Home » Why Cars Got A Little More Expensive Last Month And Why It Doesn’t Matter

Why Cars Got A Little More Expensive Last Month And Why It Doesn’t Matter

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I should probably start today’s The Morning Dump with the report that Elon Musk fired the head of the Supercharging team and all of her 500 employees for reasons that sound petty, but we’ve been heavy on Tesla and EV news lately so I’m going to start with a look at the broader market first.

Cars got a little more expensive last month, but it’s not a huge deal and you’ll just have to trust me on that. Or not. I’ll show you the data, too, and you can tell me if I’m right or if I’m wrong.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Ok, fine, let’s talk about Elon Musk. I was in David’s loud Jeep yesterday, which smelled of gasoline every time he de-accelerated/was somehow louder with the top on, and we had the discussion of how to talk about Elon Musk without falling into the trap some sites get into of just knee-jerk pillorying him for everything he does. I will attempt not to do that in light of the news of why Musk fired the entire Supercharging team.

You know who took the announcement of President Biden’s tariffs quite well? China. It’s almost as if they knew it was going to happen! In spite of all the China talk, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares kind of shrugged it all off and said the company is moving forward with plans to sell Chinese EVs wherever he can.

Cars Are More Expensive, Everyone Pani… It’s Fine

Graph of ATP v Incentive
Source: Cox Automotive

There’s a quote from longtime journalist Eric Sevareid, of Edward R. Murrow’s generation, about journalism that’s always stuck with me. He warned of journalists who give “…much time and space to describing the noises of battle, and too little to explaining what the battle is about.”

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I try to avoid that, which is hard as a wannabe numbers guy. I see numbers all the time and I get excited (or depressed) by them and try to translate my feelings to all of you. Today I’m going to do a little of the opposite and say that you shouldn’t get particularly excited about the latest average transaction price, which went up a little in April month-over-month.

After a quarter of declining prices, the average transaction price according to KBB/Cox Automotive reached $48,510, which is up 2.2% from the previous month, though down 0.5% year-over-year. Is this inflation? Is this sorcery or greed? Probably not. Inventory levels remain high and so do incentives, though incentives are down a little bit.

Or, as Cox Automotive puts it:

“The month-over-month increase in pricing in April is likely just a reflection of some pullback on incentives compared to the end of Q1, in March, when many automakers were pushing discounts to hit a strong finish to the quarter,” said Erin Keating, executive analyst at Cox Automotive. “Still, prices are down year over year. Affordability challenges continue to lurk, and as inventory slowly builds, we can expect to see incentives slowly grow through the remainder of 2024 to help keep any sales momentum alive.”

Now that many automakers are moving to quarterly sales reports instead of monthly sales reports, plus the fact that many of these companies are public, means that at the end of every quarter, there’s likely to be this big push in incentives, meaning the best time to buy a car is probably at the end of a quarter.

Elon Musk’s Supercharger Firing Doesn’t Make Elon Musk Look Good

221026151430 Elon Musk Entering Twitter Hq 1026 Screenshot
Screenshot: CNN

Leadership, to me, is more than just results. I think you need to have a shared mission, establish values, create a culture, and forever adapt to meet your goals. It is difficult to do all of those things well and I think, as a leader, the best you can do is surround yourself with the kind of people who will help you achieve your mission and tell you honestly if you’re off track.

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I will let you draw your own conclusions about Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s strengths and weaknesses based on this Reuters report on what led to Tesla’s firing of the entire Supercharging team:

The day before Elon Musk fired virtually all of Tesla’s electric-vehicle charging division last month, they had high hopes as charging chief Rebecca Tinucci went to meet with Musk about the network’s future, four former charging-network staffers told Reuters.

After Tinucci had cut between 15% and 20% of staffers two weeks earlier, part of much wider layoffs, they believed Musk would affirm plans for a massive charging-network expansion.

The meeting could not have gone worse. Musk, the employees said, was not pleased with Tinucci’s presentation and wanted more layoffs. When she balked, saying deeper cuts would undermine charging-business fundamentals, he responded by firing her and her entire 500-member team.

This seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face and, recently, Musk has walked the plans back a bit. Still, as Reuters reports, the results aren’t great:

Three of the former employees called the firings a major setback to U.S. charging expansion because of the relationships Tesla employees had built with suppliers and electric utilities. Tesla had grown into one of the larger customers for many major utilities around the country, and many had hired new staff and planned new infrastructure based on Tesla’s charging-network expansion plans, the former employees said.

Other companies may be able to fill the gap, the former employees said, but the goodwill built over time with utilities and other contractors from Tesla’s large-scale charging investments will be difficult to replicate.

Neat.

China Blows Raspberries At Biden’s New Tariff

Wapo Biden
Source: Washington Post Screenshot

President Biden’s tariffs took square aim at China’s EV industry, as well as other areas where the government thinks China has overly subsidized its industries. Unlike President Trump’s tariffs, which seemed designed to spark a trade war, these new tariffs feel a little more like election-year posturing.

And that’s basically how China is taking it. From Bloomberg:

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In a briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Chinese Embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said accusations of Chinese overcapacity were a “false narrative” aimed at hindering the country’s economy. He praised China’s manufacturing sector as simply more competitive, innovative and efficient.

“We want to tell our US colleagues that blaming others won’t make yourself more competitive,” Liu told reporters. “Stop using overcapacity as an excuse for trade protectionism. Stop politicizing economic and trade issues.”

This is fairly tame and the response, according to most reports, is also expected to be measured.

Stellantis: If You Want Cheap EVs That’s What China Is For

Lovitz Tavares
Source: SNL

The Detroit Free Press has a good wrap-up of a press conference from Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares (pictured) with Leapmotor, a Chinese EV company partnered with Stellantis. Leapmotor plans to sell cars in India, South America, and Australia. A couple of things caught my eye, including:

Whether Stellantis, which owns the Jeep, Ram, Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat brands, would consider bringing Leapmotor EVs to the United States in the future would depend on tariffs, Tavares said, also weighing in on the possibility of entry through Mexico.

“I understand that, of course, if the Chinese would like to come to the U.S. they would eventually use Mexico as a sourcing base. I don’t know if this is something that would be acceptable for the U.S. administration,” Tavares said.

I’m not sure that Chinese automakers have specifically said they want to do the Mexico->US route out loud, but I guess Tavares knows better than I do. Also this:

He noted that if Chinese EVs do come to the U.S. market, however, that Stellantis would consider bringing them as well because U.S. consumers want EVs that cost less than $25,000. One way to do that is through Leapmotor, but “we can find other ways also.”

I’m curious to hear what those other ways are.

What I’m Listening To While Writing TMD

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Is The Polyphonic Spree a band? Is it a cult? Is it a political movement? Is it peak Elder Millennial music? I don’t know, it’s fun. Enjoy it.

The Big Question

Who was the greatest car exec of all time?

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Peter d
Peter d
2 days ago

How about Charles Kettering for a great executive, he led the development of the wildly successful electric starter… of course he also led the (evil) adoption of leaded gasoline. I guess at the end of the day we are all human.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
3 days ago

My vote for GOAT auto exec is Rick Wagoner. AFAIK no other auto exec (C level, not just CEO) has:

* lost over $100bn
* not just squandered but aggressively destroyed a real technical and commercial lead on the single largest seismic change the car industry (and industry in general) has ever had, and will likely ever have, to navigate (ICE to EV)
* bankrupted his employer
* still managed to find lucrative gigs afterwards

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
3 days ago

Greatest car exec of all time? Julie Hamp. After she was arrested for smuggling opioids (oxys) into Japan, Toyota hired her back a few years later. She’s just that good at her job apparently!

https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/ex-exec-hamp-arrested-2015-drug-offence-returns-toyota-2022-06-23/

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