By on March 30, 2020

Auto dealers and manufacturers around the globe have spent the past several years examining the usefulness of digital car sales, but the practice hasn’t been embraced as warmly in the United States, where state franchise laws often prohibit direct sales from automakers to anybody but a licensed auto dealer. Critics say this allowed retailers to become middlemen that customers are forced to haggle, while advocates explain that the system promotes U.S. jobs and provides a local resource for those needing repairs.

Neither are incorrect, yet dealerships have continued to buck online sales, even after manufacturers attempted to work with them on various pilot programs.

With COVID-19 keeping a large portion of the American population at home, dealers are revisiting online sales as a way to cut their losses. Digital transactions now look to be a necessity if shops hope to survive a prolonged pandemic. While many see this as a temporary measure, once the genie is out of the bottle, he’s difficult to put back inside… and may be far less benevolent than we’d like — even if we’re desperately in need of one of those wishes.  (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2020

North American International Auto Show organizers broke with tradition this year by moving the premier trade event, for decades held in January, to a more pleasant and marketable June date. Now they’ve broken with tradition again — by scrapping the thing altogether.

The reason behind it is so glaringly obvious it hardly needs to be stated, but the specific, logistical reason is even more grim: the show’s venue, Detroit’s TCF Center (née Cobo Center), is turning into a field hospital. (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2020

For some reason, Ford and General Motors’ efforts to fill gaps in the medical supply chain have garnered considerable press. This has a way of happening when the President yells at you in public.

Tesla and Fiat Chrysler have stepped up to the plate to help out, too, filling a need in a country hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. A collective effort is good, but Toyota Motor North America wants others to know it’s a member of the same team. Make use of us, it’s telling others. (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2020

With Panasonic having already made plans to ramp down production at the Nevada battery facility it shares with Tesla, followed by a 14-day closure to curtail the spread of the new coronavirus, its business partner has decided to follow suit. Tesla now plans on reducing on-site staff at Gigafactory 1 by 75 percent, according to the local county manager Austin Osborne.

“Tesla has informed us that the Gigafactory in Storey County is reducing on-site staff by roughly 75 [percent] in the coming days,” he explained via the county’s website on Thursday.  “Our companies at [Tahoe Reno Industrial Center] TRIC are taking the COVID-19 matter seriously, and regularly report to us the measures they are taking to adhere to the established guidelines while maintaining essential operations. Checking employee temperatures, creating central access, allowing remote work, maintaining workstation distance, and others are occurring.” (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2020

Image: GM

One should never pay too close attention to social media, but sadly, that’s where a lot of diplomacy takes place these days. Especially today.

Since dawn broke over the nation Friday, President Donald Trump has chastised General Motors and Ford for their perceived foot-dragging in getting much-needed ventilators into production, urging them to pick up the pace and suggesting that he might invoke the Defense Production Act — a wartime measure aimed at aligning industrial output with America’s immediate defense needs. In this case, the enemy is microscopic, but packs a punch.

We’re already on it, Ford and GM replied. (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2020

General Motors Renaissance Center

Not much time passed after Ford chopped compensation for 300 top executives before General Motors decided to free up financial breathing room via payroll costs.

The automaker has enacted a sweeping plan to weather the coronavirus storm by cutting the pay of its salaried workforce by 20 percent, with 6,500 U.S. workers incapable of working from home placed on leave. Employees aren’t expected to swallow the loss out of the goodness of their own hearts, however — GM promises they’ll see the missing money one day. (Read More…)

By on March 26, 2020

On Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced that the Real ID deadline — which had previously been delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak — has been pushed back until October 21st, 2021, as directed by President Trump.

Enacted in May of 2005, the Real ID Act was basically Congress over-responding to 9/11 by mandating that state-issued driver’s licenses be updated so they can be used for official purposes by the federal government (as defined by Homeland Security). While the primary goal is to mitigate air travel of undocumented immigrants between states, the aforementioned “official purposes” applies to whatever the federal government thinks prudent on any given day — including barring citizens without the ID from military bases or federal buildings, in addition to air travel.

If you haven’t heard of Real IDs (indicated by a little gold star in the corner), you’re not alone. The issue only gets a smattering of coverage every couple of years; plenty of states spent the period following 2005 pushing back against the plan, delaying its implementation several times via extensions. It was initially supposed to come into effect in four phases starting in 2008, but changes didn’t actually start until 2014. At this point, the nation is at phase three (which restricts access to federal facilities), with phase four applying new rules to U.S. air travel. (Read More…)

By on March 26, 2020

fca

With Ford looking to get pickups rolling off the assembly line again by April 6th, where does its rivals stand?

The list is far from complete, and schedules for resuming production are fluid as a 1950s executive’s lunch, but there’s details to share on when certain U.S. autoworkers might be headed back to the factory. (Read More…)

By on March 26, 2020

Ford badge emblem logo

While Ford Motor Co. plans to reopen several factories by early April, it’s not doing much of anything at present. That’s a standard problem among domestic brands with the coronavirus afoot, and two of them — Ford and General Motors — are coming off sizable restructuring efforts that included staffing reductions in the thousands. Additional cutbacks aren’t desirable; not with everyone watching how these companies handle the outbreak.

As it secures extra spending power from credit lines, Ford knows the steep financial cost of having the majority of its workforce stuck at home (to say nothing of its customers) will be steep. A plan is now afoot to keep jobs secure. (Read More…)

By on March 26, 2020

2020 Ford Super Duty

Given the level of uncertainty out there, even best-laid plans rest on a quivering foundation of JELL-O. It’s the same for automotive plant shutdowns in North America — most temporary idle periods carry an open-ended end date. We’ll reassess at that point and make a decision, automakers are saying.

Just two days ago, Ford Motor Company said its shutdowns would go well past the original March 30th end date; now it’s saying some facilities will come back online earlier than thought. (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2020

Driving schools in Japan are reporting an increase in attendance from individuals who already possess a driver’s license. According to The Japan Times, the new trend is epitomized by Paper Driver School Kitakanto in Maebashi. The school has seen influx of already licensed drivers this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Roughly 10 percent of new students are said to have signed up as a direct result of COVID-19. As Japan’s population has a lower percentage of drivers than in North America, many are dependent upon public transportation to move about — a mobility type that’s become problematic overnight, what with fears of contagion spreading as quickly as the virus itself. To avoid sharing space, some Japanese drivers are attempting to brush up on their skills in order to feel more comfortable behind the wheel.  (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2020

BMW X5 Spartanburg Assembly - Image: BMW

For a brief while, it looked like BMW’s Spartanburg, SC assembly plant would be the last such factory in the U.S. still in operation. Nope.

The German automaker announced Wednesday that pressures from the coronavirus pandemic have forced its hand, prompting a shutdown scheduled to begin Sunday. (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2020

The UAW has announced the death of two Fiat Chrysler factory workers who contracted the novel coronavirus, extending sympathies while urging members to exercise safe practices during the ongoing health crisis. With COVID-19 infections ramping up across Europe and the United States, this was to be expected. The deaths are simply the first known to impact autoworker union members directly.

FCA declined to offer the names of the men, citing a respect for privacy. For our purposes, we’re only interested in their places of business, noticing the facilities where the two individuals worked — FCA’s truck plant in Sterling Heights, MI and transmission facility in Kokomo, IN — previously reported cases of employees contracting the virus.  (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2020

Road traffic across the United States is dropping drastically, thanks to social-distancing efforts taking place to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. For yours truly, traffic in New York City has gone from frequently hectic to downright pleasurable and relaxed. While there’s a statewide initiative in place to keep residents in their homes, the days leading up to the shelter-in-place order saw a decline in roadway activity I’d only previously witnessed during Hurricane Sandy.

According to INRIX, a Washington-based firm providing traffic analytics, road use in the United States dropped by about 30 percent last week — with regions affected by state-mandated shutdowns seeing even larger declines. The study compares the national traffic volume from the 14th to the 20th of March to volumes recorded between the 22nd and the 28th of February — noting that March 13th was the first day traffic started trending downward in most regions. Moving forward, INRIX says it wants to continue offering up a weekly synopsis of national traffic volume until the health crisis ends.  (Read More…)

By on March 25, 2020

Everything seemed hunky dory after the New Year’s celebrations wrapped up and all the party hats and disposable drink cups were swept from the floor. Unbeknownst to the auto industry, however, the ship was heading into a sea roiled by a storm no one saw coming. Now, with the first quarter of 2020 almost in the rear-view, the radar mast is overboard, the bilge pumps are running non-stop, and the crew can only guess when the skies will clear.

The impact of COVID-19 on U.S. auto sales is far from set in stone, but the best-guess picture is becoming clearer. Clearer, and worse for the industry. (Read More…)

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