Mitsubishi Motors has presented an ambitious growth plan for the next three years, called “Drive for Growth”. According to this plan, the brand will invest more than 600 billion Yen (€ 4,5 billion / US$ 5.3 billion), of which R&D spending will increase by 50% to € 1 billion (US$ 1.2 billion) to develop six all-new models (including the recently launched Eclipse Cross crossover for the US and Europe, and the Xpander MPV for Indonesia) and significantly update five existing models. As a result of this product offensive, worldwide sales should increase by 40% to 1,3 million units in 2020 and the company expects to return to profitability with a profit margin of 6% by the 2019 fiscal year. This is the first business plan by Mitsubishi since Nissan took a controlling 34% share in its struggling rival in 2016. According to Mitsubishi CEO Osamu Masuko “this is an ambitious program to maximize our strengths in growing product segments, especially four-wheel drive, and to pursue growth in markets where our brand has strong potential, particularly the ASEAN region.” [Read more…]
This week it became apparent that PSA Peugeot-Citroën and General Motors are having talks about the possible takeover of GM’s European division by the French automaker. This includes the Opel and Vauxhall brands, which have been a decade-long money drain on General Motors. The two automakers have been working together closely on the development of a handful of models and are looking for opportunities to boost each company’s profitability, which includes a sale of the two brands. GM has had a stake in PSA until 2013 when it became apparent that projected savings from their cooperation and platform sharing would fall short of expectations. After this breakup, the French company had to be bailed out by the French government and its Chinese partner Dongfeng Motor, which each control 14% of the shares.
Would a new, more intense cooperation bring the promised synergies? And does this mark the start of a much-needed wave of consolidations in the European car market? Or will it only cause PSA to lose focus on its own financial recovery and resurrection of its brands? Let’s look a the pros and cons for both parties involved:
This is a guest post from one of our enthusiast readers, Colman Murphy. If you’re interested in reaching an audience of almost 200,000 monthly viewers with your automotive related article, get in touch with us! We’re looking for guest writers and additional staff.
The acquisition of Solar City by Tesla on November 21st leaves no doubt the latter is increasingly an energy company. Question is, does that make it less of a car company? I doubt Elon Musk feels compelled to focus on just one business — he’s had his hands simultaneously in Space-X, Tesla and Solar City for a decade now — but the combined debt and portfolios of Tesla and Solar City must be a source of many a discussion if not discontent among the company’s board and its investors. Earlier this year, this website already discussed a vision of long-term strategy of Tesla, which also brought up the idea that Elon Musk is looking beyond its current form as a car manufacturer.
There are no indications that Tesla must exit the car market, at least not in the near term. There are very few other brands — automotive or otherwise — that have executed their vision as effectively as Tesla, and that brand strength alone could carry the company for many years. But the Electric Vehicle/Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) landscape is getting ever so crowded; Tesla’s next vehicle, the Model 3, will impose significant pressure on its profit margins; and a Republican-controlled US government is more likely to favor low oil prices and big trucks from the major corporations over green-technology vehicles made by niche manufacturers on the West Coast. With that as backdrop, a move away from cars might well be the right move for Tesla. [Read more…]
Last February, I wrote an article about the consequences of a (then potential) Brexit for the auto makers who produce cars in the UK. Now that the British people have actually voted to leave the European Union, let’s see how the result of the upcoming break-up may influence the sales rankings in the European car market in the second half of 2016. I’ll first start with clarifying that even when the split-up is completed, which is expected to take at least 2 years, we at Left-Lane.com will continue to include UK car sales data within our EU reports, as these include the countries with which the EU has a free trade agreement (p.e. Switzerland and Norway), and we’ll have to assume that such an agreement will be struck with the UK as well. Of course, with the vote taking place June 23rd, the effects won’t be fully visible yet in the June sales figures, not in the least because there’s always a delay of a few weeks between a customer order and the actual delivery (and registration of a “sale”) of a car. However, the uncertainty preceding the actual vote may have caused private buyers to at least postpone their purchase, as the UK market, which grew by 3,2% in the first half of the year, stabilized at -0,8% in June and +0,1% in July.
Contrastingly, while the rest of Europe was in a sales crisis, the UK has been one of the strongest markets in Europe in recent years, breaking sales records year after year as a result of low interest, a booming housing market and carmakers willing to offer good deals in one of the very few markets with an actual demand. However, the financial uncertainty of the coming few years during the break-up with the EU, combined with a depreciating British Pound are likely to stall that growth in the short and mid-terms, and analysts expect a decline of the British car market this year and next. In contrast, Southern European car markets had been hit exceptionally hard with a huge drop in sales after the global financial crisis since 2008, and they’ve only just started to accelerate their recovery from their rock-bottom crisis levels. Italy, Spain and France have been among the fastest growing countries in Europe in recent months, showing double digit gains over 2015 volumes. But the Brexit vote is also expected to temper those recoveries, as analysts have lowered their predictions of growth for the second half of 2016 for all of Europe, as the decline in the UK will not only influence the figure for the entire market, being the second-largest of the continent, but the uncertainty that comes with the break-up will also slow down growth in the rest of Europe. [Read more…]
Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is famous for speaking his mind and making controversial statements about the automotive industry. He did so again earlier this week when he stated that he didn’t understand how the upcoming Tesla Model 3 could be sold for € 35.000 euros ($39,600) at a profit. He also claimed that he could build a rival to Tesla’s mass market sedan but doesn’t want to because he doesn’t see the business case: “If he (referring to Tesla CEO Elon Musk) can show me that it can be done, I will do it as well, copy him, add Italian style to it and put it on the market within 12 months”. Guess what? Sergio is right: it would be impossible for FCA to make money from EVs under his command, but that’s because he’s stuck in the traditional way of doing business as a car executive and an accountant.
Marchionne is betting big on gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs which are more profitable at the moment and probably will remain so in the near future. That’s a sound business decision from a purely financial point of view. But he lacks the vision to prepare FCA for the future beyond that, and he’s making the same mistakes as those American auto executives from the 1970s who didn’t believe they could make money from economy cars, until Honda and Toyota quickly rose to dominate the compact and midsized car segments and have continued to do so while making money off them. In the meantime, FCA is abandoning those segments because they’ve been trying to catch up with the Japanese, but simply haven’t been able to build competitive and profitable compact and midsized cars for decades. [Read more…]
After revealing the Tesla Model 3 last Thursday, Elon Musk tweeted the company had received 276.000 pre-orders by the end of Saturday. (UPDATE: THE FIRST-WEEK TOTAL NOW STANDS AT 325.000). That would translate to more than $10 billion in revenue if all of those orders end up being delivered. In less than 72 hours, it also almost fulfills the company’s full-year goal of 300.000 Model 3 sales, in a total of half a million annual Tesla sales by 2020. Filling the order base this quickly for a model for which not a lot of specs have been released so far and which won’t start deliveries for at least another year-and-a-half is an amazing performance from the start-up manufacturer by any measure. And if the rebound of its stock price continues, Tesla’s market capitalization will close in on that of General Motors again. However, FCA chairman Sergio Marchionne has been quoted last year that car makers need to sell at least 5,5 to 6 million cars per year in order to survive in the long run. And despite its quick rise out of nowhere as a challenger of the establishment, Tesla is still a long way from selling that kind of volume worldwide, and to reach it would require vast investment in additional models and in expansion of the distribution channel. So assuming Marchionne is right, what’s Elon Musk’s strategy for building Tesla into a long-term viable auto maker?
Let’s just drop the bomb right here: I don’t think he has such a strategy, because I believe he thinks of himself more as the boss of a tech company that happens to produce cars than as the boss of a car company in the traditional sense, like General Motors or Ford. For tech companies, making money in their first few years is much less relevant than achieving a certain network size and scale so their new technology can claim to have set the standard for others in that market to follow. Elon Musk’s vision for Tesla therefore is probably to set the technology standard upon which all future electric cars can be built, using his batteries and perhaps even his platform. That vision is reflected in the structure of the company, the design of the cars, the size of their battery factory, their decision to give away the patents to their technology and their Supercharger network and in their ability to do over-the-air software upgrades on their cars. [Read more…]