Mercedes And BMW Are Struggling To Keep The Luxury Throne

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Mercedes and BMW are still on top of the luxury market, but EV companies are giving them a run for their money, Volkswagen saw a sales drop last year but says it has been doing better as of late, and NADA. All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 12, 2021.

1st Gear: Mercedes And BMW Are Still On Top, But For How Long?

Electric carmakers like Tesla are chipping away at the Germans’ long-held sales advantage in the luxury space. I don’t really know what a world without Mercedes and BMW on top of the luxury throne looks like, but it appears that sooner or later that’s where we’ll be. Unless, of course, the electric offerings from Mercedes and BMW live up to the hype, though that is very much an unknown.


From Bloomberg:

BMW said Tuesday worldwide deliveries for its namesake division fell 7.2% to 2.03 million, coming within 136,000 units of Daimler AG’s main passenger-car line. While Mercedes outsold its archrival and topped the premium auto ranks for a fifth consecutive year, electric-vehicle companies led by Tesla Inc. made serious inroads in the world’s largest market.

Tesla, Nio Inc. and Li Auto Inc. emerged as forces to be reckoned with in China, where BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen AG’s Audi have long controlled more than 60% of the luxury segment. The market was a source of growth for the Germans last year, though they still gave up some of their share to the electric upstarts.

“The historically untouchable German brands have begun ceding market share to Tesla and other luxury EV specialists,” Alexander Potter, a Piper Sandler & Co. analyst, wrote in a report. He predicts the trend will only get worse for BMW, Mercedes and Audi. “Bottom line: whenever Tesla opens a store in a new city, the Germans lose share... and there’s still lots of headroom for opening new stores.”


Mercedes, BMW, and Audi are something like the German equivalent of GM, Ford, and Dodge/Chrysler/Ram, in that the eroded hegemony of any of them will always be a big story. Cue an argument that Tesla’s stock price is reasonable.

2nd Gear: Speaking Of Electric Cars In China

The EV maker Xpeng said it has $2 billion more in credit to expand its business. Xpeng is one of several Chinese companies gunning for Tesla. Its slick P7 claims a longer range than the Tesla Model 3.


From Reuters:

New York-listed Xpeng, which has a market value of $35 billion, said the credit facility will diversify its funding channels.

The maker of the P7 sedan and the G3 sport-utility vehicle is planning to build a third car plant in China.

The agreement was signed with Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, China CITIC Bank and Guangzhou Rural Commercial Bank.


On one hand, all of this discussion of Chinese EV producers makes me suspect that American automakers are really behind the eight ball when it comes to EVs. On the other, I have seen automakers turn on a dime to make EVs, so maybe it’s not as hard as they say. China is the clear leader for now in any case.

3rd Gear: Volkswagen Sales Were Down For 2020

The bright spot, according to the company, was EVs.

From Reuters:

German carmaker Volkswagen said on Tuesday that sales of its core brand dropped by 15% to 5.3 million vehicles in 2020 as the outbreak of coronavirus and lockdowns imposed to restrict infections hit car dealerships around the world.

Volkswagen said it had seen sales recovering in December compared to previous months, rising by 19.5% in western Europe and 14.7% in North America. It added that demand for its electric models jumped by 158% on the year, to 212,000 vehicles.


If you want a less clear-eyed take on things, I give you VW’s press release, which says that VW has “hit the ground running” on EVs.

“2020 was a turning point for Volkswagen and marked a breakthrough in electric mobility,” said Ralf Brandstätter, CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars. Last year, the brand delivered more electric vehicles worldwide than ever before, handing over more than 212,000 electric cars in total (+158 percent versus 2019), including nearly 134,000 battery electric vehicles (+197 percent versus 2019). “We are well on track to achieve our aim of becoming the market leader in battery electric vehicles,” Brandstätter continued. “More than any other company, we stand for attractive and affordable e-mobility.”


That last quote is fighting words for Tesla, and while “attractive and affordable e-mobility” might accurately describe VW’s efforts abroad, it doesn’t here. The $40K ID.4 is almost certainly dead on arrival in the States, especially given Tesla’s recent Model Y price cut. Good luck, Volkswagen.

4th Gear: A Maker Of Mini Motors Is Thirsty For Tesla

Bloomberg describes Nidec as “the world’s top maker of mini motors.” Bloomberg also reports that the company wants in on Tesla.

“I very much want to have a top-level discussion with Elon Musk,” Jun Seki, Nidec’s president and chief operating officer, said in an interview. Without an outside partner, Tesla won’t be able to achieve Musk’s goal of producing 20 million EVs a year by 2030, he said.

It’s an audacious overture to a company that flirted with being the world’s most valuable last week, making Musk the richest man, but Nidec isn’t just any ordinary parts supplier.

The manufacturer is a quiet behemoth in the global electric-motor industry. Although the vast majority of people who use the company’s products don’t know its name, Nidec’s motors are used in about 85% of the world’s hard drives and it controls almost half of the global market for brushless motors found in everything from air conditioners to factory robots. Nidec is Japan’s ninth-largest enterprise, with a market value of about $82 billion on Tuesday, after climbing 2%. The stock rose 73% last year.


I, too, very much want to have a top-level discussion with Elon Musk. I know you’re reading this Elon. Have your people call my people.

5th Gear: The National Automobile Dealers Association Says Is Assessing Things

Ford joined several other companies this week in halting contributions to Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the wake of the attempted insurrection at the Capitol. The moves seem intended to send a message that what went down wasn’t OK, which, you know, will probably be a temporary move until things are closer to normal again and companies can resume greasing the palms of various lawmakers.


CNN has a rundown of the companies pausing contributions here. Automotive News reports, meanwhile, that NADA isn’t quite ready to join the party. Instead, NADA is “assessing.” You won’t be surprised who NADA likes to give a lot of money too.

NADA had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to some of the more than 100 Republican lawmakers that objected to certifying the presidential election, according to a list of the top donors compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group. NADA donated $918,000 to some of the lawmakers who objected, according to the center, making it No. 6 among political action committee donors.

“NADA PAC is a grassroots PAC that donates to hundreds of members of Congress each cycle, and that has a long history of bipartisan engagement,” Jared Allen, NADA spokesman, said in a statement to Automotive News. “NADA PAC is currently assessing our political contributions going forward.”


I congratulate NADA for doing about the least it can do.

Reverse: 91.37 MPH

In 1904 this must have felt impossibly fast. In 2021, depending on what kind of car you drive, it still does.


Neutral: How Are You?

My team didn’t win the big game last night. They in fact got destroyed by a much better team. Clear eyes, full hearts, can lose.