Low oil prices have prompted a shift in consumer tastes towards “light trucks” — the broad term for pickups and sport utility vehicles, which generally command higher profit margins compared with smaller cars. In August, Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler generated 74 per cent of their US sales from trucks — a record.
But with US sales back above pre-crisis levels, analysts say two factors could halt the bonanza.
First, a rise in US interest rates could curtail credit and therefore reduce vehicle purchases. Second, carmakers could seek to compensate for falling demand in China by increasingly pushing for sales in the US, resulting in price wars.
Furthermore, new manufacturing capacity in the southern US states and Mexico will soon come on stream following commitments from the likes of Ford, Toyota and Volvo.
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Another company with its sights trained on Tesla is Thunder Power, a South Korean start-up that plans to launch a number of electric vehicles in Frankfurt. These include a high-end car that claims to be capable of a range of more than 370 miles.
Overseeing the project is Peter Tutzer, chief technical officer, who is a former technical director at Lotus who also worked on the Bugatti Veyron, one of the fastest cars in history.