Image: Getty
The Morning ShiftAll your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn't your time more important?   

Harley-Davidson slides past Trump’s trade war, Nissan blames Carlos Ghosn for a massive profit drop, people still want to know if Tesla can make money, and much more for The Morning Shift of Wednesday, July 24, 2019.

1st Gear: What Tariffs?

After many delays in the process, Harley-Davidson can sigh in relief that it dodged the European Union’s 31 percent tax on U.S.-made motorcycles amid President Trump’s ongoing trade war with the region by producing motorcycles in Asia.

Here’s more from Bloomberg:

The motorcycle maker’s shares surged the most in a year after it secured approval from the European Union to import bikes from Thailand and mitigate almost all of the $100 million hit it’s feeling from tariffs this year. U.S. President Donald Trump has at times attacked both Harley and the EUover the ordeal, which all springs from retaliation against his administration’s levies on steel and aluminum.

[...]

The levies on bikes Harley ships from Thailand to the EU will be just 6%, down from the 31% rate that the trade bloc put on U.S.-made motorcycles last year, Chief Executive Officer Matt Levatich said on the call. The process of getting approval from the EU for its import plan took “considerably longer” than expected, he said, and kept the company from being able to see some savings before the end of this year.

Advertisement

The company’s stock stopped at a 6.3 percent gain at the end of Tuesday, its biggest jump since over a year ago. Unfortunately for Harley, though, the benefits of this new EU agreement won’t really take effect until maybe the second quarter of next year, so 2019 will still see a lot of losses.

2nd Gear: Nissan Plunges

Nissan is expected to report a 90 percent loss in profits in the first quarter of this year. As in nine-zero. Almost 100. It’s like they’re coming back from a weekend in Vegas—bad. And with the profit losses, more than 10,000 job cuts are expected too, Reuters reports:

The planned job cuts over the next few years include the 4,800 detailed in May and will mostly be at factories overseas with low utilization rates, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

Nissan declined to comment on the job cuts. It said a Nikkei business daily report that it suffered roughly a 90% year-on-year drop in first-quarter operating profit was “broadly accurate”. Its shares ended the day up nearly 1.0% earlier.

[...]

Years of heavy discounting to grow sales in the world’s second-biggest auto market have left Nissan with falling demand for the Altima sedan and other models, a cheapened brand image, low resale values, and a nearly battered bottom line.

Advertisement

Nissan sources claim ousted former CEO Carlos Ghosn is to blame for chasing market share, ruining the brand image, and deteriorating the quality of the brand, with an anonymous exec adding the turnaround plan is “aimed at unwinding Ghosn’s negative legacies.”

It’s a really convenient excuse to have in your pocket if you’re trying to ignore that the market as a whole is also in downturn and sedan sales just aren’t going to happen anymore.

Advertisement

3rd Gear: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Fwd: Re: Is Tesla Profitable?

Analysts are worried that the full second quarter report from Tesla will still show a loss despite its record-setting Model 3 production, as demand for the more expensive Model S and Model X vehicles that bring in higher margins slips.

Advertisement

Here’s more from Bloomberg:

The Model 3 brought new buyers into the fold and countered the narrative that Tesla is demand challenged, sparking a stock rally since the beginning of June. But the electric-car maker’s shares are still down 23% for the year in part because the Model S and X are beginning to show their age. Slower-charging and less efficient batteries are taking some of the wind out of their sails and pressuring Tesla’s profit margins, since they often sell for more than double the cost of an entry level Model 3.

Combined deliveries of the Model S and X dropped more than 20% from a year ago to 17,650 in the second quarter. The Model 3, meanwhile, saw deliveries jump to 77,550.

Advertisement

With Elon Musk claiming there are zero plans for any major overhauls of the Model S and Model X, neither in the hardware department nor in the styling department, people are becoming concerned that eventually the the less profitable Model 3 will take over sales and Tesla will have to work around the loss of profit from an older lineup that just doesn’t sell anymore.

It makes sense! That’s why most companies try to get a product cycle of about four years, to give people a reason to come back, or to convince someone they’re getting something brand new and cutting edge. It’s Tesla though. They’ll figure it out?

Advertisement

4th Gear: Daimler a Day Late and a Dollar Short

Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, is in hot water as it deals with regulatory concerns over its diesel emissions, paying for recalls, EV investment, sales downturn in the U.S. and China, and a dip in passenger car sales, reports Automotive News:

Daimler AG will intensify cost cuts and plans to shrink its model lineup after legal risks for diesel-related issues and the cost of replacing Takata airbags triggered a 1.56 billion euro ($1.74 billion) loss before interest and taxes in the second quarter.

[...]

Passenger car sales slowed 3 percent during the quarter and the return on sales at Mercedes-Benz Cars swung to a negative 3 percent in the quarter, down from 8.4 percent in the year-earlier period.

Earlier this month, Daimler pre-released earnings in what amounted to its fourth profit warning in 13 months, saying its 2019 group EBIT would be “significantly” lower than last year.

Advertisement

Shrinking the model lineup you say? You mean it’s silly to have an A-Class and a CLA? That these crossover coupe variants may be stretching the lineup thin? Maybe selling six different convertibles in 2019 is a little too much? Interesting concept.

5th Gear: The People Want Porsche

You like cars? Apparently the cars most people desire are Porsches this year, according to the latest appeal survey from J.D. Power, via Automotive News:

The study measures vehicle owners’ emotional attachment and level of excitement with a new vehicle across 77 features and can help automakers reevaluate the design or redesign of cars and light trucks. Brands are scored on a 1,000-point scale.

Porsche891

BMW868

Genesis868

Audi867

Volvo863

Land Rover860

Lincoln860

Mercedes-Benz858

Cadillac852

Ram851

Dodge848

Lexus848

Alfa Romeo846

Jaguar843

Mini835

Acura832

Volkswagen829

Ford828

Infiniti828

GMC826

Chrysler823

Industry Average823

Honda817

Kia817

Chevrolet816

Toyota814

Hyundai813

Jeep813

Nissan812

Mazda810

Subaru807

Buick800

Mitsubishi773

Last year, Genesis came out on top, but dropped 16 points this year to now be tied with BMW. That’s still quite an achievement for the new Korean luxury brand. Ram also got a nice boost thanks to the new 1500 pickup:

Ram improved 26 points to 851. Other brands showing significant improvement from last year were Dodge (848, up 24 points), Jaguar (843, up 16), Land Rover (860, up 15), Audi (867, up 14) and Jeep (813, up 14). Audi’s A7 was the highest-scoring model in the study. Ram’s new 1500 pickup truck scored significantly better than its predecessor did last year, Sargent said.

Advertisement

Reverse: Hello Boys, I’m Back!

Advertisement

Neutral: Does Porsche Deserve It?

Is it the new 911 that makes Porsche so desirable, or is it that funky new Cayenne Coupe crossover all the kids seem to be talking about? Frankly, all of JD Power’s numbers don’t make a lot of sense to me, but if you were to just broadly guess that people like Porsches, I’d be inclined to agree with you. What’s the most desirable brand for you, though?