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Ford is opening the floor to 2011′s contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers—which always ends in suspense.
Will the UAW walk away in anger? Will they threaten a strike? Will Ford shut down a couple more plants and idle production for months on end? Or will the ghost of Henry Ford send in the Pinkertons? It’s all up in the air, which makes for breathlessly thrilling news. Hey, automotive journalists have to keep themselves entertained somehow.
“We are reflecting upon our proud 70 year history of working together—a history of working with mutual trust and respect to effectively address difficult business challenges,” said John Fleming, vice president of Ford’s labor relations. ”We are committed to negotiating this year with the same transparency and honesty we always have upheld.”
Auto industry legend Bob Lutz may no longer be in the employ of the Big Three, but that hasn’t ever stopped “Maximum Bob” from giving his two cents on what the industry could do improve upon At the New York Auto Show, Lutz held court for a handful of journalists and expanded on what he felt were the key failures of the domestic manufacturers.
Lutz first fingered the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations for helping to give import manufacturers an advantage. While American car makers had perfected the large, rear-drive V8 formula, CAFE forced them to switch to smaller engines and front drive platforms – precisely the kind of vehicles that the Japanese automakers had perfected. Lutz also blamed the typical villains, such as the press, the UAW and foreign exchange rates, but didn’t hesitate to chastise managers of the Big Three automakers, with Lutz deriding the ”… Harvard Business School-type, profit-optimization thinking as opposed to customer excellence focus,” as a key culprit.
[Source: Automotive News]
The initial slow start to the Chevrolet Volt rollout sped up in March with sales of more than twice the number than were sold in January and February combined.
Sales of 608 Volts plus 321 in January and 281 in February now make 1,210 total. This is not a lot compared to 18,018 Cruzes sold in March alone, but GM is not calling defeat by any stretch of the imagination at this early juncture.
Its initial sales were through dealers in regions whose demographics supported hybrids and alternative technology. By the end of the year, GM plans for nationwide distribution.
Last month Chevrolet also reported big gains for its combined new model line. A 54-percent increase in the new car category led the bowtie brand’s sales.
“March sales demonstrated our newest models continue to win over customers,” said Don Johnson, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations. “Vehicles like the Chevrolet Cruze and Equinox put us in great position to benefit from consumer’s increasing desire for fuel-efficient vehicles.”
Overall, Chevrolet posted 148,197 sales in March, an 11-percent increase over the same month a year ago. This number includes an 18 percent gain in retail sales of cars, trucks and crossovers.
To date this year, Chevrolet has sold 416,505 vehicles, representing a 37-percent spike in retail sales, and 23 percent increase in total sales.
The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show, is expected to have a base price of $47,000 when it launches in February, 2012. While it undercuts its chief rival, the Ford Shelby GT500 by about $2,495, a base Corvette, which has a 0-60 time of under 4 seconds, but only 430 horsepower, retails for $48,950. The Corvette also avoids the gas guzzler tax, which will likely plague the Camaro ZL1 and bring the effective price up to $48,500.
Of course, this begs the question as to why one would buy a ZL1. Obviously, the potential customer is heavily invested in the idea of a Camaro, and the Magnetic Ride Control and 550-horsepower supercharged V8 are a big draw. But with the Corvette being significantly lighter than the Camaro, and designed from the ground up as a sports car, the two are effectively within spitting distance of one another, and we can’t wait for the inevitable performance shootout.
[Source: Car and Driver]
The United Auto Workers continued its campaign of irrelevancy as its President, Bob King, launched a series of veiled threats at foreign automakers with American plants (such as the Honda plant seen above), while simultaneously stating that the very survival of the UAW is at stake – and the organization of a foreign automaker’s plant is the key to the UAW’s continued existence.
“If we don’t organize these transnationals, I don’t think there’s a long term future for the UAW — I really don’t,” said King in a speech to members of a political conference held in Washington, D.C.
Despite the fact that foreign automakers offer equivalent or better wages than UAW plants, King is aggressively targeting them, with King planning to pick a target within 90 days. Other actions include targeting dealers of the chosen automaker for protests, and asking automakers to comply with “fair bargaining” principles, despite that fact that it runs counter to the complete absence of collective bargaining in foreign auto plants. “They don’t fear us and they think they can’t get away with it,” King said, in an almost naked display of insecurity regarding his own relevance.
King was at least cognizant enough to acknowledge that the UAW was a spent force, stating “Here’s the terrible position we’re in autos. Because we’ve fallen so far in the percent of workers represented by the UAW in autos” the union can’t demand big increases because of non union competitors. “So if we go in, we dramatically raise fixed costs for Ford, General Motors or Chrysler, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. … We don’t want to disadvantage the (Detroit 3) companies.” King ended his speech by telling UAW members that Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 would be beneficial for the UAW, due to his pro-union stance.
[Source: The Detroit News]