Working In A Ukraine Auto Parts Factory Sounds Like A Time

The Leoni plant in Stryi, Ukraine, pictured under its initial construction

Workers at two wiring harness factories in Ukraine are going back to work amidst the Russian invasion, helping restart auto production across Europe. It does not sound like easy work, having fled multiple times to on-site bunkers under threat of rocket attacks. All that and more in The Morning Shift for March 24, 2022.

1st Gear: Putting Their Lives On The Line For… Some Volkswagens

Volkswagen has restarted production now that wiring harness factories in Ukraine are going back to work. I myself would not find any modern VW worth the risk described in this Automotive News report on the situation:

Leoni is ramping up production of wire harnesses at its two plants in Ukraine — with workers operating under a nighttime curfew and the risk of Russian rocket attacks.Workers have had to flee to on-site bunkers on multiple occasions, Leoni CEO Aldo Kamper said on Wednesday.

The German supplier said it has returned to producing at 40 percent capacity in Ukraine after a temporary halt due to Russia’s invasion of the country. A night shift is being added to bring this up to 70 percent.Cross-border trade is possible, with the company able to source its own components and raw materials and export products, Kamper said.

[…]

“It is both impressive and moving how our employees are determined not to let the situation get the best of them but stand up for their country and for their way of life. Their safety and their lives are a top priority for us,” Kamper said.

I hope they’re getting hazard pay.

2nd Gear: Renault’s Plan To Relaunch In Russia Lasted All Of Three Days

Earlier this week we reported that Renault was, surprisingly, going back to work in Russia. It sounded like a remarkable move in the face of what was sure to be spectacularly bad press. Well, Renault has listened to that reaction and responded: nevermind!

From CNN:

French carmaker Renault announced in a statement Wednesday that it has suspended all activities at its Moscow factory. The announcement comes as Ukrainian leaders have called for a boycott against the company, and accused Renault of “sponsoring Russia’s war machine.”

Just one day earlier, Renault had said it was resuming production for three days only.

Regarding its involvement in major Russian car manufacturer AvtoVAZ, owned by Renault, the French carmaker said that it’s “assessing the available options, taking into account the current environment, while acting responsibly towards its 45,000 employees in Russia.”

3rd Gear: Nikola Says It Has Started Production On Electric Truck

I could really care less about the various states of startup electric vehicle manufacturers, but I do wish the best for all of their engineers and workers, so I’m happy to hear that troubled SPAC-backed startup Nikola is saying it’s actually building some of its electric semis, as Reuters reports:

Nikola Corp (NKLA.O) shares rose about 15% on Thursday, as Wall Street cheered the company starting production of its electric truck on schedule.

The electric-vehicle maker said at its analyst day on Wednesday it had started manufacturing Tre battery electric vehicle (BEV) at its Coolidge, Arizona facility on March 21 and would deliver 300 to 500 semi-trucks this year. read more

The Phoenix, Arizona-based company expects to start production of the Tre BEV truck at its factory in Germany in June 2023.

4th Gear: Mazda Plants Go Idle Over Supply Issues From Covid In China

In the words of the great Cardi B, this coronavirus shit is real, and back at it in China. Shanghai is locked down, etc. An example: Mazda is idling some of its plants in Japan due to supply shortages. From Reuters:

Mazda Motor Corp. will suspend production at its two domestic factories for two days in April due to parts supply disruptions.

The automaker said that a rise in COVID-19 cases in China were among factors expected to cause problems in the supply of components.

5th Gear: USPS Places Its $2.9 Billion Delivery Vehicle Order

Incredibly, the USPS has doubled its order for electric versions of these vehicles, even if they’re still a pretty small chunk of the total order, as Reuters reports:

The U.S. Postal Service said Thursday it placed an initial $2.98 billion order for 50,000 next-generation delivery vehicles from Oshkosh Corp (OSK.N) and will double its initial planned EV purchases.

U.S. Postmaster Louis DeJoy said that based on USPS’s ongoing reform efforts and “our improving outlook, we have determined that increasing our initial electric vehicle purchase from 5,000 to 10,019 makes good sense from an operational and financial perspective.”

For more on the subject, please read Jalopnik alum Aaron Gordon’s great piece on the matter in Vice.

Reverse: I Half Remember This When It Happened

Some 38 people died when a truck carrying margarine and flour caught fire in the Mont Blanc tunnel on March 24, 1999. Per the BBC:

The extent of the disaster emerged only yesterday when rescuers finally extinguished the blaze after nearly three days and reached the centre of the 7-mile tunnel, where they found about 20 lorries and 10 or 11 cars trapped.

Most of the victims were trapped in cars and lorries halfway through the tunnel after the fire broke out on a Belgian lorry on Wednesday morning.

The truck driver, Gilbert Degrave, told the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws: ‘Every-thing was ablaze in half a minute. I ran for my life. Behind me all hell broke loose. In a few minutes the tunnel was like an oven.’

At one point, temperatures reached 1000C along a 700-yard section of the tunnel, one of three major crossing points for goods traffic across the Alps.

Neutral: Remember To Follow Jalopnik Alum Terrell Starr!

Our old colleague Terrell is still in one piece in Ukraine and reporting on the ground there. Follow him on Twitter here!