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Managers at General Motors ( (GM) - Get Report) have seen the future and vehicles and it is all electric. Investors need to begin planning strategies to take advantage now. Spoiler alert: Buy the part makers.
Mary Barra, chief executive at GM on Wednesday set a brave new agenda for the Detroit automaker. Future GM cars and trucks will sit on three new electric platforms. Their bodies and branding will be modular, too.
The automotive sector is at an inflection point. The industry is clearly headed toward electric propulsion. In addition to the clean energy angle, Tesla ( (TSLA) - Get Report) has shown consumers that electric vehicles can be sleek, sexy and fun to drive. This revelation has been a winner for shareholders, too. Automakers in Germany, Korea, China and the United States have seen the future. They want a piece of the EV action.
The problem is shifting manufacturing operations to make it all happen will not come cheaply. EV production at scale means retooling factories. GM will spend $27 billion by 2025 to bring 30 new EVs to market. And the company is working furiously right now to get its supply chain up to snuff.
The auto giant is collaborating on a new rectangular battery system with LG Chem, the battery-making division of Korea’s LG Electronics. Again, the big idea is modularity.
On Wednesday product managers showed the batteries lying flat to fit platforms for sedan and cross-over models, and being piled up to give trucks and SUVs up to 450 miles of range on a single charge. That’s a 60% increase over current capacity.
The opportunity for investors is Magna International, an auto parts maker based in Canada.
Last December Magna managers announced their own joint venture with LG Electronics. The partnership will build electric motors, inverters and board on-board chargers, marrying LG’s electric technology prowess with Magna’s core manufacturing competencies.
In addition its parts business, Magna signed a separate joint venture in 2019 with BAIC, a Chinese state-owned auto maker. The partnership began building complete EVs during 2020. At peak production the venture is expected to produce 180,000 EVs annually.
The key to that partnership, and the deal signed with LG Electronics is being able to swap parts easily between vehicle types and models. This is possible because electrification means most of the basic components will be generic. The same inverter should work equally as well on a Chevy Bolt as a Jaguar I-Pace.
Manufacturing those components at scale is a real advantage when it comes to being cost competitive. And if smaller EV companies would rather simply design their own bodies and interior accoutrements while outsourcing assembly, the BAIC joint venture is a good option. Either way Magna managers have positioned the company as a key EV player.
Barra is fully committed to GM leading the pack. Its new Cadillac EVs are a sleek departure from the previous stilted design language. The electrification of the Hummer brand is ironic for all of the right reasons. A pickup version of the iconic paramilitary vehicle will launch in 2022 with lots of power, range and next generation advanced driver assistance systems for enhanced safety.
Magna is in the right place to supply GM and other EV makers. Jaguar Land Rover selected Magna is 2016 to build I-Pace, its first all-electric SUV. A year later the company won Volkswagen’s e drive business in China. And earlier this month Magna managers announced a deal with Fisker ( (FSR) - Get Report) to develop ADAS technology.
In November Magna reported third quarter free cash flow of $1.3 billion, up from $335 million a year ago. The growth came despite many shuttered factories and a worldwide slump in auto sales. Then managers raised guidance for Q4.
Shares trade at 11x forward earnings and only 0.7x sales. Investors are getting a major auto parts supplier with a strong foothold in EVs on the cheap. They’re also investing in a profitable, well-managed business with a tremendous amount of leverage to a normal cyclical economic recovery.
Investors should use pullbacks to buy Magna.