Foley Automotive Report

11 January 2022 Blog
Authors: John R. Trentacosta Ann Marie Uetz
Published To: Dashboard Insights Coronavirus Resource Center:Back to Business

Foley Automotive Report

This report helps automotive suppliers inform their legal and operational decisions to help address challenges and opportunities. Contact your Foley relationship partner, or John R. Trentacosta or Ann Marie Uetz, to follow up.

Key Developments

  • Although some feared a wave of pandemic-related Chapter 11 cases, the auto industry isn’t likely to see many immediate bankruptcies, according to Foley & Lardner partner Ann Marie Uetz in Bloomberg Law.

  • U.S. new light-vehicle sales for full-year 2021 reached 14.9 million units, and the SAAR for December was 12.4 million units, according to analysis by J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, and NADA. Low inventory is expected to continue impacting sales in 2022, with U.S. sales projected at 15.9 million units.

  • U.S. fleet sales reached an estimated 1.6 million units in 2021, 42% lower than the 2.8 million units sold in 2019, and 4% lower compared to 2020.

  • An estimated 2.3 million light-vehicle production units were lost in North America last year due to limited semiconductor supplies and other disruptions.

  • Toyota overtook GM as the top-selling automaker in the U.S. based on annual sales, as the former benefitted from earlier decisions to increase inventory of key components such as semiconductors.

  • A recent article by Foley & Lardner attorneys discusses the impact of increased vehicle computerization and electrification on patent infringement suits in the automotive sector.

  • Qualcomm announced deals to supply chips to Volvo, Honda, and Renault, signaling its continued efforts to expand in automotive platforms.

  • Intel’s autonomous driving unit Mobileye announced new collaborations with Volkswagen, Ford and Geely’s electric mobility brand Zeekr, for driver assist and autonomous vehicle technologies.

  • Electric vehicles and low emissions technology:

    • Automakers’ shift to electrification intensifies, as evidenced by a number of announcements at the CES conference in Las Vegas, including GM’s debut of electric versions of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, as well as the Chevrolet Equinox and Blazer, which all begin sales in 2023.As part of a broad partnership announcement focused on vehicle software and solutions, Amazon will be the first commercial customer for Stellantis’ upcoming Ram ProMaster battery electric delivery vans, which are due to launch in 2023.Stellantis also announced that its Chrysler brand will have an all-electric lineup by 2028.

    • Citing strong consumer demand, Ford will double annual production capacity for its all-electric F-150 Lightning to 150,000 trucks a year by mid-2023. The first deliveries are expected to begin this spring.

    • Sony displayed a prototype electric SUV at CES, and will explore a commercial launch of its own vehicles through its upcoming new unit, Sony Mobility Inc.
    • Shortages of raw materials are predicted to be a risk for EV supply chains, particularly for companies that are not pursuing robust agreements with suppliers.

    • Guidehouse Insights predicts that annual plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) sales in North America will grow at a 30% compound annual growth rate through 2030.

Market Trends and Regulatory

  • Mexico will pursue an arbitration panel to help resolve differences with the U.S. over the interpretation of the USMCA’s rules of origin for vehicle components.

  • Six states have adopted Advanced Clean Truck rules that require increasing percentages of medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold to be zero-emissions beginning in 2025.

  • Senate Democrats currently have no plans to pursue floor action for the $2 trillion Build Back Better bill.The social spending bill, which included a provision that would offer consumer tax credits for electric vehicles that are union-made in the U.S., may require a complete revision because it has thus far failed to receive adequate support for passage. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a recent interview that “she believes a deal can still be reached.”

  • GM agreed to recognize California’s authority to set vehicle emission standards under the Clean Air Act, in a move that makes the automaker eligible for government fleet purchases in the state.

OEMs/Suppliers

  • Volkswagen will provide a 10% pay raise to its assembly plant workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, due to the impact of the COVID-19 omicron variant on an already-stretched labor market. The seven-day average for newly reported COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed 700,000 for the first time, according to data from Johns Hopkins as quoted in The Wall Street Journal.

  • Stellantis pushed back a deadline requiring U.S. salaried employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, noting that the new timetable is dependent on where and how an employee is working. The automaker said that 93% of its U.S. salaried workforce is COVID-19 vaccinated.

  • Bosch indicated that combining artificial intelligence with connected products will assist in expanding revenue platforms across its business portfolios.

  • BMW is working with 3D perception solution company Seoul Robotics to automate last-mile fleet logistics at its manufacturing facility in Munich.

  • Hyundai is exploring ways to introduce advanced robotic technology into a wide variety of mobility systems, including cars, urban air mobility vehicles, and wearable robots such as human exoskeletons.

Connected/Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility Services

  • GM announced its upcoming Ultra Cruise driver assistance system, which was developed with Qualcomm, and expands on the hands-free driving capabilities offered in Super Cruise. Ultra Cruise will debut on certain Cadillac models in 2023. The systems are considered Level 2 in SAE’s definitions of driving automation.

  • TuSimple expanded its partnership with Nvidia, and will use the company’s chips for an autonomous domain controller for its commercial self-driving trucks.

  • Torc Robotics, an independent subsidiary of Daimler Truck, will open its third U.S. location in Austin, Texas this year. The site will be an engineering hub to accelerate development of its self-driving truck technology.

  • Volvo announced its autonomous driving feature, Ride Pilot, will first be available to customers in California before a broader launch in other markets. Ride Pilot will be available as an add-on subscription in the automaker’s upcoming full-electric flagship crossover, pending internal verification and regulatory approvals.

Electric Vehicles and Low Emissions Technology

  • Magna announced plans for a new electric vehicle center at its U.S. headquarters in Troy, Michigan, and its electric powertrain system will be ready to launch beginning in 2025.

  • In a recent test, Michigan battery company Our Next Energy (ONE) used its technology to power a 2021 Tesla Model S for 752 miles on a single charge.

  • Tesla’s strategies to succeed amid global supply chain challenges include vertical integration, increasing vehicle prices to address higher costs, removing some features from vehicles, and maintaining close relationships with chip suppliers. Tesla recently indicated goals to expand into solar power and battery storage.

  • Panasonic will produce Tesla battery cells using certain components from Nevada-based battery recycling company Redwood Materials.

  • Massachusetts-based startup Battery Resourcers will invest $43 million to open a recycling plant for lithium-ion batteries in Georgia this year.

  • GM’s electric delivery and logistics unit BrightDrop will supply Walmart with 5,000 electric delivery vans, and FedEx has expanded its order from an initial reservation of 500 to 2,000 vehicles.

  • Honda plans to build a second all-electric vehicle plant in China, which will begin production in 2024 as a joint operation with Dongfeng Motor Co.

  • Vietnam-based EV company VinFast plans to assemble battery packs with cells sourced from its supplier at an upcoming manufacturing site in the U.S. VinFast intends to select the site this year.

  • In March, Volkswagen will debut an electric version of its 1960s-era microbus, called the ID.Buzz.

Prepared by Julie Dautermann, Competitive Intelligence Analyst

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