It’s being widely reported that the United Auto Workers are going to present Detroit automakers with an “audacious” plan to try to recoup wages lost to inflation and concessions made during the Great Recession. A union fight is nothing new, but what’s new is the leadership of the UAW, run by a guy who is giving real “uncle” vibes.
If you’re not into labor stuff we’re going to talk about the blisteringly hot Indian SUV market and Fisker’s not-so-hot production plans.
Uncle Shawn Doesn’t Have Time For Your Nonsense
If you’re lucky, you’ve got both kinds of uncles in your family: The Uncle who helps you get into trouble and the Uncle who helps you get out of that trouble. The former is the one who buys you the illegal fireworks and shows you how to mount a Roman Candle launcher to your Jeep. The other guy shows up to explain to the cops that this was a physics projects and promises that you’ll definitely help replant that ficus.
Shawn Fain, the man who was elected to lead the United Auto Workers before perhaps their most pivotal negotiation in century, feels like the second kind of Uncle. A former electrician from a then-Chrysler plant in Indiana, Fain ran against the long-entrenched incumbent UAW administration as someone who wasn’t going to pretend to fight and then rollover. He won, barely, and so far he seems to be sticking to his guns.
If you’re really bored you can watch the video above of Fain, in a livestream, laying out the reasons why he thinks UAW workers deserve more compensation, which are, essentially:
- Automakers are posting record profits.
- They’re saying they’re using those profits for the EV transition.
- They’re actually using some of these profits for share buybacks, special dividends, and executive compensation.
- With the incoming EV transition, labor demands more protections for future job losses, et cetera.
Perhaps it’s because I grew up in anti-labor Texas, but my sense of what a UAW leader should be is a boisterous, aggressive, Jimmy Hoffa type and I cannot quite wrap my head around Fain’s tough-but-fair high school physics teacher mood. The real telling bit in all of this is in the video above when Fain complains that he worked as a national negotiator, only to have the UAW President and UAW President’s Office make a backroom deal with the companies. He says, quite clearly, that he’s not going to do that.
More details will surely come out this week, but Automotive News has a preview of the ask, which includes:
The gains would include a 20 percent raise upon ratification, followed by 5 percent raises each year of the four-year deal, according to the people, who requested anonymity discussing the negotiations.
General Motors seems, to some degree, on board with wage increases, but has issues with other demands (the end of two-tier worker pay, the return of Cost-Of-Living-Adjustemnts, et cetera). Here’s a statement they made in response to Fain’s video:
The breadth and scope of the Presidential Demands, at face value, would threaten our ability to do what’s right for the long-term benefit of the team. A fair agreement rewards our employees and also enables GM to maintain our momentum now and into the future. It’s an exciting time to be part of GM, as our entire manufacturing team can benefit from leading in the EV transformation. We think it’s important to protect U.S. manufacturing and jobs in an industry that is dominated by non-unionized competition.
You can hear the subtle implication that more cars could surely be built in non-union places, which most foreign automakers are currently doing.
I don’t know where this ends up and, surely, both the UAW and automakers will have to each find ways to bend and compromise to make a deal. That’s the nature of negotiation.
But is Detroit ready for this guy and his volunteer JV baseball third base coach schtick? I’m not so sure. I’m wondering if Detroit automakers aren’t going to start missing the older, corrupt generation of UAW leaders.
UPS Workers Avoid A Strike
I’ve got a buddy who is a UPS driver, and the talk over the last few months was over who was going to strike longer: the UPS/Teamsters union (of which he is a member) or the Writers Guild of America (of which I am a member). Well, we know how that worked out, because the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are now on strike and UPS workers, it seems, have avoided one.
The tentative deal covering 340,000 Teamsters-represented workers at United Parcel Service (UPS.N) averted a threatened strike that could have wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy by disrupting about a quarter of the nation’s parcel shipments.
In a meeting in Washington on Monday, Teamsters local leaders voted 161-1 for the deal. The agreement would raise wages for all UPS workers, provide another paid holiday, end a two-tier wage system for drivers and add air conditioning to new models of the company’s ubiquitous brown trucks, according to the Teamsters.
Teamsters know how to strike and are not afraid to get active, so it’s interesting to see that the UPS/Teamsters workers union (arguably, the best organized and most effective union in the United States), managed to avoid a showdown. Is this a recognition from corporations that it’s better to make a quick deal than risk rocking a boat that’s currently full of gold? Is this a result of historically low unemployment? Will this help the UAW? Questions, questions, questions.
Indian Carmaker Profits Way Up In Q1
We don’t talk about India often, though it’s a huge and important growing car market.
Mahindra & Mahindra, one of India’s biggest automakers (along with Tata and Maruti-Suzuki), saw profits nearly double with a year-over-year quarterly increase of 98%. Here’s the skinny from the The Economic Times:
Auto major Mahindra and Mahindra on Friday has reported a standalone net profit of Rs 2,774 crore for the quarter ended June 2023, up 98% from Rs 1,404 crore clocked in the last year period.
The profit beat the ET Now Poll estimate of Rs 1,923 crore.
It’s not the only company doing well. Maruti-Suzuki saw profits up by nearly 250% and Tata saw its quarterly balance sheet improve from a loss in 2022 to a profit in Q1 of 2023. Where’s this money coming from? Obviously, the easing of supply chain woes is helping all automakers, but it’s particularly an increase in Indian purchasing power that’s leading to to consumers picking up SUVs.
From The Deccan Herald:
Sales of utility vehicles (UVs) have also outpaced overall passenger vehicle (PV) sales growth so far this year. UVs generally cost two to three times more than compact cars or sedans. Their sales grew around 18 per cent in the quarter to June, compared to a 9.4 per cent rise in sales of PVs.
Man, now I want a RWD Mahindra Thar (pictured).
Fisker Is Making Money, But Not Making Vehicles Fast Enough
The Fisker experiment is an interesting one, as the EV carmaker isn’t actually making cars. Instead, it’s been outsourcing production to Magna Steyr, the Austrian arm of Canadian supplier giant Magna. How’s that going?
Fiskerati did a dive through the company’s Q2 guidance and found a pretty steep reduction in planned production:
[D]uring Q2 2023, Fisker produced 1,022 vehicles, and in July, they produced 1,009 units, which had fewer working hours due to the planned Magna Steyr annual summer shutdown. The calendar 2023 production forecast was updated to a range of 20,000-23,000 units due to a short-term capacity constraint at one supplier. This new guidance, down from 32,000-36,000 units, assumes support from Fisker’s suppliers and partners to meet this volume and ramp up production.
That’s pretty bad, but at least Fisker is making and selling cars.
The Big Question
Has anyone actually seen a Fisker Ocean on the road? A Lucid Air? A VinFast?
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