Lamborghini is kicking the all-electric can down the road, weak car volume caused a number of Asian automakers saw big dips in sales last month, and battery makers are worried about the state of the supply chain. All that automotive goodness and more in The Morning Shift for Wednesday, August 3, 2022.
1st Gear: Lamborghini’s EV Decision is Indecision
Lamborghini is spending over $1.8 billion to build hybrid versions of its fleet. However, company execs haven’t said exactly when they plan to focus on electric-only vehicles.
It’s a move contrary to most other car companies that have set hard dates (estimates, really) for when their cars will be all-electric. From Bloomberg:
“We don’t need to decide now,” said Lamborghini Chairman and CEO Stephan Winkelmann during a reporter roundtable July 27 when asked whether the company was planning to switch its fleet to only electric vehicles, as brands like Audi and Bentley have pledged. “We have at least a few years to decide.” In the meantime, Lamborghini has announced that its first EV, a two-door, four-seat vehicle, will arrive in eight years, by 2030.
Judging from its latest sales results, Lamborghini is doing something right. During the first six months of 2022, it delivered 5,090 vehicles globally, up nearly 5% over last year’s number and the most ever in company history. Operating profit was up 69.6%, going from €251 million ($256 million) during the same period in 2021 to €425 million ($434 million). The company has sold out of all of its vehicles for the next 18 months.
It’s certainly a bold road to be going down, especially in the context of the rest of the VAG portfolio. It has promised more than $90 billion for developing new electric tech over the next decade, but those wacky Italians just don’t seem to really care.
“It is going to be very, very complicated to make the right choice,” Winkelmann said.
He added the company will still be selling its massive V12 engine in 2013. More power to them, I guess. I’m happy (I think) somebody is doing it.
2nd Gear: Asian Automakers Are Going Through It
The microchip shortage caused havoc for a number of Asian Automakers in July. Sales dropped by 21 percent for Toyota and 47 percent for Honda when compared to July 2021. Hyundai and Kia also saw a sales drop of 11 percent, Mazda was down 29 percent and Subaru was down 12 percent.
All of these companies say that demand is strong, but they literally cannot build cars fast enough to meet demand. That mostly comes down to supply chain issues and semiconductor availability. Inventory is shockingly low for most of these companies. From Automotive News:
July was on track to be the ninth consecutive month that U.S. retail inventories closed below 900,000 vehicles, LMC and J.D. Power said. Kia, Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Lexus, Porsche, Hyundai, Land Rover, BMW and Acura had the lowest stockpiles at the start of July, Cox Automotive said, while Ram, Volvo, Jeep, Lincoln and Audi had the highest inventory levels.
Japanese and Korean automakers, with more exposure to supply chains in China, where COVID-19 restrictions have been largely lifted but are still reverberating, will struggle to rebuild inventory well into the second half of the year, analysts say.
“There are plenty of headwinds pushing against a notable recovery in sales volumes,” Cox Automotive Senior Economist Charlie Chesbrough said. “Rising interest rates and low consumer sentiment are keeping many potential buyers out of the market. At the same time, higher prices for both gasoline and vehicles are making affordability an even greater challenge. Tight supply, however, continues to be the biggest obstacle over the near term, and there is little evidence of supply returning to normal.”
On top of this, new vehicle incentives averaged just under $900 in July. That’s down 55 percent from the same time last year.
3rd Gear: Battery Makers are Having a Tough Time, Too
Two of North America’s biggest battery manufacturers are scrambling to source more of the hard-to-find metals and materials that go into making batteries... and they’re trying to do it locally. This all in an effort to tool up to deliver on the Biden administration’s goal of making half of all U.S. auto sales be zero-emission vehicles by 2030.
Panasonic and General Motors say hitting this target is going to result in new approaches to making their products and where the materials are sourced from. From Automotive News:
This year, GM and Posco Chemical announced a $400 million plant in Quebec that will supply cathode active material for GM’s Ultium batteries, the automaker’s newest multivehicle battery platform. Weinberger said the plant will deliver about 40 percent of the makeup of GM’s batteries.
Panasonic, which is the primary battery maker for segment leader Tesla, announced last month that it will spend $4 billion to build its second EV battery plant, in Kansas.
Janet Lin, Panasonic’s vice president of strategy and business development, told the audience that Panasonic was preparing to quadruple its battery capacity and that U.S. production will represent a major part of that.
Lin also urged the U.S. government to relax tariffs on battery materials made oversees until the U.S. industry can get caught up.
4th Gear: BMW’s Slow Sales Warning
BMW is warning that sales of its cars are slowing down due to inflation and higher interest rates. It makes the German company the first automaker to predict an economic downturn will dampen demand this year.
The company reported earnings before interest and tax of 3.4 billion euro in the second quarter. That’s a 32 percent drop from the same time last year. That’s a higher number than most analysts had predicted.
BMW also expects the above-average order books (the backlog of orders it has) is expected to normalize by the end of the year. From Financial Times:
BMW boss Oliver Zipse said: “New orders received are somewhat reduced. [But] at the same time, [BMW] has an order backlog, especially when it comes to e-vehicles, which is at an all-time high.”
The warning from BMW contrasts with recent comments by rival Mercedes, which last week raised its earnings forecast for the year, saying it continued “to see healthy and high quality demand for its products for the second half of the year, in all core markets”.
The Stuttgart-based company says it believes demand will remain higher than supply for the rest of this year.
5th Gear: Lear’s Fear
Lear is getting ready for a potential economic downturn but cutting jobs and consolidating manufacturing plants. The announcement comes as the seating and electronics supplier reported that its second-quarter net income plunged by 60 percent.
The company’s quarterly net income dropped to $69 million, but sales were still up 7 percent from last year to $5.1 billion. In order to maintain “operational excellence,” the company cut 3 percent of its non-manufacturing, salaried headcount. From Automotive News:
The company employs more than 160,000 people globally, according to its website.
It said in May it cut headcount by 7,700. On the Tuesday earnings call, Scott said Lear would consolidate manufacturing operations in Mexico and Morocco after doing so successfully in South America.
The company’s core operating earnings for the quarter fell 20 percent to $187 million in the second quarter, while earnings per share decreased 60 percent to $1.14. Free cash flow was negative $161 million in the second quarter, compared to same time last year when it was positive $120 million.
Lear’s CFO said the company’s actions to reduce SG&A (selling, general and administrative) expenses will result in an annual savings of $35 to $40 million.
Reverse: Hey Macarena!
No, this isn’t car related. And no, I do not care. Have some fun in your life.