I don’t know if y’all know this, but the Ford Maverick is good. And while the price isn’t so low anymore that you might be inclined to accidentally order one, it’s still a smoking good deal. Ford’s finally starting to build enough so that the brand can actually figure out how high the demand for these trucks really is, which is good news for just about everyone.
While we’re talking about good news, we’ll get into a little explainer about how the addition of the Genesis brand has lifted loyalty for the Hyundai-Kia. On the bad news front, we’ve got more intel on the potential playbook the UAW might use to strike. On the “duh” news front, the CEO of Mercedes-Benz doesn’t think Europe is ready to go all EV by 2030.
Let’s do this thing.
Ford Has The Two Most Popular Hybrid Trucks In America
I’m sympathetic to the viewpoint that hybrids are just a half-measure that merely delays, not eases, the transition to electrification. This is the wrong view, but I’m sympathetic to it. Short of doubling our investment in EVs or suddenly letting in Chinese automakers, it’s hard to see how we’re going to transition everyone into an EV tomorrow. Suppliers aren’t ready. Consumers aren’t ready. Our infrastructure is not ready.
All of those problems are solvable and it’s in the best interest of the planet, which most of us live on, to solve them. There’s a good report out today about how hard it is to even get your EV fixed if you did buy one. Hybrids represent a reasonable gateway drug to electrification and, while I think Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) are the ideal choice, regular old hybrids are at least an improvement. You know what’s also an improvement? Making smaller vehicles.
The enormous success of the Ford Maverick is proof that, priced well and packaged smartly, smaller hybrid pickup trucks are desirable to a decent-sized segment of the population. Ford released its August sales data, and its 2% year-over-year increase is pretty paltry compared to the competition. A big chunk of this is due to a stop-sale for the Ford Explorer over a camera issue, which probably cost the company 10-12k units in sales last month. The F-150 Lightning was also down significantly, but Ford points to a production issue as the main cause.
What did well? The Mach-E is finally back in full production, so sales were up 61% year-over-year, making it the second best-selling EV last month behind the Tesla Model Y according to Ford. The Bronco Sport, unsurprisingly, is making the Escape essentially obsolete. Hybrid vehicles were up 31.9%, which for Ford includes the popular F-150 Hybrid and Maverick Hybrid, which the company says are the two most popular hybrid trucks in the United States (take that Toyota Tundra Hybrid I almost forgot existed!).
The Maverick overall (the company doesn’t break down hybrid sales by model) was up 161.4% as the company adds shifts and gears up for sales. As reported by Maverick Truck Club, the factory in Mexico where these vehicles are built was down for two weeks in August, but the company still managed to produce more trucks that month than it did for much of the last year.
As a reminder, the Ford Maverick XL Hybrid now starts at $27,150 delivered, and for that you get a totally capable FWD vehicle that gets 42 MPG city and 33 MPG highway (37 MPG combined). It’s not as good a deal as when it started, but no other gas-powered trucks get anywhere close to that.
I’m a big fan of the Hyundai Santa Cruz as well, and I’d love to see a PHEV version of that, or a small hybrid truck from GM or Stellantis. Get to it, brands! We’ll see how the Toyota Tacoma Hybrid does, but my guess is it’ll do well.
The Genesis Brand Is Great For Kia-Hyundai Loyalty
This seems obvious, but there was a time when automakers didn’t make cars for everyone but focused, instead, on niches. You can debate who ultimately changed that, but I take the accepted line that legendary auto exec Alfred P. Sloan conceptualized General Motors as a company you could grow with as a consumer, stepping up from a cheap Chevy to the big Caddy when you entered upper management.
The combined Hyundai Motor Group, which includes Kia and Genesis as well as Hyundai, has rather quickly done the same in the United States. If you remember, the Genesis luxury brand started out as a not-so-luxurious coupe in 2007 and morphed into a standalone nameplate in 2016 with the Genesis-branded G90 sedan. Now you can begin your life as a Kia Soul owner and work your way up to buying the nearly $100k G90 E-Supercharger.
It’s one of the reasons why the Hyundai Motor Group now experiences a relatively high level of loyalty, even without a big pickup truck. Market intelligence firm S&P Global has the details in its latest blog:
In 2015, though the Hyundai and Kia brands’ combined U.S. registrations were strong at 1.39 million, its customer loyalty was a middling 55.2 percent. The Genesis brand had just launched, with no SUVs in the lineup. Fast forward to calendar 2022 and not only had Hyundai-Kia U.S. sales increased to 1.45 million – despite pandemic-related shortages affecting all automakers – you can tack on another 56,140 sales for Genesis. This combination of brands has resulted in loyalty skyrocketing to 62.3 percent in calendar 2022, while industry average loyalty has fallen during the recent pandemic period.
“By offering Hyundai, Kia, and now Genesis, Hyundai Motor Group has shown it can attract new owners and keep them,” said Tom Libby, associate director of loyalty solutions and industry analysis for S&P Global Mobility. “This opens up more options for a household that has the means to move up to a luxury vehicle, to stay within the corporation in a way that did not exist before Genesis.”
The leapfrogging of Genesis over Infiniti goes to show how important it is to build great cars people want.
Mercedes-Benz CEO: We Will Maintain ‘Tactical Flexibility’ On EV Sales
It seems like it was just yesterday I was writing about how German automakers need to take building good EVs for the entire market seriously or else. Because it was yesterday. Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Kaellenius has some thoughts, as told to Reuters at the big auto show in Munch.
Europe’s EV market had grown significantly in recent years but likely wouldn’t be ready for all-electric sales by 2030, Kaellenius said on the sidelines of the Munich show.
“It’s not going to be 100% in 2030, obviously… from the whole European market, but probably from the Mercedes side as well,” he said.
“We will be ready … but we will also have tactical flexibility,” he said, referring to the ability to produce electric or combustion-engine vehicles on the same production line.
He’s probably not wrong, though I think Europe is in a better position to quickly make the transition to EVs than the United States is.
Could The UAW Impose Strategic Strikes?
If you listen to the rhetoric of UAW President Shawn Fain you might assume that the auto workers are going to strike against all three U.S. automakers, all their suppliers, and probably a few Dunkin Donuts just for funsies. That’s probably a terrible idea. Why?
Credit to Michael Martinez at Automotive News for a great rundown of all the UAW’s options, which include strategic strikes at places like transmission plants for profitable SUVs and pickups as opposed to, you know, everywhere. Why wouldn’t the UAW necessarily want to undertake the grand gesture of striking everywhere?
A mass walkout of nearly 150,000 workers would give Fain, who has a penchant for theatrics, the kind of headline-grabbing moment he often seeks. But it would rapidly deplete the UAW’s $825 million strike fund, a fact not lost on members who have publicly questioned whether the union can sustain a simultaneous strike long enough to strong-arm the automakers into better deals.
At $500 a week per member — potentially plus health care costs — the union has a few months’ worth of strike pay on hand.
A few months is still a long time, but as the report goes on to explain, a tactical strike could limit the impact on the strike fund while having an outsized impact on profitability, though it’s not a perfect solution:
“With just a few plants, you could have a pretty substantial impact to profitable vehicles without having that many employees walk,” Jeff Schuster, executive vice president of GlobalData, told Automotive News.
Such a tactic would limit what the union would have to pay out on the picket line since workers at plants shuttered for parts shortages would not get strike pay. But it could be fraught with legal risk, and people familiar with the matter say non-striking workers who get temporarily laid off would not be eligible for supplemental unemployment benefits from the automakers, and eligibility for traditional unemployment pay could vary based on state laws.
I guess we’ll find out in nine days.
The Big Question
If you had to buy a pickup truck right now, what would you buy? If you did recently purchase a pickup truck let us know what you got.
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