The United States has requested that Mexico investigate worker rights violations that were alleged to have taken place at one of the parts factories owned by Stellantis. Officials are curious about what’s been happening at Teksid Hierro de Mexico, a facility located in the border state of Coahuila that’s responsible for manufacturing iron casings, in regard to unionization. According to U.S. officials, this is the fourth such complaint under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Having supplanted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed into law by the Clinton administration in 1993, USMCA sought to rebalance trade laws the Trump administration believed had disadvantaged the United States. However, it also sought to advance worker protections in Mexico and give employees an easier pathway toward unionization.
When the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was being floated as a possible replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), one of the biggest selling points was the inclusion of new labor protections for Mexican workers. The Trump administration wanted to ensure serious labor reform took place south of the border to ensure union business was conducted responsibly and wages would increase. As a byproduct, USMCA is supposed to encourage North American synergies while gradually discouraging U.S. businesses from blindly sending jobs to Mexico to capitalize on poverty tier wages.
That theory will now be tested in earnest after General Motors employees from the Silao full-size truck plant voted overwhelmingly to dump the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) for the Independent Syndicate of National Workers (SINTTIA).
We finish up our Rare Rides Icons coverage of the AMC Matador today by spending some time abroad. The Matador maintained a few different passports as it donned new branding and nameplates for its various international adventures. And unlike many domestic cars of the period, AMC saw sales success when its midsize arrived in other markets.
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.
Last week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made a pledge to legalize millions of vehicles being illegally imported from the United States. While it sounds like a phenomenal way to help the nation to contend with product shortages that are driving up vehicle prices around the globe, all of the cars had been smuggled previously and many were presumed to have been stolen.
This has created a lot of tension. Despite there being evidence that these vehicles frequently end up becoming workhorses for criminal cartels, illegally imported beaters also provide a cheap alternative to poorer residents right when automotive prices (new and used) have started to disconnect from reality. Times are tough and destitute families aren’t going to care where a car comes from when it’s the only one they can afford. So López Obrador has officially launched a new regularization program designed to bring these automobiles into the fold.
When the United States abandoned the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to embrace the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), it did so under the premise of crafting a better trade arrangement for itself. Established in 1994, NAFTA created a trilateral trade bloc that encouraged commerce between nations. But critics have accused it of encouraging the offshoring of U.S. jobs and dramatically suppressing wages — particularly within the automotive and manufacturing sectors.
Signed in 2018, and revised the following year, the USMCA was supposed to remedy those issues. But it’s been difficult to get all parties on board, especially when it comes to those persnickety rules of origin that stipulate how much of a vehicle’s hardware needs to be sourced from member nations.
General Motors has decided its fifth electric vehicle facility should be in Mexico and has set aside $1 billion for its complex in Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila, Mexico. While a portion of the funds will go toward a new paint shop, the manufacturer also said the money would be used to prepare the site for EV and battery production, angering the United Auto Workers (UAW).
“This is a slap in the face for not only UAW members and their families,” stated UAW Vice President Terry Dittes. “General Motors automobiles made in Mexico are sold in the United States and should be made right here, employing American workers.”
General Motors is stopping production of the Chevrolet Corvette for the rest of the week after Mexican suppliers once again found themselves having to contend with the pandemic. While Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit has been given the go ahead to begin late stage trials for its coronavirus vaccine in Mexico, the nation has introduced new restrictions as the country reported a spike in infections last month.
On Wednesday, GM spokesman David Barnas informed The Detroit News that Bowling Green Assembly in Kentucky will be closed for Veterans Day but remain closed through the weekend due to supply chain issues. The manufacturer does not see this as turning into a prolonged idle period for the Corvette, but we’re wondering about other models — and not just those manufactured by General Motors. While Mexican suppliers are supposed to rebound swiftly, Europe has also instituted new lockdowns that could affect supply chains if they’re extended.
As both the United States and the country to its south grapple with the challenge of returning to normal amid a pandemic, Ford Motor Company faces another problem resulting from punting production over the Rio Grande.
Just as local laws aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus can stem the flow of essential engines, local protests can cut off the flow of everything.
Domestic automakers have largely rid their North American facilities of sedans, so why shouldn’t foreign manufacturers? That’s what Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler plans to do after announcing a second-quarter loss of $1.9 billion.
While the quarterly loss was less than analysts expected, financial and sales pressures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has led the automaker to cull car production on this side of the pond.
Don’t let that beer in your hand (and the public patio surrounding you)fool you into believing everything’s normal — the novel coronavirus is still causing headaches, including for automakers attempting to return to full-scale production.
For Volkswagen, it means the plants supplying U.S. dealers with strong-selling models will remain offline for a while longer, complicating the return to normalcy.
Mexico is attempting to accelerate parts production to ensure North American automakers have enough components on hand to stay operational. The response to the pandemic saw manufacturing stalled worldwide as governments assessed whether or not we’d soon be living through a plague of biblical proportions. While fate decreed a repeat of the Black Death would not be necessary, untold damage resulted in numerous business sectors.
The automotive industry hardly went unscathed. Lockdowns stopped sales in many markets for months and plunged supply chains into turmoil as OEMs shut down to ensure staff were helping to “flatten the curve.” With the public’s interest shifting rapidly away from coronavirus mandates toward demonstrations about police brutality and racial justice, or simply devolving into riots because people are pretty angry about how poorly 2020 is playing out, suppliers and automakers are gradually moving back to more normal production schedules.
This has been easier said than done. But it is being done, and that’s the important thing.
General Motors received good news on Thursday, earning approval from the Mexican government to fire up its extensive manufacturing presence in that country after weeks of coronavirus downtime.
The green light to resume production will help the automaker restock its all-important pickup shelves, though assembly won’t turn on a dime.
Mexico spent plenty of time discussing the phased reopening of automotive plants last week. The presumption was that the nation would have to establish guidelines for industrial work zones that would allow some to resume production after May 18th, with timing coinciding with U.S. facilities that will be in desperate need of parts and vehicles. However, last minute changes left everyone wildly confused.
On Thursday, the Mexican government said the industrial sector wouldn’t be eligible for reopening until June 1st. The following day, it explained that the date didn’t actually mean much for automotive outfits, adding that companies could reopen at any time if they verified an adherence to new safety protocols. Thanks to another announcement over the weekend, most of the residual confusion has subsidized. Mexican facilities can reopen, provided they have the correct paperwork on file.
Production at General Motors’ Mexican assembly plants could start up next week, following a go-ahead from the country’s leadership to resume factory activity. The faster GM’s able to come back online south of the Rio Grande, the better.
In an earnings briefing last week, GM, like its rival Fiat Chrysler, pointed to a declining inventory of lucrative pickups — a segment that proved extremely resilient over the past two months, even during the depths of the coronavirus lockdown. With U.S. plants resuming work on Monday, a concurrent Mexican restart is what the company needs.