I can’t say that all of its first-quarter profits are down to selling an incredibly charming EV the size of a shoebox, but it’s hard to ignore. All that and more in The Morning Shift for May 5, 2021.
1st Gear: That’s Net Income
The global pandemic is far from over, but GM is certainly back to big-B profitability. Let’s look at it’s latest Q1 results versus this time last year, per Automotive News:
GM’s outlook for the year is more optimistic than the guidance given last week by Ford Motor Co., which earned $US3 ($4).3 ($4) billion in the first quarter but projected little profitability for the remainder of the year, citing the supply issue. GM projects the chip shortage to cost it $US1.5 ($2) billion to $US2 ($3) billion, while Ford estimated a $US2 ($3).5 billion hit and 1.1 million units of lost production.
GM’s $US3 ($4) billion in net income compares to a $US286 ($369) million profit in the first quarter of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic halted production across the industry. Its adjusted profit margin surged to 13.6 per cent, compared with 3.8 per cent a year earlier, as a result of the company’s newly redesigned full-size SUVs, full-size pickup pricing and high used-vehicle prices.
Global revenue fell 1 per cent last quarter to $US32.5 ($42) billion, while adjusted earnings before interest and taxes nearly quadrupled.
Obviously things are still not running perfectly for GM, which is stumbling through the semiconductor shortage just like the rest of the auto industry.
2nd Gear: Stellantis Also Cheery With $US44.5 ($57) Billion Revenue (Not Net Income)
We’ll have to wait a few months before we can really put GM and Stellantis side-by-side, as the new mega-corp doesn’t post its full financials for quarters, as the Detroit News reports:
Stellantis NV on Wednesday said revenue increased 14% to $US44.4 ($57) billion (27 billion euro) in the first quarter of 2021 as global shipments increased 12% despite a global semiconductor shortage.
The report is the first financial results for the transatlantic automaker since its tie-up between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and French competitor Groupe PSA in January. Unlike its Detroit rivals, Stellantis only will report earnings for the first and second halves of the year. Results for the first half of 2021 are scheduled to be reported in August.
All of this is mostly news relevant to Tesla, which has been making bank off of Chrysler’s inability to make money off of fuel-efficient cars and that’s drying up as it’s part of Stellantis.
3rd Gear: GM Continues To Rebuild Its Military Contracting Business
GM sold off its long-running defence contracting business to General Dynamics in the heady days 2003, but it’s back to making trucks for war. This time it’s basically a race truck built near Hendrick Motorsports in North Carolina, as Automotive News reports:
The production plant, in Concord, has already begun building GM Defence’s Infantry Squad Vehicle for the U.S. Army. GM Defence was awarded the $US214.3 ($277) million contract last June. The Army has an acquisition objective of 2,065 vehicles for infantry brigade combat teams over eight years. GM Defence has space to expand the plant for larger or additional orders, spokeswoman Sonia Taylor told Automotive News.
The facility is minutes from racing company Hendrick Motorsports, which provides a chrome-moly steel exoskeleton for the vehicle frame and a rollover protection system designed by GM Defence. Ricardo Defence leads integrated product support for the vehicle, including technical manual development, new equipment training, provisioning, total package fielding and field service support.
“There’s a lot of similarities between racing and defence,” said Mark Dickens, chief architectural engineer at GM Defence. “It’s optimising for a very particular intense use. My background and my engineering team came from the high-performance side, so it was a natural extension of our capability.”
4th Gear: Nissan Bounces Out Of Daimler, Too
Renault sold its stake in Daimler recently, and now Nissan is out, too. Nissan claims its partnership with Daimler will continue, though I don’t know why. Who out there is really loving their Mercedes-based Infiniti QX30? Per Reuters:
Japan’s Nissan Motor Co. said on Tuesday it was selling its roughly 1.5 per cent stake in German carmaker Daimler AG through an accelerated transaction, following a similar move by alliance partner Renault in March.
The French carmaker, with Nissan, had exchanged stakes with Daimler a decade ago to strengthen their industrial partnerships.
At [Tuesday’s closing price of 69.85 euros a share], Nissan would reap just under 1.2 billion euros ($US1.2 ($2) billion) from the deal.
5th Gear: U.S. Definitely Doing Something About Chip Shortage, But What Exactly Is Not Clear
Here are two entertaining stories about the U.S. response to the chip shortage. Remember that our auto industry needs semiconductor chips from Taiwan, and Taiwan is pretty busy making semiconductor chips for other industries. So far, our diplomatic efforts have included sending Taiwan a strongly worded letter and Taiwian claiming they didn’t get it.
What are we up to now? Here’s Reuters:
The U.S. Commerce Department is pressing Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (2330.TW) and other Taiwanese firms to prioritise the needs of U.S. automakers to ease chip shortages in the near term, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.
“We’re working hard to see if we can get the Taiwanese and TSMC, which is a big company there, to, you know, prioritise the needs of our auto companies since there’s so many American jobs on the line,” Raimondo said in response to a question from a General Motors Co (GM.N) executive.
“As I said, there’s not a day goes by that we don’t push on that,” she said, adding the medium- and long-term solution would be “simply making more chips in America.”
Great! We’re … pushing … Taiwan, daily! What does this entail? Well, it certainly does not include invoking the Defence Production Act to allocate chips to car companies, as Reuters also reports in another article:
The analysis suggests the White House could opt to reject calls to invoke the Defence Production Act by automakers and a bipartisan set of U.S. lawmakers.
Asked whether using the law was a possibility, the administration official said “the short-term outlook is challenging.”
Reallocating semiconductors to automakers “would result in fewer chips for others,” the official, who is involved in high-level discussions on the issue, told Reuters. Such a move could hurt makers of consumer electronics such as laptops and medical devices like pacemakers, the official added.
“This is the worst nightmare if you’re a supply chain manager,” said another person familiar with the White House’s thinking. “As a nation, it’s terrible.”
If you have any ideas of what to do about the chip shortage, please call your closest White House official. It sounds like they need all the help they can get.
Reverse: America! Number Two In Space, Number One In Bragging
Neutral: If GM Is Making This Much Money, What Else Should It Do?
Other than bring the Wuling Hong Guang Mini EV here, of course.