Explaining Southern California's economy

September auto sales: A 15-million sales year?

Ford And GM Report Large Drops In Monthly Sales

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

September U.S. auto sales were solid for most carmakers. The market is now on pace to see its best year since before the financial crisis.

Most of the major automakers reported positive U.S. sales for September — and even laggards Ford and Nissan contained their fairly modest losses. The big winners were Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda.

In the case of the Japanese Big Two, this is particularly important, as both were hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami that crushed their sales in 2011.

The U.S. auto market is the most competitive in the world. It essentially collapsed during the financial crisis, but it has rebounded substantially. The U.S. is now on track to see nearly 15 million in new vehicles sold in 2012, after a lot of analysts expected something closer to 14.5 million. During the dark days of 2009, that number was slightly more than 10 million - not enough sales to support the number of carmakers who sell cars in the U.S. market.

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Ford has discovered that America loves small SUVs

2013 Ford Escape

Ford

The Ford Escape has been a big sales success for Ford so far this year.

Prior to the financial crisis and the meltdown of the Detroit auto industry, Ford reliably sold hundreds of thousands of its full-size SUV, the Explorer, every year. The high water mark was 2002, when 433,847 of the vehicles were unleashed on happy consumers.

Since 2005, however, and with the end of the era of cheap gas (seemingly), Explorer sales have never climbed above 200,000. 

The Ford Escape, a small SUV, is another story. Ford just released sales numbers for September, and the Escape is one of the highlights. The vehicle is on track to beat last year's sales of more than 250,000, which was itself a record.

In terms of volume, the only vehicle that did better in Ford's lineup was the F-Series — basically the F-150 pickup truck, America's best-selling vehicle for decades.

The Escape appears to be doing well for a couple of reasons. First, it got a design update for the 2013 model year, aligning it more closely with the look of the Explorer but also moving toward a new undergirding architecture that separates it from Escapes of the past and make it more of a small crossover.

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CODA Automotive makes the case for the Very Simple Electric Car

CODA-Ext-1

Nate Napierala

The CODA electric car looks...just like any other compact. And that's a selling point.

CODA-Ext-2

CODA

Wind power, meet electric car. You might want to be careful about straying too far from home with the CODA sedan, but range is good, at about 100 miles per charge.

CODA-Engine

CODA

Electric car engines are models of simplicity. You'll save money on maintenance.

CODA-Charing

CODA

Need a charge? There are stations through the Southland, plus smartphone apps to help you find them.

CODA-Int

CODA

This is the upscale interior trim package. Not a fancy car, but there's a place for that,

CODA-All-Electric

CODA

No gas required.

CODA-Center

CODA

Not your father dealership. In fact, it isn't even a store. It's an "Experience Center" in an upscale Beverly Hills mall.

CODA-Map

CODA

Think EVs are only good for short hops? CODA says you can do better than that. This map is at the company's Century City Experience Center.

CODA-LA River

CODA

A test drive took the CODA fleet to the historic L.A. River.

CODA-Battery

CODA

It's what makes the magic happen: CODA's battery pack.

CODA-Charger

CODA

If you have an EV, you need to get used to looking for these. CODA keeps them in the parking garage and keeps the cars juiced up for test drives.

CODA-Plugged in

CODA

It really is as simple as plugging the thing in.

CODA-Back

Nate Napierala

One car, one name, and very simple, startup view of the future of driving.


Let me draw a picture for you of the electric car market, circa autumn 2012. At the high end, you have Tesla Motors, selling or not selling, depending on your patience with the startup's delivery schedule, an all-electric Roadster, priced over $100,000; and an all-electric sedan, the Model 2, priced anywhere from about $50,000 to upwards of $100,000, depending on how you spec it out.

Then there's Nissan's Leaf, which can be be had for less than $30,000, once you get finished with various credits. The Ford Focus EV is in the same ballpark, around $30,000 once the tax credits kick in.

The Mitsubishi MiEV, even farther down the ladder, is yours for just over $20,000. But it's bare-bones.

You can lease, but not buy, the Honda Fit EV for around $400 per month. 

Pretty much everything else is some type of hybrid or plug-in hybrid, so you don't get pure, zero-emissions, all-electric motoring.

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August auto sales: A very good month for pickup trucks and Detroit

2013 Ford F-150

Ford

Ford saw double-digit sales increases from last August for its pickup trucks. Chrysler also sold a lot of pickups, as did GM.

A good month for pickup trucks means a good month for Detroit's Big Three — General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford. Although ironically, it was Ford and Chrysler reporting big gains in pickup sales from August of last year, while GM did well with its lineup of smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

Longtime GM watchers are still scratching their heads at how a company that, pre-bailout and bankruptcy, had abandoned the small-car market to imports so it could concentrate on the fat profits that trucks and SUVs bring in. GM did okay with its main pickup, the aging Silverado. Just not as well as its Motown rivals.

Pickup truck profits are a good thing, for two reasons. Ford and Chrysler saw double-digit increases, while GM had to settle for the mid-single digits. That's money in the bank for Detroit 's carmakers. Meanwhile, pickups being sold means that contractors are trading in their aging wheels for new sheet metal — and that's a clear signal that the new-home market is regaining some strength. You can't haul stuff to the building site in a pickup that falling apart.

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Yahoo welcomes a new CEO — and misses on second-quarter earnings

stevelyon/Flickr/Creative Commons

Yahoo's Santa Monica location. The company missed earnings expectations today for its second quarter.

Yahoo just named a new CEO — Google veteran Marissa Mayer — but on the day she was supposed to start work, the company also announced second-quarter earnings, and they missed expectations by $0.02 a share. Wall Street wanted $0.20 per share and got $0.18. But Yahoo still made money: about $227 million, down from a year ago, a profit nonetheless. 

The Wall Street Journal cut to the chase ("GAAP" is an accounting term — it's best to favor the GAAP and discount the non-GAAP, but non-GAAP can provide a sense of how much raw profits is coming in the door):

The numbers are sort of a split decision. A beat on a non-GAAP basis, a bit low on a GAAP basis, revenue a little light. That lack of growth or traction crystallizes the sort of stagnation that’s captured Yahoo for several years now. Mayer has her work cut out for her.

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