Nutson's Weekly Wrap-up - A Digest Of Key Automotive News and Opinion Week Ending May 2, 2020
This Week: Why Is The Sky Blue?; Auto Makers Still Blue; Ethanol Makers Dark Blue; Ford and GM Delays New Models and Cancels Others; Carless NYC; Drivers Speeding Along, 180MPH in a 70mph Zone...Ballsy; Car Buyers Delaying; MB Concours d'Zoom; NASCAR Hopeful; INDY500 July 4?; RIP Pony Man Gale Halderman
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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending May 2, 2020; Important or pithy automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.
* The lockdowns that cleared traffic from the world's major cities also cleared the skies from Beijing to Delhi to Paris to Los Angeles. That ended the debate about whether cars and trucks are a major source of air pollution. Now comes the debate about whether to suppress vehicle traffic permanently. New York City officials debated a proposal to close streets permanently to vehicles, before setting it aside for now. In Milan and other European cities, officials are expanding bike lanes.
* Toyota has set May 4 to restart U.S. production with a slow ramp up. Tesla delayed the restart of its Fremont, CA plant from April 29 to May 4. Paint shop employees will come back first and then the rest of the plant. The Detroit Three are now targeting May 18 for production restart. Ford has recalled workers to prep for the restart. But, Michigan's governor has extended the virus stay-at-home order until May 15, which appears to be the earliest the Detroit Three could get back to work. And, the UAW and health experts want greater separation of workers and more safe conditions to protect them. VW has extended the shutdown of its Chattanooga plant indefinitely.
* Ethanol production was at record lows for the first half of April. “Weekly consumption has already fallen by nearly 50% compared to the same time in 2019,” says Renewable Fuel Association report. The U.S. Energy Information Administration weekly report from April 15 was that the nation was running at 570,000 barrels a day (42 gallons per barrel), down from 672,000 barrels on April 8. That’s compared to 1.12 million barrels the same time a year earlier. Also, the EIA reported 23 million barrels of stocks in 2019, while stocks on April 15 had climbed to 27.5 million barrels.
* The Trump administration is delaying the effective date of the U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement by a month to July 1, a move that gives manufacturers some breathing room to comply with new domestic and North American content rules.
* From the Detroit Free Press we read the global launch of the new all-electric Mustang Mach-E has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. "Ford has informed Mach-E reservation holders in Norway, one of the first markets to get the new EV, that deliveries there have now been delayed until November 2020 due to COVID-19," a top auto industry analyst said. Emmanuel Rosner of Deutsche Bank wrote in his newsletter: "Production was originally slated to begin in 'late 2020' with deliveries beginning in Europe first, followed by the U.S. in October."
* Ford and Rivian put their plans on ice to jointly develop a Lincoln-brand electric vehicle. "Lincoln essentially has decided that it was going to take its own approach to electrification, but it remains fully committed to electrification for Lincoln customers" a Ford spokesperson said. In January, the Dearborn-based automaker said the Lincoln electric luxury vehicle would use Rivian's flexible skateboard platform. Ford had previously noted that it would work with Rivian on an electric vehicle but had not said it would be a Lincoln. Covid-19 and its impact on both the U.S. and China market influenced this decision.
* Along with all this Ford news it also was reported that Ford lost $2 billion in the first three months of 2020. Sales are down 11%. Analysts are suggesting a merger may be in order perhaps with VW. And we hear that Ford salary employees may not return to the office until late June or early July.
* New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio went ahead with plans to close streets to traffic and expand sidewalks to discourage residents from taking to private cars. Mass transit use has plummeted as the coronavirus has spread. City officials are worried the end of lockdowns could mean traffic jams and air pollution return.
* The traffic management analysis company INRIX found freight movement has reduced by 10% but some manufacturing states have been hit hard as a result of the impact that COVID-19 is having on freight transportation. Despite a national drop of 48 percent in personal miles driven, freight has fallen a relatively modest 10 percent, proving that long-haul trucking is vital to the country’s efforts to recover from this pandemic.
* We wrote a bit ago about how highway speeds across the US have increased up to 75% of typical normal average speed due to the very light traffic from stay at home requirements. Michigan State Police ticketed a driver for going 110 mph over the speed limit earlier this month. The drive was ticketed for going 180 mph in a 70 mph zone. We remind you, just be safe, pay attention and drive the posted speed limit whether you're on the freeways or residential secondary roads.
* 39% of consumers who intended to purchase a new vehicle within the next year say their plans have been delayed due to COVID-19. According to results of an online study of U.S. vehicle owners, fielded by AutoPacific from March 9-March 20, 2020, the majority of delays range from 3-6 months (33%) and 7-12 months (25%), while 27% say they are just waiting for things to get back to normal.
* GM planned the debut of its GMC Hummer electric pickup for May 20 at a GMC dealer meeting in Las Vegas, but the event has been canceled. GM is looking at other options, including a virtual event. Production of the Hummer sport truck remains on schedule for fall 2021.
* Mercedes-Benz USA hosted the ﬁrst ever Mercedes-Benz Concours via video conferencing through Zoom. Appropriately named the "Concours de Zoom", this virtual event featured iconic Mercedes-Benz vehicles alongside their high profile owners during this time of social distancing. Each prominent participant showcased their prized Mercedes-Benz and shared a few things they love about their vehicle. At the end, a donation was made to the American Red Cross on behalf of the participants. Notable participants included Jay Leno, Rickie Fowler, Martha Stewart, Madelaine Petsch, Ludacris, Bloomberg's Hannah Elliott, Cole Walliser and more.
* Autoweek reports NASCAR issued an updated schedule that has the season resuming with back-to-back races at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, May 17, and Wednesday, May 20. The next two events would take place at Charlotte, starting with the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 24, followed by a 310-mile race on Wednesday, May 27. The next four races would take place at Martinsville, Bristol, Atlanta and Miami. No fans are expected to be allowed onto the premises.
* Indianapolis Motor Speedway could be the first major sporting venue to have fans back in the stands this summer. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced a five-stage plan to reopen the state with the final phase tentatively scheduled to include a return to sporting venues on July 4. July 4 is the day an IndyCar-NASCAR double header is scheduled to be run at the track.
* Formula-E, the electric car racing series, had to shut down this year because of COVID-19. If and when it restarts, Rome will host a race through 2025.
* Mustang designer Gale Halderman has passed away. The designer of the original Ford Mustang, and member of the Mustang Hall of Fame, died at the age of 87 after a short battle with liver cancer. It was his sketch that was chosen by Lee Iacocca to become the 1965 (1964 ½) Mustang. Halderman worked for 40 years at Ford Motor Company. After retirement he created the Halderman Barn Museum in Tipp City, Ohio as a homage to all things car design. https://haldermanmustang.com
Stay safe. Be Well.