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Tesla tackles higher shipping costs as governments jostle to support battery onshoring

China 2822 Cons. Discr. - Autos 1074 Earnings 623 European Union 743 Info Tech - Tech Hardware 708 Quote Watch 391 U.S. 5049

Tesla Inc reported its highest vehicle sales on record in Q4’20, with 179,757 vehicles built and 180,570 delivered. Yet, the firm’s earnings came in below analysts’ estimates by 17.9% at the EBITDA line, S&P Global Market Intelligence data shows. While Tesla’s financials are somewhat complicated by the booking of emissions credits the firm has stated that there were additional costs from “logistics and labor costs were impacted due to supply chain instability and pandemic inefficiencies” and specifically “shipping, in particular, boats between Asia and North America” according to the firm’s Automotive Division President Jerome Guillen.

The elevated level of shipping rates has had an impact across the automotive industry, as flagged in Panjiva’s research of Jan. 28 for Autoliv, while there’s also been potential side issues relating to electric motors in the case of Nidec and for semiconductors more broadly. 

The impact on Tesla and other electric vehicle manufacturers of logistics interruptions should be mitigated by the ability to produce a large proportion of components, including batteries in particular, as well as assembly in the market of sales.

There’s likely to be considerable government support for further regionalisation of battery manufacturing. The European Commission has approved a 2.9 billion euros ($3.52 billion) investment in the European Battery Innovation Project which included 42 companies including Tesla, S&P Global Platts reports. 

Similarly, the Biden administration will likely provide additional support for the development of the U.S. vehicle battery industry, the Wall Street Journal reports. Additionally, more support from the Chinese government is likely to come from the forthcoming 14th Five Year Plan scheduled to be ratified in March.

In the meantime there’s been a marked shift in the mix of sourcing for electric vehicle battery imports in the U.S. Panjiva’s data shows that China accounted for 58.6% of imports in the three months to Nov. 30 compared to just 7.7% in the prior three months. Imports from South Korea meanwhile fell by 49.6% in the three months to Nov. 30 as Chinese shipments jumped 820% higher.

China supplies of automotive batteries lead to record high

Chart segments U.S. imports of lithium ion batteries for automotive applications by origin. Source: Panjiva

The surge in vehicle batteries from China has likely been driven by shipments linked to Clarios, Panjiva’s U.S. seaborne data shows, though imports of lithium ion batteries more broadly have continued to climb with a 64.5% year over year increase in December. That’s included a jump in shipments linked to majors Samsung SDI and LG Chem with imports that climbed 282% and 339% respectively in December while those associated with automotive manufacturer Daimler improved by 27.6%.

Lithium ion battery imports on the move

Chart segments U.S. seaborne imports of lithium ion batteries by consignee on a monthly and three-month average basis. Source: Panjiva

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