Simanaitis Says

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THE GIANT HERE is the U.S. auto industry. Today in Part 2, we continue with tidbits of its awakening from pandemic lockdown, as described in the past six weeks of Automotive News, the weekly publication following this industry.

A Challenge Met. In “Back from Disaster,” Automotive News, May 11, 2020, Alexa St. John wrote, “After a tornado blew into BorgWarner’s transfer case plant in Seneca, S.C., last month, it looked to the world that it would become a roadblock to North America’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.” This BorgWarner facility is essential to production of trucks and SUVs at Fiat Chrysler, Ford, and Toyota.

Damage to the roof and infrastructure of BorgWarner’s facility. Image from Automotive News, May 11, 2020.

“But,” St. John reports, “thanks to the work of hundreds of contractors and employees—while embracing new mask and personal protective equipment protocols the U.S. auto industry soon will adopt to get back to factory work—BorgWarner has rebuilt the plant and resumed making transfer cases May 4, the company said last week.”

Other Challenges to Come. Dave Versical is Chief of Editorial Operations at Automotive News. In its May 18, 2020, issue, Versical cautions that “U.S. Auto Sales May Not Follow China’s Rebound.” “Talk about a comeback,” he wrote. “Sales of new vehicles in China actually rose in April after plunging 80 percent just two months earlier in the depths of the coronavirus.… But anyone who thinks China’s recovery will serve as a template for the U.S. rebound best think again.”

He cites an informed source: Yan Fabio grew up in China and graduated from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, in the province of Hubei, the epicenter of the pandemic. She’s now vice president of the Michigan branch of the Hubei Chamber of Commerce, which, as Versical notes, “in normal times tries to connect its members to businesses around the Motor City.”

“Through the ubiquitous WeChat app,” Versical describes, “she heard directly from friends and acquaintances about how forcefully and relentlessly China clamped down on human activity in Wuhan starting in January. In fact, her connections were signaling something was amiss in early January, weeks before the national government got around to acknowledging the tragedy on its hands.”

Fabio described the contrast of China with what was taking place in Michigan. Versical writes, “Here, her governor’s stay-at-home orders have been met with a mixture of respect, protest, and defiance while much of the nation, urged on by its president, itches to open up the economy amidst scant signs that the virus is at bay.”

Versical also quotes Mike Dunne: “Think a long, bumpy tail, with lots of twists and turns. It will be messy. But we’ll get there.”

Goals for U.S. Recovery. In “Covid-19 and World War II” here at SimanaitisSays, I cited Thomas L. Friedman’s view that Mother Nature’s challenges aren’t to be defeated. “The goal,” Friedman said, “is to adapt.”

Vaccines, for example, have been successful adaptations to diseases such as smallpox and polio. Social distancing is a near-term adaptation to Covid-19.

In “Virus a Roadblock or Just a Detour for Mobiliity?” Automotive News, May 18, 2020, Pete Bigelow shares results from a Capgemini Research Institute study of more than 11,000 consumers in 11 countries. Its results suggest other possible adaptations in the long term.

Image from Automotive News, May 18, 2020.

Bigelow also quotes Michelle Avary, head of Automotive and Autonomous Mobility at the World Economic Forum, a nonprofit fostering public-private cooperation. She says, “… we don’t have to just restart our economies and societies, …we can reset them.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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