Auto News Roundup: Ford's Sales Soar, GM's Big Reveal, Toyota Taunts Tesla and More

The big news this week in the auto business? Sales numbers.

The first few business days of every month are filled with sales reports from all of the major automakers, both in the U.S. and in markets around the world.

The good news for many is that sales are up in the world's two biggest auto markets -- that would be China and the U.S. -- and that means second-quarter profits are likely to be good ones.

But what else went on in autos this week? Let's take a closer look.

Big gains for the Blue Oval
Ford
(NYSE: F  ) reported a 13% increase in U.S. sales, well ahead of the overall market's 9.2% gain -- and ahead of Wall Street's estimates, too.

There are two good stories for Ford here, starting with a big one: pickup trucks. Pickup sales are booming, thanks to increased consumer confidence and upticks in the construction and energy sectors. That is especially good news for Ford, because Ford's F-Series is the segment leader. Sales of the F-Series line were up 24%, the lineup's best June result since 2006.

Ford's Escape had its best sales month ever in June. Photo credit: Ford.

The second good story? Fuel-efficient cars. Traditionally a weak point for the Detroit automakers, the revamped Ford lineup includes strong entries in nearly all segments. Ford's small Fiesta had a huge month, as did the compact Escape SUV and Ford's hybrids, and Ford literally can't make enough of its hot Fusion sedans to meet demand. That problem will be addressed when a second assembly line for the Fusion starts up this fall, something that should lead to another jump in sales for the striking midsized entry.

Ford also posted strong results in China, where sales are up a whopping 47% so far this year, and in India, where a new small SUV called the EcoSport has generated a big burst of consumer interest.

Get ready to hear a whole lot about pickup trucks
Speaking of pickup trucks, General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) this week kicked off its most important new-product launch campaign in years, with a 60-second TV ad that made its debut in Texas on the 4th of July. (How's that for patriotic?) This is just the beginning of what looks to be a massive marketing push for GM's all-new full-sized pickups, its first new big pickups since before the company's 2009 bankruptcy.

The all-new Chevy Silverado is much improved for 2014. Photo credit: GM.

It's not an exaggeration to say that the new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra are GM's most important products, and all signs suggest that the brand-new entries are set to be strong contenders. Meanwhile, GM's old pickups are still selling strong: Silverado sales were up a big 29% last month, as that boom in pickup demand has enabled GM to sell down its remaining stock without heavy discounts.

The all-new 2014 pickups are just now beginning to arrive at dealers, and will be gradually replacing the last of the old models over the next few months. Meanwhile, GM also reported solid sales in China, where it's the market-share leader -- and where its new small SUVs are finding lots of happy buyers.

Will these be Tesla's biggest rivals?
GM and Honda (NYSE: HMC  ) made big news this week with an announcement that they're teaming up to develop a mass-market fuel-cell system for future cars. The system, which is expected to debut in about 2020, chemically "burns" hydrogen to generate electricity without toxic emissions.

That electricity can then be used to power an electric motor: In other words, these will be electric cars, only without the batteries. GM and Honda also pledged to work on storage technologies for all that hydrogen, as well as on infrastructure -- places to "get gas" for your future hydrogen-powered ride.

Tesla's Model S is the best electric car so far -- but rivals are coming. Photo credit: Tesla Motors.

This doesn't mean that the world is giving up on battery-powered electrics, of course. Batteries remain heavy and expensive, and take a while to recharge, but Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) has recently made it very clear that a great car can be built around a big heavy battery pack, despite the trade-offs.

But the GM-Honda link-up, along with Toyota's (NYSE: TM  ) recent confirmation that it would launch a fuel-cell car next year (a car that seems likely to be aimed directly at the Model S, by the way), is a good reminder that battery-electrics aren't necessarily the way forward, just one of several possible ways.

That's something that investors in any car company, including Tesla, should keep in mind.

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Read/Post Comments (11) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 11:47 AM, jamesdan567 wrote:

    Hydrogen fuel cells make no sense. Existing infrastructure can charge increasingly efficient batteries and do so far more efficiently than a hydrogen fuel cell because:

    1. to obtain hydrogen you must use electricity to electrolyze water. that electricity is wasted and could have been used to charge batteries

    2. hydrogen must be compressed, and that takes more electricity, that is then wasted again

    3. hydrogen must be transported, which then takes more energy (gas or electric), which is wasted again,

    4. the hydrogen must then be converted to electricity again to operate the car's electric motors and this wastes energy again, in the conversion

    its far more efficient to produce electricity, transport it at the speed of light to your home, and charge your battery, than to engage in all the baloney above. For these reasons, hydrogen fuel cell cars will not be competitive versus battery based electric cars.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 11:48 AM, AmericanFirst wrote:

    ." Meanwhile, GM's old pickups are still selling strong: Silverado sales were up a big 29% last month, as that boom in pickup demand has enabled GM to sell down its remaining stock without heavy discounts"

    John, you need to do your home work, GM had the highest industry average incentives per vehicle sold in June.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 11:59 AM, jamesdan567 wrote:

    In the big picture, it makes zero sense to use precious water resources to produce hydrogen to power vehicles. Its INFINITELY smarter to use limitless photons from the sun to create electricity to power vehicles. This is where we end up because photons are free, clean and available in practically infinite quantities for billions of years. It baffles me that anyone can make an argument to the contrary.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 12:17 PM, btc909 wrote:

    Do you know how rare it is to find a CNG station? Even in Kalifornia. It will be the same for hydrogen. Lets trade skyrocketing corn prices for water prices.

    Grass in your front or backyard, that wouldn't be allowed anymore. I can see monthly allowances for water usage.

    I would dump Lithium batteries and go with LSD NiMH and compress air tanks to recharge batteries on the go. A standardized low & high PSI rating on the tanks depending if you have a LV1 or a LV2 electrical charging source. Also wireless charging spots everywhere. Even at intersections.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 12:34 PM, jimatmad wrote:

    First, to previous commenters, you don't use up water when you break it down into hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cells. When they recombine to make energy, the water is reconstituted.

    Second, 'using limitless photons' to create electricity for battery power is no different than if you would use those same photons as electricity to power the 'cracking' of water into hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cells. Either way you're pumping photon energy into an energy storage medium.

    There's no reason that hydrogen can't be produced at the distribution sites, eliminating transportation issues. Cracking water isn't like cracking oil. There are only two components - hydrogen and oxygen. No harmful byproducts.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 12:54 PM, StanO6 wrote:

    @jimatmad not very likely that I'm going to generate hydrogen at home. Plug-in is just better.

    @JohnRosevear, your caption for the S while technically correct can be shortened from:

    "Tesla's Model S is the best electric car so far."

    to

    "Tesla's Model S is the best car so far."

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 1:39 PM, Connelky wrote:

    It isn't that unrealistic to imagine a unit in your home that plugs into a wall socket and has a water intake (think water heater) and produces compressed hydrogen.

    It would likely be very loud, expensive, and not very reliable. And even in the best of worlds, wall socket to road efficiency is extremely poor for hydrogen, much better off with existing li ion batteries.

    The advantages are faster fill up time and higher energy density for weight, but that is being addressed by each new generation of batteries.

    Hydrogen may be used one day for large aircraft, where weight is so important, but probably never mainstream for cars.

    The only thing that gives me pause is that Toyota is getting into it, but we'll see how many of these cars they actually make and if people can even buy, or if it is jut lease. It may also be a gimmick to get attention for their other cars.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 2:15 PM, makesyougohmmm wrote:
  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2013, at 2:57 PM, CrazyDocAl wrote:

    Wow, people here are crushing hard on Tesla. The fact is that a fuel cell is exactly like a battery. You use use electricity to charge both of them up. The difference is that a fuel cell doesn't have a limited life, like all batteries have. Anything with Hydrogen can be used. From water, including sea water, to natural gas. Even coal can be split to get Hydrogen.

    If the large companies get behind fuel cells then it's goodbye Tesla. I'm not sold on fuel cells as the answer but they do offer advantages. Hydrogen can be "made" where the source material or an abundance of power is and then transported to where it's needed. The range of a vehicle will just be determined by the size of the "tank".

    Unlike batteries, fuel cells can be used to power pickups. GM has already made one for the military. Batteries that wouldn't weigh the truck down too much would quickly be exhausted if the truck was used for towing. For fuel cells it would just be a matter of fitting larger tanks.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2013, at 9:55 AM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    @AmericanFirst: Of course their overall incentives remain high; they've got a ton of new models coming in and need to move out the old ones. But you're the one that needs to do some more homework: GM's pickup incentives have been essentially flat, where everybody (including GM) expected them to increase with the selldown. That's a result of the high demand for pickups, and it'll help GM's NA earnings in Q2.

    @Jamesdan567: I think of these fuel cell efforts as a hedge against the risk that battery technology won't improve enough to make mass-market BEVs viable. GM (for one) certainly hasn't abandoned the idea of BEVs, they've just put their plans on hold until/unless battery tech improves. We shall see.

    @makesyougohmmm: Political propaganda has no place in investment analysis, which is what we do here. Save it for Free Republic or whatever.

    John Rosevear

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2013, at 2:21 PM, AmericanFirst wrote:

    John,

    Dumb comment, just because GM's pickup incentives were flat, doesn't disqualiy GM FROM still being THE HIGHEST.

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