The car world is still struggling to get back to some kind of normal, but it looks like the old normal will never return. In some cases, that ain’t bad. All that and more in The Morning Shift for April 22, 2020.
One of the stories I’ve been enjoying tracking is pickup trucks sales in China. Oversized pickups haven’t caught on there in the way they have here, much to the consternation of car manufacturers, which rake in big profit margins on these expensive-to-buy but relatively cheap-to-build vehicles.
Last year car companies were still trying to make pickups happen in China, but it looks like any of that wishful thinking is on hold. Pickups have not done well amid the virus, as Automotive News China reports:
China’s pickup market — small but considered a segment untapped and primed for growth as government restrictions ease — shrank in the first quarter because of the impact from the coronavirus pandemic.
New-pickup sales fell 39 percent to roughly 70,000 in the first three months, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
The tally was made up of approximately 50,000 diesel pickups and 20,000 gasoline pickups, each posting a drop of 39 percent compared with the first three months of 2019.
We in America are clinging to our pickups like talismans of brighter days, and I hope that goes away as soon as possible.
Something else I hope that the virus leaves behind is poor working conditions for Amazon workers, or just the titanic corporate megalith that is Amazon altogether. Protests and strikes are ramping up as the ultra-rich company can’t even bother to satisfy its workers requests for safe working conditions, as The Guardian reports:
Starting on Tuesday, more than 300 Amazon employees have pledged to stay home from work, according to worker rights group United for Respect, as frustrations mount over protections and support for Amazon employees. Workers claim the company has failed to provide enough face masks for workers, did not implement regular temperature checks it promised at warehouses, and has refused to give workers paid sick leave.
“We are calling out because Amazon is putting its revenue above our safety,” Jaylen Camp, an Amazon worker at a fulfillment center in Romulus, Michigan, and a member of United for Respect told the Guardian. “We are not essential to them – they just think of us as numbers and quotas. They are not protecting our health.”
Protesting employees say they will continue to call in sick until Amazon makes safety-related changes at warehouses. The action comes as Amazon is set to announce what are expected to be record high quarterly earnings results.
This house is built on lies, and I can’t wait for it to crumble.
Meanwhile, VW has a hard outlook in the days of coronavirus, in that it needs to get its painfully late electric car program going but production has been shut down in Europe and around the world due to the virus. VW faces fines if it can’t improve its emissions situation, and it sees its ID.3 hatchback as its only hope. What will stand in VW’s way? Nothing, says VW, as Automotive News reports:
Volkswagen will resume production of its battery-powered ID3 hatchback on Thursday, as the brand provided new, more precise guidance for its production ramp-up after the coronavirus-related shutdown.
The spokesman said the summer launch date for the ID3 in Europe remains in place despite the production shutdown that started on March 20. Manager Magazin reported in February that software glitches were threatening to delay the launch schedule.
“Our target is to deliver the 30,000 ID3 first-edition pre-booked models to all customers at the same time,” the VW spokesman told Automotive News Europe in an emailed statement.
“Vehicles built will be equipped with whatever version of the software suite is current at the corresponding time of their production and prior to their delivery to customers in summer will receive the latest version. Subsequent to the market launch the digital functions will then continue to be updated in regular increments in the following months,” VW said.
I’m sure this monomaniacal pursuit will have no ill repercussions for customers or the VW brand!
Let me not say that too many people have grown accustomed to cheap air travel and the entire business is overblown, unsustainable, and reprehensible in these days of climate change. Let covid-19 say it for me!
The same week that United reported a first-quarter pre-tax loss of $2.1 billion, Delta reports a pre-tax loss of $607m, along with a very high rate of burning through cash, per the Financial Times:
US carrier Delta Air Lines suffered a steep fall in revenues as it burnt through cash at a rate of $100m a day, at the end of March.
Delta, which is struggling to halve costs by June, expects second-quarter expenses to decline 50 per cent from the same period a year earlier to $5bn.
The fall in expenses is a result of reduced capacity, cheaper fuel, a rise in the number of parked planes to 650 and at least 41 per cent of the workforce taking voluntary unpaid leave.
I both suspect and hope we will never return to the days of dumping airplane exhaust into the atmosphere like we have over the past few decades, no matter how much time I spent staring at $50 cross-country flights the other week.
The initial Earth Day protests gave way to “the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, and President Richard M. Nixon, a Republican, created the Environmental Protection Agency” as the NY Times noted the other day. What are your favorite heady promises of early Earth Days?
After coronavirus, we will return to some kind of normal, but a changed one. What do you hope will be different?