auto industry

Becca Schimmel

Automakers across the Ohio Valley are temporarily closing their plants in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That includes the big three U.S. automakers — Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler — and Toyota.  

 In a release, GM said it will be suspending manufacturing in North America due to market conditions and to deep clean facilities. The closures are expected to last until about the end of the month. From there production will be re-evaluated on a week-to-week basis.


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Automakers are increasingly investing time and research into creating driverless vehicles, but a Kentucky expert says the new technology could face hurdles if the necessary infrastructure isn’t created.

President Trump and members of Congress have repeatedly tried and failed to make a deal on an infrastructure spending package. According to a report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers, Kentucky’s roads are improving, but there’s still about six billion dollars’ worth of unfunded projects.


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The Ohio Valley auto industry is still awaiting a decision on whether or not they’ll face tariffs. The Trump administration was scheduled to make a decision this month, but punted for another six months.

Executive Director of the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association Dave Tatman said this adds to the uncertainty his industry faces.

“But we have three huge destabilizers for the economy in which we work. The tariff trade war going on with China, the whole potential of national security threat and however that plays itself out and there’s some new information on that, and then the USMCA agreement,” he said.

Becca Schimmel

Uncertainty over the future of trade is causing some Kentucky auto manufacturers to hold back on investment. The United States Mexico Canada Agreement, which would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, still hasn’t been finalized.

Dave Tatman is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association. He said exports from Kentucky were down five percent in 2018 from the year before. Tatman disputes claims made by the Trump administration about U.S. auto manufacturers moving production to Mexico because of low labor costs.  

Bowling Green Corvette Assembly plant

General Motors announced on Nov. 26 the closing of five plants. The Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky is not among the five set to cease production next year.

General Motors is calling the closing of five plants a "transformation" and in its corporate announcement said the company is going to focus on trucks, crossovers, SUVs and electric vehicles.

In the announcement, GM made no mention of the iconic Corvette that’s been produced only in Bowling Green since 1981. GM Detroit-based spokeswoman Kim Carpenter said the Bowling Green facility is not impacted by the Nov. 26 announcement.


Mark Doliner/Creative Commons

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s plan to keep up with emerging automotive technology—like self-driving vehicles-- is to maintain existing roads and bridges. But that strategy may face challenges as cars become more efficient and less reliant on gasoline. The state’s road fund relies heavily on revenue from gas taxes.

A report from the Center for Automotive Research, a non-profit research group, forecasts fully automated vehicles could be ready for mass production by 2040. Bernard Swiecki is with the Center’s Industry Labor Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research. He said communities need to take into consideration the likelihood of more self-driving and electric vehicles when building a new facility.

The Trump Administration today moved to weaken fuel economy standards for automobiles, saying the current ones are inappropriate and wrong.

The long-anticipated move is a win for auto manufacturers, which had lobbied for lower fuel-economy standards. It's also a rejection of one of former President Barack Obama's biggest efforts to combat climate change by curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

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The leader of a Kentucky auto industry group says it’s not hard to imagine the day when self-driving cars will be commonplace.

Dave Tatman, executive director of the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association, points out that many of the vehicles we’ve been driving for years have been hinting at the future.

“You see autonomous features in the cars we drive every day,” Tatman said. “You know, my truck’s got lane departure warning, it’s got forward collision avoidance. That’s all part of autonomy. So I think that autonomous vehicles are here to stay.”


Sales incentives helped U.S. auto sales rise in July, as major auto companies reported selling more than 120,000 more vehicles than the same month last year. GM retained its spot as the U.S. sales leader.

Sales of passenger cars rose by nearly 5 percent this July compared to last year, with sales of light trucks even higher, at 13.4 percent, according to data released Friday by research firm Autodata Corp.

GM sold 256,160 vehicles last month, beating Toyota's 215,802 and Ford's 211,467.

General Motors' recall problems continue to mount. On Wednesday, the automaker announced it was recalling 218,000 additional vehicles from its Chevrolet Aveo line.

The daytime running light system in the dashboard of cars from the 2004 to 2008 model years can overheat, melt and cause fires, The Associated Press reports.

Beshear: Kentucky Can Become Next Automotive Powerhouse

Apr 8, 2014
Toyota

Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday he wants Kentucky to be as synonymous with the auto industry as Detroit.

The Democratic governor announced the formation of the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association to promote Kentucky as an automotive hub.

Beshear emphasized the association is not a state agency, but it will get some state money for marketing purposes. Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Larry Hayes will be the group's chairman.

Board members include representatives from Toyota, Ford, General Motors and various automotive supply companies.

Beshear said Kentucky ranks third in the country in light vehicle production. Kentucky's automotive exports reached a record $5.5 billion last year.

During her grilling before Congress last week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra insisted the new General Motors is different and better than the old one.

So as GM begins to fix nearly 2.6 million vehicles for an ignition-switch defect that has been linked to at least 13 deaths, we decided to put that claim to the test.

Exactly how new is the new GM?

NBC's Saturday Night Live answered with a parody version of Barra's explanation:

The manufacturer of suspension systems and components for heavy-duty vehicles will create 75 jobs as a result of their $20 million investment. The company held a ceremonial groundbreaking for their plant Wednesday in Elizabethtown.

The site will manufacture products to supply the company's existing operations in nearby states at their new location in the T. J. Patterson Industrial Park. Construction of the 100,000 sq ft building is expected to be completed later this year. The company has two existing operations in Somerset and Lebanon employing 450 Kentuckians.

An automotive supplier is opening a plant in south central Kentucky that will create more than 100 jobs.  Germany-based Dr. Schneider Automotive Systems will build a new manufacturing facility in Russell Springs, creating 155 full-time jobs and investing $29 million dollars in the commonwealth. 

Dr. Schneider produces parts for companies such as Ford, GM, BMW, and Volkswagen. 

Russell Springs was chosen over 69 other potential sites adding to Kentucky’s growing list of foreign investors. 

“At the end of an intensive selection process, we decided to choose Russell Springs,” said Wilhelm Wirth, member of the Dr. Schneider board of directors. “The decisive factors included the quality and expandability of the facility and the competitive location costs.

The announcement marks the third German-owned company to locate in the commonwealth this year, all three of which serve the auto industry. 

So far this year, Kentucky ranks third nationally for light vehicle production and first on a per capita basis.

An auto-industry supplier is planning a $10 million expansion of a facility in Bowling Green, with plans calling for two new production lines and an add-on to the existing building. KIRIU USA President and CEO Mark Kimura says the expansion should be done by the time the company celebrates its 10th anniversary this fall.