By on May 21, 2019

While it’s difficult to muster sympathy for giant corporations, the trade war current raging between the United States and China has left many stuck in an industrial limbo. Automakers want a bigger slice of the global market, but putting your eggs in either country’s basket will result in repercussions from the other.

We’re not saying this to promote some kind of commiseration for multinational companies; rather, it’s simply to remind everyone of how the auto industry has to conduct its business. Frequently, carmakers must play both sides. Toyota, already one of the world’s largest automakers, knows this better than anyone, and new documents shed light on some of the cloak-and-dagger aspects of maintaining its high-volume position.  (Read More…)

By on May 15, 2019

On Tuesday, Volkswagen announced its plan to assemble 600,000 electric vehicles utilizing the brand’s MEB platform at two plants in China. The facilities, said to be located in the cities of Anting and Foshan, will help bolster EV volume after the completion of VW’s Zwickau plant in Germany — which the company previously claimed would manufacture 330,000 cars annually.

While that facility is nearing completion and supposed to be up and running before 2020, there’s no firm timeline in place for China. But that’s the least of the issues Volkswagen must solve in order to make this dream a reality.  (Read More…)

By on May 3, 2019

Image: JLR

Last week, we examined the precarious situation impacting the way Jaguar Land Rover does business. If you want the abridged version, JLR isn’t sure what to do about Brexit, overestimated the Chinese market, and is concerned with tightening emission rules in Europe. The company’s now mulling the layoff of a sizable portion of its workforce to stem financial losses while parent company Tata considers what life might be like if it sold off its British properties.

Refreshingly, JLR isn’t secretive about its problems and doesn’t attempt to spin them into something positive. It knows it’s confronting real problems. It wants us to know that, too.  (Read More…)

By on February 11, 2019

Subaru Legacy 2018 Logo Emblem Grille

Subaru’s sales in the United States effectively tripled in the past decade, making it the most important market for the brand by a wide margin. However, the automaker has had to expend quite a bit of energy in its home country of Japan to address recalls and regulatory scandals over the last few years.

While the duality hasn’t caused issues on a global scale, many observers wonder how long its good fortune will last. In America, Subaru is a feel-good brand that uses love as a core marketing concept to improve sales. In Japan, it has become synonymous with overworking employees lacking compensation, regulatory scandals, sudden work stoppages, and recalls. Many believe it’s only a matter of time before Subaru of America will have to contend with Japan’s issues, and evidence exists that problems are already beginning to surface in the West. (Read More…)

By on February 6, 2019

Image: VW

Following its diesel emissions scandal, Volkswagen leaned hard into electrification. The automaker needed to look environmentally conscious after being caught cheating on emissions tests, and promising a glut of electric vehicles seemed like a good way to accomplish that goal. Of course, building EVs also allows companies to offset fleet-wide emissions — protecting the existence of highly profitable crossovers using the internal combustion engines that most people still prefer.

However, Volkswagen isn’t talking about chucking in a few zero-emission vehicles under its I.D. sub-brand. Back in 2017, the automaker promised $84 billion for EV development after announcing an initial investment of $10 billion. VW Group subsidiaries like Audi and Porsche are busy readying electrics of their own. While incredibly ambitious, the swift change in direction means Volkswagen is effectively gambling with its future. (Read More…)

By on January 25, 2019

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Ford’s chief executive, Jim Hackett, told employees Thursday evening that 2019 cannot be a repeat of last year.

“2018 was mediocre by any standard,” Hackett said in an email to employees. “Yes, we made $7 billion last year. But think of it this way: this represents a 4.4 percent operating margin, about half what we believe is an appropriate margin. So we are aiming for much closer to $14 billion.”

Despite being at the helm of The Blue Oval for nearly two years. Hackett’s Ford continues to endure a slipping share price and a market cap of 34.5 billion — substantially less than General Motors’.

“I become mad for a short time. Likely mad at myself, but also because I know we are better than that,” the CEO said of Ford’s current situation. “I know that our competition hasn’t been better than us by magic.”  (Read More…)

By on January 21, 2019

Cadillac is at a crossroads. While the brand has enjoyed growth in Asia, domestic volume never fully recovered from the Great Recession. It’s come back a bit, with sales dipping and rising between years, but hasn’t managed to keep pace with the overall market. As of 2018, Cadillac possesses the lowest share of the U.S. market in the brand’s recorded history. Fortunately, the fourth-quarter arrival of the XT4 helped to Cadillac stabilize sales as the year drew to an end.

However, General Motors wants the luxury arm to become a legitimate success and prove the automaker’s effort to develop advanced powertrains and new technologies weren’t in vain. Cadillac is positioned to become manufacturer’s leading electric brand and GM’s newly appointed president, Mark Reuss, has acknowledged this is sort of its last chance at greatness.  (Read More…)

By on January 11, 2019

Ford Chariot Shuttle

Chariot, Ford’s app-based shuttle service, has announced it will throw in the towel due to the rapidly changing “mobility landscape” of major cities. When the company launched in 2014 with Jim Hackett at the helm, it joined a bundle of “microtransit” firms hoping to undercut brands like Uber while providing a viable alternative to public transportation.

Ford acquired the company in March of 2016 for a reported $65 million, proving that not every mobility firm can be a golden goose. It snagged Hackett and made him Ford CEO roughly a year later, where he continued to oversee Chariot as chairman of the automaker’s Smart Mobility subsidiary. Unfortunately, the service is no longer deemed sustainable.

On the upside of things, this ought to put a few coins in the jar labeled “Restructuring Program” at Ford’s Dearborn headquarters.  (Read More…)

By on November 26, 2018

According to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the automaker was teetering on the edge of disaster earlier this year. “Tesla faced a really severe threat of death due to the Model 3 production ramp,” Musk told Axios during a video interview on HBO. “Essentially the company was bleeding money like crazy and just if we didn’t solve these problems in a very short period of time, we would die. And it was extremely difficult to solve them.”

Musk said Tesla was within “single-digit weeks” of an unrecoverable catastrophe. While we appreciate his present candor, the assertion doesn’t mesh with comments made earlier.

In fact, Elon was down on the automotive firm needing more funds every since it posted its 2011 financial results. “Tesla does not need to ever raise another funding round,” he said in response to a question on the company’s cash position back in February of 2012. “We may want to do so, but we are in a strong cash position, and we don’t need to.”  (Read More…)

By on November 15, 2018

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These days, every automaker is in the midst of a metamorphosis, eager to emerge from their chrysalis as a “mobility company.” Even brands that don’t seem bent on completely revolutionizing their business model now use the term in reference to themselves.

Ford, which has positioned itself as a mobility company ever since Mark Fields was steering the ship, is among those pushing the narrative the strongest. Fields may have been fired for having a lofty, tech-focused vision that couldn’t charm investors, but much of it carried over to Jim Hackett’s tenure as CEO. Ford desperately wants to be seen as a cutting-edge nameplate.

However, the assumption among industry experts is that it’s lagging behind General Motors in terms of autonomous driving, electrification, and the ability to tap into alternative revenue streams. We sometimes wonder how accurate those assumptions are.  (Read More…)

By on September 21, 2018

Earlier this year, Elio Motors said it would launch its own cryptocurrency as a way of funding its troubled three-wheeler. During the initial ElioCoin announcement in April, Elio also said it partnered with Overstock.com to relieve some of its debt. The website claimed it purchased $2.5 million of the startup’s newly issued shares.

As helpful as a few million dollars would be toward progressing Elio’s goals, the cryptocurrency plan seemed patently ridiculous. We didn’t expect to hear much more about it.

Color us surprised, though. Elio has now formally launched the pre-sale of the ElioCoin Security Token, noting that Patrick M. Byrne — Overstock.com’s founder and CEO — will be the first person to open up his wallet to participate in this strange new offer.  (Read More…)

By on September 17, 2018

Halfway through the brand’s decade-long turnaround plan, Cadillac President Steve Carlisle says the company is finally ready to paint the town redder than a baboon’s ass. As you’ll no doubt recall, Carlisle took over for Johan de Nysschen after a “surprise management change” last April.

He’s addressing 900 retailers this week’s Cadillac dealer meeting in Las Vegas. The strategy? Carlisle intends to outline Cadillac’s upcoming products through 2021 — primarily crossovers. For the most part it looks to be steady as she goes, with the new president following de Nysschen’s overall strategy with a few tweaks. Those changes will likely come through the brand’s marketing efforts and some minor adjustments to the 2019 Project Pinnacle retail incentive program. But it could alter the luxury marque’s final lineup, too.  (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2018

With Ford Motor Company dropping all but one car from its lineup to focus on utility vehicles and crossovers, there’s little reason to run ad campaigns for both. You don’t see Coca-Cola running spots for both Diet Coke and Coke BlāK, as the latter of the two beverages disappeared from store shelves roughly a decade ago. Companies don’t bother pushing products they don’t have, and pretty soon Ford won’t have cars.

Thus, the automaker has ended all nationwide marketing for the Fiesta, Focus, Taurus, and Fusion. Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said the automaker intends to use the freed advertising dollars on the company’s current and forthcoming utility models — setting aside a portion for the Mustang. But the Fusion, which is slated to stick around for another two years, will have to go without. (Read More…)

By on August 14, 2018


While still an industrial giant on the global scene, Mitsubishi is a shadow of its former self in the United States. After leaning a bit too hard on its status as a value brand, annual deliveries went from about 346,000 units to just 58,000 between 2002 and 2012. Meaningful progress has been made since then, but the road to redemption has been a hard one.

The looming threat of tariffs isn’t making things any easier for Mitsubishi. The automaker doesn’t have a single production facility in the U.S., meaning it will receive the full force of whatever percentage is tacked onto the import fee. There is hope, however. Bizarrely, the brand’s biggest weakness (U.S. sales) is also its greatest strength when it comes to enduring import tariffs.  (Read More…)

By on July 16, 2018

Subaru is a once-tiny manufacturer that grew in leaps and bounds thanks to high demand from the United States. The automaker is the eighth best-selling brand in the region, despite being a scrappy upstart, and has managed multiply its volume many since the 1990s. But, like any business loaded into a cannon with the word “success” emblazoned on the side, it can’t continue streaming through the clouds indefinitely without encountering some turbulence.

Subaru may be in for troubled times. (Read More…)

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