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The Corona Virus and the Car

Written By: - Date published: 7:42 am, February 28th, 2020 - 27 comments
Categories: capitalism, China, Economy, energy, uncategorized - Tags:

China gets a cold and the whole world starts sneezing.

Did I say literally? (I should have called this Sars and Cars).

We just saw the stock markets lose their composure, but the stocks taking really big hits are the carmakers who have baked their profitability future into this largest growing car market.

Even Tesla took a hit of over 7% – but it has extra volatility as it’s often read as a tech stock.

Others are faring almost as bad. Volkswagen are down nearly 6%, GM down 5%, Fiat Chrysler and Daimler given up over 6%, and Hyundai over 7% down. Wouch.

This post isn’t about a global health pandemic. This is about what’s next as car makers get hit by the subsequent economic burn. VW for example realises 40% of its sales in China. Hyundai is already exposed through a huge Chinese supply chain. So we’re going to see more big factory plants and their workers sitting idle. Maybe this is the feather that pushes some of the minors and margins over into the great Horopito Motors/Smash Palace of the world.

The virus is attacking the auto industry not only from the supply side, but from the demand side as well, as showrooms are closed and potential buyers don’t dare to go out in public.

It’s a little chilly signal of what is to come, because many countries with major car manufacturing are also going to stop new internal combustion engine vehicles coming in.

The U.K. announced recently that it was banning new ones from 2035. Countries banning new ICE’s by 2030 are currently: Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden. Those who are going for bans by 2040 are France, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. Considering that it will take Auckland’s City Rail Link from 2015 to 2025 to get 3.5 kms of underground track built, that’s a pretty fast timetable. Those countries with bold targets will have to stay bold if the oil price slumps as it can.

Now, who knows if they’ll stick to those dates. Sweden is going for a ban in just five years which sounds like a tight transition, shall we say. Will my fav Scandie Noir series shift from Volvo hybrids to full Polestars?


It would be a positively gutsy New Zealand or Australian government that proposed such a move, since we are so car reliant and our regional train services don’t really exist unless you’re a tourist with all the time in the world, and our cycling facilities are lethal as well as loathed. I won’t bother with our own current policy settings as they are weak and getting ever-fainter.

New Zealand in particular has a general population without the ability to buy new cars at all – subsidised or not. Let alone electric ones.

Germany and Japan have the biggest auto companies with the most to lose – and companies like BMW are very committed to sustaining the ICE for as long as they possibly can. In Germany maybe only VW will survive this set of policy changes.

But what the Corona virus is doing is have a sharemarket impact that is really hitting China-exposed auto stocks. That’s good practise, because just for once it looks like policy in a big set of influential countries (and cities!) is ahead of the market and consumer demand when it comes to auto-energy use and auto-pollution.

May as well start rehearsing with those corporate crisis handbooks for the next hit.

27 comments on “The Corona Virus and the Car ”

  1. satty 1

    TheTesla stock share had an incredible rise over the last half year, roughly from $200 to $900, so some adjustment was overdue. I agree that high-price ICE car manufacturer have to change rapidly or become extinct.

    For NZ and Australia (near-) car-free city centres in the future would be an awesome idea. Make people aware what’s on the horizon so they can make decisions accordingly, when they buy the next car, move house etc. and ensure alternative transport structure is in place. Outside the cities, cars (or equivalent) will be with us for a long time.

  2. Andre 2

    Coronavirus is also likely to reduce enthusiasm for public transport and push some people back into their cars.

    Because when there's a nasty human-to-human transmissible disease floating around, who really wants to spend time packed into a confined space sharing the air and everything else with a large number of random strangers?

    • satty 2.1

      I guess it will also "reduce the enthusiasm" for open offices (I'm always surprised how companies can claim Health and Safety as their top priority and then stuff as many people into one room as possible) and shopping centres then.

  3. RedLogix 3

    The Chinese economy, and the CCP's dominance that is dependent on it, is more brittle than people imagine. Some bullet points in no particular order:

    Their demographics are terrible, there is a big shortage of young people. Labour is becoming expensive.

    Their geography is limiting, resource poor and highly dependent of global shipping lanes with multiple choke points they cannot control. Their economy is highly exposed to many fragile trade relationships in Europe and the Middle East.

    It is the most ridiculously over leveraged economy in history, the credit bubble is beyond all reason. The rampant hypersubsidisation will not be ignored by the rest of the world forever.

    The intellectual property theft, arbitrary rulings and legal system beholden to the ruling junta mean that in the long run everyone who does business in China regrets it. It remains a very low trust, highly authoritarian society. Fundamentally inefficient.

    This corona virus event will prompt many large organisations to factor in the massive supply chain risk of having so much manufacturing in one country. Vietnam is rapidly developing as a more attractive, less troublesome alternative.

    As CCP inevitably doubles down on it's fascist micro-control of the population it will generate increasing reluctance of outside entities to be involved and resentment from it's own peoples. We've already seen huge resistance in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Xi Xinping may have overplayed his hand.

    The increasing 'Middle Kingdom' nationalism and frank racial superiority themes we're already seeing out of China will only become more blatant, provoking more blowback. The Chinese neo-colonisation of Africa will inevitably shift from a benignly framed 'investment' phase into one of frank exploitation. This is the pattern of all merchantile empires, it just takes a while to become obvious.

    There are of course many positives that counterbalance this list; but all too often these get presented as if the rise of China is both inexorable and inevitable. The Chinese people of course will play a great role in the future of humanity, but first they have to prise themselves free of the CCP. And while predicting the future is a foolish endeavour, the overthrow of the CCP is not necessarily a distant event. If that happens it could be a massive disruption globally given how many supply chains will be broken, how many refugees it could generate alone, and that’s before we contemplate the probable military implications.

    • infused 3.1

      So I just had an email come through today that many companies are looking to shift production out to South America. But New Zealand is already on the radar. There is a big group here right now looking at putting a big high tech manufacturing plant up north all because of this virus.

      This could be New Zealand's time to shine.

      • Enough is Enough 3.1.1

        Somehow I think our cost of labour will put most corporates off New Zealand..

        • infused

          High tech demands high salaries, so not normally an issue. The issue in NZ is supply chains, shipping and actual land to build facilities on.

        • Sacha

          Yes, not high enough to guarantee a stable supply of skilled staff nor a local market that can buy much of what's produced either.

      • RedLogix 3.1.2

        South America is interesting. Argentina has gone through a difficult century, but is now well placed to develop very nicely. Sound demographics and a benign geography play well for them if they can manage to run stable, trustworthy governance for a few decades.

    • Josh 3.2

      The intellectual property theft, arbitrary rulings and legal system beholden to the ruling junta mean that in the long run everyone who does business in China regrets it.

      I hardly think so. Corporates have benefitted massively from the China relationship.

      You factor in those things you mention and deduct them from the income and your profit is still huge

      • RedLogix 3.2.1

        You are a CCP troll who openly advocated state sanctioned murder just a few minutes ago on another thread. Fuck off.

        • Josh


          Your comment is ridiculous. Those Western companies stayed there for 30 or so years losing money?

          No such thing as state sanctioned murder. That's an oxymoron. Its called judicial execution

          • RedLogix

            Fuck off.

            • Josh

              hahahahahaa….its just a blog, no need to get pissed. We are just virtual entitites as far as we are aware of each other.

              Again, your comment is ridiculous:

              The intellectual property theft, arbitrary rulings and legal system beholden to the ruling junta mean that in the long run everyone who does business in China regrets it.


              Biggest problem is wages seem to be going higher and higher in China.

          • Incognito

            Perhaps you come from a different place because neither Australian nor New Zealand Law has a provision for “judicial execution” because these societies do not consider that acceptable. What you proposed (https://thestandard.org.nz/do-not-deport-your-people-and-your-problems-to-new-zealand/#comment-1688293) does not involve anything judicial or a fair process.

            If you draw the attention of Moderators, you might be asked to explain why you’re using more than one user name from the same IP address posting identical comments and then deleting one of them to cover up.

            • Josh

              Perhaps you come from a different place because neither Australian nor New Zealand Law has a provision for “judicial execution” because these societies do not consider that acceptable.

              Not sure what you are talking of here. I was just referring to to the writer's term 'state sanctioned murder'

              If it is state sanctioned, that means its legal, and that means it can't be murder. That's all.

              What's wrong with disappearing convicted crims from society?

              [permanent ban. You’re already on the mods’ radar for what looks like multiple handles (one of which is banned). You can continue to comment under the other non-banned ID if you agree to stick to it and not use multiple handles, including if you get a third ban. If we are wrong and these aren’t all your accounts, you can email the sysop and get him to look at it and figure out what is going on. I will keep an eye on the Trash for your comment agreeing to pick one name and use that only. You will have to tell me what the name is.

              In addition, I suggest you rethink how you comment here and figure out how to make your comments in a less inflammatory way. We’re approaching that time in election year where we start handing out year long bans just to clear out the bullshit while the election campaign and post-election discussions are happening – weka]

              • Incognito

                To put criminals in a military plane and dropping them in the ocean to drown and die is murder and inhumane killing and goes against international law and convention to protect human rights. Even when, or better especially when, capital punishment is an option, it requires a rigorous, fair, and transparent legal trial process with several layers of appeal.

                Australia and New Zealand do not subscribe to capital punishment so you are barking up the wrong tree. Upon conviction, criminals ‘disappear’ behind bars or receive home detention for the duration specified in their sentence, which they can appeal, of course.

                In your next comment on this site, you need to explain why you are using multiple user names to spout your extreme views on murdering people, for example. I don’t believe you comment here in good faith at all. It is just a matter of time before a Moderator with much less patience takes away your privilege of commenting on this free site.

              • weka

                Mod note for you Josh.

            • Sacha

              you might be asked to explain why you’re using more than one user name from the same IP address posting identical comments and then deleting one of them to cover up.

              I'd say moderators do not need to be at all patient with people trying on shit like that. You have enough to do.

              • weka

                There's always a chance that flatmates or family are commenting from the same address. Onus is on commenters to be upfront when asked. And yep, patience is def running out.

                • Sacha

                  posting identical comments and then deleting one of them

                  Goes further than 'flatmates or family' though.

                  • weka

                    True, but I didn't follow that closely. Was making more a general point about the problem of shared IP addresses.

  4. David Mac 4

    I'm not too worried about contacting the Corona virus but if the Lion Red virus ever gets a hold I'll need to consider some lifestyle changes.

    I think you're right Red, the African continent is poised to become our fresh sweatshop. In a decade or 2 we will be using phones designed in Huawei's Californian studio and constructed in Chad. A rapidly rising standard of living has priced China out of the slave labour market. India will linger longer.

    Most of the international players have plants in China, it's been their boom market of late. They're there on a handshake. None of them own their plants. The Chinese people own all of the land in China. They're all there with partnership arrangements with the Chinese government. Any time they choose to say 'Sorry BMW, we build a better car for less, bye.' they can and will.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      Any time they choose to say 'Sorry BMW, we build a better car for less, bye.' they can and will.

      But the rest of the world is not so impotent as you imply. China is exquisitely exposed to international trade and good will; the moment they piss off enough people the shutters will go up. You only have to look at Trump's tariffs as a starting point to this process.

      • David Mac 4.1.1

        Yes Red, I agree, it's an important consideration

        Like Japan, China are crucial raw material poor and need suppliers to prosper.

        If Scomo stops shipping coal, the smelters cool.

        I'm sure it would be the result of a diplomatic waltz but I can imagine China squeezing GM etc out. When I consider how I would feel about Kiwis doubling BMW's profits I think we would be having a conversation about how we could best steer more of that wealth to bettering NZ.

  5. David Mac 5

    I sniffed my MG upholstery and I've been tested positive.

    I'm kidding but I think it's refreshing how little fake Corona virus news is coming up on my feeds.

    Hopefully we're learning to not talk bulldust when it's important…..Donald aside. after all this time I haven't worked out if that joker is contracted to write material for comedians or run a country.

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