Hyundai's Labor Issues Return as Kona Production Stops Prior to U.S. Launch
Hyundai Motor Company has, once again, found itself at the mercy of an unhappy workforce. No stranger to labor disputes, the company hinted that it might scale back its at-home labor in South Korea — presumably aware that the possible response would be negative, which it was. But the timing couldn’t be worse.
The Kona crossover is believed to be the model that will turn things around for Hyundai in the United States, but a new labor strike has put the export vehicle’s production on hold only a week after it started.
Union officials say they didn’t like the automaker forcing the model onto them. Hyundai has had difficulties reaching agreeable terms since the start of October. Combined with wage disputes and complaints of outsourcing production, labor management has indicated that a much larger strike would not be out of the question.
Union head Ha Boo-young even issued a cautionary statement regarding additional work stoppages “should there be another provocation by management.” The union is clearly very concerned that Hyundai will move production out of South Korea while replacing existing jobs with automation. But Hyundai has its own problems, mainly meeting labor demands.
According to Reuters, requests have been made to install additional windows in existing factories during wage negotiations. The company has viewed those requests as a waste of time. Hyundai Motor President Yoon Kap-han said it was unfortunate that the labor union was disrupting production for a high-demand model at a time when most of its plants were “suffering from the worst sales slowdown.”
The Kona is already selling well in both Asia and Europe. Expectations for North America are also high, but the crossover isn’t scheduled to arrive in the West until early 2018. While the strike won’t delay its appearance at the L.A. Auto Show this week, the rollout could be hampered if Hyundai’s workforce refuses to play ball. Thus far, the automaker has said it has suffered a two-day production loss of around 1,230 vehicles as a result of the strike.
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