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Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup reservations surpass 120,000



Ford and its F-150 pickup, the automaker’s best-selling vehicle, have consistently inspired brand loyalty from pickup truck owners. According to the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Automotive Brand Loyalty Study, Ford has a 54.3% loyalty rate. Now as the automaker moves to electrify its fleet, it seems to be bringing in fresh buyers.

Ford released Wednesday its second quarter earnings for 2021, which besides containing a surprise profit despite the ongoing chip shortage, revealed that its F-150 Lightning electric pickup has generated 120,000 preorders since its unveiling in May. Ford reported revenue of $26.8 billion, slightly below expectations, and net income of $561 million in the second quarter.

To be clear, these are not orders and don’t reflect exactly how many of these vehicles Ford will sell. Customers can reserve one of these EVs by placing a refundable $100 deposit.

However, it does provide some insight into demand.

Importantly, three-quarters of those new orders come from customers that are new to Ford, according to the earnings release. During the call on Wednesday, CEO Jim Farley also said two out of five Lightning preorders are going to trade in an ICE pickup.

Not only does this potentially affect Ford’s sales, it also validates the company’s recent forays into battery production. Automakers across the world are engaging in battery joint ventures with cell and chemistry companies, and Ford is no different. The company has a partnership with SK Innovation to manufacture battery cells on American soil and is creating a battery R&D center in Michigan, a part of its $30 billion investment into electrification.

Increased sales can also help with Ford’s expensive undertaking to invest in embedded electrical architecture upgrade that allows Ford to more easily update future EVs and enable new connected capabilities, according to Farley.

“So when we talk about upgrading our electric vehicles, it’s much more fundamental than just the investment in the tooling and the engineering of the electric vehicle and its components and propulsion,” said Farley during the call.It also includes a completely new approach to an embedded software and hardware system.”

The F-150 Lightning comes with a lot of upgrades that make it attractive to Ford newcomers willing to pay more than the $40,000 base price. It’s got the same torque and power as its gas counterpart, plus a hands-free ADAS BlueCruise system, a comprehensive infotainment unit and enough battery capacity to power your whole house in the event of an outage.

Farley also said during the call that the new Ford Maverick, a compact hybrid pickup which starts at $20,000, already has around 80,000 orders. The hybrid is marketed toward people who aren’t exactly pickup truck people, but who maybe want to dip their toes into that utility pool.

“The demand for our first round of high-volume EVs clearly has exceeded our most optimistic projections,” said Farley. “We’re now working around the clock to break constraints and increase our manufacturing capacity for these red-hot new battery electric vehicles”

According to the earnings report, the combined U.S. customer-sold retail order bank for the electric Mustang Mach-E and other Ford vehicles was seven times larger than at the same point last year. With demand increasing, Farley said the business is “spring loaded” for a rebound when semiconductor supplies stabilize.

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Infamous Antarctic Snow Cruiser Recreated In CGI For Excellent Mini-Doc



Vehicles built for a specific purpose are always the most exciting. Whether it’s a track-focused hypercar or desert-busting trophy truck, focused engineering will always create something exciting. One of the most interesting purpose-built vehicles was the infamous Antarctic Snow Cruiser. This innovative mobile base was created to help the Americans explore and claim previously unknown terrain in Antarctica. Sadly the results never lived up to expectations and the Antarctic Snow Cruiser now lives in infamy.

In 1940 America launched its largest expedition to Antarctica. Before this expedition, private American expeditions were completed, but they were not government-backed which meant America had no official land claim on Antarctica. In the 1940s world powers planned to claim land in this frigid landscape and look for valuable natural resources.

To claim valuable Arctic real estate quickly, the government back American expedition had a secret weapon. And by secret, I mean a hugely publicized overengineered mobile base known as the Antarctic Snow Cruiser. The Antarctic Snow Cruiser was meant to cross the inhospitable Arctic landscape with ease thanks to superior American engineering. The Antarctic Snow Cruiser was going to cover more land than anyone before while giving America a valuable land claim near the South Pole.

The Antarctic Snow Cruiser had an innovative powertrain much like a modern-day diesel-electric locomotive. Power came from two diesel engines that would send power to four electric motors to move this massive mobile base. With one motor at each wheel, the Antarctic Snow Cruiser previewed the preferred drive train for all modern-day electric vehicles.

The Antarctic Snow Cruiser was a fantastic idea, however, due to tight timelines production was rushed. This meant the team had barely any time for their creation and had to build based purely on theory. This meant the Antarctic Snow Cruiser was a massive failure let down by a weak powertrain and smooth tires that had no grip on the Arctic ice. With modern technology, it would be fantastic to see a second attempt at the legendary Antarctic Snow Cruiser concept.

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Why MPG should matter for electric vehicles



If saving the environment is merely a lifestyle choice, the automakers and their latest electric vehicles have got us covered. Tesla’s Plaid touts performance. Leafs, Priuses and Volts preach humility. And Ford is flexing its muscle with launches of electric Mustangs and F-150s.

But if consumers’ choices are going to contribute to a greener future — if they’re going to opt for energy efficiency over flash — they need the ability to make smart purchasing decisions. To enable that, an old-fashioned measuring stick from the gasoline era could come in handy: the concept of miles per gallon.

In the electric vehicle (EV) era, car shopping is no longer a simple matter of finding a high-MPG car and a cheap gallon of gas. Electricity costs are confusing. Price and efficiency information is hard to find and harder to understand. And ultimately, you have to do the math.

That means getting to know electric energy’s unit of choice: the kilowatt-hour, or kWh — a string of characters better suited to an engineering textbook. To determine their costs and carbon footprints, drivers must solve the brain teasers that turn kWh into dollars and miles.

If you don’t do that, you’re trusting the automakers to do the right thing for you and the environment.

The government can lead on this problem. In fact, it has, and it does. Gas pumps have long been required to list the price of a gallon, gallons pumped and total fill-up cost. A vehicle’s EPA-mandated miles-per-gallon rating — displayed on dashboards and on every new car’s MPG sticker — ties it all together.

So maybe we already have a common denominator for the EV age. A familiar, tangible energy unit that gives us an apples-to-apples way to think about cost, efficiency and pollution.

Fellow Americans, say hello — again — to the gallon. Even as we leave the gas-powered car behind, we can keep its energy unit. It’s tangible, and if it works for the energy contained in gas, we can make it work for electricity.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a gallon of unleaded gas contains about 34 kWh of energy. Knowing that, you can easily deduce how much your energy purchase costs and how far it can take you. The gallon can even help you better understand your other electricity usage, putting your home energy costs on an apples-to-apples basis with your automobile’s energy costs.

When I gallon-ized my energy bills for the month of August, I learned:

  • My house used 56 gallons (1,888 kWh) worth of electricity.
  • My average home electricity cost was $6.34 per gallon.
  • At a Tesla supercharger, I paid $8.43 per gallon (25 cents per kWh).

The government already publishes an MPG equivalent for electric and hybrid vehicles. Using MPG, it becomes clear that electric vehicles make up for a lot of that high cost-per-gallon in efficiency, often with ratings over 100 MPG.

MPG is already good for more than car shopping. New York City’s MPG mandates have doubled taxis’ fuel efficiency since 2009. (The city also reserves a portion of taxi licenses — medallions — for hybrids.) Uber and Lyft have announced green initiatives, but their lightly regulated status has let them avoid MPG standards.

Smart energy shopping alone will not solve climate change. Energy watchdogs also need to monitor the industry’s carbon impact from both electricity generation and EV-related hardware manufacturing.

All else equal, though, using less energy means less pollution. And common units can steer us toward smart choices that encompass far more than our cars. Should I buy batteries so I can stock up on electricity when it’s cheapest? Do solar panels make sense? What about better insulation or more efficient appliances?

A high-MPG vehicle and a home that also goes a long way on a gallon? Together, that would be a solid lifestyle choice.

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The Best Selling Vehicles in America, By State



When CEOs of major companies are selling their shares, investors can’t help but notice.

After all, these decisions have a direct effect on the personal wealth of these insiders, which can say plenty about their convictions with respect to the future direction of the companies they run.

Considering that Big Tech stocks are some of the most popular holdings in today’s portfolios, and are backed by a collective $5.3 trillion in institutional investment, how do the CEOs of these organizations rank by their insider selling?

CEO Stock Shares Sold H1 2021 Value of Shares ($M)
Jeff Bezos Amazon (AMZN) 2.0 million $6,600
Mark Zuckerberg Facebook (FB) 7.1 million $2,200
Satya Nadella Microsoft (MSFT) 278,694 $65
Sundar Pichai Google (GOOGL) 27,000 $62
Tim Cook Apple (AAPL) 0 $0

Breaking Down Insider Trading, by CEO

Let’s dive into the insider trading activity of each Big Tech CEO:

Jeff Bezos

During the first half of 2021, Jeff Bezos sold 2 million shares of Amazon worth $6.6 billion.

This activity was spread across 15 different transactions, representing an average of $440 million per transaction. Altogether, this ranks him first by CEO insider selling, by total dollar proceeds. Bezos’s time as CEO of Amazon came to an end shortly after the half way mark for the year.

Mark Zuckerberg

In second place is Mark Zuckerberg, who has been significantly busier selling than the rest.

In the first half of 2021, he unloaded 7.1 million shares of Facebook onto the open market, worth $2.2 billion. What makes these transactions interesting is the sheer quantity of them, as he sold on 136 out of 180 days. On average, that’s $12 million worth of stock sold every day.

Zuckerberg’s record year of selling in 2018 resulted in over $5 billion worth of stock sold, but over 90% of his net worth still remains in the company.

Satya Nadella

Next is Satya Nadella, who sold 278,694 shares of Microsoft, worth $234 million. Despite this, the Microsoft CEO still holds an estimated 1.6 million shares, which is the largest of any insider.

Microsoft’s stock has been on a tear for a number of years now, and belongs to an elite trillion dollar club, which consists of only six public companies.

Sundar Pichai

Fourth on the list is Sundar Pichai who has been at the helm at Google for six years now. Since the start of 2021, he’s sold 27,000 shares through nine separate transactions, worth $62.5 million. However, Pichai still has an estimated 6,407 Class A and 114,861 Class C shares.

Google is closing in on a $2 trillion valuation and is the best performing Big Tech stock, with shares rising 60% year-to-date. Their market share growth from U.S. ad revenues is a large contributing factor.

Tim Cook

Last, is Tim Cook, who just surpassed a decade as Apple CEO.

During this time, shares have rallied over 1,000% and annual sales have gone from $100 billion to $347 billion. That said, Cook has sold 0 shares of Apple during the first half of 2021. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t sold shares elsewhere, though. Cook also sits on the board of directors for Nike, and has sold $6.9 million worth of shares this year.

Measuring Insider Selling

All things equal, it’s desirable for management to have skin in the game, and be invested alongside shareholders. It can also be seen as aligning long-term interests.

A good measure of insider selling activity is in relation to the existing stake in the company. For example, selling $6.6 billion worth of shares may sound like a lot, but when there are 51.7 million Amazon shares remaining for Jeff Bezos, it actually represents a small portion and is probably not cause for panic.

If, however, executives are disclosing large transactions relative to their total stakes, it might be worth digging deeper.

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Is The Future Of Cars Electric Or Fuel?



Are we looking at a future where electric vehicles (EV) dominate the roads?  The answer may very well be yes.  There seems to be a lot of optimism and predictions concerning the shift.  Carmakers are jumping on board the bandwagon.

Companies like Jaguar already have plans to only sell electric cars from the year 2025. Lotus and Volvo are looking at 2028 and 2030 to go the same route.

Robert Anderson would be excited about the impact his innovation has had. You see, he was the first person to launch an electric car in 1832. It wasn’t until the 1870s that such cars became more commonplace. And now, companies like General Motors and Tesla have released such vehicles to the public.

Some governments are joining in the rally for the banning of non-electric cars. A good example is the UK that plans to eradicate vehicles that use fuel from 2030. They will, however, allow the sale of hybrids until 2035. Their target is to achieve zero emissions. Other parts of Europe and China are also showing support.

Proponents of electric cars are confident that such vehicles will replace fuel-powered ones very soon. But, are they right? Let’s explore the topic a little bit more below.

Responding To a More Conscious Consumer

The modern customer is more demanding of sustainable practices. There is a greater focus on health and environmental safety. Walk into any car dealership in Florida and you will find a wider offering of vehicles than you would have years ago.

Such dealerships ensure that they have electric cars as part of their product line. If there was no demand for such, they would not have them.

But, the reality is that fuel-powered vehicles are a major source of pollution. The emissions not only hurt the environment but human health as well. There is a range of diseases attributable to such pollution. These include lung damage, asthma, and hard conditions.

The concern for healthy living in the midst of the Covid pandemic raises the viability of electric cars.

Massive Improvements in Electric Car Technology

The evolution of electric vehicles has not been without its challenges. That was the case of the General Motors EVI that hit the market 25 years ago. The manufacturing process was expensive, costing the company over 1 billion dollars. Out of 1,000 vehicles, only a handful survived.

Even with those, the highest speed a normal driver would achieve was fifty miles. And of course, we can’t ignore the pricing aspect. Battery-power cost was as high as $1000 per kilowatt. Now there are significant improvements in the vehicles.

A Tesla Model 3 for example can achieve over 300 miles on a single charge. Acceleration goes from 0 to 60 in about 3.1 seconds. There is a lot more attention to car designs, charging systems, and system computers.

The cost of the battery power has also come down to about $100. It makes such vehicles a cheaper option when you compare them to the diesel or petrol alternatives. The global electric car sector experienced a 40% increase in 2020.

The upward trajectory has continued in 2021. Within the first quarter of the year, EV sales had reached almost two and a half times what it was in the same period in 2020. Yet, the industry as a whole felt the impact of the Corona pandemic. There was a 16% decrease in sales within that year.

Issues That Need Urgent Addressing

Before electric cars become common features on our roads, there are some issues that the industry must address.

  • Cost Implication

Electric vehicles are still more expensive than fuel-powered ones. One would argue that calculating the true cost requires long-term thinking.

Yes, you spend more on the initial purchase. But, you will spend less on maintenance. High fuel costs will also no longer be a concern you have to deal with.

There is some hope however with the improving technology. Lithium battery production costs, for instance, are not as high as they were before. The spillover effect will be a reduction in the cost of the vehicles.

  • Need For Proper Infrastructure

It is easy to find a fuel station. Unfortunately the same is not true for charging stations. Take the example of the United States. As of January 2020, there were over 1.2 million electric cars on the road. The main issue was finding where to charge the car.

Some States have adequate charging facilities, while others are falling behind. There have been calls for private sector investment to provide a solution. Some gas stations and convenience stores have EV charging stations, providing relief for the drivers.

  • Addressing Customer Concerns

The EV industry still has some ways to go when it comes to changing customer perception. Some concerns around such vehicles include:-

  • High risk of fires from the lithium batteries. But, the manufacturers say that the risk is no higher than what you would find with fuel-powered cars.
  • Anxiety over the car running out of battery juice. Add on the stress of finding charging stations depending on where you are.
  • The inconvenience of having to wait for a long time before the car fully charges. This is unlike fueling the car, which could take less than 5 minutes.
  • Limited range of options with the type of electric vehicles.

Are Electric Vehicles The Future?

For the moment, electric vehicles may not entirely replace fuel-powered ones.  There is still a lot of room for improvement before it becomes a mainstream product.

Developed countries are starting to make inroads. Multiple governments are also starting to support the movement to ensure zero emissions. This may be the push necessary to remove fossil fuel cars.

But, third world or developing countries may lack the infrastructure to support such. There is also a heavy reliance on used car imports. Take the example of Africa, where electric vehicles are a rarity.

Even in a ‘more developed’ country like South Africa, the number of such cars as of 2019 still falls below the 1,000 mark. It could take several years before such countries fully adopt EVs.

Final Thoughts

The future generations deserve the opportunity to enjoy the planet. But with so much pollution, we may be leaving them with a world that resembles those in post- apocalyptic movies.

Electronic vehicles provide a way to stop the destruction of the environment. With the improving technologies, we can expect such vehicles to become mainstream.

It will take some time before electric vehicles replace fuel-driven ones. But, one thing is for sure, the process has started.

Source: Plato Data Intelligence


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