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Foley Weekly Automotive Report: August 24, 2021

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

Key Developments

  • IHS Markit estimates that the semiconductor shortage will lead to full-year 2021 vehicle production losses in the range of 6.3 million to 7.1 million units globally, of which an estimated 3.06 million units could be lost in the third and fourth quarters.

  • Toyota will cut production by 40-60% in North America this month, and by 40% in Japan next month; parts shortages caused by escalating COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia are a contributing factor.

  • Ford will stop production of the F-150 at its Kansas City Assembly plant in Missouri the week of August 23, due to the impact of “worsening pandemic conditions in Malaysia” on chip supplies.

  • GM confirmed production downtime for eight North American plants of varying durations in August and September as a result of “shortages caused by semiconductor supply constraints from international markets experiencing COVID-19-related restrictions.”

  • The average new vehicle transaction price reached a record $42,736 in the U.S. last month, representing an increase of 8.2% compared to July 2020.

  • LMC Automotive predicts a “K-shaped recovery curve” for automakers in China this year, with approximately half of the assessed companies experiencing record sales growth compared to 2019 performance.

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a 30-day public comment period over the possible reinstatement of higher penalties for automakers that fail to meet emissions standards.

  • In a recent Bloomberg interview, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board indicated the agency intends to address the potential safety risks of automated driving systems resulting from consumer confusion about the limitations of the systems.

  • Alphabet’s Waymo plans to build an autonomous trucking hub in Dallas, Texas, and will partner with Ryder on fleet maintenance.

  • Electric Vehicles and Low Emissions Technology:

    • Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are forecast to reach 8-11% of U.S. light vehicle sales by 2026, according to estimates quoted in Reuters, signaling a potential challenge to achieving President Biden’s goal that 40 to 50% of all new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. be fully electric or hybrids by 2030.

    • GM is expanding its Chevrolet Bolt recall to include all models, due to the risk of fire. The recall will cost the automaker an estimated $1.8 billion.

    • J.D. Power’s inaugural U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Public Charging Study ranked Tesla Destination the highest among Level 2 charging stations, followed by Volta, and ChargePoint; Tesla Supercharger ranks highest among DC fast chargers. [Press release only, no access to full report]

Market Trends and Regulatory

  • According to an analysis by LMC Automotive, just over half of the 17 vehicle assembly plants set to open in North America by 2025 will be constructed or repurposed by startups, and the remainder by established automakers.

  • Two U.S. senators have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how Tesla markets its driver assistance systems, claiming the company does not adequately represent the systems’ capabilities and consumers do not understand the limitations of the systems.

  • Container ship backlogs off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have returned to the high levels experienced in February 2021; the backlogs are attributed to increased volumes as importers add extra lead time to counteract unpredictable supply chains affected by the pandemic.

  • The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has indicated that by the end of 2021 it intends to develop a proposal for a mandatory climate risk disclosure rule, joining a number of countries, including Switzerland, that have recently taken steps to pursue such a rule.

  • The U.S. International Trade Commission voted unanimously that synthetic rubber imports are likely undermining domestic producers, with the intent to continue investigating the issue.

  • The Mexican government intends to pursue discussions with the United States concerning the interpretation and application of rules of origin for the automotive sector in the USMCA trade pact.

OEMs/Suppliers

  • Due to the volatility of semiconductor supplies, Volkswagen’s largest plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, will operate only one shift the week of August 23, and Audi will extend its summer break at two plants in Germany.

  • Ford intends to shift more vehicle purchases to online orders using a “build-to-order” model, as part of an effort to reduce inventory costs for the company and dealers.

  • Workers at GM’s Silao facility in Mexico voted to end a collective bargaining agreement that involved allegations of intimidation tactics during a prior vote. This development was the outcome of an agreement between the U.S. and Mexico earlier this summer to resolve a complaint under the rapid response enforcement tools in the USMCA.

Connected/Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility Services

  • Startups, including TuSimple, PlusAI and Embark Trucks, have received billions in investments as they work toward the development of autonomous trucks capable of carrying cargo across the country. Level 4 automation, in which a vehicle is capable of operating all driving functions under most conditions, is expected to have significant challenges to overcome before widespread commercial adoption is feasible.

  • GM and AT&T will partner to bring 5G cellular connectivity to vehicles beginning with select vehicles for the 2024 model year.

Electric Vehicles and Low Emissions Technology

  • California-based electric truck maker Xos announced an agreement to supply 120 medium-duty electric trucks to FedEx Ground operators in five states, beginning in the fourth quarter of 2021. Xos recently began trading on the Nasdaq following a merger with NextGen Acquisition Corporation.

  • San Francisco-based startup Ample raised $160 million in Series C funding for the purpose of expanding its battery swapping service.

  • Guidehouse Insights recently commented that automakers could increase the use of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) as a cost-effective alternative for EV battery materials in lower-cost vehicles or in markets that do not require long vehicle range.

Prepared by Julie Dautermann, Competitive Intelligence Analyst.

© 2022 Foley & Lardner LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 236
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About this Author

John R. Trentacosta, Foley Lardner, Automotive Industry Attorney, Supply Chain Lawyer
Partner

John R. Trentacosta is a partner and transactional lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP. Mr. Trentacosta is actively involved in drafting contracts commonly used in the automotive industry. He frequently represents clients in supply chain disputes, particularly automotive and supplier-manufacturer disputes. He is the chair of the firm’s Complex Supply Chain Litigation Group, former chair of the Detroit Litigation Department and founder and member of the firm’s Automotive and Manufacturing Industry Teams. He also is a member of the Commercial Transactions & Business...

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Ann Marie Uetz Foley Lardner Debtor Representation Bankruptcy Lawyer Foley Lardner Detroit
Partner

Ann Marie Uetz is a partner and trial attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP, where she represents clients in a variety of industries in all aspects of their contracts and business disputes. She also represents debtors, creditors and secured and unsecured lenders in all facets of restructuring. Ms. Uetz focuses her practice on business litigation and bankruptcy, two of Foley’s practice areas recently ranked by U.S. News—Best Lawyers® as “national First-Tier” practices in recognition of excellence in client service.

Ann Marie heads Foley’s Coronavirus Task Force and...

313-234-7114
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