The vile, troublesome, wicked, loathsome Chevrolet Silverado has been having a hard time, such that it only just scraped past the Ram in sales this quarter. But the two of them may have an even greater problem looming, and I’m not talking about the Ford F-150. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Thursday, July 2, 2020.
1st Gear: The Face Of A Winner
There is no way for me to stress sufficiently just how ugly the current Chevy Silverado is. I was riding my bike through some farm towns/exurbs a few weeks back and was moved to compassion for the Chevy households, saddled with leering, aimlessly aggressive face of the Silverado. Couldn’t they have just been Ram families?
Well, I was not alone, as the Freep notes from this week’s quarterly reports:
One notable spot in the quarterly sales results is that even though Silverado sales were down compared to the year-ago quarter, it narrowly edged out Ram by 4,984 units.
For the quarter, GM sold 122,432 Silverado pickups, which includes light-duty, medium-duty and heavy-duty. FCA sold 117,448 Ram pickups, which it doesn’t break out by model.
It’s a consecutive quarterly win for the Silverado and that’s significant because the Silverado and Ram have been battling it out for what inevitably ends up as the number two spot behind the nation’s usual favorite, the Ford F-150.
It’s expected the F-150 will hold onto the top spot when Ford reports its sales.
This fight for second is probably best described as moot, as there’s a new Ford F-150 out and I’m sure it will continue to beat up on the rest of the Big Three. I mean that is unless Ford pulls a Ford and botches the actual rollout to customers. Entirely possible, given Ford’s recent handling of the Explorer.
But there is a common enemy to all pickups in America, and I’m not talking about emissions regulations. Oh how I wish it was emissions regulations.
2nd Gear: COVID Is Coming For Pickup Trucks Now
There has been little as unsurprising or as depressing as the American’ government’s almost complete lack of any response to coronavirus other than telling Americans to pretty please stop coughing directly into each other’s mouths, unless you want to, in which case that is your right in a free country.
Well, that is all about to change.
America is about to get serious about coronavirus. It’s threatening something that even the most anti-government mayors and governors hold dear: pickup truck sales.
The Financial Times keenly observed that as outbreaks of coronavirus move beyond places like New York City and into the South, they are targeting the financial base of Detroit: pickup truck buyers. The FT explains:
General Motors is pushing hard to restock dealer lots after sales improved later in the second quarter, but rising cases of Covid-19 in states where pick-up trucks are popular could hit the brakes for US carmakers.
The Detroit company reported on Wednesday that US vehicle sales fell 34 per cent in the second quarter compared with a year ago, as the pandemic hit both supply and demand for carmakers. Still, retail sales began to recover later in the quarter: April’s sales were 35 per cent lower than in 2019, while sales in May and June were off by 20 per cent or less.
Pick-up trucks presented a bright spot for GM. But that business is threatened by growing Covid-19 cases in the southern and western US, where pick-up trucks typically sell well for all US carmakers. Texas is averaging about 5,700 new cases a day, an increase of 343 per cent since May 31, hitting a record high on Tuesday of nearly 7,000 new infections.
“The imposition of any measures that limit dealer operations in a particular location would have a chilling effect on vehicle sales there,” said Steve Brown, automotive analyst for Fitch Ratings. “Since pick-ups and other vehicles by the Detroit Three are popular in places like Texas that are seeing rising Covid cases, Ford, GM and [Fiat Chrysler Automobiles] could be disproportionately hit by any imposition of shelter-in-place orders that limit customers’ ability to go to dealers in those locations.”
Again, my only hope is that now the Trump administration and like-minded assholes that have been doing next to nothing in terms of economic stimulus or virus prevention will get their shit together.
3rd Gear: Tesla Now Most Valued Carmaker
We recently reported that Tesla still wasn’t the most valuable automaker, with Toyota still clutching its crown (pun intended). That was Tuesday! So long ago. Another era. Another epoch. How innocent we all were on Tuesday. Anyway, it’s now Thursday and Tesla is now the most valuable automaker, as the BBC reports:
Tesla has become the world’s most valuable carmaker, overtaking Japan’s Toyota, after its stock hit a record high.
Shares in the electric carmaker touched $1,134 on Wednesday morning before falling back, leaving it with a market value of $209.47bn (£165bn).
That is roughly $4bn more than Toyota’s current stock market value.
However, Toyota sold around 30 times more cars last year and its revenues were more than 10 times higher.
All of this is pointless posturing, as neither of these companies are actually the most valuable automaker, the one most likely to endure, to weather all storms: Morgan.
4th Gear: BMW Still Isn’t Committing To Electric Cars
I hope that the news of Tesla becoming the most highly-valued brand will put this not-yet-online wire report from Bloomberg into context:
BMW AG pledged to invest 500 million euros ($563 million) at its largest European factory as the German carmaker bolsters its electric-car manufacturing capabilities to better compete with rivals including Tesla Inc.
BMW will add eight production lines for battery modules and electric motors at the Dingolfing plant in Bavaria, with four additional lines to be added later, the company said Thursday. By 2022, the site will be able to churn out electric drives for more than 500,000 cars a year, according to Chief Executive Officer Oliver Zipse.
Volkswagen AG, in contrast, spent billions of euros on developing a dedicated platform for its e-cars and has switched an entire factory in Zwickau to make battery-powered vehicles based on the new technology.
This is a fair comparison from Bloomberg, other than the misdirection that EVs represent “new” technology. It’s not that EVs are new, it’s just that the auto industry has ignored and underinvested in developing its tech for decades.
5th Gear: McLaren Legal Battle Held Off By Bahrain Just Loaning It £150m
We’ve discussed before how McLaren has been in dire straights, with a legal battle looming over a last-minute run for cash that threatened to put even its collection of historic race cars out. McLaren has laid off more than a thousand employees, even. What great and challenging change came to the automaker to pull it out of this immediate peril?
Bahrain’s national bank loaned them another £150 million, as the Financial Times reports:
McLaren last month took the case to the UK high court to clarify whether it could move forward with the controversial funding plan. At a high court hearing in June, lawyers for McLaren said that without further funding the group would run out of cash by July 17, according to people familiar with the matter.
The legal action has now been called off, McLaren confirmed on Thursday.
“McLaren has successfully secured additional funding, which does not require us to pledge any of the company’s assets as collateral,” McLaren said. “Having explored a variety of funding options we are very pleased with the outcome which is best for all stakeholders including our bondholders.”
On Monday, National Bank of Bahrain announced it had signed a new £150m loan facility with the carmaker, handing the company a financial lifeline. McLaren’s majority shareholder is Bahraini sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat, which also holds a stake in the company’s new lender.
I’m sure that was all very difficult for everyone involved.
Reverse: Transportation History Is Social History
Early in the morning, enslaved Africans on the Cuban schooner Amistad rise up against their captors, killing two crewmembers and seizing control of the ship, which had been transporting them to a life of slavery on a sugar plantation at Puerto Principe, Cuba.
Neutral: What Is The Ugliest Truck Ever?
I would say that I am forever charmed by the late ‘50s GMCs, which look like the Swamp Thing. What do you think has been the worst? And do you think its styling affect its sales?