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Musk’s warning could be auto industry’s ‘canary in the coal mine’ moment -Breaking


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk talks about Tesla’s new battery swapping program in Hawthorne, California June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson


By Ben Klayman and Joseph White

(Reuters) – Tesla (NASDAQ:) CEO Elon Musk’s “tremendous unhealthy feeling” in regards to the economic system may very well be the auto trade’s “canary within the coal mine” second, signaling a recession for an trade whose bosses have proven no indicators of concern.

Musk mentioned the electrical carmaker wanted to chop about 10% of its workforce in an e mail to executives seen by Reuters. He later informed workers that white-collar ranks had been bloated and he would preserve hiring staff to make automobiles and batteries.

Musk’s warning is the primary loud and public dissent in a united stance by the auto trade that underlying demand for automobiles and vans stays robust regardless of two years of worldwide pandemic. One government this week known as demand “sky excessive.”

“Tesla’s not your common canary within the coal mine. It is extra like a whale within the lithium mine,” Morgan Stanley (NYSE:) analyst Adam Jonas mentioned in a analysis be aware, referring to the metallic utilized in EV batteries.

“If the world’s largest EV firm warns on jobs and the economic system, buyers ought to rethink their forecasts on margins and top-line development,” he added. Tesla inventory fell 9%.

The auto sector was hit two years in the past by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which compelled the closure of factories. That shutdown subsequently performed a task within the semiconductor chip scarcity that additional hobbled car manufacturing.

Now supply-chain snarls, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have dragged down gross sales. U.S. new-car gross sales in Might completed at a weak annualized charge of 12.68 million, in response to Wards Intelligence. That is a far cry from the glory days of 17 million a 12 months pre-COVID.

These points principally have an effect on provide, nonetheless, whereas inflation is a menace to demand.

“Threat of recession is excessive, so what he’s saying actually is not excessive,” Jeff Schuster, president of worldwide forecasting at LMC Automotive, mentioned of Musk.

Experience-hailing firms Uber Applied sciences (NYSE:) Inc and Lyft Inc (NASDAQ:) mentioned final month they might cut back hiring and curtail spending, whereas on-line used-car retailer Carvana mentioned it might lower 12% of its workforce.

Different firms are watching carefully.

“We’re not as pessimistic as Elon Musk, however are being cautious about our hiring and expenditures,” mentioned John Dunn, Americas CEO for Clear Vitality Programs, a Plastic Omnium unit that makes gasoline and emissions-reduction programs.

Trade officers fear a couple of attainable recession.

“The auto trade is racing to the secure harbor of pent-up demand that might carry gross sales for years to return, whereas the looming financial storm clouds are gathering that might destroy a lot of that demand,” mentioned Tyson Jominy, J.D. Energy vice chairman of automotive information & analytics.


Josh Sandbulte, the chief funding officer for Greenhaven Associates, a cash administration agency that may be a giant investor in Common Motors Co (NYSE:) inventory, has been in New York Metropolis this week attending an Alliance Bernstein convention. He mentioned monetary CEOs there have been way more gloomy of their outlooks than different enterprise leaders.

Whereas Musk’s e mail sounds way more pessimistic than different manufacturing leaders, Sandbulte mentioned he has realized to not dismiss the Tesla CEO as a result of “he has zagged when different persons are zigging and he is been confirmed proper.”

“We’re in a interval of discombobulation, and admittedly the monetary world and the enterprise management world do not agree,” Sandbulte mentioned. “Sooner or later, we’ll get the reply who’s appropriate.”

Publicly, many different automakers nonetheless say underlying demand stays robust. Ford Motor (NYSE:) Co on Thursday, whereas reporting month-to-month U.S. gross sales, mentioned its inventories proceed to show at file charges.

“Shopper demand is sky excessive proper now. Producers would not have the stock,” Nissan (OTC:) Motor Co’s U.S. advertising chief Allyson Witherspoon mentioned Wednesday on the Reuters Automotive Retail convention in Las Vegas.

And trade officers additionally level out Tesla has its personal points, together with presumably hiring too quick in comparison with its development.

Tesla’s employment has doubled for the reason that finish of 2019 in response to the corporate’s annual studies, and Morgan Stanley’s Jonas famous Tesla’s income per worker of $853,000 is just not a lot increased than the a lot bigger Ford’s $757,000.

As well as, Tesla’s U.S. gross sales are closely concentrated in California, and particularly within the San Francisco Bay space that’s residence to Silicon Valley firms.

Excessive-tech staff with stock-based wealth are a vital buyer base for Tesla. However now, some large tech firms are reducing workers, and smaller startups are discovering it tougher to get funding.

All which may be true, however Musk’s fears can’t be ignored, mentioned Barry Engle, a former Ford and GM government who based Qell, an funding agency targeted on transportation.

“An financial downturn is turning into more and more doubtless,” he mentioned. “Elon and everybody else is aware of it. The distinction being that as an entrepreneur he is simply naturally extra susceptible to motion and voicing the reality, even when unpopular.”

(Ben Klayman in Detroit and Joseph White in Las Vegas; modifying by Peter Henderson and Nick Zieminski)