The foundation of Carvana’s success seems dubious, the pandemic is still a headache for dealers, and Tesla. All that and then some in this Monday edition of The Morning Shift for August 16, 2021.
At least in America, at least through this decade, according to Reuters. The reason is pretty simple. Big trucks and SUVs are what sells, and that is the only thing that really matters to automakers, despite all their protestations otherwise.
Automakers in North America plan to build more big pickups and sport utility vehicles than electric vehicles well into the late 2020s, chasing sales trends that run counter to the Biden administration’s goal of boosting EVs to half the market by 2030, according to internal production forecasts viewed by Reuters.
Also: Biden’s 40 percent EV by 2030 goal sure seems like a real big joke, the butt of which is the fate of the planet.
The three automakers in a joint statement on Aug. 5 described as a “shared aspiration” Biden’s target of pushing EVs to 40-50% of production by 2030. That goal would mean boosting annual North American output of electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to 7 million vehicles or more.
The entire industry, however, is planning as of now to build just 2.6 million battery electric vehicles (BEV) and another 585,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) in 2028, according to AutoForecast Solutions (AFS), which compiles production estimates that are widely used across the industry.
If automakers stick to those plans, EVs would account for just 15% of total North American production in 2028, with plug-in hybrids representing another 3.4%.
In that case, automakers would have to more than double EV and PHEV production within two years between 2028 and 2030 in order to hit Biden’s low-end target of 40%.
I don’t mean to be a broken record here but this is all incredibly weak. Our response to climate change was really a preview to our response to the pandemic, huh? Faced with urgent problems that require swift collective actions and America just shrugs.
Well, look at this, it turns out that the feds aren’t completely toothless when it comes to regulating the car industry, as Bloomberg reports that NHTSA is finally taking a good look at Autopilot.
The U.S. opened a formal investigation into Tesla Inc.’s Autopilot system after almost a dozen collisions at crash scenes involving first-responder vehicles, stepping up its scrutiny of a system the carmaker has charged thousands of dollars for over the last half decade.
The probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers an estimated 765,000 Tesla Model Y, X, S and 3 vehicles from the 2014-2021 model years. The regulator — which has the power to deem cars defective and order recalls — said it launched the investigation after 11 crashes that resulted in 17 injuries and one fatality.
“Most incidents took place after dark and the crash scenes encountered included scene-control measures such as first-responder vehicle lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board and road cones,” the agency said in the document. “The involved subject vehicles were all confirmed to have been engaged in either Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control during the approach to the crashes.”
A penny for Elon’s thoughts this morning, though no tweets as of this writing.
The used car purveyor Carvana makes less than half of its profits from selling cars, according to The Wall Street Journal, with the rest of its profits coming from selling loans and other types of income. Which, you know, this is why people get business degrees, to devise profitable businesses that are impossible to understand. The more complex the better, because then it is less likely that investors will have a look and be like, “Hey, just what the hell is going on here?” As long as profits keep coming.
When Carvana makes a car loan to a buyer, it packages it with other loans and sells the debt to investors. While other auto lenders also sell loans to investors, they typically keep the debt on their books, recording gains and losses over time. Carvana, on the other hand, doesn’t retain the debt and immediately books gains on the cash sales.
For now, that bolsters revenue. Critics warn the practice could leave the company vulnerable if debt-market conditions change or if the loans Carvana makes start to sour.
Indeed, loan-sale revenue sank when securitization markets shut down in the first half of 2020. A linchpin of the transactions is that Carvana is able to sell its car loans to investors at a premium to their face value.
“If the loans do sour, then investors in the future will not be willing to pay the same premium, and then profitability will be impacted,” said Seth Basham, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.
Of course, short-sellers also loom.
“If the market gets a little bit softer, such that people are only paying par—heaven forbid a discount—on those new loans, well, right off the bat, you get rid of 30% of Carvana’s earnings,” said Jared Rose, an investor at Gravity Partners Capital Management Inc. in Toronto, who said he has put options on the stock falling.
Carvana says it isn’t aware of any evidence that gains on loan sales are unsustainable.
Automotive News has a story this morning with the headline “Virus issue returns to showrooms,” which I had to read twice to believe was real, because when has the “virus issue” left for any of us? The actual story is about how dealers are dealing or not with mask and vaccine requirements or both for their employees in the wake of new outbreaks among the unvaccinated.
The surging virus has more dealers reviving mask requirements and implementing or considering vaccine incentives — even mandates — for their employees. Many are wrestling with how to balance some staffers’ resistance to public health guidelines with others’ concerns for their own safety. In a tight labor market, the stakes are high.
“They’re trying to figure out what to do,” said Kevin Troutman, a partner with employment law firm Fisher Phillips, which advises dealerships.
One of the country’s largest dealership groups, Asbury Automotive Group Inc., this month began requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all new hires but has not mandated or incentivized vaccines for current employees. Asbury officials said the retailer continues to adhere to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, which means it instructed vaccinated employees in locales with high infection rates to mask back up after the CDC revised guidance in late July.
A Group 1 Automotive Inc. executive described encouraging but not mandating elevated precautions. Used-vehicle giant CarMax Inc. said it is following the CDC’s updated guidance.
Neither Asbury nor Group 1 were offering incentives for employee vaccinations. CarMax said employees who get vaccinated can earn a financial incentive through its well-being program.
Four of the other publicly traded dealership groups did not respond to requests for details on their policies.
These dealers are concerned that encouraging or, gasp, requiring the vaccination, will lead some of their employees to call them libtards or something? I agree, that’s how all the best businesses are run.
5th Gear: The Used Car Market Is Still Bad, Though This May Be The Best Way To Get A Car If You Need One
The Wall Street Journal has a big long story this morning filled with sensible tips on navigating the current market, which is very much overheated because of low new-car inventory. Most of it is stuff that we have covered here before, like don’t sell your car just to sell it, as that means you’ll also need to buy one and probably won’t book much profit net. Conversely, if you have an extra car, now is probably a really great time to sell.
Here, however, is a tip I haven’t seen elsewhere, emphasis mine:
[Ivan Drury, an automotive analyst for Edmunds.com] urges consumers to check the terms of their vehicle lease before attempting to sell.
Some auto financing companies have tightened rules around how long lessees have to wait before unloading their car or truck, forcing some lessees to first buy the car outright, he says. Contact the financing company and familiarize yourself with the terms.
If a dealer can work with a financing company, they will have an incentive to offer more favorable terms because they can get a payment for setting up your loan to purchase the car. But Mr. Drury advises consumers who are currently leasing and want a new vehicle to just go back and do it again.
“It’ll probably be the absolute cheapest way to get another ride right now,” he says. “Slide into the cheapest lease you can to hold you over until inventory right-sizes itself, and then you can go and find that blowout sale and all the stuff we’re accustomed to seeing.”
That makes sense when you think about it!
Some more successful than others!
My mom has refused to get the vaccine “until its safe,” which is rooted in a belief that it is unsafe, a belief she has come to hold based on videos she has reviewed on Facebook, none of which feature doctors, of course, because what do they know. I told her to let me know when she got vaccinated so I can visit home again for the first time since all this began, as it’s been so terrible not having to make an obligatory once-a-year trip to Ohio. I definitely miss driving across Interstate 80 for the length of Pennsylvania only to end up in a state where the fast food options are slightly more expanded and the police pull you over for driving left of center.