Today's Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ
By Paul Page
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Criticism over the government response, federal and local, in Puerto Rico is mounting as authorities scramble to bring relief into the beleaguered, storm-battered island. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said the island will receive more fuel in coming days as distribution of supplies accelerates, the WSJ's Daniela Hernandexz reports, and the U.S. Navy's hospital ship the Comfort steams to the San Juan port. Still, two towns remain so cut off by the impact of Hurricane Maria that the government can only airlift supplies and trapped residents are growing desperate. At the beachside town of Humacao an hour southeast of San Juan residents say the situation is getting more precarious, with food rationed, no electricity and flooding still a threat nearly two weeks after the hurricane. Such towns are struggling as political rhetoric over the relief effort grows more heated, with President Donald Trump slamming the media and what he called ungrateful politicians over criticism of the early efforts, part of the sharp exchanges going on even as the relief grows more robust.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is taking its e-commerce business upscale, a marketing move that could complicate the retailer's supply chains. The Jet.com business that Wal-Mart bought a year ago will start selling apparel from the specialty online sellers such as ModCloth and Bonobos that the retailer has purchased, the WSJ's Sarah Nassauer writes, and will add new higher-margin private-label grocery items aimed at "metro millennial" consumers. The moves are part of an effort by Wal-Mart e-commerce chief Marc Lore to offer specialty goods that can't be bought elsewhere and to differentiate Jet from its parent brand. That would take the Jet.com business away from its roots as a discount retailer, and mark Wal-Mart's latest attempt to move some of its sales to higher-end goods. That marketing effort may add wrinkles to Wal-Mart's attempts to blend the new businesses into its big distribution channels since the products online by design won't match the goods in the stores.
Electric-car production is about to get a big boost. China will force auto makers to accelerate production of electric vehicles by 2019, the WSJ's Yoko Kubota and Trefor Moss report, a move that will ripple around the globe as the industry bends to the will of the world's largest car market. It's the latest move by governments around the globe aimed at phasing out traditional internal combustion engines in favor of environmentally friendly vehicles powered by batteries, and car makers and parts providers are likely to get their production into gear because of the scale of the Chinese market. Ford Motor Co., the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Volkswagen AG have already set up joint ventures in China with local car makers that will specialize in pure-electric cars. The deadline is a daunting prospect for auto makers who must now retool factories and rush electric vehicle concepts into production. With California authorities now talking about new emissions targets, their efforts may get even more urgent.
Diesel fuel is turning from darling to demon in Europe, and that could turn out to be a boon for shipping markets. Europe's big oil refiners are searching for other uses for roughly $10 billion of investments in diesel, the WSJ's Christopher Alessi writes, because of expected falling demand from car drivers. The Volkswagen AG emissions scandal in 2015 has sent sales of diesel vehicles plummeting, reversing a trend that had seen the diesel fleet grow to nearly half of passenger cars in Europe. Producers including Total SA of France and Repsol SA of Spain had followed the trend by investing heavily in refinery upgrades, and now they're looking at whether those sites can provide chemically similar products like container-shipping fuel and jet fuel. Total says the company didn't question its investments in diesel, in part because "trucks and commercial vehicles are likely to remain diesel-powered in Europe." A bonus for freight operators: more availability could drive down prices fort the fuel.
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