Last year, the world was a different place. Spring was almost done, the summer warmth suffusing Florida with its ardor. It was a time for swimming, breaking out the Porsche, catching up with buddies and barbecues. Enjoying having the kids’ home on vacation and getting ready for hurricane season.
The weather hasn’t changed (much) from last year, although it feels like we have come a long way. Words like ‘self-isolation’, ‘sanitize’ and ‘personal protection’ (which would have sounded like biochemistry jargon last year) have now become our reality. The kids are stuck at home and even the most trivial outdoor excursion is fraught with ‘face-masks’ and ‘social-distancing’. In this brave new world that seems so different to all of us, there are some things that are reassuringly constant.
Looking beyond the world’s mad virus-induced political antics and having a good chuckle at the absurdity of the situation in which we all find ourselves, we face the economic reality with a bold front. We’re more involved with pistons and crankshafts, but even we can see that it is going to get worse before it gets better. The good news for us Porsche folks (and I’m sure the bean-counters are also smiling) is that Porsche have already begun restarting their production lines.
So, if you were hoping to get the new Taycan or Cayman GT4 you can hold your breath and expect delivery later this year. Porsche’s Zuffenhausen and Leipzig facilities restarted in May and while production is still hampered by logistical issues and the new ramifications staff personal protection equipment (PPE) creates, they are optimistic about returning to 100% manufacturing capacity.
What About Our Factories?
We’ve followed a similar schedule to Europe with employees returning to our plants in the South and Midwest from early to mid-May.
BMW restarted its Spartanburg, South Carolina plant on May 4th albeit with a reduced shift count. Production is by no means silky smooth yet, since logistical supply causes hiccups (Mercedes-Benz was optimistic, starting their Alabama facility in late April but then having to stop again when they ran out of parts). Manufacturers are limiting their production capacity or starting later than expected while they wait for parts suppliers to speed up their own production.
Volkswagen Tennessee only got going on Sunday, May 12th after having a long wait for parts to be supplied. Tesla, not to be outdone, defied local officials in Fremont, California and restarted their production early.
Ford, Chrysler and GM employees have to fill out screening questionnaires and have their temperatures taken before work. At Porsche, employees have to remain 5-feet apart and wear PPE at all times.
Most manufacturers have introduced infra-red cameras in their plants and closely monitor their staff to prevent the spread of infection. Other inventions like plastic shields, curtains and no-touch sanitizer dispensers further help to mitigate any airborne germs. Employees are encouraged to remain calm, but the added strain of the new regulations and economic uncertainty is putting pressure on the workforce.
In times of crisis, the most comforting thing is a sense of normality. America’s auto industry is a vital part of our economy and their resilience and determination to resume production despite the odds is an excellent example of what drives The American Dream.