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0:07 Nissan Could Cut Manufacturing Capacity by 1 Million Vehicles
0:55 Renault Wants to Borrow Billions
1:18 Michigan Loosens Restrictions for Online Sales
1:52 Insurance Companies Are Giving Customers a Break
2:36 New Chevy Traverse Delayed Until 2022
3:04 New VW Logo Only Now Making It To The States
3:49 Rolls-Royce Kicks Off Design Competition for Kids
4:35 IIHS Wants Rubber Curbs at Intersections
5:25 Sim Racing Win Helps Sage Karam Realize Dream
6:12 More Big Names Join E-Racing
6:34 Mazda Hints at New Rotary Engine Again
7:21 U.S. Army Wants Auto Industry to Help with Defense
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NISSAN COULD REDUCE MANUFACTURING CAPACITY BY 1 MILLION VEHICLES
As the coronavirus ravages economies all around the world, automakers are taking drastic action and looking for help. We start in Japan. Reuters reports that Nissan’s management in Japan decided the company needs to be smaller and is going to reduce its annual manufacturing capacity by 1 million vehicles. When Carlos Ghosn was CEO he wanted to boost sales to 8 million vehicles a year. With this restructuring plan, Nissan will only have the capability to make 5 million, and sales could be lower than that since the company was struggling before the virus broke out. In the meantime Nissan is trying to borrow $4.5 billion to get through the pandemic and restructure its operations.
RENAULT WANTS TO BORROW BILLIONS
Now to France, where Renault also needs a big bag of money. It wants to borrow between 4 and 5 billion euros. Like so many other automakers around the world, it cut its dividend and top management took pay cuts. That’s usually a signal that management will initiate pay cuts across the company.
MICHIGAN LOOSENS RESTRICTIONS FOR ONLINE SALES
Meanwhile, back in the ‘States, car dealers are scrambling to boost online sales, they’re running into problems. Four states, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Kentucky have banned all car sales during the pandemic. 23 states only allow online sales, while 24 states have allowed dealerships to remain open. In those states, buyers have to physically sign the paperwork. Michigan just loosened restrictions to allow for online sales. The Detroit News reports that one Ohio dealership claims it sold 15 cars to people from Michigan because they couldn’t buy one in their own state.
INSURANCE COMPANIES GIVING CUSTOMERS A BREAK
Fewer people are driving because of stay-at-home orders, so insurance companies are giving customers a break. Allstate and Geico, previously announced 15% discounts for customers. Farmers and 21st Century are cutting premiums for customers 25% in April and Progressive is giving 20% discounts for premiums in April and May. Best of all, this will be done automatically for customers, no action is required. On top of that, the companies have halted policy cancellations for non-payment until May.
NEW CHEVY TRAVERSE DELAYED UNTIL 2022
Chevrolet showed off the refreshed version of the Traverse last month, but due to the pandemic it’s been delayed. Rather than coming out late this year, the new Traverse will now launch next year as a 2022 model. As you can see, the big styling change is in the front and rear fascias, which now bring the overall look closer to GM’s large SUVs. Chevy says we’ll get more details on the new Traverse closer to launch.
NEW VW LOGO JUST REACHING THE STATES
Last year VW redesigned its logo. Amazingly, it’s taken a year for the new badge to make it to North America. In the U.S. it just made its debut on the 2020 Atlas Cross Sport. Chief Designer Klaus Bischoff said he wanted to “make the W float, bringing a new lightness to the Volkswagen brand.” The new logo simplifies the design elements and color, which provides better resolution when displayed on digital devices, like smart watches and phones. VW now needs to change all the signs at its plants, dealerships and in its advertising. Whoever thought so much work had to go into two letters?
ROLLS-ROYCE KICKS OFF DESIGN COMPETITION FOR KIDS
With so many people locked down at home, a number of automakers started offering coloring books and design competitions for kids. Now Rolls-Royce is jumping on the bandwagon. Anyone 16 and younger can design their dream Rolls Royce of the future. Rolls designers will pick their favorites and the winner gets their design turned into a fully rendered illustration by the team, as they did with this Crabmobile by young Thomas. The winner also gets chauffeur-driven in a Rolls-Royce Phantom for their first day back to school, with their best friend. There are several runner up prizes as well. All you have to do is fill out a short form and multiple entries are allowed.
IIHS WANTS RUBBER CURBS AT INTERSECTIONS
The number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents keeps going up. While the auto industry is deploying the technology to protect pedestrians, infrastructure can play a role as well. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is calling for bollards or rubber curbs to be installed at intersections, which, as this graphic shows, would force drivers to turn more slowly by blocking the diagonal path through the crosswalk. Washington D.C. started installing these at intersections two years ago. And the IIHS found that it reduced the number of times drivers had to swerve or brake suddenly by 70%. More than half of all crashes involving pedestrians occur at intersections, so this could be a simple way to cut back on those accidents.
SIM RACING WIN HELPS SAGE KARAM FULFILL DREAM
Many young athletes dream of being on SportsCenter. But for IndyCar driver Sage Karam it took winning a race in front of a computer screen rather than the driver’s seat. Karam took the top spot in IndyCar’s first iRace event and never thought the attention would be so big for a virtual race. Not only did he get on SportsCenter, Karam says he’s done five or so interviews a day since the first race. He was so worn after the win that he took two days off from sim racing. It really is amazing to see how much attention these virtual races are getting. The first IndyCar race brought in more than 600,000 viewers through online channels.
MORE BIG NAMES FLOCK TO E-RACING
And more big names are jumping on board. The virtual ‘Legends Trophy’ series pits drivers over 40 against each other. Names like Emerson Fittipaldi and Juan Pablo Montoya are already on board and IndyCar, Indy 500 and F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve just signed up as well. You can catch those races on Saturday.
MORE PROOF OF ANOTHER MAZDA ROTARY
Could Mazda have a rotary engine in its lineup again? The automaker teased us with the RX-VISION a few years back, then came word of a possible rotary range extender and now it looks like that powertrain could make it into the MX-30 crossover. Mazda is gearing up to celebrate its 100 anniversary and a video celebrating this has an image of an MX-30 that says it has a rotary range extender. Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long as Mazda’s diesel to hit the market. Let’s also remember that plug-in hybrids don’t sell and rotary engines are expensive to develop.
U.S. ARMY WANTS AUTO INDUSTRY TO HELP WITH DEFENSE
Detroit used to be known as the Arsenal of Democracy. And now the U.S. Army wants the auto industry back to help with the nation’s defense. On Autoline This Week, Brigadier General Ross Coffman, talks about the types of auto technology it’s looking to use in the battlefield.
Brigadier General Ross Coffman
“So, part of my portfolio we work with robotics, which you know, the autonomy space is huge. We’ve got a lot of money from the auto industry going into that. It’s a different problem set. So you have on road autonomy, it has very strict rules, we got signs, all stop signs look the same, stoplights etc. On the modern-day battlefield, it’s a little different. The terrain that you’ll face is put there by the enemy to stop you. So how do you get around that? How do you map that in real time so that we can position forces into a relative place of advantage to defeat our adversaries? So, there’s a lot in there. There’s several in the automotive industry working toward hybrid or pure electric and we’re very interested in that, so we can reduce the logistics footprint on the battlefield. So, if we don’t have to refuel as often, that’s less trucks on the road, we can stay in the fight longer. So, there’s several areas that I think we overlap but those are two.”
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And with that we wrap up today’s show.
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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.