Foley Weekly Automotive Report – August 2021 – 3 | Foley & Lardner LLP

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

Key Developments

  • New vehicle prices increased 6.4% in the last 12 months, representing “the largest 12-month increase since the period ending January 1982,” according to the latest Consumer Price Index.
  • New-vehicle inventory fell to 1.2 million units, representing a 31 days’ supply industrywide in July, according to estimates from Cox Automotive.
  • Nissan confirmed a two-week production shutdown beginning August 16 for its Smyrna, Tennessee, plant resulting from a COVID-19 outbreak at a semiconductor plant in Malaysia.
  • Faurecia will acquire a 60% stake in German automotive lighting group Hella; the combination is expected to expand its market position in electric mobility and autonomous driving.
  • President Biden is encouraging businesses to implement COVID-19 vaccine requirements equivalent to the updated provisions that apply to the federal workforce; Tyson Foods and United Airlines are among the companies that have recently announced employee vaccine requirements.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a formal investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot advanced driver assistance system, citing 11 incidents since 2018 involving vehicles that crashed into parked first responder vehicles while the system was engaged.
  • Autonomous and electrified truck developer Einride plans to open a U.S. headquarters in Austin, Texas, by year-end, and Bridgestone will be its exclusive tire supplier for the U.S. market.
  • Electric vehicles and low emissions technology:
    • EVs represented 2.5% of U.S. registrations in the first half of the year, according to data from Experian as quoted in Automotive News.
    • The U.S. Senate passed a nonbinding amendment to President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget resolution to prohibit EV tax credits on vehicles above $40,000, or to buyers with incomes over $100,000.
    • Automakers, including Toyota and Honda, disagree with a proposal to allow additional EV tax credits for vehicles assembled in unionized U.S. factories, arguing it would limit consumer choice.
    • Lithium-ion battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. (CATL) intends to sell $9 billion in stock in an effort to increase its manufacturing capacity in China.

Market Trends and Regulatory

  • New vehicle prices increased by 1.7% in July, and have risen by 5.4% over the last three months, according to the latest Consumer Price Index. Used vehicle prices increased by just 0.2% in July, after rising 10.5% in June; used vehicle prices are up by 41.7% over the past 12 months.
  • Over two dozen U.S. representatives in a letter to Congressional leadership stated that the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate last week “falls far short” of the level of investment required to build a nationwide electric-vehicle charging network.  
  • China suspended inbound and outbound services for the Meishan terminal at its Ningbo-Zhoushan port due to one case of COVID-19 among the workforce; this is the third busiest port globally by container volume. This marks the second time this year that China’s “zero-COVID” policy has resulted in suspended port operations.
  • The U.S. Senate last week confirmed Jennifer Homendy to chair the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
  • The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative reached an agreement with Mexican auto parts maker Tridonex to address workers’ claims that they are being denied basic labor rights, marking the resolution of one of the first labor disputes filed using the new “rapid response” enforcement tools in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

OEMs/Suppliers

  • Volvo stopped production for an unspecified number of days at its plant in Gothenburg, Sweden, due to a “material shortage linked to the semiconductor issue.”
  • Renault will form a joint venture with Geely to sell Renault-branded hybrid vehicles in China, and to explore energy efficient platforms in South Korea. This marks a return to the Chinese market for Renault, which had exited its main joint venture in China last year.
  • Toyota Tsusho America Inc., Southern Mobility Products, and SteelSummit Holdings will collaborate on a $40 million factory in northern Alabama to supply steel components for automakers.

Connected/Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility Services

  • Air taxi developer Joby Aviation began publicly trading last week following a SPAC deal with Reinvent Technology Partners. Joby’s competitors in the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) market include Volocopter GmbH and Beta Technologies Inc., as well as Airbus SE, Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

Electric Vehicles and Low Emissions Technology

  • Lightning eMotors will build fully electric powertrains and provide charging products and services as part of a multiyear agreement with Berkshire Hathaway’s Forest River Inc. Lightning began publicly trading earlier this year after merging with a blank-check company; its area of focus is electrifying commercial vehicles.
  • BMW is perceived to be behind many of its competitors in launching electric vehicles, according to industry experts recently quoted in The New York Times (subscription).The 2022 BMW iX is scheduled to be the brand’s first all-electric compact SUV in the U.S. market.
  • ChargePoint acquired Amsterdam-based electric fleet manager ViriCiti for €75 million ($87.9 million); it’s the EV charging network operator’s second acquisition in Europe.
  • Lordstown Motors announced in a regulatory filing that it will begin production of the Endurance electric pickup truck toward the end of September 2021, with vehicle validation and regulatory approvals completed in December 2021 and January 2022.  The company stipulated that its production timetable was subject to receiving adequate financing.
  • Bloomberg reports that electric truck maker Rivian is considering Texas to build a $5 billion manufacturing plant; the company has not confirmed its plans.
  • Volkswagen and Tesla are hoping to reduce India’s EV import taxes to levels approaching 25%, from current rates as high as 100%.

Prepared by Julie Dautermann, Competitive Intelligence Analyst

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