Tag Archive | "Ford"

New-Vehicle Registrations Return to Prerecession Levels


SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — New-vehicle registration volumes for light-duty vehicles reached the highest point in nine years, with more than 17 million new vehicles registered within the United States between Nov. 1, 2014 and Oct. 31, 2015, according to Experian Automotive.

The highest number of new registration volumes on record was 17.4 million in 2006, while the lowest point was during the Great Recession, when volumes fell to 10.2 million in 2009.

“It’s encouraging to see new registrations return to prerecession levels, with lower interest and higher employment rates driving vehicle demand,” said Brad Smith, Experian’s director of automotive market statistics. “While I’m sure the auto industry would like to continue this growth annually, it is important to continually monitor data trends and economic indicators to identify shifts in demand and adjust business strategies accordingly.”

Experian’s data also revealed a shift in what consumers are buying, with crossover utility vehicles now accounting for nearly 24% of the market this year — up more than 100% from 2006.

“The crossover utility vehicle segment, with popular entries like the Ford Escape, the Honda CR-V, the Chevrolet Equinox and the Toyota RAV4, provides consumers with a nice balance between utilitarian need and fuel economy,” Smith added. “All-wheel drive versions and roof racks provide the recreational sportsman with the fit and function needed for weekend getaways, while the rear hatch makes these vehicles a viable grocery-getter as well.”

The Top Five brands by market share during the reporting period were Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Honda and Nissan. They accounted for 54% of the 17 million new-vehicle registrations. By model, the Ford F-150 led the way with a 2.9% share of the market, followed closely by the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Toyota Camry with shares of 2.6% and 2.5%, respectively. The Toyota Corolla, Honda CR-V and Honda Accord tied for fourth with shares of 2.1%.

States leading the way in new-vehicle registrations were California (11.8% share), Texas (9.2%), Florida (7.6%), New York (6%), Illinois (4%).

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U.S. Brands Tap European Auto Recovery as Volkswagen Left Behind


European car sales rose 13.7 percent in November, according to industry data published on Tuesday, with U.S. brands recording strong gains as Volkswagen continued to pay the price of its diesel emissions test-rigging scandal, reports Reuters.

Registrations rose to 1.12 million cars last month from 989,758 a year earlier, the Brussels-based Association of European Carmakers said, with Ford and General Motors’ Opel among the best performers.

Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker by sales, saw its core brand market share tumble to 12.2 percent from 13.5 percent, as sales edged just 3.1 percent higher, underperforming the market. The German group as a whole posted a 3.9 percent gain.

The VW brand, struggling to contain the damage after being exposed in September for cheating U.S. tests for toxic diesel emissions, suffered a more marked 20 percent sales decline in Britain, according to data release on Dec. 4.

The broader European auto recovery is set to continue into 2016 after an 8.6 percent expansion in January-November, Ernst & Young analyst Anil Valsan said.

“The car market is expected to remain on the growth track driven by the positive economic environment, low financing costs, low fuel prices, high discounts and some remaining pent-up demand,” Valsan said.

“However, growth is expected to be slower, with interest rates likely to edge up.”

Fiat Chrysler, Ford and Opel all saw November sales rise more than 18 percent, with GM’s European arm helped by the recently launched Astra compact.

Sales by France’s Renault advanced 15.1 percent, while domestic rival PSA Peugeot Citroen rose 12.8 percent, with a buoyant Peugeot brand tempered by a weaker Citroen performance.

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Ford to Spend $4.5 Billion By 2020 On Electric Vehicles


DEARBORN, Mich. – Ford announced its largest five-year investment ever in electrified vehicles, with a pledge to spend $4.5 billion and introduce 13 new models by 2020, CEO Mark Fields announced today, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Fields said 40% of nameplates globally will be electrified by the end of the decade, up from 13% now. They will be a mix of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full battery-powered electric vehicles.

It’s a move driven by customer demand as well as the need to meet fuel efficiency standards, Fields said.

Among the plans is an update to the Ford Focus electric vehicle coming at the end of 2016 for North America and Europe. It will have an improved range of 100 miles and can reach 80% of its charge in 30 minutes, considered the maximum length of time consumers will easily tolerate. The current Focus Electric has a range of 76 miles and can be fully charged in 3.5 hours with a 240-volt outlet. Getting to an 80% charge takes about 2.5 hours.

Even with a 100-mile range, it’s still a far cry from the Chevrolet Bolt electric car’s 200 mile range that General Motors plans to show next month at the 2016 CES electronics show. The Bolt is expected to go on sale in 2017. Tesla is working on its 200-mile Model 3 electric car, and Audi has an SUV in development for 2018 that aims to travel 300 miles between charges.

Raj Nair, head of global product development, said Ford will be in the game.

“We will introduce vehicles with competitive range within the (five-year) time frame, Nair said.

The expectation is the next-generation Focus will meet or exceed the 200-range milestone that is becoming a necessity to be competitive. Ford is expected to introduce an all-new Focus in 2018, when production of the Focus moves from Michigan Assembly Plant to a facility outside the country, likely in Mexico.

Ford is also expected to show the next-generation Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid next month at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

In the future, all new products will be designed to be powered by engines or batteries.

“All platforms will be capable of both gasoline and electric vehicles,” Nair said. And Ford will also continued to have dedicated families of vehicles that are electric only, as is the case with the current C-Max hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.

Nair said the automaker expects the same return on investment for its $4.5 billion spent on electric projects as it would expect from investment in gasoline-powered vehicles.

The $4.5 billion commitment comes as demand is down for electric vehicles during a period of low gasoline prices.

Ford has six hybrid or fully electrified vehicles for the Ford and Lincoln brands and has sold 58,700 hybrids through the first 11 months of the year and another 1,700 Focus electric cars. With one month to go, they are unlikely to equal 2014 sales of 82,500 hybrids and 1,845 Focus electric cars.

When it comes to electric vehicles, Ford is somewhere in the middle of the pack. It does not set the pace like Toyota, nor is it a laggard like Fiat Chrysler, whose CEO has openly questioned the viability of electric vehicles and which will have its first hybrid in years next year with the all-new Chrysler Town & Country minivan.

Among hybrids, the biggest seller is the Fusion hybrid at almost 30,000 so far this year, followed by the C-Max and C-Max Energi with a combined 21,450 sales so far. The Lincoln MKZ hybrid has added 7,400 sales this year.

Nair said sales of electrified vehicles has been hurt by low gasoline prices but also consumer fear that they will be stranded when their batteries run out.

“Range anxiety still exists,” Nair said. “We need to educate people of the advantages of each type (of electric vehicle).”

Plug-in hybrids make a lot of sense, Nair said. They can go a long way without filling the tank

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Detroit Three, UAW Will Square Off Over Wages, U.S. Jobs


The Big Three U.S. automakers and the United Auto Workers union will kick off bargaining Monday for new contracts that would set how much more robust, post-recession profits the industry shares with workers, and determine union costs to win more U.S. jobs, reports Reuters.

UAW leaders said they will insist on raises for 139,000 blue-collar workers at U.S. plants run by Ford Motor Co, General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles after rounds of bargaining in 2007 and 2011 that led to substantial concessions. Union leaders and chief executives of the Detroit Three are scheduled to stage public handshakes next week, starting Monday. Their current contracts expire Sept. 14.

Union President Dennis Williams has said he wants to narrow the gap between veteran workers, who make about $28 an hour, and employees hired since 2011 with a “second tier” hourly wage of $16 to $19.

Labor accounts for a declining share of a vehicle’s cost, said Sean McAlinden, chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research, noting that the three automakers’ costs for UAW members fell to 5.7 percent last year from 11.5 percent in 2007.

But executives at the Detroit Three said their ability to add more UAW jobs depends on offsetting increases in wages or benefits with gains in productivity. Health care costs promise to be a central issue, as the automakers face paying a so-called “Cadillac tax” of 40 percent on rich UAW medical plans starting in 2018.

John Fleming, head of Ford manufacturing, said the company expects to boost productivity by 6 to 7 percent in all its factories. “Every dollar that we don’t take out is a dollar that your competitor can spend on making their vehicles more competitive,” he said.

The automakers’ leverage is strengthened by the union’s failure to organize auto plants in the southern United States operated by Asian and European manufacturers, and by the growing capability of Mexican auto workers and suppliers to build cars for the U.S. market.

Ford jolted the union on Thursday by announcing plans to move production of its small Focus and C-max hybrid cars out of a factory in suburban Detroit by 2018. The company said the Wayne, Michigan, factory’s future would be a subject of bargaining in this round of talks.

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Strong Sales Could Shift Ford, GM to Higher Gear


Shares of U.S. automakers may finally be able to accelerate, reports Reuters.

Investors are closely awaiting next week’s May sales data, expected to come in near record levels. Meeting those forecasts could be enough to lift the sector – among the cheapest in the market – putting the sting of product recalls and tepid recent growth in the rear view mirror.

Estimated sales of 1.6 million new cars and trucks in May would make for a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 17.4 million vehicles, according to Edmunds.com, a car buying platform.

“This is going to be one of the best months ever,” said David Kudla, chief investment strategist of Mainstay Capital Management in Grand Blanc, Michigan. Kudla sees May sales approaching $40 billion, not far from the $40.3 billion record in August 2014.

Weak auto results contributed to flat overall retail sales in April, but May is expected to represent a rebound. Lower gas prices could boost demand for sports utility vehicles and trucks, which have higher price tags and better margins.

There is also pent-up demand for new vehicles as consumers have been holding on to their cars for longer since the financial crisis. The average age of U.S. cars is now between 10 and 11 years, Kudla said.

The timing of the Memorial Day holiday also helped May sales, according to Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California.

“Because there was a full week of May after the holiday weekend, shoppers had plenty of time to take advantage of the deals being widely communicated in dealer and automaker marketing messages,” Caldwell said.

Credit for auto loans is expanding, a positive sign for the sector, noted Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.

“The strong dollar created a headwind, and GM had some high-profile product recalls, but given current trends, I would expect sales growth to continue.”

Both GM and Ford appear undervalued at current levels. GM’s forward price-to-earnings ratio is 7.62, well below the S&P 500’s 17.4 ratio, while Ford’s P/E is 8.77, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Both also rank among the cheapest S&P 500 stocks per StarMine’s intrinsic value, which looks at anticipated growth over the next decade. GM is the fourth-cheapest stock in the S&P by this metric, with StarMine estimating that shares should trade at $81.69, more than twice its Thursday closing price of $36.39. StarMine calculates that Ford is the 10th cheapest stock in the S&P, and that it would need to rise 79 percent to meet its intrinsic value.

Despite that, shares of Ford are down 1.7 percent in 2015, underperforming the S&P’s 2.6 percent rise. GM is up 3 percent on the year, thanks largely to a $5 billion stock buyback program announced in March.

While auto stocks could rally if the sales come in as expected, it could spell bad news for the broader market, as any sign of consumer strength could nudge the U.S. Federal Reserve into raising interest rates more quickly that is currently anticipated. Most analysts expect the first rate hike to come later this year, but opinions are split on whether it will occur in September or December.

“Good data would make the Fed raise rates sooner. I believe the stock market would sell off (on strong auto data) because it would shorten that timeline,” said Battle who expects a rate hike in the fall.

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Will Auto Dealers Become an Endangered Species?


It’s been the best of times for auto dealers since the recession.

Those that survived picked up business from those that didn’t. They reorganized their operations to be leaner and more efficient. Auto sales soared 59 percent to 16.5 million last year from the 2010 low point, reports The Detroit News.

But reports from two different analysts say that dealers better start preparing for stormy, disruptive weather.

Looking several decades out, expect auto sales to plunge, Brian Johnson, an analyst at Barclays Research, recently told auto industry investors.

This will be caused by the rise of autonomous, or robotic, cars.

Looking forward 25 years, Johnson says about half of people will still purchase vehicles for driving in rural areas and for jobs that require driving. Everyone else — people who use vehicles purely as a means of transportation — will be sharing autonomous cars.

That would slash annual U.S. auto sales to 9.5 million.

“A historical precedent exists — horses once filled the many roles that cars fill today, but as the automobile came along, the population of horses dropped sharply,” Johnson said.

He estimated that such a transition would force manufacturers “to shrink dramatically to survive,” with General Motors and Ford slashing North American production by up to 68 percent and 58 percent, respectively. Such a reduction could turn thousands of auto dealerships into surplus real estate.

Meanwhile Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley Research is telling investors to expect a massive consolidation among new and used car dealers and the service business.

“The U.S. auto retail pie is worth nearly $1 trillion split roughly 10,000 ways,” Jonas said.

“Putting aside dealer franchise laws … just given the technological changes we anticipate hitting the automotive industry, we think there could be some room for a bit of consolidation here,” he said, predicting the business will fall to “as few as tens of groups in the future.”

Much of this will come from people bypassing dealers.

“As consumers move from owning cars to sharing cars auto retailers will face fundamental changes to their place in the mobility ecosystem,” Jonas said.

This will raise legal questions as dealers attempt to use the patchwork of state franchise laws to protect their turf.

Efforts by dealer groups in various states to limit Tesla Motors’ move to bypass car dealers and sell its vehicles through company-owned stores is an early example of this tension

Other analysts are already pointing to the lawsuit filed earlier this month by the California New Car Dealers Association against TrueCar Inc., which operates a digital platform for car sales, as an example of dealers attempting to protect their business from technology-based interlopers.

“If a tech firm were to operate a fleet of say 10 million cars in a pay-by-the-mile or by-the-minute model, would such a business fall under the umbrella of current dealer franchise laws?” Jonas asked. “It’s a gray area. But as this issue attracts broader scrutiny and analysis we expect the gray to become black-and-white rather quickly.”

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