Mazda Factories Back to Work
Starting in August, Mazda Motor Corporation will return to normal factory operations, or pre-COVID-19 levels, amid increased sales and future forecast for product demand in the U.S. In June, Mazda North American Operations achieved a sales increase of nearly 11 percent year-over-year. Most notably, the three-row CX-9 and MX-5 roadster volumes grew approximately 50 percent and 25 percent, respectively.
Through the remainder of July, Mazda will end production adjustments implemented at plants in Japan, Mexico and Thailand caused by the pandemic. Mazda has been monitoring inventory levels and modifying production since the end of March. Currently, almost all dealerships worldwide have resumed sale operations.
Globally, Mazda remains cautious and flexible regarding the risk posed by COVID-19 and will closely monitor trends and demand in each market where Mazda vehicles are shipped.
Mazda North American Operations is headquartered in Irvine, California, and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States and Mexico through approximately 620 dealers. Operations in Mexico are managed by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.
VW Offers Workers Coronavirus Testing
Volkswagen is to offer its workforce voluntary corona tests and will be setting up walk-through containers to collect samples at its German locations. The company is thus doing its best to prevent the effects of a renewed outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) and making a further contribution toward protecting against the spread of the virus. “For Volkswagen, protecting the health of our colleagues continues to have the highest priority. In the event of a possible second wave of corona, we want to be as best prepared as possible with this testing capability”, Board Member for Human Resources, Gunnar Kilian, said. “The aim is to identify cases of infection very early and systematically prevent the virus from spreading any further. That is fundamental to protecting the health of the workforce and avoiding the threat of another lockdown.” Currently, the infection status at Volkswagen AG is at a good level.
With its 100-point plan for maximum health protection, Volkswagen created the best possible conditions for a safe working environment. Thanks to the consistent implementation of the measures by the workforce, sites are currently at Phase three of four phases. This phase includes the easing of some measures compared with Phase 1, the highest level of safety. However, to continue supporting the fight against the virus, Volkswagen employees will in future be able to volunteer to be tested for Covid-19. The tests get underway at the Brunswick plant starting in week 31.
Testing will begin in Wolfsburg immediately after the works holiday, and will be successively rolled out at the other plants in the following weeks. All Volkswagen employees with corona-specific systems can request a test.
Specially-trained medical personnel from the health service will collect the necessary throat swabs. The test results will be available within 24 hours. Once employees have called to make an appointment, the swabs are taken in the specially-designed containers. The health service also uses medical information systems that have been coordinated with Group data protection.
Volkswagen health service has set up a test center in collaboration with Wolfsburg City Hospital to ensure adequate laboratory capacity for analyzing the throat swabs.
VW Reports Pandemic Creates More Opps for EVs
As much as people talk about “the new normal” of a pandemic, what such a state looks like exactly changes almost minute by minute. For automakers like Volkswagen, that can mean weighing a host of short and long-term factors, from helping customers who’ve suffered job losses to planning for an electric future.
Reinhard Fischer’s job is to keep all these elements in mind. As senior vice president of strategy for the Volkswagen Group of America, Fischer helps plot the company’s course for whatever lies ahead. Here are his insights on how personal transportation has changed in the COVID era, and why electric vehicles make even more sense than ever.
How do you see the pandemic affecting the auto industry?
For me, it all starts with understanding how the consumer views the car. With the COVID-19 pandemic, people are really recognizing the benefits of having a car. A private means of transportation that you don’t need to share with anybody – it can be your sanctuary.
With these shifts in perception, there is an even greater focus on the car-buying and car-owning experience than there was before the pandemic. For example, customers are looking for contactless test drive and delivery experiences. In these times nobody wants a “stranger” in their car. New services, such as the digital tools that can allow consumers to interact with the brand and the dealer without contact, are gaining significant relevance for the consumer.
We have also seen that the new digital world is coming soon. Offering customers the option to select their new VW, arrange a touch-free delivery, schedule a trade-in evaluation, complete an online finance application, choose accessories, and utilize the digital service experience, where appropriate with pick-up and delivery – are all options that are being rolled out.
But to be very clear, digital tools will not replace the need for VW dealers. Car buying, in most cases, is the second largest purchase most people make in their lives after buying a house. Customers still are looking for the experience – touching, smelling and test driving their VW before they buy. The addition of digital features now just makes the experience much more comfortable.
Do you anticipate a change in the way people use their cars, especially as we see major changes to the way people view travel?
Overall, I believe that the status of the personal car is high and will continue to increase in the U.S. after the COVID-19 pandemic. People see their personal car as their sanctuary. There is a lack of comfort with any form of public transportation.
In regard to travel, I expect people will use their cars more, especially for shorter trips when you can drive rather than fly. On the other hand, with the increased popularity of working from home, people will be driving less.
However, if we see trends of people leaving the big metro areas and moving to secondary metro markets continue, as those areas normally have less public transportation, people will need more cars.
What effect do you believe the pandemic could have on the transition to electric vehicles, if any?
I expect the pandemic could cause the transition to electric vehicles to briefly hesitate but then accelerate. The main reasons are:
Charging Stations: With charging stations at home, there is no danger of infection at gas stations. The handle of a gas pump is a highly contaminated surface that drivers regularly touch, even before COVID-19.
Clear Air: We all are experiencing the positive changes to the air quality that we are breathing right now as fewer vehicles are on the road. Scenic views once prohibited by smog are now more visible. People have realized that a decrease in combustion engine-driving may translate to cleaner air. We are seeing some of these effects. I predict municipalities will want to hold on to the cleaner air for their inhabitants and increase regulations on the local level.
How do you think ride sharing will change, if at all?
Now more than ever, ride sharing is a service that should be used carefully. Customers should consider what health condition is the driver in? Who was the last guest in the car, and could they be a risk?
The other consideration is a political one. Many countermeasures can reduce the flexibility of the ride sharing concept as there is the possibility of being regulated like taxi services are today. That could have an impact on the price position of these services for the consumer.
Other plans, like the one being explored by the state of California where a percentage of ride sharing vehicle miles in the future will need to be 100 percent electric, will further increase the cost of entry into the ride sharing business model.
Ferrari Helps Saving the Children
Continuing its philanthropic partnership with Save the Children, Ferrari will auction one of the earliest of the new Ferrari Roma to be delivered to North America with added star-power from Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and his wife, supermodel and philanthropist Behati Prinsloo. They joined together today with Matteo Torre, President of Ferrari North America, for a virtual event to kick-off the collaboration which will culminate with the announcement this fall of the auction winner of the Ferrari Roma at Save the Children’s virtual gala.
With significant uncertainty around child care and school re-openings nationwide, wide-scale learning loss could be among the biggest impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children across the United States. Save the Children is working across America to support education programs by offering free learning resources and support for parents and caregivers. To date, Save the Children has served more than 178,000 children and their families in 200 rural communities.
Contacless Touchscreens from JLR
New contactless touchscreen technology developed by Jaguar Land Rover and the University of Cambridge will help keep drivers’ eyes on the road and reduce the spread of bacteria and virusesin a post COVID-19 world.
The patented technology, known as ‛predictive touch’, uses artificial intelligence and sensors to predict a user’s intended target on the touchscreen – whether that’s satellite navigation, temperature controls or entertainment settings – without touching a button.
The pioneering system, developed with engineers at the University of Cambridge, is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s Destination Zero vision – a desire to make its vehicles safer and the environment cleaner and healthier.
In the ‘new normal’ once lockdowns around the world are lifted, a greater emphasis will be placed on safe, clean mobility where personal space and hygiene will carry premiums. Jaguar Land Rover vehicles are already designed to help improve passenger wellbeing, with innovations including a Driver Condition Monitor, engine noise cancellation and cabin air ionisation with PM2.5 filtration to capture ultrafine particles and allergens. New technology like predictive touch is another step forward as we address the wider landscape of mobility, from how customers connect with mobility services, to the infrastructure required to enable fully integrated, autonomous vehicles in our cities, like Project Vector.
Lab-tests and on-road trials showed the predictive touch technology could reduce a driver’s touchscreen interaction effort and time by up to 50%, as well as limiting the spread of bacteria and viruses.
Uneven or poor road surfaces can often cause vibrations that make it difficult to select the correct button on a touchscreen. This means drivers must take their attention away from the road, increasing the risk of an accident.
The technology uses artificial intelligence to determine the item the user intends to select on the screen early in the pointing task, speeding up the interaction. A gesture tracker uses vision-based or radio frequency-based sensors, which are increasingly common in consumer electronics, to combine contextual information such as user profile, interface design and environmental conditions with data available from other sensors, such as an eye-gaze tracker, to infer the user’s intent in real time.
Retailers that do the best job adapting to the need for safe, contactless shopping are leading the rebuild of the post-Covid19 economy, says Frankie Russo, Founder & CEO of 360 AUTO, which specializes in Customer Experience Technology for the automotive industry.
Fueled by demand for contactless sales as a result of the Covid19 pandemic, 360 AUTO, a Louisiana-based Inc. 500 company, is among the top MarTech companies that are flourishing during this ever-changing time.
This month, 360 AUTO entered the Digital Retailing Business with its best-in-class digital retailing technology for automotive consumers.
Utilimaster, a go-to-market brand of The Shyft Group’s Fleet Vehicles & Services business unit (“Shyft” or the “Company”), North America’s leader in specialty vehicle manufacturing, assembly, and upfit for the commercial, retail, and service specialty vehicle markets, is hosting a drive-thru hiring event on July 28 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 64 Cocalico Creek Road, in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Utilimaster is looking to fill 50 – 60 positions in its truck body facility to meet increasing product demand from customers. To follow social distancing protocols, and for the comfort of applicants, interviews will be offered in both car-side and in an open-air sit-down formats with masks being required.