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Nutsons Auto News Weekly Wrap-up - Week Ending March 28, 2020


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Corona-virus Continues To Take Center-stage This Week


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AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO - March 29, 2020; Every Sunday Executive Producer Larry Nutson and Chicago Car Guy with help from senior editor Thom Cannell from The Auto Channel Michigan Bureau, compile The Auto Channel's "take" on this past week's automotive news, condensed into easy to digest news Nuggets.

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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending March 28, 2020; Important or pithy automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.

* The June Detroit North American International Auto Show has been canceled (not postponed) so that the TCF Center can be converted into a field hospital to support Covid-19 patient treatment. The next Detroit show will now be in June 2021. The TCF Center is being taken over by FEMA for the next 6 months, making a rescheduling for this year virtually impossible. The New York Auto Show has been rescheduled from its April dates to late August. The Javits Convention Center has also been converted to a field hospital so it remains to be seen if the curve is flattened by August.

* Ford is working with General Electric and 3M to accelerate production of ventilators and respirators for the coronavirus fight. The automaker is also turning its 3D printing capability to the task of producing medical equipment, including face shields to protect healthcare workers. Ford is repurposing auto parts, such as small fans used to cool the seats in an F-150. Fiat Chrysler said it will produce 1 million face masks a month for distribution in North America. GM is accelerating what it calls "Project V" to build as many as 200,000 ventilators at a GM plant in Kokomo, Indiana with ventilator manufacturer Ventec. Internal emails viewed by Reuters say GM has found suppliers for 95% of the parts it would need. Trump attacked GM in a series of tweets in spite of the fact that GM was well on its way with the ventilators.

* Toyota is making face masks, Kia is considering making face masks in China. Renault is using 3D printing to make face shields in Spain, while rival Peugeot is working with Air Liquide to accelerate ventilator production.

* General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler extend the shutdown of their U.S. operations from the end of March into April. Michigan is under a stay at home order until April 13 - which by itself could make it difficult for the Detroit manufacturers to re-start assembly lines elsewhere.

* Ford said it will start reopening its North American assembly plants, aiming to get U.S. truck and van plants operating by April 14. Whether the United Auto Workers will support Ford's move is not clear. In China, meanwhile, Peugeot has restarted production at a plant in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

* From Reuters we learned that groups representing major automakers and suppliers asked U.S. lawmakers to consider new tax relief and delay the start of a new trade deal as auto sales decline as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. They requested relief from provisions of the new US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and tax breaks in a letter to Congress. The automakers also endorsed a plan to create government-backed credit facilities for companies to draw on as consumer sales dry up. One in three Americans is now subject to a stay at home order, and that number is expected to rise, along with jobless rates.

* J.D. Power, along with other auto analysts, say the industry could see a decline of up to 3 million in retail vehicle sales for the year, and that total sales are likely to finish in a range of 14 to 16 million vehicles as "our pre-virus outlook" of 16.8 million in sales is not attainable. Any recovery will be influenced by a "highly uncertain" post-virus economic environment as well as any potential government stimulus and whether automakers offer any discounts.

* In a report from Inrix, due to Covid-19 U.S. national traffic volume dropped by 30% from March 13 to March 20. San Francisco, the first area to ?shelter-in-place,’ down approximately 50%. California, New York and Michigan has largest statewide overall drops, at 36-37%. Long haul truck traffic is flat, a sign that the national supply chain is holding up so far. Local area commercial vehicle traffic down near 10%, showing a slow overall decline.

* Cox Automotive analysts report that the majority of consumers that intend to purchase within 6 months but are delaying their purchase are delaying for up to 2 months (30%) or between 3-6 months (32%). A majority of shoppers (55%) are much or somewhat less likely to visit a dealership at this time, and 29% of consumers want to delay service or maintenance.

* U.S. retail auto sales could fall 45% in March, J.D. Power says. The selling rate was 35 percent lower than expected last week and is forecast to plunge even further after a number of states ordered most residents to stay home as much as possible to help contain the coronavirus outbreak. J.D. Power said the virus outbreak could eliminate 1.8 million to 2.8 million retail sales through July.

* Ford is recalling 268,000 vehicles to fix doors that could open unexpectedly or may not close. The recall covers the 2014 to 2016 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ and 2014 and 2015 Ford Fiesta.

* And again due to Covid-19, the 2020 Indianapolis 500 will not be run on its scheduled May 24 start date, IndyCar and IMS announced, which would make the 104th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing the first edition not to be completed during the month of May. The race is scheduled for Aug. 23.

* Denny Hamlin edged Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a door-banging final push to the checkered flag in last Sunday’s eNASCAR iRacing Pro Series Invitational debut event, the Dixie Vodka 150, at iRacing’s virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 100-lap virtual race had all the crowd-pleasing, competitive elements to provide an afternoon escape from the worries about the COVID-19 virus that has paused all live action in the sports world. Hamlin pledged before the race to donate $100 per lap led plus $5,000 for winning the race — for a total of $6,400 this afternoon — to The NASCAR Foundation to assist Miami-area families affected by the virus, while others matched and added on to his donation.