Monday, May 23

I Regret To Report That Elon Musk Is Even Richer

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It’s earnings season and Tesla did well, so did Hyundai and AutoNation, and Lincoln has an interesting new concept. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 21, 2022.

1st Gear: Tesla Did Great, And So Did Elon

The world’s richest person got a little richer yesterday, after Tesla reported better-than-expected earnings. Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s compensation is heavily tied to Tesla’s performance, which has been good, meaning that Elon’s pay is more than good, too.

From Reuters:

Tesla reported quarterly revenue of $18.76 billion and so-called adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $5.02 billion. Combined with the previous three quarters’ results, that surpasses milestones that trigger the vesting of the ninth through 11th of 12 tranches of options granted to Musk in his 2018 pay package.

Musk said Wednesday there were no discussions underway about incremental compensation.

Musk, who is also a major shareholder and CEO of rocket maker SpaceX, receives no salary at Tesla. His pay package requires Tesla’s market capitalization and financial growth to hit a series of escalating targets.

Each tranche gives Musk the option to buy 8.4 million Tesla shares at $70.01 each, a discount of about 90% from Wednesday’s closing price of $977.20. At the stock’s current price, the three options tranches that will vest as a result of Tesla’s March-quarter performance could generate a profit of about $23 billion, or almost $7.7 billion per tranche.

The only other company I’ve seen do what Tesla has done is Apple, which rose from the dead in the aughts to conquer the world, also thanks to the leadership of a charismatic crank. Tesla was never quite dead but it sure was touch-and-go at times. In Apple years, Tesla is probably around the second- or third-generation iPod stage of its development, if you believe that Tesla will go to the moon, too. Still young, then.

2nd Gear: Wall Street Was Happy With Tesla, Too

Tesla’s stock price rose Thursday thanks to the earnings, remarkable only for the fact that the stock price has been up and down for the past six months.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The stock rose 7.1% before the opening bell Thursday, trading at $1,046.81 a share. Trading was brisk with shares changing hands more than 166,000 times, according to FactSet. That was almost twice as many times as American Airlines Group, the next most traded stock on the S&P 500.

[…]

Tesla delivered around 310,000 vehicles globally in the first quarter, up from 184,877 a year earlier. Mr. Musk said rising input costs were causing difficulties though, after a surge in prices for raw materials from lithium to nickel. “I think the official numbers actually understate the true magnitude of inflation,” he said.

Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said that investors were relieved by Mr. Musk’s upbeat comments about production in Shanghai. Manufacturing in Tesla’s Shanghai factory was suspended in late March after the city imposed shutdowns to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Perhaps most interestingly, Elon also said Wednesday that Tesla would have a robotaxi by 2024. Yes, a car with no steering wheel or pedals, powered by Tesla’s Full Self-Driving technology, which is not, yet, full self-driving.

From Automotive News:

The goal of the new model, which would use Tesla’s still-incomplete “full self-driving” software, is to reach the lowest cost per mile for a taxi-type vehicle, Musk said.

[…]

However, the charismatic CEO declined to give more specifics when asked whether the vehicle would go on sale to the public or be used in a company-run transportation service.

“We don’t want to jump the gun on an exciting product announcement yet,” Musk said, saying there will likely be a product event next year to offer greater details.

Musk said that Tesla’s projections show that a future robotaxi ride would cost less than a subsidized public bus or subway ticket.

I will believe it when I see it.

3rd Gear: AutoNation Profits Also Up

Used cars are hot, because new cars are hot, because inventories are still down across the board, because you can still walk into a dealership these days and buy a car but it may not be the one you want, because the one you want sold a few minutes ago to some other asshole and probably above sticker price, too.

At any rate, this has all been good news for AutoNation, America’s biggest used car dealer, Reuters reports.

Demand for private vehicles was also fueled by massive stimulus measures during the COVID-19 pandemic. That sent the average vehicle transaction price to a record high, according to auto industry consultants.

The company also said incoming new vehicle inventory, for the most part, has been pre-ordered by customers.

AutoNation’s net income was $362.1 million, or $5.78 per share, for the quarter ended March 31, compared with $239.4 million, or $2.85 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 14.4% to $6.75 billion.

4th Gear: Hyundai Profits, Too

Hyundai is expected to report bigger profits for the first quarter, according to Reuters, because of massive sales of the Veloster N, thanks to car journalists’ endless hype. I kid. It’s actually mostly because of the price of South Korea’s currency.

Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) is likely to report a 4% bump in first-quarter profit thanks to a sharply weaker won boosting the value of its exports and offsetting a prolonged chip shortage, a sales slump in Russia and rising raw material costs.

For the quarter ended March 31, the South Korean automaker is expected to report a net profit of 1.37 trillion won ($1.11 billion), according to a Refinitiv SmartEstimate drawn from 14 analysts, up from 1.32 trillion won a year earlier.

[…]

“A weak won was a key booster for Hyundai,” said Kim Jin-woo, an analyst at Korea Investment Securities.

“The speed of won depreciation has been drastic enough to offset all the problems, including chip shortages, a spike in raw material prices and poor sales in Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Hyundai never seems to get credit for being the incredible business success story that it is, going back a couple decades, but make no mistake.

5th Gear: Former Dealership Employee Gets Prison

A guy who used to work at New Rochelle Hyundai, in New Rochelle, New York — which is where The Dick Van Dyke Show is set, and where your humble correspondent lived for several months a decade ago, in a rooming house with cab drivers, though none of that is relevant to the current news item at hand — was sentenced to up to six years in prison last week for larceny and tax fraud, according to Automotive News.

James Castellano worked for New Rochelle Hyundai in 2017 when he diverted more than $307,000 in checks to his personal bank account, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said.

Castellano was charged with felony grand larceny, as well as criminal tax fraud for not reporting the embezzled funds on his personal income tax return. He pleaded guilty to the charges in May 2021.

Castellano was ordered to pay $307,610 in restitution to the dealership, the department said. He will also pay $20,455 to the state of New York.

Patch reported in 2020 on some of the details of the alleged scheme:

As part of their scheme, prosecutors said they illegally sold vehicles owned by New Rochelle Hyundai through Global Auto Sales LLC, a car dealership owned in part by [Israel Viloria, 39,], and kept the proceeds of these sales.

Authorities said they listed, in New Rochelle Hyundai’s records, details of cars that were not owned by the Hyundai dealer.

By doing so, the dealership’s bank, JPMorgan Chase, made business funds available for the purchase of these vehicles. That cash, which went into New Rochelle Hyundai’s accounts, helped to cover up the theft of vehicles that Viloria and Castellano were selling on the side.

Castellano is also charged with stealing about $300,000 by depositing checks made payable to New Rochelle Hyundai LLC into his personal bank account, according to prosecutors. Those checks were supposed to received by the dealership.

There is an absolutely outstanding Colombian restaurant in New Rochelle, I can say that.

Reverse: GM

Reference-jalopnik.com

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