American-Made Cars Are Booming In China

Making Mercedes in Alabama, in 2017.
Making Mercedes in Alabama, in 2017.
Photo: Getty Images
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It’s extremely fucked that Alabama is the focus state in a new Bloomberg article American-made car sales booming in China, as our coworkers at Gizmodo are just reporting on them running out of ICU beds. All that and more in The Morning Shift for Friday May, 22, 2020.

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1st Gear: Alabama-Built Car Sales Up 170 Percent In China

The economic effects of coronavirus can be hard to predict. I, at least, would not have bet on Alabamian cars surging in sales in China while production was shut down there. Bloomberg explains in a wire report:

Alabama’s auto exports to China in the first quarter soared more than 170% from a year ago, Greg Canfield, the state’s secretary of commerce, said in an interview. Three foreign automakers — Honda, Hyundai and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz — operate assembly plants in the state, which hasn’t yet broken down the Chinese exports for each company. Together they produce about 1 million vehicles a year in Alabama for domestic sales and export, Canfield said.

“By far our largest exporter on the automobile side comes from Mercedes,” he said. The Alabama Mercedes plant is the exclusive worldwide manufacturer for some of its most popular sport-utility vehicles, including the GLE and GLS, which sell at base prices of more than $50,000 in the U.S.

“The luxury makers are doing exceptionally well in China,” said Alan Baum, principal of the auto-industry research firm, Baum and Associates. “Yes, there’s a short-term economic problem, but just as you’re going to see in the U.S. as the auto industry recovers, it’s going to recover at the top end well before it recovers at the bottom end.”

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This is not the whole story of Alabama and coronavirus, as Gizmodo notes:

Alabama is running out of ICU beds to treat coronavirus patients, according to the mayor of Montgomery, the second largest city in the state. The dire news comes as Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, continues to lift restrictions put in place last month to slow the spread of covid-19.

“Right now, if you are from Montgomery and you need an ICU bed, you are in trouble,” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said at a press conference on Thursday.“If you’re from central Alabama, and you need an ICU bed, you may not be able to get one because our health care system has been maxed out.”

With every passing day, our system feels more and more designed to siphon away human health into profit.

2nd Gear: Trump Wears A Mask When The Media Isn’t Looking

As we reported early, Trump had a planned visit to see Ford, which caused us some apprehension. Ford has already gotten new coronavirus cases since re-opening its assembly lines, and Trump is famous at this point for not wearing a mask. He’s agitating to re-open, and to convince people that all of this coronavirus shit is under control, don’t worry, we got this, masks off, etc.

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Well, in this visit, Trump did make quite a show of not wearing a mask, good for the cameras to convince people that any closures are pointless. When the cameras were away, though, Trump had a different attitude, as a Bloomberg wire report notes:

President Donald Trump didn’t wear a face mask during most of his tour of Ford Motor Co.’s ventilator facility Thursday, defying the automaker’s policies and seeking to portray an image of normalcy even as American coronavirus deaths approach 100,000.

He told reporters he had put on a mask in the “back area” of the plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and didn’t want to give them the “pleasure” of seeing him with it.

“I was given a choice,” he said. “And I had one on in an area where they preferred it, so I put it on. And it was very nice. Look, very nice. But they said they’re not necessary.” He added that he had also worn goggles.

Trump held up a dark-colored mask bearing the presidential seal. He said he had been tested for the coronavirus earlier in the day and didn’t need to cover his face.

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Wow, ready and available testing for coronavirus easing anxiety about contamination. Must be nice!

3rd Gear: 20,000 Nissan Employees May Find Themselves Out Of Work

Nissan is considering cutting 15 percent of its global workforce over COVID-19, as Bloomberg reports in the Japan Times:

Nissan Motor Co. is looking to cut over 20,000 jobs or about 15 percent of its global workforce as part of its restructuring plan due to slumping sales hit by the new coronavirus outbreak, sources close to the matter said Friday.

Japan’s third-largest automaker by volume is considering labor reduction in Europe and some emerging countries, the sources said.

The global spread of the novel coronavirus has led to the suspension of Nissan’s domestic and overseas plants, pressuring its sales in major markets such as North America and Europe.

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Nissan has really been through it. I nearly forgot about the company sending its boss to jail probably as part of a play to fight against control from Renault. That was last week! (It was late 2018.)

4th Gear: Alleged Ghosn Accomplice Will Fight Extradition

Michael Taylor was arrested on Wednesday at the request of Japan. Bloomberg reports he’ll fight extradition:

The former U.S. Army Special Forces member accused of assisting in the escape of Nissan’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn from Japan will fight any attempt to extradite him from the U.S., according to his lawyer.

Michael Taylor, 59, was taken into custody Wednesday by U.S. Marshals and faces possible extradition to Japan for his alleged role in smuggling Ghosn out of that country to Lebanon late last year. Taylor’s lawyer said his client has not been notified of a formal extradition request but plans to contest any such move.

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I would not be shocked if the Ghosn case outlives Renault as a company at this point.

5th Gear: McLaren’s Classic Car Collection Is A Serious Financial Matter

Every chance it gets, McLaren will show off its collection of impossibly beautiful, outstandingly successful retired race cars from its glory days in Formula One and Le Mans. I get why! McLaren’s more recent racing exploits alone wouldn’t exactly... inspire confidence from investors.

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McLaren knows this, and doesn’t want to let anything go easy. This has become a bit of a fight with creditors, as the Financial Times reports:

The company is offering to mortgage its headquarters in Surrey and a valuable collection of what it calls “heritage cars” to the new lenders. Those assets would be offered up as collateral to raise money needed to ride out the coronavirus-related interruption to the Formula One season, along with a plunge in demand for new cars.

But investors in McLaren’s existing £525m bond issued in 2017 are fiercely resisting the move. They argue that the company already pledged these assets to them in that deal, when the debt was raised to buy out a stake owned by the group’s former chairman Ron Dennis.

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I just love seeing the FT write about old McLarens.

Reverse: Pac Man Debuts

Via Kotaku:

May 22, 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of a moment that shook the video game industry and profoundly changed the way we play: the debut of Pac-Man, which first hit arcades in Japan on May 22, 1980.

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Neutral: How Is Mask-Wearing Where You Live?

Are most people sticking to masks in public, or just when they’re in stores? I m equally amazed by people not wearing masks out on the street as I am by people who are wearing them in their cars, alone, with all the windows up.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

1st:

Alabama is running out of ICU beds to treat coronavirus patients”

Here’s a solution: Reopen some of the rural hospitals that are now closed? The hospital in Aliceville was closed in March. That building is still in great shape for a temporary ICU unit.

My state is willing to shell out millions of dollars to private corporations to build prisons, but can’t reopen vacant hospitals to treat COVID patients?  Something’s wrong here.