Auto sales revived including EVs, Musk and Tesla beyond mega-celebrity status

Welcome back to Green Auto Market, which went on hiatus in October 2020. Where was I the past seven months? More on that later. If that article doesn’t get published by editors I’m pitching to, it will run in my new sibling publication, Time Capsule 21st Century.

While it looked like auto manufacturing assembly plants were going to be closed for the remainder of the year, there was enough production for 14.5 million units to be sold in the US last year. That was down from 17 million the year before, but it seemed astonishing that it could be anywhere near it. Some believed that the private car was perfect during the pandemic — a good way to stay sealed off and separated from fellow humans. 

Global car sales had a similar trend, but electric vehicle sales were slightly higher than in 2019. International Energy Agency thinks it would have been up even higher if additional stimulus measure could have been taken by governments. 

So what does the global auto industry look like this year as the Covid-19 chokehold continues to loosen up? While the semiconductor shortage is creating a drag on production and sales, global new vehicle sales are expected to rise 8-10 percent this year — bringing it to 83-85 million new vehicle units sold versus about 77 million last year, according to an S&P Global report

Electric vehicle sales, which include battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, are expected to make up 6-8 percent of the global new vehicle share this year, after making up 4.4 percent in 2020 and 2.5 percent in 2019. The European market is expected to drive much of the growth with EVs making up 15-20 percent of European new vehicle sales in 2021.

S&P Global says EVs will play a role in green-led economic recovery from Covid-19 with three telling signs backing up their argument: the Green Deal in Europe, the ambitions of the Biden Administration to drastically curb emissions in this decade, and the Chinese government’s targets to increase the proportion of EVs to 20 percent of sales by 2025 (from 5.5 percent in 2020).

Tesla continues to lead the global market with 16 percent share of plug-in vehicle sales in Q1 2021 making up 184,500 units sold. China’s SAIC came in second place at 145,034 units, followed by Volkswagen Group at 130,563 (12 percent share vs 13 percent), BMW Group: 77,873 (7 percent share); and Stellantis: 66,613 (6 percent share). Stellantis N.V. is a Dutch-based automaker, formed in 2021 as a 50-50 cross-border merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group.

How’s Musk doing beyond his rock star status?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to enjoy mega-celebrity status through his recent appearance hosting Saturday Night Live, with a guest appearance by his mother and many references to cryptocurrency. Displaying a bit of vulnerability was part of it.

“I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL,” he said. “Or, at least the first to admit it, so I won’t make a lot of eye contact with the cast tonight. But don’t worry, I’m pretty good at running human in emulation mode.”

He was acting differently than we’d ever seen him, which says more about the requirements of hosting SNL than about what his personality is like. But don’t forget the power of celebrity, especially in the US. Musk represents a classic story in this country — born overseas (South Africa), immigrating first to Canada and later moving to the US as a Canadian student and eventually gaining US citizenship. How he was able to keep his equity in what was soon to become PayPal, and did very well when the company went public at a $1.5 billion valuation in 2002. 

Now he’s up there with Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos as the business titans of the 21st century — but his Tesla and SpaceX companies do continue to demonstrate impressive achievements. What about strong performance during the worst pandemic in over 100 years? 

On Wednesday, Tesla had a $563.4B market cap compared to $55.53B for General Motors, $12.11B for Ford, $159.29B for Toyota, and $34.10B for BMW. A year ago, Tesla stock had dipped way down to about $165.50.

As for other impressive Tesla numbers: 499,550 global deliveries in 2020 compared to 112,000 deliveries in 2019. Tesla’s sales in China more than doubled last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent filing. The carmaker’s sales in China of $6.66 billion last year accounted for about a fifth, or 21 percent of the $31.54 billion total. 

Then there was another major achievement, at sister company SpaceX: its Starlink is now delivering initial beta satellite internet service both domestically and internationally, and will continue expansion to near global coverage of the populated world in 2021. Musk said that its Starlink subsidiary could be going public, although SpaceX won’t be. 

Labor relations continue to be tense with Musk and those who’d like to see the United Auto Workers represent them. In March, the National Labor Relations Board decided that Tesla violated labor laws when it fired a union activist, and when CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter in 2018: “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?”

There’s been less attention on how tough of a boss Musk can be for management staff working at Tesla or SpaceX. He’s mostly being depicted in the media as a legendary corporate magnate who has excellent tips on how to make your company succeed. It appears his credibility increased quite a lot as the numbers increased during the worst pandemic we’ve ever seen. 

And in other news:

Ford electrified vehicle sales totaled 11,172 in April – up 262 percent and a new all-time monthly sales record. Mustang Mach-E sales totaled 1,951, F-150 PowerBoost sales totaled 3,365, while Escape electrified sales totaled 3,695 in April. President Joe Biden visited one of Ford’s test tracks in Detroit, and was able to take an electric F-150 Lightning out for a ride. He figures it goes from 0 to 60 in about 4.4 seconds. Ford was also pleased to see that demand for the Mustang Mach-E has shot up, with about 70 percent of customers who ordered them being new to Ford.

Daimler Truck and Shell New Energies said on Thursday they have signed an agreement under which Shell commits to setting up hydrogen-refuelling stations for heavy-duty trucks that Daimler Truck will sell to its customers. Under the agreement, Shell will from 2024 launch heavy-duty hydrogen-refuelling stations between the green hydrogen production hubs at the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands and in Cologne and Hamburg in Germany. Daimler Truck meanwhile aims to start delivering heavy-duty hydrogen trucks to customers in 2025.

Time Capsule 21st Century, a sister publication to GAM, just kicked off. Here are a few of the highlights…….. If time capsules were affordable, structurally sound, and placed in areas where future generations — hundreds and thousands of years from now — could be guaranteed access to the material, would you participate? What would you place in that time capsule? A Julias Caesar murder mystery, Catholic prayer kit, ‘Even Babies Love Him’ campaign flyer, are among my items you can see and read about. ………. Here’s a non-official survey I conducted when asking people who’ve avoided get ting a Covid-19 vaccination on why they went that route………. Do you think rock n’ roll has died? Are you way behind on who’s winning music awards, selling out concerts, and filling the airwaves/streaming services? Have you lost your favorite tapes/albums/CDs? There is hope. Start making your own playlists. Do you love music as much as I do? Read on for more on why you should pay for a music service and craft your own playlists……………Here’s one from 2006. How close did I get? “Forget Nostradamus. I Got Your Predictions Right Here.”

Here’s how you can participate in Time Capsule:

  • Post your comments in a forum on your experience with the vaccination:
  • Leave a comment at the end of any of the posts
  • Let the editor know if you’d like to share your writing with readers. Please email me at jtlesage1@yahoo.com if you’re interested in being part of it.
  • Put your name on the subscriber list (see top of right column) for free newsletters. 

Ever hear about What3Words? Developers of this advanced tracking technology have released to the world something that can track you by your cell phone down to a 3 x 3 meter square. Much better than Phase 1 that could only identify where you were in between cell phone towers that were miles apart. Then Phase 2 came out after that tapping into the GPS on your cell phone along with beaming off satellites and cell phone towers to narrow it down to 99 square meters. Now it gets much closer, and its starting to show up on tracking software. Some people may be upset that their personal privacy is being violated even further, but others don’t have that complaint — especially if they’re stuck on a mountainside and could have frozen to death unless the helicopter could find them and save their life. 

On Wednesday, May 26, The State of Sustainable Fleets report will be released and discussed by an expert panel. The repot gathered real-world data directly from early-adopter fleets across the US to provide deep sector-specific insights into the adoption of natural gas, propane, battery electric, and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles, against a baseline of diesel and gasoline vehicles. The analysis includes public, private, and for-hire fleets, including school, municipal/shuttle, urban delivery, refuse, utility, transit, short-haul, and long-haul sectors. This first-of-its-kind report includes unique insights into vehicle sale trends, anticipated vehicle development timelines, real-world infrastructure and fuel costs, and the growing adoption of renewable fuels.

That day, featured panel speakers will include John Morris, Executive Vice President and COO, Waste Management; Drew Cullen, Senior Vice President, Fuels & Facility Services, Penske Truck Leasing; Rakesh Aneja, Head of eMobility, Daimler Trucks North America; and Patrick Carré, Vice President, Commercial Road Transport Sectors & Decarbonization, Royal Dutch Shell.

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