Car prices in the U.S. keep climbing, Tesla is going after Reddit day traders, and Hyundai is none too pleased about the Inflation Reduction Act. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Thursday, August 25, 2022.
Remember learning about supply and demand in school? Turns out that’s real, with low car inventories driving prices ever higher — even as loans get more and more expensive. From Reuters:
U.S. new vehicle prices are expected to hit a record high in August on the back of strong demand despite rising interest rates, an industry report showed on Wednesday.
Average transaction prices are set to reach a record $46,259, an 11.5% increase from a year earlier, according to the report from auto industry consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.
However, an inventory shortage continues to shackle new vehicle sales. Retail sales of new vehicles are expected to reach 980,400 units in August, a 2.6% decrease from a year earlier, the consultants added.
Rising interest rates are meant to counteract inflation by discouraging spending, thereby artificially reducing demand. But if car loan rates aren’t deterring people from spending ever more on cars, and investors are still buying record number of homes and raising rents, then the interest rate hikes don’t seem to be doing their job. Maybe, instead, there’s another cause for inflation that’s worth looking at.
Remember the early days of the GameStop investment boom? Back when retail investors just saw hidden value in a nearly-dead company, based entirely on one man’s singular past success, in an entirely different market under entirely different circumstances? Y’know, before it became a cult?
Those retail investors, small-dollar people on online trading platforms, showed that they can move mountains in the market. Now Tesla wants to go after them with a simple plan: Make its stock cheaper. From Reuters:
Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) shares take center stage on Thursday after the world’s most valuable automaker split its stock for the second time in as many years to woo more retail investors.
Shares of the electric-car maker rose 1.5% to $301.5 in premarket trading. The stock closed at $891.29 on Wednesday before the three-for-one split took effect.
“Tesla knows it needs to retain its clout with the retail crowd, especially after this past year-plus of retail investors flexing their muscles,” said Callie Cox, analyst at trading and investment platform eToro.
Tesla shares, which debuted at $17 in 2010, rose to more than $1,200 after the stock split in 2020, taking the company’s market capitalization above $1 trillion late last year.
A stock split is a pretty simple thing: You increase the number of shares in circulation, while lowering the stock price so as not to affect market capitalization. In Tesla’s case, the 3:1 split means it tripled the number of shares on the market and cut each share’s price down to a third of its pre-split value. Now, someone looking to buy Tesla shares can get in at $295.68 (as of this writing) rather than $887.04.
The recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act mandated that electric vehicles be built in North America to be eligible for tax credits. Foreign automakers, unsurprisingly, didn’t like that little bit of the law. Now Hyundai is headed to Washington to fight the bill, and is threatening to bring the entire World Trade Organization down to DC. From Financial Times:
The chair of Hyundai Motor has gone on an urgent trade mission to Washington this week, after the Korean car giant’s electric vehicles were excluded from generous consumer tax credits contained in a landmark US climate, tax and spending law.
Chung Eui-sun, the billionaire scion of Hyundai’s founding family, is expected to raise his company’s concerns with US officials, as Korean car industry representatives express consternation at what they describe as “discrimination” against EVs produced in Korea.
Hyundai and its affiliate, Kia, have the second-highest share of the US electric vehicle market by sales volume, but they do not currently produce any EVs in the US, Canada or Mexico.
A planned $5.5bn EV plant in the US state of Georgia, announced during Biden’s visit to South Korea in May, is not scheduled to begin production until 2025 — making it ineligible for the subsidies until then.
“Upon the enforcement of the Inflation Reduction Act, Korean EVs are immediately out of US tax incentive . . . and it could have a huge impact on EV exports from Korea,” said a statement from the Korea Automotive Industry Alliance, which represents companies including Hyundai.
On Monday, the Korean minister for trade, industry and energy Lee Chang-yang said “the act is highly likely to violate WTO regulations as well as the Korea-US free trade agreement”.
“We are actively reviewing whether to bring the case to the WTO,” Lee added. “We are conveying our concerns to the US via various channels and will send a senior trade executive to the country next week to confirm the intent of the US.”
Honda’s having a rough go of it. The company is cutting up to 40% of its production capacity in Japan thanks to supply chain issues, and factories in China are sitting dark thanks to power issues. This is what we in the business world call “not great.” From Automotive News:
Honda Motor Co. said it will slash production plans by up to 40 percent in Japan early in September due to persistent supply chain and logistical issues.
Honda also said its plant in the Chinese city of Chongqing will remain closed this week as the local government extended an order to curb power use and shut factory operations.
Honda blamed delays in receiving parts and logistics due to COVID-19 and semiconductor shortages. It would affect production of a variety of vehicles such as the Vezel crossover, the Stepwgn minivan and the Civic compact car.
Back when Toyota and GM were suing California in the hopes of removing emissions requirements, Honda was among the automakers backing the state. Yet it’s still fallen victim to heatwave-induced supply chain issues, as a result of the climate change that emissions regulations seek to mitigate. We’re truly all in this one together.
Back in June, the FTC decided that dealerships probably shouldn’t be able to lie to buyers any more. Dealerships, predictably, wanted to be able to keep lying. The FTC opened up a public comment period on the new regulations, allowing people to tell the commission their thoughts, but now dealer groups want that period extended — and the FTC isn’t playing ball. From Automotive News:
The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday refused to extend the public comment period on its proposed auto dealer regulations despite requests from the National Automobile Dealers Association and other trade groups for more time.
The 60-day comment window on the potential new rules for dealership advertising and finance-and-insurance offices will end Sept. 12 as planned, the FTC said. FTC Secretary April Tabor noted the public already had an extra 20 days to comment between the time the agency announced plans for the new rules June 23 and their official publication in the Federal Register on July 13.
Tabor acknowledged the FTC had received requests for more time but also noted the agency had received requests opposing a longer comments period.
“Those who oppose an extension state that the current time period provides ample time to comment and that there is an urgent need to address ongoing consumer harm in this area,” she wrote.
Any extension to this comment period would mean a delay in enacting regulations, giving dealerships more time to lie. Dealerships want this, and consumers don’t. It seems the FTC is picking the right side so far.
Andy may have his moving complaints, but the real estate market in New York gets far worse than that. I had a landlord refund my deposit yesterday, purely because I couldn’t make time to sign a lease until this afternoon. If you’re in the city and know anyone in need of a roommate, or know any ramshackle hovels devoid of occupants, send ‘em my way.