General Motors’ joint venture in Shanghai is reportedly having employees sleep on factory floors to remain operational during regional COVID-19 lockdowns. The facilities are operated collaborative by GM and state-owned Chinese partner SAIC Motor Corp, with government restrictions being in place until at least Friday. Due to the tens of million people affected, it’s one of the largest lockdowns instituted since the pandemic started.
Initially reported by Reuters, the situation was framed as GM finding a workaround to ongoing Chinese lockdowns while other companies simply stopped production. But that seems to be glossing over some of the relevant context, mainly that the plant is now loaded up with workers who are sleeping inside the factory and living in relative isolation to ensure the facility is compliant with China’s stringent zero-tolerance policy while still managing to remain competitive.
Volvo Cars is plotting to buy out parent company Zhejiang Geely Holding and free itself of its Chinese joint venture. The Swedish (currently Swedish-Chinese) manufacturer has been hinting at the prospect of going public with an IPO, which most analysts believe would be bolstered by creating some distance from Geely.
While the Chinese Communist Party has ended mandates requiring electric vehicle firms from entering into joint ventures with established domestic businesses, the rule still exists for traditional automakers. However, the general assumption is that most will attempt to regain full ownership of their Chinese assets when the law is lifted next year. But critics are cautioning that the nation is under no obligation to maintain any commitment to foreign entities once they’ve split with their local partners.
Ford Motor Co. has decided against its plan to launch an electric vehicle joint venture with China’s Zotye Automobile. The American manufacturer confirmed the decision on Thursday, stating that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had made sweeping changes to its policies since the deal was initially agreed to in 2017.
Few specifics were given beyond that and Ford hasn’t indicated the move might suggest a retreat from the one-party socialist republic. Ford recently confirmed its plan to build Chinese versions of the all-electric Mustang Mach-E with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. and maintains numerous joint ventures necessary to continue doing business inside Central Asia.
Despite every manufacturer on the planet eager to inject mobility services into the business, the array of programs that encompasses has yet to establish itself as a reliable source of revenue. Frankly, the whole thing seems like a gigantic money pit for the industry made worse by how loosely the term is defined. Customer data acquisition, vehicle connectivity, electrification, subscription programs, over-the-air updates, and autonomous driving all fall under the umbrella of “mobility” that’s costing automakers a bundle with the promise of being profitable later.
This week, BMW CEO Oliver Zipse acknowledged the premium his company has had to pay to maintain such programs and that it’s considering a joint venture with Daimler AG to help mitigate cost. This would presumably expand the German-based Free Now car-sharing program they already share — though BMW was cagey on the details.
With the rippling economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak starting to take hold, some industry analysts have begun floating the increasingly popular theory that various markets could stage a retreat from China. While the Chinese Communist Party’s mishandling of the pandemic — including cover-ups (and the possible manipulation of the World Health Organization) that ultimately encouraged the virus’ spread — are often cited as the impetus for the change, the actual decisions will be largely economic. COVID-19 threatens countless nations’ financial welfare as it simultaneously disrupts global supply chains.
The virus has also sent the auto industry into a holding pattern as manufacturers and suppliers hemorrhage money. While the assumption exists that this situation could encourage international automakers to refocus on domestic production, there haven’t been many examples to point to. Renault changed that this week, announcing plans to abandon its joint venture with China’s Dongfeng Motor Corporation. The move, however, may have less to do with the presumed industrial exodus than the company’s general financial situation.
A battery plant mentioned in General Motors’ recently ratified UAW labor contract will soon become a reality in the hard-hit city of Lordstown, Ohio. That locale recently saw the lights go out at GM’s Lordstown Assembly, which closed its doors this spring after the discontinuation of the Chevrolet Cruze. The plant’s now in the hands of a fledgling electric automaker.
On Wednesday, GM announced the spending of $2.3 billion and the creation of 1,100 jobs in Lordstown — a necessary move to supply the automaker with battery packs for its electric vehicle push.
In last Wednesday’s QOTD post we covered all the worst examples of automotive collaboration. Commenters racked up the examples, sharing collaboration failures even worse than the Jaguar X-Type selected for textual pillory in the post.
Today we flip it around and discuss the best outcomes of automaker cooperation.
Automakers are keen to pursue partnerships with one another when it means saving money via economies of scale, or when it supports an established corporate structure. Whether it’s in the form of some basic components-sharing or a more intensive joint venture, today we want to hear about the worst possible examples of automotive cooperation.
As the marketplace evolves and the rise of “mobility” threatens to lock laggard automakers out of new revenue streams, old rivals are coming together to get out ahead of the competition. Take BMW and Daimler, for example. The German companies, normally embroiled in high-end sales combat, have cosied up to each other in recent years.
While they’re not sharing platforms and engines, the two do feel there’s benefits in joining forces on mobility. By mobility, we mean carsharing and all that sexy stuff you can’t get enough of. A pact between the two rivals came last March.
On Friday, the two automakers released the details of their mobility partnership, announcing five joint ventures funded by a combined $1.13 billion investment.
Already a pioneer in hybrid drive technology, Toyota’s recent push towards fully electric cars has birthed a joint venture with one of the world’s premier battery makers, potentially opening up a massive revenue stream for the automaker.
On Tuesday, the company announced the creation of a joint venture with Panasonic to supply other automakers with a “stable supply of competitive batteries.”
There’s 4,000 new jobs coming to Huntsville, Alabama, but there’ll also be 150,000 unnamed Mazda crossovers rolling out to dealers across North America each year — assuming the model’s a success. Our money’s on Mazda giving its new child a name starting with “CX-.”
Mazda and Toyota made their 50-50 joint venture official this week, creating a business entity called Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A., Inc. and boosting the presence of car manufacturing in the South. Production begins in 2021. For Mazda, it will be the company’s first assembly facility in the U.S., though it’s technically not a wholly-owned, standalone operation. There’ll be just as many Toyota Corollas leaving the factory as Mazdas.
While there are scant clues about the nature of Mazda’s mystery vehicle, the brand’s recent sales, plus a revealing loyalty report, suggest the company could have a hit on its hands.
Is a seemingly unstoppable Chinese automaker slowly amassing a significant ownership stake in Germany’s Daimler AG? That’s what sources tell Bloomberg.
According to the news outlet, sources claim Geely Auto Group, which owns the Volvo, Lotus, and the mysterious Lynk & Co. car brands, is steadily acquiring a $9.2 billion stake in the German giant. That would give the Chinese a near 10-percent stake in the maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
Are we witnessing the birth of a new alliance?
If you’re a modern-day automaker without an electrification strategy, you’re in trouble. Not only will you face the global stigma of being truly evil, you might also miss out on the possibility of future sales. Sure, electric vehicles only account for about 1 percent of total domestic deliveries right now, but it’s a growth market, spurred on by political pressure and regulatory action. Some regions, like California, have plug-ins taking up as much as 5 percent of annual car sales.
Subaru needs help, as it doesn’t sell a single electrified vehicle. The brand discontinued the Crosstrek Hybrid, and its only battery-driven plug-in, the long-defunct Stella EV, was sold only in Japan and proved about as popular as VD. While Subaru can certainly build a good car, it hasn’t had the best luck with electric vehicles.
It’s now calling on its “friends” for backup.
Of all automakers, no company holds out hope for the gasoline engine’s longevity quite like Mazda. Not only does Mazda anticipate many decades of continued hydrocarbon-fueled driving, it’s also ensuring gas stays viable by inventing a new Skyactiv engine that (supposedly) uses much less of it. That motor, a first-of-its-kind gas compression ignition four-cylinder, debuts in 2019.
For now, Mazda’s North American lineup remains pure in terms of propulsion. The promised CX-5 diesel is taking its sweet time showing up, and neither a hybrid or EV can be found among the model ranks. That will soon change, but given Mazda’s size and finances, it won’t be a Mazda platform underpinning the next Mazda EV.
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- Conundrum Was unlucky enough to have a ride in the back of one of these things shortly after they first appeared, a project of Mercedes' ownership of Chrysler and that silly German professor with the gigantico walrus mustache who ran the place.Brother rented one of these early Magnums. The ride in the back was of constant wallowing up and down, like a 2015 BMW 3 Series, where my senses were similarly assaulted by lack of attenion to rear ride comfort, Up front was OK in both, back seat ride bloody awful. Must be a Germanic trait.The Magnum had an additional sensory deficit. Interior smelled of the peculiar rubber/plastic dash. Smelled like Chinese winter boots for kids, or Chinese tires of yore. Pass.
- Anonymous My dad drove an 84 LTD. He always bragged about how special it was. Interesting to see that again.
- Conundrum Here's how much Ford had to do design-wise with that engine in the article's lead picture.Zero. It was a Cosworth when Cosworth was still original Cosworth, over 30 years ago. The engine shown is a development of the original DFV. Ford paid to have its name on the cam covers for decades.I wonder who Ford will get to design this proposed new F1 engine for 2026. Because sure as hell, they don't have the in-house talent to do it themselves.
- Sayahh Story idea or car design competition: design a compact sedan, a midsize sedan, coupe and/or wagon specifically for people 6'4" through 7'2". Not an SUV nor a crossover nor a raised chassis like the US Toyota Crown or Subaru Outback.
- Sayahh I only check map app only when absolutely necessary and only at a red light. An observation: lots of ppl leave 2 car lengths (or more) between themselves and the car ahead of theirs so that they can text or check the internet (because they are afraid they might roll forward and hit the car in front of them?) This drives me crazy because many ppl do it and 3 cars will take up almost 7 car lengths and ppl cannot get into the left turn lane when it's bordered by a cement "curb." Worse is when they aren't even using their phone and have both hands on the stewring wheel and waiting for the green light. Half a car length is enough, people. Even one car length is too much, but 3 or 4 car lengths? At 40 MPH, maybe, not at 0 MPH please.