Hertz Feels the Pain
Although I believe the future belongs to renewable energy and electric vehicles, the transition is going to be bumpy. This is something I have emphasized for years. This year provides a great example.
Renewables got off to a great start this year, but then higher interest rates started to impact growth projections. Renewable energy projects are particularly susceptible to high interest rates, and those interest rates have risen sharply this year.
Renewable Energy Challenged
In late September, NextEra Energy Partners LP (NYSE: NEP), a publicly traded subsidiary of NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE), announced that it was revising its distribution growth rate expectations from 12% to 15% per annum to 5% to 8%. NEP has a capital-intensive business model that is becoming increasingly challenged in the current interest rate environment. NEP units plunged by over 50% in the wake of the news.
The same thing has been happening across the environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investing space. One company after another has seen its shares plunge as growth expectations have been lowered.
For example, a former 10-bagger recommendation by me for another Investing Daily publication is Solaredge Technologies (NYSE: SEDG). The company has shed 70% since summer. So, it’s been a brutal period for renewable companies.
Electric Vehicle Transition Bumpy
The car rental company Hertz Global Holdings (NSDQ: HTZ) is the latest victim, albeit the causes are more complex than simply the rise in interest rates. In its recent Q3 2023 earnings call, Hertz reported strong demand and utilization for its vehicles, but its adjusted EBITDA margin of 13% missed expectations due to elevated costs from its growing electric vehicle (EV) fleet.
Hertz has aggressively moved to incorporate EVs into its fleet. In 2021, Hertz announced plans to place 100,000 electric vehicles from Tesla into service by the end of 2022. Those plans have slowed, as the company currently only had about 50,000 EVs in service as of Q3 2023. EVs now comprise 11% of Hertz’s total fleet, with vehicles from Tesla (NSDQ: TSLA) making up 80% of those vehicles.
It appears that the timing of reaching the 100,000 mark is now uncertain due to a slowdown in its efforts to electrify its fleet. Hertz Chief Executive Officer Stephen Scherr acknowledged this shift during the company’s third-quarter earnings call, stating that Hertz’s integration of electric vehicles will proceed at a slower pace than previously projected.
The reasons given for the impact on earnings were higher collision/damage repairs, and depreciation on EVs. Scherr stated in the Q3 earnings calls that damage costs on EVs have run about twice as high as comparable gasoline vehicles. The higher depreciation issue is because Tesla price cuts have lowered EV residual values.
Excluding EV impacts, Hertz said its EBITDA margin would have been several hundred basis points higher based on the strong underlying demand and cost control. The company maintains a long-term commitment to electrification for competitive reasons.
Hertz Addressing EV Profitability
Hertz is working to improve EV economics and profitability while maintaining its first-mover advantage in electrification. The company is addressing the EV margin challenges through driver re-underwriting, cost negotiations with Tesla, better rental mix, and other initiatives. The firm expects EV economics to improve as it diversifies OEMs and the used market matures. But Hertz will remain selective in EV purchases based on return thresholds.
Editor’s Note: Robert Rapier just gave you invaluable investment insights. But we’ve only scratched the surface of our team’s expertise.
For robust gains with mitigated risk, I suggest you consider the advice of our colleague Jim Pearce, chief investment strategist of Personal Finance.
Personal Finance, founded in 1974, is our flagship publication and it has helped investors build wealth for nearly 50 years.
Case in point: If you had taken the initial recommendation of Personal Finance to buy Chevron (NYSE: CVX), and held on, you’d be sitting on a whopping return of nearly 3,200% (that’s not a typo).
Want to get aboard “The Next Chevron?” Click here for details.