Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares speaks to media on June 13, 2024 following the company’s investor day at its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Michael Wayland / CNBC

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Stellantis is correcting what CEO Carlos Tavares described Thursday as “arrogant” mistakes by himself and the company in the automaker’s U.S. operations that led to sales declines, bloated inventories and investor concerns.

Tavares said the convergence of three factors led to the problems: not selling down vehicle inventory fast enough; manufacturing issues, specifically with two unnamed plants; and lack of “sophistication in the way to go to market.”

“We had a convergence of three things that should have triggered, from me and nobody else, an immediate task force to address those things,” he told media Thursday after the company’s investor day at its North American headquarters. “When I’m saying that you are arrogant, I’m talking about myself. I’m talking about the fact that I should have acted immediately recognizing that the convergence of those three problems was there.”

During the investor day, Tavares and his top lieutenants broadly updated investors on the company’s operations and how Stellantis plans to achieve ambitious financial targets amid industry and economic uncertainty. The company also reconfirmed its 2024 guidance and vowed to continue to return capital to shareholders going forward.

Tavares did not elaborate on the manufacturing or go-to-market problems, but Stellantis’ inventory of vehicles leads major U.S. automakers as the company has held back incentives and cut marketing budgets. Stellantis’ U.S. sales were off 10% during the first quarter, leading to notable declines in revenue.

In May, Cox Automotive reported days’ supply of vehicles at Stellantis’ Jeep and Ram brands were more than twice the industry average of 76 days. Stellantis was the only major automaker to report a decline in U.S. sales last year; its market share dropped below 10%; and Hyundai, including Kia, outsold Stellantis for the first time ever.

While sales have been down, the company remains among the most profitable automakers globally. Since merging Fiat Chrysler and PSA Groupe to form Stellantis in 2021, the automaker’s adjusted operating income rose by 31% from 2021 through last year. Its adjusted profit margin is also up, rising 0.4 percentage point during that time frame, to 12.8%.

Stellantis reported a 12% decline in revenue in the first quarter, citing lower sales and foreign exchange effects, even as net pricing held firm. Its average vehicle transaction price in the U.S. was $57,266, according to Cox Automotive. That compares to an industry average of $48,389.

Cost reductions

Since the merger was agreed to in December 2019, Stellantis has reduced head count by 15.5%, or roughly 47,500 employees, through 2023, according to public filings. Additional job cuts this year involving thousands of plant workers in the U.S. and Italy have drawn the ire of unions in both countries.

Several Stellantis executives described the cuts to CNBC as difficult but effective. Others, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to potential repercussions, have described them as grueling to the point of excessiveness.

Investor day

The cuts are part of Stellantis’ strategic plan to increase profits and double revenue to 300 billion euros by 2030. The plan also includes targets such as achieving adjusted operating profit of more than 12% and industrial free cash flow of more than 20 billion euros.

“We are not looking for our way; we know where we are going,” Tavares said, referring to the automaker’s 2030 “Dare Forward” strategic plan.


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