Hochholdinger, vice president of production, wrote to employees in a March 21 email obtained by Bloomberg News. An unspecified “limited number” of workers who build those vehicles will have the option to work on the Model 3 line on those two days and Saturday, he said.

A Tesla spokesperson said Thursday that the planned shutdown of the Model S and Model X production line is now occurring only on Friday, not both days, and said that the pause is unrelated to Model 3 production targets.

At the time of Field’s email, Tesla was making more than 200 Model 3 sedans a day on every line, he wrote. Field urged workers to quickly break through the 300-cars-a-day barrier and keep going, while keeping quality standards high. Some Model 3 reviewers have criticized inconsistent body panel gaps and glitches with the 15-inch touch screen that controls many of the car’s features.

“The world is watching us very closely, to understand one thing: How many Model 3’s can Tesla build in a week?” Field wrote. “This is a critical moment in Tesla’s history, and there are a number of reasons it’s so important. You should pick the one that hits you in the gut and makes you want to win.”

In addition to the Model 3 issues, Tesla has been working with regulators to investigate a fatal crash involving a Model X last week that prompted the company to defend the record of its driver-assistance system Autopilot. Moody’s Investors Service also downgraded Tesla’s credit rating further into junk on Tuesday.

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During the temporary shutdown of Model S and Model X production, Hochholdinger said workers who don’t move to the Model 3 line will have to take unpaid time off or can use paid vacation days. His email didn’t specify what the company’s Model S and Model X target was for the quarter.

Estimate Tesla Model 3 Production With Bloomberg’s VIN-Tracker Tool

If Tesla reaches its weekly Model 3 production target, employees will have doubled the size of the company as measured by cars shipped, and output of that vehicle will exceed Model S and Model X combined, Field wrote. He said Model 3 will outsell the battery-electric Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, Audi E-Tron and Chevrolet Bolt and Volt combined.

“We set high goals at Tesla, but I know we can do this,” Field wrote. “If we keep climbing from 300 through the end of the week, it will be an incredible victory. Your friends and family will hear about it in the news.”

Read more: www.bloomberg.com

Trump begins rollback of Obama’s car pollution standards to curb emissions

Automakers welcome presidents plan for EPA to review fuel efficiency mandate while critics warn reversal would endanger health and environment

Donald Trump has begun the process of rolling back carbon pollution standards for vehicles following a meeting with automakers in Detroit, Michigan.

Trump has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to review fuel efficiency standards that were a key plank of Barack Obamas effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The move is a victory for carmakers who have claimed the standards are too onerous and out of step with Americans car buying habits.

These standards are costly for automakers and the American people, said the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt.

We will work with our partners at the department of transport to take a fresh look to determine if this approach is realistic. This thorough review will help ensure that this national program is good for consumers and good for the environment.

In an agreement struck with automakers in 2012, the Obama administration required that cars run 54.4 miles per gallon of fuel by 2025. This standard, up from 27.5 miles per gallon, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6bn tons over the lifetime of new vehicles and save 2m gallons of oil per day by 2025.

In the final month of Obamas presidency, the EPA affirmed in a midterm review that automakers are well positioned to meet the new standard. Trump is ordering a review of this finding, opening the way for a weaker standard to be drawn up. The White House said the new review will rely on the best available data and information, which the previous administration ignored.

A White House official said the automakers feel the EPA shoved it down their throats and that the standards needed to be redone.

The process was very short-circuited, said the Trump official, who spoke anonymously before the presidents announcement. There was a lot of data that was submitted, and I think it is fair to say the Obama EPA just ignored it.

Trump unveiled the review at an event in Detroit where he met with executives from companies, including General Motors, Ford and Fiat. The president said he was going to bring a lot of jobs back to Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Dennis Williams, president of the United Auto Workers union, raised concerns about the environmental impact of more loose fuel efficiency standards. In response, Trump said: We all agree with you 100%. One hundred percent. We want you to make great cars, but if it takes an extra thimble of fuel, we want you to do it.

Former EPA officials and environmental groups have decried the reversal, pointing out that carmakers had previously complained about fuel efficiency standards only to easily meet the requirements due to the evolution of technology. There are already more than 100 car and SUV models that meet standards that stretch beyond 2020, with the Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius, Chevrolet Spark and Smart ForTwo already matching the 2025 standard.

American drivers are also set to lose out, with the Obama rules forecast to save an average of $8,000 on gasoline costs for a new car.

We need to put clean car standards in the fast lane to keep our air clean and our climate safe, said Michael Brune, executive director of environmental group, the Sierra Club. Donald Trump and the automakers are endangering the health of our children and families by abolishing lifesaving vehicle emissions protections that cut down on dangerous smog pollution and asthma attacks.

Kristin Igusky, climate program associate at the World Resources Institute, added: Theres no doubt that the current standards are reasonable and achievable. In fact, the industry as a whole has surpassed the vehicle standards in each of the last four years, while creating jobs and selling more vehicles than ever.

Carmakers welcomed the review. Mitch Bainwol, president and chief executive of trade lobby group, Auto Alliance, said:By restarting this review, analysis rather than politics will produce a final decision.

Trumps rolling back of fuel efficiency standards is set to be followed by further actions to dismantle climate policies enacted by Obama. The administration is set to lift a moratorium on coalmining on federal land and start to unpick various climate rules, including the Clean Power Plan, which imposes emissions limits on the states.

Trump is also mulling whether to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord. On Wednesday, an alliance of 1,000 US companies took out ads in Washington DC publications to urge Trump to stay in the deal and work towards a low-carbon economy.

The group, which includes Mars, General Mills and Ikea, warned that failure to tackle climate change could put Americas economic prosperity at risk.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Toyota will face ‘big border tax’ if Mexico plant attains US automobiles, Trump says

The foreign vehicle company plans to fabricate 200,000 Corollas in Baja, as Trump continues to threaten automakers to move production out of Mexico

Donald Trump threatened Toyota on Thursday with a big perimeter tax if it didnt build cars meant for the US within the states, the latest in a series of attacks on car manufacturers and the first time since his election that he has threatened a foreign company.

Donald J. Trump (@ realDonaldTrump)

Toyota Motor told will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla automobiles for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big perimeter tax.

January 5, 2017

The$ 1bn plant will be located Guanajuato, a state in central Mexico , not Baja California, as Trump tweeted. Toyota plans to increase capacity at an existing plant in Tijuana, Baja California, that makes Tacoma pickup trucks.

Toyota plans to manufacture 200,000 Corollas at the new plant. The Corolla is the second bestselling compact car in the US behind fellow Japanese producer Hondas Civic.

Trumps latest threat follows a similar one against General Motor over its plans to fabricate compact cars south of the border for US export.

Jorge Guajardo, the former Mexican ambassador to China, immediately lit into Trump: If you think intentionally wrecking your neighbors economy is whats going to bring peace and stability to US youre in for a big amaze, he tweeted.

Trump, who was elected on a promise to restore US manufacturing jobs, has expended the week informing automakers to move their compact car production out of Mexico. On Tuesday he told GM that it too must weigh his opinion favorably against the financial efficiencies offered on foreign clay. Make in U.S.A. or pay big perimeter tax! Trump tweeted.

Last month Trump threatened retribution against companies outsourcing mill work to foreign facilities. There will be a taxation on our soon to be strong border of 35% for these companies, he tweeted, naming automobile and air conditioner manufacturers in the same series of remarks.

In recent weeks, Trump also threatened aerospace firms Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, both of which rely heavily on government contracts for multibillion-dollar revenues. Those menaces, also tweeted, shocked stockholders and caused stock prices to plummet.

But threatening car companies with taxation has barely caused the market to blink. The US president cannot personally levy taxes; that obligation falls to country legislatures and the US House of Representatives, which holds the power of the purse.

Trumps campaign platform heavily criticized companies for moving labor out of the US, but thus far his preferred method of dealing with corporations has been rewards via back channels, rather than punishment. Instead of taxing air conditioner company Carrier more for exporting undertakings, however, Trump and Indiana governor Mike Pence offered the Indiana-based company$ 7m in tax breaks to maintain 700 jobs.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Tesla Model 3 Reliability Likely to Be Average, Consumer Reports Says

Tesla Inc. probably will pull off average reliability with the Model 3 sedan Elon Musk is counting on to dramatically expand demand for his electric cars, according to Consumer Reports magazine.

Consumer Reports made the prediction based on the amount of technology the Model 3 shares with the larger Model S sedan, which the magazine’s subscribers rated above average for the first time in an annual survey. Tesla still ranks among the bottom third of the 27 brands, due to continued struggles with its Model X crossover.

The closely watched source of product recommendations is making a forecast Musk will be able to hit the mark with the first model he’s attempted to mass manufacture. The Model X exemplifies Tesla’s checkered history of new product introductions, which larger automakers with decades of experience assembling in high volumes still struggle with, Consumer Reports said.

“They realize that it’s important to get this car right,” Jake Fisher, the magazine’s director of auto testing, said of Tesla in an interview. “We would’ve not predicted average for the Model 3 unless we saw above-average data for the Model S. If the Model S was still just average, we would’ve not made that prediction.”

Consumer Reports has built credibility for its ratings by refusing advertising from automakers and paying for the vehicles it evaluates. The magazine’s views on Tesla have been up and down: The Model S scored an off-the-charts rating in 2015, but the magazine pulled its recommendation two months later after owners reported an array of quality problems. In April, Tesla models were downgraded after owners went months without an automatic braking system. By July, the safety feature was fully restored and the Model S and Model X recouped the points they lost.

“Consumer Reports has not yet driven a Model 3, let alone do they know anything substantial about how the Model 3 was designed and engineered,” a Tesla spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Time and time again, our own data shows that Consumer Reports’ automotive reporting is consistently inaccurate and misleading to consumers.”

Shares of the Palo Alto, California-based company were down 2.3 percent to $351.28 at 3:40 p.m. New York time. The stock is up 65 percent this year.

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The magazine cited the relative mechanical simplicity of electric cars as another reason the Model 3 probably will be average — a tough feat to pull off with new models that tend to experience “growing pains.” The car will likely lag behind General Motors Co.’s electric Chevrolet Bolt, which launched with above-average reliability, Consumer Reports said.

Tesla has delayed the unveiling of an electric semi truck and fired workers this month following a slower-than-projected start of production for the Model 3. The Palo Alto, California-based company has said it’s dealing with unspecified bottlenecks and said the dismissals were related to performance reviews.

Consumer Reports routinely predicts reliability for vehicles that are new to the market, based on manufacturers’ track record and factors including the number of components carried over from previous models.

Best, Worst

The improvement by the Model S made Tesla one of the biggest gainers in this year’s rankings, with the brand jumping four spots to 21st out of 27. The Model X remains “terrible” in terms of reliability, Fisher said.

Tesla’s SUV and GM’s Cadillac Escalade were the two vehicles with the most problems in the survey, Fisher said in a presentation Thursday to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit.

Kia Motors Corp.’s Niro crossover was the least problematic. Much of Kia’s technology goes into production first in Hyundai models, so the bugs get worked out before Kia uses it, Fisher said.

Biggest Movers

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Chrysler was the most improved in this year’s reliability survey, vaulting 10 spots to rank 17th. The brand discontinued its poor-performing 200 sedan, and the new Pacifica minivan rated average.

Volkswagen AG’s namesake brand climbed six spots to 16th. Subaru Corp.’s line of vehicles passed five other brands to rank sixth, while BMW, Tesla and Fiat Chrysler’s Ram all gained four spots.

The biggest decliner this year was Honda Motor Co.’s Acura. Each of its models rated below average with the exception of the redesigned RDX crossover, dropping the brand seven spots to No. 19. Mazda Motor Corp. and GM’s Cadillac both dropped six spots.

Problems with transmissions and infotainment systems were the most common in the survey, Fisher said during his presentation. Transmission issues are weighted more heavily, because they are harder to fix, he said.

American Split

All four of GM’s brands fell, with GMC and Cadillac finishing in the bottom two and Buick slipping five spots to rank eighth.

The Detroit-based company’s reliability tends to follow its product cycle, according to Consumer Reports. When GM has more new models, as it does now, there are more problems.

At the same time, Fiat Chrysler — long a laggard in the magazine’s surveys and other quality studies — improved with each of its traditional U.S. brands.

Still on Top

Toyota Motor Corp.’s namesake brand jumped ahead of its luxury line Lexus to take first place in this year’s rankings.

This is the fifth straight year the brands have been the two highest-scoring in the industry. Kia moved up two spots to No. 3, Volkswagen’s Audi held steady at No. 4, and BMW rounded out the top five.

    Read more: www.bloomberg.com

    Cadillac Reprises Role as GM’s Chosen Brand for High-Tech Entre

    As Cadillac begins what could be its best-ever global sales year, the brand is also going to reclaim its historic role as General Motors Co.’s high-tech line.

    Powered by rapid growth in China, GM believes the brand is now a good place to debut new electric and even self-driving vehicles starting in the next decade, Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen said in an interview at the Detroit auto show.

    Cadillac will get a “disproportionate share” of the 20 all-electric vehicles that GM plans to bring to market globally by 2023, he said. A few years after the first electric Cadillac goes on sale, the brand will have some kind of self-driving vehicle in the lineup as well.

    “Cadillac in the future will be the technology lead brand for General Motors,” de Nysschen said. “Technologies will debut in Cadillac first and then cascade down to the other brands.”

    That had historically been the case at GM, which used both Cadillac and now-defunct Oldsmobile to debut new technologies like air conditioning, the modern V-8 engine, electronic fuel injectors and auto-dimming headlights, said John Wolkonowicz, an independent auto industry analyst. Recently, GM has instead tapped Chevrolet to first sell its plug-in hybrid technology with the Chevy Volt and then to launch its all-electric Chevy Bolt. GM last week revealed its first photos of a self-driving Bolt with no steering wheel and pedals.

    Window of Opportunity

    That will start to change as Cadillac tries to seize a unique opportunity to distinguish itself among the German carmakers that lead global luxury sales. Brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have a great reputation for driving performance and engineering and it’s difficult to overcome that, de Nysschen said. But with no single company definitively in the lead yet when it comes to electric drive or autonomy, the industry’s technological revolution gives Cadillac a window to establish itself as a leader.

    Cadillac already has some legs up in the sector. Its Super Cruise technology allows users to drive with hands off the wheel today — a feature few rivals have. GM also started rolling out in select Cadillac, Buick, Chevy and GMC models new connected dashboard technology that enables drivers to buy coffee, find gas or parking and make restaurant reservations with just a touch of the screen.

    But Cadillac’s future self-driving cars will not be devoid of a steering wheel and pedals like the new Chevy Bolt that will be tested as a ride-sharing car next year, de Nysschen said. That’s because Cadillacs are engineered to be fun to drive, he said, and luxury buyers will want to chose between the option of driving or letting the car do the work.

    Electrification Plan

    GM announced plans in October to have 20 electric cars for sale globally in five years. Cadillac will get several of them, and de Nysschen said he can envision a five-passenger crossover sport utility like the current XT5.

    “Zero-emission vehicles have to feature prominently in the Cadillac portfolio,” he said.

    One reason for the electric car push is that Cadillac is growing fast in China and the government is demanding more battery-powered models. Cadillac probably will sell more than 200,000 vehicles in China this year, de Nysschen said in a Bloomberg Television interview. That would be a jump of about 14 percent following a 51 percent surge last year.

    Cadillac went on a tear last year despite a sedan-heavy lineup handicapping U.S. deliveries amid voracious demand for SUVs. GM is gearing up one of its domestic car plants to build a new Cadillac crossover called the XT4 later this year. The automaker will add more crossovers to the brand’s lineup for a total of five models, in addition to the full-size Escalade SUV, and cover the car market with one fewer model in the future, de Nysschen said.

    Cadillac had its second-best sales year ever in 2017, delivering more than 356,000 vehicles worldwide, up about 16 percent. More than half of global sales were in China, while deliveries in the U.S. slumped 8 percent.

    The fourth quarter of this year “heralds the beginning of the largest product offensive seen in the history of this brand,” he said in the television interview. Cadillac will field a new vehicle every six months from then through late 2021, including “a whole family of new crossovers and SUVs.”

      Read more: www.bloomberg.com

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      Auto industry’s Trump fear: ‘Everyone dreadeds being subject of a tweet’

      Auto executives and analysts are fretting about how Trump will use the bully pulpit of his office and his Twitter account to try and force radical change

      I like the car Im in now. Its a Chevrolet Suburban. Made in the USA, Donald Trump told the Detroit News last year when the then presidential hopeful was asked to name his favorite car from his 100-plus vehicle fleet that includes a scissor-door Lamborghini Diablo and a 1956 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud.

      For General Motors, Chevys owner, it was nice PR, the latest in a series of endorsements from the Trumps that reach back like a stretch limo to the Cadillac Trumps landlord father Fred used to pick up his rent checks. In the 1980s Donald Trump even worked on building a Trump-branded Cadillac, complete with VCR and paper shredder. The Trumps may be fans of the USs largest car manufacturer but GM, and the car industry in general, should have been paying more attention to the final sentence of his pre-election endorsement: Made in the USA.

      Trump hit out at the car industry last week like a drive-by shooter, firing off a series of angry tweets about their outsourcing of US jobs. Those tweets will be the hottest topic this week as Detroits annual car jamboree, the North American International Auto Show, gets started. Its a chance for the industry to show off all its latest products and for its executives to address the media about the future. Trumps blimp-like shadow is overhanging the event as executives and analysts fret about how this overtly interventionist president will use the bully pulpit of his office, and his Twitter account, to try and force a radical change in the way they do business.

      Pretty much everybody is dreading being the subject of a tweet. Getting hauled out into the court of public opinion with virtually no warning is not something anybody wants to get engaged with, said Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry, labor and economics group at the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

      Inside
      Inside Donald Trumps 1988 Cadillac: the best limo in the world had rosewood interiors and was equipped with a fax machine, TV, VCR, paper shredder and built-in safe. Photograph: Jules Annan / Barcroft Images

      The auto industry matters to the US and to Trump. Six years after a recession that almost destroyed it, the US car industry has made a miraculous recovery. Last week it reported record sales for 2016. Auto manufacturers, suppliers and dealers employ over 1.5 million people and directly contribute to the creation of another 5.7m jobs, according to the CAR.

      Trump won thanks in large part to states where the auto industry is strongest. The Republican candidate took Michigan, home to the auto show and still the industrys hub, from the Democrats for the first time since 1988 with a campaign that tore into companies that have sent those voters jobs abroad, especially to Mexico. Ford bore the brunt of Trumps attacks during the election. Last week it was GMs turn. Then Toyotas.

      General Motors is sending Mexican-made model of Chevy Cruze to US car dealers-tax free across border. Make in USA or pay big border tax! the president elect warned via his favorite megaphone, Twitter.

      Two days later, he was after Toyota. Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for US. NO WAY! Build plant in US or pay big border tax, he tweeted. Toyotas plans were old news but the tweet came on the same day that its president, Akio Toyoda, had told reporters he was keen to work with the president-elect.

      Auto industry jobs across the US.

      These were the latest in a series of attacks on major US employers, including Carrier, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, that have so far brought CEOs running, cap in hand, to Trump Tower to make up for their alleged corporate misdeeds. Shortly after the GM tweet, Ford announced it had canned plans to open a $1.6bn plant in Mexico and would add new jobs building electric and hybrid vehicles at a plant in Flat Rock, Michigan. Trump hailed the move: Thank you to Ford for scrapping a new plant in Mexico and creating 700 new jobs in the US. This is just the beginning much more to follow, he tweeted.

      Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor for Kelley Blue Book, said Trump was playing to his base and a lot of the voters who put him in office were industrial midwest, blue collar, union workers. All his tweets and pronouncements have been geared to addressing that audience, said Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor for Kelley Blue Book.

      Ford had already warned that the car industry was expecting a slowdown in sales, especially of smaller vehicles like the ones that would have been built in Mexico. So scrapping the plan makes economic as well as political sense for the company, but market watchers doubt the industry and Trumps agendas will remain compatible.

      GM is expected to start laying off more than 3,000 factory workers in Michigan and Ohio, another state that voted for Trump, starting later this month. Will they defend that decision if Trump goes on the attack?

      The car industry is truly international and China is its largest market. GM and its joint venture partners sold 3.87m vehicles in China in 2016, up 7.1% from the previous year. China accounts for a third of GMs sales. Like its corporate peers, GM has so far remained silent over Trumps anti-China rhetoric, but a trade war would be a disaster for the company.

      Read more: www.theguardian.com

      GM delivers first Chevrolet Bolts, sparking electric car price race

      General Motors says first units handed over to customers in Fremont, California, where rival Tesla is scheduled to start producing budget Model 3 in 2017

      General Motors has delivered its first Chevrolet Bolt electric cars to three customers in Fremont, California, home to rival electric automaker Teslas assembly plant.

      This allows the Detroit automaker to claim first place in the race to deliver an electric car that can run for more than 200 miles on a charge and has a starting price below $40,000. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised its entry in this new segment, the Model 3, will go into production in July.

      Some analysts expect the Model 3 will miss that target. The production plan calls for a substantial overhaul of Teslas Fremont assembly plant, which was once a General Motors factory.

      Tesla has said the starting price will be $35,000 although it expects the average sales price to be about $42,000.

      The Bolt, which GM developed with South Korean battery maker LG Chem, has a 238-mile driving range on a charge and a starting price of $37,495 before tax breaks.

      Rival automakers, including Japans Nissan and Germanys Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, have indicated they are developing similar electric vehicles with a driving range of about 200 miles.

      GM has been cautiously ramping up Bolt production at its suburban Detroit factory. Suppliers and people familiar with the programme say the initial production pace indicates plans for 20,000 to 30,000 Bolts a year.

      However company officials said the plant could build more. The Bolt is specifically designed to be a battery-electric vehicle and could form the basis of other electric vehicles, company officials have said.

      By contrast Tesla has outlined ambitious plans to make as many as 500,000 Model 3s annually, more than five times its expected vehicle production for this year. The company has said it received more than 325,000 initial orders for the Model 3.

      Tesla
      Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk has set ambitious targets for building and selling the Model 3. Photograph: Justin Pritchard/AP

      The Chevy Bolt and a similar model GM plans to offer in Europe are functional, small hatchbacks. Executives have said the Bolt is well suited for such ride-service companies as Lyft, in which GM owns a stake.

      Executives have said GM eventually plans to offer self-driving Bolts.

      Prototypes of the Model 3 displayed by Tesla suggest the car will be aimed at compact German luxury sedans such as the Audi A3 or A4, or the Mercedes-Benz CLA or C class.

      Read more: www.theguardian.com