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Harley Is Doing Better Than Expected

Illustration for article titled Harley Is Doing Better Than Expected

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The Morning ShiftAll your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn’t your time more important?

I’m as surprised as any of you as I type this: there seems to be some good news for Harley-Davidson. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 19, 2021.

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1st Gear: Maybe It’s Just Our Expectations

Harley has been struggling to find a place for itself in a modern world, but a new strategy seems to be turning that around: reject modernity entirely and just go back to sellin’ hogs. It seems to be working, as Reuters reports:

U.S. motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson (HOG.N) on Monday reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its full-year forecast for sales growth, as its focus on bigger and profitable touring bikes boost demand, sending its shares up more than 8%.

Since the middle of last year, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based company, which has struggled to grow sales for the past several years, shifted its focus to big bikes, traditional markets such as the United States and Europe, and older and wealthier customers.

In February, the motorcycle maker unveiled a new turnaround plan that targets low double-digit earnings growth through 2025.

The company said its retail sales, a measure of demand at its dealerships, surged 30% to 32,800 motorcycles in North America in its first quarter.

I expect that this will only be short-lived. Boomers only have so many years left upright.

2nd Gear: GM Already Walking Back EV Plans

To be fair, a lot of this is just that GM wants to be sure that EVs can make them money. I don’t understand why GM would be trying to downplay its own ambitions, but maybe there’s something they know that I don’t. Automotive News explains:

General Motors’ goal to have a fully zero-emission lineup by 2035 is unquestionably ambitious, considering it sells just one electric vehicle in the U.S. today. But a top executive with the automaker says that’s a target, not a promise, and GM won’t give up on gasoline-powered vehicles so soon if consumers still want them.

“We intend to win wherever we’re competing and irrespective of propulsion system,” GM North America chief Steve Carlisle said in an interview. “At the same time, we’re setting ourselves up for this pivot, which is inevitable.”

GM believes EVs are the future, Carlisle said, but it won’t let the business suffer if market demand for them veers from the automaker’s timeline.

So far all EVs seem to do is boost share prices.

3rd Gear: Chinese EV Startup Worth $87 Billion Hasn’t Sold A Single Car

Speaking of! Evergrande, the startup that bought the zombie corpse of Saab a few years ago when it was NEVS, is in the news again. This time Bloomberg is shining a light on its $87 billion valuation, contrasted to the company’s car sales. Well, there are none to contrast, per Bloomberg:

China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group Ltd.’s expansive pop-up showroom sits at the heart of Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Center. With nine models on display, it’s hard to miss. The electric car upstart has one of the biggest booths at China’s 2021 Auto Show, which starts Monday, opposite storied German automaker BMW AG. Yet its bold presence belies an uncomfortable truth — Evergrande hasn’t sold a single car under its own brand.

China’s largest property developer has an array of investments outside of real estate, from soccer clubs to retirement villages. But it’s the recent entry into electric cars that’s captured investors’ imaginations. Shareholders have pushed Evergrande NEV’s Hong Kong-listed stock up more than 1,000% over the past 12 months, allowing it to raise billions of dollars in fresh capital. It now has a market value of $87 billion, greater than Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.

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Bloomberg fills out the story on the strange goings-on in a company that is boosted by a real estate tycoon, including executives pressured to sell apartments:

In addition, employees from all departments, from production-line workers to back-office staff, are encouraged to promote the sale of apartments, whether through posting ads on social media or bringing relatives and friends along to sale centers to make them appear busy. Managerial-level staff even have their performance bonuses tied to such endeavors, people familiar with the measure said.

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Could be weirder, to be honest.

4th Gear: European Automakers Want More Gas Tax

European carmakers know that they need to make money off of small fuel-efficient and all-electric cars. It knows just as well as GM that consumers might not actually want a ton of those things, so the carmakers want a little bit of a finger on the scale, as the Wall Street Journal explains:

Auto makers in Europe eager to boost sales of their electric vehicles have a new strategy: Demanding higher taxes on conventional vehicles that burn gas and diesel fuel.

The top executives at several car and truck makers are calling on European governments to introduce the new taxes on carbon-dioxide emissions from gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and trucks as a way to help their EVs better compete. They say the levies should take the form of highway tolls or higher fuel taxes.

“We need to tax carbon at the pump,” Markus Duesmann, chief executive of Audi AG, said in an interview.

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This is another case where naked business ambitions sit behind what appear to be green initiatives.

5th Gear: VW’s Imitation Of Tesla Gets A Wrinkle: Tesla Tried To Poach VW CEO In 2015

We like to clown on Volkswagen’s naked imitation of Tesla under CEO Herbert Diess. A fun wrinkle in this affair is that Tesla tried to poach Diess back in 2015, as Business Insider reported and Automotive News confirmed. Per AN:

In 2015, Musk tried to poach Diess, who was then BMW’s head of development, to become CEO of Tesla.

Diess declined Musk’s offer and instead joined VW as a management board member. Diess became VW’s CEO in 2018.

Musk’s offer was first reported by Business Insider last week. Sources with knowledge of the matter confirmed the report to Automobilwoche, a sibling publication of Automotive News, and to the German business daily Handelsblatt.

Tesla had drawn up a contract for Diess that was ready to be signed, the sources said. Musk wanted to hand over the CEO post to Diess so that he could concentrate on his role as Tesla chairman. At the time, the Tesla founder was still performing both functions.

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Honestly both companies seem like extraordinarily strange places to work, and I don’t know where I’d go if given the choice. Take DB from Berlin down to Wolfsburg every day, or BART down to Fremont?

Reverse: Two Years After Waco

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Neutral: How Are You?

New York is leafing out, and it’s almost warm enough to work outside.

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