Tesla's Spending on R&D and Marketing, Compared to Other Automakers
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Comparing Tesla’s Spending on R&D and Marketing Per Car to Other Automakers

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The Briefing

  • Tesla spends $0 of its budget on advertising, but instead spends a dramatic amount on research and development (R&D)

Tesla’s Spending Per Car Sold vs. Other Automakers

It’s often said that word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

In the case of Tesla and their rapid ascent to the top of the global automobile business, this might be true. After all, the electric vehicle company somehow manages to spend $0 on advertising year after year, despite the fact that marketing is typically a significant expense line item for most other auto manufacturers.

On the flip side, Tesla is spending an average of $2,984 per car sold on research and development (R&D)—often triple the amount of other traditional automakers.

AutomakerR&D spend per car soldAd spend per car soldR&D per dollar of advertising
Tesla$2,984$0$0
Ford$1,186$468$2.53
Toyota$1,063$454$2.34
General Motors$878$394$2.22
Chrysler$784$664$1.18

On this per vehicle sold basis, Tesla’s $2,984 in R&D spend per car is far greater than that of other car manufacturers. It’s even higher than the collective amount going to R&D per car from three of the other automakers (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) combined.

When it comes to advertising, the average spend among traditional automakers is $495 per vehicle. And while Tesla technically spends nothing on advertising, the company is a marketing machine that is rated as the world’s fastest growing brand, and Tesla often dominates press mentions and social media chatter.

Capital Allocation: R&D and Advertising

The balance of expenditures between R&D and advertising is part of capital allocation, a decision every business needs to make. Generally speaking, more R&D can improve and advance the quality of either your goods or service, relative to your competitors. If executed correctly, it has the potential to lead to greater pricing power that will reflect in the margins.

In contrast, advertising can spread awareness and promote the business. But it’s a tricky balance that isn’t always easy to get right.

While capital allocation is vital, one factor that differentiates Tesla from the rest, is Elon Musk himself. With over 60 million followers on Twitter, his wild popularity has no doubt aided in Tesla’s brand recognition, where they’ve arguably become synonymous with the electric vehicle revolution.

Automobiles Of Tomorrow

For Americans, 85% still use an automobile as their primary method of transportation to work. As a result, automobiles will likely undergo a serious shake up as the world continues on its path towards a greener future.

With increasing investments made in the electric vehicle space—poised to be worth a trillion dollar market by 2028—how will R&D and advertising budgets of tomorrow look for major automobile companies?

Where does this data come from?

Source: 10-K Filings
Notes: Data covers automobile figures for 2020

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The Decline of U.S. Car Production

U.S. car production has been in a long-term downward trend since the 1970s. We examine some of the factors driving this trend.

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The Briefing

  • U.S. auto manufacturing has been in a downward trend since the 1970s
  • Overseas competitors have gradually eroded the market share of America’s Big Three
  • Recent events like the global chip shortage present further setbacks

U.S. Car Production Falls to a New Low

Germany may have been the birthplace of the automobile, but it was America that developed the methods for mass production.

Created in 1913, Henry Ford’s assembly line greatly reduced the time it took to build a car. This also made cars more affordable, and America’s automotive industry quickly became the largest in the world. As we can see in the chart above, this dominance wouldn’t last forever.

From a high of nearly 10 million cars per month in the 1970s, the U.S. produced just 1.4 million in June 2021. Here are some reasons for why the country produces a fraction of the cars it used to.

Global Competition

America’s Big Three (Ford, GM, and Chrysler*) have been unable to defend their market share from overseas competitors. The following table shows how Honda and Toyota were able to break into the U.S. market over a span of just five decades.

YearFordGMChryslerBig Three
Total Market Share
HondaToyota
196029.3%45.7%10.4%85.4%--
197028.3%38.9%14.9%82.1%-2.0%
198020.5%44.2%9.1%73.8%3.3%6.2%
199023.8%35.2%12.0%71.0%6.0%7.6%
200022.6%28.0%13.0%63.6%6.5%9.1%
201016.4%18.8%9.2%44.4%10.5%15.0%

*Chrysler is now a part of Stellantis N.V., a multinational corporation.
Source: WardsAuto

The 1970s presented an incredible opportunity for Honda and Toyota, which at the time were known for producing smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

First was the Clean Air Act of 1970, which imposed limits on the amount of emissions a car could produce. Then came the 1973 oil crisis, which caused a massive spike in gasoline prices.

As consumers switched to smaller cars, American brands struggled to compete. For example, the flawed design of the Ford Pinto (Ford’s first subcompact car) was exposed in 1972 after one exploded in a rear-end collision. The ensuing lawsuit, Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company, undoubtedly left a stain on the automaker’s reputation.

Production Moves to Mexico

2018 was a controversial year for GM as it came under fire by the Trump administration for closing four of its U.S. plants. That same year, GM became Mexico’s biggest automaker.

The decision to outsource is well-founded from a business standpoint. Mexico offers cheaper labor, lower taxes, and close proximity for logistics. Altogether, these benefits add up to roughly $1,200 in savings per car.

It’s important to note that GM isn’t alone in this decision. BMW, Ford, and many others have also invested in Mexico to produce cars destined for the United States.

Shifts in the Market

There are other, less obvious factors to consider too.

Modern cars are much more reliable, meaning Americans don’t need to purchase a new one as often. 2020 marks four consecutive years of increase for the average vehicle age in the U.S., which now sits at 12 years old.

“In the mid-’90s, 100,000 miles was about all you would get out of a vehicle. Now, at a 100,000 miles a vehicle is just getting broken in.”
– Todd Campau, Associate Director, IHS Markit

Rising car prices could also be playing a part. The average price of a new car was $41,000 as of July 2021, up from around $35,700 in May 2018.

Can U.S. Car Production Make a Comeback?

Recent events are a grim reminder of the direction U.S. car production is heading.

As part of its plant closures, GM shuttered its Lordstown facility in 2019. This broke a 2008 agreement in which GM pledged to keep 3,700 employees at the location through 2028. The company had received over $60 million in tax credits as part of this deal, and $28 million was ordered to be paid back.

COVID-19 has presented further issues, such as the ongoing chip shortage which has impacted the production of more than 1 million U.S.-made vehicles.

Not all hope is lost, however.

Tesla now employs over 70,000 Americans across its production facilities in California, Nevada, New York, and soon, Texas. The company is joined by Lucid Motors and Rivian, two entrants into the EV industry that have both opened U.S. plants in 2021.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Trading Economics

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After China’s Crypto Ban, Who Leads in Bitcoin Mining?

In September 2021, China issued a blanket ban on all crypto activities. Click to find out which country is the new leader in bitcoin mining. (Sponsored Content)

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The Briefing

  • China issued a ban on all crypto activities in September 2021
  • As a result, the U.S. has greatly increased its share of global Bitcoin hash rate

Bitcoin Mining Moves to America

Bitcoin mining is a process that verifies transactions on the blockchain ledger, while also bringing new bitcoins into circulation.

To be successful at this, cryptominers require vast amounts of computing power, meaning electricity becomes one of their most significant costs. This pushes them to locate wherever electricity is cheapest.

For years, China was the optimal location—the country has an abundance of cheap, coal-powered electricity. However, in September 2021, the Chinese government issued a blanket ban on all crypto activities.

In this graphic sponsored by Global X, we illustrate a movement that’s being dubbed “the great mining migration”.

Bitcoin Hashrate by Country

The University of Cambridge maintains various datasets on the Bitcoin blockchain, including power consumption and hash rate. Global hash rate measures the total computational power that is dedicated to mining.

The table below shows a breakdown of global hashrate by country.

CountryShare of Global Hash rate
as of September 2019 (%)
Share of Global Hash rate
as of August 2021 (%)
🇺🇸 U.S.4.1%35.4%
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan1.4%18.1%
🌎 Other6.1%13.5%
🇷🇺 Russia5.9%11.2%
🇨🇦 Canada1.1%9.6%
🇲🇾 Malaysia3.3%4.6%
🇩🇪 Germany0.9%4.5%
🇮🇷 Iran1.7%3.1%
🇨🇳 China75.5%0.0%

This data shows us how dramatic the shift has been. Just two years ago, China accounted for over three quarters of global Bitcoin hashrate. The country is now expected to miss out on $6 billion in annual cryptomining revenues.

The New Bitcoin Capital of the World

So why are cryptominers choosing the U.S. as their new home? For starters, America offers a greater level of relative stability.

If you’re looking to relocate hundreds of millions of dollars of miners out of China, you want to make sure you have geographic, political, and jurisdictional stability.
– Darin Feinstein, Founder, Core Scientific

Within the U.S., Texas is one of the hottest spots for cryptominers to relocate. The state not only has plenty of open land, but also a deregulated power grid. This allows cryptominers to negotiate rates with different power providers and sign longer-term contracts.

According to Square, cryptomining has environmental benefits, too. The financial services company believes that bitcoin mining is in fact a complementary technology for clean energy production and storage.

Where does this data come from?

Source: University of Cambridge

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