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.
The UAW Has A New President And A New Vibe, But Not An Easy Road Ahead
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.
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:
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
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:
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
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.
You Know The Camaro Was Getting Crushed In Sales, Right?
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:
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.
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].
Let’s start with something fun today. Next Chevy Camaro! What do you want to see from it?
- Minivans Have The Hardest Life Of Any Car, So It’s Time To Stop Calling Them Uncool
- His Majesty Charles The Third, By The Grace Of God, Of The United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland And Of His Other Realms And Territories King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith’s Jaguar EV Is For Sale
- Get Unlimited Seat Time At This $20 Million Home With Its Own Go-Kart Track
- The Lexus Dealership Service Experience Is Supposed To Be The Best. So I took My Girlfriend’s Boring RX 350 In To Test It Out