Elon Musk says he’ll sell a bunch of Tesla stock, Cadillac will reduce its dealership count by hundreds, and Rolls-Royce news. All that and more in The Morning Shift for November 8, 2021.
1st Gear: Elon Asked His Twitter Followers If He Should Sell 10 Percent Of His Tesla Stock And A Majority Said Yes
Tesla’s stock price is now down 3 percent as a consequence, as of this writing. Elon did the Twitter poll on Saturday, when the markets are closed and most people are neither trading stocks nor using Twitter. Elon’s fans, however, probably never stop doing both. Anyway, almost two million Twitter users told him he should sell.
Elon is referring to a previous proposal in Congress to tax the unrealized gains (i.e. the increase in value of a stock that hasn’t yet been sold) of billionaires; this proposal probably won’t go anywhere, but should. Anyway, The New York Times says that Elon will probably sell some shares regardless of this dumb poll to pay ... taxes.
Either way, Mr. Musk may soon have needed to sell a big chunk of his shares. He holds nearly 23 million stock options that were awarded in 2012. Those options have since vested and will expire in August 2022. Most stock grants allow executives to avoid paying taxes for years, and perhaps forever, as long as they don’t sell the shares they get from converting the option.
But Brian Foley, an executive compensation consultant, says that because of the size of Mr. Musk’s grant and the way it was structured, it’s likely that much of his 2012 options don’t qualify for the preferential tax treatment. That means Mr. Musk would owe income taxes when he exercises the grant, which at current prices would be worth just under $30 billion. Mr. Musk’s tax bill could top $10 billion, depending on what percentage of the options don’t qualify for the preferential treatment.
“They are a ticking tax time bomb,” Mr. Foley said of Mr. Musk’s stock options. “Offhand I can’t think of any way for him to get around paying the tax.”
What’s more, Mr. Musk may need to sell even more shares than what it would take to pay his tax bill. He owns 17 percent of Tesla’s shares, which at its current stock price would be worth about $200 billion. That means his weekend tweets are a pledge to sell roughly $20 billion worth of Tesla’s shares.
If you’re the kind of person who is hoping for some kind of comeuppance for Elon, might I suggest hoping for something else, as there will never be any.
That would be 54,391, according to Reuters, which cites the China Passenger Car Association. That figure is only slightly down from September and more than good enough to best Tesla’s rivals there.
U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) sold 54,391 China-made vehicles in October, including 40,666 for export, the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said on Monday.
Tesla, which is making Model 3 sedans and Model Y sport-utility vehicles in Shanghai, sold 56,006 China-made vehicles in September, including 3,853 that were exported.
Chinese EV makers Nio Inc (NIO.N) sold 3,667 cars last month and Xpeng Inc (9868.HK) delivered 10,138 vehicles. Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) said it sold over 12,000 ID. series EVs in China in October.
Elon has talked about it a bit, too, but the speed with which Tesla got its Shanghai factory up and running has honestly been impressive, especially when compared to Tesla factories in Germany and Texas.
Over a third of Cadillac’s dealers in the U.S. will no longer exist after this year, as the brand goes from 875 in January to around 560, according to Automotive News. Cadillac says this is a good thing, and has been offering buyouts to dealers who don’t want to sell the brand’s upcoming stable of EVs. Auto News says that its remaining dealer presence will still be sizable.
“We never actually had a number that we were looking for,” [Rory Harvey, vice president of global Cadillac] said, referring to the percentage of dealers leaving the franchise. “We believe that this will give us the foundation to be able to accelerate going forward, and we believe that it does give us the ability to be very effectively represented.”
Cadillac had more U.S. dealerships than any other luxury brand, and even after shrinking to 560 stores would still have a retail network 60 percent larger than BMW and more than double that of Lexus, according to the Automotive News Dealer Census.
Remaining dealers are preparing to upgrade their outlets for EV sales and service by the end of the first quarter, when the Lyriq, Cadillac’s first full EV, is expected to arrive in select showrooms.
The majority of Cadillac dealerships will start getting the Lyriq in June, based on a traditional allocation process, after the midsize crossovers are initially delivered to stores with customers who reserved them, Harvey said.
Say what you want about modern Cadillac, but, with its EV push, it is offering something different than its luxury rivals, which is an all-out commitment to electric. This makes sense, given that, aside from the Escalade, Cadillac’s cars in recent years have never gotten much traction, despite how good they were. Maybe this EV push will change that.
I mentioned Friday that Uber finally made an adjusted quarterly profit, though that, confusingly, was coupled with a net loss of $2.4 billion. An accountant could tell you the difference between the two. Bottom line, Uber still doesn’t seem like a healthy business, but Uber and Lyft say they see signs for optimism, in a new report from Reuters.
Higher prices benefit the companies, which take a percentage cut from each ride. They also have resulted in record earnings for drivers, who also benefited from massive driver incentives paid by Uber and Lyft to lure them back, the companies said. Uber drivers and food couriers in the third quarter earned $8.6 billion, 60% more than the year prior, with driver pay growth outpacing that of gross bookings, Uber said Thursday.
While total driver supply remains below pre-pandemic levels, the companies said they were confident more drivers would return without additional incentives. They said they would taper off additional driver bonuses in the coming months.
Lyft’s Roberts said the company would fund driver incentives during particularly busy times through elevated consumer prices.
“We will likely see elevated prices for some time, particularly given the inflationary environment we are experiencing now,” said Michael Erstad, an analyst at research firm M Science.
“There will always be a ride at today’s price point, which might be a faster pickup,” Lyft President John Zimmer said in a Reuters interview. “But it’s really about finding the right ride for the right customer at the right time,” he said, adding that consumers wanting a cheaper ride might have to wait longer.
I use Uber every so often and it’s always strange to me the disconnect between the app, which is very whiz-bang, and the actual experience in the car, which is just a taxi service, same as it always has been.
This is through a combination of batteries and greener fuels, according to the Financial Times. With cars, you can sort of see an emissions-free future, though with planes it feels much further away. This is because battery-electric planes aren’t really a thing, though they could be for short-range flights, though, for that kind of transportation, rail is better. More promising, seemingly: sustainable fuels.
In aviation, the focus is on how to decarbonise the group’s powerful gas turbines. According to Stein, the answer for long-haul aviation is sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). “We won’t be flying battery aeroplanes across the Atlantic. For the next 40 or 50 years, for long-haul aviation, [we are looking at] very efficient gas turbines powered by SAFs,” he says.
The company believes that for short-range flights, of between 100 and 300 miles, battery power will allow for the transport of between four and 19 passengers, depending on the configuration of the aircraft. The company has partnered with air taxi company Vertical Aerospace and is working with the Norwegian regional airline Wideroe to develop an all-electric passenger aircraft.
Rolls-Royce is working on a range of technologies, including turbo-electric and hydrogen, to address the midsized market segment between long-range and short-range. The lessons that [Paul Stein, Rolls-Royce’s chief technology officer] and his engineers are drawing from the process will be applied across the group, including work by Rolls-Royce’s defence business to develop a propulsion system for Britain’s next-generation Tempest fighter jet.
To make its bet on SAFs a reality, Rolls-Royce is partnering with other companies, including oil major Shell. Among the challenges are a shortage of sustainable fuels and their cost — they are up to five times more expensive than current jet fuel, though executives think it should be possible to drive that down to two times the cost within a decade. Rolls-Royce believes the aviation industry will need 500m tonnes of the fuels annually by 2050.
Stein is optimistic that, despite the size of the challenge, the need “will create huge amounts of innovation”, adding that “there is a danger of taking a 2021 optic of where technology can take us”.
Many people who grew up near Detroit during the 1950s remember the Rotunda for its spectacular Christmas displays. Every year since 1953, it had had a 37-foot-tall tree, an elaborate Santa’s workshop and a life-size Nativity that the National Council of Churches called the “largest and finest” in the country. Each year’s installation had a different theme: the 1958 display boasted a 15,000-piece hand-carved miniature circus, for instance, and the 1962 show was scheduled to be a woodland tableau featuring 2,500 dolls.
While workmen were preparing the Rotunda for that display, someone overturned a firepot or heater on the building’s tar roof. Just after lunch, an employee spotted flames on the ceiling of the main floor. “Within a few minutes after the first alarm,” The New York Times reported, “the octagonal top of the building resembled a huge chimney, with smoke and fumes pouring out.” Workers evacuated, and the building burned to the ground in less than an hour. A group of schoolchildren visiting the Rotunda from South Bend watched in horror from a cafeteria across the street.
I’ve been golfing a lot lately, which means my car currently smells like golf, which is good or bad depending on your persuasion. That smell would be a little bit of locker room and a lot of grass, coupled with vague frustration. On brand, really.