By on February 21, 2020

The annual Automotive Franchise Activity Report asserts that the number of new-car dealerships in the United States has shrunk for the first time since 2013. The difference is marginal when viewed from a national perspective, but could support prior theories that larger dealer networks are consolidating while smaller, less competitive shops are being forced out of the market. The report claims the total number of storefronts fell from 18,294 in 2018 to 18,195 at the start of 2020. Dealership throughput was similarly down, decreasing by eight units from 2018 to 940.

While not particularly alarming, the figures do seem to mirror national population trends when placed under a microscope. The states that lost the highest number of showrooms  tended to be regions that had the most trouble preventing people from moving.  (Read More…)

By on January 22, 2020

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump threatened to impose fresh tariffs on European automotive imports if the region can’t work out a trade deal with the United States. The good news is that the U.S. is already in the opening stages of negotiation with the United Kingdom, which is due to leave the EU at the end of January. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has even said a key benefit of Brexit is the ability to negotiate with countries like the U.S. independently.

Unfortunately, the rest of Europe doesn’t seem as eager to do business — encouraging Trump to fall back to tariff threats. But there’s clearly a retaliatory angle here. In 2018, the EU threatened punitive tariffs on traditionally American items like whiskey and motorcycles as a response to Trump’s intent to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. He’s targeting French goods this time, mentioning 100-percent fees on imported luxury goods from France (champagne, handbags, etc.), additional levies on digital services, and a 25 percent duty on European cars.  (Read More…)

By on December 6, 2019

If you follow the automotive industry at all, you’re undoubtedly aware that the United States is a region that hasn’t quite embraced automotive electrification on the same level as the rest of the developed world. Americans travel longer distances and have particular tastes, making EVs more popular in places like Europe and China. It also hasn’t passed the same sweeping regulations to ensure their advancement.

Whatever the cause, a new survey from London-based OC&C Strategy Consultants attempted to tabulate the disparity — asking 2,000 consumers (apiece) in the U.S., China, Germany, France and United Kingdom between March and April of 2019.

Their findings? Only about half of the surveyed Americans felt EVs were worth their consideration as a potential successor to their current ride. In China, 90 percent said they would seriously consider buying electric. Between 64 and 77 percent of respondents in Europe said the same (depending on country).  (Read More…)

By on November 27, 2019

While the automotive industry continues cleaning itself up via electrification and moral corporate messaging, most aspects of doing business have remained decently dirty. For all this striving for a utopian society, businesses still don’t like losing money and will go to great lengths to screw over the competition.

South Korean battery suppliers SK Innovation and LG Chem are currently clawing at each other like a couple of mad tigers. SK managed to secure a contract to supply Volkswagen Group with EV batteries, leading to the construction of a $1.7 billion factory in Georgia. LG did not, leading to a lawsuit. Both automakers and analysts are worried the litigation is spinning out of control, and could effectively obliterate their ability to do business in the United States. (Read More…)

By on November 1, 2019

One of the issues underpinning the gas war has been an inability for either side to compromise. Initially, it was the current administration complaining about California wanting special treatment. But the coastal state was quick to return fire, claiming that the White House never offered a valid compromise.

Eventually California extended an olive branch by suggesting it would postpone existing fuel economy mandates by one year, while attempting to lock automakers in via written commitments. But federal regulators said a singular national standard was needed, suggesting California had overstepped its authority by trying to rope in manufacturers.

However, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler came back this fall with claims of a revised plan that could actually be more stringent than originally presumed. While still a rollback, the new draft was said to close several loopholes the industry could use to continue their polluting ways. “In some of the out years, we’re actually more restrictive on CO2 emissions than the Obama proposal was,” Wheeler said.

New reports now suggest the EPA’s words are more than just noise. (Read More…)

By on October 31, 2019

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Groupe PSA both confirmed their intention to merge on Thursday, verifying reports that the pair were in the final stages of approving the deal. The arrangement will be a 50-50 share swap, with the new company’s shares listed on the New York, Paris and Milan stock exchanges.

The duo hope to finalize a deal in the coming weeks to create a group with 8.7 million in annual vehicle sales. That would make it the fourth-largest automaker in the world — behind Volkswagen, Toyota and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance.

“There is still plenty of work to do before we reach a formal agreement, but what’s clear is that the opportunity that represents for both companies is very compelling,” FCA head Mike Manley told Reuters. It would appear the arrangement is getting plenty of support. French and Italian leadership have both endorsed the move, provided there are no significant job losses in either country.  (Read More…)

By on October 30, 2019

The Trump administration has reportedly expressed an interest in deciding where and how automotive manufacturers do their business if they want to secure duty-free deals under the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) that’s positioned to replace NAFTA. According to Bloomberg, there’s currently a discussion taking place between administration officials, congressional staff, and domestic and foreign automakers regarding the context of the legislation that lawmakers will ultimately have to vote on. The White House is said to want highly specific language that would allow it to select production rules unilaterally.

Considering how messy things have gotten with China, it could be useful to have extremely clear trade language and some direct oversight of businesses with global interests. But critics are worried the strategy could bring U.S. trade policy closer to the rigid policies already in place in the People’s Republic — a country America has attempted to distance itself from due to its ludicrous levels of government intervention.

The real fear is that the government could use this to give one manufacturer better treatment than another — cutting it a sweet deal for building in a politically advantageous area, for example. While plausible, we can’t confirm something that’s largely speculative.  (Read More…)

By on October 29, 2019

Ford Motor Co, Honda Motor Co, BMW Group and Volkswagen AG announced a voluntary deal with California in July — drawing a line in the sand for who they’ll be supporting in the fueling fracas taking place between the Golden State and White House. Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s rollback proposal — which intends on freezing automotive emission standards at 2020 levels through 2026 — saw no such support. But the cavalry seems to have finally arrived after sitting on the sidelines during the battle’s opening maneuvers.

General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Kia, and Subaru all sided against California in a filing with a U.S. appeals court from Monday night. While they’re not setting any economy targets, they are collectively firm on the issue of the state’s ability to self regulate. A large portion of the industry wants a single national standard, not individual states setting their own benchmarks while they attempt to catch up with product.  (Read More…)

By on October 25, 2019

On Thursday, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) proposed a $454 billion plan aimed at converting the United States from a gasoline-powered nation to one driven primarily by electricity. Under the 10-year plan, automotive consumers would get rebates ranging from $3,000 to over $5,000 (based on efficiency), plus another $2,000 for low-income buyers, for the purchase of electric vehicles made in America.

“This proposal to bring clean cars to all of America will be a key component of the far-reaching climate legislation from Senate Democrats, and I’m proud it has a broad coalition of support,” the senior senator said in a statement.

Much like the haphazard way Schumer insists on wearing glasses at the outermost tip of his nose, begging for gravity to take them, his plan has us mildly concerned.  (Read More…)

By on October 8, 2019

The United States and Japan have signed a limited trade deal that’s been simmering for some months now. President Donald Trump has been eager to secure a place where American farmers can send their goods now that the trade war with China has diminished American dealings with that market. In return, Japan wanted assurances from the U.S. that it will not impose any new automotive tariffs, as cars remain one of its chief exports.

While the island nation didn’t get the guarantee in writing, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claims he received a verbal promise. This is to be the first part of a broader trade deal between the two countries.  (Read More…)

By on July 17, 2019

The United States and Japan are working on a trade deal revolving around agriculture and automobiles. As much as you’re probably dying to hear about the farming aspects, we’re going to focus a bit more on the latter. Boiled down, the arrangement is reported to deliver preferential treatment for U.S. farmers hoping to expand into the Japanese market while lessing duties on Japanese auto parts.

President Donald Trump has noted in the past that he’s displeased with any country holding a trade surplus over America’s head and Japan has one. Last year, it amounted to $67.6 billion in goods — most of it relating directly to automobiles. This initially encouraged the president to threaten tariffs on Japanese imports. However, Japan’s close ties to the United States bought it some time and any legitimate danger has been postponed to encourage trade discussions.  (Read More…)

By on June 6, 2019

China has fined Ford Motor Company’s main joint venture in the country, Changan Ford Automobile Co., over antitrust violations. However, the more likely scenario is that the People’s Republic is trying to flex some muscle after the Trump administration declared a ban on doing business with Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications provider, on national security grounds.

The oversimplified gist of the situation is that America doesn’t trust a telecom firm with direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party that could easily be tapped by the Chinese government for espionage. Several countries banned Huawei equipment earlier this year after the U.S. Justice Department unsealed a raft of indictments, included 23 counts pertaining to the alleged theft of intellectual property, obstruction of justice, and fraud relating to sanctions against Iran.  (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2019

On Thursday, President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on cars entering the United States from Mexico if the nation doesn’t assist Washington in dealing with the migrant situation at its southern border. It’s a rather bold ultimatum, coming hot on the heels of claims that the White House was seriously considering closing the border entirely if Mexico could not curtail the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs heading north.

It’s an interesting situation, especially considering both outcomes would upend the automotive industry. But Trump argues that the growing reliance on Mexican manufacturing and proliferation of illegal immigrants has already hurt the United States badly. A contentious stance, for sure, but these are issues in need of thorough discussion. Gallup polls repeatedly peg immigration as one of the issues voters care most about — along with healthcare and the economy.

However, we only care about those things tangentially. It’s all about the cars for us.  (Read More…)

By on March 17, 2019

While the Trump administration is carefully considering whether or not imported vehicles qualify as a threat to national security, and prepares for trade negotiations with Japan, Toyota is being very careful about how it comes across in America. Last week, the automaker announced plans to add about 600 jobs across the Southern United States — raising its proposed American expansion by another $749 million. In total, the company is expected to expend $13 billion inside the U.S. by 2022.

“In a time when others are scaling back, we believe in the strength of America and we’re excited about the future of mobility in America,” Jim Lentz, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, said of the decision.

Throwing some casual shade at other automakers who are cutting down their domestic workforce is a sound PR strategy but, according to Toyota, its increased investment has nothing to do with global or industrial politics.  (Read More…)

By on February 20, 2019

Earlier this week, the European Union warned that if the United States imposes any new tariffs on European-built vehicles, it can expect similar levies on American products. However, armed with the Commerce Department’s confidential report on automotive imports, President Donald Trump doesn’t appear remotely interested in backing down.

While Trump previously agreed not to impose additional duties on European cars, the arrangement hinged upon the two coming together on trade. Unfortunately, while both sides seem eager to work out a deal, they can’t quite manage to keep the constant threats down to a dull roar.  (Read More…)

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