Tesla Has Turned The Corner

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Even the haters are saying that Tesla did good, some Fiat Chrysler workers are mad, and Daimler thinks it will make a profit this year. All that and more in The Morning Shift for July 23, 2020.


1st Gear: Where Does Tesla Go From Here?

Tesla announced a second-quarter profit yesterday, meaning that it has now been profitable for four quarters in a row, which is a benchmark that financial types will tell you is important. I’m not all that convinced that traditional benchmarks should apply to a company like Tesla, which seems to chart its own history, but, that said, this does feel like a turning point.

Bloomberg reports that the important people, by which I mean Wall Street analysts, are also convinced.

From Bloomberg:

It was a “home-run quarter” for Elon Musk’s firm, according to Wedbush’s Dan Ives, as the company reinstated its original delivery target of 500,000 units in fiscal 2020 and reported its fourth consecutive profit. Cowen’s Jeffrey Osborne upgraded his rating to market perform, removing the underperform recommendation he has held since initiating coverage of the stock in 2016.

The quarter was marked by a “step change” in China, where Shanghai accounted for a sharply higher proportion of Tesla’s global production and deliveries, according to Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas. Cash flow was also impressive, he said.

“Bears really would have to nit pick at the release to construct a materially negative narrative,” Jonas wrote in a note.

Other Tesla skeptics, like the Wall Street Journal blogger Charley Grant, have also been forced into a capitulation.


Up until yesterday I would’ve said the biggest question about Tesla going forward is whether the Model Y will be a hit, but Tesla’s booming sales in China may not make that necessary. Offering further predictions about this company (I’ve offered plenty of them myself), seems like a fool’s game, at any rate.

2nd Gear: Tesla, Meanwhile, Is Suing Rivian

The company says that its rival Rivian is poaching employees and that those employees are stealing Tesla trade secrets.


From Bloomberg:

The world’s leading electric-vehicle maker alleged that four of its former workers took highly sensitive proprietary information as they left to work for the rival startup, and Tesla said it suspects there are at least two more culprits.

“Misappropriating Tesla’s competitively useful confidential information when leaving Tesla for a new employer is obviously wrong and risky,” according to the complaint filed in state court in San Jose, Calif. “One would engage in that behavior only for an important benefit — to use it to serve the competitive interests of a new employer.”

Rivian — which counts Amazon.com Inc., T. Rowe Price, BlackRock Inc. and Ford Motor Co. among its top-tier investors — denied the allegations. The company said it requires all new employees to confirm “that they have not, and will not, introduce former employers’ intellectual property into Rivian systems.”

“Rivian is made up of high-performing, mission-driven teams, and our business model and technology are based on many years of engineering, design and strategy development,” the company said in an emailed statement. “This requires the contribution and know-how of thousands of employees from across the technology and automotive spaces.”


According to the suit, Rivian has hired 178 former Tesla employees, which seems about right given that I imagine if you are an electric vehicle engineer your skills are pretty valuable right now. The lawsuit was filed in state court in California and probably won’t be earth-shaking however it turns out but more interesting will be the upcoming battle between Tesla’s Cybertruck and Rivian’s R1T truck, both of which we could see next couple years.

3rd Gear: Fiat Chrysler Workers Mad

Twenty-seven workers have sued FCA and the UAW over the same corruption scandal that GM unsuccessfully sued over. The workers are based in Toledo and say that union corruption costs them a lot of money.


From the Detroit Free Press:

The suit, filed Monday in federal court in Toledo, which also names a host of people caught up in the corruption probe as defendants, seeks triple the amount of damages (the specific amount is not listed) because of the nature of the case. It follows the recent dismissal of a high-profile federal racketeering lawsuit GM filed against FCA, claiming its rival cost GM billions of dollars by corrupting contract bargaining. FCA called the case meritless. The judge in that case at one point had tried to get the two companies’ CEOs to meet and resolve their issues, citing the need to heal the country in a time of pandemic amid the anguish over racism following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Ken Myers, an attorney representing the Toledo FCA workers, said the details in the latest lawsuit demonstrate how the corruption scheme directly affected workers. FCA currently builds its popular Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator models in Toledo.

“This lawsuit is important because these autoworkers are the real-life victims of the bribery scandal. These are the people who were victimized by FCA paying and UAW receiving bribes. Instead of representing their membership, these union guys were taking money, food, vacations and alcohol, and this lawsuit says that there are real-life consequences,” Myers said.

FCA, however, pushed back against the suit.

“We deny the allegations in this lawsuit and are prepared to vigorously defend the company,” according to a statement sent by FCA spokeswoman Jodi Tinson.


4th Gear: Daimler Says It Expects A 2020 Profit

The German automaker lost almost $2 billion in the second quarter but said Thursday that things were trending in a better direction for the rest of the year.


From Bloomberg:

Daimler anticipates earnings before interest and taxes and free cash flow to be positive in 2020 but lower than last year, it said on Thursday in a statement. It previously forecast that the company’s deliveries, revenue and profit would decline in 2020.

“We are now seeing the first signs of a sales recovery,” CEO Ola Kallenius said.

The company said the outlook is based on an assumption that the economy will continue to rebound and there is no second wave of the coronavirus.

Kallenius said the Mercedes brand will seek to develop its high-end luxury vehicle segment as a way to hike profits.

“I see the strongest growth in the upper end of the segments where we are active,” Kallenius told journalists in a call to discuss the company’s quarterly results.


Luxury has done a little better than the rest of the auto industry amid the coronavirus pandemic, so this isn’t altogether surprising though more of just another signal that things outside the US are getting back to normal-ish.

5th Gear: Ford’s Mexico Operations Disrupted By A Blockade

The blockade arises from a dispute over land rights with indigenous groups. It’s been going on for almost two weeks now and it has led to millions in losses.


From Reuters:

Over the past couple of days, members of the local the Yaqui indigenous community who are demonstrating for better land rights, have blocked railways used to move auto parts, as well as grains and steel, from Sonora to the United States.

“The recent blockade of the rail network in the municipality of Guaymas, Sonora, has affected operations at our Hermosillo plant,” Ford said in an emailed statement.

“Currently, we are facing a situation unrelated to us, wherein imports and exports have been affected.”

The blockade has hit both the Mexicali-California and the Nogales-Arizona border crossings, and so far prevented the passage of 15 trains carrying about 150,000 tons of cargo, according to the Mexican railways association AMF.


Reverse: 117 Years Ago


Neutral: How Are You?

I’ve just been jamming mortadella into my soul. Give me all the mortadella.

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.


Ash78, voting early and often

Tesla: I’ve been deep in Netflix, Amazon, and Apple stock for over a decade each, so I’m not afraid of volatility....but I still won’t touch Tesla. Sure, the track record of the stock is really solid if you stand 10 feet away and squint at the chart. But I have fundamental problems with their org structure, novelty aspect, and general Cult of Personality (I had the same issue with Steve Jobs; OTOH, Reed Hastings and Jeff Bezos managed that better).

Their cars are amazing, but everything is still on shaky ground. The retail distribution model works for some, but not most. Legislatively, their no-dealer policy is subject to whims of the states (not fair, but reality — I wish all makers sold this way). They try to hard to reinvent everything, like ergonomics and interiors, just to be different. If I could buy a Model 3's running gear wrapped in a more traditional 2-box package, and with local service/support, I’d do it right now. And I’d pay MORE than a Model 3 to have that.

There’s a lot for other makers to learn from them, no doubt. I’m just not buying the cars or the stock. But I’m also not shorting them, either. That’s been a fool’s errand for years...

My 5-year prediction is that Tesla drops to a quarter of today’s valuation while VAG eats their lunch with the ID series worldwide. Then Tesla is bought up by Toyota for its battery tech, then 20 years from now they will be the dominant force in EVs everywhere.