As other used car retail outfits like Shift go public in an attempt to grow their number of stores and break into the (lucrative?) used-only dealership market, established player Carvana has a different issue on its hands: There just aren’t enough used cars to buy these days.
The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) has decided to go digital to combat the coronavirus pandemic, canceling plans for what would have been an in-person event held at the end of January. Plans now include a virtual, mid-week conference starting on February 9th, which organizers agree will be far better than a bunch of people enjoying themselves at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans over a long weekend.
Truth be told, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made. New Orleans may have decided it’s ready to open up restaurants, retail outlets, and giant shopping centers to the public but trade shows and bars have proven themselves bridge too far. While locals have accused the city of using COVID-19 as an excuse to gentrify certain areas of the city, drunks have a penchant for forgetting social-distancing rules. NADA would have brought in thousands of dealers and vendors, many of whom would be engaged in frequent bouts of close-range talking between beers. That’s to say nothing of the forbidden romantic entanglements (cheating) your author is just going to assume happens.
North America has changed immensely under the pandemic. The government tested what it could get away with under the premise of health-and-safety-related lockdowns; countless small businesses have gone belly up while larger entities seem to be thriving. Meanwhile, we’ve been informed that nature is returning to urban environments as humanity forced itself to stay indoors. Waters cleared, the air was purified, and animals ventured deeper into our territories while we sheltered in place. It was if Homo Sapiens had finally been demolished, providing Mother Earth a prime opportunity to patch herself up.
For a time, there was even a period where you could enjoy open, nearly enforcement-free roadways. Some cities, including mine, saw traffic declines in excess of 40 percent during the opening weeks of the virus response. While this ended when New York City brought in those temporary (and wildly unpopular) quarantine checkpoints at major crossings and attempted to open up for commerce, it still seems like far fewer individuals are driving overall.
That’s because there are. People just don’t need to venture out of their homes as much in 2020 and it is not just the lockdowns contributing to this change. Ordering items online has played a major factor, as does the increased reliance on at-home entertainment. In fact, a new study has suggested Americans may never drive as much as they did just a decade ago. This seems especially likely with so many companies encouraging office-based employees to continue working from home indefinitely, flushing millions of daily commutes down the proverbial toilet.
Gauging economic health during the latter stages of 2020 is proving remarkably challenging. On the one hand, there’s grievous unemployment caused by COVID-19 shutdowns; on the other hand, bicycle sales are booming and backyard pool installations skyrocketed. Contrast the fact that the Dow Jones isn’t far from its six-month high with a 32 percent U.S. GDP loss in Q2.
The same sort of diametrically opposed outcomes are visible in the U.S. auto industry, as well. Only a handful of automakers still report monthly sales figures – Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo – yet within those brands there were remarkably different results coming out as we exit the summer. We wanted to find the vehicles that destroyed reasonable recovery rates in August with significant year-over-year improvements. But we didn’t expect them all to originate from the same two automakers.
General Motors and Ford Motor Company are about to conclude their prolonged stint of ventilator production. In case you were unaware, these businesses typically manufacturer automobiles (cars, for the layperson) and have allocated a portion of their factory space to build medical equipment that was assumed to be useful during the pandemic. However, the United States now has more ventilators than it knows what to do with, and most of them seem like they won’t be required — so it’s mission accomplished, unless COVID-19 suddenly becomes a much more vicious illness.
Either way, GM and Ford both plan to re-prioritize vehicle production. The Blue Oval moved core staff off ventilator lines and back to their normal places of assembly months ago. Some of the remaining temporary workers hired to assist with the medical equipment are said to have an opportunity building the new Ford Bronco. Meanwhile, GM says it wants to move ventilator production to a facility in Kokomo, Indiana, next month, where it will hand operations over to Ventec Life Systems as it regains the union employs allocated for the project. Temporary hires will be absorbed by Ventec.
General Motors said it plans to share some of the safety technology it developed as a countermeasure to the coronavirus pandemic this week. These include a thermal scanning kiosk that uses infrared imaging to take temperatures of people as they stream into facilities, as well as a touchless printer app designed to keep staff from repeatedly touching the control panel. However, it’s the third item, GM’s contact-tracing software, that’s the most novel and controversial.
Practically every company in the world is working on ways to better track people, and their efforts have only accelerated during the pandemic. The presumption here is that by knowing every person someone has come into contact with, you can effectively track the progress of a virus. Despite sounding terrifyingly dystopian just a few years earlier, the notion has become a favorite among tech giants — most of whom are working on their own version.
GM’s involves a wristband, integrated into iOS and Android devices, that keeps tabs on how close employees are to each other. The company has since added support for Bluetooth beacons.
“We believe our application advances the state of the art when it comes to mobile apps for contact tracing, which is the subject of massive software development efforts across multiple industries today,” Tony Bolton, GM’s chief information officer of Global Telecommunications and End-User Services, said in a release.
With large hunks of the nation still under varying degrees of pandemic-related restrictions and accompanying panic, auto dealerships haven’t been awash with customers. Many that did reopen have been forced to follow distancing guidelines, frequently limiting the number of people allowed on the premises. Hoping to avoid closing permanently and relinquishing ownership to the bank, they’ve come up with some interesting solutions to keep their clientele interested.
Virtual test drives aren’t exactly new, but they have become an increasingly popular avenue for dealerships hoping to drum up business in 2020. While we’ve seen salespeople giving tours of new product as they hit the lot for years, on-board video is typically reserved for independent review purposes. That’s largely because nobody really expects a fair assessment from the person selling the vehicle. However, with in-person test drives becoming quite difficult, showrooms want to exercise every option they have to draw in customers.
While negotiating the terms of its bankruptcy with creditors, Hertz has been informed that it can sell 200,000 would-be rental vehicles to help cover its debts.
According to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (approved Friday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, DE), Hertz will be allowed to “dispose of at least 182,521 lease vehicles” between now and the end of 2020. Proceeds will then be used to pay off $650 million it owes lenders, with most funds going toward principal payments on financed vehicles.
With the pandemic knocking out manufacturing for months, this is likely welcome news for buyers eyeballing the secondhand market. Dealer lots are light on fresh product at present and times are getting tougher for consumers, making used vehicles all the more appetizing. Even though former rentals have a tenancy to be abused, they typically to go for a bit less than something living a more carefree existence — and Hertz will be desperate to offload them quickly.
Volvo Cars will be unable to reach its global volume target of 800,000 vehicles this year. Considering everything that has — or hasn’t — happened in 2020, any automaker that ends the period moving more metal than they did in 2019 should probably have a statue erected in front of their headquarters celebrating a major industrial achievement.
Volvo sold 705,452 units the last time our Earth went around the sun, forcing it to face the music when considering goals in what CEO Håkan Samuelsson calls the “corona year.”
General Motors CEO Mary Barra predicted a brief recession and streamlined economic recovery in a recent interview. Mixed in with favorable coverage of how the company saved Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer by manufacturing personal protective equipment intended to combat the pandemic, the Detroit Free Press took time out to get Barra’s expert opinion on various subjects.
She mused that a 300-mile range will be the sweet spot for GM’s electric vehicles, noting that the company may eventually offer distances in excess of that with its new Ultium platform, and touted the merits of the Inclusion Advisory Board she recently placed herself at the head of. Things began to get more substantive when she attempted to predict how long the economy would languish as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns
You may not have noticed this, but there’s a lot of people wearing masks right now. These individuals aren’t working with drywall or sanding anything, either. You can spot them shopping, walking, or crowded around these new outdoor drinking areas located downtown that force them to huddle together while you attempt to squeeze by — coughing politely to make your intentions known.
After repeatedly Googling “What’s Going On Outside?” it was eventually revealed to your author by a helpful neighbor that there’s some kind of mystery illness nobody knows anything about. They continued explaining, but I had already stopped listening. This new information had me shocked to the core.
All I could think about was how this was going to impact Lyft drivers.
Surely the company has some kind of plan to protect its workforce and make sure they’re not riddled with blood-borne parasites or whatever. Well, we seem to be in luck. On Friday, Lyft said it will distribute around 60,000 vehicle partitions to its busiest drivers as way to protect against the coronavirus while selling customized protective shields to other drivers through the remainder of the summer.
In times of crisis, companies have been known to turn on a dime to produce whatever’s most needed at a given moment. Detroit automakers churned out all manner of jeeps, armoured cars, and tank killers during World War 2, with American office supplier Remington Rand cranking out .45-calibre Colt 1911 pistols. The Singer sewing machine company made its own batch of 1911s during WWI.
The threat facing the globe right now is not militaristic in nature, but it does pose a clear danger to everyone. It also knows no borders. As the world (in many cases, belatedly) moves to counter the threat of COVID-19, UK automakers might be pressed into service making a different kind of product.
Automakers are doing their best to keep the lights on in Europe as a rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic disrupts supply chains and sends workers and staff into quarantine. It’s proving to be a difficult task.
As a new week dawns, numerous automakers have announced plant shutdowns, with Europe’s arguably most famous factory on the verge of going dark itself. Fiat Chrysler isn’t even limiting the scope of its shutdown — the majority of its assembly sites in that continent are closed, effective immediately.
Let’s make something very clear: This is not a post about Toyota. We are not advocating or accusing any brand. This is a post about a phenomenon called sudden unintended acceleration. An American phenomenon, as it seems at first glance. To get to the bottom of it, we need your help.
MarkKyle64 asked an interesting question during the discussion of TTAC’s NHTSA Data Dive: 95 Cars Ranked In Rate Of Unintended Acceleration Complaints:
”Can TTAC find out, for example, if German drivers report lower levels of UA than American drivers?”
I tried to. In an admittedly unscientific way. I had no other choice.
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