Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN Business’ Nightcap newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free, here.
This weekend, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, is attempting to become the first billionaire to strap himself to a rocket branded with the company he founded and hurtle himself into space.
If all goes as planned, Branson’s flight will beat fellow space baron Jeff Bezos’s trip by just nine days. (Branson swears he didn’t time his trip to beat Bezos but, like, come on.)
The British mogul will take off about a week before his 71st birthday, from a facility in a small town called — I kid you not — Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
Anyway, it goes without saying that this is a big stunt with countless ways to go belly up. Virgin Galactic has multiple safety redundancies in place, and it’s completed 20 test flights, though only three of those of have reached the edge of space. And it’s hard to imagine Branson won’t be sitting on that desert launch pad in ToC (as I imagine the locals call it), remembering the company’s 2014 crash that killed one pilot and badly injured another.
My colleague Jackie Wattles will be covering the launch Sunday, and she’s got a deep dive into the whole 2,300-mile-an-hour journey.
NUMBER OF THE DAY
The European Commission slapped $1 billion in fines on Volkswagen Group and BMW after an investigation found the German automakers colluded with Daimler to hold back the development of technology that could have reduced harmful emissions from their vehicles.
If you’re confused about inflation, here’s a simple way to think about it in our current economic context: If you bought a car last year, there’s a decent chance it’s now worth more than what you paid for it.
That flies in the face of the basic economic truth we learn as teenagers — that a car’s value begins to plummet the minute you drive it off the lot. But in a world where cars are in short supply and demand is raging, the opposite happens.
The average used car price hit $26,500 in June, up 27% from a year ago, while the average new car transaction price is $41,000, up 5%.
And in one extreme case, a 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is worth $26,000 more now than it was as a new car a year ago, according to Edmunds, a go-to resource for car information.
WHY IT MATTERS
Record high prices for both used and new cars is more than an annoyance, my colleague Chris Isidore reports. It’s an economic problem that weighs heavily on household budgets. About 40% of US households make a car purchase of some sort every year, and this year there could be even more due to pent-up demand from purchases delayed in 2020.
The consumer price index, the primary way we gauge overall inflation in America, climbed to a 13-year high in May, with prices up 5% compared to a year earlier. And about a third of that increase was due solely to the price of used cars.
“Used car prices typically rise about 1% annually,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Cox Automotive. “It’s definitely contributing far more to inflation right now.”
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON
- Instacart poached one of the top female executives from Facebook, Fidji Simo, to be its next CEO ahead of a possible Wall Street debut.
- US stocks tumbled Thursday as investors grew increasingly worried about the Delta variant’s and its threat to the global economic recovery.
- Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen called on US financial regulators to investigate the disastrous IPO of Chinese ride-hailing company Didi.
Enjoying Nightcap? Sign up here and you’ll get all of this, plus some funny stuff we liked on the internet, in your inbox every night. (OK, most nights — we believe in a four-day week around here.)
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.