Coronavirus / COVID-19 Information

Putting people first is our normal course of business.

When things aren’t business as usual, we’re here to navigate challenging and unprecedented times with you – together. The Holman Way of doing business guides us to treat our people, business partners, and the community at large with respect and care. That empathetic mindset is the compass guiding our collective response to COVID-19.

Auto Truck Group is considered an essential business. We continue to be fully operational and we’ve executed continuity procedures to support your upfitting and manufacturing needs without compromising the safety of our people. This includes transitioning our office-based workforce to remote workstations, and expanding flexible shifts to decrease volume and increase distance for onsite personnel.

On a daily basis, we’re engaging with industry suppliers and distributors to identify any possible service disruptions. We will continue to update this page with the latest information.

March 18, 2020 letter from Auto Truck Group president Pete Dondlinger

Upfitting Industry Update

Latest news on the impact of COVID-19

Auto Truck Group and our business partners are closely monitoring the impact that COVID-19 is having on our industry. We will continue to communicate directly with our clients, and we will update this page with new information as we receive it.

Last Updated: August 11, 10:00 a.m. EST

All 11 Auto Truck Group locations are open with regularly scheduled operations. The company is taking precautionary measures including having employees work remotely where possible, balancing shift operations to minimize the number of employees on duty at the same time, and applying the best practices published by the CDC.

As of this time, we are not seeing upfit schedules modifying to any significant degree.  If the situation changes, we will be sure to notify all affected customers and suppliers as soon as possible.  If an event occurs where we need to close a facility, we have contingency planning in place.  A location closing likely will impact scheduling and completing some vehicles in the proscribed time.  Our intention is to remain flexible as the situation dictates, prioritizing the safety and well-being of our employees.

We’re engaging with critical suppliers daily to identify any potential service disruptions. Based on the information currently available, the majority of suppliers are reporting business as usual under continuity measures and we are not expecting any significant production delays at the present time. If conditions change, we will quickly notify affected customers.

Our intent is to be as transparent as possible.  We will continue to update communications regularly.

Last Updated: August 11, 10:00 a.m. EST

  • Audi: Audi has resumed production of all models.
  • BMW: All BMW facilities have resumed production, although some are only running one shift. The company’s production scheduling group has been working to revamp their production schedule. Model years change over between late June and late July, so some MY20 orders could be moved to MY21 production depending upon the type of vehicle. MINI has already changed over its model year.
  • FCA: All FCA plants in North America are operational but at reduced capacity.
  • Ford: All Ford facilities have reopened and are operating at full, pre-COVID production levels.
  • General Motors: General Motors has temporarily suspended the third shift at its plant in Wentzville, Missouri. They plan to implement voluntary overtime on Saturdays to try and minimize the effects on production of the Colorado, Canyon, Express, and Savanna. In addition, GM is reporting some delays in Denver, Colorado and along the west coast.
  • Honda: Honda of America Manufacturing has resumed operations at a dozen plants in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
  • Hyundai: Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama has resumed full capacity production with a three-crew, three-shift operation.
  • Kia: Kia has resumed production at its plant in West Point, Georgia. The corporate office continues working from home.
  • Mazda: Mazda reports that production has not been severely affected.
  • Mercedes Benz: Mercedes Benz has resumed production.
  • Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi reports that all regional team members and employees at their North American headquarters are working remotely.
  • Nissan: Nissan plants in Canton, Ohio; Smyrna, Tennessee, and Decherd, Tennessee have resumed production.
  • Subaru: Subaru plants in Gunma, Japan and Lafayette, Indiana have resumed production.
  • Tesla: Tesla’s plant in Fremont, California has resumed operation.
  • Toyota: Toyota has resumed production, service parts depots and vehicle logistics centers are operating, and they are accepting orders. Headquarters employees are working from home.
  • Volkswagen: Volkswagen facilities have resumed production, shipments of fleet courtesy deliveries resumed, and all US ports are open.
  • Volvo cars: Volvo plants in Charleston, South Carolina and Torslanda, Sweden are operational.

Prevention Tips

Safety Tips for Vehicle Operators

Vehicle operators are strongly encouraged to take the following precautions

Everyone should follow the guidelines published by the World Health Organization and US Center for Disease Control to limit the spread of cornoavirus and COVID-19. In addition to those recommendations, we strongly encourage vehicle operators to take these additional precautions:

The Road to Recovery

Recommendations on Getting Back to Businesses

Manufacturer plants are coming back online and businesses are returning to work. The upfitting and supply chain experts at Auto Truck Group and ARI are closely monitoring the industry and will be posting resources here to help you navigate this new landscape.

For most of us, the summer is usually highlighted by relaxation and road trips to our favorite vacation destination. Whether your summertime tradition means driving to the beach to soak up the sun or heading to your favorite amusement park for some thrills, this time is usually our best chance to unwind.

But this summer, many of us are making different plans. Even as restrictions continue to loosen, many popular activities such as concerts and sporting events remain on hold and staycations are sure to be on the rise.

While a trip to your favorite ballpark might not be on the calendar this year, many fleet operators are in the midst of planning a much different type of road trip – their roadmap to recovery.

Construction in Progress; Seek Alternate Route

After months of disruption, the automotive supply chain is beginning to get back in gear but the unprecedented shutdown across the industry has skewed traditional ordering cycles. Some businesses were forced to cancel new vehicle orders due to financial uncertainty while others scrambled to find any available vehicle amidst the closures to keep up with increased demand.

Now, as we approach the traditional ordering season, many organizations are faced with adjusting their acquisition strategy on-the-fly. And just like revising your summer itinerary, you’ll need to be mindful of avoiding costly spec’ing and ordering detours.

Here are three common spec’ing and ordering hazards that could cause you to miss your exit to recovery:

1. Basing procurement decisions exclusively on up-front costs

When procurement decisions focus on squashing initial acquisition costs, there can be long-term consequences throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle. In many cases, your vehicles are likely under spec’ed for their intended job function leading to safety risks, increased maintenance costs, unforeseen downtime, shorter lifecycles, and reduced resale value. Sure, the vehicle costs less to acquire, but how much are you ultimately paying down the road?

2. Not properly understanding a unit’s intended job function

Designing specifications is not a “one-size-fits-all” undertaking. Choosing chassis and components without carefully considering their daily environment and demands can lead to cargo overloading (or even underutilization in some cases), excessive fuel consumption, and unexpected repair costs. Understanding how your fleet functions will help you deliver vehicles that best support the success of your business.

Remember, developing vehicle specs isn’t just a fleet project, it’s an organizational project. Solicit input from other fleet stakeholders throughout your business, particularly your operations and frontline employees. Collaboration is key, so have your fleet partners join you in spending a day with technicians and managers in the field. Being as hands-on as possible can help avoid disconnects between what looks good on paper, and what’s happening on a daily basis.

3. Maintaining the status quo for too long

Do you set an annual budget to order the same number of vehicles each year? If so, you may end up with aged units in service far too long, leading to increased maintenance costs and downtime. Older vehicles can also pose a wide-range of operational challenges for your frontline employees, especially with job roles evolving faster than ever.

Work with Auto Truck and ARI to determine an optimal replacement cycle for your vehicles, then align the cadence of your specification reviews accordingly.

Let Us Drive for a Stretch

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have detoured your spec’ing and ordering itinerary (and forced you to rethink summer vacation plans), don’t be afraid to pull over and ask for help. Now’s the best time to engage Auto Truck and ARI to ensure your acquisition strategy has you headed towards the right destination. Together, we’ll avoid the costly spec’ing and ordering detours – and maybe even make a quick pit stop at Walley World!

Even if you’re not watching the drama series “Ozark”, you’ve probably stumbled on its intriguing premise of a financial-advisor-turned-money-launderer anti-hero played by Jason Bateman. What you may not know, however, is that Bateman also works as a director and executive producer on what’s shaping up to be one of Netflix’s best-performing original series.

SPOILER ALERT: Sadly, 23 can’t reveal that Auto Truck Group and ARI have slated Jason to produce our virtual meetings. We can tell you how we share common “star” qualities with Mr. Bateman – loads of talent, ability to succeed in a variety of roles, open to trying new things, and a dedication to memorable experiences.

As the COVID-19 pandemic translated to open-ended travel shutdowns in the first quarter, we put these performance qualities to work hosting remote vehicle specification review meetings for our customers. This wasn’t Auto Truck’s Zoom debut– as we’ve used it in the past to overcome winter weather challenges– but it was definitely the right time to increase our web production value!

Same series, new plot twists

When shelter-in-place mandates and travel restrictions ramped up in mid-March, Auto Truck had a number of newly spec’d builds rapidly approaching the review step. Even when we have an approved spec design, budget, and parts list, we always want to confirm everything aligns with the customer’s expectations before forging ahead. This applies to simple changes to an existing spec, or building out a brand new specification. So we dusted off our webcams, confirmed our customers were on-board to give Zoom-based reviews a shot, and started planning.

The magic happens behind-the-scenes

If you faced a quick transition from the office to working from home, you can likely relate to the planning details required for hosting a successful web conference. Video and sound working? Check. Webcam positioned properly? All good. Agenda to help the conversation flow? Sent. Pants on? Let’s do this.

For a spec review where the customer’s vehicle is making its starring role debut, we must solve for more layers of celebrity-level complexity. While our builds don’t insist on sparkling water or model name stenciled on their trailer doors, it’s still our job to film all of their “best sides” for our client audiences.

Making Zoom magic happen for a specification review requires a trusted production crew. Here’s a rundown of how Auto Truck and ARI prepare for a meeting:

Over the last three months, we have received positive reviews from fleet customers on these spec “episodes.” They are pleased with the process, and how Zoom helps to focus on certain build elements one at a time. Working together, Auto Truck, ARI, and our customers can move our shared business forward in spite of pandemic challenges.

A permanent shift in programming?

Web conferencing has become a valuable channel for Auto Truck and ARI to continue using even as the United States and Canada start returning to more normalized conditions. But our people and customers agree that web conferencing is not a permanent replacement for the in-person experience. That sentiment goes deeper than wanting to tangibly interact with the vehicles in our facilities: it’s truly about the people and our relationships.

The most valuable part of the face-to-face spec review experience is the strengthening of our partnerships, followed closely by the “inspiration” factor. While we’re always excited to suggest ways for improving a spec, seeing that enhancement already incorporated into another company’s build helps inspire our customers to move forward with new ideas.

The future offers channel choices

As we’re able to return to in-person spec reviews, Auto Truck and ARI will continue using web conferencing whenever it can add value for our clients. For example, Zoom can be extremely useful in:

  • Reviewing minor and/or routine specification updates with longer-term accounts
  • Helping clients control their travel expenses, especially in the post-pandemic recovery phase
  • Expanding participation to include field personnel who would not typically attend in-person
  • Avoiding cancellations of time-sensitive meetings due to inclement weather

Thanks for tuning in for the latest episode of how the Holman family of businesses are putting our automotive competencies to work for fleet customers. Please remember that Auto Truck and ARI are here for you.

Adjust your upfit strategy to roll with the punches

With the entire world feeling so out of alignment these days, you’d think every link in your vehicle supply chain would be taking a beating too, right? Here’s the good news – Auto Truck Group and other upfitters are operating at normal capacity or very close to it for now. How and when those conditions will change ultimately depends on other links in the chain, such as the availability of chassis and materials from other key suppliers.

So what can you do right now? Developing a short-term plan for your Q2 upfit orders is your best strategy for fulfilling your company’s immediate vehicle and equipment needs. Then you’ll need a long-term approach for Q3 that addresses your 2020 recovery plans and sets up your company for the 2021 ordering cycle.

Let’s walk through the order-to-delivery steps to understand where the industry stands now, and figure out where you may need to adjust your future approach.

Orders

Can you believe that 80 percent of all North American automakers stepped offline the third week of March? We’re all hoping that production starts back up in May, but the decision to reopen for each OEM depends on public health conditions and how the factories plan to provide proper health protection for their workforce.

Don’t panic, and definitely don’t throw out your 2020 replacement schedule. Use it as your new starting point, adjusting as needed to align with the fleet demand you’re seeing right now. Is it going up or coming down? Whatever it may be, you may need to move orders out, delay some deliveries, and be ready for even more sudden changes.

When the assembly lines get moving again, it’s been said the OEMs plan to build all the orders they got before they shut down, and fleet orders will be at the top of their work piles. You should know, there’s a chance that orders for 2020 models could get bumped up to 2021 models. If you still need your Q2 orders to go through, you may be thankful to take whatever year is available as long as the vehicle overall meets your needs. Think of this as a short-term solution – part of your recovery strategy. Then make plans to talk with industry experts about your 2021 selector, to make sure your orders for next year are spot on for your fleet needs.

Upfitting

So far, Auto Truck Group hasn’t felt a huge hit by the OEM factory shutdowns as we focus on custom orders or pool vehicles that were already in-house when the pandemic hit. But that can change if a key supplier cannot deliver critical parts for your specific builds.

In those cases, upfitters need to evaluate possible options, relying on their engineers to see what else can be done. Unfortunately, if there’s only that one solution for your truck, you might have to wait a

little longer. Aside from those one-off parts issues, until the standard inventory of vehicles, equipment and other materials dries up, building can proceed as planned.

So for the short-term, there’s still a possibility your new vehicle upfit needs can be met. However, if the factories do not reopen before inventories run out, that’s when you’ll feel the long-term impact. You may have to go back to the drawing board with your fleet partner’s engineers and analysts to sketch out a long-term plan for your new “not what I originally planned” normal.

In the meantime, you should be extra vigilant with your providers to fully understand what you are getting and when you are getting it. You don’t want any decisions to turn into unexpected surprises and the wrong vehicles and equipment. Everyone is coping with the disruptions, and it’s great when you can be flexible and patient right now, but you still need to retain as much of your business operations as possible. Your company is relying on you to keep the fleet strong through the recovery stage. If you need those specialized vehicles to get you there, hang in and push for what you need.

Delivery

Third-party transportation companies are stepping it up big time right now. They are grabbing what they can from the OEMS; they’re filling the void for railcars; they are working with upfitters like Auto Truck Group and also filling gaps for dealerships whose operations are iffy. With many new players in the supply chain, everyone’s intentions are good, but the communication chain can experience some hiccups.

Stay in constant contact with your providers! Track your vehicles through every stage of the delivery process and ask as many questions as you need to if things start looking off track. Yes, delays will happen, but keeping everyone’s expectations in check is the key to staying organized and in control.

The link holding the chain together

So many things are out of our control these days. Looking at the big picture, the state of the auto industry plays a critical role in North American economies. Everyone is anticipating the day that the OEMs will open their doors; for everyone it will signify a big step away from this craziness. Realistically, when that happens, a bottleneck will form, probably as Q2 rolls into Q3.

Your team at Auto Truck Group understands this and the challenges you’re facing with unexpected spikes or drops in your need for vehicles. Everyone keeps saying “we’re in this together.” You hear it everywhere, and that includes upfitters like us who are committed to supporting your personal and professional wellbeing.

Communication is the link that helps hold your supply chain together. We can help you manage short-and long-term goals by working seamlessly with your other fleet partners on your ordering, upfitting, and vehicle management needs. When we’re right in there with your FMC, you’ll get faster answers, avoid fumbling, and mitigate delays.

And, there’s an upside. Today’s coping techniques are setting the stage for a better tomorrow via rapid innovation. We are harnessing video call technology to speed up pilot reviews and design feedback sessions – and they cost a lot less and take up much less time than everyone traveling everywhere. We’re all going to emerge from the coronavirus as stronger, more agile people and companies.

What does the future look like?

It’s hard to tell how short short-term planning will last and when specifically we’ll transition to the recovery stage. The common phrase these days is “in stages.” Auto Truck Group’s Sales and Account Management teams as well as your ARI resources are here to support you so please reach out to us with any questions or concerns.

In a matter of a few short weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally altered the landscape of our industry. With everyone’s health and safety the top priority, the entire automotive sector came to a virtual standstill for several months. We’ve used this time to to develop a road map as an industry to help us navigate the road ahead together. And while this crisis is unlike anything we’ve experienced in our lifetime and not yet over, the way organizations continue to adapt and respond will endure long after we overcome this current challenge.

Recently, Vice President of Operations John Hart spoke with Work Truck to discuss how Auto Truck Group adjusted in the face of the pandemic by prioritizing the well-being of our personnel and continuing to leverage Holman’s core automotive competencies to support our customers with creative solutions.

“Fortunately, our leadership across the automotive industry allows us to pivot quickly and address supply chain challenges for our customers during this period of uncertainty,” noted John. “The diversity of the Holman organization, including ARI’s supply chain expertise and Kargo Master’s manufacturing capabilities, helps us mitigate a number of factors even in times of uncertainty. Auto Truck, ARI, and our customers continue to work collaboratively to minimize supply chain delays and develop alternate plans for navigating any pandemic challenges that do arise.”

In the article, John also offers some advice for fleet stakeholders working to manage disruptions in the supply chain.

“The best advice I can offer fleet managers is to remain focused on the long-term view,” said John. “Having a well-developed, strategic replacement schedule and adhering to it as closely as possible (given the current circumstances) is the best way to minimize disruptions and ensure business continuity.”

Finally, John shared how Auto Truck is poised to adopt much of what we’ve learned during the pandemic to emerge as an even stronger organization moving forward.

“While it’s an adjustment for all of us, we will also uncover valuable solutions,” said John. “For example, our sales team recently completed a vehicle pilot review remotely. Additionally, our engineering team has reviewed a number of body designs remotely with our customers, using advanced technology to get immediate feedback to help keep production on schedule.”

To read the entire article, visit WorkTruckOnline.com and for the latest updates from Auto Truck Group and our business partners from across the industry, be sure to check out our COVID-19 resource center.

The assembly lines are rolling, but fleets will still need to navigate hazards

In the three weeks since Automotive Fleet hosted a webinar on how COVID-19 has impacted fleet ordering and deliveries, manufacturers have started taking their positions at the (re)start line. That means good things for fleets like yours, upfitters like Auto Truck Group, and fleet management companies like ARI.

Starting engines in May…literally

At the beginning of this month, the global auto industry took its first steps toward restarting production as China announced it would start manufacturing auto parts again. This news was promptly followed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer giving parts makers the go-ahead to restart their factories on May 11.

When it comes to the supply chain, timing is everything. By kicking off the reopening process with auto parts, the OEM assembly lines will have critical supplies in hand as they roll forward. Accommodating that one-week head start, Ford Motor Company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors reopened plants on May 18. Also opened the first half of the month: BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes Benz, Toyota, and Volvo.

On all accounts, the factories have implemented United Auto Workers (UAW) employee safety protocols and screening procedures using CDC and OSHA guidelines. Some corporate personnel continue to work from home while some plants are operating with reduced shifts. So while factories are opening, production capacity will be lower than normal as employee and customer health remains top priority.

What happens once the green flag waves?

The good news is that vehicles will soon be rolling off the line, and Auto Truck Group will have our chassis inventories replenished; this also means that managing your replacement cycle will get better from here. The bad news (well, maybe just “not-so-good” news) is that we’ll still have to watch for any caution flags on the track ahead. Let’s take a closer look at the current factors, how they may impact your timing and budget, and when to consult with your fleet pit crew:

Ordering

  • Fleets are top priority. Knowing the commercial demand will be greater initially than retail demand, the OEMs have expressed their commitment to prioritize fleet orders. This would be a good start, with conditions in your favor.
  • Model years are in flux. The OEMs’ goals are to build all orders received, but with new model year changeover approaching so quickly, there’s a chance that your 2020MY orders could be cancelled and replaced with 2021 models. If that happens, be prepared for these potential outcomes:
    • You could be facing longer lead times due to high demand, possibly up to 5-6 weeks.
    • Your volume incentives may be impacted. Depending on your OEM agreement, you could experience a shortfall for 2020 incentive but a windfall for 2021.
    • New model year prices typically increase two to three percent. You should carefully evaluate 2021 vehicle and options prices compared to 2020 models. If there is a larger than standard price increase, will the OEMs release options from packages to offset the increased prices?

Upfitting

  • Upfitters are ready to build. With OEM production ramping up, upfitters like Auto Truck are getting an influx of vehicles and chassis to build on.
  • Filling the pools. Bailment pool inventories for producing standardized vehicles will be replenished.

Transportation

  • Transport is moving again. The backlog of stranded vehicles produced prior to the plant shutdowns are slowly, steadily being transported for delivery. You can track them via delivery status updates. The same goes for upfit vehicles waiting to be transported.
  • Make time to talk. Communication is key as many new parties are stepping in to carry the load.

Licensing

  • Extensions are ongoing. For the most part, expiration dates on vehicle registrations and temporary tags continue to be extended 30-60 days, depending on the state.

Delivery

  • Continue planning ahead. If a dealership is open, it’s mostly service staff onsite, so getting pre-delivery inspections completed or finding someone who can facilitate a delivery is a chore. The best strategies are tenacity and continuous follow up, but even then might not be enough if your drivers can only step foot inside a dealership with an appointment.

Important tools to keep close at hand

Until OEM production, upfitting, transportation, licensing and delivers are operating at a normal pace, you may still need some mid-term recovery strategies. Avoid reactive maneuvers and instead regroup with your strategic partners like Auto Truck Group and ARI to use your own data to plan temporary solutions. Here are some things to keep in mind along the way:

  • Out of stock purchases may not be available due to dealership closings or low inventory. If demand goes up while inventory is down, prices may increase.
  • Buying low-mileage used vehicles that are still under warranty is a potential recovery tactic.
  • Short-term rentals could also get you over the hump.
  • Be cautious when liquidating vehicles. You may wish you retained them as demand rebounds.
  • If the used vehicle market remains soft, look at extending your leases.
  • If you leave vehicles in service past their scheduled replacement date, keep a close eye on their operating costs.
  • Review your fleet for underutilized vehicles to replace older, higher cost ones.

Keep your eyes on the finish line

The best attitude for a positive outlook is knowing all of this is temporary, and we’re already seeing signs of recovery. Don’t get bogged down in the short-term difficulties – stay focused on your recovery plans and long-term measurements for winning.

If you need more help evaluating your fleet needs, Auto Truck Group and ARI are here for you. We can help you track order status and adjust upfitting approaches to ensure you have the vehicles and operational strategies needed to get your company past the checkered flag of recovery.

As terms like “unprecedented” and the ever-present “new normal” firmly entrench themselves in our daily conversations, it’s refreshing to start this blog with two words that are familiar and commonplace in Auto Truck’s vocabulary: resourceful and responsive.

Listening and responding to needs.

Many of our clients operate fleets in industries deemed “essential,” and continued supporting their customers through the recent widespread shelter-in-place mandates. Through the course of regular phone and web calls with clients and prospects, the Auto Truck, ARI, and Kargo Master teams quickly picked up on the increasing fleet demand for a simple way to facilitate driver hygiene.

Even as restrictions continue loosening across the continent, businesses are still looking for practical ways to keep their drivers and customers as safe as possible moving forward. Simply put, fleets were looking for a mobile sanitation station.

Putting our resources to work – fast.

Luckily, we’ve “got a guy for that” when it comes to quality engineering and manufacturing. The engineering teams at Auto Truck and Kargo Master put their heads together and within a few weeks, designed and prototyped a sanitation solution that checked all the wish list boxes:

  • Easy to mount and reconfigure for a variety of vehicle applications? Check.
  • Holds all the necessary hygiene essentials in one place? Check.
  • Includes a water supply tank? Check.
  • Priced competitively? Check.
  • Market ready in just a matter of weeks? Check.

The customer response was swift and overwhelmingly positive, and we forged ahead to begin the manufacturing process immediately. Here’s a sneak peek of the production version station, and visit Kargo Master for more images and details.

Building for the future

This seamless collaboration between Auto Truck and Kargo Master demonstrates how our combined expertise and agility empowered us to develop and build a solution from scratch to sale in just two months. And because good things come in threes, I’ll leave you with one final “r” word – recovery.

As more businesses open their doors and kick-start activity, Auto Truck and Kargo Master are working on more product solutions that promote safety in a cost-effective manner. Our teams are currently putting the finishing touches on a clear polycarbonate partition to reduce transmission of respiratory droplets. This shield has great promise for fleets that transport customers or operate with multi-person crews.

Click to sign up for partition availability updates.

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