[Insights] Stellantis Invests EUR 1.5 Billion in Leapmotor, Enabling EV Technology Advancements

On October 26, 2023, Stellantis announced a EUR 1.5 billion investment to acquire approximately 20% of Leapmotor, securing two seats on its board. Additionally, Stellantis and Leapmotor will establish a joint venture named “Leapmotor International” with ownership stakes of 51% and 49%, respectively. The CEO of the joint venture will be appointed by the Stellantis group.

TrendForce’s Insights:

  1. Leapmotor’s High Self-Reliance in EV Technology (Electric Motor, Battery, Electronic Control) with Completed Four-Domain Integration in EEA Architecture

Before Stellantis took over Leapmotor, European automakers like Volkswagen and Audi had previously collaborated with Chinese counterparts such as XPENG and SAIC in the electric vehicle sector and technological development. The primary aim was to exchange different resources, including funding or access to the European market, for China’s EV technology.

Leapmotor, in addition to independently developing battery packs and an 800V silicon carbide electric drive system, has based its control system on the self-developed “Four-Leaf Clover” Electronical/Electric Architecture (EEA).

This architecture achieves cross-domain integration across four domains—power, body, ADAS, and cabin—utilizing a central computing platform to significantly reduce the use of Electronic Control Units (ECUs) and related wiring. This integration enhances the overall intelligence and range of the vehicle.

Stellantis had previously expressed a “light asset” strategy for the Chinese market, aiming to reduce fixed costs. Collaborating with Leapmotor enables cost savings in independent research and development.

On a global strategic level, Stellantis has its own electric platform, “STLA.” Therefore, cooperation with Leapmotor provides immediate support for Stellantis in the platform of EV technology and market development, both in China and globally.

  1. Leapmotor Need to Seize the Opportunity to Accelerate Overseas Expansion

While Stellantis’ current focus is not on the Chinese market, its integration of resources from the merger of FCA (Fiat Chrysler) and PSA (Peugeot Citroën) provides a significant market foundation in Europe and the Americas. According to Stellantis’ disclosed data for the first half of 2023, it achieved a net revenue of EUR 98.4 billion, a 12% growth, and a net profit of EUR 10.9 billion, a 37% growth.

The sales volume of new energy vehicles also grew by 24% during the same period. The “Leapmotor International” joint venture between Stellantis and Leapmotor is not only responsible for the Greater China region but plays a crucial role in global sales and holds exclusive manufacturing rights for Leapmotor’s vehicle models.

Although Leapmotor holds a technological edge in three key components over European and American automakers, it faces fierce competition in the Chinese market from startups like NIO, XPeng, Li Auto, and traditional manufacturers like SAIC and Great Wall Motor. In the third-quarter financial report of 2023, Leapmotor achieved a gross profit margin of 1.2%, marking its first positive gross profit.

However, the net profit continues to incur losses. Stellantis’ financial injection serves to alleviate Leapmotor’s financial pressures, allowing it to capitalize on opportunities for global expansion.

In addition, amidst the escalating competition among Chinese automakers to enhance their export capabilities, Leapmotor can leverage Stellantis’ mature sales channels and resources to gain a strategic advantage in the international arena. The operational control of Leapmotor International remains in the hands of Stellantis, not only acquiring Leapmotor’s technology but also eliminating a potential competitor.

This transaction is built on the mutual benefits each party seeks, potentially establishing a collaborative model for future technology and market-sharing partnerships between Chinese and European automotive manufacturers.

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[Insights] Hyundai Defies Headwinds with 1.52 Billion Groundbreaking for Electric Vehicle Plant

In May 2023, Hyundai announced a local investment of KRW 2 trillion (approximately USD 1.52 billion) to establish an EV factory in South Korea, with a groundbreaking ceremony held on November 13. The factory is expected to be completed in 2025, with electric vehicle production set to commence in the first quarter of 2026.

The initial production capacity is planned at 200,000 vehicles per year, focusing on electric SUVs under Hyundai’s premium brand, Genesis.

TrendForce’s Insights:

  1. IONIQ 5’s High Cost-Performance Welcomed in the North American Market, Serving as a Pillar for Hyundai’s Electric Vehicle Endeavors

The IONIQ 5, built on Hyundai’s E-GMP platform, boasts an 800V charging infrastructure and a 3.5-second acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h, all priced around USD 40,000. In comparison to other 800V competitors in the North American market, such as the Audi e-tron GT, Lucid Air, and Taycan, which are priced at approximately USD 80,000 to 100,000, the IONIQ 5 stands out with competitive features.

South Korea demonstrates a significant level of self-sufficiency in the strategic components of electric vehicles. Battery suppliers Samsung SDI and LG Energy Solution (LGES) rank among the world’s top ten battery suppliers.

Additionally, Hyundai Mobis stands as South Korea’s largest automotive parts supplier, offering a comprehensive product line that includes various components in electric motors and controls. With robust support from a powerful supply chain, this enhances Hyundai’s market competitiveness.

According to Hyundai North America’s reported sales figures for August 2023, the IONIQ 5 and IONIQ 6, both built on the E-GMP platform, collectively sold 5,235 units in the North American market. This reflects a remarkable 245% growth compared to the same period in 2022.

The year-to-date total sales of the IONIQ 5 and 6 reached 28,000 units by August, showing a notable 63% growth compared to the same period last year. It’s noteworthy that these achievements were made without the benefit of the USD 7,500 subsidy under the “Inflation Reduction Act.”

The success of the IONIQ series has bolstered Hyundai’s confidence in making this platform a core element, facilitating the development of related models and further investments in the electric vehicle business.

  1. IONIQ Temporarily Pauses Entry into Chinese Market Amidst Intense Homogeneous Product Competition

With the rise of local Chinese automotive brands and the trend toward electrification, Hyundai’s sales in the Chinese market have plummeted from 1.14 million vehicles in 2016 to 250,000 vehicles in 2022, as per data released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

In 2021, Hyundai sold its first factory in Shunyi to Li Auto, and in June 2023, Hyundai announced plans to sell two more of its remaining four plants.

In the electric vehicle sector, the IONIQ 5 is built on an all-new electric vehicle platform, outperforming earlier models based on oil-to-electric conversion platforms in both overall efficiency and performance. With its affordable price, it presents a formidable challenge to equivalent models in Europe and the United States.

However, given China’s early development of new energy vehicle platforms and the completion of pure electric vehicle platforms by many domestic manufacturers, coupled with highly autonomous supply chains, IONIQ does not enjoy overwhelming advantages in China. Therefore, the initial focus on the European and American markets is a strategically sound decision.

As European and American automakers continue to establish pure electric vehicle platforms and competitors like Audi and Stellantis strengthen their technological exchanges with Chinese manufacturers, the advantages of the E-GMP platform will face challenges. To further enhance the economic scale of their products, the Chinese market remains a crucial challenge that Hyundai cannot ignore.


[Insights] Even Ford Halts EV Investment, How Will the Automakers Adjust Its EV Strategy?

Ford announced the withdrawal of its full-year financial forecast due to the impact of the recent labor strike and ongoing challenges in the EV sector. Most consumers are reluctant to pay higher prices for electric cars compared to traditional or hybrid vehicles. Ford also postponed its planned $12 billion investment in expanding electric vehicle production capacity but remains committed to its goal of advancing its electric vehicle business.

TrendForce’s Insights:

  1. Slower Market Demand Spurs Automakers to Rethink EV Strategies

The United Auto Workers (UAW) union initiated a six-week strike in Detroit starting on September 15, 2023, motivated by demands for improved compensation and benefits. The strike came to an end when consensus was reached with Ford, Stellantis, and GM (General Motors), resulting in the signing of a new contract.

According to predictions from Deutsche Bank, this new agreement will add an estimated $6.2 to $7.2 billion in costs for each of the three major automakers. This cost increase is nearly equivalent to the expense of building an electric vehicle platform. Compounded by the impact of slowing demand for global new energy vehicles (BEV and PHEV), with growth rates decreasing from 54% in 2022 to 30% in 2023, Ford announced the suspension of its $12 billion electric vehicle investment plan. This plan includes its partnership with SK On for a battery factory and a partly reduction in production capacity for the Mustang Mach-E.

GM also announced the termination of its affordable electric vehicle development project in partnership with Honda. Additionally, Tesla’s third-quarter earnings fell short of expectations, and power battery supplier Panasonic reduced production. These developments underscore the fact that the electric vehicle industry’s “overheated” market, driven by early adopters and purchase incentives, has come to an end. The industry must now focus on practical solutions to address consumer reluctance to purchase electric vehicles.

  1. Automakers Must Adopt More Practical EV Development Strategies to Address Price and Range Concerns

The slowdown in electric vehicle market demand stems from the issues of high vehicle prices and range anxiety, which affect consumer willingness to make a purchase. Addressing these two problems requires increasing battery energy density to achieve comparable driving range to conventional vehicles and constructing an adequate charging infrastructure. However, achieving these goals will take time and effort.

With range anxiety still unresolved and the goal of banning fossil fuel vehicles unchanged, automakers positioned between policy and the market face transition risks. At this juncture, choosing to independently develop electric vehicle platforms might add financial burden and risk, with the associated costs reflected in vehicle prices, potentially eroding competitiveness. A more practical approach would involve considering alternative development strategies, such as exploring platform outsourcing to reduce manufacturing costs.

Automakers or Tier 1 suppliers with proprietary electric vehicle platforms have the option to lease their platform production capacity to companies that are currently unable or unwilling to independently develop their own platforms. This strategy can increase production efficiency for lessees, allowing them to commission the production of all or some of their electric vehicle models from the lessor, ultimately reducing manufacturing costs and accelerating the release of new vehicle models.

By doing so, companies can maintain their market share in the electric vehicle race while waiting for the right opportunity to reevaluate the potential for developing their own electric vehicle platforms. In summary, as the demand for electric vehicles slows down, automakers will face tighter financial constraints, making it crucial for them to explore how to collaboratively leverage existing resources to create electric vehicles that align with market demands.

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(Photo credit: Ford’s Facebook)


[News] UAW and General Motors Reach Agreement, Marking the End of a Historic Strike

After a grueling six-week standoff, the United Auto Workers (UAW) has reached a groundbreaking labor agreement with General Motors (GM). This news comes after resolving disputes with Ford and Stellantis, the parent company of Chrysler, signaling a turning point in the largest auto industry strike in recent history.

According to reports from Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, the UAW and General Motors reached a preliminary agreement on October 30, officially putting an end to the six-week-long strike. It is reported that the UAW has successfully secured wage increases from General Motors similar to those obtained from Ford and Stellantis.

Over a four-year period, the average wage increase reaches 25%, and retirement benefits receive additional enhancements. When including other allowances, the maximum wage increase reaches 33%. The details are subject to approval by union members’ vote.

In response to the agreement, GM’s CEO, Barbara, stated that the new terms would enable the company to continue investing while offering well-compensated employment. She eagerly anticipates the return of all employees to their workstations.

The UAW initiated localized strikes against the three automotive giants – GM, Ford, and Stellantis – starting on September 15. These strikes grew in scale over time, primarily targeting larger and more profitable factories to exert pressure on the management. At Its Peak, Nearly 50,000 People Joined the Strike, with President Biden Personally Expressing Support by Visiting the Strike Sites.

The lengthy strike has finally concluded, bringing a sigh of relief to automakers. However, it has had a significant financial impact, with both General Motors and Ford canceling their annual earnings forecasts. General Motors estimates the strike resulted in approximately $200 million in losses each week.

Analysts anticipate that the new labor agreement will substantially increase production costs for the big three automakers, potentially undermining their competitiveness against union-free electric vehicle manufacturers like Tesla and foreign brands such as Toyota.

Notably, the union has secured greater influence over capital decisions during negotiations, including the power to initiate strikes when a manufacturer contemplates plant closures.

While the three major automakers currently express their intent to keep existing factories operational during their transition towards electric vehicles, contractual constraints may force them to continue running unprofitable facilities in times of economic downturn or declining sales.

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(Photo credit: GM’s facebook)

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