Tag: COVID-19

By on May 22, 2020

Michigan auto dealers will be allowed to resume in-person sales on Tuesday, according to the latest in a long list of executive orders signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The state, which harbors the fourth-highest coronavirus death toll in the country (following New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts), has enacted some of the strictest countermeasures in the country.

This has created no shortage of pressure to both reopen Michigan so life/business can return to normal and maintain closures to avoid further contagion risks. Obviously, that’s proven difficult to do. All steps taken towards reopening come with conditions, including those established for Michigan’s dealerships.

But first, some backstory.  (Read More…)

By on May 21, 2020

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Ford Motor Co. temporarily shut down its Chicago Assembly Plant for a portion of Tuesday after two employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The facility had only been open for a single day, suggesting automakers may have to contend with infected employees on a regular basis. Responsible for Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility, and Lincoln Aviator production, the site was idled briefly for disinfection before being reopened on Wednesday morning.

This return proved short-lived. The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago Assembly closed again today, although COVID-19 was not to blame. Wednesday’s culprit happened to be those nasty supply chain issues we’ve been harping on. Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant (home of the F-Series) did have a fresh coronavirus case, however. The facility was forced to match the Chicago factory’s response and shut down for sanitization measures on the same day — though at least Dearborn Truck seems to have a sufficient number of parts on hand.  (Read More…)

By on May 11, 2020

Spending the last three months chronicling every every single cancellation related to the coronavirus hasn’t been any more enjoyable than reading about it. And, while we apologize for putting you though that, there honestly isn’t much else to report on when every manufacturer on the planet suddenly enters into a panicked lockdown. Thankfully, we seem to be nearing the end of being forced to issue updates on the latest cancelled soirée you had your hopes set on attending.

Despite automotive trade shows being canceled in Detroit, Geneva, and Paris this year, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show scheduled for November is still on. We may also see the New York Auto Show, which was rescheduled, take place in August — assuming the Javits Center remains underutilized for COVID patients through the summer and NYC doesn’t see a sudden spike in infection rates. However, SEMA is the first major event that seems like a sure thing in the automotive realm and, boy, are we glad to hear it.  (Read More…)

By on May 7, 2020

Reports indicate Tesla has idled production in Shanghai, despite plans for the facility to resume production this week. Workers had been given time off for a five-day break that incorporated China’s International Workers’ Day (May 1st), with production expected to resume on the 6th. However, the facility made the surprise decision to remain closed.

Staff have been informed that the facility will not reopen until May 9th, according to inside sources. While this may lead one to wonder if the factory has found itself at the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak, there’s likely another explanation. Local outlets report Giga Shanghai as suffering from part shortages. (Read More…)

By on May 5, 2020

Lenders are cutting Hertz a break by affording the company an extended grace period, giving it a chance to cope with its debt. Last we checked on the rental agency, things weren’t going well. With governments cracking down on movement amid the coronavirus pandemic, no one is going anywhere — and the Hertz’s bottom line showcases exactly how bad this has been for business. Hertz had to bring in economic advisors to help the business manage its swiftly mounting debt load as it discussed how to avoid bankruptcy.

Similarly hit by the pandemic, airlines got a multi-billion-dollar bailout. Agencies like Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise, however, have had to seek their aid elsewhere, all the while hoping the U.S. Treasury Department answers their plea. Thus far, it’s been crickets.

Car renters are confronting a harrowing reality. They need to refresh their gigantic fleets in a period where no one can turn a profit, there’s little promise of a swift recovery, and used car values are cratering. Hertz started laying off workers in March as customers evaporated. By the end of April, it also announced it was defaulting on lease payments related to its fleet. With creditors rarely unclear about when they want their money, things were looking grim.  (Read More…)

By on May 5, 2020

With COVID-19 lockdowns suppressing auto sales around the globe, everyone expected April to be a rough month. However, we doubt the United Kingdom expected monthly deliveries to come in at the lowest level since the end of World War II. Registrations for April peaked at 4,321 in the UK, representing the lowest monthly figure since 1946 — when the nation was still rationing materials as it attempted to rebuild after a prolonged military conflict (and factories were just starting to transition back to manufacturing passenger vehicles).

While it’s possible some registrations are simply delayed, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says it doesn’t believe that to be a significant factor. Retailers typically register the vehicle for you and, with with precious little else to do, you’d think they’d have finished whatever paperwork they had lying around. Most of them, of course, weren’t capable of operating normally due to government mandates, allowing the few outlets offering at-home delivery to make up the lion’s share of sales.  (Read More…)

By on May 4, 2020

Elon Musk

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has had an interesting few days. It all kicked off when he went off on the politics behind coronavirus lockdowns — suggesting that state mandates had surpassed what should be deemed reasonable and that civil liberties were being infringed upon — during Wednesday’s earnings call. By week’s end, he was using social media to announce Tesla’s stock price was too high.

Despite it not being his first time making such a claim, and with the automaker turning a surprise first-quarter profit, the company’s share price still lost 10 percent in a single day. Musk then announced he would sell practically everything he owned. Initially, it seemed to be another partial joke taken completely literally by some followers and the media. But Musk began making good on the claim, listing two properties over the weekend.  (Read More…)

By on May 1, 2020

The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) and Original Equipment Suppliers Association (OESA) have issued a letter to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer saying they’re ready to start delivering components to manufacturers.

Despite Detroit automakers signaling a readiness to resume production, Whitmer has extended stay-at-home orders through May 15th — lifting some earlier restrictions on business and travel. However, the automotive industry still doesn’t have an official date to get things moving again, just a series of business plans outlining a gradual ramping up of production once lockdown mandates end.

Suppliers say that isn’t good enough. They want a clear-cut pathway toward industrial redemption. (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2020

Updated social distancing guidance released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Friday indicates the automotive industry is now an essential business.

Version 3.0 (for those keeping count) of what constitutes “essential critical infrastructure workers” added a number of job descriptions as the federal government mulls how to restart the U.S. economy. Among them is pretty much every job related to automotive manufacturing and sales. (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2020

Volkswagen Group has announced that its sales declined 23 percent against the previous year, to 2 million deliveries, from January through March of this year. Based upon last week’s assessment of the ailing European market, the region seems to have contributed quite a bit to VW’s downfall. However, the company said it is optimistic that the Chinese market will soon recover as the coronavirus pandemic loses strength in the region.

As the manufacturer’s largest market, Volkswagen has a lot riding on China coming out of this in once piece. There certainly have been a surplus of articles claiming the nation is on the fast track to economic restoration, but we’ve also heard enough conflicting reports on the status of its convalescence that it’s difficult to feel confident of anything. What exactly is in store for VW and other automakers doing business in China? (Read More…)

By on April 17, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic took a sizable bite out of new car registrations in the European Union last month. Volume was down 51.8 percent in March (including the United Kingdom), according to the European Auto Industry Association. While some of the absent vehicles are potentially waiting on official documents to come through after lockdown measures ease, most can be explained by the general lack of demand. Everyone knew last month would be a tough one, with the nations experiencing worst outbreaks likely see the largest sales disparities.

While no country was left unscathed, Reuters reports that Italy performed quite poorly in comparison to its neighbors. As it was the first European nation to report widespread contagion of COVID-19, that’s hardly surprising, and may indicate that its neighbors are about to find themselves in a similarly undesirable situation.  (Read More…)

By on April 17, 2020

Räikkönen post Bahrain DNF

Years ago, your humble author was in Los Angeles for the auto show, finding his cellphone suddenly dead. He stumbled into a nearby mall while Verizon’s techs worked their magic, then wandered through the Ferrari store, amazed at how much stuff the iconic exotic brand could slap its badging on.

While you almost certainly won’t be able to buy the retail, and certainly you wouldn’t want to acquire one by being a COVID-19 patient, there will be Ferrari-branded respirator valves.

(Read More…)

By on April 16, 2020

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Ford is experimenting with social-distancing wristbands as a way to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus once factories reopen. In recent weeks, the company has tested various preventative measures at facilities where it swapped from building cars to producing ventilators and respirators to supply hospitals amid the health crisis. While much of that effort revolved around good hygiene practices and the addition of sanitizing stations near assembly areas, Ford also experimented with some outside-the-box ideas.

Workers are now required to complete daily health questionnaires about how they feel and who they’ve been in contact with. But that’s just the start. Most automotive manufacturers are trying to establish a framework allowing employees to return to work without risking secondary outbreaks. For Ford, that means testing dozens of options while factories remain shuttered so the most-useful strategy can be implemented as things return to normal.

What counts as “normal” in this not-distant future sounds like it will be very different than what would have qualified before the pandemic.  (Read More…)

By on April 13, 2020

fca

As the global health crisis pivots toward becoming an economic one, the automotive industry is understandably eager to know when it can begin producing cars again. The situation isn’t going to be as easy as throwing open a few breaker boxes and giving the thumbs up. A mile-long list of problems, many of which lack easy answers, will first have to be tackled before things return to normal.

Supply chains will be slow to move — and potentially severed — as other nations wait longer to walk back social distancing measures. Not all factories will resume operation at the same time, and not all parts suppliers or shipping agencies will have made it through the coronavirus pandemic intact. It’s also uncertain how quickly customers will return to the market. In tougher financial times, customers may remain hesitant in making large purchases; meanwhile, localized quarantines will undoubtedly continue suppressing sales in certain markets. Then we have the elephant in the room — the vast amount of money this colossal reboot is going to require.  (Read More…)

By on April 10, 2020

With auto manufacturers, dealerships, and insurance agencies scrambling to find a way to retain customers during a global pandemic, now is the season of trying new things. Insurance companies have begun offering refunds on premiums for certain people who can’t afford to pay (and aren’t driving) during the health crisis. Automakers are offering heavy incentives on just about everything, cutting additional breaks for those left unemployed. Dealers are swapping to digital sales models to avoid as much direct contact with buyers as humanly possible while still making a sale.

But what are ride-sharing companies supposed to do?

Zipcar has a few ideas. With ride-hailing services and taxi cabs being viewed by many as mobile germ carriages, you wouldn’t expect shared vehicles to be in demand. Zipcar is making a few changes in a bid to make it all the more appetizing. Rather than relying on its typical hourly (or daily) price rates, it has expanded its Dedicated Zipcar vehicle program for weekly rentals. But that puts the business up against traditional rental firms, which have slashed their prices to an almost comical degree. (Read More…)

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