Foley Weekly Automotive Report - October 2021

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Foley Weekly Automotive Report

This report helps automotive suppliers inform their legal and operational decisions to help address challenges and opportunities. 

Key developments

  • U.S. new light-vehicle sales in September are forecast to reach a SAAR of 12.2 million units, according to estimates from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive and Cox Automotive.
  • Toyota’s third-quarter U.S. sales volumes surpassed GM for the second consecutive quarter. The achievement is described as a short-term event attributed to the effects of the semiconductor shortage.
  • Ford will require its U.S. salaried workforce to submit their COVID-19 vaccination status by October 8; the submission process is voluntary for the automaker’s hourly workforce.
  • Power outages in China are a potential threat to manufacturing supply chains. Nearly two-thirds of the nation’s provinces are experiencing power rationing. The issue results from coal shortages, as well as government efforts to control energy consumption.
  • Automotive tech company Veoneer reached a definitive agreement to be acquired by Qualcomm and investment group SSW Partners. This terminates a previous merger agreement with Magna International Inc.
  • Daimler shareholders approved a plan to spin off its truck division in order to improve profit and the ability to respond to trends in electrification and autonomous driving.
  • Waymo and Cruise received permits from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to launch self-driving commercial services in designated sections of the Bay Area.
  • Electric vehicles and low emissions technology:
    • Lordstown Motors will sell its Ohio facility to Foxconn Technology Group, excluding certain assets, and the companies intend to jointly manufacture the Endurance battery-electric pickup truck.
    • Several automakers are increasing investment in the development of solid-state batteries, in an effort to improve range, safety and charging time. However, mass production is nearly a decade away.
    • GM plans to source 100% renewable energy to power its U.S. sites by 2025 – five years earlier than its previous target date.
    • Semiconductor manufacturers suggest that traditional silicon chips will need replacement by new materials that improve efficiency in electric vehicles, such as silicon carbide or gallium nitride.
    • Tesla produced 237,823 vehicles in the third quarter, and delivered 241,300, exceeding analyst projections.
    • The governors of Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin signed an agreement forming a Regional Electric Vehicle Midwest Coalition. The partnership hopes to strengthen the position of the Midwest for private investment and federal funding to adapt key commercial corridors for electrification.

Market Trends and Regulatory

  • Low inventory and elevated prices are causing some consumers to postpone vehicle purchases, with a recent survey showing that nearly half of respondents intend to delay a purchase due to the effects of the chip shortage.
  • The U.S. House of Representatives delayed a planned vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, due to stalled negotiations between moderate and progressive Democrats.
  • Twelve international automakers sent a letter asking the U.S. House of Representatives to support tax credits for electric vehicles that are not limited to vehicles assembled by organized labor.
  • A group of 21 state attorneys general are urging the Biden administration to finalize emissions standards that are stricter than the rules it recently proposed. In August, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules that would require automakers to achieve a fleetwide average fuel-efficiency equivalent of 52 miles per gallon by the 2026 model year.
  • NHTSA denied a petition to investigate battery fires in Tesla Model S and X vehicles from the 2012 through 2019 model years, noting that it was unlikely to result in the discovery of a safety defect. The 2019 petition pertained to over-the-air software updates that were implemented as a result of battery fires.

OEMs/Suppliers

  • Production impact of the semiconductor shortage 
    • GM will continue downtime at the CAMI Assembly Plant in Ontario, as well as at the Ramos Arizpe and San Luis Potosi plants in Mexico. Affected models include the Chevrolet Blazer and EquinoxChevrolet Malibu production is also down through the week of October 25 in Fairfax, Kansas.GM resumed production at its two plants in Lansing, Michigan, the week of October 4.
    • Stellantis will extend downtime the week of October 4 for its plants in Brampton, Ontario and Belvidere, Illinois, affecting production of the Dodge Charger and Challenger muscle cars, Chrysler 300 sedans, and Jeep Cherokee crossovers. Stellantis resumed production this week at its Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, and Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant in Mexico; the plants produce the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram pickups.
  • Third-quarter U.S. new vehicle sales declined by an estimated 33% for GM, just over 27% for Ford, 19% for Stellantis, and 11% for Honda, compared to the same quarter last year, due to the impact of the chip shortage on new vehicle inventory. Toyota, Hyundai and Kia posted third-quarter sales increases, with Toyota’s U.S. sales up by 1.4%, the Hyundai brand up by 4%, and Kia up by 9%.
  • Continental will reorganize its Automotive group sector into five areas, effective January 1, 2022: safety and motion; autonomous mobility; smart mobility; user experience; architecture and networking. As part of a broader realignment, the supplier’s executive board will also be reduced to five members.
  • Joint venture Mazda Toyota Manufacturing started production in Alabama. The joint venture was first announced in 2018, and the site will eventually have capacity to manufacture up to 300,000 vehicles annually.
  • A settlement was reached in GM’s trademark infringement suit over Ford’s use of the name BlueCruise for its hands-free highway driving system.  Details of the settlement agreement were not available. Ford announced the rollout of BlueCruise earlier this year. GM launched Super Cruise in 2017, and acquired its majority-owned self-driving unit Cruise in 2016.
  • Nissan invested $40 million to create a Safety Advancement Lab for vehicle safety testing at its Michigan-based engineering center, Nissan Technical Center North America.

Connected/Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility Services

  • Toyota’s Woven Planet subsidiary will acquire U.S. software company Renovo Motors, in support of its goals to develop an operating system for future vehicles. Earlier this year, Woven Planet acquired Lyft’s autonomous driving unit and mapping startup Carmera.
  • Magna International Inc., the University of Waterloo in Ontario, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada announced a $1.3 million ($1.6 million CAD) five-year collaboration intended to enhance the safety and cybersecurity of self-driving vehicles.
  • Kodiak Robotics announced the next generation of its autonomous trucking sensor suite, which is scheduled to launch in PACCAR trucks beginning in Q4 2021.

Electric Vehicles and Low Emissions Technology

  • GM’s commercial and logistics business, BrightDrop, announced the upcoming EV410 midsize electric commercial van, with Verizon as its first customer. Production of the EV410 will begin in 2023 at CAMI Assembly.
  • Nikola Corp. announced a partnership with Opal Fuels LLC to construct hydrogen fueling stations in North America.
  • Swiss company ABB announced its new Terra 360 charger can fully charge any EV within 15 minutes. The device will be available in Europe by the end of the year, with a rollout in other regions to follow in 2022.
  • Ford will receive just over $6 million in tax incentives, nearly double the original amount, to support production expansion for its F-150 Lightning electric pickup at its Dearborn Truck plant in Michigan.
  • Electric vehicle company Workhorse announced the departure of its Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer. This follows the recent update that the company is halting deliveries of C-1000 vehicles and recalling 41 it has already delivered, due to the need for further testing and modifications to certify the vehicle under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
  • Extreme weather events are expected to increase the importance of improving grid reliability to support EV adoption. A potential solution to mitigate power outages are local power systems known as microgrids to manage distributed energy resources (DER). However, microgrids can expand capital costs and engineering complexities.

Prepared by Julie Dautermann, Competitive Intelligence Analyst

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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