Feds Fine Alabama-Based Hyundai Supplier $30,000 For Allegedly Employing Children In Manufacturing

Morning Dump Hyundai Supplier Child Labor

A Hyundai supplier receives what seems like a small fine for allegedly employing young teenagers, a Chinese BYD EV scores five stars in Euro NCAP testing, BMW wants to put games in your car. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Hyundai Supplier Pays $30,000 For Allegedly Employing Children

Sonata N Line headlights may be built with child labor
Photo credit: Hyundai

Reuters reports that a Hyundai supplier in Alabama accused of using child labor has been fined what appears to be a rather small amount of money. From the news site, which makes it clear that neither Hyundai nor Kia have been accused of wrongdoing:

The action against SL Alabama, which supplies lights and mirrors for Hyundai and Kia assembly plants in the U.S., came following a July Reuters article that documented child labor practices at another auto parts supplier in the state, Hyundai-owned Smart Alabama LLC.

The U.S. Department of Labor said in a release that workers aged 13-15 were found at the SL Alabama plant and said it had fined the company, a unit of Korea’s SL Corp., around $30,000. SL Alabama agreed to implement new monitoring and training programs, the federal regulator said. DOL said it also obtained a court order to prevent the plant from “shipping or delivering” any goods produced in violation of federal child labor laws.

While a court order preventing delivery of goods made using child labor seems fair, a $30,000 fine doesn’t seem like much to me, though I’m obviously not an expert on labor laws. While it’s possible that SL Alabama hadn’t been given accurate ages for these employees, it’s up to the employer to check whether or not a prospective employee is a child, so employing children in manufacturing seems, at best, a failure of due diligence. The Department of Labor agrees, writing in its press release:

“Our investigation found SL Alabama engaged in oppressive child labor by employing young workers under the minimum age of 14, and by employing minors under 16 in a manufacturing occupation,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Kenneth Stripling in Birmingham, Alabama. “Employers are responsible for knowing who is working in their facilities, ensuring that those individuals are of legal working age, and that their employment complies with all federal, state and local labor laws.”

Here’s what SL Alabama told Reuters about how this all went down:

SL Alabama told Reuters in a statement that a staffing agency had furnished some employees to the plant who were not old enough to work there. SL said it had cooperated with regulators, terminated its relationship with the staffing firm, agreed to fines and other corrective actions, and replaced the president of the facility.

SL “has never knowingly employed minors to work at any of its facilities,” the company said.

The Department of Labor details other aspects of the consent judgment made by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, writing:

The consent judgment also requires SL Alabama to provide training materials to employees and subcontractors or other entities that provide workers to the Alexander City site to ensure child labor standards compliance. The company must also hire a third-party company to provide quarterly child labor training to all management personnel and subcontractors for a three-year period. Finally, SL Alabama must impose sanctions – including termination or suspension – on any management or subcontractors found responsible for child labor violations. In addition to the judgment in this matter, the Wage and Hour Division assessed, and SL Alabama paid, a $30,076 civil money penalty to address the child labor violations.

BYD’s New Electric Crossover Gets A Five-Star Euro NCAP Score

Byd Atto 3
Photo credit: BYD

Chinese automobile manufacturer BYD is preparing to sell its new ATTO 3 electric crossover in Europe and Reuters reports that this €38,000 EV just aced crash testing.

BYD on Wednesday received a coveted five-star Euro NCAP safety rating for its electric ATTO 3 crossover SUV, the latest Chinese carmaker to receive top marks as it seeks to gain a foothold in Europe’s competitive car market.

It wasn’t that long ago that many Chinese cars just couldn’t measure up in Euro NCAP crash tests. In 2019, the Aiways U5 crossover received a rating of just three out of five stars, largely due to poor performance in the pole side-impact test. Now the BYD ATTO 3 is scoring top marks, and it isn’t the only Chinese car to do so.

Last month Chinee [sic] rival Great Wall Motor received five-star ratings for its WEY brand Coffee 01 hybrid SUV and its ORA brand Funky Cat electric sedan.

Now that more and more Chinese cars are achieving competitive crash test ratings, it’s only a matter of time before they make it to America. We’re entering a really interesting age of the automobile, one in which anyone can promise product and emissions certification is all but taken out of the equation.

BMW Wants You To Game While You Charge

I4 M50
Photo credit: BMW

Charging an EV is pretty boring once you actually get the charging session going. Sure, you can hop on your phone, but you can only doomscroll so much before you get bored to death. It would really help if more charging stations were built near amenities like food or maybe bookstores, but since that isn’t guaranteed, BMW’s taking a page out of Tesla’s book by partnering with AirConsole to put video games into cars. In a media release, BMW seems quite excited about this partnership.

“With AirConsole we will leverage innovative technologies combined with a broad variety of fun and multiplayer games. This will make every waiting situation inside the vehicle, such as charging, an enjoyable moment,” said Stephan Durach – Senior Vice President BMW Group Connected Company Development.

In theory, sure, but are the games any good? While I’m sure some AirConsole games have engaging gameplay, most look like fairly low-budget takes on existing concepts. In addition, using your phone as a controller seems a bit clunky as touchscreens don’t have the instinctive tactility of traditional controllers. They’re likely fine for stuff like trivia, but I just haven’t had great experiences with virtual d-pads. Still, kudos to BMW for offering drivers something to do while stuck charging their i4s and iXs away from decent takeout options.

Honda Settles On Ohio As Battery Plant Site

Bob Nelson Honda
Photo credit: Honda

Honda’s plan to build electric vehicles in America will require a lot of batteries, so it’s not terribly surprising to hear that the Japanese automaker and LG Energy are teaming up to build a battery plant in Ohio, home of its U.S. engineering and manufacturing headquarters. More specifically, the companies are investing $3.5 billion in a battery plant to be built in Fayetteville, with an expected annual production capacity of around 40 GWh. Honda states in a media release that the battery plant should employ 2,200 workers, not a bad boost to local employment opportunities.

What’s more, Honda’s preparing for EV production by investing $700 million into three Ohio plants: Its Marysville Auto Plant, East Liberty Auto Plant, and Anna Engine Plant. Battery modules from the new joint venture plant are expected to be turned into packs on a sub-assembly line in Marysville, then the packs could be installed in new cars at Marysville and East Liberty.

Honda expects to kick off new EV production in America come 2026, so expect the battery plant and upgrades to assembly plants to start being made relatively soon in the grand scheme of things. After all, a whole lot of work needs to be done to get to what manufacturing engineers call Job 1. Prototypes need to be produced, lines need to be optimized, workers need to be trained, the list of things required before production starts is huge.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. Can you believe it’s Wednesday already? Since we’re mid-way through the week, let’s play a little game. Let’s say that you stand to come into a great deal of money, but one of the stipulations is using some of the money to give a car to someone you strongly dislike. However, the stipulation doesn’t state that the car has to be reliable, cheap to run, practical, or indeed good. Consider it the automotive version of gifting an elephant. So, what car would you give to your worst enemy?

Lead photo credit: Hyundai

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37 Responses

  1. “More specifically, the companies are investing $3.5 billion in a battery plant to be built in Fayetteville, with an expected annual production capacity of around 40 GWh. Honda states in a media release that the battery plant should employ 2,200 workers, not a bad boost to local employment opportunities.”

    Unlike most placements, there’s no known shenanigans, tax breaks, or corporate welfare going on here. But this also extremely makes sense if you’re actually familiar with Honda, Honda NAM, and Honda PMC. Anyone non-local is going to go ‘wtf is Fayetteville? That’s not Marysville!’ Marysville is not a big town. It does not have suburbs. The closest town is actually Dublin, which has a population of just 50,000. Marysville is less than half that and has little un-annexed land available.
    In other words, Marysville is already pretty much out of employees and industrial zoning. Scotts Miracle-Gro was founded and remains there, Honda’s got five major facilities, Univenture is still there, there’s a very larger Parker Hannafin plant, and a regional Goodyear plant. There’s just a lack of room and employees.

    So, Fayetteville nearer Cincinatti. It’s a village inside of Perry township in Brown county. As in completely surrounded by it. “So why not Perry?” Taxes and zoning. We have actual zoning in Ohio. How many people live there? FUCKING NONE. (By the way, we have 26 Perry townships in Ohio.) Population? 4,700 and 4,400 of them are in unincorporated portions. Fayetteville has 300. 300 people.
    “Wait, WTF? Then how are they getting 2200 employees?!” Fayetteville sits at the crossover of US 50 and US68. US68 gives them two ‘straight shots’ to Marysville – US68 to OH 4, or US68 to I71. US50 gives them straight shot to Hillsboro and Cincinnati suburbs. And the land is cheap and governance is extremely weak, meaning low taxes and low barriers to building.
    There’s DEFINITELY far better locations logistically; Chillicothe area would give them direct rail to Marysville and East Liberty. They’re basically the same town honestly. (Fayetteville is quite far from ANY rails, and the nearest is a small regional.) But again: it’s cheap and easy to build a high environmental risk factory there. Battery plants are extremely polluting.

    The problem I see is, how are they going to get employees? Again: Fayetteville has 300 people. That’s it. Add in Perry, that’s 5,000 people total. They have a single school – not a district, a single school – serving the whole area. The population of the entire county is 43,000 – less than the population of Dublin. They’ll have to draw from Clermont (198,000 in the county) fed by US50 which is a 30-45 minute one-way commute. 2,200 is a lot, especially for an extremely rural area.

    “Let’s say that you stand to come into a great deal of money, but one of the stipulations is using some of the money to give a car to someone you strongly dislike. However, the stipulation doesn’t state that the car has to be reliable, cheap to run, practical, or indeed good. Consider it the automotive version of gifting an elephant. So, what car would you give to your worst enemy?”

    This one is an EASY one.
    Ferrari 348ts.
    Ruinously expensive and absurdly frequent major maintenance? Oh YES – engine out maintenance is required every 3 years or 30,000 miles.
    Sounds like a glorious Italian V10? NOPE! 3.4L V8 with a rather buzzy note.
    Handles and drives like a Ferrari? HELL no. It is unquestionably the worst handling Ferrari in many years.
    Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the man who was the president of Ferrari, bought one. And immediately called it one of the worst Ferraris ever made. In the press.

    1. That’s quite a rant there. Unfortunately it’s a moot point, since Mr. Hundal has confused Fayetteville with Fayette County, where the plant will actually be built. Two sizable towns, Jeffersonville and Washington Court House are located within the county lines. Interstate 71 passes right through it, and the area is roughly 50 miles from both Dayton and Columbus, putting it within a commutable range for those cities, albeit a long one. It’s also a lot closer to Marysville and Anna than Fayetteville.is.
      It’s also worth mentioning, to your point about Fayetteville’s tiny population, that when Anna, East Liberty, and Marysville were built, those towns were barely a traffic light and gas station. They have also grown significantly, largely due to the plants. The same thing would happen to Fayetteville, if Honda were to put the plant there.

  2. This is an improper use of “Allegedly” in this context. They admitted through acceptance of the fine and separation with the hiring agency that they did so. Allegedly is used pretrial to describe actions before any evidence is found and guilt is placed. After the trial, allegedly goes away; either they did or didn’t do it according to a court of law. After a fine and acceptance of guilt, allegedly goes away.

  3. 1). It doesn’t seem like Hyundai/Kia are at fault here, but these type of small and persistent negative occurrences are something they need to be worried about. Headlines like this, the recalls, et cetera are still harming the reputation of the brand. As I’ve said a few times, if they want to experience the sort of legitimizing that the Japanese brands had in the American market 20-30 years ago they need to pay more attention to the details.

    Also f**k whoever’s responsible for making kids work in a factory. That’s dystopian. I’m all for teenagers being allowed to so kid work (mowing lawns, shoveling snow, scooping ice cream, lifeguarding, etc) to learn the basics about professionalism, developing a work ethic, responsibility, et cetera but they should still be allowed to, you know…be kids.

    2). Interesting. Vietnamese EV manufacturers are on the way as well…I believe Vinfast is on the cusp of selling cars here in MURICA. I’ll be interested to see how these companies do in this market….cause your average buyer here is pretty fickle.

    3). Wait until BMW starts charging a monthly fee to be able to play Tetris while you charge. It’s coming.

    4). I lived in Ohio for 4 years and all that I left with was a stupid degree, crippling depression, and alcoholism that I didn’t fully address until I was 29. Suffice to say…it’s not a state that I’m particularly fond of.

    Now THIS is a question and I have just the person in mind…my former boss, who’s an abusive, amoral, unethical, self serving piece of shit who runs a company in a helping profession solely with the goal of making her and her immediate family as much money as possible. I…won’t go into more detail, but I have something diabolical for her.

    I’d give her the most high strung German performance car imaginable…maybe the V10 M5 or one of the more notorious AMGs. She’s be THRILLED with it because it would fuel her ego and she’d get to be seen in it and continue cosplaying as a success. But little would she know the horrors that lurk beneath.

    It would quickly turn into bill after bill after bill…becoming progressively more aggravating and slowly melting her money away. Can I add a rule that it can’t be sold? Cause I’d add that contingency to it.

    1. Good answer!

      I gave this way too much thought because I realized that the recipient could simply sell the car if he doesn’t like it. I could offer up something ugly, but look at the cult following that the Pontiac Aztec has established. I could offer up something unreliable, but with inventory shortages, even something old and falling apart would fetch 4 figures in resale.

      A hydrogen car is a good choice because they’re hard to fuel in most parts of the country, which would crater any resale value. Still, I am surprised to see nearly 100 for sale on AutoTrader, all in the neighborhood of $20k. Your nemesis could easily ship it to California for sale there and pocket 5 figures.

      I’d give a nemesis one of the cheater diesel VWs — one of the ones that couldn’t be retrofitted to bring it into compliance and should have been bought back by the manufacturer (I *think* that was the case — some could be retrofit and others couldn’t — but I’ll admit that I didn’t pay all that close attention back then, and I’ve had ample time to kill those brain cells since then.). If there are any still on the road, I would expect that the buyback window would have long ago closed. Resale value would be minimal because of the difficulty associated with registering the vehicle in some jurisdictions. Add a custom badge that reads: “Powered by Lies” for extra embarrassment. The recipient probably wouldn’t want to drive it, would have a hard time selling it, would struggle to service it, and would eventually have little choice but to scrap it.

      As a final act of mercy, I would load the stereo up with a CD (super-gluing the slot shut and the volume knob up high, Jeremy Clarkson style, to ensure that it’s heard) with the jingle from a certain charitable organization that accepts vehicle donations to benefit children just so he’s aware of an option to dispose of the vehicle.

      1. Yeah implicit in my suggestion (and I think most people’s) was some restriction on the “lucky” recipient selling the car for a profit.

        If they are allowed to sell, I’m just getting them some non-running junker whose scrap or parts value is minimal.

        I like your idea as well though.

      2. Cheater era diesels are actually sought-after by many buyers. They weren’t banned outright in most places.

        Most were either bought back or modified with new software. Many were modified by VW. Many others were modified by other dealerships when they arrived as trade-ins. It’s my understanding that VW paid the full shop rate to have it done, so it was quick and profitable work for very simple and minor changes. As a result, there aren’t many cheater diesels left out there.

        The ones that were modified get 2-3 MPG less than the cheater diesels, and many people think that the emissions changes result in a less reliable car. A cheater diesel is the ones these knuckleheads want most.

        So you’re not doing your enemy much of a disservice by gifting a cheater diesel. Unless you plan on leaving it running in his closed garage.

        1. Thanks for that information. I didn’t realize that the unfixed cheater diesels were still allowed on the roads in most jurisdictions. That kind of shoots a hole in my plan then.

          Good thing I am not in a position to give cars as gifts to my friends, let alone my enemies, making the whole thing a moo point.

  4. All the comments on cars to give someone you dispise are great but no one has suggested anything from the brand Brock Yates described as the car you give to your wife in the settlement of a nasty divorce – Maserati. He was specifically referring to the early Bi Turbo but I’m going to update that a little and go with the 3200.GT. with the boomerang tailights.

    The receiver will think it is pretty and exotic, but the reality is it will be unreliable, ruinously expensive to run and as a cherry on top (the one I drove at least) has the combination of mediocre chassis and powerful but stupidly laggy turbo engine that is perfectly set up to appear in a YouTube supercar fails video on anything other than a bone-dry day.

    1. I’m thinking gray-market Maserati if possible. Ideally one that’s running well, so they start to fall in love with it before it breaks. Then they find out it’ll be a fortune to fix and it’s basically unsellable.

  5. I don’t dislike anyone enough to give them a cement truck prepped by the mythbusters team; that’s why I’m not in jail. Same goes for a Bolt that dodged the recall. Nope, just gonna get them the most attractive 2020 Kia available without keyless ignition.

    1. I would love an article explaining in simplish terms the difference between ICE CVTs and eCVTs, because my general impression from the Internet™ is that “hybrid eCVT = good and often indestructible, ICE CVT = very bad”.

      1. It’s a short explanation.

        The bad CVTs use some sort of belt or chain system that basically nobody has managed to make work well in practice.

        The eCVT designs vary a bit, but the basic idea is just a single planetary gear with an electric motor or two bolted to it. So basically a simplified automatic transmission.

  6. I know that part of Alabama, south of Montgomery, pretty well — it’s called the Black Belt and poverty is often pretty rampant (around triple the rate of the US, and with a predominantly black population).

    I highly, highly doubt anyone got forced into working there, but the law is the law on child labor. Even if a mature 14-year-old wants to work and try to improve his situation, you just can’t do it in manufacturing. It wouldn’t shock me if the staffing agency was falsifying documents to make this work. Desperation is desperation. We’re talking about a place where the nearest fast food chain might be 10+ miles away and fully staffed. I can’t pretend to be in their shoes, but if I had to gamble, I’d say the kids who had to quit are pretty pissed about it.

  7. I’d give my worst enemy a 2022 Lexus RX Hybrid with every available option. One fewer “worst enemy”.

    Now if this were simply someone I strongly dislike and not an actual enemy, like Alex Jones, Candace Owens, Joe Rogan, or someone like that, I’d give them whatever rusted out, mildew-infested 1970s era American 4 door barge with a seized engine I could find in a junkyard. Drop it in their driveway with an overhead crane. Make sure it’s something that takes a bulldozer and a several gallons of muriatic acid to clean up after.

    1. Could you explain like I’m 5 why the fully loaded 2022 Lexus RX Hybrid for an enemy? Does it tie into the recent touchscreen glovebox release rant piece?
      (’12 Prius v owner so I’m less skeptical of hybrids than I used to be, although I think mine has a pretty good balance of manual features vs. electronic fanciness)

  8. There is one old supervisor in particular who deserves this more than anyone else. For that individual a Range Rover. Looks fancy on the outside but will constantly break expensively. There isn’t a JLR dealer nearby either so any repairs would be a pain.

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