Did Tesla Cause Mary Barra to Blink?

Tesla stock - Did Tesla Cause Mary Barra to Blink?

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If you’re a Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) shareholder, Monday’s announcement from General Motors (NYSE:GM) that it was cutting 15% of its salaried workforce and shuttering five North American plants, is excellent news for Tesla stock. Not so good if you live in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland or Ontario. Your employment base has just been gutted. 

The announcement drew condemnation from both President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose economies are directly affected by CEO Mary Barra’s $6 billion slash-and-burn.

If you’re a GM shareholder, you better hope that Mary Barra’s plans extend beyond gutting five of its plants at the expense of 6,000 hourly jobs and 8,000 salaried positions, because a lot of talent is being shown the door.

“While this may be a market necessity, I am concerned about the brain drain: a loss of valuable legacy knowledge and experience as long-term GM employees are let go,” said Rebecca Lindland, an executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

This kind of move by GM is precisely the reason I was against Donald Trump’s tax cuts. They’ve done little to convince CEOs like Barra that North American jobs are a priority.

“Companies haven’t been investing in growth since 1982 when gross business investment peaked at 15% of GDP,” I wrote last December.

“When everyday investors figure out that this tax plan isn’t about making America great, but rather lining the pockets of the wealthy, they’re going to lose faith in the country and by extension the markets.”

GM Transformation

Barra argues that the moves are a necessary part of accelerating GM’s transformation.

The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future,” Mary Barra stated in GM’s press release announcing the cuts. “We recognize the need to stay in front of changing market conditions and customer preferences to position our company for long-term success.”

If that’s not a load of malarky, I don’t know what is? I’m so tired of CEOs using the word “transformation” like it’s candy. Just throw it out there and investors will eat it up.

I’ve been a fan of Mary Barra’s since she was promoted to CEO in 2014. As recently as Oct. 15, I praised her leadership in an article about Ford (NYSE:F). 

Ford’s $26 billion reorganization is shrouded in mystery, leaving analysts very pessimistic about Ford stock. Is this the beginning of the end? I don’t think so. But I also don’t believe that Jim Hackett is the right guy for the job,” I wrote.

“Right now, Ford needs someone who can innovate their way out of a real mess, like GM’s CEO, Mary Barra.”

Now, I’m not so sure.

Yes, GM will generate more cash as a result of these cuts — an estimated $6 billion annually by 2020 — but will it be a better company as a result?

That’s debatable at best. These things never go as smoothly as planned and rarely produce the projected cost savings.

However, a more significant concern, is why now?

Running Scared

GM argues that the best time to make drastic changes is when the economy is strong, and the effects won’t be nearly as painful for those affected by the cuts.

While that’s true, Barra has said little about how a smaller and more profitable GM will be better suited to take on the likes of Tesla and the rest of the comers in electric vehicles.

Consider that the Model 3 is putting all other car manufacturers to shame.

It’s getting harder to deny that the Tesla Model 3 is become a disruptive force in the auto industry. While Tesla does not report sales on a monthly basis, the company sold 55,840 Model 3 cars in the third quarter, which covered July, August and September,” USA Today stated Nov. 1. “With only three models for sale, Tesla outsold luxury rival Mercedes-Benz in the third quarter in the U.S.”

Nowhere on USA Today’s list of hottest-selling vehicles was a GM product, especially not an electric one.

Yes, GM’s Cruise Automation division is getting rave reviews from my InvestorPlace colleagues, but what has it accomplished? Where are the electric vehicles for North American drivers?

The new cuts have ended the Volt and the Bolt is selling miserably. That leaves zero GM products for those interested. That’s great news if you own Tesla stock. 

Barra is trying to straddle the consumer’s love of trucks and SUVs with an electric future but gives little indication when that future will arrive.

If you’re a GM shareholder, the words “trust me” shouldn’t be very comforting.

The Bottom Line on Tesla Stock

The cuts announced by GM should be music to your ears if you own Tesla stock because it’s as clear an indication as any that GM’s rattled by TSLA’s full-on charge into the electric era.

Mary Barra had four years to chart an electric roadmap that would threaten TSLA’s very existence. She failed to act.

As a result, the future of TSLA stock, in my opinion, has never looked better, while GM’s is murky at best.

As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

Article printed from InvestorPlace Media, https://investorplace.com/2018/11/did-tesla-cause-mary-barra-to-blink/.

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