Home » Mercedes Brought Nick Saban To Plant Ahead Of Union Election And It Might Have Backfired

Mercedes Brought Nick Saban To Plant Ahead Of Union Election And It Might Have Backfired

Tmd Saban Mercedes
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I don’t often talk about sports-ball here in The Morning Dump as an appreciation of sports at The Autopian is fairly mixed (Me/David/Jeff are baseball fans, Thomas enjoys hockey, and Jason only watches Spanish minor league Jai-Alai [Ed Note: I”m huge into basketball, but let’s nots talk about that today. -DT]). So when I heard that Mercedes-Benz invited legendary Alabama football coach Nick Saban to speak at its Vance, Alabama plant ahead of a union vote I was excited.

Even more amusing, it sounds like Saban’s speech might have revved up the Mercedes workers to vote for the union, which is probably the opposite of what the company intended.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Is there news today? There’s so much news today. It’s been a little slow this last week but, like a Dodge Charger in a Fast & Furious movie, we’ve shifted 900 gears ahead. General Motors is first out of the gate today with its Q1 earnings and, as predicted, a mix of savings and profitable vehicle sales show GM is in good shape.

While GM isn’t making EVs profitable just yet, the company says it plans to see EVs become profitable this year, which is good timing because the International Energy Agency says EV sales should be a little more robust than everyone is saying.

And, finally, American cars are among the cheapest to maintain according to a Consumer Reports study that shows the total cost of ownership for new cars.

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Nick Saban, Accidental Union Organizer?

The recent unionization of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee is the latest victory of the United Auto Workers union and a sign that the growing unionization effort in the United States is succeeding.

Volkswagen was an easier target, though, as the plant had almost been organized twice before, which might be why the UAW saw such a large margin of victory (73% voted in favor). Tennessee’s Governor, a Republican, was one of five southern Republican governors who have attempted to thwart the union drive.

Up next in mid-May is the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Alabama. This is expected to be a harder plant to organize as there’s less of a history there for the UAW and Alabama is, historically, a more conservative place than Tennessee.

Perhaps that’s why Mercedes invited Nick Saban–longtime Alabama hero and coach of the University of Alabama football team during that program’s historic run–to speak to workers.

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Reporter Alex N. Press is one of the better labor reporters, which isn’t exactly a deep bench, so I always like to hear what she has to say. She does write for Jacobin, which is a very left-leaning publication, but who else is going to regularly write about labor?

She filed a report from Alabama’s organizing effort and it has a lot of interesting detail on the folks who are doing most of the work on the ground, who sound more like empty nesters than flame-throwing socialists.

The part I’m interested in, though, is what happened when Nick Saban showed up to speak. In addition to being one of the most (the most?) famous people in Alabama, Saban also co-owns a number of successful Mercedes dealerships. It sort of makes sense, though maybe it doesn’t?

As the article points out, Saban seemed largely fine with college athletes organizing and has spoken positively about the UAW. Here’s how it went, according to Press:

In a recording of the meeting obtained by Jacobin, Saban did not directly address the organizing drive — it’s unclear if he was even aware of it — and the event felt like a retirement party and pep rally. Perhaps most relevant to the Mercedes workers’ union drive, he stated that workers should think about “all the things that we have and not the things we don’t have. Just say to yourself: I’m glad to be here.” It all added up to an odd scene, and one wonders if Mercedes had wanted Saban to make more explicitly anti-union comments (I wanted to contact Saban to find out, but as one veteran sports reporter told me, “That’s like trying to get an audience with the Pope.”)

I did reach out to Mercedes to see if they could explain the thinking here, but haven’t heard back as of yet.

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Here’s the kicker to the article, and it’s pretty great:

As Coach Saban told Mercedes workers last week, “You reap what you sow, and there can be no great victories without overcoming adversity.” The company may have hoped bringing Saban in would spur pro-company sentiment among the attendees, but his talk of overcoming enormous odds brings to mind what Kimbrell and his fellow workers will have done should they unionize MBUSI. As Saban put it on Friday, “Leadership is about helping someone else for their benefit” and being “someone that somebody can depend on.” You’d be forgiven if you thought he was describing what makes a good union organizer.

I don’t know for sure why Mercedes did this and maybe it was just a coincidence that it happened before the vote. In Alabama, there’s no bad time to have Coach Saban visit, and maybe this is just what worked for his schedule. If it encouraged union workers that’s highly amusing, though I’m not quite sure even that’s enough to sway many votes.

Update: Mercedes-Benz provided this statement:

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) has a long-standing relationship with Nick Saban and he has visited MBUSI numerous times throughout his time as Head Coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide to offer his insights on leadership and team performance. Shortly after his retirement announcement in January, we invited him again to speak to our Team Members. We are honoring his retirement and incredible success as the Football Coach for the University of Alabama, while thanking him for his motivational words over the years and for his impact on the community.

GM Hits A Homer

Investor Relations Meeting At Gm Tech Center
Photo: GM

General Motors gets out first with its earning statement (which you can read here), and it’s a big win for the automaker, which has managed to increase its margins and even boost revenue a little bit. The big news that the market is going to care about is that GM has revised its 2024 guidance upward to a net income of $10.1-$11.5 billion, which is $300 million more than previously estimated.

There’s a lot of normal, mostly expected stuff in here, but there are a few standout pieces of information I’d like to highlight.

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  • Total revenue was up 7.6% over Q1 2023 to $43 billion, and, more importantly, GM’s margin increased to 6.9% from 6.0% over the same period.
  • GM has been cutting back on staff, raising dividends, and trying to save money so this is mostly what you’d expect would happen. Am I concerned that this is a long-term existential threat to the automaker? Yeah. Are stock buybacks just a way for automakers to avoid investments and boost share price which, in turn, boosts exec pay? Yeah. Is GM taking a few quarters to boost share price going to doom the company? Maybe not.
  • Cruise only lost about $519 million, down from $588 million, which happens when you stop running cars.
  • In a shareholder letter CEO Mary Barra says “In our EV business, we’re seeing good early sales momentum for vehicles like the Cadillac LYRIQ. We also continue to see sequential and year-over-year improvements in profitability as we benefit from scale, material cost and mix improvements.” The idea is the company could be net profitable on EVs by the end of the year.

The thing that stood out to me most, though? Check this from Automotive News:

Jacobson said GM has built in an assumption that new-vehicle prices will drop 2 to 2.5 percent this year, though pricing “was essentially flat” in the first quarter as small crossovers such as the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Envista accounted for more sales.

This is kind of fascinating and somewhat counterintuitive. In theory, you make your money and your margin on big SUVs and pickup trucks and that’s still probably true, but if your big volume play is a cheap car like the Envista or Trax, there’s a lot less price flexibility so the more popular the better for your average price.

I love this. The Chevy Trax and Buick Envista are among the best cars for sale in America, and affordability is a big reason why.

America Makes Affordable-To-Own Cars!

2024 Chevrolet Trax Activ 051 644ac9eb4988a Copy

While I’m on the topic of affordability, props to America for making cars that are decently affordable to own. At least according to this report from Consumer Reports:

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When comparing cumulative costs by brand for years one through five and six through 10, we found that Tesla had the lowest maintenance costs. At the opposite end of the rankings, several German automakers are clustered as the most expensive brands, namely Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche.

“If you are considering a luxury model, it may be wise to purchase one from a domestic brand that may have lower maintenance and repair costs,” says Elek. “For example, over 10 years, Mercedes-Benz models are more than double the cost to maintain and repair as those from Lincoln.”

Those American brands in the top five were Tesla, Buick, Lincoln, and Ford. The one non-American brand was Toyota, which isn’t a shock.

One-In-Five Cars Sold Globally In 2024 Will Probably Be EVs

Byd Seagull

For all the doom and gloom of the EV market, the success of EVs in China and other places means that globally we might see EV sales rise to 20% of the overall global car market.

The big annual Global EV Outlook is out from the International Energy Agency and it’s pretty positive:

Electric cars continue to make progress towards becoming a mass-market product in a larger number of countries. Tight margins, volatile battery metal prices, high inflation, and the phase-out of purchase incentives in some countries have sparked concerns about the industry’s pace of growth, but global sales data remain strong. In the first quarter of 2024, electric car sales grew by around 25% compared with the first quarter of 2023, similar to the year-on-year growth seen in the same period in 2022. In 2024, the market share of electric cars could reach up to 45% in China, 25% in Europe and over 11% in the United States, underpinned by competition among manufacturers, falling battery and car prices, and ongoing policy support.

Neat!

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What I’m Listening To While Writing TMD

Caroline Polachek is a huge weirdo, which makes her music a lot of fun. There was a lot of debate in yesterday’s TMD and the one I’m going to focus on is the boygenius convo, which led Nsane In The MembraNe to suggest this song. I love the hypnotic, almost semaforic choreography in the video as well.

The Big Question

How affordable has your car been to own and service?

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Bob Terwilliger
Bob Terwilliger
27 days ago

Late to the chat but I just got my 17 GT350 back from 15k service, its been as expensive to maintain as my AMG Merc. At 15k I had to replace the tires $2200, the fuel filter $120, the oil is expensive 5w 50 but i have a maintenance plan on that luckily for another few months. My shift collar broke so I couldn’t put it in reverse it was a $200 part and covered by a warranty, Ford also covered a recall on the rear view camera.

JaredTheGeek
JaredTheGeek
28 days ago

My Dodges were not bad, just regular maintenance items. I also killed tires in my old Scat Pack. Tesla Model 3 has been a set of tires in 2 years because my wife was driving and got a bad puncture that killed a tire and I wanted better ones so I upgraded for about $900. Windshield replacement under insurance. It’s costs about $16 a month to charge from my cost tracking. Coming from a 14mpg car it’s been nice. I casually keep an eye out for an old Mopar to buy to sacrifice knuckle flesh to.

Stacheface
Stacheface
29 days ago

Let’s see, 2016 Forester, 2000 New Beetle, and 2002 Tahoe. The Tahoe has definitely been cheap to maintain. And it’s really just wear items too like brakes and suspension. Oh, and an alternator I had to change on vacation in a parking lot, took an entire 20 min.
The other’s, they have the expected upkeep of VW and Subaru…..

Who Knows
Who Knows
29 days ago

Maintenance for the 2017 Bolt EV, 95000 miles that I can think of:
Tires, maybe ~$700 for a replacement set (and another replacement due soon), and ~$900 for steel wheels with snow tires. $20 for a tire rotation early on.
~$300 for fixing the blind spot sensors that were not installed correctly at the factory, a TSB that should have been done under warranty, but took a couple extra years due to covid
New windshield, mostly covered by insurance
A few $10 cabin filters, some washer fluid, and a replacement insert for the rear wiper.
Only money spent on powertrain maintenance: $17 for a jug of coolant, after the initial dealership didn’t properly refill the coolant after the battery recall.

Outside of tires, the blind spot sensors, and the windshield, it looks like I will likely hit the 100k miles mark with less than $100 in other maintenance.

Cumulative fueling cost has maybe only recently crossed the $1000 mark, if that, since our old house had solar on the roof.

Myk El
Myk El
29 days ago

So far my 2012 Honda Accord has been fairly inexpensive. One $700 repair related to the V6 cylinder deactivation system. Otherwise tires and oil changes. Insurance reasonable, though I need to do some shopping around for both home and auto.

The ’05 Pontiac GTO is a little too soon to tell.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
29 days ago

The contrast is interesting. On one hand, there is an effort to coordinate and secure fair compensation, working conditions etc. for people doing something PRODUCTIVE. On the other a person who coaches people to PLAY A FUCKING GAME and get paid for it.

Something, something, circus clowns discussing brain surgery. Well, it is Alabama after all…

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
29 days ago

The 2006 GMC Sierra crew cab 2wd I bought new, has been rock solid reliable and super cheap to own. Most of the actual repairs have been rust related. The only expensive one being the rocker panels and one cab corner that rotted out. I also have replaced all the brake lines and the transmission cooler lines, as they rusted out too. As did the rear bumper and the trailer hitch. But only the body work was expensive. Other than that, the truck has never left me with a repair bill north of $600, and always gets me where I need to go. If I lived somewhere that didn’t salt the roads, this truck would have been even cheaper to maintain.

The Dude
The Dude
29 days ago

We own a Honda and a Toyota so they’re both pretty affordable to own and service. The Honda Odyssey we bought towards the height of the used car prices so it’s not a great definition of affordable, though I got a ridiculous trade-in on my car that offset things pretty nicely.

The other, an 18 year old Solara convertible was very affordable when I bought it last year, though it did require $3k to address the timing belt (this would’ve been the case on any of them I was considering), new rear brakes, and replacing a leaky valve cover gasket + some other preventative servicing while they’re doing the work. With that out of the way, the rest of the car is in great shape and looks practically brand new despite 125k miles on the odometer.

Last edited 29 days ago by The Dude
PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
28 days ago
Reply to  The Dude

Did you go to the dealership for that Solara timing belt? My timing belt service cost $950 a couple years ago, including the water pump, a radiator flush and serpentine belt.

Regardless, I’m sure the enjoyment you get from yours will be worth far more than you paid including maintenance. They’re great cars overall, and brilliant dry weather cruisers. (I didn’t say “summer cruisers” because I sometimes take the top down any time the roads are dry, including the dead of winter. I figure if I can enjoy a snowmobile, I can also enjoy my convertible in the winter.)

The Dude
The Dude
28 days ago

I took it to an independent shop. The water pump and a few other things while dying the work were also performed and accounted for about 1.3k of the work I had done. The rest of the 3k was between new rear brakes and replacing the valve cover gaskets with fuel injector cleaning, new spark plugs, and PVC valves.

Agreed they’re great cars and feels built like a tank. I really can’t think of any reason I’d get rid of the car and even if I had to buy a newer car for whatever reason I’d keep the Solara as a third vehicle. The $10k I paid about a year and a half ago was money well spent.

Thankfully it’s almost always summer in So Cal which means plenty of top down cruising but I’ll find any reason to drop the top off it’s not raining. And the back seat is huge compared to most convertibles so the kids can fit in the back just fine.

Last edited 28 days ago by The Dude
Spikersaurusrex
Spikersaurusrex
29 days ago

My ’19 MB has had no problems outside of maintenance, so in that respect, it’s been great. Maintenance, however, is much more expensive than any other car I’ve ever owned. So far it’s basically been oil changes, filters, wipers, and such, but it all costs three times as much as the equivalent for my Ford.

TDI_FTW
TDI_FTW
29 days ago

2006 Ford Focus. 190k miles, have had to replace the alternator 3 times, some a/c lines, clutch slave cylinder, thermostat, engine mounts, and wires for O2 sensor heaters. Also had the transmission selector pin shear and replaced under warranty (just barely) way back when-been solid since. Still on the first clutch, too, even after teaching about 10 people to drive manual (self included) with it.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
29 days ago

Fun fact: as an old school Democrat born and raised in the coal country of West Virginia, Nick Saban’s remarks are not at all off brand, especially considering his expertise as a leader of a very complicated and successful organization.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
29 days ago

2010 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS: Pain. There’s lots of support for the Evos, but the regular Lancers seem to be treated as throwaways. Also, huge boo for making the window motor that just broke one little few-cents clip a giant few-hundred dollar parts-wad. There’s a bit of that in the mix, too.
1984 Porsche 944: Way, way, way less than you’d expect—possibly the most affordable car I own? This one’s downright pleasant to deal with.
1971 VW 411: This would be the most affordable car I own if oil and plugs weren’t consumables. I need to fix that. Also, good luck finding certain parts.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
29 days ago

Current 2012 Cruze that I bought new way back when is an oddball. It’s a GM Korea chassis with an Opel engine bay. In German car fashion it has needed every coolant system hose replaced proactively. I forget how many water pumps it’s had now since those fail every few years. It ate the turbo at 230k miles right after I got done replacing shocks/struts/springs and some other miscellaneous front end bits from the terrible roads up here. Now it needs sway bar endlinks and front brakes again. Parts are cheap but it’s my time that is getting more precious. Midnight Motors wants to turn off the “open” sign.

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