Hyundai's Labor Issues Return as Kona Production Stops Prior to U.S. Launch

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
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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.

[Image: Hyundai]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

Consumer advocate tracking industry trends, regulation, and the bitter-sweet nature of modern automotive tech. Research focused and gut driven.

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  • Bd2 Bd2 on Nov 28, 2017

    There's one thing about protection workers rights/safety, but then there's being totally unreasonable and time and time again the leaders of the union representing H/K workers have shown to be out of their gourd when it comes to their demands - which are totally counter-poductive. This is exactly why H/K is looking to outside Korea when it comes to expanding production capacity (already build more outside Korea).

  • Conundrum Conundrum on Nov 28, 2017

    Hyundai management has been cut-throat for at least two decades, even on themselves like junior execs who didn't meet ridiculous and unrealistic sales targets. Being the CEO of Hyundai America was about the same as playing musical chairs. You got six to 12 months, and if sales didn't balloon, off on your enforced firing you went. Stability for Krafcik for perhaps six years was only gained by the popularity of the 2010 Elantra and 2011 Sonata. But sure enough, having a brain in his head he saw the writing on the wall and decided to exit himself and off he went to run Truecar. Now that J/K sales have fallen off globally (H much more than K), even mentioned in this article by President Yoon Kap-han, due to a reversion of the company's vehicles to type and thus reduced interest from consumers, we get mush like "H/K doesn't have enough crossovers", when any dolt could see they had three models, much like Honda. Misdirection works so well most of the time, because nobody bothers to check and soon it becomes accepted as true. With their backs against the wall, Hyundai management has reverted to the snarling pack of yore, so it's hardly surprising the workers are in revolt. What we haven't been told is exactly how nasty they're getting. I suppose if I had a simple mind that said automatically unions = bad, I could write silly one-sided comments like the ones I see here. But having worked in industry in management for 40 years and seen reality, I'm not stuck in an ideological closed corner as a defeated serf repeating capitalist dogma as if they were truisms and making their case for them.

  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.