General Motors is feeling some time of way about itself at the moment, the NHTSA is probing Tesla’s in-car Autopilot camera, and the U.S. government wats airlines to do more for stranded and delayed passengers. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Friday, August 19, 2022.
General Motors is reinstating a dividend plan for investors. On top of that, the company is restarting stock buybacks in order to invest in its transition into an electric future (but really just to boost its stock price.)
Investors will now be getting a quarterly stock dividend to the tune of 9 cents per share, according to the automaker’s Board of Directors. The first will be paid on September 15th to shareholders of record as of the close of business on August 31st. The dividend has been suspended by the company since the second quarter of 2020 because of the pandemic.
The General also announced that it will resume “opportunistic” stock buybacks as a way to reinvest in itself. From The Detroit News:
GM’s Board of Directors increased the capacity in GM’s existing repurchase program to $5 billion of stock, up from the $3.3 billion previously remaining in the program.
“GM is investing more than $35 billion through 2025 to advance our growth plan, including rapidly expanding our electric vehicle portfolio and creating a domestic battery manufacturing infrastructure,” said CEO Mary Barra in a statement. “Progress on these key strategic initiatives has improved our visibility and strengthened confidence in our capacity to fund growth while also returning capital to shareholders.”
Early this year, GM said it would invest $7 billion in four Michigan factories — including a new battery cell plant in Lansing — that will create 4,000 new jobs and retain 1,000 jobs.
GM has plans to bring 30 new EVs to the market by 2024. Right now there are only two: the Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer EV, so they better get a move on.
The NHTSA is asking Tesla to answer questions about its in-car camera that is meant to monitor driver awareness. It’s part of a probe in 830,000 Teslas that are equipped with Autopilot.
The governmental safety agency is looking into the performance and capabilities of Autopilot after a dozen Teslas crashed into stopped emergency vehicles.
In June, the NHTSA upgraded the probe to an engineering analysis. It’s a required step before possibly demanding Tesla issue a recall. From Reuters:
NHTSA’s nine-page letter demands Tesla answer questions by Oct. 12 about “the role that the Cabin Camera plays in the enforcement of driver engagement/attentiveness.”
According to Tesla, the cabin camera - a camera located above the rear view mirror - can determine driver inattentiveness and provide audible alerts to remind the driver to keep their eyes on the road when Autopilot is engaged.
NHTSA said it was seeking information on the cabin camera’s “impact on driver engagement alert types and timing” as well as “recoverable data elements pointing to its influence.”
The agency said it wanted an explanation for “design decisions” on driver engagement enforcement, “including the evidence that justifies the period of time that the driver is permitted to have their hands off the steering wheel before receiving a warning.”
The regulator is reviewing whether Tesla vehicles adequately ensure drivers are paying attention. The agency said in June evidence suggested drivers in most crashes under review had complied with Tesla’s alert strategy, raising questions about its effectiveness.
Late last year, Consumer Reports looked into the camera and said, “we found that it wasn’t adequate to ensure that the driver was fully paying attention when the driver was using Autopilot and Full Self Driving (FSD) features.”
Not great, Bob!
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is urging the 10 largest U.S. airlines to do more to help stranded and delayed passengers. He also warned the government might be adopting new regulations.
Buttigieg says the USDOT is “contemplating options” to write new rules “that would further expand the rights of airline passengers.” From Reuters:
He urged airlines to assess customer service plans to “ensure that (they) guarantee adequate amenities and services to help passengers with expenses and inconveniences due to delays and cancellations.” He also asked airlines “at a minimum to provide meal vouchers for delays of 3 hours or more and lodging accommodations for passengers who must wait overnight at an airport because of disruptions within the carrier’s control.”
Some airlines provide meals or hotel rooms if they cancel or delay flights if they are to blame for disruptions, but they are not legally required to do so. Passengers are often not aware of airline policies.
Major airlines and an airline trade group did not immediately comment early Friday.
Buttigieg’s letter said he appreciated steps airlines had taken to improve service but added “the level of disruption Americans have experienced this summer is unacceptable”.
He said in the first six months of 2022, about 24 percent of domestic flights of U.S. airlines have been delayed. 3.2 percent have been canceled altogether.
General Motors and LG Energy Solutions are considering teaming up once again at a site in Indiana for a fourth U.S. battery cell manufacturing plant.
A spokesperson for Ultium Cells LLC said the joint venture is developing a competitive business case for a potential large investment that could be located in New Carlisle, Indiana. She added that Ultium had submitted a tax abatement application that it hopes will be approved later this month. From Reuters:
Production at Ultium’s first U.S battery cell plant in Warren, Ohio is set to begin later this month. The companies announced the $2.3 billion plant in 2019.
The fourth plant is expected to be similar to the three others and have an investment of more than $2 billion, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters, but it is not clear when it might open.
In January, GM and LG announced a $2.6 billion investment to build a new battery cell plant in Lansing, Michigan set to open in late 2024. GM also said then it would spend $4 billion to overhaul and expand an assembly plant near Detroit to build electric pickup trucks and be supplied by the Lansing battery plant.
GM and LG Energy are also building a $2.3 billion plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee set to be completed by the end of 2023.
Last month, the U.S. Energy Department said it would loan Ultium $2.5 billion to help finance construction of battery cell manufacturing plants in Ohio, Tennessee, and Michigan.
The sweeping bill President Biden signed imposes new sourcing rules on battery components and other critical materials for EVs to be eligible for the $7,500 tax credit. The rules take effect on January 1st.
Deere & Co., the company behind John Deere farm equipment, posted higher third-quarter sales and profits because of strong demand for its farm and construction equipment.
Net sales rose 22 percent and profits were up 13 percent in the three months leading up to July 31st, also known as the second quarter. It was a period that saw high agricultural prices. From the Wall Street Journal:
Chief Executive John May said Friday higher costs and production inefficiencies caused by supply-chain complications damped Deere’s most recent quarterly results. However, the company sees consumer demand remaining strong, as seen in positive responses to early-order programs, and is working to streamline its production supply chain, Mr. May said.
The company, based in Moline, Ill., said net income rose to $1.88 billion, or $6.16 a share, from $1.67 billion, or $5.32 a share, in the year-ago quarter. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting per-share earnings of $6.65.
Revenue rose to $14.1 billion from $11.53 billion a year ago. Analysts were expecting revenue of $12.9 billion, according to FactSet.
The company narrowed its full-year profit forecast to $7 billion to $7.2 billion, from its previous view of between $7 billion and $7.4 billion.
My father had a John Deere lawnmower when I was growing up. Dave always chooses quality. It’s no wonder why the company is doing well now despite the world being on the edge of collapse at all times.
It’s going to be nice out this weekend. Go outside. Try not to think about work. Make good choices and knock back a couple cold ones. Summer is waning, so it’s now or never.