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0:07 Coronavirus Dents Car Sales
0:40 Low Inventory Levels Will Hurt Sales
1:04 Auto Industry Sets Up Task Forces
1:28 Geneva Cars to Be Revealed Online
2:05 Tesla’s Stock Plummets
2:42 Automakers & Suppliers Need to Change Way They Do Business
3:25 Dodge Grand Caravan Axed
4:04 Grand Caravan & Journey No Longer Available in ZEV States
4:51 Indy Autonomous Challenge
6:29 Camera Cleaning Solutions from Faurecia
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CORONAVIRUS DENTS CAR SALES
The coronavirus is really starting to have an impact on the automotive industry. Wards reports that global sales fell 10% in January, or by more than 800,000 vehicles. Most of that came from a big drop in Asia. Early reports say car sales in China fell nearly 90% in February. Reuters reports that a couple of cities started offering sales incentives on cars to try and get customers buying again, but the incentives are only for cars made in those cities.
LOW INVENTORY LEVELS WILL HURT SALES
Meanwhile, in the U.S., any slowdown in production could be felt almost immediately. Over the last year automakers worked to cut their inventory of vehicles to reduce the need for sales incentives. They did such a good job that inventory levels are the lowest they’ve been in 7 years. Normally that would be a good thing, but these are not normal times.
AUTO INDUSTRY SETS UP TASK FORCES
CNBC reports that automakers and suppliers have set up war rooms and task forces to identify parts shortages and figure out ways to plug the gap. General Motors airlifted critical parts to its plants in the United States to keep its truck lines running. Dana quickly identified three sources for respirator masks in North and South America and in Europe.
GENEVA CARS TO BE REVEALED ONLINE
And as we reported last week, the Geneva auto show was cancelled, so automakers are going to unveil their latest models online including Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, Audi and Volkswagen. That includes the new E-Class, the top of the line 911, as well as the Touareg R and Golf GTI. Fisker put out a video about its Ocean electric SUV. It will be fascinating to see the kind of reaction and coverage these online reveals get. If it all goes really well, it could encourage automakers to drop out of more auto shows.
TESLA’S STOCK PLUMMETS
Automakers have seen their stock prices take a pummeling, with share prices down nearly 10%. But Tesla really got hammered. Its stock price plummeted 25% just in the last week. Even so, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas says don’t buy on the dip, at least not yet. He says Tesla’s stock is going to drop a lot more, and remember, he used to be one of the most bullish Wall Street analysts on Tesla. The stock closed last week at $688 but Adam Jonas believes it will drop to $500. And it’s not all because of the coronavirus. Early reports out of Europe show exceptionally weak sales for Tesla.
AUTOMAKERS & SUPPLIERS NEED TO CHANGE WAY THEY DO BUSINESS
So here’s our Autoline Insight. Until the coronavirus runs its course, automakers and suppliers are going to have to change the way they do business. It’s probably a good idea to run as much overtime as you can right now and bank up as much inventory as you can. For decades, the industry worked on developing a just-in-time system of inventory control, but now it’s time to change that to just-in-case.
DODGE GRAND CARAVAN AXED
Dodge’s run of minivan production is coming to an end. The brand has been making minivans since 1984, but the Grand Caravan is being phased out and production will end in May. With the move, FCA is also reducing the number of shifts at its Windsor, Ontario plant, which builds the minivan from three to two. That will result in 1,500 job cuts. The automaker hopes improvements to the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica, including the addition of all-wheel drive, will help boost sales, but this could make contract negotiations more difficult with Canada’s auto union Unifor, which begin this summer.
GRAND CARAVAN & JOURNEY NO LONGER AVAILABLE IN ZEV STATES
But if you live in California or one of the 12 other states that follow its emission rules, you can no longer buy the Grand Caravan anyway. The 3.6L Pentastar V6 that powers the van doesn’t meet 2020 emission standards. And the same goes for the Dodge Journey, as its 2.4L four-cylinder isn’t compliant. FCA uses the Pentastar V6 engine in other models but they use an updated version that does meet regulations. The Journey was first introduced in 2009 and hasn’t had many updates and is currently offered in only two trims. There’s rumors FCA will replace it with a version based on the Alfa Romeo Stelvio but it’s not expected to arrive until 2022.
INDY AUTONOMOUS CHALLENGE
The best way to develop new auto technology is to try it out on the race track. That’s why a new series for autonomous race cars was created. Called the Indy Autonomous Challenge, it’s a competition for university students to develop self-driving race cars that will compete at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next year for a $1 million prize. It may seem weird to race cars without driver’s but on last week’s Autoline After Hours, John Waraniak from SEMA, explained the goals of this challenge.
John Waraniak, VP, Vehicle Technology, SEMA
“Basically, it’s solving real world problems with racing. As we all know racing is basically there to solve problems and demonstrate technology on a world stage. It’s the fastest way to develop technology outside of war. So, competition is the way to do it, there’s a lot to talk about there and hopefully it moves things along. It’s basically for three reasons. Extreme ‘edge’ cases that they can have with different autonomous situations on the track. Second is the deployment of the technology, proving that they work. And, probably more important for consumers, what the car can and cannot do, so educating consumers. And we’re right in the middle of that advanced driver assist systems going on now. That’s the gateway for these autonomous systems, if we don’t get that right…”
To learn more about the Indy Autonomous Challenge, you can watch that entire show right now on our website, Autoline.tv or you can find it on our YouTube channel.
CAMERA CLEANING SOLUTIONS FROM FAURECIA
With more vehicles being equipped with cameras and sensors a growing concern is, how to keep them clean so the systems function as they’re intended? As of now, a warning may pop-up on the dash and the owner has to get out and clean them by hand. But that’s not really ideal, especially if you’re driving in mud or snow, which would require frequent stops. So the supplier Faurecia developed a couple of solutions. Take a look.
“We’re developing several sensor washing systems because all ADAS and autonomous vehicles will eventually have to have some types of sensors to keep pedestrians, cars and other objects safe in front of it. In a Lidar you can actually see the image in front of it as long as that sensor is clean, but as soon as that sensor gets dirty, just like anything else, it won’t be able to see through it and the image of the objects ends up disappearing or get slightly skewed to where you’re not safely driving down the road anymore because you may miss objects that are coming at you. So, we’re developing the Lidar washing system, which is a nozzle that’s facing backwards and we move the nozzle in and out so it will cover the entire surface of the Lidar, but also sweeps the dirt away from the Lidar surface as it’s washing. And once that’s washed off, you see a point cloud comes back on the screen, which means it’s able to see the objects in front of the vehicle, keeping the pedestrians, cars and other objects in front of the vehicle safe.”
The jet of air would come from a small compressor and tank, which could also be used to control other vehicle systems and the spray would come from the windshield washer system. I think we’re going to need some bigger washer reservoirs, but let us know what you think?
But that’s it for today, thanks for watching and please join us again tomorrow.
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John McElroy is an influential thought leader in the automotive industry. He is a journalist, lecturer, commentator and entrepreneur. He created “Autoline Daily,” the first industry webcast of industry news and analysis.