GM Shocks And Awes France! Workers Surrender!

Yes, there were abortive attempts to rename French Fries to Freedom Fries (you want ketchup with your freedom?) There were calls for a boycott of all things French, including French mustard, excluding French’s Mustard (and maybe the Statue of Liberty.) Nevertheless, I think deep down the Americans secretly admire the French. With their lavish welfare system, generous benefits and their willingness to strike if someone so much as asks them to work an hour outside of their contract, who wouldn’t want to be French?

Hell, in the UK we wish we could be like them. If we were we might still have some global companies in our ownership, instead of selling out to the first bidder. But as Peter Schiff ( who I’ve mentioned before) said, the party is over, we have to stop paying ourselves these lavish benefits, allow the free market to function and stop being lazy. In the UK, the government is going on a massive austerity program in order to balance the books, Italy pushed through a huge €24b cost cutting plan and even Spain just managed to push through a €15b budget reduction plan by a majority of just one vote. France hasn’t made a cost cutting plan of their own. It’s almost as if the current economic turmoil doesn’t apply to them. French benefits have survived recessions before and they’ll survive this one, right? Well, don’t be so sure. It seems that the French may be coming around to the rest of the world’s thinking, and the message to change their ways is coming from an unlikely source. General Motors.

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Fiat Vs Unions. Round 3

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Sergio Marchionne was successful in getting the majority of the unions at his Naples plant to sign a new work agreement. This was supposed to herald in a new era in Italian work practices and pacem in terris. Well, it seems that Fiat wants to press the issue home to the unions. Reuters reports that Fiat is so determined to teach Italian unions at their Pomigliano plant that their working practices are not sustainable, that they are now going to some extreme lengths. Fiat is now going to set up a new company to manage the plant near Naples. Doesn’t sound extreme, right? Well, there’s more.

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Marchionne Starts Anti-Slacker Crusade

Fiat is determined to drag their Italian operations into the 21st century, says The New York Times. Lacksadaisical attitudes produced some novel ways of shirking work. Some examples include calling sick at Fiat (remember, you get paid in full even if you call sick) and using that time to work another job or faking a doctor’s note. The latter is particularly used when a local football team is playing. Well, no more, according to Marchionne. He wants to impose foreign style work standards to encourage more pride in Italian workers’ jobs and improve the competitiveness of Italian factories. Some have an opposite view.

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Chinese Strikes: Honda Gets No Respect

Honda is the Chinese version of Rodney Dangerfield. No respect. After a series of strikes, first at Honda’s parts suppliers, then at Honda itself, things looked liked they are calming down. Until yesterday.

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Quote Of The Day: Jobs, Justice And Peace Edition

We have made a decision at the UAW that to do the best job taking care of our membership we’ve got to be out there in the streets fighting for social and economic justice

Newly-minted UAW President Bob King kicks off a “Jobs, Justice and Peace” campaign with Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, by feeding the Freep some seriously idealistic rhetoric at a news conference announcing a march commemorating Martin Luther King’s Freedom Walk. But, as King confirms to Automotive News [sub], the best way to live up to these high-minded ideals is to demonize Toyota.

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The Poker Game In Naples Is Over

Many of you don’t know this, but during my days at university, I supplemented my meager grant money (in the days when European governments gave grant money to students) by gambling said grant. The extra money came in useful for text books, science equipment, drinking lager till my head span, etc. The fruit machines and betting on horses was fun enough, but where I really excelled was poker. Texas Hold ’em, to be more accurate. I learnt many of life’s lessons that way, but the one which stuck in my mind the most was this little nugget: “When you play a bluff, be prepared to have that bluff called.” Words which certain Italian unions should have heeded.

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Chinese Strikes: Honda Hit Directly. Bots To The Front

So far, the strikes in China were just small – but effective – sideshows. Strike at a small, but strategically important supplier, and whole car factories shut down. That, however, only led to wage increases at the small, but strategically important supplier. Until last Wednesday.

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As Gas Prices Go Up, India Goes On General Strike

Know what to do next time you see a higher price at the pump? Don’t buy gas on May 15? How lame. Learn from the folks in India. According to the BBC, India’s opposition parties have called a general strike against fuel price rises, and “normal life has been disrupted in many parts of India.”

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Export Boom In Germany Raises Red Flags

Every day, German auto managers go on their knees and pray that the financial troubles in Greece, Spain and elsewhere continue. Why? The troubles keep the Euro low, and a low Euro is high octane fuel for German car exports. In May, German car exports rose 46 percent. For the first five months, German car exports are up 50 percent. Despite a lackluster home market, the German car industry is hitting on all cylinders: For the first five months, German production is up 26 percent to 2.3m units, driven mostly be strong demand from China and the U.S. However, red flags are going up. Literally.

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Chinese Strikes: It Ain't Over Until It's Over – Toyota And Honda Down Again

You thought the strikes that affected Honda and Toyota in China are over, and both are happily churning out cars again? That makes two of us. But we are mistaken.

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Chinese Strikes: Toyota Back To Work On Monday

Toyota was (after Honda) the second Japanese car company that came down with the current Chinese strike bug. Toyota is gladly taking a back seat on this. They solved their problems much quicker than Honda. Toyota said today that their largest plant in China will definitely be open for business on Monday.

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Chinese Strikes: Toyota Shuts Down Largest Plant In China – Will Reopen Monday

A strike at two Toyota-affiliated parts makers brought Toyota’s largest assembly plant in China to a halt. No parts, no cars. Toyota’s factory in the port city of Tianjin near Beijing stopped production on Friday. A day later, it is unclear if production would resume on Monday, Reuters says.

The strike at a small plastic maker stops production at Toyota’s most important plant in China.

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Chinese Strikes: It's Toyota's Turn

The Honda strikes have been settled – more or less. Now it’s Toyota’s turn. Workers at an auto parts factory in Tianjin, China, run by a Chinese subsidiary of Toyoda Gosei, 42 percent owned by Toyota, went on strike Thursday and had not returned to their jobs today, a Toyoda Gosei spokesman confirmed to the New York Times. The factory makes plastic parts for a FAW-Toyota joint venture assembly plant in Tianjin. It’s not the only strike that affects Toyota.

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UAW: It's Good To Be The King - Maybe Not For Toyota

Ron Gettelfinger retired and Bob King took his place as President of the UAW. Mr King has some pretty big shoes to fill, but the name is a good start. After all, Mr Gettelfinger helped persuade President Obama to bail our GM and Chrysler (can’t say I blame him, quid pro quo, and all that). So what can Mr King do to really show the rank and file that he means business? Better working conditions? Input into designing cars? More job security? Nope. His next step is to make sure that Detroit and the transplants are evenly matched, so to speak.

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Quote Of The Day: The View From The Bunker Edition

Most employers have vigorously opposed unions with every means at their disposal. These pro-employer, anti-union forces continually attack unions and workers that want to form a union…

…Let’s be clear, the contempt for the UAW was so deep that some of them were willing to let the industry collapse in the hopes that they could destroy us. Even the former president recognized the insanity of what they were willing to do.

Ron Gettelfinger fires up the troops in his final address as UAW President, as quoted in the Detroit Free Press. It might have been a moment for reflection and self-examination, but Gettelfinger served up some old-school, union-hall fire-and-brimstone instead. Only Ron didn’t look in the mirror before giving out his enemies’ description. Gettelfinger’s paranoid take on the auto bailout is actually eerily similar to that of the far right wing, in that they both place the UAW at the center of the bailout.

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General Motors, At The Dawn Of The UAW
With UAW members and leadership meeting to debate the union’s future, it’s the perfect time to look back at the conditions from which the UAW eme…
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What's Wrong With This Picture: UAW On Strike Edition
UAW members picketed the UAW’s 35th annual convention, in Detroit. The union is highlighting the theme of unity, as dissatisfaction with concessions ma…
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Quote Of The Day: Bye-Bye Miss American Pie Edition

I understand the economic argument for the off-shoring of production, but I think the practice is reprehensible. U.S. automakers have benefitted greatly from federal largesse and should feel morally compelled to retain and create as many domestic jobs as possible.

As one of the strongest proponents of the Detroit Bailout, Rep John Dingell (D-MI) carries some weight when he makes statements like this. But how can Detroit rise again by ignoring the undeniably strong “economic argument” for outsourcing? In a Bloomberg BusinessWeek feature, Thomas Black shows why production numbers are on the rise in Mexico, and makes the case that the Detroit automakers will only increase their reliance on Mexican production when they are free from government ownership.

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Ford Workers Annoyed With Toyota

I’ve declared many times on TTAC that I’m a bit of what you folks across the pond would call a liberal. I believe people should have a baseline in terms of living standards, but people should still work for the better things in life. The state should be there to help people, not sustain them. My point is that when an entity gets too much power (or THINKS it has) then the balance of power is shifted and seldom ever for the better. Everything is good is moderation. I feel the same way about Unions. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not anti-union. Unions have done a lot of good for the common working person. They fought for better working environments, better pay, better job security, etc. It is impossible to deny the good they’ve done. But like Harvey Dent said in “The Dark Knight”, “You can either die a hero or live long enough to become a villain”. And unfortunately, this article doesn’t exactly show unions in a good light.

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Chinese Strikes: Uh-oh, Not Again! Honda Hit By Muffler Strike

Did we say that the strike at a crucial Chinese parts plant is being closely watched? Last week, a 20 percent pay rise was given at a Honda-owned transmission plant, and slowly, everything went back to normal. Until today. Honda is in trouble again.

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Chinese Strikes: Honda Production Partially Resumes After 20% Raise

Production at the Honda parts factory in Foshan, China, partially resumed this Chinese afternoon after Honda offered to increase the wages of striking workers by 366 yuan ($54) a month, company officials told The Nikkei [sub]. This reflects a pay hike of 20 percent.

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Chinese Strikes: Honda Enters The Kiddie Phase

The strike at Honda’s transmission factory in China that has led to the closure of all Honda sites in China shows no sign of resolution. Actually, there is a new twist: Management is leaning on school interns not to strike, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reports. Why the sudden focus on interns?

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Striking Workers Shut Down Chinese Honda Factories: Where Is Slave Labor When We Need It?

From Reuters to The Nikkei [sub], the world is abuzz with the shocking news that Honda had to shut down assembly lines at all of their four Chinese auto assembly plants after workers at a Honda transmission factory in Foshan in southern China walked off the job. While the job action barely registers in the Chinese press, my phone in Beijing rings off the hook. Common question from abroad: “Are they allowed to do that?” There goes another myth.

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Rural Electrification 2.0: Homecoming Party At Ford

Ford is in-sourcing important parts of their hybrid-electric vehicles, and they are putting $135m behind the effort to bring the parts home and in-house. Currently, core parts are made abroad. Moving the making home to Michigan will create a whopping 170 jobs in Rawsonville and Van Dyke. But it’s a start. “I am proud of the tremendous success of the UAW and Ford in working together to keep good manufacturing jobs in the U.S.,” said Bob King, UAW vice president, National Ford Department.

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UAW Wants Their Piece Of Tesla

No, the UAW doesn’t want to invest into Tesla like Daimler, or, a few days ago, Toyota did. The UAW wants Tesla to go union, says Reuters. “Our union’s hope is that this venture will give first hiring preference to former NUMMI employees who are already trained and highly skilled,” UAW boss Gettelfinger said. Well, one can always hope.

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It's A Miracle: Opel And Unions Cut A Deal

Opel has received a new lease on life. Nobody knows how long the lease will last, but Opel is an important step ahead and gained an even more important ally in its beggathon for state aid. Opel cut a deal with its unions, led by labor leader Klaus Franz.

“For much of the past year, Klaus Franz has been a thorn in General Motors Co.’s side,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. Franz “has blamed the European car unit’s troubles on its American parent, saying GM was ‘filled with yes-men’ and that it had a ‘centralized planning system worse than in East Germany.’ Now, GM needs to make nice with Mr. Franz.” With their backs to the wall, GM finally paid the price and made nice.

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Fauxhall: Workers Trade Pay Freeze For Job Security

The Euro and the UK Pound go into a tailspin. Greece requires a bailout. Spain & Portugal could be next on the default list. The economy is in tatters. The car market is shrinking. The government announces spending cuts, on top of people’s reluctance to spend. On this dire backdrop, does it surprise you that workers at the Vauxhall plants (they’re actually Opel plants re-badged “Vauxhall”) have chosen to accept a pay freeze in return for job security? The Times of the UK reports that the 3200+ workers located in the UK are close to agreeing to a 2 year pay freeze. Union officials in the UK believe that the pay freeze is an acceptable hit to take in return for job security. They also believe that when it comes to the union vote, it will be passed through with little complaints. There is of course one slight flaw in the plan….

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GM To UAW: Take This Job And Keep It

When the music finally stopped at Old GM, the UAW’s VEBA fund was left holding a lot of IOUs. On those merits, the union’s benefit trust was given about 17.5 percent of the equity in the bailed-out and re-organized New GM. UAW leadership has always maintained that having its membership’s benefits staked on the company’s financial performance would not change its mission, and that VEBA’s representative on GM’s board, Steve Girsky, would operate free from union influence. And one hopes he would, considering he’s being paid well to advise CEO Ed Whitacre. But the tension between GM’s IPO sprint and the UAW’s non-VEBA interests never goes away, and the Wall Street Journal [sub] is reporting that the latest spat is over the old hobbyhorse of buyouts.

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Ford Rolling Over To Union On Tuition Assistance
With talk of a 2010 profit breaking out at Ford’s annual shareholder’s meeting, the UAW’s criticism of the Blue Oval’s decision to restore merit pay to white-collar workers is gaining some traction. UAW boss-in-waiting Bob King laid into Ford yesterday, arguing that the union’s sacrifices entitled it to a bigger piece of Ford’s success. As a result, Nasdaq reports that Ford is in talks to restore tuition assistance to its 41k hourly, UAW-represented workers. [UPDATE: Automotive News [sub] reports the deal is done]
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Ferrari Workers Walk Out Over Proposed Firings, Production Cuts

Ultimate Factories – Ferrari

Bloomberg reports that Ferrari workers walked off the job for four hours yesterday, in protest of planned job cuts and production idling. Ferrari has announced that it plans to eliminate 120 office jobs and 150 production jobs, or nearly ten percent of its workforce. The Italian sportscar firm has also said it will put 600 workers on a week-long furlough next week, as it idles production of engines for its sister brand Maserati at a Maranello plant. Last year, Ferrari built about 4,500 engines for Maserati, about half of the 2008 number, as sales of the brand fell.

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UAW Fires Back On Wage Parity

Yesterday, we greeted news that Detroit had reached wage parity with transplants by noting that it hardly makes the UAW look great in the eyes of its membership. Sure enough, UAW boss-in-waiting Bob King is firing back in today’s Detroit Free Press, arguing that a return to a 16m unit market would yield “astronomical” profits to GM and Chrysler. As a result, he said,

There was equality of sacrifice, there’s got to be equality of gain. It’s our responsibility to make sure that in that turnaround, our members are treated fairly

According to King, UAW members have given up between $7,000 and $30,000 per year in concessions, but wouldn’t speculate on the prospect of next year’s contract negotiations. Whether those talks will yield further concessions or a reversal in fortunes for the union depends on the economy and the membership, said King. On one point, he was less equivocal: when it comes to the one domestic automaker that the UAW doesn’t own a stake in, King and the UAW are maintaining a hard line.
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Center For Automotive Research: Detroit Beating The Wage Gap

Speaking at the same Detroit conference on the auto bailout that Steve Rattner and Ron Bloom attended, the Center for Automotive Research’s Sean McAlinden proclaimed the end of Detroit’s era of unsustainable high wages. In 2007, said McAlinden, building a car in North America cost GM about $1,400 more per car than it did Toyota, thanks largely to a $950 health care charge. Since then, GM’s bailout and renegotiated wage and benefit contracts with the union have actually brought GM’s hourly compensation to just under what the CAR says the transplants pay. The AP reports that McAlinden’s estimate of GM’s average hourly worker salary is $69,368 while the transplant average is $70,185. Better still is McAlinden’s prediction that

between 2013 and 2015, Toyota could even be paying $10 more per hour than GM unless the Japanese company reacts and lowers wages.

And all it took was giving the UAW a $17.5 stake in the new GM!

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Quote Of The Day: The New Triumphalism Edition

We’re right on the verge of having 12 million in vehicle sales

UAW boss Ron Gettelfinger waxes optimistic in a recent speech at Wayne State University [via The Freep]. “Not so fast,” says Automotive News [sub]’s delightfully cranky senior editor, John K. Teahen Jr., in a piece appropriately titled 12 million sales this year? Don’t hold your breath.

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Truck Drivers Join Carlsberg Brewery Strike

As many as 800 workers at Denmark’s Carlsberg brewery walked off the job yesterday, after management restricted beer drinking to lunch hours and the company cafeteria. Previously, workers had access to beer around their work sites, and could drink at their own discretion. By now you’re probably either Googling “Carlsberg job openings” or wondering what the car angle to this story is. Actually, it’s more of a truck angle. Take it away, Associated Press [via Google]:

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GM Sued By UAW For $450m Delphi VEBA Shortfall

As if to confirm that GM’s benefit obligation situation could actually be worse than today’s GAO report lets on, Automotive News [sub] is reporting that the UAW has sued GM over $450m in unfunded healthcare obligations for Delphi retirees. GM promised to fund a $450m Voluntary Employee Benefit Association for Delphi retirees in 2007, and Delphi’s bankruptcy court confirmed the commitment in last October. But, according to the UAW suit:

the UAW made a written demand that the company honor its contractual obligation to make the foregoing payment [last October… but] that UAW demand was rejected and since that time the company has failed and refused to make the contractually required payment.

That obligation apparently was not voided by GM’s bankruptcy, although The General’s spokesfolks have yet to officially comment on the UAW’s suit.

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GAO: Pension Plans Will Kill Detroit. Again.

It would be impossible to blame Detroit’s decades-long decline on a single factor, but if one were to make a list, defined pension obligations to workers would be somewhere very near the top. Thanks in large part to the unionization of America’s auto industry, Detroit has groaned under the weight of crushing pension obligations since time immemorial. And, according to a new report by the Goveernment Accountability Office [ full report in PDF format available here], last year’s bailout of GM and Chrysler has not eliminated the existential threat that these obligations pose to the industry. In fact, the taxpayer’s “investment” in GM and Chrysler appears only to have exposed the public to even an greater risk of catastrophic pension plan failure.

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What's Wrong With This Picture: End Of The Line Edition
The literal answer is that it’s not the very last vehicle built at NUMMI. A red Corolla had that honor, but this is the very last Tacoma to be built by…
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Opel: We're Hiring!

Unheard-of news are emanating from Rüsselsheim. So unheard-of that Automobilwoche found it necessary to send out an Extra! Extra! Lesen Sie all about it e-mail to its subscribers: GM’s Opel, the very same company that wants to shed 8,000 of its 48,000 jobs in Europe, is short of people. They are hiring! One reason: Jobs are being exported from the U.S.A. to Europe.

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This American Life Takes On NUMMI (With A Little Help From TTAC)
Not only does Public Radio’s This American Life take on one of the most fascinating stories in the auto industry this week, they also give a big shout-…
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UAW Membership Falls 18 Percent, To Lowest Level Since WWII

According to the Detroit News, the United Auto Workers lost nearly 76,000 members in 2009, dropping membership to 355,191, the lowest level since the end of the second world war. UAW membership has fallen nearly in half since 2001, when the union boasted 701,818 members, and has been in steady decline since peaking at 1.53m in 1979. Ironically, the drop in membership comes as the UAW is seeking to expand outside of the contracting auto industry, but gains from organizing teaching assistants, auto dealership employees, health care workers and casino dealers have not been able to stem the tide of losses from the auto industry. And though the union scored something of a coup by securing representation at the new Fisker plant in Delaware, another 4,600 members will be lost when NUMMI closes on April 1. These losses, combined with the loss of 50 local offices, and the union’s inability to organize workers at transplant auto plants all seem to indicate continued decline for the union, which is widely seen as a key contributor to the decades-long collapse of of America’s automakers. But don’t write off the UAW just yet.

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With GM And Chrysler IPOs AWOL, VEBA Auctions Ford Stock Warrants

The UAW’s VEBA health care trust fund currently owns 17.5 percent of GM and 55 percent of Chrysler, but with IPO plans still nebulous at both, the fund is short on options for improving cash flow. Remember, the union doesn’t want to own these companies… it would have preferred cash, thanks. But since bailout negotiations allowed the automakers to fund their VEBA obligations with stock and warrants, VEBA has little choice but to monetize them. And while GM and Chrysler limp towards an eventual IPO, VEBA’s 362.4m Ford stock warrants are actually doing pretty well relative to their $9.20 exercise price. So it’s no huge surprise to hear [via Automotive News [sub]] that VEBA is planning on dumping its entire allotment of Ford warrants, in a move that could be worth “at least” $1.27b. And it’s no coincidence that this news comes on the same day that Ford is announcing a $3b debt prepayment, and the day after its sold Volvo to Geely for $1.8b.

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Killing Me Softly: The Slow Death Of Opel

Opels head shop steward Klaus Franz is mightily mad at Opel’s CEO Nick Reilly. Reilly told the London Times that the Ampera, Opel’s counterpart to the Volt, may be built in the Ellesmere Port plant in the UK:“The chances are quite good that the Ampera will come to Ellesmere Port as it is close in production terms to the Astra and will share many components,” Reilly said. In the meantime, Berlin cues Roberta Flack’s “Killing me softly” as a prelude for Opel’s funeral.

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Fiat: Premature Eviction? [UPDATE: Production Moving To North America?]

Media from Associated Press to The Business Standard of India are abuzz with reports that Fiat (the company) is planning to cut 5000 jobs and will be spinning off its car division this summer. The stock market seems to like the idea: Fiat’s shares rose 4.15 percent.

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NUMMI Workers OK Severance Deal

Workers at the former Toyota-GM joint venture NUMMI have approved a severance offer from Toyota. Union officials won’t reveal the exact amount involved, and while the Detroit Free Press reports that workers will make a “minimum” of $21,175, the San Jose Mercury says the deal “gives an average severance package of $54,000.” Could it be that some union brothers are more equal than others? What the Freep leaves out is that $21,175 minimum applies to 300 of NUMMI’s 4,700 workers who are already on disability leave. Workers with over 25 years of experience will receive $68,500.

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The UAW: As Green As We Need To Be

The Detroit News reports that the United Auto Workers are gearing up for battle for a surprising new cause: greenhouse gas emissions standards. Alan Reuther, Legislative Director of the newly-green union, wrote congress recently to warn against a bill authored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski which would prevent the EPA from declaring C02 a danger to public health, saying:

The UAW also is deeply concerned that overturning EPA’s endangerment finding would unravel the historic agreement on one national standard for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions for light-duty vehicles that was negotiated by the Obama administration last year

Not, however, because of the threat of global climate change. Who needs to worry about that when you’re health care fund is tied up in two teetering nightmares that need IPO-ing quick-fast?
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Daewoo-wo-wo-wo: White Flags Over Korea?

All kinds of strange news are coming from GM’s Korean foster child Daewoo. Two days ago, Daewoo CEO Mike Arcamone announced: “In 2010, GM Daewoo will be profitable. That is my target.” That didn’t get much traction. Reporters wanted to know how bad last year’s numbers were. Arcamone remained tight-lipped. He admitted red ink for 2009, how much remains anybody’s guess. In 2008, it was $773m worth of red. Last October Daewoo-is-me had to be bailed out by the bailed-out GM to the tune of $413m. Arcamone has some soothing news: “We currently do not seek any other financial support from our creditors.” The operative word is “currently.” There is one way to stop the hemorrhage for good: Pack it in.

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Toyota Union Raised Safety Concerns In 2006
The House Oversight Committee has obtained a 2006 memo from the “All Toyota Labor Union” (ATU) which alleges quality declines due to “a fal…
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Toyota Pledges $250m For NUMMI Closure
A Toyota press release reads:Toyota Motor North America, Inc. (TMA) today announced that Toyota has committed $250 million to its contracted manufacturer N…
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Piece-Loving Unions Harrass Hyundai

If you were a company at time of recession, belt-tightening and countries on the verge of bankruptcy, you’d think that registering record profits and growing global market share at times like these would keep everyone at your company happy, right? Wrong. Members of Hyundai Motor’s union are angry. Livid. Up in arms. And as students of Asian cultures will confirm, Koreans can get, shall we say, a bit hot and bothered about causes close to their hearts.

Koreatimes reports that despite pleas from management for peaceful resolutions, their union has demanded that Hyundai stop expanding overseas and guarantee job security at home – or else.

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The Strife Of Reilly: Berlin Abandons Opel
Every evening and every morning, and times in-between, Nick Reilly wonders why he exchanged his cushy job as Shanghai-based chief of GM’s international operations with the purgatory of heading Opel in Rüsselsheim. This Tuesday morning, he woke up to more news from hell:An unholy alliance of the center-right German government and the supposedly left-leaning unions told him that his turn-around plan for Opel is rotten, and if GM doesn’t cough up €1.65b, there won’t be a cent in government money.
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Travel Advisory: Avoid Europe

You don’t want to be traveling in or to Europe these days. In Germany, Lufthansa’s pilots went on strike this morning, grounding 3200 planes. “The largest strike in the history of German aviation” ( Die Welt) paralyzed German air traffic, and caused jams on the ground as travelers switched from planes to trains and automobiles.

Meanwhile next door in France, a nation is running out of gas. Workers at the six refineries owned by the country’s biggest oil group, Total, have been striking for more than a month. The work stoppage threatens to spread “to the two French oil refineries owned by US group Exxon Mobil, where strikes are planned for Tuesday,” reports the BBC.

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Reaction To Reilly's Restructuring Plan For Opel: It Sucks

Here are the first reactions to Nick Reilly’s turn-around and begging plan for Opel. In one word: “Booooh!”

Roland Koch, Premier of Hesse, where Opel has its headquarters, where most of Opel’s jobs and countless suppliers are, should be most interested in the survival. What was his reaction? “According to our first assessment, it will be necessary that GM as the owner will increase its contribution considerably,” he said to Das Autohaus. Translation: “Put money on the table. Then we talk.”

Little know factoid: In 2008, Opel was the 7th largest employer in Hesse, followed by Volkswagen, only 2,800 jobs behind Opel, most in a parts factory and distribution center in structurally weak Kassel. When Opel has finished its reduction in force plan, VW will provide more jobs to the state than Opel. Koch knows which side his bread is buttered.

The unions, which should be most interested in preserving jobs, immediately shot down the plan.

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GM and Delphi Ditching UAW For New "Green" Production Jobs

As GM tools up for production of its Volt extended-range electric car, Automotive News [sub] has noticed something interesting: workers at GM’s new battery pack assembly plant are not represented by the United Auto Workers. Located in the heart of UAW territory (Brownstown Township, MI), the Volt battery plant represents the very jobs that local politicians and GM leadership hailed as the green future of the auto industry. When the plant opened, GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre waxed eloquent about the opportunities:

The development of electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt is creating entire new sectors in the auto industry – an “ecosystem” of battery developers and recyclers, builders of home and commercial charging stations, electric motor suppliers and much more. These companies and universities are creating new jobs in Michigan and across the U.S. – green jobs – and they’re doing it by developing new technology, establishing new manufacturing capability, and strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness.

As long as they do so without UAW representation, apparently. Needless to say, if GM can get away with using non-union workers at a crucial plant that’s supposed to represent the firm’s future, things aren’t looking so good for our friends in organized labor.

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Opel Will Go Begging Again

This week, Opel will embark on a pan-European begging tour. Applications for government aid will be sent to Germany’s central government, Germany’s states with Opel plants, and to the European countries where Opel has a presence. A business plan, and an expert opinion from the little known CPA firm Warth & Klein will complete the package, writes Das Autohaus. Target of the funds drive are €2.7b. Opel management still counts on wage concessions of €265m per year over five years (a total of €1.3b). Unions and the Opel Works Council already have said “nein” to the concessions. Governments want to see the paperwork first,

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Opel Going Nowhere Fast
Opel is running out of time and out of money. In the second quarter of 2010, the company will be out of cash again, figures the German Handelsblatt. As indicated yesterday, discussions with the unions are going nowhere. Says the Handelsblatt:”Management is preparing for a breakdown of the talks.” Reilly and his crew are trying to find ways how to get Opel going without wage concessions by the unions. But how?
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Opel Labour Boss: "Management's plans seem to change on a daily basis"

Opel’s turnaround negotiations with German unions have gone pear-shaped again, as top labour rep Klaus Franz left talks denouncing GM’s decision to cut 9972 jobs instead of the promised 8300, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Fundamental questions have not been answered,” fretted Franz. “Management’s plans seem to change on a daily basis.” Rudi Kennes, a labour representative from Antwerp, concurred, saying the atmosphere between management and the unions “has never been as bad as now.” He added ominously that “(Mr Reilly) needs to answer our questions.”

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What's Wrong With This Union?
Ford’s announcement that it would restore merit pay increases and 401k matching to salaried employees has drawn protests from the UAW even though it ha…
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Ford Buyout Offer Draws Little Interest
Ford may be trying to do their bit about overcapacity issues, but they’re having little success with it. The Freep reports that a buyout program by For…
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GM To Pay UAW VEBA Director $900k For Advice

A lot of what you hear about Steve Girsky sounds decidedly positive: an outspoken critic of GM, Girsky lasted less than a year as Rick Wagoner’s “ roving aide-de-camp,” reportedly due to frustration with management heel-dragging. He even earned TTAC’s “lesser-of-two-evils” endorsement to be Presidential Car Czar over Steve “Chooch” Rattner. When he was appointed to be the UAW rep on GM’s board, representing the union’s VEBA trust which owns 17.5 percent of GM’s stock, he was lauded as someone who could keep his union allegiances at bay. But as special advisor to GM CEO/Chairman Ed Whitacre, Girsky had better be prioritizing GM’s best interests. Reuters reports that he’s being paid a cool $900k in stock grants for his advice. That’s in addition to $200k director’s salary and reimbursement for “living expenses and travel to and from Detroit.” Not bad considering the fuss people are making over compensation at TARP-recipient financial institutions.

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UAW Puts Black Lake Retreat Up For Sale
The Detroit News reports that the UAW has put its infamous Black Lake retreat on the market, as the “symbol of the union’s success” has be…
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  • Beachy Asphalt only works to keep the dirt road below it dry, and it is the dry dirt that holds up the asphalt surface to make a smooth road surface. Once the asphalt cracks or a spring wells up and the dirt gets wet, all bets are off. It is usually due to a spring that perennial potholes form. They are very hard to get rid of.
  • JamesG I’m the owner of the featured car that’s currently on EBay. Thanks for such a nice write up on these cars. Mine happens to be in excellent condition and the photos don’t do it justice. The HT4100 isn’t as bad as some made them out to be and they can go 200k miles with proper maintenance. I also own a 79 w/the analog fuel injected 5.7 350 which should have been used through 1985 but ever-increasing CAFE regulations called for more economical power plants which made GM shelve this great motor.
  • Jeff S Adam on Rare Classic Cars recently bought a pristine 71 Kenosha Cadillac.
  • Jeff S Wouldn't most of the large suvs in NYC be livery vehicles? If so that would be hurting those who make their living by driving for hire.
  • EBFlex Yes their mass transit is great if you want to be beat within an inch of your life or pushed onto the tracks by some random psycho.