Tuesday Ticker: February 9, 2021

Toronto, Ontario ⁠— Microchip shortages continue to plague Canadian plants with temporary shutdowns, DesRosiers reports Canada’s Jan. 2021 auto sales and Hyundai changes its stance on the rumoured Apple car partnership.

Microchip mishaps

General Motors is the latest automaker to initiate temporary layoffs at a Canadian plant alongside microchip shortages 

General Motors said its CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., will be idle for a week as a worldwide shortage of computer chips plagues the auto industry. The measure affects all shifts next week in the plant, which is located east of London, Ont.

Local union workers have been informed of a temporary layoff at the plant from Feb. 8 to 13, and GM confirmed about 1,500 affected hourly employees will be eligible for layoff benefits.

The layoff is only expected to last for one week, but Unifor’s chairman for the CAMI plant unit, Mike Van Boekel said workers are expecting weekly updates each Thursday on the status of the plant moving forward, though it remains “pretty uncertain,” he said.

“From what we understand it’s affecting every vehicle in the world. So we are waiting to hear, but hopefully it’s short-term.”

A report from AutoForecast Solutions late last month said that the increased demand for chips in phones and gaming systems has made it hard for automakers to get semiconductors — leading to production delays in China that spread through plants in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Slower sales

DesRosiers Automotive Consultants (DAC) is estimating Canadian car and truck sales last month fell 17.4 percent compared to January 2020, as further cross-Canada COVID-19 lockdowns and inventory shortages hampered sales.

DAC said 90,890 cars and trucks were sold in January, down from the 109,988 sold in the same month last year. 

January 2020 was the fourth best January on record for Canada auto sales. 

Dreams dashed

Just a month after confirming it was partaking in early-stage talks with Apple, Hyundai has now said it is not in talks with the technology giant on a future autonomous electric car endeavour.

Following Monday’s news, Hyundai’s stock fell six percent, wiping US$3 billion off its market value. Shares of its affiliate Kia, which had been tipped in local media reports as the likely operational partner for Apple took a 15 percent, or US$5.5 billion hit.

The announcement ends weeks of internal divisions at Hyundai Motor, parent to both automakers, about the potential tie-up, with some executives raising concerns about becoming a contract manufacturer for the U.S. tech giant in a partnership reminiscent of Foxconn’s role in making devices for Apple such as the iPhone.

“We are receiving requests for cooperation in joint development of autonomous electric vehicles from various companies, but they are in an early stage and nothing has been decided,” the automakers said on Monday, in compliance with stock market rules requiring regular updates to investors regarding market rumors. “We are not having talks with Apple on developing autonomous vehicles.”

Kia shares had jumped 61 per cent since Hyundai first confirmed a media report early in January that Apple and Hyundai had been in discussions to develop self-driving electric vehicles by 2027. The companies were also allegedly in talks to develop batteries at U.S. factories operated by either Hyundai or Kia.

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