Coronavirus COVID-19 Auto News

In Coronavirus COVID-19 automotive news are Pittsburgh International Airport, Ford, Volkswagen, Nissan and FCA.

The Pittsburgh International Airport is using autonomous floor scrubbing machines to disinfect the floors of the air. Carnegie Mellon supplied the AI. Workers driver the machines around to teach them the routine.

Ford Getting Ready to Re-Start

Ford is targeting a phased restart for its North America operations beginning May 18, including restarting vehicle production in North America and bringing back the first wave of employees that are not able to do their jobs remotely.

In this phased restart, Ford’s North American parts depots will resume full operations on Monday, May 11. On May 18, Ford’s North American assembly plants previously operating on three-shift patterns will return with two-shifts, most two-shift plants will return on one shift and most one-shift plants will operate on one shift. Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Mich. and Oakville Assembly Complex in Oakville, Ont., are expected to resume production the week of May 25 on one shift. Components plants will restart production as needed to support this plan.

The ramp-up process will be gradual as workers adjust to the new health and safety protocols and the entire supply chain comes up to speed.

“We’ve developed these safety protocols in coordination with our union partners, especially the UAW, and we all know it will take time to adjust to them,” said Gary Johnson, Ford’s Chief Manufacturing and Labor Officer. “We are in this together and plan to return to our normal operating patterns as soon as we are confident the system is ready to support.”

Ford is implementing a staggered approach to bring back approximately 12,000 “location-dependent” employees who are not able to do their jobs remotely, encompassing functions including product development, IT, facilities management and more. The staggered approach allows Ford to effectively implement new safety protocols and provide proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for all employees as they return to work.

To guide the workforce with the new health and safety protocols, Ford has compiled a comprehensive Manufacturing Return to Work Playbook to help protect its workforce, assembled using best practices and input from experts around the world. Some of the safety protocols include:

  • Daily online employee and visitor health self-certifications completed before work every day. Employees or visitors who indicate they may have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus will be told not to come to Ford facilities.
  • No-touch temperature scans upon arrival – anyone with a raised temperature will not be permitted to enter and will need to be cleared of symptoms before returning to work.
  • Required face masks for everyone entering a Ford facility. Every Ford team member will be provided a care kit including face masks and other items to help keep them healthy and comfortable at work.
  • Safety glasses with side shields or face shields will be required when jobs don’t allow for social distancing.
  • There will be more time between production shifts to limit interaction between employees and allow for additional cleaning.

Ford is producing face masks at Van Dyke Transmission Plant for use at its facilities across North America and face shields at its Troy Design & Manufacturing facility in Plymouth, Mich. Company-provided face masks will be required for anyone working at a Ford site, in line with the company’s global protocols, while safety glasses or face shields will be required in some instances. By producing face masks and face shields, Ford is helping reduce demand on stretched supply chains for personal protection equipment also needed by medical services and other industries.

Employees able to do their jobs remotely will continue to do so until advised otherwise.

Nissan Extends Downtime

Nissan is extending production downtime for most of its manufacturing facilities in the U.S. The company will continue to evaluate the status of the COVID-19 pandemic, current market demand and supplier readiness before setting a restart date.

Volkswagen Extend Deals

Volkswagen of America and Volkswagen Credit (VCI) today announced an extension to Community-Driven Promise customer payment relief options put in place as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The program remains in place through June 1, 2020. Extensions and continuations to payment assistance options for customers in good standing include:

Existing customers

  • Up to 90-day payment deferrals for existing VCI customers without fees (VCI will not charge any fees but finance charges will still accrue for non-lease accounts)
  • Lease extensions up to six months, with a 20% reduction rebate in the monthly payment amount, up to five monthly payments, when leases are extended for at least three months.
  • Waiving past maturity fees in certain circumstances

New customers

  • Qualified new buyers can now defer the first payment up to 120 days, revised from the original 180-day offer, combined with zero-percent APR financing for up to 72 months for most new vehicles
  • Waiving up to six months of payments, up to $750 per month, for qualified new purchasers who lose their jobs (not available in New York at this time; not offered on leases)

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant stress and worry across America, and is putting financial strain on millions of households,” said Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen of America. “We will continue to look for ways to help our customers, our dealers, our employees and our communities in this time of crisis.”

Volkswagen is also making it easier to purchase a Volkswagen Certified Pre-Owned vehicle with zero percent APR financing for 60 months for highly qualified customers through VCI. This offer ends June 30, 2020.

FCA Provides Meals-No Kids Hungry

In response to the coronavirus crisis, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced a commitment to provide more than 1 million meals to ensure children who depend on school meals continue to have access to nutritious food. FCA is moving closer to achieving this goal, partnering with No Kid Hungry to support its grantees – schools, food banks and community groups across the country – in serving 640,000 meals during school closures due to the pandemic. FCA’s corporate partnership is incremental to the expanded partnership with No Kid Hungry that the Chrysler brand announced in mid-March.

“There has never been a more important moment to help children and their families,” said Mark Stewart, Chief Operating Officer of FCA – North America. “FCA and the Chrysler brand are pleased to support No Kid Hungry in its mission to end childhood hunger.”

Millions of vulnerable children are losing the healthy meals they depend on as the coronavirus has closed schools nationwide. No Kid Hungry has a plan to help feed them. As part of its coronavirus relief and recovery efforts, No Kid Hungry is providing emergency grants to schools, food banks and community groups all across the country, and diverting staff and resources to the hardest hit communities.

“We are incredibly grateful to FCA and to the Chrysler brand for stepping up even more so for America’s kids,” said Tom Nelson, President and CEO at Share Our Strength, the organization behind the No Kid Hungry campaign. “This incremental support will help us feed more vulnerable kids who are currently missing the school meals they rely on.”

In addition to its national partnership with No Kid Hungry, FCA is working with more than 40 local nonprofit organizations (Table 1) that are providing meals to children in the communities around its principal manufacturing plants in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Similar programs are underway in Canada and Mexico.

Chrysler Brand Expands Partnership with No Kid Hungry

The Chrysler brand first partnered with No Kid Hungry in 2018 to help end childhood hunger in America. This March, the Chrysler brand announced it was expanding that partnership. With the sale of every

Chrysler Pacifica

from March 18 through the end of June, Chrysler is making a contribution that will help No Kid Hungry provide meals to kids in need across the country.

FordDirect and Waymark today announced a partnership that will provide Ford and Lincoln dealerships with free, custom commercials that allow them to quickly reach their audiences with updates on how they are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Waymark has designed a series of free COVID-19 response templates for businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries.

The two Metro Detroit-based companies joined forces earlier this year to create the FordDirect Video Marketplace, where Ford and Lincoln dealers nationwide have access to videos they can easily customize for use on social media, digital advertising, and TV. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Waymark and FordDirect are offering custom video templates for free so dealers can quickly inform audiences of new developments, initiatives, and updates.

“Every auto dealer in America has a message they need to get out right now,” said Nathan Labenz, founder and CEO of Waymark. “Dealers recognize that video is the right medium to reach their customers, but might feel like creating high-quality video content is currently out of reach. We want dealers to know that it is easy for anyone to make engaging, custom videos without any kind of editing or production expertise. It is important to us to support the entrepreneurship and business community right now, which is why we are providing these resources free of charge.”

Auto dealers are feeling the economic effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic, as consumers stay inside and defer high-value purchases like new cars. Auto analyst Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley has predicted sales could slip by 9% this year, and local dealers are already seeing a stark change, with new car sales down the first two weeks of April 55% according to J.D. Power.