Home Finance & Investing Business Auto Execs Call for New Measures as E.V. Wars Heat Up

Auto Execs Call for New Measures as E.V. Wars Heat Up

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Auto Execs Call for New Measures as E.V. Wars Heat Up

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Tesla is scheduled to announce first-quarter delivery data this week, a key update as investors grow increasingly rattled about Chinese rivals — especially the Warren Buffett-backed BYD — gaining ground in the electric vehicle race.

Tesla’s stock is down nearly 30 percent this year, with short sellers circling.

Politicians and auto executives on both sides of the Atlantic are calling for more protectionist measures. After Tesla lost its crown to BYD as the world’s biggest E.V. maker, Elon Musk signaled that trade barriers may be needed. Otherwise, the Tesla C.E.O. said, Chinese E.V. makers “will pretty much demolish most other companies in the world.”

Luca de Meo, Renault Group’s C.E.O., is pushing for a more radical approach, Vivienne Walt reports for DealBook. His answer to the China threat: an E.V. alliance modeled on Airbus, the heavily state-supported planemaker.

“The prosperity of Europe is at stake,” he wrote recently in a 19-page open letter designed to get politicians’ attention ahead of June’s E.U. parliamentary elections. The continent’s auto sector employs 13 million people and generates 8 percent of the bloc’s G.D.P.

Here’s what de Meo has in mind: European auto giants would join forces on battery and semiconductor production and on research and development in an effort to bring down E.V. manufacturing costs and better compete against their non-European rivals. “If they’re competing as they are, they are weaker in front of China,” Felipe Munoz, senior analyst for JATO Dynamics, an auto consulting firm, told DealBook. “Their E. V.s are still very expensive. They have problems with battery production.”

Airbus is one of Europe’s great successes, having overtaken Boeing as the world’s largest commercial planemaker. (Both companies have accused the other of receiving unfair competitive advantages, culminating in a W.T.O. ruling that each of them had received preferential subsidies.)

Chinese companies have an operating edge. Labor is cheaper in Shenzhen than in Detroit or Berlin. They have built operational efficiencies and get hefty government support. And China controls the bulk of global raw materials for E.V. batteries, like lithium, which the West is frantically scrambling to source. “Chinese E.V. makers have a structural cost advantage of 25 percent,” Patrick Hummel, a UBS auto analyst, told DealBook.

Trade barriers are unlikely to slow China’s growth. “Any tariff increase will have an impact, but it won’t deter them from arriving,” Munoz said. “This will be a war between tariffs on one side, and subsidies on the other.”

An Airbus-type venture may face headwinds. Executives at Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz last month said they didn’t want to see an auto trade war. Both companies have strong businesses in China, and have tried to distance themselves from a European Commission investigation into whether China is giving its domestic carmakers market-distorting subsidies. “We stand for free trade,” said Arno Antlitz, Volkswagen’s C.F.O.

A $20-per-hour minimum wage for fast-food workers begins today in California. The law, which has been vigorously opposed by the industry, applies to most of the sector’s workers in the state, and requires that employers also offer paid overtime and family leave. Under Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, California has championed some of the nation’s most generous workers’ rights provisions, with all health care employees set to receive a $25 minimum wage by 2028.

The Senate reportedly plans to amend the House’s TikTok bill. Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, the Democratic chair of the Commerce Committee, is expected to push for changes to a proposal that could ban the app in the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. This could include giving ByteDance more time to divest TikTok, or broadening the bill to address other social media platforms. Meanwhile, the former Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin’s bid to buy TikTok is meeting increased skepticism.

Nippon Steel vows to press ahead with a $14 billion deal to buy U.S. Steel. Tadashi Imai, Nippon’s new president, said the Japanese company would negotiate with U.S. Steel’s union workers to win their support. The acquisition has become a hot election issue, with President Biden signaling that U.S. Steel should be domestically owned ahead of a summit with the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, on April 10.

Workers have removed the first section of the mangled Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, a step toward reopening the shipping channel. The question now turns to who should pay to rebuild the vital transport span with President Biden set to visit the city this week.

Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, yesterday urged Congress to authorize the needed money, emphasizing that the bridge collapse could have an impact on the wider economy. With cost estimates of at least $2 billion, not everyone in Washington is on board, however.

Your district could be next, and this has historically been bipartisan,” Buttigieg told CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” Biden said last week that the federal government would pay “the entire cost” of rebuilding — the Transportation Department has secured a $60 million “down payment,” but that’s not enough to complete the work.

But there’s bipartisan hesitation. Representative Dan Meuser, a Pennsylvania Republican, called Biden’s funding pledge “outrageous” and “a knee-jerk spend reaction.”

Other lawmakers want to see the companies involved in the crash (and their insurers) pay at least part of the cost. “I don’t think it has to be federal taxpayer money,” John Garamendi, a Democrat from California and a senior member of the House Transportation Committee, told Bloomberg last week. “Let’s first go to the insurance side of it, and then we’ll see what’s left over.”

The industry is bracing for a hefty tab. John Neal, the C.E.O of Lloyd’s of London, called the disaster “one of the biggest marine losses in history.” Morningstar analysts, meanwhile, estimate that it could cost insurers as much as $4 billion.

The collision puts the spotlight on maritime safety and size. Larry Hogan, the former Republican governor of Maryland who is running for U.S. Senate, courted mega-ships during his term in office, from 2015 to 2023, according to Lever News. That’s despite a report from Allianz, the insurer, that flagged “risk management concerns” posed by the giant vessels.

The supersized ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge was loaded with about 4,700 40-foot shipping containers, an increasingly common sight amid a global shipping boom. In contrast, ships that sailed at the time the bridge was built in 1977 held about half that.


A proposed A.I. warning label would provide more detail into how tech companies use personal data to train A.I. models.

A big worry about artificial intelligence involves tech companies using huge amounts of public data — including names, phone numbers and addresses — to train their A.I. models.

A recent Commerce Department report on improving A.I. accountability offered a suggestion on how to demystify the technology. It included an image that is familiar to most of us: a nutrition label — but for data, not food.

The idea would be for tech companies to use the label to inform businesses and consumers about how they are using their data for A.I. Such labels could “present the most important information about a model in a relatively brief, standardized, and comparable form,” the report said.


Jobs, inflation data, and a mega proxy fight looms. Here’s what to watch for this week.

Wednesday: Eurozone Consumer Price Index data is scheduled for release. The markets are pricing in a June interest-rate cut if inflation can remain in check.

Elsewhere, Levi Strauss, whose jeans make a prominent appearance in Beyoncé’s latest album, reports earnings. Disney holds its annual shareholders meeting, where its fight against the activist investor Nelson Peltz is expected to come to a head.

Thursday: Donald Trump faces a deadline in his civil fraud case: post a $175 million bond, or risk the New York attorney general seizing assets.

Friday: It’s jobs day. Economists polled by Bloomberg have forecast that employers added at least 200,000 jobs in March. They also expect a slight slowdown in wage gains.


Bitcoin was trading around $69,500 this morning after a rally that saw the cryptocurrency soar 67 percent in the first quarter. Much of the surge came after the S.E.C. approved the creation of new exchange-traded funds in January, making it easier for investors to buy and sell the token.

Which of the following performed even better in the first quarter?

  • A) The Nasdaq Composite

  • B) Japan’s Nikkei

  • C) Cocoa futures

  • D) Brent crude

The answer: C, cocoa futures, which have more than doubled this year following exceptionally poor cocoa bean harvests in West Africa.

Deals

  • Potential bidders could scoop up some the world’s top ice cream brands, with Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s and the company behind Haagen-Dazs for sale. (Bloomberg)

  • The huge investments in A.I. are leading to hype and “grifting” reminiscent of the crypto boom, says Google’s A.I. boss, Demis Hassabis. (FT)

Election 2024

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