Hundreds of people claim that they’ve been falsely accused by Hertz of car theft and I have to ask: What the hell is going on with renting a car right now? All that and more in The Morning Shift for February 10, 2022.
1st Gear: What Is Going On With Hertz
I can’t wrap my head around this story from Bloomberg:
Hertz Corp., battling hundreds of customers who say they were falsely arrested for auto theft after renting cars, was ordered by a federal judge to disclose how many renters it accuses every year.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath sided with advocates for 220 people suing Hertz who argued more details about Hertz’s internal anti-theft program should be public.
Hundreds of people? Well, we don’t actually know precisely how many arrests have been made:
Court documents show that some of the customers who rented cars were jailed and in at least one case held at gunpoint just hours after paying for a rental.
The false arrest claims often involve long-term rentals, some set up directly by the customer, others through an auto insurance company, according to court documents. If something goes wrong with a renewal payment, or there’s some other problem, Hertz may report the renter to the police saying the car has been stolen, documents show. Afterward, Hertz charges the renter’s credit card or debit card and collects whatever was due, lawyers for the suing renters said in court filings.
In order to prove the false arrest claims aren’t isolated incidents, lawyers suing Hertz have been collecting data on how often the rental company files police reports against customers.
I feel like Hertz could really be cutting people a lot of breaks these days given how much it costs to rent a car, but nah.
2nd Gear: Tesla Somehow Up To Four Recalls In Two Weeks
Hot on the heels of yesterday’s Tesla recall is a new Tesla recall. This one is over the car’s Boombox function, per the Associated Press:
Tesla is recalling nearly 579,000 vehicles in the U.S. because a “Boombox” function can play sounds over an external speaker and obscure audible warnings for pedestrians.
The recall is the fourth made public in the last two weeks as U.S. safety regulators increase scrutiny of the nation’s largest electric vehicle maker. In two of the recalls, Tesla made decisions that violate federal motor vehicle safety standards, while the others are software errors.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says on its website Thursday that the cars and SUVs have what Tesla calls a “Boombox” function that allows drivers to play sounds while the vehicles are moving. This violates federal safety standards that require pedestrian warning noises for electric cars, which make little noise when traveling, the agency says.
I am charmed that the NHTSA is treating Tesla like a real car company now, but I’m also amazed at how hard of a time Tesla is having just … being a real car company.
3rd Gear: Oil Companies Doing Too Well, I’m Sorry To Say
At the start of the pandemic, supply far outstripped demand as the world went into a series of somewhat haphazard lockdowns. The situation now, years deep, is that demand is outstripping supply. This is leading to two kinds of stories. Please appreciate both of these headlines from Bloomberg:
stands in contrast to
Let’s take a glimpse at that second piece:
Isaac Larian, founder of MGA Entertainment Inc., thought he’d withstood the worst of last year’s tsunami of costs from supply chain snags and labor shortages. But now the maker of Bratz and L.O.L. Surprise! dolls and Little Tikes toys is bracing for a second wave of profit destruction: $100-a-barrel oil. “It’s just a disaster,” says Larian, who like many toymakers has some material costs closely tied to the price of oil and natural gas. “There’s not much you can do.”
Analysts see crude soon topping the century mark, and prices could even spike to $150 if Russia-Ukraine tensions escalate to create a supply shock, JPMorgan Chase & Co. economists Joseph Lupton and Bruce Kasman said in a report. The name of the inflation game for companies is to pass along such cost increases as much and as quickly as possible. But since the pandemic hit, that hasn’t been easy. A labor shortage has pushed up wages, and a deluge of imported merchandise has clogged the supply chain, driving up freight costs and creating a scarcity of goods that’s powering pricing. Now companies and consumers are seeing more cost pressure as oil and natural gas climb to their loftiest levels since 2014, and all indicators point toward still higher energy prices ahead.
High prices for oil seems good for oil companies, so I’d be surprised if this goes anywhere.
4th Gear: Chip Manufacturer Says It’s Sold Out Through 2026
I was also taken by this Bloomberg piece “Japan’s carmakers endured a tough 2021. Now it’s down to chips.” It’s that second part — the idea that the chip shortage could soon come to an end and automakers would be liberated in terms of production — that stands in contrast to another Bloomberg news item with a less rosy view on the semiconductor chip crisis:
Sumco Corp., a key supplier of silicon wafers for the semiconductor industry, said it has already sold out its production capacity through 2026, a sign shortages in the industry may not abate for years.
The Japanese company, one of a handful to provide the specialized silicon slabs that chipmakers use to create their designs, has orders to cover all output of its 300 mm wafers for the next five years, it said after reporting earnings on Wednesday.
It is not taking such long-term orders for 150 mm and 200 mm wafers, but demand is likely to keep surpassing supply for years to come, the company said.
Good luck with that, everybody.
5th Gear: Geely Says It Will Be Making Auto-Grade Chips
I don’t think there’s anything that Geely won’t take on. China’s largest non-state-run car company and buyer of Volvo says it will try its hand at making car-quality chips, a first for China, as CarNewsChina reports:
On February 7, 2022, Gan Jiayue, CEO of Geely Automobile Group, claimed that Geely would produce China’s first automotive-grade 7nm system-on-chip in the third quarter of this year.
Geely has already started a partnership with Foxconn, so perhaps this is not the most shocking development.
Reverse: No Car Journalist Has Ever Done As Much As Nader
Ask yourself: why is it that there’s never been a meaningful, impactful, or challenging exposé written by a car journalist?
Neutral: Remember That Bike With The Stuck Seatpost?
Well, I did find a guy with a vise … and the bike snapped the vise. A $500, cast-iron vise. The guy tried cutting the post, to no avail. If you know anything about old bikes, you know what’s coming next. It involves rubber gloves, face and eye protection, and I’m not particularly stoked about it.