Tesla Is Selling More Cars But Making Less Money

Photo: AP
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Tesla finds itself in a revenue quandary, a General Motors strike update, Ford tries to stem losses in India, more Brexit mess, and another guilty plea in the United Auto Workers leadership corruption scandal. All this and more in The Morning Shift for Tuesday, October 1, 2019.

1st Gear: Tesla On Track For First Revenue Dip Since 2012, Analysts Say

In our infinite growth economic system, it is generally regarded as a bad thing when your public company makes less money than it did a year prior. Sure, this is a broad brush stroke to paint, but there are plenty of companies out there making more money, so investors don’t have much patience for one that is making less.

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Which brings us to Tesla, and the news from Bloomberg that analysts are worried Tesla may do just that and post lower revenue in the third quarter than a year ago despite selling a record 100,000 cars:

Analysts at Credit Suisse and RBC Capital Markets are among those predicting Tesla will post lower revenue for the third quarter than a year ago. If there is indeed a decline, it will be a first for the company since 2012 — the year the Model S started production.

A revenue drop would be a downer for Musk, who told employees last week they “have a shot” to deliver more than 100,000 electric vehicles this quarter. But the vast majority of the cars Tesla is handing over are Model 3 sedans, which start at $38,990 in the U.S., less than half the cost of the lowest-priced Model S or X.

The drastic shift in sales mix toward its cheaper sedan dogged Tesla in the second quarter, with Musk following up a record deliveries report with a worse-than-expected loss. While the company said it would aim for a profit this quarter, it planned to prioritize volume growth.

In other words, the longstanding concern that Model 3 sales are cannibalizing far more lucrative Model S (and, to a lesser extent, Model X) customers is gaining more and more validity by the quarter. The big question for Tesla going forward is whether it can achieve consistent profitability while selling upwards of 100,000 cars a quarter.

2nd Gear: GM Strike Update: Still Striking

The GM workers’ strike is now in its third week, and as you might expect, the pain is starting to set in on both sides, with strike workers getting a meager $250 a week in strike pay from the union and the automaker losing tens of millions of dollars a day.

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Here’s a quick rundown from the WSJ:

While GM has about $17 billion in cash and additional credit lines it can tap if needed, analysts estimate the lost production from the strike is costing the company between $50 million and $100 million a day. The stoppage has halted work at more than 30 factories operated by GM in the U.S.

[...]

Many striking workers say the strike is becoming a major disruption to their personal finances, in part because they missed their first company paycheck last Friday.

“We’ve all got mortgages and car payments and kids in school. My kids play sports, soccer and wrestling,” said Felix Vasquez, 38 years old, a temporary worker at a GM transmission factory in suburban Detroit.

His wife works at a GM plant in Flint, Mich., and their combined strike pay of about $500 a week will be roughly a quarter of what the couple normally brings home, Mr. Vasquez said. He said the couple was prepared but still is scrambling to supplement their income. This week, he is working at a construction site after a friend offered him work.

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Of course, these consequences were expected, and both sides have been preparing for this possibility for months if not years. Still, there’s no sign of an imminent agreement.

3rd Gear: Ford Partners With Mahindra In India In Another Attempt To Stop Losing Money In Foreign Markets

For all the labor strife and consternation among domestic auto workers, Ford has also made major cuts to its foreign workforce. Earlier this year, Ford announced it was closing five plants and eliminating 12,000 jobs in Europe, as well as 10 percent of its global white collar workforce.

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Now, Ford has announced a partnership with Indian car company Mahindra & Mahindra which the New York Times characterizes as “a bid to staunch Ford’s losses there.” More details from the Times:

Mahindra will own 51 percent of the joint venture, which will take control of Ford’s assembly plant near the city of Chennai and another in Sanand, the two companies said. The joint venture is valued at $275 million.

Subject to regulatory approval, the venture could be in operation by the middle of next year, the companies said. They said the venture would be responsible for strengthening the Ford brand in India and exporting Ford products made there.

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The Times also says Ford has been working with Mahindra on an SUV for emerging markets and export, one that is hopefully better than the EcoSport, the SUV it currently imports to the U.S. from that same Indian plant, to the bane of rental car customers across the land. Life is too short to drive an EcoSport.

4th Gear: Jaguar Land Rover Closing U.K. Plants Just In Case Brexit Brexits Or Doesn’t Brexit Brexity Enough

Better safe than sorry:

Jaguar Land Rover plans to close its U.K. factories for a week in November to guard against disruption to supply chains from a possible no-deal Brexit, Chief Executive Officer Ralf Speth said.

The shutdown will go ahead whether or not Britain seeks an extension to the Oct. 31 deadline for leaving the European Union, he said at a briefing at JLR’s expanded technical center in Gaydon, England.

The temporary halt will mean lost production for the unit of Tata Motors Ltd., already impacted by a global slowdown in the car industry. JLR brought forward its usual August maintenance closure as part of preparations for the original March 29 Brexit date, a measure that proved to be in vain after the deadline was shifted to October.

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I’m sure Boris Johnson won’t do anything to make this worse.

5th Gear: UAW Scandal Update: Still Bad

Another UAW official is expected to plead guilty later this month on the now-familiar standard list of corruption charges that have been brought against a number of the union’s top brass and their confidants. From Automotive News:

Former UAW official Jeffery Pietrzyk, accused of receiving $123,000 through an alleged conspiracy, will appear for arraignment and is expected to plead guilty Oct. 22 in federal court in Detroit, a U.S. Department of Justice spokeswoman said Monday.

Pietrzyk, who was an assistant to former UAW GM Department Vice President Joe Ashton, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. He is the 11th person charged in the widening investigation of corruption in the UAW.

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Pietrzyk’s attorney told Automotive News the charges against his client are “much more limited in time and scope than his named and unnamed co-defendants,” which I guess is one thing you can say when your client is about to plead guilty to federal crimes.

Reverse: Limited Edition Car Made

Motorcar...?

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Neutral: Elon Musk Gives You Two Years To Make Tesla Profitable. What Do You Do?

You awaken this morning to a knock at your door. Elon Musk is standing outstide, beaming and carrying two to-go cups of coffee. He is very excited because he’s here to put you—yes, you—in charge of making actual money at Tesla. Apparently he is under the impression you are a young go-getter with a full head of brain-smarts and enough moxie to take the bull by the horns, and you do nothing to disabuse him of this notion, because after all, he’s very busy but still brought you coffee.

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What do you do?

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About the author

Aaron Gordon

Senior Reporter, Investigations & Technology, Jalopnik