Nutson's Auto News Nuggets - A Recap Of Key Automotive News Week Ending April 18, 2020
Wuhan Virus Grips USA and World; Auto Sales In The Tank, Auto Sales Now Essential, Manufacturers Wuhan Virus Responses, C.A.R. Goes Virtual, Cadillac Blackwing Coming, NASCAR, E Grand Prix Updates, Pony.AI
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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending April 18, 2020; Important or pithy automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.
* In the first week of April, new vehicle sales were off 59% across the country due to Covid-19. Overall, 24 states (accounting for 44% of US sales in 2019) allow for auto dealership sales operations to remain open. Another 23 states have restricted sales to online. Michigan, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky banned all auto sales. Washington state allows digital sales. Now Michigan has allowed dealers to open. After Covid-19 we'll probably see online digital sales remain in ever increasing numbers.
* In late news, auto sales are now listed as essential service in updated federal guidance. The announcement comes after intensive lobbying efforts by groups representing the nation's automobile dealers, urging the White House to clarify that certain sales and leasing activities at dealerships are considered essential during the coronavirus outbreak. Final decisions are up to state and local governments.
* Covid-19 stay at home orders have emptied roads and cleared skies in the U.S. and Europe, and that is luring some to push the envelope in their cars as never before. The average speed on U.S. freeways is up 75%, according to traffic data collector INRIX. Police report some joy riders running at 100 miles per hour or more resulting in a number of severe high-speed crashes and many speed violations being issued.
* Ford is expanding its efforts beyond the current production of more than 3 million face shields in Plymouth, Mich. Production of Ford-designed powered air-purifying respirator production began this week. Ford also is now producing face masks and leading an effort to scale production of reusable gowns for health care workers. Lastly, Ford started providing manufacturing expertise to help scientific instrument provider Thermo Fisher Scientific quickly expand production of COVID-19 collection kits to test for the virus.
* Hyundai Motor America announced the expansion of its support for COVID-19 drive-thru testing to 22 hospitals nationwide with $4 million in grants through its Hyundai Hope On Wheels program. These grants are designed to combat the coronavirus by providing increased access to testing throughout the nation. The company also announced an in-kind donation of 65,000 COVID-19 RT-PCR tests developed by Seegene, a South Korea-based global leader in multiplex molecular diagnostics.
* Auto sales are plummeting resulting in used car sales dropping off drastically. The resultant impact is a decline in used car values. Vehicle auctions are empty but used, off-lease cars keep rolling in. March sales were down 64%. Cox Automotive predicts a huge inventory supply 6 months from now. Residual values are falling causing lease finance companies to offer lease extensions.
* With new vehicle sales way off, automakers are throwing out previous sales and financial forecasts. Automakers want to restart production lines. Most are targeting early to mid-May. Supply chains are key and lot depends on Mexico starting up too. Experts say this crisis will probably be worse than the 2008 recession. It's a whole new world.
* Volkswagen and Daimler said they will begin reopening plants in Germany and elsewhere in Europe next week, following German Chancellor Angela Merkel's easing of stay at home orders. The ramp up promises to be slow. BMW did not disclose plans to relaunch next week. The company had previously said its plants would be shut until the end of the month. VW's Bentley brand said its UK operations will stay shut until May 11. Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Toyota and Peugeot are also planning for a restart.
* The Detroit-three automakers are in conversation with the UAW to restart production. Midwest auto state governors said they will coordinate reopenings in their states. Nissan delayed reopening its U.S. factories until mid-May.
* From Reuters, the pandemic is clobbering many businesses, but not bike shops. Sales of bicycles are surging as cooped up quarantiniacs look for a way to get exercise, and city dwellers shun mass transit and ride shares. Many bike shops are still open because the government has declared them essential transport services.
* Autonomous vehicle startup Pony.ai said it plans to start making deliveries in Irvine, Calif. using autonomous electric cars. The company has backing from Toyota, but the first test deliveries will be made using 10 Hyundai Kona electric cars. Pony paused its robo-taxi testing as pandemic lockdowns took hold, as did most other AV companies. Autonomous goods delivery, however, is a service many industry watchers say has a robust future in a time of concern about social distancing.
* The CAR Management Briefing Seminars conference is moving online amid pandemic fears. The briefings originally scheduled Aug. 4-6 in Traverse City, Mich. will now take place online on Aug. 4-5.
* Cadillac announced that the fourth generation of its V-Series sub-brand, currently spearheaded by the 2020 CT4-V and CT5-V, will eventually include ultra-performance variants that carry the Blackwing name. The future, track-capable vehicles will be called CT4-V Blackwing and CT5-V Blackwing and will feature specially tuned chassis, vehicle control technologies and engines. Each model will also be offered with a manual transmission.
* Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 550,000 pickups and SUVs to repair a windshield wiper arm that may come loose. The recall covers 2019 and 2020 Ram 150 pickups and Jeep Compass SUVs.
* The CEO of electric car racing series Formula E wants to finish the season, and is considering holding races in the boondocks without spectators. Joe White of Reuters suggests perhaps they could rebrand as the Mad Max Challenge.
* NASCAR suspended driver Kyle Larson after he used a racial slur during a live stream of a virtual race. At first Chip Ganassi Racing suspended Larson without pay. Sponsors McDonald's and Credit One Bank ended their sponsorship of Larson which forced Ganassi to dump Larson in favor of a different driver. Be careful what you say. Just one word can be devastating.
* As far as the return to racing, the following statement was issued by NASCAR: “NASCAR is postponing the scheduled events on May 8-9 at Martinsville Speedway. Our intention remains to run all 36 races, with a potential return to racing without fans in attendance in May at a date and location to be determined.” NASCAR says it will still run all 36 Cup Series races. Some may be run with no fans in the stands. Some may be mid-week and there may be some double-headers.
Stay safe. Be Well.