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0:07 Honda Temporarily Lays Off Salaried U.S. Workers
0:46 UK Approves Ventilator That Automakers Helped Develop
1:25 Ford Rolls Out Mobile Virus Testing
2:08 Ford Tests Social Distancing Wristbands at Plant
3:58 OEMs Mine Data from Private Vehicles to Make HD Maps
5:40 VW Lays Out Plan to Restart Production
6:18 Global Production Picking Back Up
6:31 Automakers Slash R&D Budgets
7:32 Musk to Face Lawsuit for “Taking Tesla Private” Tweet
8:15 Byton Teams Up for At-Home Charging
8:44 How Dealer Service Centers Are Keeping Cars Safe
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This is Autoline Daily, the show dedicated to enthusiasts of the global automotive industry.
HONDA TEMPORARILY LAYS OFF U.S. SALARY WORKERS
Honda is laying off most of its salaried staff in the U.S. for two weeks. Honda will pay for their health care and other benefits but they’ll have to file for unemployment. Honda already laid off nearly 17,000 production workers and now will lay off several thousand salary workers. This shows how desperate the car companies are to try and preserve as much cash as they can, because once they run out of cash, the next step is bankruptcy. And all of them are in danger of running out of cash before the year is over, unless they can bring in new revenue.
UK APPROVES VENTILATOR THAT AUTO INDUSTRY HELPED DEVELOP
In the United Kingdom, the first ventilator developed with help from the auto industry, the aerospace industry and the Formula One community was approved by health authorities. Companies including Ford, Airbus, Siemens, GKN, and a number of Formula 1 teams modified an existing device so it could be quickly mass-produced. They’ll be making 1,500 a week, with production starting in May. The British government already placed an order for 15,000 of them. The company that makes these ventilators, called Penlon, only had the capacity to make 50 to 60 a week.
FORD ROLLS OUT MOBILE VIRUS TESTING
In Detroit, Ford is working with Wayne State University to develop mobile labs to do covid testing for first responders. The effort actually comes out of Ford X, the company’s high-tech incubator, and was launched 3 days ago. Ford X is providing Lincoln Navigators and drivers from the Lincoln Personal Driver pilot service, and is equipping them with tents, sanitation, power and Wi-Fi to support mobile testing. Each vehicle can test 100 people a day, and by making the test labs mobile they can be sent to areas that lack test facilities for first responders. If it all goes well Ford plans to roll out the service nationwide.
FORD TESTS SOCIAL DISTANCING WRISTBANDS AT PLANT
Ford is also testing wristbands that vibrate when you get closer than 6 feet to anyone. Right now it’s using them with a small group of volunteers at a factory in Michigan. Ford is looking at using the wristbands for its employees when everyone finally gets back to work. But that would be just one layer of safety. Workers will also be wearing gloves and masks and will be scanned with a thermal imaging device before they go in to work to see if they have a fever.
Be sure to join us for Autoline After Hours this afternoon. We’re going to have Cadillac’s executive chief engineer Brandon Vivian on the first half of the show to talk about the Blackwing versions of the CT4-V and CT5-V. Cadillac calls them the pinnacle of performance. If you’ve got questions for Brandon, send an email to viewermail@ autoline.tv, or tweet it to @Autoline. Chris Paukert from Roadshow by CNET will be joining us, and some of the news topics we’ll be getting into in the second half include:
– Does the new Cannonball record need an asterisk?
– Kyle Larson getting fired for using the N word in an e-race.
– Does anyone really like e-racing?
– Will the oil price collapse cause a renaissance of V8s?
– Will Ford go bankrupt if it runs out of cash in October?
– Would restarting production too soon be worse than shutting plants down in the first place?
OK, now back to the news.
OEMs USING PRIVATE CARS TO MAKE HD MAPS
Autonomous cars need up-to-date High Def maps in order to operate safely. And your car may soon help generate those maps and maybe without your knowledge. According to Consumer Reports, Mobileye, a company that makes sensors and cameras for ADAS systems, will start gathering data from its systems in consumer vehicles next year. Mobileye has a system capable of doing this in vehicles from BMW, Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen. Tesla has been doing something similar to improve its Autopilot system and we recently reported that Toyota would start doing the same thing in Japan. The advantage to making maps like this is that it doesn’t require specialized mapping vehicles and changes to the road, like construction or potholes, can be updated quickly. Mobileye says as few as 10 cars passing down a newly modified street can send back enough data to build an updated map. What’s more, that data is worth a lot of money. Some estimate that the market for data collected from cars could be worth $750 billion over the next 10 years. Companies, like Mobileye are targeting city planners because the data can also be used to identify where people speed, areas that have high accident rates and a likelihood for traffic jams. But right now there are no federal laws limiting the collection and use of the data, what is being shared and who it’s being shared with. And there’s fear that the data could be used to target certain groups of people. We’d love to know what you think.
VW LAYS OUT PLAN TO START BUILDING CARS
Some automakers are getting ready to restart more production. Volkswagen laid out its plans to resume building cars. It will open two plants in Slovakia next week and on April 27, production will restart at plants in Germany, Portugal, Spain, Russia and the U.S. In May production will resume in South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. And as we reported last week, 32 of its 33 plants in China have already resumed production. The company created a 100-point plan to keep workers safe and keep the risk of infection as low as possible.
GLOBAL PRODUCTION CONTINUES TO PICK BACK UP
And Daimler is re-opening several plants in Germany next week but they’ll initially only be one shift. And Canadian supplier Magna, says its preparing to restart production in North America the first week of May.
AUTOMAKERS SLASHING R&D BUDGETS
Automakers are burning through cash while the industry remains shutdown. So to help save money, they’re slashing their research and development budgets. And IHS Markit just released a survey of 140 companies to get an idea of the impact of the virus on R&D spending. It found, on average, companies plan to spend 13% less on development and 17% less on advanced research in 2020. And in 2021, those budgets are expected to be cut 8% and 12% respectively, on average. Not surprisingly, respondents said more advanced technology, like EV and autonomous technology, will be impacted the most by the cuts. Based on the findings, at this moment it looks like R&D budgets won’t return to normal until at least 2022.
MUSK TO FACE LAWSUIT FOR “TAKING TESLA PRIVATE” TWEET
Elon Musk is in hot water. He set off a firestorm in 2018 when he Tweeted “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” The company’s stock surged on the news. However, the “funding secured” part of his Tweet wasn’t really accurate and a few weeks later Tesla put out a press release that the company would remain public. That led to a lawsuit from shareholders that claimed they were misled by Musk and the EV maker. Tesla and Musk say that it wasn’t misleading because the transaction would have to be approved by Tesla’s board. But a federal judge just rejected those claims and the lawsuit will continue.
BYTON TEAMS UP FOR IN-HOME CHARGING
EV startup, Byton, is expanding charging options for U.S. customers. It recently announced a partnership with Electrify America for public charging and now it’s teaming with Qmerit for at home charging. Owners will have to fill out a survey and then will be provided with up to three installation quotes from qualified providers nearby. They pick the one they want and level-2 charging will be installed in their home.
HOW DEALER SERVICE CENTERS ARE KEEPING CUSTOMER CARS SAFE
Drivers still need their cars serviced during this lockdown. So how are dealers making sure customers are safe. Sean interviewed Eric Trytko from Interactive Marketing and Consulting, a digital marketing firm that works with car dealers, to get an idea of how service centers are keeping their shops clean.
(Clip from interview with Eric Trytko can only be viewed in the video version of today’s show.)
We’ll post that full interview later today, just look for it on our YouTube channel.
But that wraps up today’s show, 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.