Portuguese Navy
Felicity Ace Fire

So That Happened: Luxury Cars Ablaze, Predators Attacked, Testy Executives

Feb. 23, 2022
IndustryWeek editors look into DEI efforts, the likelihood of more federal spending, cyber attacks and why using a lot of natural gas can really be an ESG effort.

Editor’s note: Welcome to So That Happened, our editors’ takes on things going on in the manufacturing world that deserve some extra attention. This will appear regularly in the Member’s Only section of the site.

Not the Hot Cars We Want

Falling under the “well, that’s the last thing we needed” category is a ship fire in the Atlantic that will likely destroy 1,100 Porsche cars and several thousand Volkswagen and Bentley vehicles. The Felicity Ace cargo ship caught fire on Feb. 16 and continued to burn a week later.

It’s a problem on multiple levels. With the supply chain crunch and chip shortages, losing 4,000 vehicles (a tiny drop in the bucket for U.S. auto sales, but a lot of cars nonetheless) will exacerbate shortages on dealer lots throughout the country—especially for German-built luxury cars.

The vehicles include some super expensive models. The Wall Street Journal reports that 20 cars slated for an Atlanta dealership cost a combined $2.6 million.

The worst damage, however, could be to the growth of the electric vehicle market. Many of the high-end sports cars were electric, a market that Porsche has been chasing for a few years. And, it doesn’t take much to link the words fire and EV in headlines—especially for certain politically active networks.

“Lithium-Ion Batteries Ablaze” trumpets Newsmax.

“Lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles on board made the fire very difficult to extinguish, the captain of the nearest port said, raising questions about the safety of transporting them when carmakers worldwide are stepping up production,” according to One America Network

The basis for those concerns appears to be a WSJ report suggesting that EV batteries were complicating fire-fighting efforts. Car-carrier fires have occurred for gasoline vehicles in the past, but EVs have a high-profile fire problem that cases like this can exacerbate.

The fire appears to be under control now, and as the ship becomes safe to board, investigators will be able to examine what role, if any, the EVs played in the maritime accident.

Robert Schoenberger

Puma Attacked! Sportswear Maker’s Cyber Issues Serve as Best Practices Reminder

Cyberattack news often comes what feels like far after the fact, in part because the damage from an attack needs to be properly assessed before anyone says anything. In this case, we’re talking about a report from earlier this month that sportswear manufacturer Puma suffered a data breach on account of a ransomware attack that hit workforce management service provider Kronos in December 2021.

The data breach took place on the Kronos Private Cloud storage service and Puma had employee data stored on that service. The cyberattackers got their hands on personal data, including Social Security numbers, from 6,632 Puma employees.

News flash emails about cyberattacks are accompanied by expert opinion that feels virtually identical in most cases. “Be aware of all the ways cybercriminals may come at you, and make sure you have a ‘defense in depth’ strategy.” In this specific type of case, you’ll always see something along the lines of “make sure your third-party vendors have good cybersecurity.”

These attacks rarely teach new lessons. They mostly serve as reminders for people that aren’t paying enough attention. Don’t think this could happen to you? Oh, really?

Dennis Scimeca

PPG Invests in Inclusivity

With a tagline of “We protect and beautify the world,” the paint and coatings company considers inclusivity a path to make the world better.

On February 16, PPG announced that last year they invested $13.3 million to support more than 500 community partners and programs in the U.S. and internationally that are focused on education, social and racial equity, and community sustainability. Writing these words makes my heart happy.

“Our support centered around revitalizing classrooms and activating our commitment to advance diversity, equity and inclusion through education, hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning and community volunteerism to bring color and brightness to the world,” said Malesia Dunn, executive director, PPG Foundation and corporate global social responsibility.

In February of last year, the company committed to investing $20 million by 2025 to support programs for Black communities and people of color in the U.S. Now they are reporting that they have made 37% progress toward this commitment through support of program including Coding Lab’s summer camp, CS Explorers and the Michigan Science Center’s Explainer’s Project.

The PPG Foundation put funds toward helping students enter advanced, post-secondary STEM studies through partnerships with professional organizations, including the National Black MBA Association and the National Society of Black Engineers.

Regarding its global efforts, the company focuses on investment for “community transformations, essential needs and social justice.” Some program examples include:

  • Partnerships with the American Red Cross to support local emergency relief and recovery efforts following Hurricane Ida
  • Diecézní Charita Brno to provide financial assistance and support following a category F4 tornado in the South Moravia region of the Czech Republic
  • Give2Asia to fund emergency equipment at five hospitals across India during the Delta variant surge. Grantmaking in the U.S. also included social justice initiatives with organizations such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Asian Americans Advancing Justice. 

“Through all of our efforts in 2021, we prioritized opportunities to demonstrate the power of volunteerism and education to reflect on our company’s purpose to ‘protect and beautify the world,” said Dunn.

Adrienne Selko

Don’t Bet on Build Back Better

Might the Beltway produce a climate-focused mini-version of the Build Better Back bill—one of the few things these days that might be nice and bipartisan? Don’t bet it, says Southern Co. Chairman, President and CEO Tom Fanning.

Asked about the prospect of a 2022 federal funding package to help power the economy’s clean energy transition, Fanning—who is part of a team of CEOs that has met with President Biden—said analysts and investors on his team’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call should probably keep their expectations in check.

“I think, long term, both parties agree that we should do some something,” Fanning said. “I think the methods of doing something—especially in light of the inflation signals we are seeing and potentially the national security issues we are seeing right now—lend themselves to nothing happening for the rest of the year. I wish it would. I don’t think it will.”

Fanning’s take was more pessimistic than that of Jim Robo, his peer at NextEra Energy, who said in late January—granted, before the Ukraine situation flared as strongly as it has—that, even though he wasn’t as optimistic as late last year, he still could see a deal being passed. But, he added, that it wouldn’t be soon but “probably more likely sometime in the fourth quarter after the election.”

Geert De Lombaerde

Steel CEO: Do Your Homework, CNBC

Speaking of quarterly earnings calls, Lourenco Goncalves is easily one of the most quotable practitioners of the art, in large part because he doesn’t seem to be concerned about straying off point once in a while. The CEO of steel titan Cleveland-Cliffs had a few quips handy earlier this month for CNBC presenter Brian Sullivan and blue-chip investment bank Goldman Sachs.

As part of an answer about Cleveland-Cliffs’ planned stock buyback plan, Goncalves said Sullivan is “like a substitute teacher at CNBC” for supposedly labeling Cleveland-Cliffs an iron ore company on air. Goncalves’ point was that repurchasing shares helps reward long-term investors “instead of allowing them to be at the mercy of the opportunistic, at the mercy of the ones that don’t understand.”

The Goldman Sachs swipe came after the firm’s analyst Emily Chieng asked for some clarification on Goncalves’ comment that the company might soon consider investing in electric arc furnaces in place of relining blast furnaces. Within seconds, Goncalves was defending the steel industry’s carbon dioxide emissions versus the much larger ones from internal combustion engine cars.

“That’s the very first thing – particularly Goldman Sachs, that is so eager to be making money on ESG – [people need] to understand,” Goncalves said, soon after following it up with a little more friendly advice. “I really would like to cheer Goldman Sachs to work on ESG but work the right way, address the problem – not just what’s the last shiny thing that you guys see and jump on the bandwagon.”

Geert De Lombaerde

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