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无人驾驶电动汽车的未来

来源:英语阅读 编辑:英语学习 时间:2017-07-20

知了英语编者按:汽车从一开始就吸引了疯狂的投机活动。正如沃伦.巴菲特(Warren Buffett)喜欢指出的那样,多数投资者损失惨重:在20世纪初2000家美国汽车公司中,只有3家坚持了下来。“当然,你本应该做的一件事是,”这位奥马哈圣人(Sage of Omaha)不止一次地说,“做空(汽车问世前拖车的)马。”

ENENU Editor's note:Cars attracted frenzied speculation from the start. As Warren Buffett likes to point out, most investors got burnt: of 2,000 US car companies at the start of the 20th century three endured. “Of course, the thing you should have been doing,” the Sage of Omaha has remarked more than once, “was shorting horses.”

如今,投资者再次为汽车着迷,这一次是电动汽车和无人驾驶汽车。与100年前不同,现在没有2000家公司可以押注。一些人可能会看上谷歌(Google)母公司Alphabet或苹果(Apple),对于这些科技集团而言,汽车只是一项巨额研究成本;然而,多数人追捧电动汽车制造商特斯拉(Tesla)。

Investors are once more captivated by cars, this time electric and autonomous ones. Unlike 100 years ago, however, there are not 2,000 companies on which to bet. Some might look to Google parent Alphabet or Apple, the technology groups for whom cars are just a large research cost; most, though, alight on Tesla, the electric carmaker.

无人驾驶电动汽车的未来

Yet it is not certain that Tesla has the staying power of a General Motors rather than the shorter life of a Winton Motor Carriage Company or one of the other original also-rans. And while the market seems to have identified traditional carmakers as the “horses”, they are not heading for the knacker’s yard and could adapt to a new market.

然而,现在还不能确定特斯拉是否具备通用汽车(General Motors)那样的持久力,而不是像某个Winton Motor Carriage Company或者其他最初的平庸企业之一那样短命。与此同时,尽管市场似乎将传统汽车制造商视为“马”,但它们并未走向老弱马匹屠宰场,而是完全有可能适应新市场。

At Tesla, chief executive Elon Musk is a magnetic evangelist for his company, convincing shareholders to supply more cash to fund factories and cars. They have poured in more than $7bn since the 2010 initial public offering. Additional shares bring dilution which should reduce the price, but it has marched higher, up 50 per cent this year. Even analysts at Goldman Sachs, Tesla’s preferred underwriter for the share sales, now reckon no one should buy them: its price target of $180 is almost 50 per cent below the current level.

在特斯拉,首席执行官埃隆?马斯克(Elon Musk)是他公司的一位富有魅力的传道士,善于说服股东拿出更多资金来为工厂和汽车融资。自2010年首次公开发行(IPO)以来,他们已投入逾70亿美元。更多的股票将产生稀释作用,应该会降低股价,但该公司股价却大踏步向前,今年以来上涨50%。就连特斯拉青睐的股票发行承销商高盛(Goldman Sachs)的分析师现在也认为,谁都不应买入这些股票:其股价目标为180美元,比当前价格低近一半。

With a $50bn valuation despite no profits, negative free cash flow and frequently missed delivery targets, Tesla is a compelling counterpoint to the complaint that markets are fixated on the short term. It has lost money every year since going public in 2010 and burnt almost $7bn of cash along the way. Despite promising to reach positive free cash flow, Tesla has only achieved it in four of 34 quarters: capital spending usually overwhelms the cash coming in.

尽管没有利润,自由现金流为负值而且一再错过交付目标,但特斯拉的估值高达500亿美元。这一点是对“市场关注短线”这个观点的有力反驳。自2010年上市以来,该公司年年亏损,其间烧掉了近70亿美元资金。尽管承诺将实现正数的自由现金流,但在34个季度中,特斯拉只有4个季度实现了这一目标:资本支出通常超过投入的资金。

Listen to Mr Musk at the annual meeting last month and that is not a surprise. He swept from solar roof tiles to powering a Hawaiian island, to a plan for a car that would drive itself from California to New York without any human intervention, to 20 vast “gigafactories” producing batteries, to a prototype truck that would be unveiled in September.

听听马斯克在上月年会上的发言,这一点不会让人意外。他滔滔不绝,从太阳能屋顶瓦片说到为夏威夷一岛屿供电,谈到一辆无人驾驶汽车在没有人力干预的情况下从加州开到纽约的计划,谈到20家生产电池的庞大“千兆工厂”,还谈到将在今年9月亮相的一款卡车样车。

“It’s not inconceivable I would do an electric plane,” he said, adding: “no, I’m not saying we’re going to add a nuclear fusion reactor. I’m just saying it fits.”

“并非不可想象的是,我要开发一种电动飞机,”他表示,他还补充称:“不,我没有说我们要加上一个核聚变反应堆。我只是说它合适。”

Yet Tesla delivered only 76,000 cars last year. Morgan Stanley analysts forecast it will not surpass 1m until 2028. Toyota, Volkswagen and GM each produce about 10m cars a year out of global sales of 90m. For the Model 3, its new mass-market car priced at $35,000, Tesla has said it will produce 5,000 a week at some point in 2017 and 10,000 a week at some point in 2018. There were 400,000 initial deposits of $1,000. But the deposits are refundable and the car is not yet on the roads, though it says it will be delivered on schedule.

然而,特斯拉去年仅交付了7.6万辆汽车。摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)分析师预测,其产量在2028年之前不会超过100万辆。丰田(Toyota)、大众(Volkswagen)和通用汽车(GM)各自的汽车年产量都达到1000万辆左右,而全球汽车销量为9000万辆。对于价格为3.5万美元、面向大众的新款汽车Model 3,特斯拉表示,2017年某时将达到每周生产5000辆,2018年某时将达到每周生产1万辆。现在有40万人支付了1000美元的定金。但这些定金可以退还,而这款汽车还未上市,尽管特斯拉表示将按计划交付。

Seeking to rein in demand, even Mr Musk is imploring people not to buy it; orders placed now do not have hope of delivery until the end of 2018.

为了控制需求,就连马斯克都劝人们不要购买;现在提交的订单没有希望在2018年底之前交付。

38% The share of the market held by electric cars in 1900. Thomas Edison the inventor, above, worked on electric car batteries throughout the first decade of the 20th century.

38% 1900年电动汽车的市场占有率。

By then there will be more competition. GM has shown with the Chevy Bolt that it can make an electric car with both a range — 238 miles on one charge — and a pricetag similar to the Model 3.

到那时,竞争将更加激烈。通用汽车已用雪佛兰Bolt(Chevy Bolt)证明,其能够制造一款在续航里程(充一次电行驶238英里)和价格上与Model 3相近的电动汽车。

If the Bolt falls short on style, then companies including BMW, Daimler, Nissan and VW will deliver more alluring models in the next two years. VW plans 10 new models by then and for electric vehicles to account for 20-25 per cent of sales by 2025. Honda wants two-thirds of its vehicles to be partly electric-powered by 2030, a goal that includes petrol/electric hybrids such as the Accord. Volvo went a step further this week, announcing the end of the purely petrol engine in its cars from 2019. Having previously focused on hydrogen fuel cell technology, Toyota, too, is ramping up its electric ambitions.

如果说雪佛兰Bolt在式样上不够诱人的话,那么包括宝马(BMW)、戴姆勒(Daimler)、日产(Nissan)、大众在内的车企都将在接下来两年推出更有吸引力的车型。大众计划在此期间推出10款新车,并使电动汽车销量到2025年占总销量的20%至25%。本田(Honda)希望到2030年旗下三分之二的汽车实现部分由电力驱动,这一目标包括雅阁(Accord)等油电混合动力车。沃尔沃(Volvo)更进一步,最近宣布从2019年起停止生产配备纯汽油发动机的汽车。此前专注于氢燃料电池技术的丰田,也在加大开发电动汽车的雄心。

Even if the Model 3 succeeds, it is hard to imagine Tesla ever matching the sales of the biggest carmakers. Yet it is valued as if it will. VW, GM and Toyota each sell about 10m cars a year and make a combined $34bn in net income between them. Tesla, with consistent losses and less than 1 per cent of its volume, overtook GM this year to become the most valuable US carmaker. Finding another way to live up to its enterprise value requires a leap of faith that Tesla can attain and exploit an advantage in some other technology — batteries or autonomous cars perhaps.

即便Model 3大获成功,也很难想象特斯拉能够达到各大汽车制造商的销量。但从特斯拉的估值来看,貌似它应该能够做到。大众、通用汽车、丰田每家的年销量都为1000万辆左右,净利润共计340亿美元。今年,持续亏损且产量不到通用汽车1%的特斯拉,已取代通用汽车成为美国市值最高的汽车制造商。找到另一条途径来实现它的企业价值,需要一次信心飞跃,或许是特斯拉能够获取并利用其他什么技术——电池或自动驾驶汽车。

This week Tesla has hit trouble; whether it is a bump in the road or something more serious remains to be seen. Weak sales data fed the narrative that potential customers were forgoing existing models and waiting for the cheaper Model 3; the shares are off almost a fifth from their recent high. More than most companies, Tesla needs its inflated stock price since it relies on the stock market for funding.

最近特斯拉遭遇了麻烦;这是一个小波折还是更严重的问题仍有待观察。疲软的销售数据引发猜测——潜在的客户正在放弃现有的车型,等待更便宜的Model 3;特斯拉的股价已从近期的高点跌去近五分之一。特斯拉比大多数公司更需要虚高的股价,因为它要依赖股市融资。

Plenty of sceptics have lost money betting on the shares to fall. S3 Partners, a financial analytics firm which tracks short sellers, estimates their losses are $4bn this year. It does not mean the short sellers are wrong: the road to success for Tesla still looks incredibly narrow.

很多怀疑者因为押注特斯拉股价下跌而赔了钱。追踪卖空者的金融分析公司S3 Partners估计,他们今年的损失将达40亿美元。这并不意味着卖空者错了:特斯拉的成功之路看起来仍极其狭窄。

While Tesla soars, the broader industry is being treated as if it is seriously ill, with a price/earnings multiple that is about the lowest in 20 years. Traditional carmakers have inspired no faith in their ability to adapt to new technology. Doubts are understandable. As recently as 2009, GM and Chrysler were going through bankruptcy. The emissions scandal that cost VW and other car manufacturers billions of dollars struck only two years ago.

在特斯拉股价暴涨之际,整个汽车行业仿佛被当作病入膏肓者对待,市盈率处于20年来最低水平。传统汽车制造商适应新技术的能力未能激起任何信心。这些疑虑可以理解。就在不那么久之前的2009年,通用汽车和克莱斯勒经历过破产。令大众等汽车制造商付出数十亿美元代价的排放作弊丑闻就发生在两年前。

In May, a month after Tesla overtook its market value, Ford ousted chief executive Mark Fields for failing to push fast enough into the future. GM has made bolder bets, paying $581m for Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based autonomous driving company; investing $500m in Lyft, the ride-hailing company; and launching Maven, a car-sharing app, with the surprising admission that, when city dwellers buy a car, it depreciates “fairly rapidly, you use it 3 per cent of the time, and you pay a vast amount of money to park it for the other 97 per cent of the time”.

今年5月,在市值上被特斯拉超越一个月后,福特解雇了首席执行官马克?菲尔茨(Mark Fields),理由是他未能足够快地带领公司向未来推进。通用汽车做出了更大胆的押注,向总部位于旧金山的自动驾驶汽车公司Cruise Automation投资5.81亿美元;向叫车服务公司Lyft投资5亿美元;推出共享汽车应用Maven,并出人意料地承认,当城市居民购买一辆车时,它贬值“相当快,你只是在3%的时间里使用它,但要为其余97%的时间花大量钱支付停车费”。

However, this is not being rewarded in the market any more than Ford’s more cautious approach. GM trades at a depressed multiple of five times expected earnings. Investors believe in future car technologies, but not that the current carmakers will profit.

然而,相比福特更加谨慎的姿态,通用汽车并未在市场上获得更高的回报。通用汽车股票的预期市盈率只有区区5倍。投资者相信的是未来的汽车技术,而不是当前的汽车制造商将会盈利。

The same divide is reflected among suppliers. Intel paid $15bn in March for Mobileye, an Israeli company that makes sensors for driverless cars and not much in the way of profit: the price works out at more than 100 times core earnings, not dissimilar to Tesla’s valuation. Nvidia, whose chips are used in self-driving technology, has seen its shares triple in a year.

同样的分化也出现在供应商之间。今年3月,英特尔(Intel)斥资150亿美元收购了为无人驾驶汽车制造传感器的以色列公司Mobileye:虽然该公司利润不高,但收购价是核心盈利的100多倍,与特斯拉的估值有点相像。英伟达(Nvidia)的股价一年间上涨了两倍,其生产的芯片被用于自动驾驶技术。

Federal-Mogul on the other hand, founded in Detroit in 1899 and a maker of less glamorous parts such as pistons and gaskets, was valued at $1.7bn, just 2.5 times core earnings, when it was acquired this year by Carl Icahn.

另一方面,辉门公司(Federal-Mogul)今年被卡尔?伊卡恩(Carl Icahn)收购时的估值为17亿美元,仅为核心盈利的2.5倍。1899年成立于底特律的辉门公司是一家生产活塞、密封垫等普通配件的制造商。

Delphi, another large supplier, made the decision to split into two and was immediately rewarded with a 10 per cent increase in the stock price. Shareholders assume the advanced electronics division will be valued more attractively once shorn of the engine division.

另一家大型汽车零部件供应商德尔福(Delphi)在决定分拆为两部分后,股价随即上涨10%。股东们认为,一旦与发动机部门分开,先进电子部门的估值将更具吸引力。

Yet the gloom surrounding the incumbents seems overdone. Ford’s free cash flow is about $13bn, enough to buy back all of its own depressed shares within three years. Low interest rates have helped prolong a period of bumper sales. US sales, which fell to a rate of 9m in 2009, remain close to 17m a year, although sales are now declining.

然而,围绕老牌车企的悲观情绪似乎过头了。福特的自由现金流约为130亿美元,足以在3年内回购其价格偏低的全部股票。低利率帮助延续了火爆销售。在2009年跌至900万辆之后,美国汽车销量恢复到了每年近1700万辆的水平,尽管如今销量在下滑。

President Donald Trump may enjoy torturing carmakers for their overseas plants but he is hardly going to upend their business models with tough environmental rules and incentives. Mr Trump tweeted this week: “Gas prices are the lowest in the US in over 10 years! I would like to see them go even lower.”

美国总统唐纳德?特朗普(Donald Trump)或许乐于吓唬在海外投资设厂的美国汽车制造商,但他不太可能用严厉的环保法规和激励措施来颠覆他们的商业模式。特朗普近日发推文称:“美国汽油价格处于10多年来的最低水平!我希望看到它们降得更低。”

Indeed, gas prices in the US are about $2.50 a gallon, while they have spent most of the past decade closer to $4. While investors become excited by electric cars, Ford is selling gas-guzzling pick-up trucks in record numbers.

的确,美国汽油价格大约为每加仑2.50美元,而过去10年的大部分时间都更接近4美元。尽管投资者对电动汽车兴奋不已,但福特销售的耗油量大的皮卡数量达到创纪录水平。

Change will come, but judging the pace is crucial. Opec, which has a vested interest, predicts that fewer than 7 per cent of vehicles on the road will be fully electric as far away as 2040. The oil producers’ cartel also assumes the number of cars will double from today to 2bn. Tech evangelists scoff at this, claiming more will be electric and more will be shared and autonomous.

变革将出现,但判断变化的步伐至关重要。拥有既得利益的石油输出国组织(Opec)预测,即使到了遥远的2040年,在路上行驶的全电动汽车也将不到7%。这个产油国卡特尔还认为,汽车数量将比现在增加一倍,达到20亿辆。科技信徒对此嗤之以鼻,声称电动汽车数量将更多,同时将有更多汽车被共享和自动化。

But even under more radical forecasts — UBS predicts electric vehicles, including hybrids, will account for 14 per cent of sales by 2025 — there will still be plenty of petrol-powered cars. If investors remain so down on the industry, private equity firms should be able to strike bargain deals for cash generative companies.

然而,即便根据更为激进的预测(瑞银(UBS)预测,到2025年包括混合动力汽车在内的电动汽车将占汽车总销量的14%),还是会有大量以汽油为动力的汽车。如果投资者对该行业如此不看好,私人股本公司应该能以低价收购产生大量现金的公司。

And if change is more rapid, some carmakers should be better insulated than before. Steve Rattner, the “car tsar” in the Obama administration, highlights how rapidly the new threats have emerged. “I literally never heard the words ‘autonomous vehicle’ or ‘ride-sharing’,” he says of his time supervising the restructuring of GM and Chrysler in 2009, but notes that the carmakers were made to cut costs so they could break even if sales stayed at 10m a year. That should help when the cycle turns and even cushion a more profound blow, such as more people choosing to hail or share rather than own their cars.

如果变革更为迅速,一些汽车制造商应该会比以前具备更好的抗压能力。曾在奥巴马政府担任“汽车沙皇”的史蒂夫?拉特纳(Steve Rattner)指出新的威胁可能迅速出现。他在谈到2009年他监督通用汽车和克莱斯勒重组时表示,“那时我真的从未听到过‘自动驾驶汽车’或‘拼车’。”但他指出,这些汽车制造商被勒令削减成本,这样如果销量保持在每年1000万辆的话,它们就能实现盈亏平衡。这将在周期变化时有所帮助,甚至能够缓解更沉重的打击,例如更多的人选择打车或拼车,而不是买车。

“We may have left these companies reasonably positioned to at least hold their own financially,” says Mr Rattner.

拉特纳表示:“我们可能让这些公司处于良好的状态,至少可以在财务上自立。”

Detroit’s sunniest optimists even say that, when the world shifts, the carmakers will thrive: fat operating margins will be available for managing autonomous fleets of taxis and buses or providing insurance. Ford forecasts it will make margins of more than 20 per cent from these services.

底特律最乐观的人士甚至表示,当世界发生变化时,汽车制造商将蓬勃发展:管理自动驾驶出租车和巴士或提供保险业务将获得丰厚的营运利润率。福特预测,该公司将从这些服务中获得超过20%的利润率。

Few endorse these estimates. Max Warburton, analyst at Bernstein, argues: “Precisely none of these activities makes 20 per cent margins for anyone, anywhere.”

几乎无人支持这些预测。伯恩斯坦(Bernstein)分析师马克斯?沃伯顿(Max Warburton)辩称:“这些活动根本不可能实现20%的利润率,对任何地区的任何一家企业都是如此。”

It is understandable that such profits would appeal to carmakers, whose operating margins range from 2 per cent at Ford to 8 per cent at Daimler. Yet their puny margins offer some defence: why would tech titans such as Alphabet, with an operating margin above 26 per cent, start making cars?

可以理解的是,这些利润将吸引汽车制造商,目前它们的营运利润率介于2%(福特)到8%(戴姆勒)。然而,这些低得可怜的利润率提供了一些防御:营运利润率超过26%的Alphabet等科技巨擘为何要开始生产汽车?

Rather than cut out the incumbents, collaboration is more likely. Tech companies might provide the core technology, mainly the software, for self-driving cars while the carmakers stick to their capital-intensive, low-margin business.

更有可能出现的是合作,而不是取代老牌汽车制造商。科技公司可以为自动驾驶汽车提供核心技术,主要是软件,而汽车制造商将继续做资本密集型、低利润率的业务。

Waymo, the Alphabet subsidiary which has racked up more than 3m autonomous miles, has a partnership with Fiat Chrysler, which is supplying 600 minivans. Waymo has also linked up with Lyft, the app that competes with Uber, and Avis Budget. Semi-autonomous trips are expected before the end of the year.

Alphabet子公司Waymo的自动驾驶里程已超过300万英里,该公司与菲亚特克莱斯勒(Fiat Chrysler)合作,由后者提供600辆面包车。Waymo已和与优步(Uber)竞争的应用Lyft以及Avis Budget合作。预计在今年底之前将推出半自动驾驶行程。

The unknown is Apple, which is working on cars and does not typically put its software in another company’s hardware. If Tesla can succeed in producing vehicles at scale then surely so could the world’s richest company. But it would require more daring than has been seen at Apple since the death of Steve Jobs.

一个未知因素是苹果,正致力于研发汽车的该公司一般不会将自己的软件置于另一家公司的硬件中。如果特斯拉的电动汽车能够成功实现量产,那么这家全球最富有的公司肯定也能。但相比史蒂夫?乔布斯(Steve Jobs)去世后人们看到的苹果,该公司需要展现出更多勇气。

Traditional carmakers cannot afford to relax but they should be wary of rash moves. Incumbents can sometimes make the technological leap and still come a cropper.

传统汽车制造商无法放松,但他们也应该小心,不要鲁莽行事。老牌公司有时实现了技术飞跃,却仍可能失败。

Studebaker, a horse-drawn carriage company of the 19th century, became a successful carmaker in the 20th. But it continued paying a large dividend after the 1929 stock market crash, invested heavily in new vehicles and pulled off a big acquisition. This all fatally damaged the balance sheet, the company collapsed in March 1933 and three months later Albert Erskine, Studebaker’s president, took a revolver to the bathroom and shot himself through the heart.

19世纪的马车公司斯蒂贝克(Studebaker)在20世纪成为一家成功的汽车制造商。但在1929年股市崩盘后仍继续支付较高股息,大举投资新汽车,还完成了一笔大规模并购。这一切给资产负债表带来致命损伤,该公司于1933年3月破产,3个月后,斯蒂贝克总裁阿尔伯特?厄斯金(Albert Erskine)带着一把左轮手枪来到浴室,朝着自己的心脏开了枪。

Above the news of Mr Erskine’s death on the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune is an unrelated cartoon, which provides a reminder that technological forecasts are seldom on the money. A man proclaims that within 25 years indestructible planes powered wirelessly from the earth will transport passengers at 1,000mph. The caption reads: “Today no one considers the most fantastic prediction to be improbable.”

在《芝加哥论坛报》(Chicago Daily Tribune)首页上厄斯金自杀的消息上方是一张与此无关的漫画,它提醒人们科技预测很少是正确的。在漫画上,一位男子宣称,在25年内,从地球上无线供电的坚不可摧的飞机将以1000英里的时速载客飞行。标题是:“如今,没有人认为最荒诞的预测是不可能的。”

Additional reporting by Jonathan Eley, Christian Pfrang and Sujeet Indap

乔纳森?埃利(Jonathan Eley)、克里斯蒂安?普夫朗(Christian Pfrang)和苏吉特?因达普(Sujeet Indap)补充报道

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