Coronavirusly COVID-19 Automotive News

In automotive COVID-19 news are Ford, State Farm, Ultium, Cubic, Honda Power Sports, TrueCar, Hyundai, Mazda, Apple and Google.

Ford Slowed Production But Design Virtually

Ford is delaying by two months, the production of the new Mustang Mach-E and Bronco due to Coronavirus COVID-19.

Ford Virtually Designs Cars

While vehicle production has restarted at Ford facilities across Europe and North America, vehicle development has been kept on track during the COVID-19 crisis through the use of virtual reality.

During the lockdown, Ford designers collaborated on new vehicles in a virtual design studio. Using VR headsets, they worked alongside each other in a virtual world to review computer aided design-generated models of vehicles in development, as clay modelling wasn’t possible.

The team also worked on early sketches of the ultimate virtual racing car designed for the Team Fordzilla P1 Project. The captains of Ford’s five Fordzilla esports teams from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, and their communities, have been closely involved in co-creating this racing car. An initial series of eight polls received more than 220,000 votes to help shape the design package of this unique vehicle, with the design scheduled for completion in mid-June.

“Collaboration is integral to design. We need to be able to try things, bounce ideas around and get feedback from others. Virtual reality enables us to do just that while staying at home, but we never imagined we would employ it the way we have and that it would make us see vehicle design in a new way,” said Amko Leenarts, director, Design, Ford of Europe.

Key members of Ford’s global design leadership team, including

Ford is also using virtual reality for rendering vehicle interiors. 360° sketching is a tool that enables designers to imagine and share drawings that can immediately be experienced from the driver’s point of view, or from anywhere inside the car, in 3D or in virtual reality.

As the Ford design teams gradually return to the actual design studio, virtual reality will continue to be used for global collaborations and to complement the clay modelling process.

State Farm Reduces Insurance Rates

As driving behaviors evolve during the COVID-19 pandemic, State Farm continues to identify ways to support customers. Based on current trends, State Farm is working to reduce auto rates in every state. The national average for those rate reductions is 11%, saving customers a total of approximately $2.2 billion. Rate changes in some states are subject to regulatory approval and customer rate reductions will vary based on their individual renewals.

GM Ultium Prepping

Ultium Cells LLC is the name of the General Motors and LG Chem joint venture for cell manufacturing. Construction has started with ground prep activities for the future site of the Ultium battery cell manufacturing facility in Lordstown.

During the pandemic, product development work on GM’s future EV and AV portfolios continues to progress at a rapid pace. The Cruise Origin was revealed in San Francisco earlier this year, and production timing remains on track for the yet-to-be-revealed Cadillac Lyriq and GMC HUMMER EV, all powered by the Ultium battery system.

MTA Workers Protected by Face Coverings from Cubic

To protect its workers on the frontlines, the MTA is supporting its essential workers with protective face coverings. Cubic — the transit agency’s technology partner behind the contactless OMNY fare payment system — is providing 300,000 masks to help them do the job, going to every side of the frontline staff.

But that’s just the beginning of their support for front-line workers, and what is essentially now a national war effort. Thought you might be interested. Cubic is also:

  • Producing 200 PPE face shields per day by repurposing machines (ex: lasers) that were formerly used to create fare gates from its Tullahoma TN facility;
  • Creating an immersive training program to help medical staff get trained up on vents & other tech: As medical professionals from podiatrists to skin care doctors get called to the front lines, they need rapid training on machines they wouldn’t otherwise use. Cubic’s game-based learning team in Orlando created it in three days.
  • Developing a prototype ventilator in partnership with the University of Alabama for FDA approval: Once approved, Cubic will be able to produce 100 emergency ventilators per week– particularly important as rates in the southern and central parts of the country begin to climb. The manufacturing plant is typically used to produce an inflatable satellite terminal called GATR, which is deployed to help get up communications signals to areas after crises like hurricanes, floods and fires. This, sadly, is the crisis now.

This is all part of Cubic’s broader effort to do good and contribute to the effort while keeping the families who rely on them employed– it’s a lesson that all of the US’s big manufacturers and tech companies should take to heart as the unemployment rolls swell.

Honda Powersports Provide Face Shields

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, American Honda’s Powersports Division and its nationwide dealer network are collaborating to provide 15,000 face shields to healthcare facilities and first responders that are in need of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The face shields, which were produced and assembled by Honda manufacturing facilities in the USA, began shipping last week.

Partnering with supplier Stratasys, Ltd., and using a modified version of a design provided by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Honda harnessed its operations and the skills of associates at five different Honda facilities. At the same time that 3D printers were used to manufacture parts for the face shields, a number of Honda engineers applied their own ingenuity to develop a new method of manufacturing face-shield frames, using injection-molding technology normally utilized to make components for Honda and Acura vehicles.

Masks are being provided to 56 facilities in 23 states. At the same time, local American Honda dealers are being encouraged to offer continued support to frontline healthcare providers and first responders in their areas.

“At American Honda, we value the opportunity to work in a number of communities in the U.S., and it’s a privilege to be in a position to be able to support this country’s heroic healthcare workers,” said Chuck Boderman, Powersports Division Vice President at American Honda. “We’re pleased that we could leverage our associates’ ingenuity and our facilities’ capabilities to produce these face shields, and to collaborate with our incredible dealer network on distribution. We hope that the PPE will prove to be helpful as we all unite during this unprecedented time of challenge.”

In addition to this face-shield project, American Honda has been involved in a number of other initiatives to address issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including assembling components for ventilators; pledging $1 million to provide the most vulnerable North American communities with food; engaging and empowering its associates in North America to help people in need in their local communities while maintaining social distancing; and donating 200,000 items including gloves, N95 masks, alcohol wipes, half-mask respirators and other types of protective gear.

True Car Continues Relief Reducing Prices & Web Searching Back

TrueCar, Inc.  the most efficient and transparent online destination to find a car, announced today the continuation of financial payment relief for its dealer customers through June. In states where its pay-per-sale or performance-based billing arrangements are not currently available, the company will automatically reduce subscription invoices by 25%. This June discount follows the previously announced 50% reductions to those dealers’ April and May invoices.

“The automotive sector is on the path toward recovery,” said Mike Darrow, President and Chief Executive Officer of TrueCar. “While ALG is projecting U.S. retail new vehicle sales to be down 21% and 20% in May and June, respectively, these figures are outperforming initial estimates and other markets globally.”

Darrow continued, “Since our first quarter earnings call earlier this month, traffic to our marketplace has continued its upward trend, with volumes exceeding pre COVID-19 levels in recent weeks. Moreover, we’re continuing to see state level restrictions ease and dealerships that had previously suspended our services in late March are returning to our marketplace to take advantage of the growing demand.”

“While we are encouraged by the data we are seeing, our priority is to continue supporting our dealer partners through this pandemic. As such, we will extend our billing relief into June,” added Darrow.

Noel Watson, TrueCar’s Chief Financial Officer, added, “The impact of the June discount was contemplated in the financial commentary we provided on the first quarter earnings call in early May. Given the positive recent trends, we are optimistic about second quarter and full year 2020 financial performance.”

TrueCar, Inc., the most efficient and transparent online destination to find a car, today published COVID-19 car buying insights based on TrueCar’s own marketplace data prior to and after COVID-19 social distancing mandates began to take effect as well as consumer sentiment from a 3-wave study of car shoppers during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Website traffic and purchase intent returned to pre COVID-19 levels on the TrueCar marketplace in the last two weeks of April,” said Nick Woolard, Director of OEM and Affinity Partner Analytics at TrueCar. “We’re now seeing those numbers increasing going into Memorial Day weekend to levels closer to what we typically see toward the end of the year.”

“Automakers quickly turning on 0% financing offers in response to COVID-19 actually spurred an increase in pickups and utilities in the period after COVID-19 took effect,” added Woolard. “This was clearly a winning strategy to shore up demand and we see incentives as a driver of purchase intent in our consumer research as well.”

Key TrueCar marketplace insights include:
Pre-COVID-19 period defined as 3/01– 3/12
Post-COVID-19 period defined as 3/13 –5/05
Purchase intent: Connection made when a consumer submits their contact information to a dealer for a price offer on a specific vehicle indicating heightened demand and purchase intent for a vehicle.

  • TrueCar marketplace traffic and purchase intent returned to pre-COVID-19 impact levels in the last two weeks of April and have continued to increase going into Memorial Day weekend.
  • Purchase intent for new vehicles compared with used vehicles rose 9% in the post-COVID-19 period.
  • For new vehicles, large and sporty vehicles saw an increase in purchase intent in the post COVID-19 period, fullsize pickup was up 38%, premium performance (Corvette, Porsche 911 etc.) was up 26%, midsize pickup was up 15%, and fullsize utility was up 11%.
  • Domestic brands showed an increase in share of purchase intent on new vehicles in the post-COVID-19 period, with Ram up 38%, GMC up 17% and Ford up 5%.
  • In the period after COVID-19 impact, purchase intent shifted toward more expensive vehicles, up by an average of $800 on new vehicles and up $850 on average on used vehicles.
  • Across U.S. states, there was an average decline of 26% in combined new and used purchase intent in the post COVID-19 period, with Montana the only state up, at 2%. Recovery varied widely by state based on timing and details around stay-at-home mandates.

“The pace of change we’ve seen recently is unprecedented, so we wanted to capture consumers needs and concerns around car buying as they rapidly evolved,” said Wendy McMullin, Head of Research at TrueCar.

“Wave one respondents were feeling less of an impact, which is not surprising given that stay-at-home mandates had just begun and the number of cases was still relatively low. Concerns over safety and economic security peaked in wave 2. Two months into the pandemic in wave 3, we’re seeing the proportion of respondents delaying their vehicle purchase has recovered a bit to wave 1 levels, which is promising.”

Key Insights from TrueCar’s 3-wave research during COVID-19 include:
Each wave surveyed 1,200 consumers, screened for those planning to purchase a vehicle within the next 12 months.
Wave 1 fielded 3/17/20 (6,421 cases / 108 deaths U.S.*)
Wave 2 fielded 4/9/20 (461,437 cases / 16,478 deaths U.S.)
Wave 3 fielded 5/4/20 (1,180,375 cases / 68,922 deaths U.S.)

  • Concern over being exposed to COVID-19 peaked in wave 2, yet remains a heightened concern in wave 3 (57% very or extremely concerned, versus 62% in wave 2).
  • In wave 3, significantly fewer respondents stated they were delaying their purchase compared to wave 2, however 32% still stated they are delaying their purchase.
  • Half of shoppers surveyed said that lower interest rates and increased discounts and incentives may encourage them to purchase a vehicle now.
  • 8% of shoppers stated their primary reason for purchasing/leasing a vehicle is to avoid public transportation; this proportion is 10% for lower income consumers.
  • Across all 3 waves, consumers selected aspects of remote retailing – such as configuring a deal online, at home test drives, completing the entire purchase online, and video conferencing) as the top reasons they would shop with a particular dealership now. At home test drive showed the most significant uptick between the three waves, increasing in interest 44% between wave 1 and wave 3.
  • Two-thirds (65%) of shoppers surveyed said they would be more likely to shop with a dealership that offers the components of TrueCar’s Buy from Home experience which offers remote paperwork, vehicle sanitization and vehicle delivery).

“With continuing concerns around being exposed to COVID-19 or exposing others, remote retailing capabilities and safety measures around test driving vehicles and home delivery are critical components dealers can offer to get consumers to engage now,” added McMullin.

“In particular, the third wave of the study highlights that consumers are looking for a more customized way to shop that meets their personal safety expectations. It’s encouraging to see how quickly dealerships have responded and how flexible they have been in making these offerings available.”

Hyundai Clean Assurance

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hyundai Motor America is providing its dealer body with Clean Assurance guidelines to help safeguard the health of its customers. As communities across the country reopen, customers can expect Hyundai dealers to follow their local state, county and city guidelines that include social distancing and cleaning measures at their facilities. Most Hyundai dealerships are also now offering digital transactions and remote service to minimize contact interactions.

This approach is led by Hyundai Motor America’s Chief Customer Officer, Barry Ratzlaff, along with expert guidelines from public health officials and input from Hyundai’s global headquarters in South Korea.

“Hyundai Assurance is built on the foundation of America’s Best Warranty and represents the guiding principle behind everything we do,” said Ratzlaff. “We want our customers and owners to know that we are reinforcing our commitment to prioritize their health in this new retail and service environment. It’s been a collaborative effort with our dealer body to develop training materials, guidelines, and digital and remote services.”

Hyundai developed a video summary of its retail and service health initiative that is being shared with customers on Hyundai’s website and social media channels.
Elements of Hyundai Clean Assurance include:

  • Cleaning Protocols: Hyundai has partnered with Bioesque Solutions to equip interested dealers with disinfectant cleaner for facilities and vehicles, and developed comprehensive steps for expanded cleaning and sanitization processes
  • Social Distancing Measures: Hyundai dealerships follow the guidelines recommended by their state, county and city health officials, including social distancing and managing the flow of customers and employees in both showroom and service facilities
  • Dealer Training: Hyundai has created training materials for dealerships and distributed best practices with recommendations for staffing, sales and service operations, customer communications, social distancing protocols, and cleaning and sanitization procedures

Hyundai customers and owners can also take advantage of several digital and remote offerings for retail sales and service:

  • Online Retail Sales: Leveraging Shopper Assurance and Click to Buy, digital retailing is available on most Hyundai dealer websites, allowing buyers to select a vehicle, calculate payments, apply for credit, value a trade-in, and complete the paperwork online; customers can also arrange flexible solo test drives at participating dealers with the vehicle brought to a customer’s home for evaluation
  • Home Delivery: Most Hyundai dealers, depending on participation and local franchise laws, will deliver new vehicles directly to the customer’s home
  • Service Pick Up and Drop Off: Hyundai owners can have their vehicle picked up for service and repair, and dropped back off once the work is completed at most dealerships

Apple & Google Provide Exposure Notifications

Apple and Google cooperated to build Exposure Notifications technology that will enable apps created by public health agencies to work more accurately, reliably and effectively across both Android phones and iPhones. Over the last several weeks, our two companies have worked together, reaching out to public health officials, scientists, privacy groups and government leaders all over the world to get their input and guidance.

Starting today, our Exposure Notifications technology is available to public health agencies on both iOS and Android. What we’ve built is not an app—rather public health agencies will incorporate the API into their own apps that people install. Our technology is designed to make these apps work better. Each user gets to decide whether or not to opt-in to Exposure Notifications; the system does not collect or use location from the device; and if a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is up to them whether or not to report that in the public health app. User adoption is key to success and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage use of these apps.

This technology is in the hands of public health agencies across the world who will take the lead and we will continue to support their efforts.

Titan Inc. Thanks Ag Workers

Titan International Inc. (Titan) has launched its Goodyears Ahead campaign to recognize and thank those in agriculture who continue to work hard on food production during the current pandemic. The campaign also gives farmers an opportunity to pay it forward with some assistance from Titan. Visitors to GoodyearsAhead.com can select the nonprofit organization of their choice to receive a $5 donation from Titan/Goodyear Farm Tires, and as a token of thanks, Titan will send a free hat to anyone who participates while supplies last.

Valid Valid at VDMV

Valid, the leading provider of technology solutions for mobile, identity, data and payments, supports The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in implementing its new online system for license renewals. The updated renewal process saves DMV customers time by removing the need to visit a physical licensing branch or mail in a renewal application – a solution that is imperative amid social-distancing measures that are in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The online system lets Vermont citizens update information, process renewals, receive license replacements and execute payments all within a simple integrated system. It will improve efficiencies for DMV staff members by significantly reducing the amount of in-person renewals needed to be processed. When conducted online, the entire renewal process is supported by Valid technology – saving the State money and getting licenses in the hands of cardholders quicker.

“The ability to renew a license without an in-person visit is especially crucial amid the current pandemic and the push to get all citizens REAL ID compliant,” said Michael Fox, Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Valid. “Vermont’s new solution, built around Valid’s technology, gives citizens the ability to take proactive measures into their own hands by renewing their licenses from home, easily avoiding the need for an in-person experience.”

After a successful trial, the system became live for public use on Friday, April 10. Since then, the Online License Renewal system has saved up to 80 hours of in-person customer service time per day. Valid was chosen to help the DMV with this project after previously helping the State roll out new driver licenses and ID cards in the summer of 2019. With security and compliance top of mind, Valid is hosting the new public website in AWS GovCloud regions which maintain incredibly high-security standards.

Mazda

In response to the relaxation of regulations and the restart of business activities, Mazda dealers have been gradually resuming their operations while complying with the restrictions and requirements in each country and region.

The Mazda Motor Corporation would like to express its deepest sympathy and concern for all of those who have been suffering from the novel coronavirus outbreak and extend our condolences to the families it has impacted.

Since January this year, infection prevention measures in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, such as stay-at-home orders and restriction of business activities, have been taken in various countries. Voluntary restriction of activities and dedicated activities to support people’s lives and health, including health care workers, have been seen all over the world. Recently, these regulations and restrictions are starting to be relaxed, especially in Europe and North America.

In response to the relaxation of regulations and the restart of business activities, Mazda dealers have been gradually resuming their operations while complying with the restrictions and requirements in each country and region. In addition, we have resumed delivery of vehicles in line with demand, while carefully managing inventory at our plants, at ports, and at dealer outlets where we had temporarily suspended delivery.

We have also been gradually increasing production volume step by step. All factories in Japan, Ujina Plant No.1, Ujina Plant No.2, Hofu Plant No.1 and Hofu Plant No.2, will be free of suspensions and are expected to operate day-shifts only during June. Our Mexican plant, Mazda de Mexico Vehicle Operation, which stopped operations from April to May, will also resume production in June. The total volume planned for June, combining major production facilities in Japan, Mexico and Thailand that produce vehicles for the European market, is expected to be more than double the volumes seen in May.

The production adjustments put in place during March, April and May will be maintained. Although we expect that it will take a long time for the global market to return to pre-pandemic levels, we will proceed with the recovery of our operations cautiously in order to ensure that we can meet customer demand, while continuing to implement infection prevention measures.

SoCal Car Washes Offer Virucidal Applications

Going the extra mile: Seven Southern California car washes owned by Vahid David Delrahim have reopened with new unprecedented sanitation protocols, including providing customers free vehicle disinfecting against COVID-19.

Starting this week, as each full-service car wash reopens, the staff will disinfect every vehicle by administering a germicidal cleaner and deodorant, which is registered by the Environmental Protection Agency. The cleaner is a fog sanitizer, not available to consumers, which functions as a bactericidal, fungicidal and most important, a virucidal — meaning it kills all viruses, including Coronavirus.  The sanitation procedure will be done at no extra cost to customers.

The car wash employees apply the lemon-scented fog after the car has gone through a normal full-service wash. The fog completely disinfects the entire interior of the vehicle – including areas such as under seats, upholstery, and the roof of the car.  The product is used in airport terminals, restaurants, day-care facilities, hotels and motels, nursing homes and hospitals.

According to the CDC, current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for the prevention of COVID-19.

“We are not required to offer this service, but we wanted to go that extra mile for customers during the coronavirus crisis,” said David Delrahim. “Imagine being a first responder, driving home in your family car and worrying about germs. After this extra service, customers can be sure their cars are sanitized. Vehicle disinfecting is the new normal.”

The car washes have implemented numerous COVID-19 safety measures to protect workers and customers.  Delrahim said the service is available at all his full-service car wash sites. They include:

  1. Las Posas Car Wash
  2. Agoura Hills Hand Car Wash
  3. Alicia Auto Spa & Detail Center
  4. Laguna Hills Auto Spa and Detail Center
  5. Coast Hand Car Wash
  6. Redlands Car Wash
  7. LavaggioThe Art of Auto Detailing

Hertz Files Chapter 11

Hertz Global Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: HTZ) (“Hertz” or the “Company”) today announced it and certain of its U.S. and Canadian subsidiaries have filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

The impact of COVID-19 on travel demand was sudden and dramatic, causing an abrupt decline in the Company’s revenue and future bookings. Hertz took immediate actions to prioritize the health and safety of employees and customers, eliminate all non-essential spending and preserve liquidity. However, uncertainty remains as to when revenue will return and when the used-car market will fully re-open for sales, which necessitated today’s action. The financial reorganization will provide Hertz a path toward a more robust financial structure that best positions the Company for the future as it navigates what could be a prolonged travel and overall global economic recovery.

Hertz’s principal international operating regions including Europe, Australia and New Zealand are not included in today’s U.S. Chapter 11 proceedings. In addition, Hertz’s franchised locations, which are not owned by the Company, also are not included in the Chapter 11 proceedings.

MOVEECAR Offers Disinfection

MoveeCar by GEFCO, the after Covid-19 perfect offer for vehicle disinfection and home delivery.

MOVEECAR offer a certified disinfection and sanitization system for all your vehicles, regardless of their use. This offer fits perfectly into our current logistics processes thanks to our logistics centres and their equipment.

Disinfection and sanitization of vehicles

MOVEECAR offer a certified disinfection and sanitization system for all your vehicles, regardless of their use with an Ozone system that eliminates germs and viruses. We can also offer sanitization of the vehicle with certified cleaning products.

Doorstep delivery

MOVEECAR can safely organize the delivery of your new or used vehicles to your end customer, on site or at home, guaranteeing its integrity and contactless hand over when required.
This service includes fullPDI and installation of license plates. We can take back the used vehicle, store it on MOVEECAR compounds, carry out the appraisal of the vehicle and also offer you a used vehicle preparation service.

We can also set up this process in the centres from which we operate together.

The process is  detailed below:

In our workshops:

  • Disinfection via ozone of the passenger vehicles,
  • Drivers station protection with disposable  equipment,
    • Interior and exterior new vehicle preparation (cleaning)
    • Covers for steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake.
    • Protection of the floor with paper.
    • Seat covers
  • Sanitization of keys and disposable plastic protection,
  • Assembly of accessories specific to Covid-19 (alone or mounted)
  • Rear view mirror hanger “Your car has been disinfected”

We can safely organise the delivery of your new vehicles to your end customer, on site or at home.

  • Delivery includes full PDI, installation of license plates and handing over of the vehicle.
  • We can take back the used vehicle, store it on MOVEECAR compounds, carry out the appraisal and offer you our used vehicle preparation service.

As part of the delivery or home delivery,

  • Removal of protective coverings from the driving position,
  • Sanitization of surfaces potentially affected during delivery and in the drivers area, using disinfectant  with the required standards compliant with EN 14476
  • Contactless e-POD: electronic delivery documents, initialed from smartphone to smartphone

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