Home » EVs, Record Profits And Jobs: The UAW Is About To Have A Historic Fight On Its Hands

EVs, Record Profits And Jobs: The UAW Is About To Have A Historic Fight On Its Hands

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Good Monday morning and welcome back to The Autopian’s morning roundup of news from the auto industry. The flow of the century, always timeless [Editor’s Note: Apparently this is a Jay-Z lyric? -DT]. You could’ve been anywhere in the world but you’re here with us, and we appreciate that.

On today’s menu, we have a breakdown of why the next contract process between the Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers union will be a huge, potentially future-defining affair; some news about another electric Ram; the latest on the e-fuels fight between Germany and the EU; and what really happened to the Chevrolet Camaro.

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The UAW Has A New President And A New Vibe, But Not An Easy Road Ahead

2022 Gmc Hummer Ev Pre Production At Factory Zero Plant In Detroit Michigan 100815678 H

Automotive union politics may not be something you follow very closely. But the UAW’s upcoming contract negotiations with the three Detroit automakers (since we’re talking workforce, yes, you can count Stellantis) is shaping up to be the most interesting battle since the bailouts.

Let’s set the stage a bit. The UAW’s leadership in recent years has been, for lack of a better term, not great. It’s been mired in corruption scandals that have sent high-ranking officials to actual prison. Down the line, the pivot to electric vehicles will very likely mean fewer assembly line jobs — something we’re actually starting to see now in Europe. The automakers are basically warning their workers now that belt-tightening lies ahead. But they’re also coming off years of record profits thanks to soaring car prices; UAW members, hit by plant closures and idlings and dealing with the rising cost of living the same as everyone else, want a bigger piece of the pie.

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So it’s no wonder UAW members elected a new president, Shawn Fain, over the weekend. Fain’s a reformer and an upstart challenger who defeated incumbent Ray Curry in a very tight finish.

But this moment could be taken as a sign UAW members are about to get a lot more aggressive in their negotiations since the last contracts were settled four years ago. Some members, anyway; Automotive News says that with Fain’s razor-thin win, there is some division amongst the membership. Fain’s promising to shake things up, but he’s a newcomer to the process and may have a tough time delivering on promises. From that story:

Regardless of whether Fain will be more congenial as the president than as a candidate, the Detroit 3 should prepare for a new reality, said Art Wheaton, a labor expert at Cornell University.

“Should Ford, GM and Stellantis be nervous? Absolutely,” Wheaton said. “I don’t think they’re going into these negotiations from the UAW side looking to get a quick, easy settlement. I think they’re going in to make these negotiations as tough as they can to try and achieve a maximum amount of gains, even at the expense of long-term relationships.”

In that regard, at least, Fain and Curry are similar. Both have expressed a desire to secure job commitments from the Detroit 3, especially related to new EV investments and battery joint ventures. They also expect to protect health care plans and restore lost benefits like cost of living adjustments, among other gains.

Fain, a member of the UAW international staff in the Stellantis department, has some experience in negotiations, being part of bargaining teams with the Detroit 3 in 2009 and 2011.

I’ll point you to an interview Fain did with the progressive labor-focused magazine In These Times over the weekend to get a sense of where the guy’s at:

Look at these companies — last year alone they made over $35 billion in profits. They’ve been flush with profits for over a decade. Our workers generate these profits. The bottom line is, our members have been left behind. Cost of living and job security language were suspended back in 2009. In my opinion, there is no excuse that those things weren’t reinstated, in the 2015 or 2019 bargaining. Obviously, the [union] leadership had other priorities.

The frustrating part to me is that while the corporations have enjoyed the spoils of these record profits for over a decade, a majority of our members haven’t kept up. We have to end tiers — that’s a top priority going forward. We cannot survive as a union with multiple classes of workers performing the same work. That’s not what a union is about. Everybody’s got to have an equal stake.

You can already tell this is going to be a fascinating fight. Will the union get everything it wants? No, it never does; it doesn’t work that way. (I have been through this in the world of digital media and I can tell you that from personal experience.) But with EV production and investment costs upending the industry—including everything that’s being driven by the Inflation Reduction Act—what the UAW does in the next few months will likely set the course for the business for many years to come.

Ram Shows Off Midsize EV Truck Concept

“ram Brand Confirms Name Of First Electric Pickup: Ram 1500 Rev”
Photo: Ram

Remember in February when we first heard about another possible electric Ram, to slot in below the upcoming Ram 1500 Revolution? It’s legit, at least in concept car form. And that was shown to car dealers at an exclusive Las Vegas event this weekend. It hasn’t been revealed to civilians and the media yet, however. I wonder if we’ll see it at an auto show this year.

Apparently, the dealers were impressed, writes Automotive News:

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Dealer Randy Dye had something a little more conventional in mind for a potential Ram midsize pickup, but an early concept he saw this week surpassed his expectations. What Dye viewed during a dealer meeting in Las Vegas was “the future,” he said.

Dye said the truck was an electric concept bearing an aesthetic similar to that of the 1500 Revolution concept that Ram rolled out at CES in January.

[…] “We’re going to be back in that [midsize] game,” Dye told Automotive News. “Without a doubt, it looks like a Ram. I look at some of the other midsize offerings in the market, and I’m not going to pick on the individual brands, but I don’t think they always favor their mother brand. The midsize ones have seemed to get away, and they don’t look the same. This is very much a Ram.”

That’s exciting, because why should the full-size EV trucks have all the fun? Besides, Ram dealers (and customers) have been clamoring for midsize options forever and a day. The Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma are extremely strong sellers, as are even smaller new options like the Ford Maverick. Ram has nothing to compete there. Going electric with whatever they do would be a game-changer.

E-Fuels Win In Europe

2022 Porsche 911 Carrera 4s Black O
Photo: Porsche

I’ll let you read some of our recaps on the e-fuels fight in Europe here, but in brief, the EU wanted to effectively ban new internal combustion cars by 2035. They thought they had a deal until Germany raised a stink about it by saying an all-EV market would kill auto industry jobs and asked for a carve-out for synthetic e-fuels. Those fuels still generate carbon emissions but can ostensibly be produced in a carbon-neutral way.

(My take: e-fuels can be great for keeping classic cars on the road, aiding with a transition to fewer emissions and aviation, but I’m not yet sold on the idea that they’ll be the magic-bullet savior of the gas engine.)

Over the weekend, Germany and the EU officially reached a deal. The registration of new vehicles with internal combustion engines will be allowed after 2035, provided they use climate-neutral fuel only. The reactions were wide and varied, reports the Associated Press. [The FDP, by the way, is the libertarian-leaning Free Democratic Party to which Germany’s powerful transport minister belongs:]

The environmental group Greenpeace criticized the agreement sharply. “This lazy compromise undermines climate protection in transport, and it harms Europe,” the group wrote in a statement.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz “let the FDP get away with its reckless blackmailing of the EU for far too long,” Greenpeace said. “The result is a step backwards for the climate and a disservice to the European auto industry.”

In contrast, the transport policy spokesman for the FDP in the European Parliament, Jan-Christoph Oetjen, called the agreement a great success, German news agency dpa reported.

“The nonsensical blanket ban on the internal combustion engine is thus off the table,” he said. “We are keeping a cutting-edge technology and important jobs on the continent,” Oetjen added.

It definitely feels like a “whoa, whoa, whoa” moment in the EU, going from theoretical bans on ICE vehicles to looking at what that realistically means for the market. Now it’s time for the e-fuels industry, which is still in its infancy, to deliver.

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You Know The Camaro Was Getting Crushed In Sales, Right?

Camaro End Of Production Topshot

 

RIP to the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro, the best-handling, most high-tech muscle car nobody bothered to buy. I’ve seen a lot of takes going around social media claiming GM killed the Camaro because it’s “woke” now to push EVs down our collective throats.

But there’s a reason we have a 2024 Mustang coming soon and a confirmed new electric Dodge muscle car in the works already: the Camaro was getting its ass beat in sales. The numbers over at Motrolix don’t lie:

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The Gen6 Camaro, unveiled in 2015, was never a strong seller in general or against its main competition. In recent years, the Mustang alone basically outsold it two to one. The Camaro only ever outsold the much older Challenger in its first few years and then only by a few thousand cars.

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The simple fact of the matter is that the two-door sporty car segment has been in decline for years, and I don’t think making the Gen6 Camaro look so similar to its predecessor (even if it was completely different under the skin) helped its chances; nor did its poor outward visibility.

I think there’s a universe where the Camaro would’ve soldiered as a heavily updated gas car for Gen7 like the Mustang is, but eventually, the model would’ve gone the EV route Dodge is taking the Challenger. We know the Camaro name will be used for something electric next; I’m excited to see what they do with it.

[Editor’s Note: For the record, I think the outgoing Camaro was the most impressive of the three, especially in ZL1 form. The thing could out-track supercars far, far out of its weight class. It was a marvel of engineering. Chevy didn’t lose the pony wars by being out-engineered — let’s make that very clear. Nor do I think folks shopping in that segment are clamoring for EVs. -DT]. 

Your Turn

Let’s start with something fun today. Next Chevy Camaro! What do you want to see from it?

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Sivad Nayrb
Sivad Nayrb
10 months ago

Eff the UAW. Replace the workers with non-Union workers.

Issue resolved.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
10 months ago

*Camero.

Make it an EV and spell it like Craigslist does for maximum boomer rage. Oh, and bring the T-tops and the ability to see out of the damn thing without a camera back.

Scott Bayus
Scott Bayus
10 months ago

Am I the only one noticing the increase in editor notes? Seems like most articles here have them now. In the past these were inserted for additional background information that the author didn’t include. Now they seem to be a lot of contrary opinions.

David Smith
David Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Scott Bayus

There’s nothing wrong with contrary opinions.

Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
10 months ago

Did you know? A helmet cannot fit through the side window openings of the 6th gen Camaro. Not kidding. This is not necessarily a good thing for a car that may be tracked. How do I crawl out if I roll it?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago

Forget the crap. EVs cost more in components than ice. They are cheaper to manufacture because less parts. If the UAW think they can produce EVs cheaper than ICE while keeping all the useless production employees they are nuts. The only way EVs can be produced as chrap as ICE is eliminate the employees that are to be honest fucking up production of all cars. Drunk michigan union members are ruining every Ford introduction.

William Domer
William Domer
10 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I call bs. Could it be that the engineers that design and spec out the production tools are not up to snuff? Could it perhaps be that Ford et al push the damn things out the door before they are ready for prime time. Blaming the UAW and workers is a MAGA trope that is made up out of whole cloth.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

I’d do this for the Camaro:

The body would be heavily based on the GM Impact, just slightly scaled up in size, and with styling cues harkening back to the 4th generation F-body from the 1990s, while being slightly smaller in dimensions than the 4th gen. There’d be two seats in the front, and one seat in the back that is more spacious than is typical for Camaro backseats, since the teardrop shape would not offer sufficient room for 2 adults in the back seat. Trunk space would be slightly increased over previous models.

It would be a multimodal front engine RWD platform, with gasoline ICE options of turbo L4, V6(with optional turbo model), and the SS trim would be an NA V8 from a Corvette. For the gasoline engines, there would be optional plug-in hybrid variants for each engine also as using Corvette E-Ray drive system components, as well as a Duramax diesel variant by itself or also with a plug-in option. Then there’s the pure EV variant.

All engine options will have featureless stripper base models with manual transmissions(except for the EV, which won’t have a transmission), where the buyer chooses what options they want. It is going to shrink in size to reduce frontal area and mass, losing about 1 foot in width, and instead of focusing on retrograde ponycar aesthetics, look to the future. Aerodynamics will be heavily influenced by the GM Impact concept of more than 30 years ago, with a targeted Cd value around 0.19. The base 275 horsepower L4 could be geared for a top speed in excess of 190 mph, taking advantage of its aerodynamics, and might exceed 55 mpg highway and approach 40 mpg in the city, with the plug-in version having a 10 kWh pack and an E-Ray drive system for 50+ miles all electric range and greatly increased performance. This drag reduction should also allow the base V8 model to eek out 40+ mpg at 70 mph on the highway. City fuel economy will still be in the upper 20s for the V8, but the pricier plug-in variants can mostly mitigate this.

The pure EV variant would be the most powerful of them all, offering AWD and 1,200 horsepower, a 60 kWh pack for roughly 300 miles range, and weighing somewhere around 3,200-3,400 lbs. The plug-in hybrid variant of the SS as well as the plug-in diesel variant would come close.

The base L4 model with manual transmission and no options will have a targeted MSRP of $25k, all the way up to a fully loaded plug-in hybrid Duramax at $100k, and everything in between. The base SS with NA V8 and manual would be somewhere around $50k, as would the base pure EV.

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