Category: Industry

By on October 2, 2017

magneti-marelli

Fiat Chrysler is trying to work some financial magic to make itself look more appetizing to prospective investors. However, few buyers are likely to be interested in the whole of FCA. Its North American half has proven adept at assembling sport utility vehicles and Jeep would be a tasty morsel for any company hoping to expand its portfolio. But the Italian arm’s focus on smaller automobiles could get in the way of a potential deal — especially if the buyer already has their own.

CEO Sergio Marchionne wants the company to be purchased by an established automaker, but there are precious few that would want everything it has to offer. One possible solution is to separate subsidiaries from the core group. Marchionne says that might be the best solution for dealing with component supplier Magneti Marelli.

FCA has been of the mind that streamlining the business is the best way to attract investors without harming subsidiaries. After all, it worked well enough for Ferrari. The brand was spun off from FCA in late 2015, and its stock valuation embarked upon a rocket ride to the moon the following month.  Read More >

By on September 22, 2017

faraday future groundbreak

The honeymoon is over before it even began. The State of Nevada is ending its relationship with automaker Faraday Future, which once promised to build a vast and glorious manufacturing facility within its borders — in exchange for tax incentives.

Eschewing construction of its $1 billion promise in North Las Vegas due to financial woes, Faraday was insistent that it was going to begin construction on a smaller assembly plant before tackling the rest of the build site. According to the company, a bijou factory was to be the first phase of a multi-stage approach intended to bring the FF 91 swiftly to market.

In July, Faraday Future announced it would be placing that project on hold as well, but remained committed to using the Nevada site for long-term vehicle manufacturing. Until then, it said it would shift its business strategy “to position the company as the leader in user-ship personal mobility — a vehicle usage model that reimagines the way users access mobility.” If anyone knows what that gibberish means, we’d love to know. It’s been several months and we still can’t decipher that sentence into useful information.  Read More >

By on September 5, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry XSE

Overall contentment among domestic vehicle owners dropped slightly in this year’s American Customer Satisfaction Index. Meanwhile, enjoyment from European and Asian automakers stayed roughly the same. However, that information might not be quite so useful until you begin comparing individual brands (and even other industries).

Domestic automakers averaged 80 out of a possible 100 points in the ACSI scale, with General Motors as the only American manufacturer seeing an improvement from 2016. For the sake of comparison, let’s see how other industries are doing on either end of the spectrum: Cable companies, which everyone hates, averaged 64 points and television sets, which everyone loves, scored 87 points.

By and large, that doesn’t place automakers in the doghouse. But it does highlight a modest shift in the perception of specific domestic brands while longtime satisfaction leaders, like Toyota and Lexus, hold pole position.  Read More >

By on August 24, 2017

pexels-photo-97079

Car buyers who borrowed money to finance their purchase are seeing higher loan debt per borrower rates, along with higher delinquency rates. And it’s happening on both sides of the border.

Let’s start with Canada. Automotive News picked up a report from TransUnion showing that average auto-loan debt per borrower has gone up in the second quarter, and so too have delinquency rates. This is happening as vehicle prices have also risen during the same time period. Consumers are also rolling in other debt and parts of the country are still in recovery mode from the recent economic crisis.

Read More >

By on August 21, 2017

nissan emblem badge logo

Earlier this month, Nissan announced it was in the final stages of sealing a deal to sell its entire EV battery business to Chinese investment firm GSR Capital. The sale includes battery plants in Tennessee, England, and Japan, with a preamble where the Japanese automaker has to buy up minority shares of Automotive Energy Supply Corp. from NEC Corp.

From there, it can sell off the business to GSR for a cool $1 billion — which isn’t a bad deal for the Chinese company. Nissan used around $1.4 billion in government funds building its U.S. factory in 2010, and the remaining plants weren’t exactly cheap to build. So why is Nissan selling them off?

For starters, the Leaf hasn’t been the sales leader the manufacturer hoped for. Even though global deliveries surpassed the 250,000-unit milestone in December 2016, Leaf sales don’t go beyond 50,000 units annually. By electric vehicle metrics, that’s still a win. However, the Tennessee factory is capable of producing 200,000 complete EV battery packs a year — well beyond the company’s current needs.  Read More >

By on August 18, 2017

Toyota Factory Kentucky

The funny thing about job creators is that they don’t always, you know, create any jobs. So, when a business lets slip that it might have 4,000 positions on offer in the near future, every state with an unemployment rate higher than zero takes notice.

Mazda and Toyota’s joint factory — codenamed Project Mitt — is one such example, and now over a dozen U.S. states are simultaneously competing for the opportunity to host the $1.6-billion factory and the thousands of direct and indirect jobs it will yield.

When the Japanese automakers publicly revealed their cooperative venture a couple of weeks ago, they made it clear they had not yet picked a site — sending economic development offices into a frenzy. But what locale will emerge victorious has a lot to do with what the region can offer the manufacturer, including potential tax incentives, tempting job training programs, and investments into infrastructure.

An affordable and abundant workforce is also desirable — an element that distinguishes many states from one another. But no single area has everything on offer, leaving the final decision of where to build up in the air.  Read More >

By on July 18, 2017

Old Assembly Factory floor

Despite President Trump having initially framed his proposed NAFTA renegotiations as a hardline “America First” endeavor, the administration’s stance has soften significantly. In a recent summary of objectives, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer highlighted fairness as the key issue throughout.

Absent were any mention of abandoning the deal if certain conditions were not met and the steep tariffs previously alluded to by the president. In fact, any mention of tariffs specifically targeted their reduction or elimination — for both imported and exported goods. There are, however, numerous examples that reaffirm the Trump administration’s earlier objectives and a handful of inclusions that should please domestic automakers. Read More >

By on July 14, 2017

2015-Buick-Avenir-Concept-10

Today marks the third and final entry in our Domestics Abroad miniseries. This is where we take a look at the models proffered around the globe that wear a domestic company’s badge on the grille, but are not offered in the brands’ domestic markets. This is ground zero for “you can’t get that here.” All nameplates you’ll see in this series are current production models.

We kicked off this series with Ford and its 13 qualifying models. Second was Chevrolet, which had 9 models accounted for, and one which I forgot (you can see it below the jump). The Unmentionables will cover the remaining international offerings from Buick, Dodge, and Ram.

Read More >

By on July 11, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Driver Front quarter

Who knew the well-equipped 2018 Honda Odyssey was so… titillating? An unsuspecting journalist over at Forbes saw a few more — let’s call them entertainment options — than she expected while browsing through the video selection offered via her Odyssey tester’s rear media screen.

At that point, things became a little hot under the collar at Honda.

Read More >

By on May 11, 2017

ford logo

As anticipated, Ford CEO Mark Fields was grilled today over his plans to improve the company’s waning fortunes by board members who had scheduled extra time to question him.

Hot topics at the annual meeting centered on why profits are falling, what is Ford doing about the market shift toward SUVs, and how the company’s colossal investments into technology are affecting its present-day financial situation. Ford has poured billions into self-driving vehicles and ride-sharing platforms as its traditional car business loses some ground to General Motors in a slowing U.S. market. Fields spearheaded Ford’s rebranding as a mobility company, but many have suggested this future-focus isn’t healthy for the brand.

Fields stuck to his guns, emphasizing that Ford was heading “aggressively but also prudently” into “the biggest strategic shift in the history of our company.”  Read More >

By on April 21, 2017

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-SportWagen-09
Oh my God, it’s finally almost over. After a 10-year conspiracy and almost 600,000 rigged diesel cars, VW’s legal battle with the United States is coming to an end. Volkswagen pled guilty last month to conspiracy to commit fraud and the obstruction of justice after it was caught cheating on emissions tests in 2015, and we’ve been eagerly waiting the verdict and subsequent punishment.

Today, a U.S. judge ordered the automaker to observe three years of probation and shell out a $2.8 billion criminal fine. The sum, which Steph Willems has informed me equates to 135,168 VW Golfs — after delivery and rounding up to the closest car — is in addition to the company’s $1.5 billion in civil penalties,  $4.7 billion in mandatory anti-pollution initiatives, and $11.2 billion diesel buyback program.  Read More >

By on March 30, 2017

Car Wash Show - Las Vegas, Image: www.carwash.org

That’s right, there’s an annual Car Wash Show.

And, of course, it’s in Vegas.

Next week, I’ll be knee-deep in cleaning supplies, equipment and professional services offered to the car wash industry. And I need your assistance to get the most from this opportunity. Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

jagur-badge-emblem-logo

Jaguar Land Rover unleashed a volley of trademarks over past month, offering a glimpse of some of the names it might use on upcoming models. However, JLR took something of shock-and-awe approach while filing, so it would be unlikely to see all of these affixed to the side of a new model.

One of the more standout monikers is XJS, Jaguar’s former luxury grand tourer. Absent for two decades, Jag could commit sacrilege and bring it back as something other than a large two-door without much blowback from the general public. Those who remember the original would no doubt be appalled. The company also trademarked Westminster, which likely denotes a particular blue paint Jaguar was fond of during nineties and not a specific model. JLR also slipped in a filing for Freestyle —sharing a title with a crossover utility vehicle that sold incredibly well before Ford changed its name. Read More >

By on March 20, 2017

Macan Porsche

While still exclusive, Porsche is gradually becoming a more populous and profitable brand. It delivered 238,000 vehicles last year and posted an operating profit of $4.1 billion — a 14-percent increase over 2015’s accounting.

A little back-of-the-envelope math places the per-car profit at roughly $17,250. As a premium automaker, you’d expect it to rake it in on every vehicle sold. However, Porsche doesn’t limit production to the same extent that Ferrari does in order to maintain artificially high prices. And it absolutely decimates other premium brands that offer exclusivity at a higher volume. BMW and Mercedes-Benz both hover at around $5,000 in profit per car.

Porsche seems to have struck an ideal balance. While its per-car profit was actually higher a few years ago — $23,000 in 2013 — it wasn’t making quite as much money overall. At the time, Bentley pulled in roughly 21 grand per unit and sold fewer vehicles overall. Since then, Porsche has shifted some of its focus downmarket, introduced the Macan, expanded its volume, increased income, and still managed to maintain a sweet profit margin on every vehicle sold.

How did it manage that? Basically, the same way Ford wrangles its F-150.

Read More >

By on March 20, 2017

2017-Mitsubishi-Outlander-Sport-Limited-Edition-Front

Mitsubishi is stalling the much-needed redesigns of its Outlander SUV and Outlander Sport compact crossover as engineers explore ways of sharing components with Nissan.

This means that, until the Outlander Sport gets its proposed downsizing, Mitsubishi could have two vehicles sharing a segment and potential customers when the 2018 Eclipse Cross hits dealerships. Both Outlanders were expected to assume a new form to better distance themselves from the Eclipse Cross compact crossover and each other. While they don’t look much alike, the Cross’ dimensions are only an inch-and-a-half away from the Sport.

It may make good financial sense to appropriate Nissan parts and platforms, but Mitsubishi would be shooting itself in the foot by having two models in the same segment — even if it were only for a year or two. Considering how important crossovers and SUVs are for the North American market, there is little benefit in bringing in the flashy new Eclipse Cross just to rob sales from another model.  Read More >

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