Automotive Industry COVID-19 Response

Part
01
of two
Part
01

COVID-19 Response - Ford and GM

During this time of crisis, both Ford and General Motors are focusing on helping their customers and the community. Both companies have closed down operations and are using facilities to manufacture respirators, ventilators and masks. In addition, both companies are offering delayed payments for existing customers and no interest or deferred payments for new customers. Below is an overview of their responses to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Ford

Covid-19 Messaging

  • Ford's executive chairman, Bill Ford, said in a statement concerning partnering with other companies to make medical equipment, “By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference for people in need and for those on the front lines of this crisis.”
  • Ford has pulled all national ads promoting vehicles and replaced them with ads showing how the company is responding to the coronavirus. The two new spots are titled “Built to Lend a Hand” and "Built for Right Now" and highlight Ford's 100-year history of helping during times of crisis.
  • According to Matt VanDyke, director of U.S. marketing for Ford Motor Co. "It’s important to be reassuring right now and not trying to say to people Rush into your car dealership for a sales event."

Changing Behaviors/Operations

  • On March 13, 2020, Ford announced that almost all of its global workforce would be working remotely as of March 16th. The communication was sent via email on March 13. Excerpts of the email were shared with Business Insider.
  • Business critical employees and employees working in manufacturing facilities, parts distribution centers and certain sales positions would remain on the job. Hourly workers at the General Motors factory were still at work, as were workers in China factories where the Covid-19 outbreak is improving.
  • On March 17th, Ford reached an agreement with the United Autoworkers Union to operate under a "rotating partial shutdown of facilities, extensive deep cleaning of facility between shifts, and extensive plans to avoid member contact." However, on March 25th, Ford announced it would suspend production in all North American plants for two weeks.
  • Ford has also suspended manufacturing operations in India, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  • Ford has restricted all domestic and foreign travel for employees.
  • The company announced on March 13th that it would be delaying the launch of the Bronco SUV that was due to come out on March 20th.
  • According to CEO Jim Hackett, "Our top priority is keeping our employees, customers and other stakeholders safe while doing whatever is reasonable to keep Ford running."
  • Bill Ford has announced that he would be deferring his salary for at least five months and over 300 other executives will defer 20% to 50% of their salaries.

Consumer Communication

  • On March 16, 2020, Ford issued a press release announcing its commitment to customers during the Covid-19 outbreak. In the press release, Ford encouraged customers impacted by the outbreak to contact the financing department to make arrangements for delayed payments. New vehicle customers also have the option of delaying their first payment for up to 90 days.
  • On the same day, Ford launched an ad campaign in order to raise awareness of assistance programs being offered by the company for customers. According to Marion Harris, chief executive officer of Ford Motor Credit Company, “We want to make sure that anyone who needs assistance knows it’s available.”

Aid to People/Government

  • On March 24, 2020, Ford announced that it was partnering with 3M and GE Healthcare to help manufacture respirators and ventilators. Both will be manufactured in existing Ford factories.
  • With 3M, Ford will be using fans from the Ford F-150’s seats along with existing 3M components to manufacture air-purifying respirators. These respirators, which will be battery powered and offer up to 8 hours of protection, will help shield medical workers on the front line from airborne viruses.
  • Ford is partnering with GE Health to manufacture a simplified version of GE's ventilator in order to increase the output.
  • In addition, Ford will be making face masks for medical workers. The company announced that it would be producing 100,000 masks per week starting the week of March 26th using its giant 3-D printer.
  • The Ford Motor Company Fund has directed $500,000 to non-profit organizations in Michigan that help with food distribution and provide housing for families and at-risk people. The Ford Resource and Engagement Centers in Detroit are serving as food pantry distribution centers. According to Mary Culler, president, Ford Motor Company Fund, "We are immediately targeting resources to ensure that the most vulnerable people are being cared for during this unprecedented situation."

GM

Covid-19 Messaging

  • General Motors has an entire web page dedicated to its response to the coronavirus. The website has tabs for customers, employees and the community. According to Mary Barra, Chairman and CEO, "We are proud to stand with other American companies and our skilled employees to meet the needs of this global pandemic.
  • The theme throughout GM's messaging to customers, employees, and the community is that they are ready to help however necessary as the world faces uncertain times.

Changing Behaviors/Operations

  • On March 17th, GM reached an agreement with the United Autoworkers Union to operate under a "rotating partial shutdown of facilities, extensive deep cleaning of facility between shifts, and extensive plans to avoid member contact." However, on March 23rd, GM announced that it would suspend production in North American plants along with Ford, Honda, and Toyota.
  • GM said it "will begin a systematic orderly suspension of manufacturing operations in North America and will also suspend production until March 30 with cleaning while production is idle."
  • On March 26, 2020, GM announced that it would be cutting salaries by 26%. The company plans to pay back the cut salaries by late 2020 or early 2021 with interest. GM said in a statement, "GM’s business and its balance sheet was very strong before the COVID-19 outbreak and the steps we are taking now will help ensure that we can regain our momentum as quickly as possible after this crisis is over."

Consumer Communication

  • The Covid-19 web page set up by GM has a tab specifically for customers. The customer page has links for each of the model brands offered by GM including Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac. Each brand has its own website concerning the coronavirus.
  • GM has altered its creative advertising messages with each model brand having a different tagline. Cadillac has the tagline “At Cadillac, we have your back.” The model's 30-second spot communicates the delayed payment options and changes to On-Star services during the crisis. Buick and GMC are using the tagline “Here to help.” The 30-second spot highlights crisis assist services and deferred payment options for new vehicle purchases. Chevrolet has a similar 30-second spot with similar messaging.

Aid to People/Government

  • General Motors has partnered with Ventec Life Systems to help the company scale up the production of critical care ventilators, with the goal of manufacturing 10,000 per month. GM has also committed to making Level 1 surgical masks and producing 100,000 per day within the next few weeks.
  • GM has donated $2 million to non-profit organizations throughout the United States that are addressing critical needs. GM employees can donate through the employee portal.
  • GM Financial is offering delayed payments for existing customers and 84 months interest free financing for qualified new customers.
Part
02
of two
Part
02

COVID-19 Response - VW, FCA and Nissan

Volkswagen and Nissan North America have taken an active approach to its response of Covid-19. Fiat Chrysler and Nissan Motors global have been less active in speaking out about the outbreak. All three companies have suspended manufacturing operations around the world and have participated in charitable efforts to help those impacted by the coronavirus. Below is an overview of our findings.

Volkswagen

Covid-19 Messaging

  • Volkswagen has adopted the hashtag #WeNotMe to promote awareness of the coronavirus. The company has been actively posting updates on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • The Group has temporarily altered its logo, spreading out the V and W to represent social distancing.
  • The general messaging of Volkswagen concerning the coronavirus is "United, we will win!"

Changing Behaviors/Operations

  • In a press release on March 17, 2020, Volkswagen Group announced that it would be suspending operations at its European plants including Volkswagen Group Components plants, for at least two weeks.
  • In addition, all major events have been canceled. Restaurants, canteens, self-service shops, and cafeterias have been closed at all locations. All business trips, including trips between plants, have been suspended.
  • Volkswagen Chattanooga has shut down operations until April 5, 2020. The plant planned to reopen on March 29th. According to plant CEO Tom du Plessis, "We will continue to provide full pay next week for all team members at the factory."

Consumer Communication

  • In a 55-second spot, VW Group highlights how we can overcome this crisis together and unveils its new social distancing logo.
  • VW brand, Audi, released a similar video with the tagline "Keep Distance. Stay Together." In this video, the Audi rings are separated to represent social distancing.

Aid to People/Government

  • On March 27, 2020, VW Group announced that it would release all employees with medical qualifications for 15 days with pay in order to support public health measures.
  • VW has organized over $40 million in medical goods from China to be donated to hospitals and charities in Germany. Goods include face masks, gloves, disinfectants, clinical thermometers, protective goggles and protective clothing. This is in addition to 200,000 FFP-2 and FFP-3 face masks the company has already donated.

Fiat Chrysler

Covid-19 Messaging

  • Fiat Chrysler has said very little about the Covid-19 crisis. The group's main web page has a link to a press release highlighting the efforts of the Agnelli Family and its Companies in regard to the coronavirus.
  • Recent press releases report the closing of plants in Europe and North America.
  • The company's social media profiles have adopted the hashtag #InItTogether.

Changing Behaviors/Operations

  • On March 17th, Fiat Chrysler, along with Ford and GM, made an agreement with the UAW to operate under partial shutdown, however, on March 18th all three companies announced full plant closures in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
  • FCA had already voluntarily closed its plant in Sterling Heights after a worker tested positive for coronavirus.
  • As of March 27th, all FCA subsidiaries, including FCA Italy and Maserati, have suspended operations in most of the European plants. Plant closures will impact four in Italy, one in Serbia, and one in Poland.

Consumer Communication

  • Since March 17, 2020, FCA has added several posts about its coronavirus efforts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
  • On Facebook, the company has two posts with links to press releases announcing donations to local charities that support delivering food to children and its plans to manufacture and donate face masks and ventilators to first responders.
  • FCA's Twitter and LinkedIn also have links to the same press releases. In addition, FCA has posted a video on both channels and YouTube. The video, in Italian with English subtitles, heralds the tenacity of the Italian people and ends with the hashtag #noicisiamo, which translates to we are there.

Aid to People/Government

  • In a letter to employees, Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Mike Manley announced that the group's plants in Asia would be converted to manufacture face masks with a goal of over 1,000,000 being produced in the coming weeks. According to Manley, "Protecting our first responders and health care workers has never been more important. In addition to the support we are giving to increase the production of ventilators, we canvassed our contacts across the healthcare industry and it was very clear that there is an urgent and critical need for face masks. We've marshalled the resources of the FCA Group to focus immediately on installing production capacity for making masks and supporting those most in need on the front line of this pandemic."
  • FCA is also in talks with Siare Engineering regarding a partnership to help manufacture ventilators. Siare is one of the largest ventilator manufacturers in Italy.
  • The company announced on March 27th that it would be partnering with charities in and around its principal manufacturing plants in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio in order to provide one million meals to school age children. Similar programs are planned for Mexico and Canada.

Nissan Motor Corporation

Covid-19 Messaging

  • Like Fiat Chrysler, Nissan-global has been relatively silent on Covid-19 messaging. There are only two press releases regarding the coronavirus on the global website.
  • The company's Twitter or YouTube profiles make no mention of the outbreak at all.
  • The North America division of Nissan Motors has been much more vocal with a web page dedicated to communication to customers and employees using the tagline "This is help when you need it."
  • The hashtag #OneTeam has been used by the North America division on social media posts. This sentiment was published in a letter posted on Linkedin by the Jose Luis Valls, who encouraged employees to "Stay the course and stay positive."

Changing Behaviors/Operations

  • On March 17, 2020, Nissan Motors announced that its production factory in Sunderland, UK would suspend operations.
  • On March 27, 2020, Nissan Motors announced that it would adjust production in three plants in Japan due to decreased demand and to aid in coronavirus efforts.
  • All North American Nissan operations have been suspended until early April.

Consumer Communication

  • Nissan North America has a dedicated web page for customers reassuring them that the company is there to help with payment extensions, dealer service, and delayed payments. A link to the web page has been posted on the North American Facebook and Linkedin pages.
  • On March 20th, Jose Luis Valls, President & Chairman Nissan North America, EVP & Executive Officer of Nissan Motor Corporation posted a letter on Linkedin for employees, dealers, and customers. The letter outlined efforts being made by the company to stop the spread of the virus.
  • Nissan North America released a 30-second spot on March 25th outlining the ways the company will help its current and new customers. The spot is titled Help When You Need It.

Aid to People/Government

  • In January, Nissan Motor Co., Nissan (China) Investment Co., and Dongfeng Motor Company Limited, pledged 5 million RMB and 100,000 masks to support the fight against Covid-19 in the Hubei Province.
  • Nissan North America is offering payment extensions to customers impacted by the coronavirus.
  • New customers are being offered 90-day delayed payment options and special AP financing.
  • The company has made arrangements with Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation to adjust rates in order to offer financial relief to Nissan dealers.
  • Nissan has formed a consortium with Meggitt and McLaren in the UK to build 5,000 ventilators as soon as possible. The group plans to build 30,000 additional ventilators within the next month.
Sources
Sources

From Part 02