The Ford F-150 will never die, Subaru thinks it can sell even better in the U.S., and Nissan is trying to figure out how to do the same. All of this and more in The Morning Shift for Monday, Jan. 6, 2020.
1st Gear: Ford Sales Were Down Slightly But The Trucks Won
The 1.24 million trucks it sold in 2018 represents over half its overall sales, per The Detroit News. And Ford says it’s the 43rd straight year the F-Series, including F-150, F-250, etc., has beaten out Chevy, Ram, and every other fool who has tried to challenge it. Truck sales this past year rose 9.1 percent, while Ford car sales dove 28 percent to 349,091, after Ford said it was getting out of the whole car market thing, except for Mustang-related vehicles and related Mustangana. From DetNews:
Ford Motor Co.’s U.S. sales fell 3% in 2019, the automaker reported Monday.
That’s a smaller drop than crosstown rival General Motors Co. reported for the year, and a larger percentage change than Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported. Ford said it sold 2,422,698 vehicles last year, more than half of which were trucks. Ford reported sales were off 1.3% in the fourth quarter of the year.
“America’s best-selling brand for the past decade is on a roll,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a statement.
I appreciate the dissonance between the last two sentences of that Detroit News report. Though one actually interesting thing to note is that Ford said Lincoln, in particular, did pretty well in 2018, having its “best annual sales results since 2003.” That was on the back of 87,893 Lincoln SUVs sold. Apparently all you have to do revive an old car brand is to make literally any SUV and slap its badge on it. Please bring back Studebaker in this fashion.
One more thing, since I know you’re wondering: Ford sold 24,484 Flexes last year. Long live the Ford Flex.
Clarification: This gear originally suggested the F-150 pummeled the competition, when in fact it should be clear the F-Series of trucks as a whole, including the F-150, pummeled the competition.
2nd Gear: Nissan’s New CEO Says He’s Got This
Nissan has a new CEO named Makoto Uchida, who became CEO after all that Carlos Ghosn nonsense. And judging by a recent interview he gave with Automotive News, Uchida seems to have no shortage of confidence.
The guitar-playing, car-guy chief executive says he has never stayed in the same job more than two and a half years. He masters one duty, he says, then moves to the next.
“That means one of my strengths is to be very adaptable to different circumstances,” Uchida said in an interview at Nissan’s global headquarters here south of Tokyo.
“I should have an instant ramp-up to knowing about the U.S.,” he predicted.
This is my sales pitch as well whenever I go into a job interview, “I’m a guitar-playing, car-guy chief executive and I know nothing about being an astronaut, but I expect an instant ramp-up.” Strangely hasn’t worked so far.
At any rate, Uchida has his work cut out for him.
Nissan Group’s U.S. sales were down 9.9 percent to 1.35 million vehicles last year, in an overall market estimated to be down only 1.4 percent. Market share through November dropped to an estimated 8.0 percent, from 8.6 percent, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Sales of the Infiniti premium brand were down 21 percent in 2019.
There isn’t a single vehicle in Nissan’s U.S. lineup that is remotely exciting, except for the 370Z, GT-R, and of course its vans, which can do no wrong. But you can’t get buy on 370Z, GT-R, and van sales alone.
3rd Gear: Subaru Wants Even More
Subaru wants to reach sales of 700,000 vehicles this year as it did in 2018, which is less than the number of F-Series trucks Ford sold (896,526) but a good number for a brand that has carved out a niche in the market that it pretty much owns, with the Outback and its siblings being somewhat unique in an American market that pretty much only has room for F-Series trucks and SUVs the size of my apartment.
If you thought these sales goals would be accompanied by an extremely dopey internal slogan, you’d be right.
Per Automotive News:
Subaru’s optimism about the U.S. is good news for dealers struggling with low inventories. It also reflects Nakamura’s belief that Subaru can achieve up to 850,000 U.S. sales in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2026, as the CEO outlined in his STEP mid term business plan. STEP stands for “Speed,” “Trust,” “Engagement” and “Peace of Mind and Enjoyment.”
Nakamura wants Subaru’s U.S. market share to hit 5 percent by then, which he said could equate to volume between 810,000 and 850,000 vehicles, depending on how the market evolves.
Subaru’s U.S. sales rose 3.0 percent to 700,117 vehicles last year. The brand began December with only a 24-day supply of vehicles, the lowest in the industry.
The production slump is because of a focus on quality, after some shenanigans with emissions inspections in Japan. More interesting is what Subie has planned for the future, including its electric collaboration with Toyota.
The Japanese carmakers, which deepened their cross-shareholdings in September, also are prepping a next generation of their rebadged sporty small car, the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ.
Subaru, meanwhile, has dangled a new global SUV for release in the early 2020s. Nakamura remained mum about that vehicle. He said Subaru is working with retailers to pinpoint the white space in the brand’s lineup that might be covered by the new entry.
But the SUV’s main market will be the U.S., Nakamura said. The U.S. accounts for two-thirds of Subaru’s global sales.
4th Gear: Ghosn
Security cameras captured Ghosn leaving his home on Dec. 29 at about 2:30 p.m. (0530 GMT) and arriving some hours later at Tokyo’s Shinagawa Station, where he took the train to Shin Osaka Station, Kyodo said, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The international fugitive then went by car to a hotel near Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, where he boarded a private jet at 11:10 p.m., according to the media report.
Ghosn was forbidden from leaving Japan while awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct, which he has denied, but he fled at the end of last year to escape what he called a “rigged” justice system.
So it appears Ghosn took every possible form of transportation imaginable to exit Japan, I’m now waiting for a report that says an electric scooter, a bike share, a helicopter ride, and also maybe a ferry were also involved in the process, with officials checking his documents at each point and concluding, “Yeah, seems fine.”
5th Gear: Car Sales In The United Kingdom Were Bad
Britain is Europe’s second-largest market for new vehicles, and Monday’s figures add to signs that households grew more cautious about their spending last year, despite low unemployment and rising wages.
New car registrations dropped by 2% in 2019 to 2.31 million, according to provisional data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the third annual fall since sales peaked at 2.69 million in 2016.
“Undoubtedly consumer confidence on big-ticket items is still very weak,” SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said.
Car buyers’ reluctance to purchase diesel vehicles following Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, plus planned restrictions on older diesel vehicles going into city centers, also hurt demand.
When I was in the U.K. a week ago I was surprised how many diesel cars I saw still farting around in London. (Most of the cars I saw in London were diesel if memory serves.) Which is just to say for all of the pull back on diesel in Europe following Dieselgate there are still plenty on the streets.
Reverse: Daylight Savings Time
It was 1973 and there was an oil crisis, and so President Nixon thought it would be good to have clocks sprung forward for over a year, starting on January 6, but it didn’t quite last that long.
Neutral: When Will The Ford F-150 Die?
My colleague Raphael Orlove postulates, “It’s a matter of time before Ford sells two vehicles: Mustang-branded trucks and truck-branded Mustangs.”