Slowdowns in trade and commerce continue to ripple through the global economy as the COVID-19 crisis spreads. Drone industry behemoth DJI is in a particularly vulnerable position. It’s based in China, the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it does substantial sales in the US, now the country hardest-hit by the disease. These strains are forcing DJI to make what it called “organizational changes” in a statement to DroneDJ.
We contacted the company in response to bombshell reporting by UAV Expert News about mass firings in DJI’s US operations and a virtual cutoff of new product due to plant closures.
UAV Expert News based its reporting on chatter in DJI dealer forums. Posts say that company representatives they have worked with for years have suddenly been let go in recent months. Dealers also claim that the company has very limited product stock, and they say it has cancelled most or all deliveries to the US. (Perhaps that explains why DJI isn’t having an Easter sale in the US and Canada this year.)
Meanwhile, the site sUAS News reports that US repair and support staff have been laid off or are leaving by the end of this month.
Possible business model changes?
We asked DJI about these reports and received the following statement from spokesman Adam Lisberg, corporate communication director for North America:
DJI has made some organizational changes in order to adapt to today’s challenging economic environment. As a private company we do not share more detailed information.
Lisberg did not address any of the specific claims about firings, layoffs, or product shortages, although he added in his email to us that “we’re still here.”
UAV Expert News has speculated that DJI is taking its response to the economic crisis as an opportunity to streamline North American operations. The loss of dealer reps could point to the company emphasizing a direct-to-consumer sales model and/or a focus on supplying just the biggest retailers at the expense of smaller shops, for instance. Cutbacks to North American staff could also have a severe impact on the quality of customer service and support.
We’ll keep following this story to determine if any of these reports or theories are true.