Tacoma is still king, Mercedes will make EVs in Alabama, and Cadillac is up to some new tricks. All that and more in The Morning Shift for December 14, 2020.
1st Gear: Taco Still Winning
It’s interesting, this idea that some consumers don’t want giant trucks from the Big Three. Toyota has been happy to mop up the rest with the Tacoma.
Even in the middle of a pandemic, there’s one model that auto dealer Crown Toyota in Ontario, California, can’t keep on the lot: the Tacoma pickup. With just a 10-day supply of the truck — in an industry where 60 days is considered ideal — most are already sold before they’re unloaded from the car hauler.
The Tacoma is to midsize pickups what the Ford F-Series is to full-size trucks: a dominant player that has remained the best-seller of its kind for the last 14 years. Sales, which rose 8% last month, have more than doubled this decade, even as General Motors Co. fielded the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, Ford Motor Co. revived the Ranger model and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV rolled out the Jeep Gladiator.
When Toyota looks at it, it sees a cash cow. The Japanese automaker is reaping dividends from sticking with it after rivals abandoned smaller pickups a decade ago, winning over buyers in search of something less than a half-ton truck. Toyota hopes to repeat that strategy in passenger cars as peers cancel sedans in favor of crossovers, sport-utility vehicles — and midsize trucks.
The article also includes an interesting tidbit about margins. It’s interesting because automakers are always blaming low margins for discontinuing smaller vehicles. Toyota says its margins on the Tacoma are just fine:
And buyers are paying up for them. Smaller pickups once sold for rock-bottom prices to first-time buyers. Now they’re boosting the bottom line at automakers that trick them out with elaborate entertainment systems and color-coordinated bash plates underneath to protect beefy off-road powertrains. The Tacoma starts at $26,150 for a utilitarian model but can climb above $50,000 for a fully-loaded TRD Pro. The Japanese company says half of all Tacomas sold in the U.S. include the optional TRD off-road package.
Half! A lot of these buyers are coastal—California, to be precise—and I can imagine how a lot of people would view buying a Colorado or Ranger as simply passé. Related: Where is a new Dakota?
2nd Gear: Truckmakers In Europe Say They Will Be Done With Emissions-Producing Trucks By 2040
That’s ten years earlier than originally planned. And I don’t mean pickup trucks, I mean semis.
From The Financial Times:
An alliance of Daimler, Scania, Man, Volvo, Daf, Iveco and Ford have signed a pledge to phase out traditional combustion engines and focus on hydrogen, battery technology and clean fuels.
The industry will spend about €50bn-€100bn on new technologies, Scania chief executive Henrik Henriksson told the Financial Times, ahead of the pledge announcement.
The truckmakers, under the umbrella of EU carmaker association ACEA, are working with the German funded Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research to consider the best technologies and approaches.
The pledge signed by the chief executives of the truck and van businesses also calls for widespread investment in energy grids and a higher tax on carbon across Europe to help drive the change.
“If we can make this happen, we need to work all together,” said Mr Henriksson, who chairs ACEA’s commercial vehicle board.
It is shocking to me how quickly everything has pivoted away from fossil fuels. The race to abandon internal combustion engines seems likely to only quicken.
3rd Gear: The Mercedes EQS And EQE Will Be Built In Alabama
Those are the all-electric SUV versions of the S-Class and E-Class. The EQS and EQE will also be be built in Germany, as part of Mercedes’ big electric push.
From Automotive News:
Mercedes-Benz will build two electric utility vehicles at its plant in Alabama starting in 2022, part of a global EV production plan detailed Monday that also named sites in Europe and China.
Other production locations announced Monday are:
- The EQS, a rival to the Tesla Model S, will go into production in Sindelfingen, Germany, in first half of next year.
- The EQA utility vehicle will be built in Beijing starting next year. Production of the model has already started in Rastatt, Germany.
- The EQB utility vehicle will start production in Kecskemet, Hungary, and Beijing next year.
- The EQE will be produced in Bremen, Germany, and Beijing starting next year. The EQC is already built in Bremen and Beijing.
Mercedes will also produce battery systems for its EVs in Germany, Poland and Beijing.
You can read Mercedes’ press release on the matter here. Will we get the EQA? I doubt it, but dammit that sure seems like the best of the lot.
4th Gear: Ford Says That 2020 Has Been Stressful For People
This is the kind of work that gives marketing people a bad name: According to Ford’s annual Trends Report (TM?), 2020 really stressed people out. It seems that a global pandemic and inequality and economic disaster are worrisome!
From the Detroit Free Press:
The 2021 report homes in on seven focus areas, about which Ford surveyed people from 14 countries around the world. Topics included the “pressure points” consumers felt this year; the role of escapism in helping deal with stress; loneliness; persistent inequalities and inequities; consumers’ experiences with shopping; their evolving uses and need for personal transportation; and environmental sustainability.
Globally, 69% of respondents reported feeling overwhelmed by changes in the world. Even so, 47% said adapting to the pandemic has been easier than they imagined it would be.
Numerous data points from the survey indicate young people are struggling more than anyone else; 63% of Gen Z respondents (ages 18-23 years old), for example, said it’s been harder than expected to adapt.
Up 17 percentage points from three years ago, 67% of respondents said it stresses them out to follow the daily news. Many also said they feel they are spending too much time on the internet, and about half said they feel lonely on a regular basis.
This report doesn’t even seem to help Ford in any material way.
While the trends are not directly related to the automotive industry, they are still important insights into consumers’ behaviors and values, [Sheryl Connelly, Ford’s chief futurist] said. And given the industry’s years-long product-planning process, it’s especially important to think ahead, she noted.
To sum up: Ford’s chief futurist has concluded that lots of people aren’t feeling great right now and also it would be good for Ford to think ahead. It’s too bad we couldn’t have come upon these insights in any other way than a big and presumably expensive study.
5th Gear: Cadillac’s Smaller Dealer Network, Considered
I touched on this a bit last week, as Cadillac said this month that around 150 dealers had taken buyouts to stop being Cadillac dealers instead of investing in Cadillac’s electric future. Automotive News did a story yesterday with some more context. Basically, a thinning of the herd is for the best.
The average U.S. Cadillac dealer sold 176 new vehicles last year, while BMW and Mercedes-Benz stores sold more than 900 apiece.
By the end of next year, almost 1 in 5 Cadillac dealers are planning to give up their franchise, with hefty buyout payments in hand. But Cadillac will still have about twice as many stores as its German rivals.
That may be why, two weeks after the deadline to accept a buyout, General Motors was still negotiating with some dealers who were on the fence about sticking with Cadillac as it aims for an all-electric lineup around the end of this decade.
“They are so over-dealered compared to their competitors that it’s going to take far more than 20 percent of the stores to close for the remaining Cadillac dealers to become more competitive with their luxury peers,” said Alan Haig, president of Haig Partners, a buy-sell advisory firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
By 2022, Cadillac will have cut its U.S. retail network roughly in half since 2008, when it had more than 1,400 stores. Nearly 500 disappeared shortly after GM’s bankruptcy, many terminated involuntarily.
As of Jan. 1, Cadillac had 882 U.S. franchises, of which 153 were standalone operations, according to the Automotive News Data Center. That means more than 700 theoretically could remove the Cadillac emblem from their storefronts and move forward with other brands.
Cadillac’s future at this point is much more interesting than, say, Tesla’s.
Neutral: How Are You?
I woke up full of Friday Night Lights energy for some reason. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.