Cadillac Cancels Big EV Reveal Over Virus Concerns
Also on Speed Lines: How does the New York Auto Show still happen?
Welcome back to Speed Lines, The Drive's daily roundup of what matters in the world of transportation and also viral outbreaks. Once again, we have another day where the coronavirus colors much of our coverage. I'm not happy about it either, but we'll get through it together. I have faith in us.
Cadillac Lyriq Goes Into Self-Quarantine
The spreading coronavirus outbreak has canceled events, closed schools, kept people working at home and disrupted the global markets. It's also delivering an immediate blow to General Motors' ambitious electric vehicle strategy: the Los Angeles unveiling of the new (and unfortunately named) Cadillac Lyriq EV crossover in early April has been canceled over virus fears.
Additionally, as Bloomberg reports, GM's brief stock price gain after the EV strategy announcement was erased by market declines related to the virus:
The automaker on Monday called off the early-April unveiling of the Cadillac Lyriq crossover, the first of several battery-powered models Barra has said will debut in the next few years. Worse yet, the boost GM shares got when she made the case the company can compete with Tesla Inc. was short-lived. The stock was hit hard by the virus-related market rout, falling the most since the carmaker’s November 2010 initial public offering.
Cadillac is reevaluating plans for rolling out the Lyriq now that it won’t be introduced at the canceled April 2 event in Los Angeles, according to a spokesman. The vehicle is the first GM will build using the new battery and electric-drive system the automaker showed off to investors and media last week.
People just don't want to be gathered in big groups right now. Especially around automotive journalists, who are notorious transmitters of germs and bacteria.
So What About The New York Auto Show?
But the Cadillac unveiling is just one event. What the entire auto industry is wondering now is this: what about the New York Auto Show? Press preview days are set for April 8 and 9, and the public show runs through the 19th. But all of New York is under a state emergency related to the virus, and it seems extremely hard to believe that an event with a projected one million public attendees—all in close contact and putting their hands all over the new cars—can still happen under these conditions in just a few weeks.
Organizers insist to Automotive News that for now, the show will go on, but here's what they say with emphasis mine:
"Our plan is to move forward with the show," said Mark Scheinberg, New York International Auto Show president. "Right now, our plan is to continue to hold the show as long as somebody doesn't say we can't do it."
Despite some notable brand dropouts this year unrelated to the coronavirus — BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi said months ago they planned to skip the 2020 show — Scheinberg said there are 18 press conferences scheduled, up two from last year, and about 50 global and North American vehicle introductions.
"We have had no defectors on the exhibit side of it" related to the coronavirus, Scheinberg said. "We've increased the number of introductions, part of it because of Geneva, and others because product became available. The industry is still moving forward and we're still moving forward."
I think that part's important—my guess is organizers are waiting for somebody else to call this off, maybe the city or the state, and possibly for insurance reasons. I'm extremely skeptical that it can still go on. The "good" news is that if it does, the show plans on stocking up on tons and tons of hand sanitizer and soap.
Airlines Step Up On Cancellation Fees
If you do need to cancel an air trip—and a ton of people do right now—Delta has stepped up to let travelers cancel or change their March and April flights without fees. Two other airlines followed suit. Here's USA Today:
The broad fee waiver, the first by a major U.S airline, provides travelers holding nonrefundable tickets more flexibility as trips are canceled due to the coronavirus crisis.
"As concerns continue about the coronavirus known as COVID-19, we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety and security of our customers and employees,'' Delta said in announcing the policy. "We have adjusted flight schedules to affected areas, waived many change fees and are working with customers to adjust travel plans, using relationships with other airlines when needed.''
The move was matched by United late Monday and American early Tuesday.
The airlines had been sharply criticized this month for only waiving change fees for travelers buying new tickets, a policy designed to boost sagging ticket sales. Southwest is the only major airline that routinely does not charge a change fee.
Meanwhile, in Europe, airlines are running empty "ghost flights" to keep from losing their allocated flight slots at various airports.
I'm ready for this to be over. You?
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I'm curious, Drive reader: are you doing anything differently on the heels of this outbreak? We're all working from home for the time being at the behest of management, and as noted here, I'm doubtful the next big auto show will even happen. What's new on your end?