I always get a little dismayed whenever I hear a car company talking about sales volume targets.
Yes, sure, reasonable sales targets are OK. Acceptable sales targets. If Toyota wants to say they’re going to sell one billion Camry units this year because they sold 997 million last year, that’s fine with me. If Honda wants to say they’re going to sell 950 million Accords this year because they’re contractually obligated by a higher power to slightly undersell the Camry, that’s fine too. And if Dodge wants to say they’ll sell 100,000 Grand Caravans this year, of which 99,000 are going to Enterprise, and the remaining 1,000 are going to people who don’t know any better, I guess I can accept that.
But I’ve never really understood why automakers set insane volume targets that keep them desperately reaching for sales for the next few decades.
I have acquired two VM Motori RA 428 engines that were pulled from new Chrysler minivans in 2009. The van were converted to electric drivetrain in LA. I want to install them in a pickup but because they were never installed in a truck from the factory, it will have to be a custom job. (Read More…)
Optimism sure ain’t what it used to be. Introducing its latest survey of auto industry executives [PDF], Booz & Co. proclaims that “optimism is skyrocketing,” and that “a new wave of optimism is overtaking the U.S. auto industry.” They’re not wrong, but for those used to the pre-bailout days of unabashed optimism dressed up as analysis, the “new optimism” is remarkably guarded. And it’s all relative to the pessimism that was beginning to set in when the industry began to realize that the “old optimism” was wildly at odds with the slow-motion market recovery.
So, just how optimistic is the “new optimism”? Which companies have the most reason for optimism? What do industry executives worry about most? When do they expect a Chinese invasion? The answers to these questions and more after the jump.
Once upon a time, GM’s North American operations spewed red ink across the firm’s balance sheet, with the whole mess kept afloat by relatively strong overseas operations. Now GM makes most of its money at home while its international divisions limp along. No, really: in its just-released Q1 financial report, GM reveals that some $1.7b of its $2.2b global EBIT came from its once-troubled home markets. What a difference a bailout makes!
What matters in the world of cars? It’s a question we’re always asking here at TTAC, and depending on your perspective, the answer could be almost anything. But for all of their cultural significance, cars are ultimately a business, and if you had to boil down the value of a vehicle to one single attribute, it would have to be profitability. But that’s a tough measure to make, considering automakers don’t typically break out profits by vehicle, let alone by model line. Which is why I was so excited to see a list of the 12 most profitable vehicles since 1990 compiled by Max Warburton of Bernstein Research, and published in Automotive News Europe [sub]. So, what’s the most profitable vehicle in modern automotive history? The answer can be found just after the jump…
It’s hardly unusual for Tesla to zig where the rest of the industry zags. But it’s particularly counterintuitive not to use the J1772 standard, since Model S drivers will be more interested in public charging than Roadster owners. Tesla’s proprietary connector choice requires getting customers to care about form over function on one of the most utilitarian aspects of the car. How many people stare at a gas nozzle and think, ‘If only that were better looking’?
Selling out of a first-year production run is good news, but hardly surprising (all plug-in vehicles are currently capacity-constrained). Preventing buyers from using public charging infrastructure because it’s unsexy is the kind of surprising news that could seriously damage Tesla’s long-term efforts. Meanwhile, we still don’t know how this company will do with regards to manufacturing quality and reliability, especially as volumes ramp up to 20k units per year. After all, Tesla’s hype and niche marketing efforts are well-proven… it’s all the other aspects of building and selling cars that we’re still unsure about.
The AlixPartners 2011 Automotive Outlook finds that while automakers and suppliers have seen profits bounce back handsomely – North American original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) posted $12.5 billion in 2010 profit on a net margin of 4.6% and North American suppliers reaped $8.2 billion on a net margin of 4.3% – no one should be tempted into thinking that things are now back to “normal,” or at least the normal defined by the consumer-incentive-induced sales levels of the past. In sync with its past annual auto studies, AlixPartners continues to predict that U.S. auto sales will climb slower, and to a lower peak, than many others are predicting. Specifically, the firm estimates U.S. auto sales will reach just 12.7 million units this year and only 13.6 million in 2012.
This is a tough moment for us: on the one hand, pessimistic economic forecasts don’t make anybody happy… on the other hand, the AlixPartner outlook is a significant validation of TTAC’s longtime bearishness. So rather than either moping or self-congratulating, let’s just take a look at why AlixPartners is so gloomy about the near-term outlook. (Read More…)
Ford did not disappoint and today announced its biggest annual profit in a decade. According to a Ford release, the company booked $8.3 billion in pre-tax profits for 2010. That is a $3.8 billion increase from a year ago. (Read More…)
Chrysler lost $84m last quarter on an operating profit of $239m, showing slow but consistent progress from last quarter’s $172m loss [Press release here, slides here, both in PDF]. Chrysler has lost $453m since the beginning of this year. Overall deliveries and sales were down slightly compared to Q2 2010, but thanks to a strong launch for the profit-generating Grand Cherokee, revenues were up just over 5 percent to $11b. As the slide above proves, “Mix and Net Price” accounts for one of the biggest contributions to operating profit, and that’s largely thanks to the new Grand Cherokee which (at 12,721 units last month) is the second-best selling vehicle in Chrysler’s lineup after Ram pickups. That’s a good sign for the future of a company that needed a hero, but there are some troubling signs under the surface.