Toyota Is Back On Top

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Toyota is the world’s biggest automaker once again, Wall Street wasn’t jazzed about Tesla, and Faraday Future. All that and more in The Morning Shift for January 28, 2021.

1st Gear: Toyota Is The World’s Biggest Automaker Once Again

Tesla Toyota outsold Volkswagen last year, giving it the sales crown for the first time in five years. (Correction, 10:24 a.m.: I accidentally wrote Tesla here instead of Toyota because I’m an idiot. Carry on.) Toyota sold 9.53 million cars, according to Bloomberg, while Volkswagen sold 9.31 million cars. This is in large part because sales in Europe, where Volkswagen sells lots of cars, were down more than in the U.S., where Toyota sells lots of cars. The pandemic, etc.

Prior to 2020, VW outsold Toyota in every year since 2015. But the two companies’ results last year may be indicative of a longer-term trend, according to analysts.

While VW is expected to temporarily surpass Toyota again in 2021, Toyota is projected to pull ahead each year through 2025, IHS Markit said. VW’s push to produce more electrified vehicles should lead to a sales spike this year, but prolonged lockdowns and shop closures in its domestic market will continue to have an adverse impact, analyst Yoshiaki Kawano said.

Kawano said Toyota will continue to enjoy strong sales in its core markets of Japan and the U.S. In China, the world’s largest car market, it should “put up a good fight” by pushing out more EVs and SUVs in line with local demand, he said.


The arguments over what constitutes the “world’s biggest automaker” never seem to end; I’m sure Tesla stans will be in the comments explaining how, in fact, Tesla deserves the crown because of its valuation. None of this matters much.

2nd Gear: Speaking Of Tesla

The company released its earnings yesterday. It said it made $270 million in the fourth quarter of 2020, which is just fine, or a lot better than people were predicting Tesla would do this time last year. That, of course, was not enough for Wall Street, however, which expects companies to exceed expectations at all times, even though those expectations are largely made up out of whole cloth.


From Bloomberg:

The electric-vehicle market leader reported an adjusted fourth-quarter profit of 80 cents a share Wednesday, falling short of analysts’ consensus for $1.03 and well below the blowout result a year earlier — before the global pandemic set in. The results marked a sixth straight profitable quarter but also the first time the company missed Wall Street’s estimate for earnings per share since July 2019.

Tesla shares fell as much as 8.1% to $794 before the start of regular trading Thursday. The stock had soared 933% since the beginning of last year.

“Given the run in the name, an earnings ‘miss,’ no specific 2021 guidance and potential supply constraints, we could see the stock take a breather,” Joe Spak, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a report. “But, to long-term believers, there is likely little to deter their thinking.”


It is perfectly Wall Street logic that Tesla had its first full-year profit and Wall Street’s reaction is, “It is now that we determine this is not good enough.”

3rd Gear: Another UAW Guy Gets Prison

The Detroit News has done excellent work on the UAW corruption scandal, and was there once again yesterday at the sentencing of a convicted former UAW official. Reporters Robert Snell and Breana Noble did not hold back.

A former United Auto Workers official who stole money from dues-paying members was sentenced to one year in federal prison Wednesday despite prosecutors urging he be spared for helping convict two former presidents and secure federal oversight of the belabored union.

The surprising sentence left Edward “Nick” Robinson sobbing, quivering, red-faced and gulping deep breaths while hanging his head after begging U.S. District Judge Paul Borman for a break.

Borman gave Robinson a break from an advisory sentence of 30-37 months in prison because the UAW official wore secret recording devices and volunteered to help prosecutors uncover corruption within one of the nation’s most influential unions.

Prosecutors asked the judge to keep Robinson, 73, of Kirkwood, Missouri, out of prison despite a nine-year crime spree that included Robinson helping steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in dues paid by rank-and-file UAW members. The money was spent on private villas, lavish meals, golf, liquor and other luxuries.

“I need to apologize to my union brothers,” Robinson said in a halting speech written on a piece of crumpled paper. “I failed them after 50 years. I will carry that burden the rest of my life, and God knows I am so sorry.”


This story is written so righteously and I kind of love it.

4th Gear: Faraday Future Still Refuses To Die

You could be forgiven for not giving a rat’s ass about Faraday Future, the EV startup that refuses to die. But it is still around, and raising hundreds of millions of dollars.


From Reuters:

Electric-vehicle maker Faraday Future has agreed to go public through a merger with blank-check firm Property Solutions Acquisition Corp in a deal valuing the combined entity at $3.4 billion, the latest firm to take the SPAC route to enter public markets.

The Los-Angeles-based startup joins a growing list of EV makers in a hot sector that includes Tesla Inc as the adoption of electric vehicles grows across the world.

Fisker Inc and Nikola Corp also went public through SPACs last year.

Faraday and Property Solutions said on Thursday the deal, supported by a private investment of $775 million, is expected to fetch Faraday Future $1 billion in gross proceeds.


5th Gear: Baidu Can Test Self-Driving Cars In California

Baidu is a Chinese internet company that has had self-driving ambitions for a few years now. It recently got the green light to test in California.


From Reuters:

Currently, 58 companies have permits in California to test autonomous vehicles with such a backup driver, including most major automakers and Apple Inc.

Baidu is the sixth company to have a permit to test without a driver behind the wheel. The permit allows it to test three autonomous vehicles on specified streets within Sunnyvale, Santa Clara County.

According to Baidu, it will be using two different models of cars for testing its self-driving system, the Lincoln MKZ sedan and the Chrysler Pacifica van.

The Chinese search engine leader has 500 self-driving cars testing mostly in China and some in the United States with safety drivers.


Reverse: Challenger

Great old Tom Scocca post here.


Neutral: How Are You?

I’ve watched, like everyone else, the insanity around GameStop’s stock in recent days and have nothing to add about it really except that I recommend this old Michael Lewis story:


TL;DR: Absolutely none of this is new.