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How COVID-19 Has Affected Building, Not Just Buying, Cars

Lilly Champagne

You probably know that COVID-19 pushed new vehicle sales down 25% for most carmakers over the summer.Some of that was from worries about the buying process, some from job insecurity. But there were also buyers out there who couldn’t get the car built they wanted.


What you’re hearing is a microphone mounted on the back of an ES 350 hybrid that Lexus loaned us in Main street Logan traffic. Even though the mic is about two feet from the ES’s exhaust, the traffic passing by is louder than the Lexus.

Here it is hitting the throttle hard, and on rough pavement, and smooth pavement at 70-something miles per hour.

And here’s it’s $2,900 stereo at ten paces.

Lexus made a smooth, nice basic luxury sedan. And in a world where Bloomberg just reported Lexus beat BMW and Mercedes in the 3rd quarter because the Germans couldn’t get their cars built, it’s impressive to make anything at all.

In their Smyrna Tennessee plant, employing more than 7,000 people, Nissan pulled off the launch of their new Rogue. New means people like David Johnson, VP of Production Engineering and New Model Quality have to first build prototypes for testing.

“While we were in the first production trial in the plant, we did have the three-month shutdown,” Johnson said. “However, through being able to keep the social distance, follow the CDC guidelines, we were able to build through our normal processes in the body shop, in the paint shop, and then in trim and chassis, build to the production process, but in an offline condition, to keep vehicles flowing to our R&D test facilities.”

And once they’re ready to start cranking them out.

“There were some unique challenges, no doubt. I’m in supply chain management,” said Tracy Church at Nissan. “Getting all the parts here was one of the key challenges, with the transportation infrastructure being disrupted along with everything else.”

They made their launch on time, coordinating the hundreds of parts that go into a vehicle, and they’re planning on six more new vehicles for 2021. Almost as smooth, as the Lexus ES.


Brian Champagne grew up in the less-famous Central California but left after starting his television news career there. He worked 22 years in news for NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS affiliates in four markets. He served as chief photographer for KTXL-TV in Sacramento, but worked in front of the camera, too.