Tesla could retake the crown as the world’s top EV seller after rivals falter

By | April 2, 2024

Photo: Brandon Bell (Getty Images)

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, April 2, 2024 and this is The Morning Shift, your daily digest of the most important car news from around the world, in one place. Here are the important stories you need to know.

1st gear: BYD’s EV sales drop 40 percent

After Tesla warned to expect worse-than-expected sales in its next filings, rival BYD reported a disastrous drop in sales of its electric cars, which could see the company lose its crown as the world’s best-selling EV manufacturer. The Chinese EV maker claimed the title last year but could now lose it to second-place Tesla.

Chinese automaker BYD has reported that sales of its electric models have fallen by 43 percent in the first quarter of 2024, according to Reuters. The decline is significantly greater than the decline predicted by Tesla, with the American company predicting a five percent decline in sales. As Reuters explains:

BYD sold 300,114 electric vehicles in the first quarter of this year, the company said late on Monday in a filing with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, down 43% from the record quarter of 526,409 units sold in the previous three-month period. when it surpassed Tesla. . Sales in the first quarter increased by 13.4% compared to a year ago.

But the quarterly decline could mean Tesla will take back the sales title, based on forecasts for record sales of 458,500 vehicles in the quarter to March 31, according to analysts polled by Visible Alpha. Tesla will report first-quarter revenue on Wednesday.

BYD’s dominance at the top of the EV sales boom was short-lived and came amid a series of price cuts for the Chinese automaker. The cuts came amid an intense price war that started in China and spread around the world, with automakers including Tesla, Rivian and Lucid all cutting prices on their electric models.

Now BYD is hoping for a new way to revive sales of its electric models, including expanding into new markets, launching new models and perhaps even further cutting prices.

Despite the slowdown in sales of electric models, BYD reported an overall increase in volume sales for the first quarter of 2024. The company sold 626,263 units of all vehicle types, Reuters reports, up 13.4 percent from a year earlier.

2nd gear: Bentley Boss hates advanced driver assistance

After announcing his departure from Bentley and move to Aston Martin, outgoing boss Adrian Hallmark is back in the news with his tirade against Level 3 driver assistance technology, arguing that it actually increases the risk of accidents behind the wheel.

Level 3 assistance features are a step up from Tesla’s Full Self Drive system and allow a car to make informed decisions on its own, such as overtaking a slow-moving vehicle. The technology is currently only offered in a handful of cars, with the first to hit the market coming from Honda with its SENSING Elite system.

Now soon-to-be ex-Bentley boss Hallmark has argued that such systems are more dangerous because they invariably ask the driver to take back control without much notice. This, he argued, makes them more susceptible to crashes, Automotive News reports. As the site explains:

The risk of an accident arises when the car has to return control to the driver, according to Hallmark, who will take over as CEO of Aston Martin later this year.

“We think Level 3 is dangerous based on all the test analysis we’ve done because it relied too much on regaining driver attention and intervention,” he told reporters on a conference call earlier this month.

Bentley will instead focus on delivering a more advanced version of its Level 2 system, what it calls Level 2 Plus Plus, in its upcoming all-electric car, which has been pushed back to late 2026.

Bentley isn’t the only VW Group company hesitant to launch a Level 3 capable car. While BMW and Mercedes already have cars equipped with this technology on offer, German rival Audi has yet to join the fray. It remains to be seen how luxury brands like Bentley and compatriots Rolls Royce will implement advanced driver assistance technology like this.

With the upcoming switch from Hallmark to Aston Martin, it is also an unknown at this point how performance-oriented brands will add this into their cars.

3rd gear: America’s headlights are too bright

You know what it’s like when you’re driving by at night and a car comes the other way, for a moment you see the light and you feel like it’s all over as the headlights blind you. It’s a horrible feeling that’s all too common these days. Now Americans have had enough of the blinding headlights filling our roads.

While the problem used to be a result of selfish drivers parading around with their high beams on, it is now a result of new LED headlights being fitted to modern cars. The bulbs are much brighter and are now responsible for lighting 76 percent of new cars sold in America, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The problem with drivers being blinded by new LED lights is mainly due to the angle at which the lights are placed, the WSJ explains. It encouraged motorists to check theirs are adjusted correctly, but added that newer lighting technology could also solve the problem. As the site reports:

Mark Rea, a professor at the Icahn School Medicine at Mount Sinai, says geometry is partly responsible for the nuisance of LED lighting. He conducts research for the school’s Light and Health Research Center, which receives a small portion of its financial support from automakers and their suppliers.

Headlight misalignment is the leading cause of glare, he says, and that glare will be even more apparent when an SUV or truck’s headlights pass a lower car.

Rea says wider adoption of newer adaptive headlights – which have sensors that can redirect light – should make glare less of an issue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved the lights in 2022.

A spokeswoman for NHTSA, which sets headlight brightness requirements, says the agency’s standards continue to limit the amount of glare on oncoming and preceding traffic.

So the next time you’re blinded by the lights of an oncoming car and worry that it’s a sign that you’re getting old, remember that it probably isn’t. Instead, it could simply be a misaligned LED on the oncoming vehicle.

4th gear: the number of traffic fatalities in the US is decreasing

Despite blinding headlights that now distract drivers on America’s roads, deaths on our road network declined in 2023. However, the decline was not enough to see deaths fall below pre-pandemic levels.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 40,990 people died in traffic crashes last year, up from 42,514 in 2022, Automotive News reports. According to the site:

U.S. auto safety regulators said Monday that traffic fatalities fell 3.6 percent to 40,990 in 2023 — the second consecutive annual decline — but are still significantly above pre-pandemic levels.

The death rate in 2023 was higher than in any pre-pandemic year since 2008. Total miles driven last year exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

As U.S. roads became less congested during the COVID-19 pandemic, some drivers felt police would be less likely to issue tickets, experts said, likely resulting in riskier behavior on the roads.

Deaths on US roads rose by as much as 10.5 percent in 2021 after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite far fewer people driving through cities to and from work as people stayed home. The increases will continue into 2022, but last year marked the first decline in traffic fatalities on U.S. roads. I hope it’s a trend that can continue this year and into the future.

Flip side: Let the trials begin!

On the radio: LCD Soundsystem – ‘Tribulations’

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