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Volume XI, Number 259

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Foley Weekly Automotive Report June 29

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

Key Developments

  • U.S. new light vehicle sales in June are forecast to reach a SAAR of 15.8 to 16.4 million units, according to estimates from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, and Cox Automotive, respectively.

  • Due to the chip shortage, Stellantis lost production of 248,164 vehicles at its plants in Belvidere, Illinois, Toluca, Mexico, and Windsor, Ontario, according to estimates from AutoForecast Solutions LLC.

  • Intel predicts the chip shortage will “bottom out” in the second half of this year, after which supplies will continue to improve, but a “healthy supply-demand situation” is not expected until 2023.

  • Toyota will allow hourly and salaried U.S. employees in certain locations to work without a mask if they provide proof of vaccination and wear a “company-issued identifier.”

  • UAW President Rory Gamble will retire June 30, in line with previous statements indicating the intent to retire before the end of his four-year term. Gamble will be succeeded by UAW Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry.

  • A judge has temporarily restored the minority business certification status of Piston Group, while litigation continues between the supplier and the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council.

  • In a letter to NHTSA, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation urged the agency to reconsider its plan to end a national pilot program to monitor the testing and development of automated vehicles.

  • Self-driving technology company Embark Trucks will go public through a reverse merger; this follows recent public offerings from autonomous truck startups Plus and TuSimple.

  • Electric vehicles and low emissions technology:

    • IHS Markit forecasts that EVs will represent 11% of U.S. new light vehicles sales by 2025, while hybrids will account for 21% of a projected 16.7 million units. Hybrids represented 6.1% and battery electric vehicles represented 2.4% of new U.S. light-vehicle registrations in April.

    • Ernst & Young predicts EVs will outsell fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2028 in Europe, by 2033 in China and by 2036 in the U.S.

    • Honda committed to completely phasing out the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2040; earlier this year, the automaker set the same target date for its North American sales.

    • Volkswagen intends to end sales of internal combustion engine cars in Europe by 2035; an equivalent goal was not announced for the U.S. or China.

    • Panasonic sold its stake in Tesla for $3.6 billion. The companies will continue their partnership; however, each have recently taken steps to diversify their battery agreements.

Market Trends and Regulatory

  • J.D. Power and LMC Automotive forecast total new vehicles sales in the U.S. to reach 1.32 million units in June, representing a 19.5% increase from June 2020 and an 8.3% decrease from June 2019, with the decline attributed to weak fleet sales.  The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) for total new-vehicle sales is projected to be 15.8 million units.  The same forecast notes that U.S. retail sales continue to experience strong demand, but “the effect of fewer vehicles in inventory at dealerships is finally starting to have a material effect on aggregate industry sales volumes.” Cox Automotive, in its 2021 Mid-Year Review, predicts U.S. new light vehicle sales will reach 1.38 million in June, representing a SAAR of 16.4 million units.

  • President Biden and a bipartisan group of senators agreed on a potential $1 trillion infrastructure package; the legislation requires passage in Congress. The package includes funding for improvements to roads, bridges, transit and airports, and enhanced infrastructure for broadband, water and electric vehicles. Total investment is estimated at $973 billion over five years, and $1.2 trillion if continued over eight years.

OEMs/Suppliers

  • Production impact of the semiconductor shortage – Stellantis announced downtime for the week of July 12 at its Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois and Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico, impacting production of the Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Compass crossovers. The automaker will resume production at its minivan plant in Windsor, Ontario, the week of July 5.

    • Volkswagen de México will gradually resume production on staggered dates beginning next week for its Jetta, Taos and Tiguan models. At the end of May, the automaker had announced downtime of an unspecified duration impacting its Puebla site in June due to the chip shortage. 

    • Due to the chip shortage, Mazda will temporarily stop production at its Hofu Plant No.1 in Japan the weeks of July 5 and July 12.

    • Chipmaker GlobalFoundries will invest $6 billion to increase its capacity by up to 50% globally in 2021 and 2022, with some of the capacity additions funded by client prepayments. GlobalFoundries focuses on mature chip technologies and has approximately one-third of its production each in Singapore, New York and Dresden, Germany.

  • Dr. Stefan Hartung will become CEO of Robert Bosch, effective January 1, 2022, succeeding Dr. Volkmar Denner. Denner is departing after a decade in the role to become a scientific adviser focused on the company’s research into quantum technology. Hartung has been with Bosch for 17 years, and is currently chairman of Mobility Solutions.

  • Ford’s chief technology officer, Ken Washington, is departing July 16 to become vice president of software engineering at Amazon. The auto industry has recently lost a number of high-profile executives to tech companies, with former Ford CFO Tim Stone departing last fall after 18 months in the role to start as CFO-COO of AI software firm ASAPP, and GM’s former CFO, Dhivya Suryadevara, departing last year to join San Francisco-based online commerce firm Stripe Inc.

  • Mercedes-Benz USA inadvertently made sensitive customer information accessible on a cloud storage platform. The error did not involve malicious actions, and affected nearly 1,000 customers and potential buyers.

  • HDT Automotive Solutions LLC will acquire Veritas AG in a combination that will lead to a company approaching $1 billion in annual revenue. Based in Livonia, Michigan, HDT Automotive is a supplier of tubular components, fluid-handling systems and aluminum parts; Veritas is Germany’s oldest rubber manufacturer. The deal is expected to expand HDT’s opportunities in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Connected/Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility Services

  • San Francisco-based Embark Trucks will go public through a deal with special purpose acquisition company Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp. II. Embark’s self-driving vehicles utilize an artificial intelligence-enabled autopilot that functions with machine learning, high-resolution cameras and sensors. The company’s strategy has focused on working with existing carriers; it has partners that include Werner Enterprises, Bison Transport, and Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Electric Vehicles and Low Emissions Technology

  • Troy, Michigan-based Electric Last Mile, Inc. began publicly trading on the Nasdaq on June 28 under ticker ELMS. Last December, the EV startup announced plans to go public through a deal with special purpose acquisition company Forum Merger III Corp.

  • Tesla will recall over 285,000 vehicles sold in China to address the risk of its autopilot feature being too easily activated, which could potentially lead to vehicle crashes. The issue was announced after an investigation by a Chinese market regulator, and it impacts imported and domestically made Model 3s and Model Ys in China since 2019.

  • The Tesla Model 3 is the first EV to receive a No. 1 ranking in Cars.com’s American-Made Index; the annual list ranks new vehicles that contribute most to the U.S. economy in regards to jobs, plants, and parts sourcing.

  • GM and a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell plc will jointly develop EV charging and household energy plans in the U.S., beginning with GM vehicle owners in Texas. The automaker and MP2 Energy LLC will offer energy programs to GM customers and supply chain partners that include fixed-rate home energy plans backed by 100 percent renewable energy, with an option for free overnight vehicle charging. A Dutch court recently ordered Royal Dutch Shell plc to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% (from 2019 levels) by 2030, after finding the company’s previous commitment to reduce its emissions by 20% (from 2016 levels) by 2030 to be insufficient.

  • Nikola plans to invest $50 million in a hydrogen energy project in Indiana that involves converting a gasification plant to a hydrogen production plant and carbon capture project. Nikola’s investment is in the form of cash and stock in Wabash Valley Resources in exchange for a 20% equity interest in the project; groundbreaking is anticipated early next year.

Prepared by Julie Dautermann, Competitive Intelligence Analyst

© 2021 Foley & Lardner LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 180
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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...

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