BMW Says 14 Employees Test Positive for COVID-19 at S.C. Plant

First Up 06/19/20

BMW Says 14 Employees Test Positive for COVID-19 at S.C. Plant

According to Automotive News, BMW said fourteen employees have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus at a plant in Spartanburg, S.C., its biggest source of light-vehicle output worldwide. Production at the 7 million-square-foot factory has not been affected, a BMW spokesman said Thursday. The BMW plant was shut down on March 29, after much of the nation went into lockdown to stem the coronavirus outbreak, and reopened on May 4.  The Spartanburg factory employs about 11,000 people and builds crossovers. About 70 percent of the plant's production volume is exported to around 125 markets worldwide, with China being the biggest. BMW said the 14 infected employees are in quarantine and that affected areas in the plant have been sanitized and deep-cleaned. “Each case is unrelated to the other and all affected associates have been placed in quarantine,” the company spokesman said. It’s unclear when the employees became infected and where in the plant they worked. Read more here.  

MIT Researchers Help Teach Toyota AVs to Drive

MIT and the Toyota Research Institute collaborated to produce a photorealistic simulator to help teach AVs to drive in real-world environments, reports The Detroit Bureau. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology working with the Toyota Research Institute have developed a simulation system with infinite steering possibilities to help autonomous vehicles to learn to navigate real-world scenarios before they venture down actual streets. The work on the system was done in collaboration with the Toyota Research Institute for its autonomous vehicle research.  While there are plenty of programs designed to help self-driving vehicles to navigate, this new system is called Virtual Image Synthesis and Transformation for Autonomy, or VISTA. It’s a photorealistic simulator that uses realistic images created by artists and others to provide more accurate data. Read more here.  

Musk, Tesla Board Sued by Detroit Pension Fund for 'Unrelenting Avarice'

Automotive News reports that Tesla Inc. directors, including Elon Musk, awarded themselves massive compensation packages over a three-year period that improperly siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars out of the electric-carmaker’s coffers, a Detroit pension fund invested in the company alleges. The directors – including Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison; James Murdoch, son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch; and Musk’s brother, Kimbal Musk – wasted corporate assets in granting themselves some of the highest director pay awards among U.S. corporate boards, a pension fund representing Detroit police and firefighters said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Delaware. Tesla’s board members used their positions to “enrich themselves at the company’s expense,” lawyers for the Police and Fire Retirement System of Detroit said in the 78-page complaint. “They have granted themselves millions in excessive compensation and are poised to continue this unrelenting avarice into the indefinite future.” The fund isn’t the first Tesla investor to take issue with pay and incentives for Musk and other directors. Read more here. 

Car Dealers Urged to Board Digital Express

In a Wards Q&A, Sandy Schwartz, head of Cox Automotive, talks about digital auto retailing’s popularity surge, rebuts skepticism about its potential drawbacks and responds to whether it will ebb. In a letter to clients and partners, Cox Automotive President and CEO Sandy Schwartz outlines, among other things, how the dealership software and marketing-services provider will accelerate its digital-adoption initiatives. “As we help the industry recover, that effort will continue to be central,” he says. In his Wards Q&A, Schwartz talks about digital retailing’s prospects, rebuts skepticism about its potential drawbacks (including how many home-delivered test-drive vehicles a dealership can bring to a fussy customer before it’s not worth it) and whether online car buying might ebb, post-pandemic. Read more here. 

AutoNation Providing Free Vehicle Sanitization to First Responders at Its Dealerships

AutoNation began a program this week where for the next two-plus months, it will offer free vehicle sanitization for first responders from 1-4 p.m. each Tuesday at its dealerships, reports Auto Remarketing. The program, which started Tuesday and runs until Aug. 25, can be utilized at any AutoNation store. First responders can have their personal or work vehicles sanitized with a free EPA-approved treatment. "AutoNation is committed to keeping America safe.  So, while First Responders are out caring for our communities, AutoNation is here to also care for our first responders. Thanks for all you do for us," said AutoNation’s Marc Cannon in a news release. To have their vehicles sanitized, first responders can visit the service drive at any AutoNation store. They simply show their credentials. The process takes 30 minutes. Read more here.

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