Tesla Is About To Throw Its Weight Around

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Volkswagen’s CEO’s future is still up in the air, GM’s workers in South Korea are mad at GM, and Tesla. All that and more in The Morning Shift for December 1, 2020.


1st Gear: Tesla Is Joining The S&P 500, And It’s Expected To Cause A Bit Of Whiplash

The stock market index—generally considered the best indicator of how the American economy is doingsaid it would add in Tesla earlier this month. Tesla is a big addition, and there was some question over whether the S&P 500 would add Tesla to the index in stages. It has now said Tesla will be added in one fell swoop.

The people who invest in stocks and manage funds are all abuzz about it. From Bloomberg:

Tesla Inc. will be added to the S&P 500 Index in one shot on Dec. 21, a move that will ripple through the entire market as money managers adjust their portfolios to make room for shares of the $538 billion company.

Given Tesla’s massive market size, S&P consulted with investors in November, asking for feedback on whether the stock should be folded into the index all at once or in two parts, which would have been unprecedented. The electric-vehicle maker would be the seventh-biggest company in the S&P 500 at its current market value, falling between Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Visa Inc.

With about $11 trillion in funds tied to the S&P 500, money managers have been looking toward a few busy weeks ahead no matter how Tesla was included in the index. Whether it was one fell swoop or two separate tranches, managers of index-tracking funds would still have had to offload stocks of several other companies to make room for the mammoth newcomer in their portfolios.

“It looks like they’re ripping the band-aid off,” said Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers. “It’s ultimately less disruptive than trying something new with the largest index addition ever.”

2nd Gear: There Were Sales Declines In November

That is because the number of “selling days” in November was just 23, or the lowest in five years. That’s bad for automakers but doesn’t mean a whole lot going forward.


From Automotive News:

Light-vehicle sales in November probably fell 12 percent, according to TrueCar and ALG. It projects that Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and the Volkswagen Group will all report sales declines of 15 percent or more.

“It’s going to look awful — like things have gone backwards pretty terribly — and that’s not the case,” said Tyson Jominy, vice president of data and analytics at J.D. Power.

Not as bad as it looks, but not great. Based on the first 17 days of the month, J.D. Power and LMC Automotive projected a 15 percent plunge in total light-vehicle sales. Adjusted for the number of selling days — three fewer than in November 2019 — the drop is more like 3.5 percent, with the more lucrative retail sales slipping only 0.7 percent.

With supply limited, pricing is up. The average new-vehicle retail transaction price last month was expected to reach a record $37,099, J.D. Power and LMC projected. That’s 0.9 percent higher than the previous record, set in October.


3rd Gear: VW’s CEO May Not Be Long For This World

We covered a bit of this yesterday, but VW CEO Herbert Diess is all of the sudden demanding that the company make a decision on his future, and fast.


According to Reuters:

Volkswagen, the world’s largest vehicle maker by sales, risked a leadership crisis on Tuesday after CEO Herbert Diess forced a vote of confidence in his reform efforts by asking for an early contract extension.

The multi-brand car and truck maker is convening its Executive Committee to discuss Diess’s demand for the contract extension, long before his current term comes to an end in 2023, three sources told Reuters on Monday.

Volkswagen Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch is seeking to avert a clash between labor leaders and Diess by postponing discussions about a contract extension, a person familiar with the matter said.

Diess, who defected from BMW in 2015, and helped Volkswagen to reform after its diesel scandal with a 73 billion euro ($87 billion) electric vehicle investment plan, has grown frustrated with German labor leaders blocking cost cuts.

The supervisory board’s Executive Committee, which is headed by Poetsch, and includes Wolfgang Porsche and Hans Michel Piech, members of the carmaker’s owning families, as well as labor boss Bernd Osterloh, is due to meet on Tuesday, the three sources told Reuters.


The fact that Diess’s contract expires in 2023 makes it seem like he’s overplaying his hand a little bit here, but I respect the move.

4th Gear: GM Still Troubled With Its Workforce In South Korea

GM employees in South Korea once trashed a CEO’s office, because why not, all CEOs probably deserve that. GM management hasn’t been taking recent labor relations well over there, and just a few weeks ago was threatening to pull out of the country not long after taking several billion dollars in government stimulus. Now Reuters reports that GM is struggling to strike a deal with labor unions there.

Only about 45% of members were in favour of an agreement reached with union negotiators last week for each member to receive a lump sum payment of 4 million won ($3,615) by early 2021, a union official said on Tuesday.

The union stepped up demands this year as wages have been frozen since 2018, when the U.S. automaker received a state-backed rescue package to stay in the country.

GM has rejected employee demands to raise the retirement age by five years to 65 and to build more vehicles at one of its South Korean plants.

The two sides have had 24 rounds of negotiations since July and GM’s South Korean workers staged two four-hour strikes daily over 14 days last month in protest.


I don’t know the intricacies of labor law in South Korea, but if I were GM I would just accede to the demands, GM makes billions of dollars a year, who really cares.

5th Gear: GM Is Getting Ready For The Vaccine

I cannot understand the position of anti-vaxxers, most especially in pandemic times. When the vaccine is ready I will be first in line, after essential workers get it. It sounds like GM agrees.


From the Detroit Free Press:

General Motors is preparing a plan for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines that it will likely unveil to workers this month.

GM has been talking with local health department and government leaders to coordinate who will be leading and conducting vaccine distribution, GM spokesman David Caldwell told the Free Press Monday.

GM plans to share information on vaccine distribution to its employees in the next few weeks, Caldwell said.

“Throughout the pandemic GM has communicated health and safety guidance to employees — including a series of videos and Q&As on topics like masks, workplace safety protocols, flu shot processes and more,” Caldwell said. “That will continue in the coming weeks, including our plan for employees and vaccines.”


This is all, of course, to keep the factories running so GM’s motive isn’t exactly altruistic but vaccinating early and often is good.

Reverse: It’s December Sheesh Where Has All The Time Gone


Neutral: How Are You?

I exclusively previewed on Twitter last night that I am going to replace the cabin air filter in my Honda Fit today. This is very big news. It has never been replaced as far as I know, and I’m about 68,000 miles in. All of the sudden this is very urgent, for no good reason; I will take my cabin air properly filtered or not at all, thank you.



Mandatory retirement should be legal here. Old people not retiring blocks younger people from moving up.