The Ambassador Bridge blockade over trucker vaccine mandates continues to take its toll on automotive production, Volvo had a better year than most everyone, and Formula 1 is still comfortable with Bahrain, human rights abuses and all. That and so much more in this Friday edition of The Morning Shift for February 11, 2022.
1st Gear: Five Carmakers Now Put Out By Bridge Blockade
As of Friday morning, Honda, Toyota, General Motors, Ford and Stellantis have all had to cut production at plants in either Canada, the United States or both due to the protest plugging up the Ambassador Bridge border crossing in Windsor, Ontario. From Automotive News:
[Honda] said late Thursday that the temporary halt comes as it monitors “the disruption of transportation between Canada and the U.S.”
Honda described the situation as “fluid” but that it has no plans to curtail output at any of its U.S. auto plants. The company builds its Civic compact sedan and CR-V compact crossover at its plant in Alliston, Ontario. Honda earlier confirmed the plant also temporarily suspended manufacturing on Wednesday evening due to border delays.
On Thursday, Toyota, General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler-parent Stellantis said they had been forced to cancel or scale back some production at North American plants because of parts shortages stemming from Canadian trucker protests against pandemic mandates.
The truckers, who oppose a vaccinate-or-quarantine requirement for cross-border drivers, have used their big rigs to snarl traffic at the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor — which accounts for about 25 percent of U.S.-Canadian trade.
The city of Windsor and auto industry groups are looking for an injunction that would allow police to forcibly clear protestors along the bridge. But Automotive News adds that the court hearing that had initially been scheduled for Thursday was delayed until Friday at noon so “concerned defendants” could be prepared.
If the peaceful approach fails, Dilkens said the city will have the resources to remove the protestors and their vehicles, drawing on assistance from the Ontario, and perhaps Michigan, governments. The city also has requested help from the RCMP.
Good to know this is one of those protests that gets to have “the peaceful approach.”
2nd Gear: Light In The Second Half Of The Tunnel
We’ve heard it before and we’ll surely hear it some more: Automakers legitimately think the semiconductors are going to begin flowing again in the second half of 2022. The latest to say those words that we should all definitely remember and reevaluate come September is Mercedes-Benz Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm. Courtesy of Reuters:
Chip capacity is coming back up, and the shortage will ease in the second half, he told analysts on a conference call after Mercedes-Benz released preliminary 2021 results. A “good part” of raw material costs are already locked in, he said.
“It is matter of fact that there will be a [raw] material headwind, so I think we will need the volume lever to mitigate and fight it,” Wilhelm said. “We will try and see what can still be done on top of 2021 in terms of the pricing, but the pricing itself will not be enough.”
It’s funny that Wilhelm said that last part, because something tells me that even when chip supplies approach something vaguely resembling normal, it’s going to take considerably longer for average new car prices to come down in kind. Dealers are cool with way this is going.
3rd Gear: It’s Good To Be Volvo
The ongoing chip shortage may have cut into Volvo’s fourth-quarter earnings in 2021, but it didn’t matter. The past year was Volvo’s most profitable on record. From Automotive News:
Volvo’s full-year revenue of 282 billion crowns ($30.3 billion) was a record as was its 2021 operating margin of 7.2 percent, up from 3.2 percent in 2020 and 5.2 percent in 2019, before the pandemic struck.
Volvo reported full-year earnings of 20.3 billion crowns ($2.2 billion).
Looking ahead, Volvo said Friday it expects to boost sales in 2022, but Annwall fears the chip crunch will have a lingering impact.
“We see gradual improvement, but it’s slow,” he said. “We believe it’s going to be a major restraining factor in H1. Then let’s see what happens in H2.”
When asked whether Volvo will reach its coveted goal of 800,000 global sales in 2022, two years later than planned, he said: “We definitely have the demand for it and we have an order book for it, but let’s see how much we can deliver based on the supply chain constraints.”
Volvo’s always been sort of a cult brand on this side of the Atlantic even though its products have largely been pretty and unique and good, so it’s nice to see it finally enjoying some success. More than a quarter of all Volvos sold globally about this time last year were electrified in some fashion, too. Every failing or underperforming brand has tried to rebrand itself with an identity tied to electrification. Volvo seems one of the few to successfully pull it off.
4th Gear: smart #1
That’s the name of the first new Smart in the carmaker’s new era, where Mercedes and Geely have joined forces to reinvigorate the brand. Apparently all future Smarts will follow this very simple naming convention, which I’m assuming the company’s marketing department is proud of because it not only could be viewed as simple and playful, but it also works in a practical sense, as a hashtag. I’d also like to point out — hand on heart — that I wrote that before reading this quote from the company’s latest press release:
With combination of the “#” symbol followed by a number, smart has defined a recognizable family name for its new generation of all-electric vehicles. Now often used to indicate the hottest topics in social media, the “#” symbol is evocative of trendsetting in the digital era - fitting, because ever since its first production car unveiling at IAA in 1997, smart has been striving for innovation and remained a trendsetter in the automotive industry.
Anyway, the Smart #1 has the face of one of Volkswagen’s ID models, but a bit rounder:
I’d say I look forward to confusing it with a Volkswagen at dusk and from a distance in oncoming traffic, but the Smart #1 isn’t destined for the U.S. That’s kind of ironic. Given that it’s a crossover, you could argue the #1 is the best-suited vehicle Smart has ever built for American car shoppers.
5th Gear: Bahrain Is Here To Stay
Formula 1 will keep racing at the Bahrain International circuit until the end of the 2036 season. As a racing fan, I’m ok with that; it’s one of the better Tilkedromes and I enjoy driving it in the F1 game.
As a person, it’s depressing but totally expected. F1 is continuing to doing one of the things it does best: routinely rewarding governments committing the worst human rights abuses with decade-long contracts. It almost does that better than it stamps out drivers from speaking out against them. From F1.com:
The promoter, meanwhile, has previously announced sweeping measures to increase the environmental sustainability of the event, with all the energy used by the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix set to come from sustainable sources, aligning with both the Kingdom of Bahrain and Formula 1’s plan to have net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
It’s ok though, because it’s all going to a good cause: Greenwashing the country’s image.
For a bit more on F1 and Bahrain, please enjoy this piece from 2012 that’s still relevant today.
Reverse: This Mötley Crüe Story Is A Trip
I assume some of you reading are aware of the story about how Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil was ousted from the group because his bandmates felt he cared more about racing cars than playing music, but I definitely wasn’t. Anyway, 365 Days of Motoring places his tenure with the band officially ending on February 11, 1992. For more on Neil’s Indy Lights stint, in which he raced car #69 and earned $6,900, Elizabeth Blackstock has the details.
Neutral: I’m Gonna Learn How To Go Fast
I’ve been at Jalopnik for about a year and a half now. I like it here. But one thing that’s been nagging at me is that I don’t have a ton of on-track, fast-drivin’ experience. That means that when I inevitably end up on an open track in a mildly fast car, like I did at Lime Rock sans chicanes last year in the new Subaru BRZ, I kinda shit myself a little. That’s going to change though — or at least start to — because I’m going to Skip Barber’s one-day course next month to learn how to drive good. I’m very excited.
Anyone out there have experience with a performance driving school? How’d you feel after the lessons? Are you thankful for the opportunity?