While the world prepares itself for life after COVID-19, car companies around the globe are hurriedly trying to put plans in place to safeguard themselves for the immediate term.
The current global pandemic has been devastating for the automotive world’s financials, with huge first quarter losses being reported, and some companies having to resort to taking out billion dollar loans to stay afloat.
Unfortunately, this means that the red pen has been wielded liberally by accounting departments, killing off the sort of high profile but low margin vehicle programs that appeal to enthusiasts.
Locally, the highest-profile scalp is from the Blue Oval, with Ford’s secret V8 Ranger Raptor project being put on ice.
The V8 Raptor is seen as an ‘indulgence’ project, and while it’ll be a nice model for enthusiasts and marketing departments, it won’t be bolstering the bottom line any time soon.
When a company is bleeding money globally, anything that doesn’t help keep things afloat is thrown overboard.
Wheels also understands that Nissan Australia’s tough Patrol N-Trek Warrior program has been put on hiatus, though this is largely due to supply issues.
Internationally, the most immediately identifiable victim is factory-supported racing.
Porsche, possibly the most motorsport-focused car company in the world has already removed two of its 911 RSR GTE race cars from the 24 Hours of Le Mans entry list.
Similarly, Chevrolet has cancelled the entry for its new C8 Corvette from the endurance classic.
Audi has done the almost unthinkable and abandoned the German DTM touring car series – leaving BMW as the sole manufacturer left standing in that category.
A factory racing program isn’t cheap – unless you want to compete in Formula E – and in austere times it’s hard to justify the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for what is essentially a glorified marketing exercise.
But it’s not just motorsport that has suffered, right-hand drive production for the C8 Corvette has been put under a cloud of doubt as GM told suppliers to hold fire after it temporarily shut the door on its factories in the US.
When production recommences, it’s likely that only left-hook Corvettes will be rolling out of Bowling Green for the foreseeable future.
That’s only the programs that we know about. There are going to be some very high-level discussions going on in automotive board rooms around the world right now, with tough decisions being made to pull the pin on what enthusiasts would see as ‘fun’ projects – sports cars, motorsport, and concepts.
The next couple of months are going to be rocky for automotive enthusiasts. Bean counters at major car companies will be looking to save money anyway they can, and cancelling marginal product programs will be high on the chopping block.
It’s likely that the true toll of production projects that have been put on ice won’t be fully known for some time.
But there is a silver lining, with some projects already far enough down the pipeline to be saved from any falling budget axe.
The Toyota GR Yaris is still en route to Australia, the Porsche 911 Turbo is locked in, Audi’s stonking RS6 uber-wagon is coming to terrify your local dog park, and the Ford Focus ST has just landed on our shores.
Take solace in these vehicles, because fun times could be hard to come by in the future.
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