This week, MICHauto hosted a virtual town hall meeting with investors featuring guest speaker Jason Stein, publisher of Automotive News. Stein discussed the automotive industry’s economic outlook and global recovery amid the COVID-19 crisis.
May 18, 2020
Al Jazeera English
May 18, 2020
By: Lee Clifford
Fortune 500 companies have myriad strategies to protect their most sensitive trade secrets. They guard them. They insure them. They enlist experts to encrypt them.
What they don’t do, generally speaking, is give them away.
But these are not ordinary times. Earlier this spring, Lear, a global supplier of auto parts based in Detroit (No. 166 on the Fortune 500), spent thousands of employee hours compiling a comprehensive manual on how to resume operations in the wake of COVID-19. Then the company gave it away for free. Lear’s Safe Work Playbook, available on its website, has now been downloaded more than 25,000 times since it was posted on April 6.
Today’s news from the Capitol marked a big win for MICHauto’s role as the unified voice for the entire automotive industry and supply chain. Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order allows manufacturing to resume on May 11, and included a ramp-up period MICHauto advocated for earlier this week.
Gov. Whitmer’s press release included a quote from Glenn Stevens, MICHauto’s executive director of MICHauto, and vice president of the Chamber’s Automotive and Mobility Initiatives.
“MICHauto and the Detroit Regional Chamber applaud the Governor for her continued steps to safely re-open our economy. Automotive and manufacturing is not only the backbone of our regional and state economy, it is essential to the functioning of the global supply chain. This is good news for Michigan and the nation.”
Earlier this week, MICHauto sent a letter to the Governor advocating for a minimum five-day period for suppliers to restart prior to OEMs so that they could start shipping parts needed for OEM production to commence efficiently.
“Unlike their OEM counterparts, many firms that comprise the automotive supply chain lack the vast resources to make the necessary production, process, and policy changes required to adapt to the new environment in short order. These firms will need additional time to make their workplaces safe for employees and positioned to ship product allowing OEMs to restart,” Stevens wrote.
Under Executive Order, manufacturing facilities must adopt measures to protect their workers from the spread of COVID-19.
Manufacturing facilities must also train workers on, among other things, how COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person, signs and symptoms of COVID-19, steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or suspected or confirmed diagnosis, and the use of personal protective equipment.
All businesses in the state—including manufacturers—must require masks to be worn when workers cannot consistently maintain six feet of separation from others, and consider face shields for those who cannot consistently maintain three feet of separation from other workers.
Today, MICHauto sent the following letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on behalf of the automotive industry. View or download the full letter.
Glenn Stevens Jr.
While the City of Detroit’s COVID-19 cases continued to rise in early April, a new problem arose – how to safely transport sick Detroiters without transportation from theirs home to the hospitals to receive care? With more and more front line workers testing positive for COVID-19 as well, first responders were not able to keep up with the logistics duties. A number of volunteers that could transport people stepped up, but without a way to protect the drivers from those who were ill – it would just create a larger problem for Detroit that quickly became a hotbed for the virus.
Mark de La Vergne, the chief of Mobility Innovation for the City of Detroit, put out a call for help. The question posed to the vast mobility ecosystem in Detroit was, “could we connect the City to a company or solution for this problem?”
On April 15, as I was scanning the latest global automotive industry news, I noticed an article in the Channel News Asia website titled “Honda deploys it’s minivans to transport virus patients.” In that article I saw a solution for our community here in Detroit. Honda Motor Company in Japan had modified 50 Odyssey minivans with a protective barrier and changes to the HVAC system to protect the driver from the sick citizen in the rear of the vehicle.
I immediately sent this article to de La Vergne at the City and suggested that a colleague in Detroit who works for Honda Communications would be the best and most effective channel to elevate an inquiry from the City of Detroit. It seemed like just the solution we were looking for.
This past weekend, de La Vergne notified me that the City followed up on the potential solution and a partnership was in the process of being forged. View the full partnership announcement here.
For the past three years MICHauto has helped lead several partnerships to convene organizations and groups around common themes and needs for the automotive and mobility industry to help solve problems through information sharing. One of those groups is the Detroit Mobility Coalition, a joint effort by the City of Detroit and MICHauto that convened OEMS, suppliers, foundations, economic development groups, startups, and neighborhood associations to focus on transportation and mobility technologies and solutions to improve the lives of Detroiters.
The communication that transpired the last couple of weeks to help bring this Honda solution to Detroit is just one example of how Detroiters innovate through mobility and global automotive technology to solve problems and come together.
Glenn Stevens Jr. is the executive director of MICHauto and the vice president of Automotive and Mobility Initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber.
DETROIT, May 5, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Honda today delivered 10 Odyssey minivans to the City of Detroit that have been specially outfitted to transport people potentially infected with COVID-19, as well as healthcare workers. To protect the health of the driver from the potential for droplet infection during transportation, the Honda Odysseys have been retrofitted with a plastic barrier installed behind the front seating area, as well as modifications to the ventilation system to maintain an air pressure differential between the front and rear seating areas.
Honda delivered 10 Odyssey minivans to the City of Detroit to transport local residents and healthcare workers to COVID-19 testing.
These Honda vehicles have been specially outfitted with a plastic barrier installed behind the front seating area and modifications to the ventilation system to help protect the driver from potential infection during transportation.
After seeing news reports about similar specially equipped vehicles modified by Honda in Japan, officials from the state of Michigan and the City of Detroit approached Honda in the U.S. in mid-April about the possibility of acquiring similar vehicles for use in transporting local residents and healthcare workers to COVID-19 testing. A team of volunteers at Honda’s R&D center in Raymond, Ohio, including senior engineers and fabrication experts, quickly conceived and designed a method to modify the U.S. Odyssey at the Honda R&D Americas vehicle development center in Raymond, Ohio, where it was originally developed.
“As of today, the City of Detroit has tested over 20,000 residents and employees for COVID-19. Transportation is a critical component of ensuring every Detroiter has access to a test. We are very appreciative of Honda for choosing Detroit to deploy these newly modified vehicles,” said Mayor Mike Duggan, City of Detroit.
The team of Honda engineers and experts in Ohio took the project from the initial concept to completion in less than two weeks. All material fabrication and installation, and adjustments to the software for the Odyssey’s ventilation system, was done entirely in-house.
“We’re very proud of the efforts made by Honda engineers in Ohio to quickly devise a plan and modify a small fleet of Honda Odyssey minivans to support the people of Detroit in the face of this unprecedented global pandemic,” said Rick Schostek, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “This project is one of many initiatives being undertaken by Honda and our associates to support communities throughout the country during this very difficult time.”
The Odyssey minivan modified in Japan is a smaller vehicle than the eight-seat U.S. version of the Honda Odyssey that was designed, developed and engineered in the U.S. and is made exclusively at a Honda plant in Lincoln, Alabama.
“Several members of our team have family members or friends working in the medical field to battle COVID-19 or know people who have family members battling COVID-19 infection and this became a very personal challenge to help potential victims and their families,” said Mike Wiseman, senior director for Strategic and Materials Research of Honda R&D Americas, LLC, who led the project. “At Honda, we believe the purpose of technology is to help people and make their lives better and we were humbled to make this commitment to potentially help save lives.”
Odyssey Modification Process:
Honda engineers in Ohio installed a sealed clear polycarbonate (plastic) panel between the front seat compartment and rear two-row seating area by removing the handgrips on the structural roof pillar (B-pillar), behind the first row, replacing it with new brackets to attach the clear panel. A second attachment bracket was fabricated and attached to the lower front seat belt anchor point for a total of three secure attachments on each side.
In conjunction with the installation of the clear polycarbonate barrier, the Odyssey’s ventilation system software was tuned to maintain a more positive pressure zone within the front compartment to establish a designed air pressure differential between the front and rear seating areas, greatly reducing the potential for droplet infection migration during transportation.
Honda R&D engineers in Ohio designed the software that controls the ventilation system on the current-generation Odyssey. This core knowledge enabled engineers to tune the software to assure the air pressure differential is compliant with guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for negative pressure rooms in medical and research facilities. Specifically, the software is tuned to run the blower motor powering the fans in the front seating area faster than the fans for the rear seating area. The resulting air pressure differential creates a more negative pressure chamber in the rear seating area, with rear compartment air exhausted out the vents in the rear of the vehicle.
Comments from State of Michigan Officials:
“When we developed our transportation service to the COVID-19 testing sites, we quickly realized that a lack of separation between the driver and passenger would be a limiting factor in our capacity to transport patients. This innovation from the Honda team will be critical to transporting passengers during this time,” said Mark de la Vergne, Chief of Mobility Innovation for the City of Detroit.
“Honda’s speed in addressing this challenge, paired with Detroit’s willingness to find and detail a use case for Honda, made this a model public-private partnership. The state’s goal is to conduct 15,000 tests a day. This kind of ingenuity will help us get there faster,” said Trevor Pawl, Senior Vice President at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and head of PlanetM, the state’s mobility initiative.
“As the conveners of the Detroit Mobility Coalition in partnership with the City for the past several years, MICHauto is committed to facilitating connections such as this to benefit our communities. This partnership with Honda in a time of crisis, is an ideal example of the importance of our mobility ecosystem to connect our local and state leadership and the automotive and mobility industry together. MICHauto is pleased to play a role in helping to facilitate this information and technology transfer,” said Glenn Stevens, Executive Director, MICHauto and Vice President, Automotive and Mobility Initiatives, Detroit Regional Chamber.
Honda Response to COVID-19:
Honda has undertaken several initiatives to harness the spirit of the community in responding to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Honda has teamed up with Dynaflo Inc. to produce diaphragm compressors, a key component of portable ventilators that are used in hospitals and by first responders to help those stricken with the COVID-19 virus. The companies aim to produce 10,000 compressors per month once production reaches capacity.
- Honda associates have been deploying the company’s 3D printers to produce components for face shields at various company operations, with Honda engineers now working on a method to mass-produce the frames for face shields in Honda facilities.
- Ten Honda facilities in North America donated over 200,000 items of Personal Protective Equipment to support healthcare providers and first responders, including gloves, face shields, N95 protective masks, alcohol wipes, half-mask respirators and other types of protective gear.
- Honda has pledged $1 million to address food insecurity in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, providing donations to food banks and meal programs.
- Honda also has initiated a COVID-19 Special Matching Gift Program that enables associates to make monetary donations to food programs in their local communities, matching up to $1,000 for each individual associate. The matching fund is in addition to Honda’s $1 million pledge.
About Honda in North America
Honda established operations in America in 1959 and today employs more than 40,000 associates in the development, manufacturing, and sales of Honda and Acura automobiles, Honda power equipment, Honda Powersports products, the HondaJet advanced light jet and GE Honda HF120 turbofan engines.
Based on its longstanding commitment to “build products close to the customer,” Honda operates 19 major manufacturing facilities in North America, working with more than 600 suppliers in the region to produce a diverse range of products for customers locally and globally. In 2019, more than 90 percent of the Honda and Acura automobiles sold in the U.S. were produced in North America, using domestic and globally sourced parts.
Honda also operates 14 major research and development centers in the U.S. with the capacity to fully design, develop and engineer many of the products Honda produces in North America.
Honda R&D Americas employs more than 2,000 associates in the U.S. in the research, design, development, and engineering of a variety of products including cars and trucks, ATVs and side-by-side vehicles and power equipment products. About 1,500 engineers and other staff are employed at the R&D center in Raymond, Ohio, located about 40 miles west of Columbus.
Automotive News announced the 2020 Pace Award winners this week during a virtual ceremony celebrating Michigan’s automotive OEM and supplier network. The Awards honor superior innovation, technological advancement and business performance among automotive suppliers. Judged by an independent panel of technologists, they are recognized around the world as the industry benchmark for innovation.
MICHauto congratulates all 2020 winners, especially all investors that earned awards this year.
MICHauto investors that were recognized as 2020 winners and their product or process innovations include:
- American Axle and Manufacturing Inc.: Electric driveline
- Continental Structural Plastics: CarbonPro pickup box
- Lear Corp.: Xevo commerce and service platform
- Stoneridge Electronics: MirrorEye camera monitor system
- Tenneco Powertrain Division: IROX 2 bearing coating
MICHauto investors recognized as 2020 winners of the Innovation Partnership Award include:
- General Motors for its partnership with Shape Corp. to develop a curved carbon fiber bumper;
- Jaguar Land Rover for its partnership with American Axle and Manufacturing to create an electric driveline.
Stay informed with our Automotive Resource Center at bit.ly/MICHautoCOVID19
This week, MICHauto hosted a virtual Town Hall meeting for its investors with the Michigan Legislative Automotive Caucus co-chairs. Investors learned more about MICHauto’s crucial role in advising government on automotive industry challenges and concerns amid the COVID-19 crisis and heard directly from legislators.
MICHauto and Detroit Regional Chamber Lend Support
MICHauto Executive Director Glenn Stevens Jr. provided an overview of the actions his team is taking to support members and the automotive community at large including:
- Connecting with investors and members through personal outreach and biweekly newsletters containing the latest updates and resources.
- Providing the industry with unprecedented access to government and business leaders through Tele-Town Hall sessions.
- Creating the Michigan Automotive Synergy Task Force to coordinate efforts in response to COVID-19 across the automotive industry.
- Mobilizing automotive industry and economic development partners to provide PPE to health care workers.
- Working directly with legislators and government leaders to advocate for the industry’s needs.
Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah spoke to the Chamber’s robust resource center. He shared new data from the Chamber’s statewide COVID-19 impact poll to gauge the impact on Michigan households and workers.
Baruah shared the Chamber’s point of view as plans to reopen the economy emerge – noting its role in advising government leaders on what is top-of-mind for businesses. He also announced an upcoming webinar series with KPMG – Restart Michigan Automotive – and a special business consultancy partnership with the University of Michigan MBA program.
Legislators Address Industry Concerns
Michigan Legislative Automotive Caucus co-chairs Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Twp), Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), and Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) discussed the best ways to support and communicate with the automotive industry amid COVID-19. They agreed the most significant challenge ahead is safely reactivating the economy while prioritizing the health, safety, and trust of employees and customers.
Lilly explained that instead of seeking best practices, the Caucus should establish “leading practices” to evolve as more information is available. McMorrow spoke to the effectiveness of creating industry-focused groups to elevate relevant issues to decision-makers despite a bipartisan task force recently being disbanded. She also suggested exploring a variety of reopen plans from the business, health care, and policy sectors to inform the best strategies to apply to the automotive industry moving forward.
The legislators emphasized their shared commitment to slowing the spread of the virus and ensuring employee and consumer safety. They are hopeful that with continued bipartisan and industry collaboration, Michigan’s automotive sector will emerge strongly from these unprecedented circumstances.
MICHauto is committed to ensuring that industry and government are working together to navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Use this form to submit your thoughts, ideas, and concerns and MICHauto will communicate your responses directly to legislative leaders and the Governor’s office as part of our ongoing efforts.
You do not have to answer every question to submit your response. Answer the questions that are a priority to your company and that you have feedback for.
March 7, 2020
Alexa St. John
DETROIT — The Motor City’s auto industry once fretted about the seemingly endless stream of capital investment going to rival vehicle assembly plants and supply chains in places around the Southeast and Mexico.
But suddenly, it’s all about Detroit again.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have launched a wave of economic development across the greater Detroit area over the past year. New manufacturing projects represent billions in renewed commitments to the auto industry’s traditional capital city. With them comes a decade of business opportunities for the region’s contractors, tooling suppliers, consultants, engineers, parts makers and skilled and hourly workers.
Among the largest investments is FCA’s pledge of $1.6 billion for a second Jeep assembly plant at its Mack Avenue Engine Complex, along with $900 million to modernize the Jefferson North Assembly Plant for the Dodge Durango and Jeep Cherokee.
FCA also is investing $1.5 billion for production of the new Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer at its Warren, Mich., truck plant.
GM is pumping $3 billion into electric vehicle and battery module production at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. The automaker announced last month that it added 800 workers for a third daily shift at its Lansing Delta Township crossover plant, as well as 400 at its Lansing Grand River facility to bring back the second shift.
Ford invested approximately $750 million to build the Ford Bronco at its Wayne, Mich., manufacturing facility. At its Dearborn, Mich., manufacturing site, Ford pledged nearly $700 million to support production of new electrified variants of its F-150 pickup. Ford also sank $250 million into its Flat Rock facility south of Detroit and $740 million into new mobility projects at its campus in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.
The investment surge is a reflection of the automakers’ belief that the U.S. market offers growth potential. But the decisions to invest in and around Detroit stem from “aggressive and welcoming” efforts from government leaders at the state and local levels, said Glenn Stevens Jr., executive director of Michauto, an organization within the Detroit Regional Chamber created to “protect, retain and grow” the state’s auto industry.
“There has to be the right business climate for companies to want to either locate here or expand here,” Stevens told Automotive News. “It’s sometimes said that Detroit was the Silicon Valley of the 1920s and ’30s. We’re actually seeing that kind of happen again.”
The investments are a sharp contrast to previous decades, when assembly plant projects gravitated to Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. While GM, in particular, struggled with North American factory overcapacity, international competitors BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen yearned for more North American plants.
The new Detroit-area investments “tell a tale of where the industry is and where it’s going,” Stevens said.
Work force challenge
But Detroit’s automakers still face some challenges — chief among them, talent.
“It’s one thing to announce an investment,” Stevens said. “But you’ve got to have a skilled work force that can make that plant go.
“As we design and engineer next-generation propulsion systems and vehicles, having the right skilled talent in place to do this is absolutely going to be the key factor in really long-term sustainable growth for the city, the region and the state,” he added.
Detroit must transition its work force to keep up with these plant investments and shifting market demands, he said.
“We want people to look at a company like Ford as a high-tech, global and growth- related company,” Stevens said.
“When you look at tech companies like a Google or an Amazon, that’s how people perceive them — as high-tech, global, growth.
“If we’re going to compete for talent in Detroit or in the region, we need the automotive and the mobility industry to be viewed the same way — high-tech, global, growth.”