Canada’s Unifor is slated to negotiate terms with Stellantis, General Motors, and the Ford Motor Company starting next month. But it appears to be taking a softer approach than what we’ve been seeing from its counterpart in the United States.
The UAW has been promising to play hardball with automakers in an effort to regain lost ground stemming back to the early 2000s. It’s going into contract negotiations with an adversarial tone and has said it would withhold support of any politician that refused to support its demands. But Unifor seems to be taking up a more cordial tone.
Following news that Volkswagen was far more enthusiastic about establishing battery plants in North America than in Europe, we have confirmation on the location of the automaker’s next cell manufacturing facility. It will be located in St. Thomas, Ontario. Despite scattered assumptions that VW’s recent praise of the Biden administration’s EV incentive scheme would signal another factory based in the United States, setting up shop in Ontario should still satisfy regional supply chain needs to manufacture electric cars under the provisions outlined in the USMCA.
On Monday, General Motors’ added a second shift for Heavy Duty variants of the Chevrolet Silverado at Oshawa Assembly to ensure the automaker can meet demand. There are also plans to launch a third shift to spur production of light-duty pickups after GM spent the last two years struggling to deliver vehicles in a timely manner.
GM Canada recently representatives from the Canadian federal government, eager to show that its $2 billion investment into Ontario manufacturing (specifically at Oshawa and CAMI Assembly) had already borne fruit. While this is said to eventually include the production of BrightDrop’s all-electric and perpetually connected Zevo vans, GM is presently focused on swelling production on some of its most valuable products.
In the latest development of the Jerry Dias saga – the man who, until recently, led most of the unionized auto workers in Canada – has taken yet another turn. According to reports, Dias is being accused by the union of taking money from a COVID-19 testing company, allegedly in exchange for promoting that outfit as a place to purchase test kits.
For those playing at home, the Dias saga has played out in this form: An announcement of taking time off for medical reasons, followed by an abrupt retirement, and now this development.
Jerry Dias, the man who’s been at the helm of Unifor in Canada since its inception, has chosen to retire because of health reasons. On medical leave since last month, Dias announced his decision in a statement yesterday.
Unifor, in case you’re wondering why we’re covering this on a car site, represents about 40,000 workers in the Canadian auto industry and was formed out of a merger between the Canadian Auto Workers union and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada in 2013.
On Wednesday, American truckers commenced a cross-country drive from California to Washington, D.C., to petition governments (local, state, and especially federal) to end all COVID-19 mandates. Known as The People’s Convoy, the group was inspired by the Canadian Freedom Convoy that was broken up over the weekend and effectively serves to spread its message within the United States.
The goal is to arrive in the capital early in March to pressure the Biden Administration into ending any formal federal emergencies pertaining to the pandemic. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved a request from the District of Columbia government and the U.S. Capitol police for 700 National Guard troops, widespread fencing, and 50 armored vehicles in anticipation.
With the Ambassador Bridge having been cleared by police over the weekend, those protesting government mandates have literally been relegated to the sidelines. Canadian officers from a variety of departments, including Ontario Provincial Police, are now situated at relevant intersections and Windsor, Ontario, has declared a state of emergency in case demonstrators return.
But don’t think the story is over. The trucker blockade certainly caused trouble for the automotive sector and it suddenly seems interested in rolling the event into the industry’s ever-expanding list of excuses. Now that the rigs have all been removed, spokespeople have been chiming in and they’re being presented as rather single-minded on the matter. They want more assistance from the government to quash any protests that might impact their bottom line and are happy to have something else to blame for why the broader industry remains in such a pitiful state.
The Freedom Convoy that originated in Canada last month has gained an incredible amount of momentum, garnering loads of support from citizens around the world. Sympathetic protests seem to be erupting everywhere while the original group of truckers remains planted on the streets of Ottawa to demand an end to government mandates. But honking at Parliament Hill for two weeks was only a portion of the convoy’s grand strategy.
Large groups of truckers have broken off to create blockades at meaningful border crossings, gaining control of North America’s already ailing supply lines. The most recent example resulted in the taking of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, an essential trade crossing for both the United States and Canada. Truckers have held the bridge for five days and automakers have begun announcing shutdowns due to supply issues. Meanwhile, the Canadian government has begun discussing an end to lockdown measures after failing to stop the protests and other nations appear poised to follow in its footsteps.
With supply lines being of particular importance these days, truckers are leveraging their role to encourage government to see things their way. Canada’s Freedom Convoy reached Ottawa on Friday to demand officials end pandemic-related restrictions it believes are wreaking havoc on the economy and the protests have yet to stop.
While this all started with U.S. and Canadian truckers urging the government to abandon border restrictions that forced all drivers to be vaccinated and confirmed as COVID free (starting January 15th) or be forced to quarantine for 14 days, activists are now asking Ottawa to abandon all mandates or prepare itself for worsening disruptions to already ailing supply chains. They’ve since been joined by Australian truckers, who have formed the ‘Convoy to Canberra’ for similar reasons. Future demonstrations are also being prepared for the United States.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to block proposed OSHA regulations backed by the Biden administration, it was assumed that automakers would quickly begin weighing in on vaccine rules now that there would be no federal obligation. However, they’ve actually been keeping quiet on the matter, with Stellantis being the first manufacturer to walk back previous requirements.
While the automaker had previously been working up to companywide vaccine mandates, it pushed back its vaccine deadline for early January. This week, Stellantis confirmed that it will be abandoning the scheme entirely after suggesting that the existing compliance rates were sufficient. Though something tells me that executives have become aware of the swelling pushback against COVID restrictions and became concerned with the optics.
While alchemy has famously spent the better part of recorded history trying to transmute lead into gold, the automotive industry has repeatedly managed to achieve the lesser-known act of sorcery where water is converted into fire. This usually occurs when humidity ends up corroding an essential electrical component, resulting in fire risk that becomes the deciding factor in a recall campaign.
This week’s corporate conjurer is Nissan, which has decided to call back 793,000 Rogue SUVs in the United States and Canada.
Mexican and Canadian officials have been dropping hints that they’re not all that enthusiastic about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) since before Enrique Peña Nieto, Donald Trump, and Justin Trudeau all sat down to sign it in 2018. But just getting to that point required months of formal negotiations that rarely looked to be all that productive.
Sadly, things don’t seem to have changed now that the USMCA is in full effect. Last week, Mexico requested a dispute settlement panel under the terms of the trade pact to help resolve disagreements about the surprisingly contentious automotive content stipulations that determine whether or not vehicles and parts will be slapped with tariffs. Under the previous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 62.5 percent of the vehicle’s components had to be sourced from member nations to be considered tax-exempt. In an effort to spur localized production, USMCA increased that number to 75 and not everyone is thrilled with the updated content requirements with Mexico claiming it’s not even sure how to apply them. Canada now intends to formally sign onto Mexico’s complaint against the U.S. over their divergent interpretation of rules.
The Rare Rides series has featured just two Hyundai offerings in past entries, the affordable Pony that Canadians loved, and a Mitsubishi Precis that was a rebadge of the Excel. Today’s larger Rare Ride was sold alongside those two in places outside the United States. Meet Stellar.
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