Tesla’s Elon Musk defies county orders to reopen factory, daring officials to arrest him #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Tesla’s Elon Musk defies county orders to reopen factory, daring officials to arrest him

May 12. 2020
Elon Musk

Elon Musk
By The Washington Post · Faiz Siddiqui · BUSINESS 

SAN FRANCISCO – The fight between Tesla and local officials regarding the reopening of a manufacturing plant escalated Monday after chief executive Elon Musk tweeted his plans and mentioned the potential for arrests.

“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

It is one of the most prominent examples of a powerful public figure defying local health orders amid the novel-coronavirus response. Tesla on Saturday filed suit against Alameda County, where its Fremont, California, factory is located, seeking an injunction against orders it stay closed. The suit alleged violations of the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.

Neetu Balram, a spokeswoman for Alameda County, said the county hoped to work with Tesla to avoid escalation of the issue.

“We are addressing this matter using the same phased approach we use for other businesses which have violated the Order in the past, and we hope that Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures,” she said in a statement, adding that the county learned Monday that the company was conducting business beyond minimum basic operations.

She said Tesla was expected to submit a plan late Monday detailing its reopening plans. “We look forward to reviewing Tesla’s plan and coming to agreement on protocol and a timeline to reopen safely,” she added.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Musk’s aggressive push to reopen has gained the tacit support of conservatives aligned with the president, and drawn the ire of liberals, including a California state assemblywoman who punctuated her displeasure of the billionaire with an expletive over the weekend.

Eric Trump, the president’s son, liked Musk’s tweet Monday.

As the coronavirus shutdowns have dragged on, some states have moved more quickly to reopen, and protesters have demanded an end to the shutdown orders. In Silicon Valley, which has had some of the most restrictive orders in place for the longest time, a handful of tech elites have echoed and promoted Musk’s concerns.

California loosened restrictions this month, allowing some commerce and manufacturing to resume, but stricter county orders supersede the state rules.

The company said in a blog post Saturday that it planned to reopen, and laid out an argument for how it could safely do so. Earlier that day, Musk tweeted that he was considering relocating Tesla’s Palo Alto headquarters, located in another California county, to Texas or Nevada, and lambasted Alameda County’s response.

Musk has repeatedly played down the seriousness of the coronavirus, at one point calling the panic “dumb.” On the company’s earnings call late last month he called the quarantine measures “fascist” and used expletives to describe what he saw as “forcibly imprisoning” people in their homes against their constitutional rights.

Musk’s erratic behavior continued this month when he tweeted that Tesla’s stock price was “too high,” sending shares plummeting during trading on May 1. Since then he has consistently complained of the stay-home orders, saying Tesla has been unfairly singled out among large automakers and railing against California officials.

He took aim at the county’s interim public health officer, Erica Pan, whom he derided over the weekend as “an unelected county official”; he said she “illegally” overrode the state orders – despite county officials’ ability to supersede state orders.

Musk also tried to keep the factory open at the beginning of the crisis in mid-March, when the Bay Area became the first major region to order residents to stay home. The county at the time told Tesla that it did not count as essential business.

VW steps up efforts to lure German buyers back to showrooms #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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VW steps up efforts to lure German buyers back to showrooms

May 11. 2020
By Syndication The Washington Post, Bloomberg · Christoph Rauwald

Volkswagen is starting a sales initiative to revive demand in its domestic German market as consumer uncertainty across Europe’s largest economy risks choking off factory restarts.

The world’s biggest carmaker will offer improved leasing and financing terms and payment-protection insurance in case buyers lose their jobs, VW’s passenger-car division said Monday in a statement. The program for new and used cars starts on Friday and runs through July 31.

“We want to provide a first strong stimulus so that customers come to dealerships again,” VW brand sales chief Juergen Stackmann said. “According to market research institute GfK, consumer sentiment has reached a historic low in April. We need instant measures that have a positive effect on the consumer climate.”

The German automaker and peers includung Daimler and Renault revved up vehicle output even as many customers avoid showrooms in Europe following the coronavirus outbreak. Dealerships reopened in some countries after lockdown measures gradually eased, but buyers are shying away from big-ticket purchases amid the economic fallout from the crisis and rising unemployment.

The German auto industry has called for a state-backed incentive program to reignite car purchases and provide much-needed stimulus for the broader economy to avert a prolonged recession. The demand has sparked controversy among the country’s political ranks as VW, Daimler and BMW have raked in billions of euros in profits in recent years and have stuck to dividend plans.

The European auto industry has been hit hard by the covid-19 outbreak with factories shuttered for 29 working days on average, according to Brussels-based lobby group ACEA. The plant closures have resulted in lost production of more than 2.3 million vehicles so far. VW, Daimler and BMW are bracing to suffer losses in the second quarter as sales were effectively wiped out in April.

VW’s European deliveries excluding Germany slumped about 83% last month, worse than a 67% fall its home market. Demand in the manufacturer’s largest sales region of China almost returned to pre-crisis levels with a 2.5% decrease in April after a steep slump in the first quarter. VW’s U.S. sales fell by 35% last month in the same period.

The lack of demand in Europe isn’t just hurting car dealerships, according to Stackmann. “That’s why we need a broad stimulus program for the entire economy that restores trust among people,” he said.

Uber to cut 3,700 jobs, adding to growing number of tech layoffs #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Uber to cut 3,700 jobs, adding to growing number of tech layoffs

May 07. 2020
By The Washington Post · Rachel Lerman · BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY 

Uber said it will layoff 3,700 employees, or about 14% of its workforce, as the company faces an uncertain future in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The San Francisco-based company confirmed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that fewer people are taking rides in the time of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. The company has implemented a hiring freeze in addition to cutting thousands of jobs from its customer service and recruiting teams, it said in the filing.

Uber said it expects to spend about $20 million on severance and other benefits for the laid-off employees. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will not be paid for the rest of the year. His salary was set for $1 million in 2019, with a possible $2 million bonus.

“Days like this are brutal,” Khosrowshahi wrote in an email sent to all employees Wednesday. “I am truly sorry that we are doing this, just as I know that we have to do this.”

Uber’s announcement follows similar cuts by tech companies Lyft and Airbnb, fellows in the on-demand economy that has taken a plunge as people stay at home and try to avoid contact with others.

Lyft said last week it would lay off nearly 1,000 people, or 17% of its staff, as the pandemic cuts into its revenue. Airbnb has started cutting 25% of its workforce, or about 1,900 people, CEO Brian Chesky said in an email to employees Tuesday.

Uber and Lyft both went public last year in disappointing debuts that revealed the darlings of the private markets, who had each raised billions in private-market funding before their IPOs, faced tougher-than-expected scrutiny once public.

Uber’s stock price fell more than 4% to $26.90 per share after the layoffs were announced Wednesday.

Airbnb said last year that it planned to go public during 2020, though it’s unclear what type of reception the company would face if it moves forward with the plan. It secured a $1 billion loan from investors last month.

Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas declined to comment on any updated IPO plans.

Uber spokesperson Lois van der Laan said in a statement the “unfortunate reality” is there isn’t enough work for many customer support employees because people are riding less. Lyft spokesperson Alexandra LaManna said the company had nothing further to share from its layoff announcement last week.

The three companies all rely on people sharing a close space with others – drivers and passengers in Uber and Lyft rides, and vacationers in Airbnb homes where owners often live or have recently left. That proximity has become a liability at a time where people are cautioned or ordered to keep their distance from others.

One exception is Uber Eats, the company’s restaurant delivery arm, where executives said demand has surged.

Uber is also closing 180 locations, or 40%, of its Greenlight Hubs, the physical locations where drivers can go for help on things such as onboarding or using the app. Uber temporarily closed all U.S. locations in March due to the pandemic.

Uber and Lyft rely heavily on contracted drivers to power their businesses. By classifying their drivers as contractors rather than employees, the companies are protected from some liability and offering full benefits. But the designation has been controversial, as critics say it means less protection when work dwindles. California sued Uber and Lyft on Tuesday, alleging the drivers are misclassified as independent contractors under a new state law.

On a call with analysts after announcing quarterly earnings Wednesday, Lyft chief executive Logan Green said ride-hail trips on the app were down 75% in April, and the company could not accurately predict the economic impact of the pandemic on its business. While the decline in rides has stabilized, he said, trips are still down about 70% – even as some began to return to the app in cities that loosened restrictions. Citing record unemployment, he said, “we expect driver supply to outstrip rider demand” for the foreseeable future.

“These are the hard truths we’re facing,” he added. Lyft reported a $398 million loss during its quarterly earnings Wednesday, narrowed from a $1.1 billion loss a year ago during a quarter that included IPO costs. The company said its revenue grew 23% compared with the same quarter last year, to $956 million.

The stock surged more than 15% after hours on better-than-expected results.

Analysts for Wedbush Securities wrote in a note Wednesday that while some people will start using the ride-hailing services again as the country recovers from the pandemic, others will never return.

“On the ride sharing front, Uber and Lyft face Herculean-like challenges looking ahead as the new reality will likely change the business models of these companies (and competitors) for the foreseeable future,” the analysts said.

At the same time, other businesses relying on gig workers have surged. On-demand shopping app Instacart said it would try to hire 300,000 shoppers this spring. And Big Tech companies – notably Amazon, which has hired 175,000 warehouse workers and delivery drivers – are expected to emerge from the crisis potentially more powerful. (Amazon chief executive founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Meanwhile, more than 42,000 people have been laid off from small tech companies since March 11, according to Silicon Valley layoff tracker Layoffs.fyi.

Lyft will announce its quarterly earnings Wednesday, and Uber will do so Thursday.

A massive drop in car sales sparks new push in Congress to aid the auto industry #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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A massive drop in car sales sparks new push in Congress to aid the auto industry

May 06. 2020
Photo credit: PxHere

Photo credit: PxHere
By The Washington Post · Tony Romm ·

A precipitous decline in car sales amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak has caught the attention of Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers are now urging Congress to authorize new aid for the auto industry.

With consumers spending less, and factories nationwide shuttered or severely hamstrung, Democrats and Republicans largely representing the hard-hit, auto heavy-Midwest are leading an early push to persuade their colleagues to help manufacturers and suppliers as part of a future pandemic relief package. Absent that assistance, they warn that massive losses could leave workers unemployed and stall any economic recovery.

To make their case, lawmakers including Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Fred Upton, R-Mich., began circulating a draft letter Tuesday emphasizing that the “projected economic fallout for the industry is grave,” according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post.

In some cases, they said, the challenges facing the automotive ecosystem “exceed those of the 2008 financial meltdown,” referring to the recession more than a decade ago that ultimately yielded an approximately $80 billion auto industry bailout.

The heightened push on Capitol Hill comes as the industry grapples with steep, unexpected losses: Car sales were down about 40 percent just last week, according to J.D. Power, which monitors the industry. Since the outbreak began in March, retailers have sold nearly 800,000 vehicles fewer than initially forecast, the firm said.

The shortfalls also have touched off an early lobbying scramble on the part of the motor vehicle industry, which spans manufacturers and dealerships, parts suppliers and rental-car companies. One idea that has been discussed among lawmakers and industry is the creation of a new federal program that might persuade penny-pinching Americans to purchase new vehicles, according to two congressional aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

“It is conceivable, given where we are today, and depending on the extent to which the industry remains at these very low levels, that we might need to see some priming of the pump,” said John Bozzella, the president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents Ford, General Motors, Fiat-Chrysler and others.

Bozzella said the organization is “looking at whether demand stimulus is necessary given the prolonged shock to automotive demand,” though he said exactly what it entails “is still an open question.”

For the auto industry, which employs more than 10 million workers in a wide array of fields, the economic challenges wrought by the coronavirus have proved immediate and immense. Purchases have picked up in recent days following a huge drop in March, particularly because of consumer-friendly financing options on the part of desperate sellers. But Tyson Jominy, the vice president of data and analytics at J.D. Power, wagered the sharp decline at the moment still is “as bad or worse” in the short term as the troubles the industry faced during the 2008 recession.

Driving the downturn is a growing reticence among consumers to make large purchases at a moment when their jobs and incomes are far from guaranteed. More than 30 million Americans filed unemployment claims in the past six weeks, marking the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression – and one that may only worsen if the coronavirus outbreak continues unabated.

Adding to the industry’s burdens are stay-at-home orders, which have forced many car manufacturers, suppliers and dealerships to close for months. Some states have recently reopened for business, hoping to get workers back on the job while reviving local shopping and commerce. But many critical manufacturing hubs, including the auto epicenter of Michigan, remain closed out of concern that factory floors could facilitate the spread of the disease known as covid-19.

Those imminent troubles ultimately led Moody’s Investors Service in recent weeks to issue dour forecasts for two major U.S. automakers. The credit ratings firm downgraded Ford and said it is considering a similar action targeting GM. In doing so, analysts predicted “severe disruption” in demand for new vehicles compounded by further widespread economic shocks still to come. The two major automakers declined to comment, as did a third, Fiat-Chrysler.

In response, lawmakers representing major auto manufacturing hubs have started sounding off in recent days, seeking to ensure the industry’s woes don’t further exacerbate local economic hardships. Michigan, for example, already is facing a budget crisis and a sky-high unemployment rate that has left about a quarter of the state’s eligible workers seeking jobless benefits. Some of the state’s representatives in Congress now say that carmakers and others deserve the same attention afforded to the airline industry and others hit hard by the coronavirus.

“Members of Congress are going to be focused on the drivers of their regional economy,” said Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens. She said an early focus is on ways to “address the drop in sales, and what that means for future legislative action.”

More than a decade ago, Stevens had a front-row seat to the last collapse facing the auto industry. She had served as a top official to a task force, assembled by President Barack Obama, to review the bailout of Chrysler and General Motors. It was during that period that the U.S. government ultimately authorized a federal program to stimulate car purchases, known as “Cash for Clunkers,” which proved popular but sparked Republican criticism.

With the coronavirus once again cutting deep into automakers’ bottom lines, Stevens cautioned: “I don’t think this is 2008,” pointing to the fact that structural factors leading to bankruptcy aren’t to blame for the industry’s misfortune. But she said the bleak financial situation “still warrants a discussion on how to potentially stimulate sales.”

“I don’t think anybody wants a handout,” Dingell, who served in a top role at GM before arriving in Congress, said in an interview. “If we’re going to get business up and running again, there’s got to be demand for goods.”

Automakers, much like other industries, are able to take advantage of billions of dollars authorized under the $2 trillion Cares Act adopted by Congress in late March. But lawmakers, in their draft letter, signaled support for additional relief specifically set aside for the industry.

“Given the enormity of the industry’s economic footprint throughout our nation and its significant legacy, we seek your assurance that an appropriate response will be included so that American workers in the automotive industry can help drive a robust recovery,” wrote lawmakers including Stevens, Kaptur, Dingell, Upton, Daniel Kildee, D-Mich., and Terri Sewell, D-Ala.

Many on Capitol Hill – along with those who work for automakers and the network that supplies them – are careful to stress they aren’t seeking a bailout, as they seek to avoid the same political blowback they faced during the last economic crisis. But some in the industry have not been shy at times from seeking policy changes that might ease some of the economic havoc facing their businesses.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation this week joined dozens of other groups across industries in calling for congressional legislation that may shield them from lawsuits in the event they restart operations and workers become sick from the coronavirus. Republican leaders have endorsed such liability protections despite Democratic opposition.

A trade group for tire manufacturers, meanwhile, asked Congress in late April to help it tackle a raft of “unprecedented challenges,” including by enacting a payroll tax holiday. Lobbyists for truck dealerships similarly sought to lessen their tax burden amid declining demand. Suppliers asked the Trump administration for tariff relief last week.

And many groups throughout the ecosystem have lobbied for months to persuade the U.S. government to categorize a wide array of their workers as essential. They’ve also ramped up their efforts in Michigan, where the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association on April 30 asked Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for the ability to open five days before manufacturers so they have a start on supplying critical parts. The group did not respond to a request for comment.

“The industry was doing real well. We had come out of the slump in 2008,” said Kaptur, whose Ohio district includes and is close to a number of auto manufacturing facilities. “If we could help the airline industry, what about the motor vehicle industry?”

Elon Musk launches into expletive-laden rant, calling quarantine measures ‘fascist’ #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Elon Musk launches into expletive-laden rant, calling quarantine measures ‘fascist’

Apr 30. 2020
File photo of Elon  Musk

File photo of Elon Musk
By The Washington Post · Faiz Siddiqui · BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS 

Elon Musk launched into an expletive-laden rant on Tesla’s earnings call Wednesday, calling shelter-in-place orders “fascist” and demanding political officials give back their freedom.

“To say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist,” he said, before the call abruptly cut out. “This is not democratic-this is not freedom.”

The company was forced to shut down its Fremont, California, factory just as it was ramping up production for its Model Y, the crossover vehicle it expects to be its best-selling product.

The comments followed Tesla posting a slight profit Wednesday, a lukewarm signal as worries mounted about the electric carmaker’s trajectory amid the global pandemic.

The company said first-quarter profit came in at $16 million, down compared with the past two consecutive quarters. In the same quarter a year ago, the company reported a $702 million loss. The company’s nearly $6 billion in quarterly revenue was up 32 percent year over year.

The company in early April already reported a record first quarter for production and deliveries of its vehicles lineup, consisting of the Models S, X, 3 and Y. Still, analysts have cautioned that the pandemic is likely to slice into production an render unlikely its target of half a million vehicles built in 2020.

Tesla echoed that concern, saying it might not hit that target due to the coronavirus. It also warned cash flow and net income might be difficult to predict, so it would revisit its yearly guidance next quarter.

“It is difficult to predict how quickly vehicle manufacturing and its global supply chain will return to prior levels,” Tesla said. “We have the capacity installed to exceed 500,000 vehicle deliveries this year, despite announced production interruptions. For our U.S. factories, it remains uncertain how quickly we and our suppliers will be able to ramp production after resuming operations.”

Chief financial officer Zachary Kirkhorn said Tesla is closely assessing the impact of the covid-19 downturn.

“In Fremont we’re working toward restarting production as soon as that’s possible,” he said. “However, unavoidably, the extended shutdown in Fremont will have an impact on our [near-term] financial performance.”

In response to a question about what the company had learned from the crisis, Musk said Tesla had started spending more efficiently.

“It has caused us to look closely at our cost structure and to be more efficient as a company,” he said. “We came to the conclusion that the right move is actually to continue to expand rapidly, continue to invest in the future in new technologies, even though it is risky.”

Still, Tesla’s stock rose more than 7 percent in after hours trading to $861.07 as investors applauded the profit.

The record first-quarter performance surprised investors and analysts, who expected the company to have suffered some preliminary impacts from the global impacts of the coronavirus, which ravaged China before the first cases of local transmission were reported in the U.S. toward the end of February.

Analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities said that Tesla’s ability to turn a profit in an environment constrained by covid-19 sent the market a strong signal of the company’s financial viability that sent the stock surging.

“The fact that they’re navigating that storm as well as they are, now you’re gonna have a stock that’s going to start to make it’s trek toward a thousand dollars,” he said.

Tesla began delivering its Model Y crossover in March, in a muted debut that coincided with widespread social distancing and shelter-in-place orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Wednesday’s earnings report was the first indicator of demand for the small SUV, which has long been expected to be strong due to U.S. preference for that type of vehicle. Tesla said the crossover became the “first time in our history that a new product has been profitable in its first quarter.”

The Y’s debut may have provided some insight into why Musk initially resisted efforts to close businesses in the Bay Area, where Tesla is headquartered. Only after substantial intervention from local authorities last month did Musk agree to close up shop at its Fremont, California, factory.

Tuesday night, ahead of the earnings release, Musk repeatedly encouraged business to reopen, at one point tweeting “FREE AMERICA NOW.” The tweet drew the ire of some elected officials who said Musk’s antics showed he was willing put the health of Americans at risk for personal gain.

Tesla rounded out 2019 with two straight quarters of profits after meeting the low end of its vehicle delivery targets on its mass-market Model 3, though it posted an annual loss.

“By all accounts, 2020 was supposed to be Tesla’s year,” Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights with research group Edmunds, said in a statement. “Its Shanghai factory was up and running, Model Y production and deliveries were ahead of schedule, and the company was making money while expanding its product lineup and operations. COVID-19 essentially robbed what would’ve been a home run for Elon Musk, so it’s unsurprising that he’s been leaning into the ‘Free America’ rhetoric on Twitter.”

While some “die hards” will stick with the brand, Tesla faces problems including cheaper gas and a recession likely to cut into pocketbooks, said Karl Brauer, an auto industry analyst who serves as executive publisher at Cox Automotive. Luxury brands, which count Tesla among their ranks, tend to suffer during recessions.

“We looked like we were on the cusp of electric vehicles moving from niche to something more than niche,” Brauer said. “Nobody with a grounded perspective thinks that was has happened in the last two months is good for electric vehicles.”

Renault says sales drop 19% #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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Renault says sales drop 19%

Apr 24. 2020
A Renault logo outside the Renault automobile assembly plant in Moscow on May 28, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrey Rudakov.

A Renault logo outside the Renault automobile assembly plant in Moscow on May 28, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrey Rudakov.
By Syndication The Washington Post, Bloomberg · Tara Patel

Renault posted a plunge in first-quarter sales and said it’s impossible to judge the impact the coronavirus will have on results as the pandemic clobbers the auto industry.

Revenue fell 19% to 10.1 billion euros ($10.9 billion), the carmaker, based near Paris, said in a statement Thursday. Renault’s unit sales in Europe tumbled 36%, compared with a 26% decline in the market. The low-cost Dacia brand showed the biggest drop.

Key insights:

– The slump in sales shows the depths of the hole the carmaker, and much of the industry, finds itself in after the pandemic closed plants and showrooms. Renault is seeking billions in government-backed loans from the French state, its most powerful shareholder, which has pledged to help. To clear the way, Renault scrapped its dividend earlier this month.

– The company’s liquidity reserves fell by 5.5 billion euros to 10.3 billion euros in the quarter.

– The automaker is beginning to reopen factories in France this week, even though some unions have expressed opposition. It has already restarted operations at plants in Morocco, Spain, Portugal and Russia. The company says it “undertakes torestart commercial and production activities in countries where safety and regulatory conditions permit and will implement all necessary measures to respond effectively to commercial demand.”

– Renault scrapped its 2020 targets in March and said Thursday the impact the pandemic will have on results is “still not possible to assess.”

– The pandemic hit when Renault was already suffering from slumping sales in key markets and a dismal performance at partner Nissan. The carmakers, linked in an uneasy alliance for the past two decades, have been dogged by infighting and instability since the arrest of former leader Carlos Ghosn in late 2018. Renault’s next CEO, Luca de Meo, doesn’t take the helm until July.

Renault has declined 62% since the year began, the worst performance in the Stoxx Europe 600 Automobiles & Parts index. It’s market value has dwindled to 4.7 billion euros.

VW, Renault fire up factories in bet that car demand will follow #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

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VW, Renault fire up factories in bet that car demand will follow

Apr 23. 2020
Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, on March 12, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Krisztian Bocsi.

Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, on March 12, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Krisztian Bocsi.
By Syndication The Washington Post, Bloomberg · Christoph Rauwald, Tara Patel

Manufacturers from Volkswagen to Renault and Daimler are restarting factories in Europe with little visibility about how much actual demand there will be once customers emerge from restrictions that made car-buying impossible for most people.

VW, the world’s largest automaker, is pressing ahead with production of the coming ID.3 electric car on Thursday, and said it expects to start European deliveries this summer as planned. Efforts to finish the car’s software are “on the home stretch” and the schedule for the rollout at VW’s German factory in Zwickau remains unchanged, the company said.

Daimler is gradually resuming output of engines and components this week to prepare for key models including the EQC electric SUV. The maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars offered a fresh reminder of the risks when it scrapped its forecast for the full-year.

The balancing act between preserving cash and spending some to try to sell cars is entering a crucial phase as European countries, hard-hit by the coronavirus, start to ease the lockdowns that have kept potential buyers indoors for weeks. Volkswagen has made clear it won’t back down on its push for the ID.3, its most important new model in decades, while Peugeot maker PSA Group says it sees no need to add to inventories while sales are dormant.

Getting the calculation right is a major test for automotive CEOs, as they seek to pad liquidity while safely restoring the intricate supply links required for a return to normal times. Carmakers have prepared wide-ranging hygiene measures, including disinfectants in dealerships, to minimize contagion risks in showrooms or during the handover of cars to customers.

For VW, selling the ID.3 in substantial numbers is mission-critical. It’s the first purely battery-powered car based on new standardized underpinnings for mass-market vehicles, helping the German automaker comply with stricter emission rules in Europe. The new technology, dubbed MEB, is due to be rolled out at two large factories in China later this year.

VW officials in recent weeks have acknowledged complications during the software development, but have dismissed reports the project will be delayed. The coronavirus outbreak brought production to a standstill last month, stoking further uncertainty over the carmaker’s ability to stick to the planned schedule.

Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings Plc has opted for a more cautious approach. The British manufacturer said Thursday it intends to reopen its St Athan factory in Wales on May 5. Operations at its main site in Gaydon, England, “are planned to resume later.”

The restarting of factories in France has received pushback from some unions including the CGT, which has argued that the business isn’t essential for the economy. Yet Renault, tire-maker Michelin and Toyota are pushing ahead.

Renault this week began a gradual reopening of sites in France, starting with three engine and parts factories and as little as a quarter of employees working with strict health measures such as temperature monitoring, wearing protective gear and extra cleaning. The company already restarted in countries including Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Russia.

The struggling carmaker, which is working to cut costs and negotiate billions of euros in state-backed loans, plans to reopen its Flins plant near Paris making the Zoe electric car this month. The new battery-powered model was a rare bright spot in dismal quarterly sales published Thursday showing a 19% drop overall and cash burn of 5.5 billion euros.

PSA, which also makes the Opel, Vauxhall and Citroen brands, held back on giving a date to restart its European factories. Chief Financial Officer Philippe de Rovira said this week the company doesn’t want to starting building up inventories before dealerships have reopened.

The French carmaker has forecast the European car market will shrink by a quarter this year and said it’s even prepared for a 50% drop. PSA and Renault have combined inventories of 1.375 million cars.

“If we restart production, it’s because we are selling cars,” de Rovira said on a call. “It’s important to have dealership and sales activity before we push the button.”

In Japan, automakers, restaurants nationwide fear prolonged suspensions #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

https://www.nationthailand.com/auto/30386649?utm_source=category&utm_medium=internal_referral

In Japan, automakers, restaurants nationwide fear prolonged suspensions

Apr 23. 2020
Photo credit: Nikkei Asian Review

Photo credit: Nikkei Asian Review
By Syndication The Washington Post, Japan News-Yomiuri

There is growing concern among automakers that production will be suspended for a long time, and restaurants and retailers are looking for ways to survive.

Two weeks have passed since the state of emergency was declared in the nation and businesses continue to work under the assumption that temporary closures and shorter working hours will be prolonged.

In addition to the impact of the state of emergency, automakers are suffering from a shortage of parts from Southeast Asia.

According to trade statistics released by the Ministry of Finance, car parts imports from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) declined 9% year-on-year to 17.6 billion yen in March. This is because curfews in China, where the virus broke out, and Southeast Asia have reduced parts production in the region.

Production began to be suspended or reduced at assembly plants in the nation in mid-February. When production was halted in China only, inventory could still be maintained at each company, but when the disease spread throughout Southeast Asia, “the parts supply network was torn to pieces,” an automaker executive said.

Since March, major automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Corp. have been forced to suspend or reduce production. On Monday, Toyota implemented an additional cut to production at plants nationwide, including those of its group companies such as Hino Motors Ltd. Honda also announced Monday that it would stop production from April 27 to May 10 at two plants in Saitama Prefecture because parts supply had stalled.

Automakers’ production cuts will also affect related industries. Bridgestone Corp., a tire manufacturer, announced Monday it would temporarily suspend its 11 domestic plants during Golden Week holidays.

Before the state of emergency declaration, Kushikatsu Tanaka Holdings Co., a chain of izakaya bars, decided to suspend operations at all of its locations, but resumed operation at 73 after April 13. They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., shorter than usual. AP Company, which operates “Tsukada Nojo” izakaya bars, has launched a website that sells locally bred chicken and other ingredients used in its restaurants.

Meanwhile, Isetan Mitsukoshi department stores’ cosmetics sales online in the first half of April more than tripled from the year before. But online sales account for only a few percent of revenue for each store operator. The burden of paying workers on leave is also serious.

BicCamera Inc., a major home electronics retailer with strong online sales, has increased its lineup of products sold by mail order. Amazon Japan imposed restrictions in mid-April on the arrival of goods at its distribution facilities in order to prioritize the shipments of daily necessities such as foods and drinks..

Yamaha’s automatic-bike sales up, new model set to hit the road #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

https://www.nationthailand.com/auto/30386401?utm_source=category&utm_medium=internal_referral

Yamaha’s automatic-bike sales up, new model set to hit the road

Apr 20. 2020
By The Nation

On-demand delivery services have accelerated Yamaha’s automatic-bike sales by 2.9 per cent, bucking the present market trend, while the company aims to launch its new NMax model soon.

In the first quarter, the motorcycle market sold 431,004 units, a decrease of 6.7 per cent compared to 2019 Q1, caused by a receding economy and increasing household debts and agricultural product prices amid the dire Covid-19 situation.

Most brands are experiencing the same fate, except Vespa, which sold 7,582 bikes this year compared to the 5,686 delivered last year.

“Yamaha’s automatic bikes are easy to ride as they have automatic gears, so the driver can also keep an eye on the map guidance, for example, during the ride,” a source said. “The seat does not need to be lifted to fill gas, leaving space suitable for carrying various items. Sales have expanded in big cities, where delivery services are growing. You can assume that this factor has enhanced Yahama’s automatic-bike sales,” the source added.

Yahama is now all set to release its NMax 155 automatic bike, which comes in four colours. The bike is expected to be priced at Bt85,900.

Mazda sees light at end of Thailand’s Covid tunnel #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

https://www.nationthailand.com/auto/30385980?utm_source=category&utm_medium=internal_referral

Mazda sees light at end of Thailand’s Covid tunnel

Apr 14. 2020
By Undeterred by the economic brake applied after the impact of Covid-19, Mazda is eyeing a growth in vehicles sold over the next year in Thailand.

Mazda Sales (Thailand) Co Ltd has set a sales target of 60,000 for the fiscal year 2020 ending March next year.

The previous year saw the company sell close to 52,000 vehicles in Thailand, with the Mazda2 subcompact proving most popular at almost 37,000 units sold.

The Mazda3 added 5,000 units to the tally, while the CX-30 and CX-8 also caught the eye of buyers.

This year Mazda is introducing new products for the crossover and pickup truck markets.

“Although last year the market was highly competitive and suffered unfavourable external factors, Mazda was able to achieve sales of 51,702 units, down 27 percent, and achieved a market share of 5.5 per cent,” said Chanchai Trakarnudomsuk, president of Mazda Sales (Thailand). “The total market fell by 11 percent,” he added.

“The first quarter of the year was affected by many negative factors, particularly the Covid-19 pandemic … which has caused an economic slowdown,” Chanchai said.

“The Thai economy is expected to slow this year to below levels forecasted at the beginning of the year. But we hope that government support and measures to help ease financial matters, and cooperation from all sectors, will help the Thai economy move forward.”

Mazda will also adjust the focus of its marketing strategy this year to target online customers during the lockdown.

“This is because the online media are playing a greater role in our lives,” explained Thee Permpongpanth, company vice president for marketing and government affairs.

“In addition, aftersales service is also an important issue as always. Spare parts are now priced near the market average or even lower in some cases, and parts deliveries to service centres are carried out twice a day, he added.