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Recovery in Autos

By Charles Payne, CEO & Principal Analyst

He’s on Donald Trump’s Business Advisory Council, and he had a great relationship with the Obama administration. He sucked up more government freebies than any welfare queen, and yet I think Elon Musk is a true American business hero/visionary.

Some call him a modern-day P.T. Barnum, but it turns out that Elon Musk is more of a combination of his namesake automobile company and Henry Ford.  

His company Tesla (TSLA) came up a little shy of the company’s year-end sales target, and the shares were slightly lower. However, the Street soon woke up to the bigger picture. 

In fact, this picture will eventually be a 5,000,000 square feet factory, churning out lithium-ion batteries. 

The industry is currently dominated by Asian suppliers, so this is a major breakthrough in a period when talk for competition revolves more around taxes and regulations rather than innovation and investments.  

With a third of the plant completed, 2,900 people are working to push out the batteries that will power more than transportation in the future.  Much is made of America’s antiquated power grid. Well, Musk is coming to the rescue with a backup plan for the grid and pure power sources for homes.

Getting America Moving Again

Consider the big news this week from Ford, who is investing $700 million for a plant to churn out autonomous vehicles and electric cars to the electric business that just raised $140 million on top of an earlier tranche of $150 million. It’s clear that the way we move is finally going to move into a higher gear.  

Every facet of our daily lives has come a long way since the invention of the car, which more or less is very much the same as the Model T, save for some fancy improvements. I want to see America at the forefront of the vehicle and the power revolution. The next ‘Industrial Revolution’ won’t just be on the information superhighway, but on a physical road as well.

Auto Sales

I came into yesterday’s session ready to play taps for the auto industry, whose fabled boom has now seen seven consecutive years of an unprecedented improvement in sales. It’s a mind-boggling achievement that belies the broader economic malaise that’s haunted the nation over the same period of time. It’s true that there have been extenuating circumstances:

  • Sub-prime loans
  • Aging automobiles
  • Low-interest rates

Perhaps the party is just getting started as all those factors are still in place.

The average age of cars on the road hit an all-time high record of 10.5 years back in 2009. That same year, February saw a record low of 9.05 million sales. Coming into 2016, the average of cars on the road had actually leaped to 11.6 years.  Meanwhile, rates are still relatively low; with wages increasing, we could see fewer sub-prime loans.   

Auto sales hint at a breakout. Perhaps we could retest the monthly all-time record of 21.77 million back on October 2001.  One thing is for sure; the ‘peak car sales’ theory and subsequent crash look like folly now.

By the way, Jaguar Land Rover sales surged 31% last month, and the Maserati was up 58%; it’s probably a statement from the 1% that they’re ready to party in the Trump Era.

Charles Payne
Wall Street Strategies


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