By on April 26, 2019

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Automakers find themselves a bit of a pickle right now. The shift towards “mobility” has resulted in high development costs for electric and autonomous vehicles in the midst of stagnating sales growth. There’s also a trade war hurting global demand and impacting supply chains. Ultimately, this resulted in a lackluster Q1 for many manufacturers.

Ford’s situation was symbolic of the industry’s general plight, per its 34-percent decline in net revenue for the first quarter of 2019, but it wasn’t without a warm ray of hope. The company posted a 12-percent increase in earnings (before before interest and taxes) over the same period due to North America’s consistent desire to own SUVs, crossovers, and pickups. Ford’s share price also improved, hitting the $10 mark for the first time since August of 2018 on Friday.

With all that good news, many probably wonder what caused net revenue to climb into the toilet like an overly curious ferret. As it turns out, saving money can be pretty expensive.  (Read More…)

By on April 2, 2019

Despite playing host to what everyone presumed would be a very hot property, Lyft’s IPO hasn’t panned out as expected. While the company’s Friday stock debut was strong, April 1st was less promising, with Lyft’s share price slipping by nearly 12 percent in a single day. It’s now well beneath the target price, casting doubts about the financial sustainability of mobility firms.

It’s a complicated issue. Lyft was valued at more than $22 billion when it went public last week, but investors are concerned with the company’s inability to turn a profit. Last year, the ride-hailing giant posted a net loss of nearly $1 billion. With Uber likely to announce its own IPO soon (and likely face similar headwinds), many are concerned.  (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 23, 2019

jim_hackett

Remember Mark Fields, the former Ford CEO who was forced to retire due to an inability to manifest his vision of the company’s future in a timely manner? Well, it’s starting to look like Wall Street needs another sacrificial lamb. Ford’s current chief executive, Jim Hackett, appears rather appetizing.

Despite promises from company chairman Bill Ford that the automaker would see swifter decision making under Hackett, it hasn’t felt all that differing from the company’s Fieldsian days. There’s still a strong emphasis placed on transforming Ford into a mobility company with no obvious path on how to get there. While it might be a little unfair of us to slam Fields or Hackett for their inability to accurately map out the future like some mythical sage, investors expect exactly that. As a result, Ford’s stock price has continued to tumble.  (Read More…)

By on August 21, 2018

tesla model 3

Save for some uplifting production news, Tesla Motors is still fighting an uphill battle. CEO Elon Musk’s earlier claim that the company would go private has gotten him into trouble with the Securities Exchange Commission — since it looks as if the automaker hasn’t procured the necessary funding to make that happen.

However it doesn’t appear as if Norway’s sovereign wealth fund will be the outlet to pick up that tab. Trond Grande, deputy CEO of the Norwegian fund, declined to say whether Tesla had approached the fund about going private. “We don’t have a view on that,” he said before adding “We want to be invested in companies that make money.” (Read More…)

By on April 2, 2018

April Fools’ Day is a great holiday when you’re 12 years old but, as an adult, there are only so many people you can trick into drinking spoiled milk outside of your own family without getting into trouble. The world just doesn’t have the same level of patience for a matured prankster. Corporate foolery is even less palatable, usually because it’s far too tame to be genuinely entertaining, or results in some social blunder highlighting a genuine problem.

The automotive industry frequently engages in April Fools’ pranks, but this year was rather dull. Porsche’s phony Mission E tractor was cute but felt a little lazy and Honda UK’s chop-topped CR-V resulted in some members of the press requesting Honda actually built it — something none of us agree with, as that monstrosity would be a pillar of bad taste. The best of the bunch was probably McLaren’s weird take on promoting efficiency, in which the supercar maker hinted everyone will become a soulless robot. It wasn’t the best we’ve seen; still, the staff clearly enjoyed taking a playful shot at its more uptight rivals.

Then there was Tesla’s joke, which saw CEO Elon Musk issue a series of tweets about the company’s pretend bankruptcy. The timing on this was admittedly not great. Tesla had a really bad month involving a stock price attempting to bore its way to the center of the earth, the biggest recall in its history, another Model 3 production shortfall, and an Autopilot-related fatality in California.  (Read More…)

By on March 21, 2018

elon musk

Tesla investors approved an incentive package on Wednesday that could ultimately net CEO Elon Musk around $56 billion. There is a catch, however. He has to elevate the company’s share price to almost comically high levels. Having already covered the deal, we noted some opposition from analysts, but not shareholders — all of whom seem overwhelmingly happy to oblige Musk if he improves their wealth, as well.

Investment advisor Glass Lewis & Co. said offering the CEO an additional 12 percent in stock options (currently valued at around $2.6 billion) was unnecessary since he is already a major shareholder and the move could dilute value for other investors. But most agreed Musk was too important to risk losing and agreed to the package to keep him in charge of the company, despite Musk stating this was his intent all along. (Read More…)

By on March 8, 2018

Elon Musk

Tesla Motors previously announced that its CEO, Elon Musk, wouldn’t be paid unless its already high stock valuation continued to climb. His compensation package — valued at roughly $2.6 billion — is tied to a dozen operational milestones, all of them primarily linked to the company’s share price. However, the board has left the strategy’s fate in the hands of its shareholders, who will vote on the motion come March 21st.

In addition to Musk’s existing stock options, that bonus could result in a total payday of more than $55.8 billion over the next decade. That’s too much, according to proxy advisor Glass Lewis & Co. With the CEO already so finically invested in the company, Glass Lewis doesn’t believe any fee would have a meaningful impact on Musks’ involvement. He already owns at least 20 percent of Tesla’s stock, so any improvement in its valuation would already benefit him immensely.

“Any relative comparison of the grant’s size would be akin to stacking nickels against dollars,” Glass Lewis & Co. said in a report from February.  (Read More…)

By on November 13, 2017

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

Patience, as we’ve been told, is a virtue. Therefore, the most virtuous individuals occupying the ball of mud we call Earth must be the Tesla faithful currently awaiting their pre-ordered Model 3 sedans. The speed of the vehicle’s launch has been sedate, to say the least. Tesla Motors finds itself plagued by production bottlenecks, which hasn’t helped the already long wait times facing those who dropped a sizable wad of bills just for the privilege of eventually owning its latest model.

However, the lengthy intermission between launch and ownership doesn’t appear to be diminishing their love for the company — a testament to the brand’s difficult-to-tarnish image. Fans of the automaker seem content to wait it out in tranquility like Siddhartha Gautama under the tree of enlightenment.  (Read More…)

By on November 10, 2017

jim_hackett

“Ford’s future is not about giving up the car,” Jim Hackett, Ford chief executive officer, exclaimed at the Michigan CEO Summit in Detroit on Thursday. But he promises there will be “no dumb cars in the future.”

The executive was not assuring attendees that Ford has no plans to revive the Mustang II, rather, he was talking about the brand’s continued efforts to press onward into the development of electric, connected, and self-driving automobiles on a global scale. With Wall Street still fixated on tech, it would be surprising to hear any automotive executive say otherwise.   (Read More…)

By on October 23, 2017

GM Cruise self-driving Testing

“Mobility” is easily the most overused term in today’s automotive vernacular. Despite being incredibly nonspecific, executives can’t help but make it the bookend of most speeches involving long-term goals and production stratagems. But why?

The term itself pertains more to the industry itself than the specific products it’s developing. While “mobility” can be applied to any conveyance with a technological bent, the word also represents a company’s ability to move into other areas of business. And that’s what gets the investors and market analysts tugging at their collective collar, damp across the brow, so red hot they can’t help but raise the stock valuation of any company that seems poised to make a big move.

Tesla’s entry as novel manufacturer with a unique product was enough to send its share price through the roof, and established automakers took notice. Despite Mark Fields’ best attempt to rebrand Ford as a tech company, he couldn’t bottle that same lightning and paid the ultimate price — getting fired. However, General Motors may be succeeding where Ford initially failed. The proof of the pudding is how high its share prices continue to climb.  (Read More…)

By on August 8, 2017

tesla model 3

Tesla Motors launched the Model 3 last month and has been scrambling to improve production volume as over 500,000 eagerly await delivery. However, by the time Tesla hits its targeted production rate of 10,000 units per week in 2018, it is still going to have months — if not a full year — of orders sizzling on the back burner.

It’s not the worst problem to have, since each reservation holder tossed down a $1,000 deposit. But CEO Elon Musk is aware that meeting demand is going to be an uphill battle. “We’re going to go through at least six months of manufacturing hell,” Musk told the press ahead of Model 3 launch event.

With the company already having spent over $2 billion in capital this year, restocking the safe is probably a good idea. As an upstart automaker framing itself as going into battle with traditional manufacturers, Tesla is issuing $1.5 billion in junky war bonds to fund the coming onslaught.  (Read More…)

By on May 22, 2017

Bill Ford and Mark Fields 2018 Ford F150 - Image: FordPrior to this morning’s announcement that outgoing Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields is “retiring,” Fields was in charge at the Blue Oval for nearly three years. Just a little more than ten quarters, to be more precise.

In eight of those quarters, Ford Motor Company U.S. market share declined, year-over-year.

Ford was not without excuse, of course. There was always market share to be taken if Ford wanted it. But an attempt to limit reliance on daily rental fleet sales, particularly with Ford’s passenger car division, did the automaker’s market share no favors. Ford’s transition from old F-150 to the new aluminum-bodied model was a major switch, too, and sales growth during the transition phase wasn’t easy to come by.

Nevertheless, Ford’s U.S. market share didn’t nosedive during the Mark Fields era. The burden on incoming CEO Jim Hackett’s shoulders won’t be the elevation of Ford Motor Company market share in the automaker’s home market.

No, it’s the price of a Ford share that matters right now. (Read More…)

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 March 1, 2016

eliostock2

(Caveat: I know nothing at all about stocks, bonds or other financial instruments.)

After automotive startup Elio Motors raised approximately $17 million dollars in a Reg-A+ stock offering the company crowdsourced from small investors via StartEngine, it said its shares would be listed on the OTCQX exchange to provide those investors with liquidity.

It’s probably too early to call Elio another Tesla (whose own market capitalization probably exceeds its actual value), and I don’t know how many of those investors are going to sell their stock so soon. But, if they did, they would have more than doubled their money in less than two weeks as of Monday’s close. (Read More…)

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