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Elon Musk Swears Tesla Isn’t Having Demand Problems

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Elon Musk is adamant that Tesla does not have a demand problem for its vehicles, Geely is in the planning stages of boosting its 7.6 percent stake in ever-struggling Aston Martin, and Tesla finally admits its vehicles are not ready to be approved as full self-driving this year. All that scrumptious automotive news and more in The Morning Shift for Thursday, October 20, 2022.

1st Gear: Musk Says Tesla Demand is Fine. Quit Asking

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is adamant the EV automaker doesn’t have a demand problem despite economic issues. Musk says the company is set to sell every single vehicle it can produce in this quarter from its four factories in Texas, California, Germany and China.

The company will reportedly increase production by 50 percent annually for the foreseeable future. That’s all well and good, but Musk admits deliveries may fall below that number due to a number of issues.

Oh, and on the third quarter call, Musk reiterated that the Cybertruck would be coming next year, but he wouldn’t go into any sort of details. Sure, bud. Sure. From Automotive News: 

Tesla reported third-quater net income of $3.29 billion, nearly double levels a year earlier, and lower than expected third quarter revenue, as the global EV leader delivered fewer vehicles than expected.

[…]

Tesla missed market expectations but still delivered a record 343,830 vehicles, a 42 percent increase over last year. In the U.S., the Automotive News Research & Data Center estimates the EV maker racked up a 47 percent increase in sales during the quarter, to a record 114,000.

Tesla’s stock market valuation is partially based on its plan to sell millions of EVs annually, compared to last year’s sales of 936,172 vehicles. Musk has speculated Tesla could be selling 10 million to 20 million EVs a year in the early part of the next decade.

Through the first nine months of 2022, Tesla’s sales growth ran at about 45 percent. The company said it’s still on track to hit a 50 percent production increase, putting it at about 1.4 million. But as Musk said Wednesday, deliveries may fall below that target.

One possible sign of easing demand, according to some analysts, is the 22,000-unit gap between production and deliveries in the third quarter. Tesla is usually able to deliver the vast majority of output with end-of-quarter hustle.

Other than economic issues, part of the reason for demand letting up could be the fact there are now a number of very viable electric competitors to Tesla’s market domination.

2nd Gear: Geely Wants More of Aston Martin

Li Shufu, the founder and chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holdings, wants a bigger piece of the Aston Martin pie. The company already owns 7.6 percent of the struggling British luxury vehicle maker, but Geely is looking to raise that number to around 10 percent in the near future.

The move could reportedly help both companies in terms of technology sharing and EV know-how. However, the plans are in the early stages, and there could be pushback from existing shareholders like Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Lawrence Stroll, a Canadian billionaire. From Bloomberg:

At the time of the investment on Sept. 30, Geely said it saw potential opportunities to collaborate with Aston Martin. A move on the manufacturer synonymous with James Bond films may precipitate Geely seeking to tap into the carmaker’s brand appeal and expand into new markets.

Geely, which owns Volvo Car AB and a plethora of shareholdings in major automotive companies including Mercedes, also took control of British roadster maker Lotus in 2017. Earlier this year, Lotus unveiled an electric SUV that will be built in China and spearhead a broader model lineup with a plan to boost production to 150,000 cars, up from fewer than 2,000.

In July, Aston Martin said it had rejected a proposal by Geely and Investindustrial for an equity investment of as much as £1.3 billion ($1.5 billion). Since then, its shares have slumped almost 40%.

While working on its turnaround, Aston Martin has seen key models delayed, leading to further measures to prop up the company. This included a £654 million capital raise to improve its balance sheet, bringing in Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Poor Aston is clearly struggling right now, so it may not be the dumbest idea to get some more outside help.

3rd Gear: SHOCKING: No Tesla FSD This Year

I know it’s hard to believe, but Tesla’s full self-driving software won’t gain regulatory approval by the end of 2022. CEO Elon Musk made the announcement that indicates the program has yet to appease safety regulators. Basically, the vehicle cannot be driven without someone behind the wheel. Again, shocking.

The $15,000 optional piece of software that goes along with Autopilot can’t be used without human oversight. That means it isn’t really “full self-driving,” of course. From Reuters:

Musk told a post-earnings call on Wednesday that all FSD users in North America will get an upgraded version at the end of the year, adding that while its cars are not ready to have no one behind the wheel, drivers would rarely have to touch the controls.

“The car will be able to take you from your home to your work, your friend’s house, the grocery store without you touching the wheel,” he said.

“It’s a separate matter as to will it have regulatory approval. It won’t have regulatory approval at that time,” he added.

Musk also said Tesla hopes to provide an update to FSD in 2023 to show regulators that the car is much safer than the average human.

“Musk is opening the possibility Tesla will have a more difficult path to approval for FSD given heightened NHTSA and other scrutiny,” said Craig Irwin, an analyst at Roth Capital.

This shouldn’t really be surprising to anyone, as Tesla has pretty much never had a self-imposed deadline it didn’t miss.

We shall see. (Spoiler: we will not.)

4th Gear: Selling Oil Reserve to Lower Pump Prices

President Biden announced that the U.S. will sell off the rest of his release from the country’s emergency oil reserve by the end of the year. After that, he’ll begin refilling the stockpile. This is being done in an effort to bring down gas prices right ahead of the all-important midterm elections in the beginning of November.

It’s reported that Biden’s plan is to add enough supply to prevent some not-too-far-in-the-future oil price spikes that could raise gas prices around the country. From Reuters:

He said 15 million barrels of oil will be offered from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) – part of a record 180 million-barrel release that began in May, and added the United States is ready to tap reserves again early next year to rein in prices.

[…]

Biden’s use of the federal government’s reserve to manage oil price spikes and attempts to increase U.S. production underscore how the Ukraine crisis and inflation have changed the policies of a president who came into office vowing to cut U.S. dependence on the fossil fuel industry.

The White House had an added sense of urgency after the Saudi Arabia-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries rankled Biden by siding with Russia and agreeing to a production cut, prompting the president to declare that the U.S.-Saudi relationship needs a revaluation.

“With my announcement today, we’re going to continue to stabilize markets and decrease the prices at a time when the actions of other countries have caused such volatility,” Biden said.

Bidding on the excess oil is reportedly supposed to start soon and will be delivered in December.

Also, now would be a good time to note that the President really does not have much control over gas prices, so stop it before you write an annoying comment.

5th Gear: Investors Sue VW Over Climate-Change Related Lobbying Activity

Six Volkswagen investors have filed a lawsuit against the German automaker because it refused to discuss whether its climate-change related lobbying actives threatened their investments at the company’s annual general meeting. From Reuters:

The investors – Swedish public pension funds AP7, AP2, AP3, AP4, Danish AkademikerPension and the Church of England Pensions Board – allege that the automaker’s lobbying via its membership of automotive and business associations runs counter to its public messaging on the importance of the green transition.

This exposes the company, and their investments – representing around 0.1% of Volkswagen shares – to operational and reputational damage, they argued in a statement.

While Volkswagen does disclose its trade association memberships, the investors have previously said it should go further and say whether the associations’ aims are compatible with the car manufacturer’s emissions-cutting targets.

The case, which is being filed in Germany, is going to be a test of whether or not companies (not just VW) have the right right to refuse an included item on an annual general meeting’s agenda. It’ll also be a test of whether it can be kept off of next year’s agenda as well.

A spokesperson for Volkswagen said that adding the provision under discussion to the articles of incorporation would interfere with the executive board’s management authority in an inadmissible way, so could not be solved in an AGM.

Reverse: Not Good!

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