Category: Industry

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 >

By on March 17, 2017

piech

One of the preeminent figures within the European automotive industry is looking to get out of the family business. The former paterfamilias of Volkswagen AG, Ferdinand Piech, is looking to dump his stake of Porsche Automobil Holding SE and sever his remaining ties to VW. Piech’s shares would remain within the Porsche-Piech family — allowing them to keep control of Volkswagen Group — but Ferdinand would be out of the game as a majority stakeholder.

Piech has been at odds with his relatives after suggesting that Wolfgang Porsche and several other VW supervisory board members had been aware of Volkswagen’s emissions cheating much earlier than they claimed. Sources close to the family, whose members are apparently outraged, have stated that the Porsche-Piech gang sought to replace him at the table of Porsche Holdings ever since.  Read More >

By on March 17, 2017

Faraday Future FF 91 rear

Faraday Future is more of an automotive marketing company than it is an automaker. The company has been making unsubstantiated promises and ignoring its fiscal woes without giving much assurance that it will ever bring a production car — or assembly plant — into the real world. Problems have continued to mount and, like any deeply rooted zit, the situation is gradually coming to a head.

This month, Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz demanded that the Governor’s Office of Economic Development conduct an audit of Faraday — throwing in Tesla for good measure. Schwartz has been critical of FF ever since it received government money to help build its factory, only to see work on the facility stalled due to nonpayment last fall. Faraday has since scaled back its construction plans, claiming that it was necessary to ensure production begins on schedule.

Now, FF’s primary backer, LeEco, is selling a 49-acre Silicon Valley property less than a year after purchasing it from Yahoo Inc. This comes after the company’s founder and CEO, Jia Yueting, explained to employees in November that LeEco was facing devastating financial issues stemming from its uncontrolled expansion. Read More >

By on March 14, 2017

2014 Nissan cube

As it funnels its suit-and-ties over to Mitsubishi and rearranges its own departments like mad, Nissan is losing veteran designer, stylish dresser, and chief creative officer: Shiro Nakamura. Responsible for some of Nissan’s more radical designs, Nakamura oversaw the styling for the revamped GT-R and current 370Z, along with intentionally quirky models like the Juke, Leaf, and Cube.

Nakamura said his designs were purposefully modern and intended to express the “shock of the new.” The objective was to amend the company’s western image as a discount brand and give its vehicles unique personalities and character, which — love or hate it — the Juke has in spades.

Alfonso Albaisa, Infiniti’s current design head, will be stepping in to take over for the retiring Nakamura as senior VP and Nissan’s styling overlord. Replacing Albaisa as Infiniti’s global design chief will be former BMW design boss Karim Habib. Read More >

By on March 13, 2017

Donald Trump

President Trump is prepared to make a formal announcement on the review of vehicle fuel efficiency standards that were locked in at the tail end of the Obama administration. Sources have confirmed that he’ll be meeting with automotive CEOs in Michigan this week to discuss the the situation after listening to them repeatedly beg him to repeal the current guidelines.

The president plans to visit an autonomous vehicle testing facility outside of Detroit on Wednesday before meeting with the automotive heads representing the Detroit Three. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday that the trip is centered around “job creation and automobile manufacturing … highlighting the need to eliminate burdensome regulations that needlessly hinder meaningful job growth.” Read More >

By on March 13, 2017

central processing unit computer parts

After collaborating with Mobileye to help BMW put a fleet of roughly 40 self-driving test units on the road before the end of this year, Intel has decided that it would rather just buy the cow. The acquisition of autonomous driving technology leader Mobileye is going to cost the computing giant a colossal $15.3 billion.

More specifically, an Intel subsidiary will offer $63.54 per share for all issued and outstanding shares, which carries an equity value of $15.3 billion and an enterprise value of $14.7 billion. No matter how you slice it, it’s the world’s largest purchase of a company solely focused on the autonomous driving sector. The motivation is clear. Mobileye accounts for around 70 percent of the global market for modern driving aides, anti-collision systems, and advanced autonomous safety.  Read More >

By on March 12, 2017

VW logo

Former chairman of Volkswagen’s supervisory board Ferdinand Piech may soon be losing his seat on the Porsche SE board as well. While the Porsche and Piech families have combined their VW holdings in Porsche SE, its shareholders are voting on the future makeup of the company’s supervisory board at its annual meeting on May 30. However, a complete list of of candidates has to be decided upon by mid-April and Piech’s name seems to be absent from the early draft.

Wolfgang Porsche and Ferdinand’s brother Hans Michel Piech are both on the list of candidates, but Ferdinand Piech is not, according to the German weekly Bild am Sonntag, citing a person close to the matter. They hypothesized that the decision has more than just a little to do with Piech’s recent behavior regarding the VW emissions probe. Read More >

By on March 6, 2017

General Motors HQ

General Motors has said it will discharge 1,100 employees at its Lansing Delta Township assembly plant in Michigan in May. Last year, America’s largest automaker announced an additional 800 jobs at its Spring Hill plant in Tennessee to aid in production of the updated GMC Acadia. However, those positions seemed to have come at the expense of its Michigan workforce.

The cuts come after GM’s promise to invest another $1 billion into U.S. factories earlier this year. President Trump has insisted that American car builders manufacture more product within the country while condemning any ventures in Mexico. While General Motors may be shifting production south, it’s not so far south as to garner any presidential ire. The automaker has claimed that the billion dollar investment would maintain or create 1,500 U.S. jobs. Still, the net employment loss in this instance does not seem to reflect that.  Read More >

By on March 5, 2017

Uber ride, Image: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures/Flickr

It would be an understatement to suggest that Uber has had a bad couple of weeks. It kicked off with a highly publicized blog posting from former engineer Susan Fowler describing intrinsic sexual harassment at the San Francisco-based ride-hailing service. This was followed by an open letter from two of its investors condemning the company for fostering poor corporate behavior and unhealthy business practices. This, of course, was fast followed by a lawsuit from Google-parent Alphabet’s Waymo that alleged Uber stole some of its driverless car technology.

That was last week. This week saw Uber CEO Travis Kalanick asking his senior vice president of engineering, Amit Singhal, to step down after it came to light that Singhal had neglected to reveal that he was the subject of an ongoing sexual harassment investigation at his previous employer Google. However, Kalanick ended up being the subject of his own controversy just a few days later.  Read More >

By on March 3, 2017

Opel Headquarters

As expected, a transfer of General Motors’ subsidiary Adam Opel AG to European automaker PSA looks to be a done deal.

PSA’s board approved the deal on Friday, with an official announcement planned for early next week. Considering the European peripheral has cost GM $15 billion in losses since 2000, GM probably isn’t terribly sad to see Opel go.

With talks progressing all week, the two automakers focused on differences on about $10 billion worth of Opel outstanding pension deficiencies and a GM request that a PSA-owned Opel would not compete with its own Chevrolet-based lineup in China or in other overseas markets.  Read More >

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