Someone skipped their decaf this morning and we got a brimming cup-full of highly caffeinated analyst smack talk, which is my favorite varietal of public criticism. What’s going on here? Fisker Inc., the electric startup founded by car designer and sometimes carmaker Henrik Fisker, told investors it would make 42,400 vehicles this year. Not everyone believed this. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look at India’s expanding car market, Ford’s questionable sourcing, and pedestrian deaths. A lot of this news is a bummer, so let’s revel in glorious quote-getting while we can.
Fisker Stock Up On Order Expansion
Thanks to SPAC deal, Fisker Inc. is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol FSR, which gives us casual viewers a chance to see how the market treats an electric startup (most are private). The company’s stock managed to reach $28.50 in March of 2021, before crashing to earth and hovering around the $7-8 range for the about the last six months.
Skeptical investors pushed the price down to the mid $5 range in the last week, but the company’s latest financial release yesterday sent the stock back up to above $7. What did Fisker say? First, it stated that orders for its Ocean SUV jumped to 65,000 vehicles, up from 62,000 in October. Then the company reiterated its goal to build 42,400 vehicles in 2023.
Let’s check in with Garrett Nelson, who is an analyst at CFRA Research, a largely reputable organization that describes itself as “one of the world’s largest independent investment research firms”:
Ok, maybe that’s Adam Sandler from the film “Billy Madison.”
Let’s get the actual quote, via this Reuters story on the Fisker news:
Garrett Nelson, an analyst at CFRA Research, said the target was “borderline ludicrous given the struggles of EV peers and Fisker’s production of 56 vehicles so far.”
I highlight all of this not because I necessarily agree with Nelson, but because it’s hilarious. The one advantage that Fisker has going for it, which is legitimate, is that it uses contract manufacturing. Fisker ain’t building a gigafactory, but instead it’s using Austrian company Manga Steyr to build Oceans. Later, Fisker is planning to use Foxconn’s new facility in Lordstown (where VW will also maybe build its Scout) to make the cute little Fisker Pear. Above is a patent sketch of the Pear.
It’s also worth noting this quote from CEO Henrik Fisker, via Reuters:
The company had restricted production “on purpose,” he said, as it expects testing for homologation — the certification for roadworthiness — to be complete by March. That will be followed by regulatory approvals and deliveries.
Both the Fisker Ocean and Pear are attractive and nicely priced, with the former starting at a promised $37,499 and the latter projected to start below $30,000. The company also promises competitive EV ranges (think 250 miles for the small Pear and up to 350 miles for the Ocean).
If the startup can overcome the supplier issues everyone else is having and actually deliver half of what they promise this year that would be a real victory.
India’s Car Market Is Still Booming
The world is still dealing with a car market that saw millions of cars pulled from production due to various shortages. These issues are starting to ease and that means an increase in product available for consumers. You know who is ready to buy those cars? India.
India’s passenger vehicle sales are expected grow about 9%-10% in fiscal year 2024, roughly 20% above pre-pandemic peak levels, as strong demand and easing chip shortages prop-up the world’s fourth-largest car market, ratings agency Crisil said on Tuesday.
Sharper focus by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on SUVs, including compact SUVs, fuelled by customer preference, “is driving growth, even as sales of sedans and entry level passenger cars remains sluggish,” Anuj Sethi, senior director at the agency said.
SUVs are expected to nearly double their share in overall domestic sales to roughly 55% in fiscal 2024 from about 28% in fiscal 2018, Sethi said.
The compact SUV boom is real, and India’s biggest automakers are ready, with Tata, Maruti Suzuki, and Hyundai all expanding their offerings. Check out the new Maruti Brezza above! It’s a mild hybrid with about 103 horsepower that gets about 40 MPG. Not bad.
Of course, there’s a larger question about the environmental impact of turning a massive country with a quickly growing population into the next big car market. This is, probably, net bad. It’s also fairly hypocritical to state that it’s net bad given I live in a country that built itself on cheap gasoline.
The F-150 Lightning Is Allegedly Built With Materials That Are Contributing To Polluting The Brazilian Rainforest
I keep seeing Ford F-150 Lightnings around town. I think I like them. The F-150 is the truck I think of when I think of a truck, and Ford managed to leapfrog most of its competition by beating Tesla, Ram, Chevy, and others to production of an EV version.
About that production…
There’s a big Bloomberg investigation with a bunch of neat graphics here showing how the materials used to make the F-150 Lightning partially come from a refinery that’s harming the Brazilian rainforest and the people who live there. Not a good look. If you don’t have a Bloomberg login, The Detroit News has a pretty good wrap up here, which I’ll quote from.
The news agency reported Monday that aluminum used in the truck’s frames is connected to rust-colored bauxite that comes from a mine “that has long faced allegations of pollution and land appropriation” and an ore refinery that’s accused of making people sick.
A class-action lawsuit has been filed with 11,000 residents of neighborhoods near the Hydro Alunorte refinery that names owner Norsk Hydro ASA of Norway as the one responsible for polluting rivers and streams, according to Bloomberg. The suit says there’s toxic mud with elevated levels of aluminum and other heavy metals, and Alunorte’s actions have caused health problems including cancer and birth defects.
Not great. Ford has touted its use of aluminum to reduce weight in its trucks and that aluminum has to come from somewhere. Of course, much of our current EV production is dirty. Tesla is notorious for its many issues with the EPA.
With a new, progressive government in charge in Brazil, we’ll have to wait and see if more news like this suddenly starts coming to light.
Pedestrian Deaths Way Up: Report
Loving cars means wrestling with some serious issues. There are the larger inefficiencies of building a society around cars. There’s the global environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions and the local environmental impact of production (see above) and harmful particulate emissions.
More immediately, at least in this country, we keep running over bikers and pedestrians with our big, heavy cars and trucks. And it’s apparently getting worse. The nonpartisan Government’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has a report out today (you can read it here) showing just how bad it’s gotten recently. Here’s a highlight from their press release:
Drivers in the United States struck and killed 3,434 people in the first half of 2022 – up 5%, or 168 more deaths, from the same period the year before, according to a new analysis from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). This deeply troubling projection follows a 40-year high in pedestrian deaths in 2021 and continues a gruesome decade-long trend of more people dying while walking on U.S. roads.
This sucks. Why is this happening? Also from the GHSA:
Why are more people walking dying on U.S. roads? A combination of factors, including a surge in dangerous driving that began at the start of the pandemic and has not lessened; larger, heavier vehicles that are more likely to seriously injure or kill people on foot in the event of a crash; roads designed to prioritize fast-moving traffic over slower speeds that are safer for pedestrians; and inadequate infrastructure such as sidewalks, crosswalks and lighting in many parts of the country.
Pretty much anyone who drives anywhere has seen all of these issues firsthand. It’s the responsibility of local and regional governments to build and design better streets and to have sensible speed limits in areas with a lot of pedestrians. This means that it’s our responsibility as citizens to demand these changes.
In the meantime, the best thing we can do as individuals is to drive carefully and with a high level of awareness in places where it’s likely we’ll see people outside of cars.
The Big Question
How many cars will Fisker (i.e. Manga Steyr) build this year? Put down your guesses.
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Photos: Fisker, Ford, GHSA, Suzuki