Nutson's Weekly Automotive News Digest - Week Ending May 23, 2020
This Week: Chinese Virus Still Affecting Car Production, New Car Introductions, Sales, Future Mobility, Motorsports, Auto Events, Insurance Rebates, Hertz Bankruptcy, MB-F1, Bicycles, Still VW Dieselgate, Volvo A Safer 112 MPH, Pontiac Fiero Midland, Michigan Museum Collection Flooded
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Nutson's Automotive News Review - Week Ending May 23, 2020; Important or pithy automotive news, Opinion and back stories in expert-created easy to digest news nuggets.
* President Trump visited a Ford Plant in Rawsonville, Michigan, in direct violation of the Michigan Governor's Covid-19 Executive Order. Trump was asked to wear a face mask, as required by the joint agreement between Ford and the UAW to protect all workers. Trump had a mask on in a private meeting and then took it off during the plant tour. Both Ford and the UAW issued statements on the matter, but it still caused a lot of controversy within the media and general public. The Michigan Attorney General said it would be having a conversation with Ford management for violating the Governor's Executive Order.
* Daily carbon emissions declined 17% between January and early April, compared to average levels in 2019, and could decline anywhere between 4.4% to 8% by the year's end, a study shows. That figure would mark the largest annual decrease in carbon emissions since World War II, researchers said. Because the changes driving reduced emissions haven't fundamentally changed the economy or the energy much of the world relies on, the declines are likely to be temporary.
* Driving in the U.S. and Europe is picking up. China is buying more oil. U.S. oil futures climbed 8 percent to $31.82 a barrel. The average price for regular gasoline in the United States is still a relative bargain at $1.88 a gallon, 97 cents less than a year ago, according to AAA.
* We had some “firsts” for Toyota with its first-ever, virtual world premiere (which was streamed LIVE on The Auto Channel) as they unveiled two new products, via livestream, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. The all-new 2021 Sienna and brand-new 2021 Venza CUV were introduced all over the globe, through computer screens and smart devices. Both all-hybrid (note: only hybrid) vehicles were originally set to bow at the postponed New York Auto Show last April but Toyota had to improvise their eventual launch through technology. Necessity is the mother of invention! The show must go on even if there is no show. The event livestream and video playback for Sienna and Venza, across a variety of social media (Including TACH) platforms, has received more than 2.3 million views since the Monday event.
* Reuters reports that Daimler was forced to shut its Mercedes factory in Alabama this week for a lack of parts from Mexico. The Mexican government has sent confusing signals about when and how manufacturing can restart. The latest statement said factories could restart before June 1 if they have approved safety plans. GM delayed the re-start of its pickup factory in Silao Mexico by a day to May 21.
* Automakers and suppliers have been planning to relaunch this week. More than 130,000 autoworkers returned to factories across the U.S. for the first time in nearly two months. Workers wore facemasks, had temperatures checked and answered questions about exposure to Covid-19.
* Wuhan purveyor of THE VIRUS and epicenter of the worldwide pandemic, is now offering subsidies to encourage consumers to buy electric cars and appliances manufactured in the province. GM, Honda, Peugeot and China's Dongfeng all produce vehicles in Wuhan.
* As Europe's governments consider how to support auto sector jobs, one pivot point will be whether to target subsidies at green vehicles - and how to define what "green" means. France's Minister of Cars, Bruno LeMaire, said the government is considering a demand subsidy that would encourage a shift to cleaner cars, but did not say what cars would qualify.
* Ford has delayed the production start of the new Mustang Mach-E and the new Bronco by two months due to Covid-19. Word is though, that they should still arrive at dealers this year.
* Bike shops across the nation are seeing a spike in demand. With gyms closed, some consumers switched to bikes for exercise and stress relief. Parents were hoping their kids — staying home from school — would burn up their pent-up energy. As America slowly reopens, commuters are turning to bicycles to stay away from crowds in subways and buses. More than 80% of Americans see cycling as safer than taking public transportation, according to an April survey of 1,000 Americans by manufacturer Trek Bicycle, one of the the biggest-selling brands in the U.S., and researcher Engine Insights. E-bikes are in demand as well.
* State Farm will cut insurance rates by $2.2 billion as Americans continue to drive less as a result of Covid-19. Last month State Farm said it would return $2 billion to policyholders. Most got a 25% credit. Other insurers have also issued credits. Rate reductions amount to around 11%. Miles driven is down 38% as of May 9, according to Arity a data firm owned by Allstate.
* Hertz became the latest economic casualty of the coronavirus pandemic, filing for bankruptcy in the US and Canada after more than a century in business. Hertz had already cut 10,000 jobs in North America, or 26.3 percent of its global workforce, to save money. Its main international operating regions, including Europe, Australia and New Zealand, were not included in the US Chapter 11 filing. Established in 1918 with only a dozen cars, the global car rental giant had survived the Great Depression and numerous American recessions.
* U.S. authorities arrested a former Special Forces soldier and another man wanted by Japan on charges that they enabled the escape of former Nissan Motor Co boss Carlos Ghosn out of the country. Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts said that former U.S. Green Beret Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, helped Ghosn last year flee to Lebanon to avoid trial in Japan over alleged financial wrongdoing.
* One more time on Dieselgate. VW agreed to pay $9.9 million in a deal with a German court to end legal proceedings against its chairman and CEO, who were accused of holding back market-moving information on rigged emissions tests. The court in Brunswick in VW's home state of Lower Saxony was hearing charges of stock market manipulation against CEO Herbert Diess, as well as Supervisory Board Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch. Prosecutors had accused Diess and Poetsch of a delay in informing investors of the company’s wrongdoing. In a statement, VW said it believes the charges were unfounded but "it was in the automaker's interest that the proceedings be terminated."
* Every new Volvo car now comes with a limited top speed of 112mph, as Volvo Cars delivers on its promise made last year to introduce such a limitation and goes beyond regulation and legislation to help close the remaining gap to zero serious injuries and fatalities in traffic. As well as the speed cap, every Volvo car will now also come with a Care Key, which allows Volvo drivers to set additional limitations on the car’s top speed, for example before lending their car to other family members or to younger and inexperienced drivers.
* Joe White writing for Reuters says Facebook's decision to encourage (compel?) many of its workers to work remotely forever could have broad ripple effects, some of which could reach the auto industry. As more office workers are told not to bother commuting daily to office complexes in city centers or dense suburbs, and disperse into rural areas and ex-urbs, a lot of the discussions about shared mobility and autonomous vehicles replacing personal vehicle ownership could go into the dustbin of history.
* Fieros Forever was a work of love by a man named Tim Evans, and his specialty shop worked on, preserved, and displayed Pontiac's sporty little mid-engined runabout. The shop, located in Midland, Michigan, was struck by floodwaters that were released when the Edenville Dam failed during immense rainfall this month. The museum portion of the shop had a collection of memorabilia and historical treasures, as well as a rare 1984 Fiero Indianapolis 500 Pace Car on display that was due to hit the auction block.
* Well, it happened. The 2020 Woodward Dream Cruise is cancelled. Cities along the famed route have voted to not allow the event to take place in each community due to concerns with large crowds of spectators and Covid-19. We suspect that car maker budgets that provide sponsorship funding to each of the cities are also tight. For sure, cruisers will be out, but no spectators. See you next year.
* Live auto racing returned to national television on Sunday, after a 10-week layoff during the coronavirus pandemic, with the running of NASCAR’s 400-miler at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. Kevin Harvick beat a field of 40 competitors in an eerie setting devoid of spectators and all the usual colorful, noisy hoopla. After scoring his 50th career victory, Harvick celebrated by turning scorching tire burnouts in front of the empty grandstands. “It’s dead silent out here,” he said. “How weird. We really miss the fans. And, Denny Hamlin won NASCAR’s first Wednesday race since 1984 when rain stopped the event with 20 laps remaining at Darlington Raceway.
* With new rule changes in Formula 1, Ferrari has announced it would reassign budget and workforce toward a new sector of motorsports. Both IndyCar and endurance racing have been mentioned, though it seems the greater attention has been given to an Indianapolis effort. According to ClassicCars.com there have been at least six prior occurrences, ranging from pure talk, to prototypes, to race entries in the past 70 years.
* On the Sunday before Memorial Day Motorsports fans usually enjoy a trifecta of racing with the F1 Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600. Monaco is canceled and Indy is postponed to August We only get the 600 at Charlotte but with no fans in the stands. Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!
Stay safe. Be Well.