Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Winning and Losing OEMS of Electrification

We are witnessing the largest transformation of the auto industry in the last decades (Just look at Ford), but i believe it is too far fetched to believe in a future where current OEMs do not play a role, after all, Tesla can't do everything alone, folks. 

Just like Apple is not the sole provider of innovation and revenue in the consumer electronics business, and all the better for that, as diversity is the ground for innovation, Tesla will not be able to shift the transportation and energy ecosystem all by itself, as Elon Musk has recognized in the past.

If it has become a given that Tesla is/will become a force to be reckoned with in the Electrified, Autonomous, De-materialized future of transportation, many of the current OEMs will still be here in one way or another, so these are my OEM predictions in the auto landscape in five years time, which is worth what is worth (Not a lot), but works as food for thought:


 Renault -Nissan Alliance - Already on its way to become one of the Big Three Auto Giants, along with VW Group and Toyota, the fact that Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi count for one in four Plug-ins in the world (587k units) is itself a telling story, add that The Alliance has several trump cards up its sleeve for the near future, where the renewed Leaf (2018 World runner up after the Model 3?) is just one of them, and it all points that electrification will only benefit the French-Japanese conglomerate, we could even envision Renault-Nissan as the largest automaker in the world in a scenario where EV's take over the market at a faster pace than thought.

Hyundai - Kia - Despite being late party crashers, the Koreans came with competitive models (Think Ioniq Electric) at reasonable prices, so once they have enough production capacity to respond the demand they have now and will have in the future (Niro BEV and PHEV, Hyundai Kona SUV...), expect electrification to help the Group to keep on growing in the forseeable future.

Question Mark:

General Motors - If GM engineering should be praised by supporting plug-ins and creating interesting models (Volt I and II, Bolt...) and preparing itself for the future (Autonomous tech, etc), the business side of GM has been shooting themselves since the beggining, starting by not promoting the first Chevrolet Volt correctly in the US and elsewhere, then by not selling the Second Volt as Opel Ampera in Europe right on the time that PHEVs outsold BEVs there, now with selling Opel right on the time that the BEV Ampera-e prepared itself to be a hit and could save the German brand image from consumer oblivion, you can always count with GM management to boycott themselves from success.
With General Motors leaving important markets (Europe, India, Russia...), it is by its own free will becoming a smaller player in the Auto business, if that will translate in a stronger player in the markets it will stay, thus balancing the loss of volume from abandonned markets, remains to be seen, let's hope this time the GM Engineers win over the decision battle over bean counters and these last ones do not shoot themselves too much.

PSA - If it weren't for that Opel deal, i would have placed Peugeot Citroen dead certain on the Losers side, as the French Group didn't had a plan or competence on how to make electrification in a short term. But then they bought Opel and all of the sudden they got their hands on the brand with the longest range BEV at a reasonable price in Europe. This was possibly the strongest reason to buy Opel, and should the PSA management pull their strings right (And provided GM doesn't shoot themselves again), there could be an interesting partnership between GM and PSA regarding electrification, after all, if GM is not in Europe and PSA has its stronghold there, they wouldn't compete directly and PSA would have access to the compelling GM models through Opel, while also creating an opportunity to differenciate the German brand (After all, their symbol is a Lightning...) from their French counterparts. At the same time, General Motors would win scale for their Plug-ins, whic is crucial in these first days of paradigma shift. A lot of "ifs", but i wish it works, for the good of both OEMs.  


Volkswagen Group - The Dieselgate might have been the best thing that happened to Volkswagen in the last years, because it worked as a wake up call from their "We are the best and we do not need to work hard to change" mantra that until then transpired from the largest European automotive group. Fast forward to May 2017 and the German group brands all have EV-dedicated models planned across the range, from Porsche to SEAT. So, despite a late wake up call, they should respond just in time for the major shifts in the market, helped by above average brand-loyalty and an already large plug-in customer base (153.000 VW Group Plug-ins sold, #5 largest in the world).
I have placed it in the Losers side because of China, Volkswagen and Audi currently are best selling brands there,  but on a fast changing China into electrification, i just don't see them moving fast enough to catch on, so if elsewhere VAG can retain their share, it will lose significant sales on the largest auto market in the world.    

BMW Group - Tesla is a real threat in the Premium market and of the Three German Marys, BMW was the first to make a serious effort to win space in the EV niche, first with the i3 and i8, clever models  (And branding) that didn't stealed sales from their established nameplates, then with PHEV versions of their regular models, now with plans to expand the lineup with long range BEVs, BMW, is one of the Premium automaker best prepared to resist the impact that Tesla will have on that category, so the German carmaker will lose customers to Tesla, but at the end of the day it won't suffer as much as other Premium brands.

Daimler Group - Possibly not as targeted by Tesla as Audi and BMW, as their customers are generally more luxury-oriented than the other two, and that is a field that Tesla is short in competence, the fact is that Mercedes will lose sales throughout the next years, as their plug-ins lose to the competition when it comes to specs, including the upcoming ones, like the EQ. Blame it on being a more conservative brand, fact is that their management sorely lacked vision when it decided to dispose itself from Tesla, back in 2014...

FCA - A late convert (If it really has), the fact is that their first true Plug-in (The Fiat 500e is a compliance car), the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is a potential sales champion in North America, not only because it is a compelling product, but also because there's nothing like it. Imagining that drivetrain across the range (Maserati, Jeep, SUVs...) shouldn't be that hard and could be enough to hold their share in North America.
In Europe it will be another story, the 500e would have been a hit if properly launched in Europe, but because it wasn't and there are no signs of something like that happening soon, expect Fiat to start losing share at the same pace that Plug-ins steal share at regular ICE models.

Ford - Having been one of the pioneers of the EV game with the Focus Electric, one would think that the American brand would be a winner of electrification. Not so, in a niche that moves much faster than the mainstream market, six years without significant changes in their offerings is way too long, and without competitive specs, Ford is losing already the EV train. Let's see if the recent leadership can turn things around, but if it goes through this same path, not even their large Pick-ups will be safe from eroding sales. As for Lincoln, i doubt they will survive much beyond than the five years of  this forecast.

Toyota Group - Once the poster child of electrification with its Prius hybrid, now Toyota is in the uncomfortable position of running from behind, considering the success of the new Prius Plug-In, and if they put a Plug in all hybrids sooner than later, i believe they can turn around the table and not lose too much sales. On the other hand, Lexus should suffer greatly as Tesla reaches adulthood, leaving it in five years somewhere where Lincoln is now (Diehards brand).

Honda - Desperately changing their strategy (See Clarity), the Japanese carmaker is not in a comfortable place, having failed in their previous Plug-in attempts  (Accord PHEV...) and with FCEVs on their way to the Dodo, they are almost starting from scratch and are another OEM  hoping to partner with GM to have some sort of EV plan. We wish them well. As for Acura...See Lexus. But worse.

Mazda, Suzuki and other independent OEMs - Electrification is a resource-eating feature that cannot be done successfully alone, so they have three choices: Partnership with a larger OEM (GM? Toyota?), being bought by one of those OEMs (Remember Mitsubishi) or...Being slowly destined to insignificance. 

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