General Motors has an important investors meeting coming up this week and the keystone item will be explaining how profitable its planned shift toward electric vehicles will eventually be. Details of GM's presentation have leaked and, if the claims are true, leadership should be spending a substantial portion of November 17th explaining exactly how EVs will become money-makers for the business by 2025.
Hyundai Motor Group's Theta II GDI engines are costing the company a fortune, with the company recently acknowledging the troubled powertrain will leave the manufacturer $2 billion leaner for the third quarter of 2022 alone. While that hit will be split between Hyundai and Kia brands, it still represents a healthy slice of their quarterly revenue.
The last few years have certainly been interesting for Nissan. After clawing its way back from financial disaster in the early 2000s, the company endured one of the most high-profile and scandal-ridden management shakeups in automotive history by 2018. It also became desperately unprofitable while incurring negative growth, with the remaining leadership deploying an aggressive restructuring plan designed to help get the business back on track.
Those efforts appear to have been successful.
It’s a little early in the year to say anything definitive about 2022 vehicle volumes, however, the automotive industry has been signaling that production numbers should begin to rise in the coming months. While that sentence should be cause for a sigh of relief, there are parts of the industry that might not feel as good about it as you probably do.
With supply chain problems having drastically limited vehicle production during the pandemic, many dealers opted to price their goods well above anything that could be considered normal. This worked out poorly for many of the smaller outfits as larger retailers enjoyed record-breaking profits in 2021. Some manufacturers also benefited financially, as the chip shortage allowed them to prioritize their highest-margin products. Unfortunately for them, 2022 is likely to bring affordable vehicles back into play and gradually pull pricing closer to something approaching normality.
During last week’s earnings call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the Cybertruck would be delayed until at least 2023. That places the polygonal pickup two years behind its original schedule. But who among us with knowledge of the automaker’s production history actually thought it would be delivered on time?
Delaying products has become a hallmark of the Tesla brand and Musk doesn’t seem to be sweating it. Rather than focusing on launching a new vehicle for 2022, the business wants to prioritize increasing capacity and finalizing its move from California to Texas. Now based in Austin, Tesla made $5.5 billion last year compared with the previous record year of $3.47 billion in net income posted in 2020. Musk said the shift into routine profitability is proof that EVs are viable, adding that the company could have done even better if factory output hadn’t been so constrained last year. Unfortunately, those hurdles haven’t dissipated for 2022, encouraging the automaker to wait on both the Tesla Cybertruck and Roadster.
With so many articles discussing how poor automotive sales have been through 2021, one could be forgiven for thinking this was going to be a hard year for anybody owning a dealership. However, the reality of the matter is that it’s a seller’s market and those who can sell are making a killing off everyone else’s misery.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has reported that the ongoing deficit of product has helped the average store rake in more money than they did in 2020, breaking the previous twelve-month profitability record. Today’s average dealership is reporting a net pretax profit of about $3.38 million through October for 2021. That’s more than twice what was tallied within the same timeframe last year and really goes to show how much money can be made when the customer’s needs are the only items being discounted.
When the pandemic convinced practically every industry to press pause in 2020, supply chains became so crippled that just getting sectors of commerce rebooted became a challenge in itself. It was the business equivalent of a twenty-car pileup, with the automotive industry being hit particularly hard due to the complexity of its own supply lines. While the following year represented an improvement, production failed to stabilize to pre-pandemic levels.
The solution for automakers and dealerships was to begin demanding more money for cars. With vehicles in short supply, the value of new and used models blew through the roof. This move kept automakers largely in the black for 2021, despite a general inability (or unwillingness) to manufacture products at the normal pace. However, it didn’t help suppliers, who are haven’t been able to tack on the same premiums to individual components while still having to cope with rising economic hurdles.
On Thursday, Uber Technologies reported its first profitable quarter since the company launched in San Francisco way back in 2009. This represents a huge achievement for the company, which has been investing heavily to expand the business in the hopes that it will eventually become the world’s favored ride-hailing, courier, and food-delivery service.
But here’s the rub. Uber is technically only profitable on an adjusted basis that takes a pretty narrow view of its finances. Despite this, it’s still a step in the right direction and may foreshadow the reliable earnings the company has been seeking for ages.
With automobile prices ballooning to egregiously high levels, one might assume that the industry would be in rough shape. But they’d be dead wrong. Supply chain disruptions have actually created a captive market where consumers are desperate to lay their hands on whatever products are available. In the automotive realm, this has allowed retailers to set ludicrous prices and rake in larger profits per transaction. While inflation may eventually catch up to these entities, the gravy train is currently parked at the station and dousing big business with its warm, brown effluence.
Nobody knows this better than the folks at AutoNation. Because the company just released a quarterly profit report that blew its rosiest projections out of the water. Net income its ongoing operations was $361.7 million for Q3 2021, double the $182.6 million witnessed in Q3 of 2020, while revenue rose 18 percent to $6.4 billion.
With supply chain hiccups crippling the automotive industry’s ability to conduct business as normal, resulting in rolling production stalls and skyrocketing vehicle prices, manufacturers looked to be in serious trouble throughout the pandemic. But we learned that wasn’t to be the case by the summer. Automakers were posting “surprise profits” because people still needed cars. We also found out there’s been a growing appetite for expensive (see: highly profitable) models and the industry saved itself a bundle by not needing to pay for office space or line workers, as COVID restrictions kept everyone at home.
Having considered the above, most automakers are seriously considering how they can further leverage this new modality. German manufacturers have even said they’re not that interested in going back to the normal way of doing things — instead electing to intentionally limit volumes and focus on high-end models that will yield the greatest return on investment. But it’s not quite the curveball it seems, as some companies were already ditching the volume approach.
Despite being one of the only manufacturers not to incur heavy production losses over the global semiconductor shortage, Toyota has announced that its luck has finally run out. The automaker is estimating that it will need to cut assembly by 40 percent this September.
It’s not alone. Both Ford and General Motors have announced they’re also stifling production this week to account for a deficit of chips. Even Volkswagen Group has been cautioning that it might schedule more downtime going into the fall. But that’s basically been the story for all of 2021. Toyota just happens to be the newest inductee.
While the tech industry does have firms pushing useful applications and products, it’s quite possibly the most disingenuous business sector of the modern age. Companies selling literally nothing more than false promises routinely see multi-billion-dollar valuations. The necessary hardware is always just “years away” and sold to investors who haven’t realized it was never real in the first place. A significant portion of the industry is also little more than reorganizing payment structures or access to services for the sake of convivence, making sure you’re locked into a plan that keeps your financial and personal details perpetually on file. But sometimes this actually results in worthwhile solutions which may (or may not) be capable of turning a legitimate profit.
Ride-hailing firms are probably one of the earliest and best examples of all the above. Uber and Lyft both lost a lot of money in 2020 but both remain convinced that profitability is just over the next hill. But there are plenty of obstacles littering the incline.
Jaguar Land Rover has increased its savings target for the year to $3.3 billion (£2.5 billion) following a $540 million (£413 million) pre-tax loss for the quarter ending in June. Losses are hardly uncommon within an industry shaken by the pandemic, but JLR went into this year already confronting an uphill battle.
In 2019, the company was deep in the midst of a restructuring plan aiming at $2.5 billion in life-sustaining savings. Unfortunately, the move required the elimination of thousands of positions as it tried to imagine the effects of Brexit and contend with falling sales in its largest markets. That includes China, which the firm assumed would offer continued growth in the months leading up to coronavirus’ big debut and increasing political tensions between the Communist Party of China and United Kingdom.
Nissan’s all-important turnaround has been complicated immensely by the coronavirus pandemic. Supply chains fell into in shambles as countless factories temporarily closed as a countermeasure, harming profits as demand came to a screeching halt. Now there’s a looming recession that many economists fear may surpass the Great Depression — though this was a concern years before the COVID response hit the accelerator, thanks to growing debt and the way finance has been allowed to operate for decades.
Seeing the writing on the wall, many automakers have tamped down expectations for 2020. Being in the peculiar position of restructuring before the pandemic hit — which isn’t all that unique within the industry, truth be told — Nissan is reportedly plotting a 30 percent year-on-year cut in global production.
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- Conundrum Was unlucky enough to have a ride in the back of one of these things shortly after they first appeared, a project of Mercedes' ownership of Chrysler and that silly German professor with the gigantico walrus mustache who ran the place.Brother rented one of these early Magnums. The ride in the back was of constant wallowing up and down, like a 2015 BMW 3 Series, where my senses were similarly assaulted by lack of attenion to rear ride comfort, Up front was OK in both, back seat ride bloody awful. Must be a Germanic trait.The Magnum had an additional sensory deficit. Interior smelled of the peculiar rubber/plastic dash. Smelled like Chinese winter boots for kids, or Chinese tires of yore. Pass.
- Anonymous My dad drove an 84 LTD. He always bragged about how special it was. Interesting to see that again.
- Conundrum Here's how much Ford had to do design-wise with that engine in the article's lead picture.Zero. It was a Cosworth when Cosworth was still original Cosworth, over 30 years ago. The engine shown is a development of the original DFV. Ford paid to have its name on the cam covers for decades.I wonder who Ford will get to design this proposed new F1 engine for 2026. Because sure as hell, they don't have the in-house talent to do it themselves.
- Sayahh Story idea or car design competition: design a compact sedan, a midsize sedan, coupe and/or wagon specifically for people 6'4" through 7'2". Not an SUV nor a crossover nor a raised chassis like the US Toyota Crown or Subaru Outback.
- Sayahh I only check map app only when absolutely necessary and only at a red light. An observation: lots of ppl leave 2 car lengths (or more) between themselves and the car ahead of theirs so that they can text or check the internet (because they are afraid they might roll forward and hit the car in front of them?) This drives me crazy because many ppl do it and 3 cars will take up almost 7 car lengths and ppl cannot get into the left turn lane when it's bordered by a cement "curb." Worse is when they aren't even using their phone and have both hands on the stewring wheel and waiting for the green light. Half a car length is enough, people. Even one car length is too much, but 3 or 4 car lengths? At 40 MPH, maybe, not at 0 MPH please.