By on December 21, 2017

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United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams, due to retire in June, isn’t letting Ford Motor Company off the hook for its recent decision to send production of a key product south of the border. Actually, as union heads are wont to do, he’s not letting his government off the hook, either.

The question Williams would like Ford CEO Jim Hackett to answer is: what Mexicans are going to buy an electric Ford?

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Williams said he was “angry at Ford” for the unexpected decision, earlier this month, to shift production of its upcoming electric crossover from Flat Rock, Michigan, plant to a facility in Cuautitlan, Mexico.

“[Ford] has an opportunity to do something for the state of Michigan and the United States of America,” Williams said. “People in Mexico are not going to buy electric vehicles. And we desperately need high-paying jobs and technology here. I mean, 7% of vehicle cost is labor. How much do they need to make in profits?”

The 300-mile crossover in question, which Ford hopes will be an early class leader, was intended to start production at a retooled Flat Rock plant in 2020. While the production location has changed, it’s assumed the timeline hasn’t.

In a memo, Ford implied the switch to cheaper Mexican production was key to creating an “affordable,” “mainstream” electric vehicle in this class. Flat Rock, in turn, will become the center of Ford’s autonomous vehicle efforts, with a self-driving commercial hybrid vehicle being its first product. The automaker has pledged $150 million towards this product, expected in 2021.

With Ford choosing high-skilled work like autonomous vehicle development for the Rust Belt locale, Williams worries about blue-collar workers being left behind as traditional manufacturing moves south. If autonomy and electric vehicles are indeed the future, he says, both should remain American built. Ford disputes this, claiming U.S. self-driving vehicle production is beneficial to workers.

Not surprisingly, Williams reserved some harsh criticism for the Trump administration, the recently passed GOP tax bill (which he feels will increase outsourcing), and what he sees as a shortsighted government approach to industrial policy. Meaning that there isn’t any.

“We’ve got to have a higher level of education to meet the next generation of technology,” he said. “We’re being left behind for a lot of greed.”

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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22 Comments on “UAW Prez Gets It All Off His Chest, Slams Ford Motor Company...”


  • avatar
    Eggshen2013

    Was Ford or any auto manufacturer losing money on the cars they made in America?
    Of course not, they just want to make more money by shipping production to Mexico.
    I guess you can’t blame them.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Eggshen,
      Make money?

      I think you are incorrect. Ford need to stay in business. American made vehicles cost more to produce, simple.

      EVs, especially bottom end EVs will come out of China.

      Ford made the right decision.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Simple math tells ya Ford would have profits rivaling VAG and Toyota if Ford made no cars, just F-series exclusively. So you’re darn skippy Ford takes a huge loss on its small cars, especially those built in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Not likely. If that was the case Ford would be doing just that.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Why would you think it hasn’t crossed their minds? Repeatedly! CAFE would be a huge problem for one, but think of how stores operate. They willing stock product showing marginal returns and of course multiple “loss leaders”. If they just stocked the top producers, they wouldn’t be a “store”.

  • avatar
    tkewley

    At the risk of starting yet another contentious union “discussion” on TTAC, I do find it amusing that Williams seems to believe that industry and government exist primarily to enrich workers at the literal expense of all else. I’m not sure what country or decade he is living in, but it certainly doesn’t appear to be this one.

    Props for staying on message, I suppose, even on his way out the door…

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      You’ve put it well.

      I’ll add that reduced corporate taxes should help *retain* jobs, not outsource them. I don’t know how he believes otherwise.

      • 0 avatar
        colin42

        https://qz.com/1160761/gop-tax-bill-the-republican-tax-plan-is-a-victory-for-globalization/

        The key part….

        The US corporate tax rate is being cut by 40%, and rather than taxing global earnings, the US will move to a territorial system, with foreign revenue taxed at a bare minimum

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    We must have higher education standards…
    … for all the jobs of the future…
    Hahahshaha….hahahahahahahaha…
    The average educational level of the $3.80/hr w/ no
    benefits worker in Mexico… is 5.2 years. That’s right!
    5th grade. That’s it! And these are very high quality workers…
    I certainly have no objection to their skills and their
    extremely…Extremely high level work ethic…
    But… we all … from congress to local school boards… we all…
    fall into lockstep about the universally
    agreed upon nonsense that all jobs of the future
    require extensive education and mastery of esoteric technical
    knowledge.
    It’s all nonsense.
    40% of American manufacturing jobs are gone.
    Gone. GONE.
    Now it’s 41%
    BMW Honda Toyota Subaru Mercedes are making 45% of cars sold in America… IN AMERICA… yet our “big three” keep sending their factories south of the border.
    It’s actually 47% of American cars… are now being made in America by these “foreign” companies.
    The joke is: they average 86% American content… while the supposed American vehicles… are only averaging 62% American content.
    I buy American …because I buy Subaru.
    I’d like to buy a Ford. But it’s not really American made any more.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @phxmotor – Education is the most likely avenue for income stability. That does not need to be College or University but skilled trades. The only caveat is to pick a learning stream that has a marketable future.

      Most job losses in manufacturing or any labour intensive job have been lost to automation. Farming is a prime example. No one whines about job losses there.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Lou,
        I do believe many, if not most confuse design/engineering and manufacturing.

        Many manufacturing jobs require little training compared to design and engineering or even a real trade.

        This is why cheap labour produces, even in the US. There are not many burger flippers on 100k a year and no process worker/auto worker is near the same as an engineer.

        Look at computers and cell phones are they made in industrial nations? They contain leading edge tech.

        Just because an item contains leading edge tech doesn’t dictate income.

        If the US and other midern nations want to do better then they/we better start investing wisely in our futures.

        No one owes the US or any nation jobs.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          “Never go around saying the world owes you anything. It was here first.” – Mark Twain

          • 0 avatar
            gmichaelj

            I’ve seen and heard this perspective for many years now. And from a very general standpoint, I agree that not expecting anything from anyone else avoids disappointment, and is a healthy way to look at life.

            It’s good “Dad advice”

            However, I won’t accept a relationship where I have to put everything into the relationship and the other party doesn’t have to do anything in return. I don’t have low self esteem.

            So, for example, society owes us things like safety if society expects us to abide by its laws. Otherwise, I’ll get a gun and be self reliant.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            gmichaelj,
            It’s obvious that Mexico and Canada have contributed to NAFTA. Making out otherwise is not wise. There are no free loaders taking advantage of the US.

            Every country is facing the same challenges as the US. The feeling I’m recieving is many consider the US is supporting all and no contributes. Well, yhe US economy is not much different in influence than the EU and China.

            Manufacturing is not the domain of OECD economies, this includes the US.

            Auto trade is only a part of NAFTA, I would think there are issues were the US has inefficiencies ie, US regulated and socialised dairy and an inefficient logging model.

            This doesn’t even look at the distortion caused by socialised US corn.

            Low skilled US workers must compete with low skilled workers across the board. Because you have low skilled workers, you as a nation must restructure to improve your position. This means investing money in worthwhile causes, like education and even health.

            Blaming others for the shortsightness, a fast buck and lack of good investment is not the problem of other nations.

            I think the US is coming of age and soon the US will realise it must play with others, politically and economically. If it doesn’t it will regress.

  • avatar
    AndyYS

    I don’t feel sorry for the folks who mistakenly thought that jobs would be returning to America. They were sold a bill of goods that most Americans knew was complete nonsense.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Wait, a sitting UAW president was quoted talking about greed?

    Wow.

    :D

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    This just in, company currently planning to lose ~10 grand a vehicle finds way to only lose ~8 grand a vehicle.

    Gotta call it like it is: BEVs are heavy money losers, even in hatchback-on-stilts form. Doesn’t matter if it’s GM, Tesla, or Ford hawking ’em, unless you’re Nissan you’re losing money hand over fist on the battery pack of a full EV. (Nissan might actually be breaking even these days)

    Ya don’t have to like it, but ya gotta understand it.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    All the future EV will be still tiny size vehicles other then Tesla models! Very few people what a subcompact size vehicles but that size all EVs manufacturers are gunning for other then Tesla! LOL! Plus, it has to look dorky too other then Tesla models!

  • avatar
    D. Saxton

    The Union head is absolutely right. This move is taking technology away from the U.S to lower wage Countries like Mexico, at the cost to our own citizens employment stability. It’s bad enough that Ford is moving their small car production out of the U.S. and sending it to China, but technology transfer should not be allowed if Trump means what he says about Making America Great Again, and bringing jobs back to the U.S.A. . I’m not a Trump supporter by any means, and it’s examples like this that only reinforces my beliefs it’s all just BS.

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