Carmakers’ financial performance highlights COVID-19 crisis – Part 2

| 14 Aug 2020

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Daily Brief editor Phil Curry looks at carmakers’ 2020 quarterly and first-half financial performance, exploring how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the automotive industry. In this second part, Curry explores the impact of COVID-19 on the financial performance of BMW, Daimler and Toyota.

The BMW Group delivered 962,575 BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce premium-brand vehicles to customers worldwide in the first six months of 2020, down 23% compared to the first half of 2019. Group revenues fell 10.3% to €43.2 billion. Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) for the six-month period amounted to €709 million, down 74.6%. 

As BMW expected, the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt more sharply in the period from April to June. The carmaker reported a loss of €666 million in Q2, its first quarterly loss since 2009.

‘Our swift responsiveness and consistent management strategy enabled us to limit the impact of the corona pandemic on the BMW Group during the first half of the year,’ said Oliver Zipse, BMW chairman. ‘We are now looking ahead to the second six-month period with cautious optimism and continue to target an EBIT margin between 0% and 3% for the automotive segment in 2020. We are monitoring the situation very closely and managing production capacities in line with market developments and regional fluctuations in customer demand.’

Daimler – a challenging quarter

Daimler has issued a number of profit warnings in recent years, as it has struggled with EV development budgets, falling sales and the implementation of the Worldwide Harmonised Light-vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). The COVID-19 pandemic has therefore added another layer to an already complicated situation.

The German carmaker reported that revenue slipped ‘significantly’ by 29% to €30.2 billion in Q2 2020. It reported a loss before interest and tax of -€1.7 billion, with a net loss of €1.9 billion.

‘Due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we had to endure a challenging quarter,’ said Ola Källenius, chairman of Daimler. ‘But our net industrial liquidity is a testament to effective cost control and cash management, which we must continue to enforce. We are now seeing the first signs of a sales recovery – especially at Mercedes-Benz passenger cars, where we are experiencing strong demand for our top end models and our electrified vehicles. Going forward, we are firmly determined to continue to improve the cost base of our company. At the same time, we are committed to our key strategic objectives: to lead in electrification and digitalisation.’

Daimler countered the drop in demand by quickly suspending production in March, April and May, as well as introducing short-time working. To safeguard the company’s financial strength, expenditure and investments were focused on the most critical future projects. The company currently expects to return to profit by the end of the year.

Toyota turns a profit

Unlike Nissan, and other Japanese carmakers, Toyota reported a profit, albeit significantly reduced, in its 2021 financial year Q1 results, covering the period from 1 April to 30 June. The carmaker’s operating profits plunged by 98% compared to the same period last year, coming in at ¥13.9 billion (€110 million).

Net income tumbled 74% to ¥158.8 billion, as total retail vehicle sales, including those from Daihatsu and Hino, fell by 32%.

Toyota attributed its profit to a number of key elements that played out in the three months. First, the effects of foreign exchange rates decreased operating income by ¥75 billion. Secondly, cost-reduction efforts increased operating income by ¥10 billion. Lastly, the effects of marketing activities decreased operating income by ¥810 billion yen, largely due to the fall in sales volume caused by the spread of COVID-19.

The carmaker has not revised its forecasts for the year, which were made in May 2020, as it operates an April to March financial year. Therefore, it was able to take the COVID-19 effect into account when planning its year ahead. The company expects operating income will fall 79% to ¥500 billion in 2020/2021 while net income will slide 64% to ¥730 billion.

‘While we expect an increase in consolidated vehicle sales, we have left those forecasts unchanged given, for example, the possibility that the business environment will change significantly depending on such factors as the future spread of COVID-19 and the state of its containment,’ the company said.

Cautious optimism

Throughout the recent spate of financial results, one thing is clear. No company is currently able to accurately forecast its full-year results. Some have tried, with caveats added in case things change drastically, while others have simply said they are not in a position to produce forecasts in what is a volatile market.

However, there is cautious optimism, and as countries around the world start to get a grip on how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, it is hoped that the extreme measures taken in March and April will not be repeated. What could cause further issues for the automotive industry is the economic impact, which has pushed some countries into recession and is increasing unemployment. These two factors that do not bode well for the purchase of new vehicles.

Read part one of Curry’s financial results round-up here. 

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