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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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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Marchionne Wants The Unions To Show Some Respect

Sergio Marchionne’s turnaround of Fiat was a weird one. He turned around a company, which most people thought had died already. Sergio’s turnaround was helped by GM’s unwitting “ re-capitalization” of Fiat, too. Recently, worker relations in Italy have been strained, to say the least. If you thought the situation with the UAW in the United States was bad enough, in Italy, things are spicier than Mamma’s Arrabbiata sauce. The Financial Times UK reports that Sergio Marchionne has finally lost patience with unionized Italian workers and has threatened them to change their mindsets or else be out of a job. The end of September is their deadline. Mr Marchionne wants Italy to help drag Fiat (and Chrysler) into one of the top five car companies in the world. But to do that, he needs concessions from his Italian workers. Big ones.

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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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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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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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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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Hyundai's Russian Expansion


Yesterday, we wrote why Hyundai’s unions are unhappy about Hyundai global expansion plans which. For some reasons, the unions think production abroad will harm South Korean jobs.

The unions have reasons for heightened annoyance. Insideline reports that Avtotor may buy the closed down Izhavto plant (Izhavto filed for bankruptcy in August 2009) in Izhevsk, Udmurt Republic, to build Hyundai and Kia vehicles. Avtotor is one of Russia’s largest assemblers of cars that come as kits. And why would that be of concern to Korea’s metal workers?

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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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Opel Has A Plan. Looks Pretty Rotten

Opel’s Nick Reilly today revealed details of Opel’s long-awaited business plan. Here are the highlights (and low points) as reported by Automobilwoche [sub].

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  • Carlson Fan The way the truck drops in the rear and the bed/tailgate become a ramp is genius! I'd buy it just for that alone!!! It would be awesome for loading snowmobiles and garden tractors in the back. However, my trucks need to be able to regularly tow heavy loads long distance, summer & winter. Sorry folks, current battery tech. isn't even close to what it needs to be for me to think even one second that a battery truck could replace my current ICE powered truck. An EV for a DD makes sense , but for truck you need a MUCH better battery.
  • Inside Looking Out For midsize sedan it is too small. It basically is a compact car.
  • Stodge I test drove the 200S and damn, its suspension was so firm, I was convinced it didn't actually include suspension at all. It hurt my spine and hip, it was that firm.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird If Mopar had only offered sport hatch versions of the 200 and or Dart they might have sold more of them for folks who wanted some more versatility without having to go for a small utility Compass Patriot or new at the time Renegade or Cherokee.
  • El scotto I started driving in the late 70's. The cars high school kids could afford and wanted were very very worn out muscle cars. Oh Lordy those V-8's bring back some happy memories. Oh there some outliers in my crowd, a VW Bug and a Dodge Scamp with slant six; neither car would die. In 10 years their will be young people wanting very used Teslas or Dodge's with hemis. B&B, I say that if someone is excited about their EV, Hybrid, or Hemi welcome them to the club of people who like cars.