Ford betting big on trucks, SUVs; sets sights on hybrid gains

By Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press Published 10:50 pm, Friday, March 16, 2018 Photo: Andrew Harrer / Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg Image 1of/1 CaptionClose Image 1 of 1 Jim Hackett, president and chief executive officer of Ford, right, and Bill Ford, executive chairman show a 2019 Ranger mid-size pickup truck during the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit early this year. less Jim Hackett, president and chief executive officer of Ford, right, and Bill Ford, executive chairman show a 2019 Ranger mid-size pickup truck during the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit ... more Photo: Andrew Harrer / Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg Ford betting big on trucks, SUVs; sets sights on hybrid gains 1 / 1 Back to Gallery DETROIT — America is showing an insatiable appetite for trucks and SUVs, and Ford plans to feed it. CEO Jim Hackett and his top executives announced this week a strategy to ramp up truck and SUV production with a goal of 86 percent of the company's volume in North America by 2020 - up from 70 percent. “We're speeding up product development,” he said. “We want to give you confidence.” Put simply: Ford wants to play where it can win. Recommended Video: Now Playing: Ford CEO Jim Hackett announced a series of changes going forward today including cutting $14 billon in costs over five years and investing heavily in electric cars. The company will also simplify the amount of versions it offers and aim to decrease vehicle development time by 20 percent. This is Hackett's first major change since joining the company in May. Media: Wibbitz Ford confirmed showrooms will sell eight SUVs within the next two years, up from six today. Designers have reworked the Escape, Explorer and Bronco, and announced plans for a new, Continue Reading

Maverick Capital, a $10.5 billion hedge fund, is betting big that the smartphone market has hit a ‘tipping point’

Matt Turner, provided by Published 5:29 pm, Friday, February 9, 2018 Craig Barritt/Getty Images Maverick Capital, a $10.5 billion hedge fund run by Lee Ainslie, is betting against companies that will be hurt by the maturation of the smartphone market. The bet is the firm's largest collective short position, according to a year-end letter dated January 30. "The last ten years represented the glory days of the smartphone revolution; however, we believe the next ten years will be very different," the letter said. Maverick Capital, the $10.5 billion hedge fund run by Lee Ainslie, is betting big against the smartphone market.  The firm said in a January 30 letter to investors that its largest collective short position is companies that it thinks will be negatively impacted by a slowdown in the smartphone market. Smartphone sales declined slightly in 2017, reversing a trend of rapid growth over the past decade, as Business Insider's Steve Kovach reported. Maverick said in the letter that it's explaining its most critical positions to help "investors understand why we believe that our portfolio is well positioned for a meaningful rebound." Maverick was down about 2% through the fall of last year, and the letter describes "disappointing alpha generation on both the long and the short side" since mid-2016. The firm's flagship fund gained 1.8% in January, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named speaking about private matters. Local Channel Now Playing: Now Playing SAPD: Multiple injured after River Walk bar fight spills into street San Antonio Express-News Listen: Recorded Uresti interview played at federal trial San Antonio Express-News 10 of the Most Scenic Places in Texas PopularMechanics Cat jailbreaks dogs San Antonio Express-News 3 masked suspects slay teen in revenge shooting, police say San Antonio Express-News Video shows suspect who shot San Antonio AutoZone manager San Antonio Continue Reading

Cardinals betting big on encore by DeJong

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. • From an adjacent room came the sound of a performer warming up on a violin that had been molded and crafted several years before the U.S. Constitution. Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong stood close enough to hear and awaited the start of Wednesday’s concert by fielding questions about his brother’s contagious fondness for classical music. A student in Florida State’s master’s program for music theory, the younger, taller and lither brother Matthew chose music over baseball, sound over fury; and Paul started listing the instruments his kid brother played: Oboe, piano … “And yours is?” came the question. “A baseball bat,” Paul said. With less than two weeks before the Cardinals’ first official full-squad workout — on Feb. 19 — DeJong, his agent Burton Rocks, and his agent’s parents attended a concert Wednesday featuring a string quartet from the Palm Beach Symphony. It was the second performance by the symphony that DeJong had seen this offseason, and he followed it with a meeting Thursday to brainstorm ways he could be more involved with the symphony’s philanthropic goals. DeJong, 24, is coming off a season where he won the Cardinals’ starting job at shortstop, hit a franchise record 25 homers for a rookie at that position, and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. His profile on the field is growing — which has him thinking about balancing his interests off of it, too. He wants both to stay in tune. “I enjoy the comfort of music,” DeJong said . “Growing up is really where I found that balance. I had it as a kid. Playing baseball and school were my main two. Playing an instrument when I was a kid was third. That rounded me out. I had to make a decision. I chose baseball over music, but it’s something I’ll always have because of what I had as a child. I want to grow with it.” Continue Reading

This entrepreneur is betting big that you’ll want to drive a 3D-printed sports car

Entrepreneur Kevin Czinger is excited about the future of cars. But instead of focusing on driverless vehicles like Google and Uber, he has something else in mind: 3D-printing. Enter his revolutionary take on automobiles — the Blade, a car built out of 3D-printed aluminum joints that snap together like legos. As the founder of Divergent 3D, Czinger is betting big on the idea that car parts can be designed, printed and then assembled in micro-factories all over the country. Divergent 3D raised $23 million in a series A round in January, according to Cruchbase. Czinger appeared on the season three premiere of CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" to show off his ultra-sleek 1400-pound, 700 horsepower prototype. Leno can be seen taking the car for a spin around Los Angeles in this YouTube video for his show. "[Czinger's] real goal is to sell this technology to major manufacturers," Leno says. "And the cool thing is, it's made right here in America." The Blade made its debut in June of 2015 at the O'Reilly Solid Conference in San Francisco, where Czinger touted the car's revolutionary manufacturing technology and lightweight body. Forbes noted at the time of the car's debut that it was "unclear how auto-safety regulators may regard the Blade" but gave options for how the company may want to explore the issue. Czinger also boasts that the production process is environmentally friendly — another facet close to Divergent's core mission. "Society has Continue Reading

Investor is betting big on China’s payments system going global

Hong Kong-based private equity and venture capital firm First Eastern Investment Group is betting big on China's burgeoning financial technology sector, its chairman and chief executive told CNBC. "I'm putting my money on Chinese fintech, particularly the payments sector going global," Victor Chu said Friday on the sidelines of the Fortune Global Forum in Guangzhou, China. First Eastern Investment Group is already helping both Alipay and WeChat to expand into Europe, Chu told CNBC. "If they (Chinese tourists) go to London and WeChat Pay is accepted like Visa, it's very easy, they don't even need to exchange foreign currency," he said, noting that the number of Chinese outbound tourists is projected to exceed 200 million in five years from the current 110 million. "So they have to go out because they have to follow their customers, but sooner or later, WeChat Pay and Alipay, with innovation, can be very competitive," he added. Continue Reading

Here are 6 reasons Uber is betting big on Arizona

It’s almost impossible to visit downtown Tempe without spotting one of Uber’s self-driving Volvo SUVs. Its customer service center in Phoenix provides support for operations around the country.Its contract drivers have served about 700,000 people in the state in the last three months.Uber's presence has exploded in the state after starting five years ago with a single worker and a handful of drivers.San Francisco-based Uber has more than 18,000 contract drivers and 1,000 employees in Arizona, with most staffers at the downtown Phoenix operations center. And more growth could be on the horizon.  Here are six reasons why the company is betting big on Arizona:The downtown Phoenix Center for Excellence, which moved several times before taking up its current space in a building at Second and Washington streets, provides around-the-clock support for people across the country. Uber has a smaller center in Chicago.Close to 300 people work in the self-driving operations in Tempe. Uber also has a “Greenlight hub” driver-support operation in Tempe.That makes Arizona second only to California in terms of workers for the company. Phoenix is one of the top markets for the company, although Uber does not release detailed metrics on its operations.“It’s pretty incredible when you see how large the operations are here in Arizona,” General Manager Steve Thompson said. “My team mostly is focused on operations and logistics,” he said. “They are here to help people get from point A to point B.”Globally, Uber faces a variety of legal and leadership challenges. They include a lawsuit by Alphabet Inc., parent company of Google and Waymo, alleging stolen proprietary information on self-driving cars and a federal inquiry into its use of “Greyball,” a software that could be used for drivers to evade law enforcement in places where ride-sharing was not sanctioned. There also are Continue Reading

Why Virginia Tech has bet big on coach Buzz Williams

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The meeting was a long one, spanning three exhaustive days that ended at Buzz Williams’ home in Milwaukee in which a basketball coach obsessed with contract clauses and an administrator trying to make a program-changing hire were poring over details without the input of agents or attorneys.If it didn’t work out, Whit Babcock, who had just been hired himself as Virginia Tech’s athletics director, would presumably slink out of town and move on to the next coach without anyone being tipped off to his plan. But if it did, a program that had languished at the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference would not only be changing coaches but its entire level of investment in basketball, stretching its budget to the absolute limit in order to lure a proven winner.Williams, who keeps a daily diary and organizes every detail of his life, brought six years’ worth of notes to the meeting with Babcock covering all of his prior contract negotiations with Marquette, serving as a blueprint for what he would need to transform Virginia Tech from doormat to winning program in the nation’s toughest conference. Every detail was covered from recruiting budgets to staff salaries to the number of tickets he would get at Hokies football games. By the third day, even as Babcock put a deadline on the negotiations, Williams insisted they push through to the end, just to make sure nothing was left in the gray area before he decided to take the job.“We had a high limit, and we went to that with Buzz where we didn’t feel like we could do more, and we were very transparent about it,” said Babcock. “He actually took a pay cut to come here. We have different levels of investment we can make (in different sports), but with Buzz we stretched it as far as we could go.”Though hiring Williams would require Virginia Tech to significantly expand its financial commitment to basketball — Williams’ initial Continue Reading

HHGregg bet big on 4K TVs; now their prices are plummeting

Consumers are snatching up ultra-high-definition televisions at huge discounts, causing HHGregg's electronics sales to sink.The Indianapolis electronics retailer on Thursday reported a loss of $7.2 million, or 26 cents a share, during the three-month period ending June 30. That was an improvement from a loss of $8.8 million, or 32 cents per share, a year earlier. HHGregg's sales fell 4 percent to $423.6 million yet beat analysts' expectations.Robert Riesbeck, who this week shed his interim title and became HHGregg's permanent CEO, attributed much of the recent loss to plummeting prices for ultra-HD sets, also known as 4K.Former CEO Dennis May bet big on 4K TVs, calling it a product whose time has come. He was correct in terms of sales volume. HHGregg's 4K TV sales rose more than 80 percent in the company's first quarter, Riesbeck said.But HHGregg is selling 4K TVs for as low as $330 and has more than two dozen models for sale at less than $1,000, according to its website. That's a dramatic price drop for a product that fetched thousands of dollars per television just a couple of years ago.Riesbeck in a conference call with investors cited research by NPD Group Inc. showing the average price of 4K TVs dropped 30 percent during the most recent quarter. That price drop drove HHGregg's consumer electronics sales down 17.4 percent in stores that have been open for at least a year, Riesbeck said, adding the company "over-indexed in 4K TVs.""Our 4K units as a percent of our total (video sales) was about 31 percent, where the market is about 18 percent," Riesbeck said in the company's conference call. "So with a 30 percent decline in average selling prices, that was our toughest challenge for the quarter."Appliances were a bright spot, though. Same-store appliance sales rose 3.7 percent, in part because of the company's decision earlier this year Continue Reading

Bloom shows the risks of betting big with taxpayer money: Editorial

News that Bloom Energy has fallen well short of its hiring and salary goals is not surprising, but it should serve as a sobering reminder to state officials: when you're betting with taxpayers' money, be careful of how much you risk. State officials gave the fuel cell manufacturer $12 million, and the company promised to create jobs that paid $108 million in salaries. It has doled out only about 60 percent of that, so the company has paid back $1.5 million as part of a clawback guarantee with the state. Read the story: Bloom Energy repays $1.5 million to Delaware after failing to hit job goals Bloom could end up returning as much as $6.9 million, depending on the number of jobs it creates in the future.If only the direct incentives are considered, the Bloom deal is a disappointment, not an outrage. Yet that was only a small part of the package: Delaware electric ratepayers also have forked over about $166 million in monthly "Bloom surcharges" on their utility bills, and will continue paying through at least 2033.  Previous editorial: Let's make a Delaware where anyone can go to college When the surcharge was created in 2012, it was 65 cents. Now it is expected to be $5.83 in November.Many utility customers are justifiably irate.We have repeatedly argued that taxpayers shouldn't be forced to cough up cash for companies to create jobs. But the hard reality is that state leaders have to compete, and that naturally entails some risk with taxpayer money.That's why governments should avoid what those in economic development circles call "whale hunting" — assembling multi-million-dollar deals in hopes of landing game-changing corporate investments. Former Gov. Jack Markell thought Bloom would not only create jobs, but would make Delaware a player in a new cutting-edge renewable energy source. It was a similar story with the collapse of the Fisker Automotive deal — not only did Markell see a chance to restore jobs at Continue Reading

Betting big on repressed romance with cast addition in Dylan McDermott’s cop series ‘Dark Blue’

"Dark Blue," Wednesday night at 9 on TNT Maybe it's the way Dylan McDermott has always seemed so brooding and serious, first on "The Practice" and now on "Dark Blue," that made his producers apparently decide this season to find him a friend. We should all get this kind of present. Tricia Helfer (best known from "Battlestar Galactica") joins the cast of "Dark Blue" as FBI agent Alexis Rice. The catch for McDermott's Lt. Carter Shaw, an undercover operative for the LAPD, is that she will be his boss. This rearranges Shaw's world in several ways, from the obvious to the subtle, and while "Dark Blue" seems determined to focus more on police work than soap opera, it seems clear that producer Jerry Bruckheimer and company are betting big on this relationship. With repressed romances proving so successful for shows like "Castle," it's not a big shock that "Dark Blue" has apparently decided to add this bonus element to what was already a pretty solid ensemble show. Happily, Rice's arrival doesn't seem to crowd out other characters we got to know and like last season, including Shaw's team: Ty Curtis (Omari Hardwick), Dean Bendis (Logan Marshall-Green), and Jaimie Allen (Nicki Aycox), whose shadowy background makes her a good undercover cop and sometimes a wreck as a person. Wednesday night's episode suffers some from the time and effort needed to ease Rice into this mix. The integration itself is simple enough, with Rice's FBI team moving in on an operation Shaw felt his people had under control. The FBI gets proprietary about these things, as other cop shows frequently remind us, but neither Shaw nor Rice executes the plan perfectly, and an unforeseen tragedy soon takes matters in a whole new direction. Things then get wrapped up just a little too neatly as the writers make room for Shaw and Rice to begin their slow dance. This does squeeze out some of the subtlety and occasional ambivalence that gave the first "Dark Blue" season some of its charm. Continue Reading