Coronavirus Auto Industry Roundup
Here’s today update on auto industry activities related to the global coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19:
Brazil and Mexico posted combined new-car production in April of 5,600 units, down 99% from last year, because of the health crisis, according to local trade reports.
Dacia resumed three-shift production for its mechanical and chassis operations in Pitesti, Romania. The plant makes Duster small crossovers and Logan city cars and Sandero five-door hatches.
Ford began single-shift operations at its assembly plant in Craiova, Romania, which makes EcoSport small crossover vehicles.
Renault was ordered by a French court to idle a minivan factory in Sandouville on May 7 because of shortcomings in how it explained its coronavirus protection measures to workers. The facility had reopened at the end of April after being closed for six weeks by the pandemic.
Toyota will begin limited production at its U.K. engine plant in Deeside, North Wales, on May 11. No word yet on the company’s shuttered assembly plant in Burnaston, England.
Tesla says construction work remains on schedule for the estimated $1 billion factory it is building in Gruenheide, Germany. The facility is scheduled to open in mid-2021. The plant will have initial annual capacity to make a combined 150,000 Model 3 sedans and Model Y crossover variants.
SALES & MARKETING
China vehicle wholesales rose 1% year-on-year to 2 million units in April. Sales haven’t grown year-on-year since June 2018, the China Assn. of Automobile Manufacturers reports.
Jaguar Land Rover has put 40% of its U.S. workforce—about 150 people—on paid furlough until June and canceled its dealer co-op advertising program through June.
Volkswagen is extending a U.S. program through June 1 which enables current customers who financed through VW to defer monthly purchase payments for 90 days. New customers can push back their first payment for 120 days, down from the original 180 days, or as long as six months if they lose their jobs.
Turkey has finally gotten around to indicting seven people arrested in early January for their roles in spiriting ex-Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon last December. The charges are against four pilots, two flight attendants and a charter flight manager involved in the two-flight getaway.
Hertz faces bankruptcy by May 22 as the coronavirus pandemic dries up demand for rental cars. Doing so would dent the U.S. used-car prices by dumping thousands of discounted fleet cars into the market.
Volkswagen says its U.S. operations won’t break even this year after all. The company blames a sales slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
As Sunday will be the Super Bowl, there will undoubtedly be plenty of automotive commercials before, during and after the game, many of which focus on pickup trucks, because the ad agencies who work for the various OEMs have done deep demographic research that indicates that people who like football like trucks and vice versa. (We’ve always been a fan of the 1998 Nissan Frontier commercial that told us “Dogs like trucks.”) Anyway. . .there is one tough pickup truck that won’t be part of the festival of ads on Sunday because it is for a product that isn’t available in the U.S., the Volkswagen Amarok.
When it comes to quality, it seems as though Ford Motor Co. is on a roll.
There is a growing concern among automakers that young people just aren’t as keen on driving as those automakers—as in people who are generally north of 45—find that even their own children, kids who have grown up with a highly satisfactory lifestyle thanks to the existence of cars and trucks, are largely indifferent to driving or, in some cases, even getting a license.