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General Motors slides to a loss on falling demand for cars in the US

Financial Times  /  July 29, 2020

General Motors fell to a loss in the second quarter, dragged down by a collapse in profits and falling sales from its traditionally lucrative North American operations.

Global sales at the Chevrolet and Buick owner halved to $16.8bn in the quarter, with a net loss of $758m, compared with a $2.4bn profit in the same period in 2019.

Its North American arm posted a $101m net loss for the quarter, compared with a $3bn profit in the same period a year earlier.

US sales of Chevy trucks fell from 248,000 to 176,000, while deliveries from its GMC truck brand slid from 153,000 to 100,000. Both units are significant profit drivers at the business.

Total US vehicle sales fell from 747,000 to 492,000, while global sales dropped from 1.9m to 1.5m.

Both its international arm and its self-driving Cruise business also lost money, while profits from its financial division halved from $536m to $226m.

The company managed to eke out a $294m profit in the first quarter, buoyed by truck sales in the US.

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GM will build electric pickup for Nikola under partnership

Hannah Lutz, Automotive News  /  September 8, 2020

DETROIT -- General Motors is taking an 11 percent stake in startup electric truckmaker Nikola Corp. under a partnership that calls for GM to engineer and assemble Nikola's first vehicle, the companies said Tuesday.

Under the agreement, which is expected to close this month, GM will build the Nikola Badger, an electric and fuel cell pickup planned for production in late 2022, using GM's proprietary Ultium batteries.

"This strategic partnership with Nikola, an industry-leading disrupter, continues the broader deployment of General Motors' all-new Ultium battery and Hydrotec fuel cell systems," GM CEO Mary Barra said in a joint statement. "We are growing our presence in multiple high-volume EV segments while building scale to lower battery and fuel cell costs and increase profitability. In addition, applying General Motors' electrified technology solutions to the heavy-duty class of commercial vehicles is another important step in fulfilling our vision of a zero-emissions future."

GM will receive $2 billion worth of shares in Nikola and be able to nominate one director, the statement said.

The agreement will commercialize GM's fuel cell technology in high volumes and extends the use of its fuel cell system to the semi-truck market.

Nikola will facilitate sales and marketing for the Badger and will retain the Nikola Badger brand. Nikola will unveil the Badger in December at the Nikola World 2020 event in Arizona.

"Nikola immediately gets decades of supplier and manufacturing knowledge, validated and tested production-ready EV propulsion, world-class engineering and investor confidence," Nikola founder and Executive Chairman Trevor Milton said in the statement. "Most importantly, General Motors has a vested interest to see Nikola succeed."

Using a GM factory, rather than building its own, will save Nikola billions, Milton said. “We can come to market quickly. We could never do that on our own,” he told reporters on a conference call. “GM already has all the resources, all the people, the factories. They've got the supply chain. They've got logistics built in. For us, that was a big deal.”

Milton expects Badger production to be in the tens of thousands per year but said Nikola and GM will reevaluate according to demand. So far, orders are split between battery-powered and hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered pickups, he said.

Badger production was originally slated for 2021, but it was pushed back to late 2022 because of growing demand, the pandemic’s impact on suppliers and GM’s production standards, which Milton says are more stringent than Nikola’s

“We're a new company. We've got a lot to learn,” he said. “That's one of the benefits GM brings. Even though it’s a little bit of a delay, it's going to bring a better-quality truck.”

GM shares closed Tuesday's trading up 7.9 percent to $32.38 Nikola shares closed up 41 percent to $50.05.

GM said it is continuing to develop the Ultium batteries, which will be produced through a joint venture with LG Chem in Ohio. The automaker plans to include silicon anodes and lithium metal anodes to improve range, affordability and reduce usage of expensive metals.

Earlier this year, GM said it would co-develop two electric vehicles for Honda with its Ultium batteries, and last week the automakers signed a memo of understanding to form a North American automotive alliance that may include a range of vehicles sold under both brands and further cooperation in purchasing, r&d and platforms.

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LG will produce the cells until the joint venture LG/GM factory in Ohio comes on line.  

Somewhat strangely Ford is going to rely on vendors exclusively to supply their BEV batteries, Hackett does not see a need (or profit) for Ford to produce batteries.  I have no doubt that's true in the short run, but could be a real problem as the bulk of vehicle sales become BEV's in the future.  Then again, should Ford become part of VW at some point......       

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