Investors are 4,000% behind obscure EV maker

General Motors’ plan to introduce dozens of electric vehicles in the coming years hasn’t done much to bolster the automaker’s stock price.

But when a little-known energy company last week said it was launching a unit to design and develop EVs, its shares soared more than 4,000 percent in a single day.

SPI Energy Co. went from about $1 a share on Tuesday, Sept. 22, to nearly $47 the next day before falling back below $20. Its market cap surged from about $15 million before the jump to as high as $460 million after announcing the creation of a subsidiary called EdisonFuture to compete with Tesla and other EV makers.

“As Tesla has demonstrated, an end-to-end business model in the renewable energy space can generate significant value,” SPI Energy CEO Xiaofeng Peng said in a statement. “With the addition of EV and EV charging segments to our diverse solar business, we are positioning SPI Energy for the future of renewable energy.”

The stock experienced an increase in trading volume of more than 700 times its usual level of activity after the news, and the price volatility triggered at least seven trading halts, Bloomberg reported. SPI is based in Santa Clara, Calif., and has operations in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia.

Goldman to buy GM's credit business for $2.5 billion, report says

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is buying General Motors’ credit card business for about $2.5 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Wall Street bank won the bidding for the deal over Barclays, according to the Journal.

GM’s credit card issuer Capital One Financial Corp. and Goldman have agreed upon the purchase price and expect to finalize the deal in the coming weeks, the report said.

The acquisition will enhance Goldman’s focus on its consumer banking business, which it is expanding to even out volatile results from segments such as trading and investment banking.

Goldman currently has a much smaller presence in consumer banking, unlike larger peers JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., and it is an area CEO David Solomon has been aggressively looking to strengthen.

It is the bank’s second major credit card partnership, following the launch of a card with Apple Inc. last year.

The purchase would also come at a time when U.S. households are cutting back on debt in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goldman Sachs and Barclays declined to comment, while GM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Jim Farley's Toyota connection

In his 13 years at Ford, Jim Farley has been head of global marketing. He led Lincoln. He ran Ford of Europe. He was president of technology and global markets. For a few more days, he’ll be COO.

But when he succeeds Jim Hackett on Oct. 1, he’ll bring to the table something that no other Ford CEO has provided: experience at another automaker.

The company that hired the Georgetown and UCLA grad 30 years ago is known as a pretty good one, too. It’s Toyota.

And two other Jims, who mentored Farley during his 17 years there, aren’t a bit surprised by what’s about to unfold at their former rival.

“From the very beginning, it was obvious he was going to go someplace,” recalls Jim Press, the former head of Toyota Motor North America who earned a seat on the automaker’s board in 2007.

Hard work, sincerity and passion were traits that stood out, Press says. So, too, did a spot in Farley’s heart for Ford, where his grandfather worked long ago.

Jim Lentz, who retired six months ago as North American CEO, said he took notice of Farley when they were paired on a truck series team in the mid-1990s. Farley would later succeed Lentz as head of Scion and Toyota Division marketing before steering Lexus.

In a conversation last week, Lentz shared vivid memories of Farley’s drive, his dedication and his desire to learn and get better.

He recalls Farley once spending a week on site at an ad shoot, making sure everything went right. He would later soar during a big test onstage, introducing a new Tundra before thousands of dealers.

Toyota is not known as a place for harboring dissidents. But there’s an art to speaking one’s mind without ticking people off, Lentz said. And Farley was good at that, too.

That’s all history now. The question today is what elements of the Toyota experience will best serve Ford and its new chief executive starting Thursday.

For Press, it’s going to be Farley’s skill at building relationships. As the industry tackles the challenges of autonomy and electrification on tight budgets, partnerships and cooperation will be keys to survival. Farley’s strong bonds with dealers will help, too.

In the same vein, Lentz sees Farley fostering teamwork in a culture that over the years has yielded a story or two of individual feuds. And he’ll demand excellence.

What should employees expect? Farley was asked that question in a recent Automotive News Daily Drive podcast.

His answer: “A warm handshake. A teammate. A servant leader. Someone who loves product, who loves our team, who wants to protect our values that make us different as a company. And someone who has a plan, a plan that involves everyone on the team. I know that they’re all really excited to grow the company profitably. We’re going to have a lot of fun growing the company.”

That’s a nice message for the honeymoon part of the journey. Things inevitably will get tougher in a tough time to be a CEO.

Not that it’s ever been easy.

By my count, in the years since Henry Ford II stepped down more than 40 years ago, about half of his successors have completed their expected terms. The others have been shown the door — or have shown themselves the door — early.

In the podcast, Farley, 58, gave a sense that there won’t be much time for Champagne this week.

He was asked what the late Emmet E. Tracy would tell his CEO grandson today. Farley came back with a response his former Toyota bosses would recognize: “He would probably say, ‘I’m proud of you, but get back to work.’ ”

Lithia signals profit surge ahead of third-quarter earnings

Lithia Motors Inc. said it anticipates third-quarter net income to surge and announced plans to raise more than $1 billion through debt and equity offerings.

The Medford, Ore., retailer said Tuesday that net income per diluted share will be between $6.10 to $6.40, an increase of 68 percent and 76 percent, respectively, compared with $3.64 per share recorded last year. Assuming Lithia retains about 23 million outstanding shares it reported in the second quarter, that would translate to a net income of $140 million to $147 million. That compares with a net income of $78 million in the second quarter in 2019 and $85 million in the third quarter.

Lithia also said it expects to report revenue rising “in the mid- to high single-digit range” compared with 2019’s reported $3.3 billion for the third quarter.

Separately, Lithia announced plans to raise $1.2 billion in capital through debt and equity offerings. The company expects $500 million to come from a senior note and at least $700 million through a common stock offering, though that figure could increase an additional $105 million through a separate stock sale.

Lithia executives did not respond to requests for comment.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Lithia said it would defer closing on acquisitions until the second half of the year. Since the second quarter, Lithia has announced four acquisitions for a total of 12 new dealerships. Together, the dealerships are expected to generate more than $1.4 billion in annual revenue.

Driveway, Lithia’s nationally branded digital retailing and scheduling solution, formally launched this month, the dealership group said in a statement. Used-vehicle inventory is first to be added to the site on a national scale, which analysts say is expected in the next week. New-car sales through Driveway are planned for the fourth quarter.


Infiniti QX60 targets conquests

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Infiniti’s next-generation QX60 crossover will get more muscular, premium styling that heralds a reboot for the brand.

Infiniti Chairman Peyman Kargar expects next year’s arrival of the QX60 three-row midsize crossover, along with the launch of the new QX55 coupe-styled compact crossover, to stoke sales while winning new customers.

“We are beginning a new era for Infiniti,” Kargar said. “We are going to conquest additional customers, clearly. That’s really one of the important objectives we have, and this is related to the additional extra volume we are targeting. We are very confident in this.”

Infiniti previewed the new design last week by unveiling the QX60 Monograph, a platinum-hued, close-to-market design study for the next-generation QX60.

Updating the QX60 is a critical step in rejuvenating Infiniti, said Kargar, who took over as global brand chief in June. The nameplate is the brand’s No. 2 seller worldwide behind the QX50 crossover, with cumulative sales of 400,000 globally since its launch in March 2012.

The QX60 Monograph was to make its auto show debut at the Beijing Motor Show, which was scheduled to start Saturday, Sept. 26. The production version will initially be made in Smyrna, Tenn., alongside its Nissan brand stablemate, the Pathfinder midsize crossover, and be sold in all Infiniti markets.

Infiniti is pitching the next QX60 as a “sophisticated yet functional solution for a busy, modern family.” The overall design is more stout, sleek, futuristic and, importantly, premium.

Kargar said the QX60 will get upgrades in information technology and quality in interior and exterior accoutrements. Details on the drivetrain will be announced later.

The Monograph’s raised hood profile, sculpted shoulder line and bulging rear-wheel arch accentuate the athletic look while lifting the visual center of gravity. The sleeker greenhouse blends into blacked-out pillars and black roof, resulting in a longer-looking cabin.

In the front and rear, the Monograph gets “digital piano key” lighting that projects a futuristic feel, while the rear lamps wrap around the tail in a continuous swoop.

“The current QX60 … is known for offering spacious packaging and comfortable, dedicated three-row seating,” Infiniti said. “The proportions of the QX60 Monograph illustrate Infiniti’s intention to maintain these strengths while transforming the model with a more aerodynamic, muscular silhouette.”

Ford cuts Mustang Mach-E prices ahead of launch

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is lowering the price of its Mustang Mach-E crossover between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the trim, as it prepares to launch the vehicle later this year.

In a memo to dealers, Ford said the Premium trims will get a $3,000 price cut, with the all-wheel-drive version dropping to $50,800 and the rear-wheel-drive model falling to $48,100. The California Route 1 rwd trim price will decrease $2,000 to $50,900.

The most expensive Mach-E, the sold-out First Edition model, will get a $1,000 price cut to $59,400. The Select trim, the vehicle’s least-expensive variant, will also see a $1,000 price cut, with awd model prices falling to $46,695 and rwd models falling to $43,995.

All prices include $1,100 in shipping fees. Customers also are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Ford, in the memo, said all price changes go into effect today but will apply to those who have placed orders or made a reservation since the vehicle was unveiled. Ford did not announce any price changes for the GT variant, which will go on sale next spring.

“Exceptional value has always been a hallmark of the Mustang brand,” Ford said in a statement. “In addition to its great all-electric driving range and performance, we’re adjusting Mustang Mach-E pricing to remain fully competitive in a segment that is seeing dynamic price changes.”

The news was first reported by the Mach-E Forum on its website earlier Tuesday.

The Mach-E will face a number of competitors, including Volkswagen’s recently unveiled ID4 crossover, which will start at $41,990, including shipping, and get up to 250 miles on a charge. The Mach-E’s range will start at 230 miles, with more expensive trims getting up to 300 miles.

The Tesla Model Y, out now, starts at $49,990 and gets 316 miles on a charge.