You ever wake up and realize that the past 11 years of your life have been treading water, and you’ve been in stasis the whole time? You’re not alone! Nissan will share a beer with you, and talk resolutions, too. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019.
1st Gear: Nissan Profits Down 70 Percent
Hot on the heels of Honda announcing sales down, Nissan laid out a historically bad report of profits being down an amazing 70 percent, the company’s worst outlook in 11 years, as the Japan Times reports:
Nissan, whose financial performance has been in the doldrums for nearly two years, cut its forecast for operating profit to ¥150 billion in the year through March 2020, from a previous forecast of ¥230 billion. The new forecast means earnings for the full year will be at their worst in 11 years.
Years of heavy discounting and fleet sales, particularly in the United States, has left Nissan with a cheapened brand image and low vehicle resale value as well as dented profit.
Nissan’s unit sales fell in all major markets, such as Japan, the United States, China and Europe in the April-September period. Globally, the unit sales declined by 6.8 percent to about 2.5 million units.
To put that all in perspective, this is the worst Nissan has been since the R35 GT-R (pictured above) was fresh and new, chasing down Porsches in Germany. The company has largely been in stasis ever since. Carlos who?
2nd Gear: German Carmakers Are Promising Big Investments To Stave Off Trump Tariffs
The headlines today have been mostly Trump-focused, with Bloomberg writing the wire report “Trump Expected to Delay Car Tariffs as Europe Invests in U.S.” and the New York Times noting “Trump May Punt on Auto Tariffs as European Carmakers Propose Plan.” But let’s take a look at what those proposed investments entail, per the NYT:
To allay Mr. Trump’s concerns, the German car industry is promising to create 25,000 jobs at factories in the United States, according to a senior American official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The companies will point to investments they have already made that in effect lock them into their promises.
A senior executive in the German car industry and a high-ranking European official, both of whom also insisted on anonymity, confirmed the broad outlines of the understanding. Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen declined to comment on any talks.
It’s entertaining to see these promises extend out towards Trump just as politicians deny there would be any need for them. Via the NYT:
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said in an interview published Friday that Mr. Trump would not go ahead with tariffs.“He won’t do it,” Mr. Juncker told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in Munich, the home of BMW. “You are speaking with a fully informed man,” Mr. Juncker added. “Trump will grumble a little, but there won’t be any auto tariffs.”
3rd Gear: China May Cut EV Support
The Chinese market has been a leader on mass-market EVs for some time now, but that’s largely been supported by government support for electric cars, with EV buyers getting all kinds of breaks on registration fees and the like.
As anyone who has ever followed government support of an auto sector will tell you, this is a very loose string to be held up by, and indeed Bloomberg is reporting that these subsidies may soon be gone:
China, which began subsidizing EV purchases in 2009 to promote the industry, has been gradually reducing handouts in the past few years to let automakers compete on their own. Problem is, the last time the government cut subsidies, it triggered the country’s first drop in EV sales on record, exacerbating what had already been the most prolonged downturn in the world’s largest auto market.
The slump in China dragged down the global EV sector as the country accounts for about half of the world’s sales of electrified cars. Still, regulators continue to face pressure to reduce handouts as state support helped bankroll the livelihood of hundreds of local startups and fueled concerns about a bubble in the industry.
But here’s the dilemma: Pull the levers too fast and it risks undermining China’s bigger ambitions of leading the world away from fossil-fueled gas guzzlers. China considers EVs as a strategically important sector, and is considering a target for 60% of all autos sold in the country to run on electric motors by 2035, people familiar with the matter have said.
I would hate to see these subsidies be reduced, but it would be an opportunity for any other government to take the lead on EV dev. Not that I expect much from America at this point.
4th Gear: No Brand Has Been Hurt By Tesla As Much As BMW
This is a fun one. Bloomberg just did a big survey of 5,000 Tesla Model 3 owners and found that while the number one trade-in was the Prius, the brand that actually had the most to lose was BMW, the runner-up. “[A]s a percentage of a brand’s total sales, no one has been hurt more by Tesla’s success than BMW,” the report notes, going into some detail in the rest of the story:
While Tesla took the largest number of customers from Toyota, it affects the Japanese automaker very little. That’s because Toyota’s market share in the U.S. is enormous—more than 7 times greater than that of BMW or Audi.
The following chart orders the survey’s trade-in results in a different way: as a proportion of a brand’s U.S. sales. It shows BMW to be the automaker with the most to lose—almost five times more vulnerable than Mercedes-Benz. One explanation is that the two brands, while both competing in the same price segments, target different definitions of “luxury.” Mercedes is built for comfort and class, while BMW is defined by its driving performance. Comfort and class are hard to measure; for performance, you take the car to the track.
It would, of course, be great if BMW had its own all-electric luxury performance car to compete against Tesla. Honestly, it’d be great even if the company had any plans to get one into production any time soon. It doesn’t seem to be too interested in it.
5th Gear: Ford Acknowledges It Bungled Explorer Debut
While you may have heard that Ford has a new Explorer, you may not have seen too many of them, and Ford is owning up about it, as the Detroit News reports:
Company officials acknowledge errors in the rush to ramp up production at Chicago Assembly delayed deliveries by months as Ford’s best-selling large SUV rolled off the line with major problems — faulty seats, loose wiring harnesses and digital displays with buggy software.
The slowdown contributed to a 50% fall in Explorer sales in the third quarter of the year, the company reported. The delays came as Ford expected to see a profit upswing from its transition to a more truck- and SUV-heavy lineup. Simply put: Ford executives say they tried to do too much, too fast, and they fumbled a vital product introduction with little room for error.
“This is a rarity,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of automotive, told The Detroit News. “We took on a lot more than we have before. It was too much for that plant to take on.”
This isn’t the biggest news, I just like to see carmakers admit they did something wrong every once in a while. This is such a PR-driven, everything new is better better up up up up up industry that it’s refreshing.
Reverse: This Went Well
Neutral: Let’s Remember Some Nissans
I grew up in NorCal, which meant that my town was full of old, rust-free Datsun 510s, often modified in some way shape or form. So, too, were 240Zs, 280Zs, and even a few 260Zs not hard to find. I miss them and their energy, which radiated up like heat waves off the asphalt, telling the world that cheap-ass cars could be neat and cool. Same story for all the Sentra SE-Rs blaring around, and so on. What are the Nissans of your memories?