Coronavirus Auto Industry Roundup for May 1
Here is our latest look at auto industry activities related to the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19:
Aston Martin aims for a May 5 restart for production of the DBX crossover at its new plant in St. Athan, Wales. The factory was idled on March 24. The company’s facility in Gaydon, England, remains closed.
BMW intends to resume operations at 50% of capacity on May 4 at its SUV plant in Spartanburg, S.C. About 70% of the factory’s output is exported.
This is what back-to-work will look like (Image: Ford)
Ford says it will spend several months relaunching production in the U.S. Employees who currently work remotely won’t return until at least late June. When factories do reopen, their output will remain below normal because third-shift operations are being dropped.
Jaguar Land Rover expects to resume output at its Solihull plant in England on May 18. Most output will be for export to China. Two other factories in the U.K. remain shuttered.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has extended the state’s emergency and disaster declarations to May 28. Detroit’s Big Three carmakers had hoped to reopen on May 18. Suppliers say they need permission to restart facilities in Michigan at least five days before the state’s assembly plants do.
Nissan won’t reopen its factory in Sunderland, England, until early June. The complex, which was shuttered on March 17, makes Leaf electric sedans and Juke and Qashqai crossover vehicles. The company intends to resume production at its plant in Barcelona, Spain, on May 4.
SALES & MARKETING
Canada’s province of Ontario says car dealers can resume sales on May 4 but with a twist. Authorities say staffers should consider masks, gloves and other personal protection gear “as a last resort.” Instead, guidelines encourage social distancing through floor markings, partitions and barriers; lots of hand washing and sanitizing surfaces; and shoppers admitted by appointment only.
France is poised to reopen dealer showrooms as early as May 11, pending permission from local authorities. Car sales in the country plunged 89% in April, according to industry group CCFA.
Hyundai is extending to May 17 a consumer plan that will cover as much as six months of car payments. The offer is for customers who buy or lease a vehicle between March 14 and May 17, then lose their job to the coronavirus pandemic.
Denso’s operating profit plummeted 81% to $581 million in the fiscal year ended March 31. The company has slashed global production by half during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hertz has until May 4 to make lease payments on its rental fleet or face a possible default. Bloomberg News says the rental-car company, whose business is down 80%, hopes for federal aid and waivers from its lenders to skirt bankruptcy.
Lyft is laying off nearly 1,000 staffers because the COVID-19 pandemic has dried up demand for its ride-hailing services. The company also is reducing everyone’s salaries for three months and furloughing those responsible for activities suspended by the crisis.
Renault won permission from the European Commission to accept as much as $5.4 billion in loan money guaranteed by the French government. The company will use the cash to tide it over for the next six months.
Tesla netted its third consecutive quarterly profit in January-March. The $16 million net was made possible by $354 million collected from selling air quality credits to other carmakers. Quarterly revenue jumped by one-third, and unit sales climbed 40% to 88,500 cars.
BorgWarner expects to partially reopen a plant in South Carolina the first full week of May after the facility was heavily damaged by a tornado on April 13. The factory makes powertrain transfer cases for the F-150 pickup truck, Ford’s most profitable model.
Alexandra Ford English, daughter of Ford Chairman Bill Ford, has joined the board of Michigan-based electric truck startup Rivian Automotive. She’s already Rivian’s director of corporate strategy. English will assume the board spot held by Joe Hinrichs, who had retired suddenly in February as Ford Motor’s president of automotive.
Elon Musk, always eager to speak his mind, told reporters this week that California’s continuing stay-home order is “fascist” and violates people’s constitutional rights. He emphasized the point with a bunch of expletives. His comments were a followup to an earlier tweet—in all caps—that declared, “FREE AMERICA NOW.”
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.
I'm not talking about a plastic Revell model of a '57 Chevy, but a real vehicle, one that rolls off an assembly line in 1999 with another 99,999 just like it right behind. Is it possible, or is this just a fantasy of the marketing department at Elmer's?
The finalists for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) awards were announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show today, and because the choices are essentially based on choices predicated on design and engineering (after all, as the jurors drive the vehicles, it isn’t an issue of sales or marketing), the selections of the three finalists in each category can be considered among the best in class when it comes to those two functions.