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Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest Week Ending May 9, 2020


Mazda Continues Free Services For Health Care Heroes; The U.S. employment devastation; Kia and Hyundai Open Now Building; US New Car Sales Continue Slide, European Sales Disappear; Online Sales May Help; Chinese Sale Rise; Scale Model Kits Racing Ahead; Airbag News; Engine Rats Increasing; BMW Ends Europe Delivery Debuts US Buy and Driveaway; 2020 Corvette Fast To Drive Slow To Build; Events and Race Schedule Adjusted


AUTO CENTRAL CHICAGO - May 10, 2020; Every Sunday Executive Producer Larry Nutson, 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 May 9, 2020; Important or pithy automotive news and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.

* The U.S. unemployment rate hit 14.7 percent and 20.5 million jobs were lost in April — devastation not seen since the Great Depression. The April job losses alone far exceed the 8.7 million in the last recession, when unemployment peaked at 10 percent in October 2009.

* Hyundai and Kia have reopened their U.S. plants but operating only on a single shift. GM, Ford and FCA plan to restart production on May 18, having been given support by the UAW. An issue is getting supplier plants up and running especially those in Mexico which is under lockdown and the source of 40% of imported parts. Nearly all other automakers with U.S. plants have restarted production except for Nissan's two plants that have no restart date. Reopening factories is good news for the nearly 1 million people employed in the U.S. auto manufacturing sector.

* Autometrics reports that since mid-April, new vehicle shopper demand appears to have been experiencing a more prolonged steady decline than we have seen before earlier in the pandemic. Light vehicle car sales were down 12.5% in the US in the first quarter of 2020. Truck, SUV and car shopper trends are all tracking downward. April sales plunged with U.S. deliveries down by an estimated 50 percent last month.

* AutoPacific’s recent COVID-19 survey results reveal the potential for an uptick in use of online vehicle sales services over the coming weeks and months. According to results of the survey, which was fielded to U.S. vehicle owners from April 9-April 20, 2020, 23% of consumers who are now delaying their new vehicle purchase are more likely to consider purchasing through an online service now than they were before COVID-19. Additionally, 30% say they are more likely to consider home delivery. “Staying at home for an extended period of time has required many consumers to engage in online shopping beyond the typical Amazon purchase to groceries, pet products, and medical supplies, so why not cars?” says AutoPacific president George Peterson.

* Auto sales are in the Covid-19 slump but scale models of autos are not. The 77-year old model maker Revel has seen a resurgence with more people stuck at home who have turned to building the 1/25th scale plastic models of hot rods, '60s muscle cars and "Star Wars" spaceships. Last year Revel sold more than 1 million model kits that average $24 each.

* Automotive News reports European car sales were almost wiped out in April after governments around the continent closed auto dealerships and other businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The U.K. sold just 4,321 cars during April, the lowest since just after the second world war, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said. The 97 percent slump followed similar declines in the COVID-19 hotspots of Italy and Spain, while France fared slightly better with an 89 percent decline. Jaguar Land Rover, the U.K.’s largest carmaker, will gradually reopen its factories starting May 18, as will PSA Group and Honda Motor Co. in the coming weeks.

* Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh reporting for Reuters said that vehicle sales in China likely rose in April from a year earlier, its top auto industry body said, ending almost two years of declines and signaling that the world’s biggest auto market is recovering from the coronavirus shock. April’s sales of 2 million units likely rose 0.9% from a year earlier, and 39.8% from March, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) said in a post on its official WeChat account.

* Automakers in the United States will not have to recall vehicles to replace some 56 million Takata airbag inflators manufactured with a drying agent, or dessicant, to prevent the inflators from exploding as they age. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the generation of Takata inflators covered by the order does not pose a safety risk warranting replacement. An auto safety group criticized the agency's lack of transparency.

* And this from the NY Times: While rat infestations in car engines are not rare occurrences, researchers are attempting to determine whether they are increasing in areas where rats’ usual food and harborage sites have been disrupted by pandemic distancing efforts. A restaurant that is no longer serving food to humans is also no longer producing large quantities of human food garbage — sustenance for city rats. You might decrease the odds of harboring rats in your car, according to Dr. Michael H. Parsons, a visiting research scholar at Fordham University who studies the city rats of New York, by avoiding parking over sewers and drainage catch basins “as rats utilize these to move above and below ground.” He also recommended starting your car and moving it from time to time, and inspecting under your car’s hood “for obvious gnawings and rat droppings.”

* Mazda North American Operations announced that its Essential Car Care program, which provides free standard oil changes and enhanced car cleaning services for eligible U.S. healthcare workers at dealers nationwide, will now run through June 1. The Essential Car Care program, which began on April 16, was developed in partnership with Mazda’s U.S. dealer network. The company will invest a minimum of $5 million as part of the initiative.

* A long standing program offered by many European brand automakers is the opportunity to order your new car and then travel to the European factory and take delivery. Along with a lower price by about 5% you then had a car at your disposal for a vacation. BMW is ending its European Delivery program basically due to lack of interest. BMW most popular vehicles are SUVs that are all built right here in the U.S. But note, the BMW Ultimate Delivery Experience is available to U.S. customers who then drive their new BMW home from the BMW Performance Center in Greer, SC. The Ultimate Delivery Experience is available for any BMW automobile, no matter where in the world it is built, according to a BMW spokesman.

* There may only be 2,700 Corvettes for the 2020 model year, as first reported by Consumer Guide Automotive. The all-new mid-engine C8 has had a rough start. A production delay, a strike and now Covid-19 has slowed the launch and limited the ability to build cars. More 2020's will be built when production restarts. Orders for 2020s were stopped back in March. Chevy said the convertible will not come until the 2021 model.

* Add another automotive event to the list of ever-shifting postponements and cancellations that will define the 2020 calendar. The Hemmings Motor News Great Race presented by Hagerty Drivers Club is moving from its original date of June 20-28 to August 22-30. The route--San Antontio, Texas, to Greenville, South Carolina--remains the same.

* Woodward Dream Cruise President Michael Lary announced last week that Detroit’s iconic collector car event is still planned for August 15, “By the end of June, we’ll see where we’re at and we’ll be able to make a more informed decision about what the Cruise might look like.”

* As of now, the SEMA Show is still on for Nov. 3-6, 2020, in Las Vegas. The annual gathering of the aftermarket industry fills the Las Vegas Convention Center with 150,000 people from all over the world, including places hard hit by the pandemic. SEMA is optimistically hoping the coronavirus will be under control by then and business back to more or less normal, according to the organization. Later in November the Los Angeles Auto Show remains on the calendar.

* NHRA officials have announced that they are working with state and local officials as well as host tracks and teams on a revised Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, which will be announced soon. The season is expected to resume, with fans in attendance, in August, and will consist of 18 total events for 2020, including the two that kicked off the season. At this time, it is certain that the events planned for June and July are postponed.

* IndyCar will officially begin its 2020 season on Saturday, June 6, at Texas Motor Speedway without fans in attendance. The league released a new provisional schedule and safety protocols. The Genesys 300 has been shortened to 200 laps from the previously announced 248 to accommodate what is now a single-day event at the 1.5-mile venue in Fort Worth, Texas. There will be a practice session from 1:30-3:30 p.m. with time trials scheduled for 5 p.m. Following Texas the next race will be at Road America on June 21 with no decision at this time if fans will be allowed or not.

* NASCAR's revised 2020 season has resulted in the cancellation of races at Richmond, Virginia, Chicagoland Speedway and Sonoma Raceway. NASCAR plans to race in Darlington on May 17 and May 20, two races that were not on the original schedule.

Stay safe. Be Well.