Tag: Economy

By on October 13, 2020

With global economies suffering from pandemic-related lockdowns, there’s been just one question burning in the minds of economists: ‘When will Chinese automotive sales finally rebound so that the industry can once again feel comfortable enough to keep pouring resources into Central Asia?’

Now, apparently.

China’s car market just recorded its first quarter of year-over-year sales growth in two years, with last month’s volume rising 12.8 percent (vs 2019) to 2.57 million units, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). While its always wise to keep in mind that the nation has a history of obfuscating figures that might paint it in a bad light, CPCA has been slightly more consistent in its reporting than the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). Both outlets also have a tenancy to showcase blind optimism for the local economy, but there appears to have been good reason for that over the last five months.

(Read More…)

By on August 24, 2020

AutoNation’s collision parts division is scheduled to be eliminated by the end of 2020, freeing up some cash after the two-year endeavor proved less than profitable.

Former CEO Cheryl Miller had made it clear that one of her main goals for the company was to ramp up services in an attempt to enhance revenue and diversify the business. But this tactic has proven perilous for the automotive industry at large, often offsetting opportunities to make money with sizable financial risks.

Mobility is probably the best example of this, as its broad enough to encompass everything from self-driving vehicles to subscription models and relies on the market maturing into something that will presumably see returns on investment years down the line. However, AutoNation’s diversification was far more traditional. It seemed like a sure thing, since the collision parts business was forecast to grow over the next five years. In fact, despite being the the largest automotive retailer in the United States, the company actually owes 46 percent of its gross profit to parts and service. Selling cars (both new and used) only accounts for 24 percent — with the rest coming from finance and insurance. (Read More…)

By on July 30, 2020

Cox Automotive eliminated around 1,600 jobs this month as it prepared to better embrace online commerce (and nobody having any money). The company axed nearly 300 employees in June after having furloughed over 12,000 people in response to the coronavirus pandemic this spring. A large number of those positions were related to its Manheim auction arm, which suffered the hardest due to stringent lockdown protocols that prohibited public gatherings.

Now it’s talking about improving some of the digital features it added to Autotrader this year and embracing the virtual landscape to future-proof itself while forecasting a 25-percent cut in annual profits, and letting people go  with the majority of the layoffs coming to furloughed Manheim employees. (Read More…)

By on July 21, 2020

General Motors CEO Mary Barra predicted a brief recession and streamlined economic recovery in a recent interview. Mixed in with favorable coverage of how the company saved Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer by manufacturing personal protective equipment intended to combat the pandemic, the Detroit Free Press took time out to get Barra’s expert opinion on various subjects.

She mused that a 300-mile range will be the sweet spot for GM’s electric vehicles, noting that the company may eventually offer distances in excess of that with its new Ultium platform, and touted the merits of the Inclusion Advisory Board she recently placed herself at the head of. Things began to get more substantive when she attempted to predict how long the economy would languish as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns (Read More…)

By on July 17, 2020

Earlier this week, presumed Democratic nominee for president and former shut-in Joe Biden discussed some of the changes he’d make if elected. While most do not overlap with the automotive industry and would force your author to digress into rants about the perils of unchecked government spending, one item tied to his ambitious $2 trillion climate proposal is related directly to cars — and feels uncomfortably familiar.

Biden appears interested in bringing back the Car Allowance Rebate System (aka Cash for Clunkers) from the last recession, or at least a version 2.0 that accelerates electric vehicle adoption and development inside the United States.  (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2020

After coronavirus lockdowns wiped out vehicle production for a few months, dealer inventories are going to have to wait a little longer than normal to be resupplied with new product. Meanwhile, the used market has become awash with cars offloaded by rental agencies with no use for them — except as a way to drum up cash during a difficult time.

Chuck in every American citizen getting free money from the government and you’ve got yourself the perfect storm. Average folks are thinking about using that money on a new car and dealers need to offset depleted inventories and delayed deliveries by scooping up used ones for the purpose of flipping. That’s driven up prices, which could potentially work in your favor if you happen to have an automobile you no longer have much use for.  (Read More…)

By on June 4, 2020

After furloughing staff in response to the coronavirus pandemic, AutoNation has gradually allowed employees to return back to work. Half of the 7,000 people asked to take it easy in April won’t be coming back at all, however.

The automotive retailer has decided to permanently cut 3,500 jobs so it can focus on its bottom line and what it has unsettlingly called “the new normal” — a term frequently used to rationalize unsavory actions taken during the health crisis.

With customers unable to leave their homes to purchase cars, it’s to be expected that America’s largest automotive retailer would need to engage in some light restructuring. It also happens to have the best excuse imaginable for nuking a large portion of its workforce. Back in April, when the AutoNation was furloughing employees, it received nearly $95 million in federal small-business funds via the Payment Protection Program (PPP). A subset of anonymous staff members were said to have leaked the details to the media after deciding the firm was taking cash allocated for smaller outfits.

Outrage ensued and the company sheepishly returned the money.  (Read More…)

By on June 1, 2020

Over the past decade, regular reports that Chinese automakers were readying a major push into the North American market became commonplace. We started seeing them move out of trade show basements to take up some of the most desirable real estate on the main floor. While some of the product clearly wasn’t yet up to snuff, one could imagine budget-focused products flooding the U.S. and Canada after a few years of polish. However, the last time that seemed like a likely scenario was 2018.

Chinese brands are still trying to break into the untapped North American market; some even have physical office space set up within the United States. However, Sino-American relations have soured dramatically over the past few years, and new financial hurdles have made wrangling a new market extremely difficult.  (Read More…)

By on May 4, 2020

Elon Musk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had an interesting few days. It all kicked off when he went off on the politics behind coronavirus lockdowns — suggesting that state mandates had surpassed what should be deemed reasonable and that civil liberties were being infringed upon — during Wednesday’s earnings call. By week’s end, he was using social media to announce Tesla’s stock price was too high.

Despite it not being his first time making such a claim, and with the automaker turning a surprise first-quarter profit, the company’s share price still lost 10 percent in a single day. Musk then announced he would sell practically everything he owned. Initially, it seemed to be another partial joke taken completely literally by some followers and the media. But Musk began making good on the claim, listing two properties over the weekend.  (Read More…)

By on April 21, 2020

Don’t expect the Present Year to come close to the sales tallies racked up in 2018 or the year before. No analyst foresees such a scenario; globally, LMC sees auto production taking a 20-percent haircut in 2020.

But the return to normality is underway in the U.S., aided by the federal government’s reopening plan (a set of guidelines to be acted on by individual states), but especially by the realization of governors that car buyers need some way to bring a vehicle home. Michigan, via an executive order, greenlit online sales on April 9th. Now it’s Pennsylvania’s turn. (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2020

Updated social distancing guidance released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Friday indicates the automotive industry is now an essential business.

Version 3.0 (for those keeping count) of what constitutes “essential critical infrastructure workers” added a number of job descriptions as the federal government mulls how to restart the U.S. economy. Among them is pretty much every job related to automotive manufacturing and sales. (Read More…)

By on April 13, 2020

fca

As the global health crisis pivots toward becoming an economic one, the automotive industry is understandably eager to know when it can begin producing cars again. The situation isn’t going to be as easy as throwing open a few breaker boxes and giving the thumbs up. A mile-long list of problems, many of which lack easy answers, will first have to be tackled before things return to normal.

Supply chains will be slow to move — and potentially severed — as other nations wait longer to walk back social distancing measures. Not all factories will resume operation at the same time, and not all parts suppliers or shipping agencies will have made it through the coronavirus pandemic intact. It’s also uncertain how quickly customers will return to the market. In tougher financial times, customers may remain hesitant in making large purchases; meanwhile, localized quarantines will undoubtedly continue suppressing sales in certain markets. Then we have the elephant in the room — the vast amount of money this colossal reboot is going to require.  (Read More…)

By on March 17, 2020

As we attempt to wean ourselves off endless discussions the new coronavirus, we’ve noticed there’s not exactly a glut of alternative news out there. Trade shows are being delayed, factories are being idled, and the whole world seems to be in standby mode as we attempt to stall the spread of COVID-19 following its migration out of China.

Regional quarantines in Asia were already doing a number on supply chains, and it wasn’t long before manufacturers around the world began idling production to further slow the virus’s spread. By the beginning of March, it was becoming quite clear that auto sales would suffer significant impacts as people spent the next several weeks isolated in their own homes. Now, the push is on to assess just how much this whole ordeal will impact an OEM’s bottom line.  (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2019

Fresh off giving Chevy a good drubbing in the American sales race, Ram has announced pricing for its new batch of EcoDiesel half-ton pickup trucks.

We’ll save you a click and tell you above the fold that the cheapest way to get into a new Ram EcoDiesel is by way of two-wheel drive Tradesman wearing Quad Cab clothes. That truck stickers for $36,890 plus destination. There’s more to it than that, of course, so you’ll want to hit the jump to learn why Ram feels the need to offer not one but two different EcoDiesels in their showrooms at the same time.

(Read More…)

By on August 15, 2019

2018 Ford Europe Fiesta range - Image: Ford

If the global economy were weather, yesterday brought dark clouds, an unsettling calm, and that weird ozone smell that heralds a violent storm. The bond market is waving its hands and flashing a warning sign. Spooked traders waded through a sea of red as Wall Street and other foreign exchanges began resembling the elevator scene in The Shining.

It’s quite possible all those warnings issued by major automakers of a looming recession weren’t made out of an abundance of caution, but something a little more concrete. No wonder the likes of Ford and General Motors find themselves in the midst of “downturn planning.”

As you read yesterday, one possible consequence of another economic meltdown is a return of smaller, more affordable vehicles — products both Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler spent the last few years dropping from their lineups. While the entirety of these small vehicles wouldn’t return in such a scenario, some might. Which cars deserve a green light? (Read More…)

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