Nutsons' Weekly Auto News Wrap-up - Week Ending April 4, 2020
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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending April 4, 2020; Important or pithy automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.
* First quarter auto sales were sharply impacted by Covid-19 with March sales down a reported 37%. Overall for the quarter sales are down 20%. Nearly every automaker had big declines. April will most likely be worse with sales dropping 80% according to J.D. Power experts. Total annual sales for 2020 could be in the 13 to 15 million range, far below the previously projected 16.8 million. Reports are that Ford is mulling to ask the U.S. government for a "cash for clunkers" program to help stimulate sales. Fiat Chrysler launched a program called "Drive Forward" that for the first time allows consumers to buy a vehicle and get it delivered to the door entirely without visiting a showroom. GM and Ford are ramping up their online sales, without going quite as far as FCA in allowing consumers to bypass dealers.
* GM directed suppliers to stop preparations for mid-cycle updates of trucks, SUVs and sports cars as the automaker delays them until the 2021 calendar year because of the pandemic disruption, according to a note obtained by The Detroit News. GM is urging its suppliers to stop work on tooling and parts manufacturing ahead of the planned mid-cycle refresh of the light-duty Chevrolet Silverado, its top-selling vehicle, and GMC Sierra trucks, according to the note to suppliers which was confirmed by GM. The direction also affects the GMC Terrain SUV as well as Chevrolet Equinox and Traverse SUVs, Bolt EV and Camaro. A future variant of the Chevrolet Corvette that was not slotted for 2020 also will be delayed.
* Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with GE Healthcare, announced it will begin producing in Michigan a third-party ventilator with the goal to produce 50,000 of the vitally needed units within 100 days and up to 30,000 a month thereafter as needed. Ford will provide its manufacturing capabilities to quickly scale production, and GE Healthcare will provide its clinical expertise and will license the current ventilator design from Airon Corp. – a small, privately held company specializing in high-tech pneumatic life support products. GE Healthcare brought the Airon Corp. design to Ford’s attention as part of the companies’ efforts to scale production of ventilators quickly to help clinicians treat COVID-19 patients. The GE/Airon Model A-E ventilator uses a design that operates on air pressure without the need for electricity, addressing the needs of most COVID-19 patients. Its production can be quickly scaled to help meet growing demand in the U.S.
* GM launched a rapid-response project to produce face masks at scale on Friday, March 20. Seven days later, the team had produced their first sample on the new production line. By next week, GM expects to deliver its first 20,000 masks to frontline workers. Without help from GM’s partners around the globe, the project would have taken several months to plan and execute. The team working on GM’s face-mask project accomplished the task in just one week. GM and Ventec Life Systems also are building VOCSN critical care ventilators at GM’s Kokomo, Indiana manufacturing facility.
* From Reuters, President Trump said Americans should stay at home until April 30, dropping his earlier goal to reopen the U.S. economy by Easter, April 12. Trump's decision - taken at the urging of top medical policy advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci - casts doubt on tentative plans announced last week by Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and other automakers to re-start U.S. operations by mid-April. Social distancing and lockdowns are wreaking havoc on the economy short term, but there are signs the measures have an impact. Wuhan, the Chinese city that was the epicenter of the pandemic, has reported no new cases for six days, following nearly two months of restrictions. Manufacturing activity in China is beginning to recover.
* Ford is delaying the restart of production at its North America plants to help protect its workers. The company had been aiming to restart production April 6 at Hermosillo Assembly Plant and April 14 at several key U.S. plants – and now has further indefinitely postponed startup dates.
* NHTSA and the EPA announced the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule, which will affect model years 2021-2026 passenger cars and light trucks that automakers manufacture. Under the rule, corporate average fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions standards increase at an annual rate of 1.5% through model year 2026, down from about 5% under previous standards. All new vehicles will continue to be subject to the strict pollution standards of the Clean Air Act and will be subject to higher pollution standards than the older vehicles that will be retired because of this rule. Under the new SAFE Rule, projected overall industry average required fuel economy in MYs 2021-2026 is 40.4 miles per gallon, compared to the 46.7 mpg projected requirement in MY 2025 under Obama's 2012 CAFE requirements.
* According to GasBuddy.com the U.S. national average for gasoline has just fallen to $1.99 per gallon, the first time since March 23, 2016. The national average could even dip to $1.49 by mid-April, the lowest since 2004, with potentially hundreds of stations pushing their price to 99 cents per gallon for the first time since the early 2000’s. Gasoline prices have continuously dropped nationwide since Feb 20, 2020 as the coronavirus crushes the demand for oil and lockdowns reduce driving and keep Americans home. The price drops have been so swift and severe that it could take gas stations weeks to fully pass along the lower prices.
* Nearly every automaker is offering some type of financial support to car buyers as well as current owners due to the Covid-19 situation. Payment relief, grace periods and extended finance terms including deferred payments are now commonplace. Porsche is incentivizing its dealers to set up and use its online buying program by offering discounted installation rates to those dealers.
* Both GM and FCA have told salary employees that their pay will be reduced by 20% for anywhere from three to six months. They will get the money back as deferred compensation after the Covid-19 disruption.
* General Motors and Honda have agreed to jointly develop two all-new electric vehicles for Honda, based on GM’s highly flexible global EV platform powered by proprietary Ultium batteries. The exteriors and interiors of the new EVs will be exclusively designed by Honda, and the platform will be engineered to support Honda’s driving character.
* Organizers of the Beijing auto show, which was scheduled to be held in late April, said the event would be held between Sept. 26 and Oct. 5 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Several other auto shows globally have been canceled or postponed due to the outbreak, including those in Detroit, Geneva, New York and Sao Paulo. The Beijing show was to be held April 21-30. Organizers had said in February that it would be postponed but no new date was given. The last big US auto show was Chicago in early February and it may be the last until Los Angeles in November.
* Paris auto show organizers are seeking ways to rescue the event amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Organizers stopped short of canceling or postponing the show, but it appears that the traditional automaker displays would not be held this year. Some peripheral transportation related events will still be held.
* IndyCar followed NASCAR and other racing series into the world of virtual racing. Trying to fit the void created by Covid-19, NASCAR just completed it second race broadcast on FS1. IndyCar couldn't get a tv deal so its first race was streamed online form a virtual Watkins Glen Speedway. There will be a 6-week series of iRacing. We hope to see real live racing in May or perhaps June. We'll see. Stay safe.
* NASCAR’s new generation of Cup Series stock-car, targeted for debut at the 2021 Daytona 500, is designed to cure a lot of ills and concerns involved with its predecessors. But it couldn’t beat back the coronavirus. NASCAR announced the “Next Gen” car’s debut will be pushed back to 2022 because of lengthy delays in preparation and testing due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
* Courtesy of ClassicCars.com, here's a link to a complete listing of what's NOT happening in the automotive enthusiast world. https://journal.classiccars.com/2020/04/03/car-events-postponed-or-canceled-by-pandemic/