Category: Industry

By on September 13, 2021

With supply chain hiccups crippling the automotive industry’s ability to conduct business as normal, resulting in rolling production stalls and skyrocketing vehicle prices, manufacturers looked to be in serious trouble throughout the pandemic. But we learned that wasn’t to be the case by the summer. Automakers were posting “surprise profits” because people still needed cars. We also found out there’s been a growing appetite for expensive (see: highly profitable) models and the industry saved itself a bundle by not needing to pay for office space or line workers, as COVID restrictions kept everyone at home.

Having considered the above, most automakers are seriously considering how they can further leverage this new modality. German manufacturers have even said they’re not that interested in going back to the normal way of doing things — instead electing to intentionally limit volumes and focus on high-end models that will yield the greatest return on investment. But it’s not quite the curveball it seems, as some companies were already ditching the volume approach.  Read More >

By on August 27, 2021

General Motors now requires salaried employees operating in the United States to disclose their coronavirus vaccination status. As confirmed by the automaker on Thursday, the decision is supposed to help the company determine what percentage of its own workforce is vaccinated so it can make better decisions about which safety protocols to implement. But your author is under the assumption that “as many as possible” will always be the preferred answer.

Earlier in the month, GM forced all salaried employees to disclose whether or not they were immunized for COVID-19 using the automaker’s internal network. Those answering to the affirmative were required to submit proof of vaccination by last Monday. But it sounds as though the manufacturer is just getting warmed up for more invasive activities.  Read More >

By on August 25, 2021

Ford badge emblem logo

On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. told employees that it would delay plans for on-site work due to coronavirus concerns relating to the delta variant. Non-site-dependent staff are being told they stay home for the rest of 2021, while line workers will still be required to come in so long as there’s a job to be done — creating a dichotomy between white and blue-collar workers.

While Ford has encouraged some teams to come back to the office for various projects, it has repeatedly delayed its return-to-work timeline. Workers now being told to stay home until 2022 were previously informed they’d be coming back to the office in October. Before that, everyone thought it would be business as usual by the summer. Now the company is adopting a policy that has most people staying home even after 2022 as often as possible while it considers mandating vaccines.  Read More >

By on August 17, 2021

Last month, General Motors filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Ford’s use of the term BlueCruise for its SAE Level 2 advanced driving assistance suite. GM has argued the phrase is too close to its own SuperCruise system and wants Blue Oval to ditch the name for something else. Ford recently filed a motion asking the US District Court in San Francisco to throw out the case, as it believes the term cruise is common enough to qualify as ubiquitous.

This is the industrial equivalent of two of your friends screeching at each other because one of them wanted to name their youngest son Landon while the other already named their kid Langston. Though the manufacturer’s feud may be dumber because it’s not exactly like we’ve recently started affixing the word cruise to the systems found inside automobiles. Read More >

By on August 4, 2021

The New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) has been cancelled for the second year in a row over, you guessed it, COVID. Though things are a bit more complicated this time around.

Progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday that New Yorkers will need proof of vaccination to do everything from going to the movies to dining out starting August 16th. While this doesn’t include a mask mandate, something he said was unnecessary, requiring thousands of people from out of state to furnish vaccination cards they likely already lost makes NYC hosting the auto show a difficult (if not impossible) proposition. NYIAS organizers announced their decision to cancel the event on Wednesday.  Read More >

By on July 28, 2021

General Motors will resume full-size pickup assembly next week, leaving its crossovers will have to continue enduring production hang-ups related to the semiconductor shortage. American manufacturers have been absolutely creamed by supply shortages this year and a lack of chips really hurt pickup volumes. We’ve seen a lot of creative solutions, including automakers putting unfinished vehicles on the lot in hopes that they can install the missing hardware later.

But GM’s latest solution involves prioritizing Michigan’s Flint Assembly, Indiana’s Fort Wayne Assembly, Silao Assembly in Mexico — all of which were previously idled or operating on reduced schedules. Unfortunately, that means giving other North American facilities more downtime and, sadly, plenty of it.  Read More >

By on July 26, 2021

Audi is discontinuing the A1, citing Europe’s regulatory landscape as the main cause. Eager to limit the amount of CO2 coming out of tailpipes, the European Union has placed strict limits on petroleum-powered passenger vehicles. For Audi, the price of manufacturing a subcompact automobile-dependent upon internal combustion is getting too high. Installing a smaller motor would negatively impact drivability while slotting in a hybrid powertrain means more R&D costs and jacking up the MSRP to a point where consumers might lose interest.

There’s just not much incentive to build small, efficient vehicles when the profit margins have been made razor thin and people aren’t buying them in great numbers. And this is a lesson that’s being learned by all automakers, not just those associated to Volkswagen Group.  Read More >

By on July 19, 2021

While the right-to-repair movement is fighting a national battle, the brunt of the action has been taking place on America’s coasts. Consumer activists are taking on multinational corporations that don’t want you to modify your mobile devices, affix aftermarket components to your vehicle, or have complete access to the data that’s amassed by the staggering number of products that are needlessly networked to the internet. After years of petitioning the government, often while arguing with high-paid lobbyists, the group achieved a major victory in Massachusetts in 2020. Voters decided that automakers should not be allowed to withhold information from the vehicle’s owner or use it as a way to prohibit them from taking their car into independent repair shops (rather than manufacturer-certified service centers) or tinkering with it themselves.

Now the federal government is getting involved. Joe Biden has signed an executive order that effectively forces the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take regulatory action that would settle the matter. But we don’t really know if that’s going to lead to a market where customers are free to treat their property (and private data) as they wish, one where the manufacturer holds all the cards, or simply result in a regulatory minefield displeasing all parties.  Read More >

By on July 14, 2021

Despite achieving a miraculous global expansion in a period where established industrial conglomerates and regulatory hurdles make it nearly impossible for new automakers to persist, Tesla’s German facility is running behind schedule. Production at the Gruenheide plant (aka Giga Berlin or Gigafactory 4) was originally planned to commence this month, with deliveries kicking off shortly thereafter. But those targets have been shifted closer to the end of this year or the more likely scenario of early 2022.

As Tesla would still like to supply the market, its facility in Shanghai will begin shipping vehicles to Europe in August until local production can be achieved. Model Y crossovers will be imported from China until its German site has its assembly lines humming, which has turned out to be a harder task than the automaker anticipated.  Read More >

By on June 25, 2021

Tesla is being sued in California by an owner that’s claiming the automaker broke its promise of a lifetime of free charging after it started imposing fees upon people who allowed their cars to sit at stations for too long. For those of you that don’t recall, Tesla began rolling out its Supercharger network in 2012 and promised unlimited free charging as a way to entice early adopters. While it doesn’t pertain to all vehicles and has existed in various incarnations, gratis electricity was available on most properly equipped Model S and Model X purchased by 2016. But the deal has existed in various incarnations through 2020 and has been confusing customers almost as much as the apparently bogus self-driving suite.

As the brand became more popular, you’d start seeing Tesla owners populating Supercharging stations in greater numbers and chattering about their interests. Unfortunately, those extended diatribes on the merits of TEDx and spending a fortune on minimalist interior home design resulted in stations being occupied but going unused. To discourage this Tesla began imposing fines in 2016, noting that it hoped never to make money on the updated arrangement. Read More >

By on June 24, 2021

Stellantis plans to extend the typical summer downtime at a couple assembly plants while relaunching production at Windsor Assembly next month. The Canadian van factory will be see two shifts returning on July 5th, while its Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois and Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico will be idled due to the ongoing semiconductor shortage. This has become a common tactic within the automotive industry, with our doubting it’ll be the last occasion we’ll be reporting on extended summer vacations.

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. appears to have lost its technology chief to Amazon. Ken Washington was hired into Blue Oval after a stint with Lockeed Martin in 2014 and will be leaving the automaker next month to become vice president of software engineering for the tech giant.  Read More >

By on June 22, 2021

As the resident sourpuss, I make it my business to complain about every industrial hypocrisy that crosses my path and the automotive sector has kept me so busy that there’s hardly any time left to address my own failings. Though I do have to confess that I sometimes feel guilty about how frequently I’m compelled to gripe about electric vehicles. Provided that you’re willing to work with their charging limitations and less-than-impressive ranges, EVs have a lot to offer even in their current state. But the way they’ve been marketed has been so consistently disingenuous that I often end my days on the cusp of a frustration-induced aneurysm.

The winds appear to be changing, however.

After years of watching the industry bang its head against the wall, the media seems prepared to shift its position. Accelerated adoption of pure electrics doesn’t seem to be happening and too many EV startups have ended up being little more than an opportunity for investors to throw away money. Increasingly fewer people ask me about battery-powered cars in a way that suggests true enthusiasm. Excitement has given way to dubiousness as more people have begun to ponder if electrics are really all they’re cracked up to be.  Read More >

By on June 21, 2021

Subaru Legacy 2018 Logo Emblem Grille

The global semiconductor shortage has been particularly hard on Western automakers, though it’s not been peaches and cream for Asian brands. Following news that Nissan had run into issues resulting in additional downtime this summer, we’ve learned that Subaru is currently operating with a scant, nine-day supply of product and will be required to conduct more plant closures due to a lack of chips.

Having already stalled its Yajima plant on multiple occasions, as well enacting work stoppages at Subaru of Indiana Automotive (its U.S. facility), this is hardly where the brand wanted to find itself going into the warmer months. On Friday, Subaru announced it would be idling two plants in Japan’s Gunma prefecture this July.  Read More >

By on June 16, 2021

There is plenty of electrification news this week, despite the brunt of consumers remaining seemingly disinterested in the automotive segment that’s entirely dependent upon batteries. General Motors recently announced that it would be increasing its EV investments through 2025 to $35 billion, noting that some amount of the funding will also be going toward autonomous vehicle development.

Meanwhile, Stellantis confirmed that it’s planning a quartet of battery-driven automobiles offering more utility than the pint-sized Fiat 500e. Those vehicles aren’t supposed to see assembly until 2024 and there are lingering questions about where the firm plans on building battery plants. But the UILM union has confirmed that the upcoming models are likely to be midsized and built at the company’s Melfi plant in Italy. Read More >

By on June 14, 2021

With automakers having a difficult time keeping production schedules thanks to COVID restrictions nuking demand and upending supply chains, 2021 arrived with plenty of problems. Desperate to replenish fleets they had sold off while everyone was locked indoors, rental agencies went on a used car buying spree. But it wasn’t just rental fleets that needed to be restocked, dealerships are also finding themselves with fewer models on the lot than they’re accustomed to — which is a bad position to be in when surveys have revealed consumers are now willing to pay stupidly high prices for automobiles.

They’re reportedly going to great lengths to acquire used cars as the great buyup of 2021 continues.  Read More >

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