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Volume XI, Number 267

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Foley Weekly Automotive Report - July 27, 2021

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

Key Developments

  • GM scheduled downtime for the week of July 26 at three pickup truck plants in Michigan, Indiana, and Mexico due to the chip shortage.

  • Stellantis and Daimler expect the chip shortage to continue into 2022Faurecia and Valeo indicate Q2 represents the peak of the chip shortage, with gradual improvement beginning in the coming quarters.

  • Industry groups, including the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association and the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, urged Congress to finance the CHIPS Act and strengthen domestic semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S.

  • GM returned to a mandatory mask requirement at its Wentzville, Missouri, plant due to rising COVID-19 cases in the community; the move comes less than two weeks after the UAW and Detroit Three automakers ended mask requirements for fully vaccinated union-represented workers in the U.S.

  • Magna International will acquire Veoneer Inc. for $3.8 billion in an effort to help expand its capabilities in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

  • ZF  announced its Marysville, Michigan, facility was awarded a nearly $6 billion contract to supply solid beam axles until 2027 for an undisclosed automaker.

  • The Alliance for Automotive Innovation is seeking an accelerated ruling following a bench trial over Massachusetts' "Right to Repair" law in federal court; the trade association indicated that an expansion of the law risks damaging automakers’ relationship with consumers.

  • Consumer Reports said last week that Tesla Inc.'s "Full Self-Driving" software lacks safeguards and expressed concern for the system’s performance and safety on public roads.

  • Electric vehicles and low emissions technology:

    • Bloomberg predicts EV batteries will be the next significant supply chain constraint for the auto industry, as demand for certain raw materials, including lithium products, exceeds supply.

    • Prices for certain EV battery materials have increased by double digits this year, and Benchmark Mineral Intelligence expects “most battery raw material markets to remain tight this decade.”

    • GM is recalling its all-electric Chevrolet Bolt for the second time due to manufacturing defects in a certain battery cell that could cause fires; nearly 69,000 vehicles from model years 2017-2019 are impacted.

    • Daimler plans to invest 40 billion euros ($47 billion) in battery electric vehicles between 2022 and 2030, and from 2025, all Mercedes-Benz “newly launched vehicle architectures will be electric-only.”

    • EV startup Rivian announced the closure of a $2.5 billion fundraising round led by investors, including Amazon, Ford, and T. Rowe Price.

Market Trends and Regulatory

  • In a letter last week, industry groups, including the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the UAW, and the Semiconductor Industry Association urged Congress to finance the CHIPS Act and to prioritize “strengthening the U.S. position in semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing.” The CHIPS Act became law earlier this year as part of the 2021 defense bill, but the legislation was never funded. The Senate passed bipartisan legislation in June that includes a $52 billion investment to bolster the semiconductor industry in the U.S. as part of a broader package to strengthen the nation’s competitive position in science and technology and last week, the Biden administration indicated it was “putting plans in place” to invest the $52 billion in semiconductor research and manufacturing.

  • Low inventory and strong consumer demand have resulted in reduced overhead and increased profits for dealers such as AutoNation and Lithia Motors, but strategies for determining inventory levels post-pandemic are a continuing topic of debate within the industry.

  • Current reports indicate that Malaysia will not extend a national state of emergency when it ends on Aug 1.  In June, Honda and Toyota suspended production in Malaysia after the government issued a Movement Control Order in response to escalating COVID-19 cases. The nation’s COVID cases recently surpassed a cumulative total of one million, and it’s estimated that 36% of the population has received a single dose of a vaccine. 

OEMs/Suppliers

  • Production impact of the semiconductor shortage –  GM will cut pickup truck production at three plants the week of July 26, with production scheduled to resume August 2:  Flint Assembly plant in Michigan will operate with one shift, impacting production of the Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD trucks; Ft. Wayne Assembly plant in Indiana and Silao Assembly plant in Mexico will have production shutdowns impacting models including the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500.

    • BMW stated last week that nearly all its German plants are affected by the chip shortage, and, as a result, the automaker is unable to complete production of nearly 10,000 vehicles.

    • Daimler cut it sales outlook due to the chip shortage, noting that in spite of strong demand reflected in Q2 resultsMercedes-Benz sales are now expected to be flat this year instead of up significantly from 2020.CFO Harald Wilhelm indicated the chip shortage will continue in 2022, but with less severity.

    • At an event last week with the Automotive Press Association in Detroit, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said the automaker is pursuing options to change the diversity of chips it intends to use, adding that roughly 18 months are required to reengineer a vehicle to use a different chip due to the complexity of the technology. Tavares also expects the chip shortage to easily extend into next year, noting the industry is lacking “enough signs that additional production from the Asian sourcing points is going to come to the West in the near future,” and that visibility around chips is “not great.”

    • Volvo reported its best half-year results in the company’s history, but noted that sales for the second half of the year are expected to be flat compared to 2020 “unless the supply of semiconductors improves.”

  • ZF Friedrichshafen estimates it will take months to return to full production at its suspension parts plant in western Germany that was impacted by severe flooding in the region.

  • Faurecia and Valeo confirmed 2021 full-year sales targets after reporting higher first-half sales and profits: Faurecia intends to achieve full-year sales of at least 16.5 billion euros ($19.5 billion), and CEO Patrick Koller stated the company was “convinced that automotive production has hit a low in Q2 and should gradually rebound in coming quarters.”Valeo’s 2021 guidance predicts sales of between 17.6-18.2 billion euros, and CEO Jacques Aschenbroich expects that the industry is at the peak of the chip shortage, with gradual improvement beginning by the end of the year.

  • The current VP of Amazon’s Alexa Automotive division, Ned Curic, has been named as the new chief technology officer at Stellantis, effective August 30.GM announced the appointment of several executives formerly in roles at Postmates, Lyft, and Chinese EV maker NIO to its BrightDrop commercial EV business.

  • GM filed a trademark infringement suit against Ford over the use of the name BlueCruise for its hands-free highway driving system. Ford announced the rollout of BlueCruise earlier this year; GM launched Super Cruise in 2017, and acquired its majority-owned self-driving unit Cruise in 2016.

Connected/Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility Services

  • Ford and Argo AI will introduce an autonomous ride-hailing service with Lyft in Miami later this year, with Austin to follow next year. The companies intend to eventually reach 1,000 autonomous vehicles on the Lyft network in multiple locations over the next five years.

  • Intel subsidiary Mobileye began testing autonomous vehicles in New York City with a safety operator behind the wheel; the vehicles have 12 cameras powered by the company’s EyeQ5 system on chip.

  • A new report from Guidehouse Insights predicts that global deliveries by low speed automated delivery vehicles (ADVs) will increase from less than 7 million deliveries in 2021 to over 51 billion by the end of the decade, as the market for ADVs is boosted by online retailers and efforts to reduce emissions. [Press release only; full report not publicly available]

Electric Vehicles and Low Emissions Technology

  • In a new strategic plan for EVs announced last week, Daimler said its main car brand Mercedes-Benz “will be ready to go all electric at the end of the decade, where market conditions allow.” The automaker also plans to partner with other companies to build eight battery plants, in anticipation of requiring battery capacity of over 200 gigawatt hours.

  • Rivian is reported to be considering locations for a second U.S. manufacturing facility with construction potentially starting next year, according to unnamed sources in Reuters.

  • Tesla intends to open its fast-charging network to other EVs later this year; a timetable was not provided for specific locations. The company is estimated to have over 25,000 superchargers globally.

  • EV maker Lucid Motors began trading on the Nasdaq this week following the closure of its SPAC deal with Churchill Capital IV. Lucid intends to position itself as a competitor to Tesla, and plans to start production of its first vehicle, the Lucid Air, later this year.

  • Hydrogen fuel-cell truck maker Hyzon Motors began trading on the Nasdaq last week following a SPAC deal with Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp. Hyzon will initially focus on heavy-duty trucks in Europe, but plans a “substantial uptake in the U.S. market” in the second half of 2022.

  • As auto manufacturers explore options in preparation of pivoting from internal combustion engines to electric componentsThe Wall Street Journal predicts the transition to electric vehicles will significantly alter the industry’s supply chains and workforce.

  • Toyota opposes an aggressive acceleration toward full electric cars, in favor of a greater focus on gas-electric hybrids as a medium-term solution before reaching a fully electrified future, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

Prepared by Julie Dautermann, Competitive Intelligence Analyst

© 2021 Foley & Lardner LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 208
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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...

313-234-7124
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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