A few hours after this post goes live, we’ll find out if the United Auto Workers union is going to strike on more of the Big Three’s plants. Given that nobody seems to see a miraculous resolution happening with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis in one morning, I think we can count on that happening.
Yes, we lead today’s morning roundup with more news from the UAW strike, which as it grows is proving to be one of the most important stories in the international business world. And hey, it may even coincide with a government shutdown next week. Sigh.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, friends! This is Friday, after all, so we have to have some fun stuff on tap for you. Like some news about the other Korean car company, accelerated EV plans from Toyota and more promising developments from a production Hyundai N Vision 74, which would be extremely rad.
Quick! Get me some hydrogen, we’re going to lay down some hot laps.
Update Friday 11 a.m. EST: The New York Times reports that the UAW will indeed strike at spare parts distribution centers owned by GM and Stellantis today—but not Ford, where negotiations seem to be progressing a little better. The original story follows below. —PG
This Is Not Your Father’s UAW, Example No. 1,298
Folks, there are a few takeaways from The Detroit News‘ scoop about leaked messages from a UAW group DM session on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter) that reveal some uncharacteristically hardcore tactics in play. First, the messages in question:
In a series of text messages obtained by The Detroit News from a private group chat on the former Twitter platform X, a close aide to Fain writes that union negotiators are using bargaining sessions to inflict “recurring reputations damage and operational chaos” on the Detroit automakers. “(I)f we can keep them wounded for months they don’t know what to do. The beauty is we’ve laid it all out in the public and they’re still helpless to stop it.”
And now, the takes:
- First and foremost, I don’t know how these messages were obtained by the News but in general, it’s foolish to trust any sensitive information to Twitter DMs. The whole platform is about as secure as leaving your front door open at night. On top of that, it’s owned by infamous union-hater Elon Musk who has already acted weird about the strike, so the UAW was really playing with fire here. Get Signal or something instead!
- I’ll also add that I’ve been a part of union negotiations too, and probably like any private conversation, you say stuff in the heat of battle that may not look great to the outside world. Having said that, these messages will easily be used as ammo to undermine the UAW’s cause. Don’t put anything in writing you don’t want in the newspaper. That’s another good lesson.
- The scoop comes from News editor and columnist Daniel Howes, who admonishes both sides here. For the union’s part, he wonders if these labor tactics will bring back some of the worst parts of Detroit’s past, when “a deliberate strategy begins to saddle GM, Ford and Stellantis with botched product launches, tarnished brand images and costly new labor agreements that would eviscerate their U.S. profitability.”
- But above all, he seems to wonder how the hell the Big Three got rolled so hard here: “Did anyone in management in this town see this coming — a wholesale abandonment of convention that effectively discards pattern bargaining, enlists industry practice in the service of the UAW, and dispenses with old strike tactics in favor of a rolling method designed to induce chaos and inflict financial pain?” They must’ve been counting on dealing with the sad, sycophantic company union they dealt with for decades. Not anymore.
It’s a mess! But really, the union’s asking for 36% pay increases and the automakers have come back with offers of 20% or so. I see them meeting halfway and getting this wrapped up at some point sooner than later. Just expect some major economic ripple effects if this does coincide with a shutdown.
Hyundai Trademarks N74; So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?
Earlier this year, our own Thomas Hundal nailed himself a good scoop when he reported Hyundai’s VP of the N division has a strong desire to take the Vision N 74 into production. That car, in case you forgot, is the Giugiaro-inspired performance car that runs on electric batteries and has a hydrogen fuel cell as a kind of range extender.
I think it’s rather unlikely that such a complicated drivetrain setup would ever go to production, but it seems like a great way to launch another performance EV (or even hybrid, maybe.) Now we learn from Car and Driver that a trademark has been filed for “N74” in Europe, which could mean a lot of things but seems promising:
Sometimes dreams do come true and automakers choose to green light the fancy concept cars they show off. Last year, Hyundai’s N Vision 74 made made quite the splash when the manufacturer debuted the car in South Korea. It wasn’t long before many fans (Car and Driver staff included) were asking what it would take for Hyundai to produce it. While Hyundai still hasn’t confirmed a production version of the car, the online forum 7th Mustang spotted that the automaker did file a trademark application for “Hyundai N74” with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
The trademark request was filed on September 20, and the classification covers “automobiles, sports cars, vans, motor trucks, motor buses, and electric vehicles,” meaning the filing is for more than just naming rights. According to the EUIPO, the application is still under examination.
Automakers file patents and trademarks all of the time, so this doesn’t lock this car into production or anything; far from it. But it keeps coming up, and I find that very interesting.
Inside KG Mobility, The Former Ssangyong, Which Is Up To Some Interesting Stuff Too
I feel terrible admitting this, but I haven’t thought about Ssangyong Motor Co. in a while. I’m sorry! I’ve been very busy. But these days, it calls itself KG Mobility (probably saved some money dropping the two s-es, which, smart.) Like its compatriots Hyundai and Kia, it’s doing some interesting stuff lately in the EV space.
Bloomberg reports KG Mobility unveiled an electric version of the handsome Torres SUV you see above, which retails for about $30,000 in Korea after subsidies. And it plans to triple annual sales to 320,000 units in the next three years.
They have some interesting stuff on tap. Electric trucks!
KG Mobility plans to release an electric pick-up truck in 2024, a hybrid vehicle in 2025 and a new EV called the F100 in 2026. The company also wants to increase market share in commercial vehicles, especially electric buses in Southeast Asia after buying Edison Motors Co., Kwak said.
“All countries in Southeast Asia are talking about environmental problems, such as serious air pollution,” said Kwak, who became chairman of Ssangyong a year ago, about six months before it was renamed. “Almost all local governments in the region are trying to convert buses into electric vehicles.”
Next year, KG Mobility plans to resume electric-bus production at a factory that was owned by Edison in Gunsan, South Korea, he said. It also intends to build a plant for assembling battery packs in Changwon. The company last month signed an agreement to build a battery plant with China’s BYD Co. in South Korea, though it hasn’t said where or provided investment details.
While Bill Ford and Jim Farley are probably readying a strike team of lawyers right now over that F100 name, the reborn Ssangyong could be worth keeping an eye on in this space. Could any be U.S.-bound? If it does well enough, you can’t rule that out.
I Told You, Don’t Count Toyota Out
If you told me any car company wanted to go from 25,000 annual worldwide EV sales in 2022 to 600,000 in 2025, I’d tell you about the bridge I have for sale. Unless that company is Toyota, which I think could be a mega-player in this space if it wants to. Now we know that’s the exact target, per the Nikkei newspaper and reported by Reuters:
The Nikkei report said the Japanese automaker was likely to step up production of battery-powered vehicles over the coming years to reach annual output of more than 600,000 vehicles in 2025.
Toyota declined to comment on the report.
The company has previously said it targets sales of 1.5 million EVs annually by 2026 and 3.5 million, or about one-third of current global volume, by 2030.
Then again, every other big legacy OEM has had plenty of headaches on this front—cost, software, battery production, all of it. Can Toyota crack the code?
I reserve the right to come back with an update if an escalated strike gets averted, but since it probably won’t: What plants do you expect will join the work stoppage today? And how much longer will this last?
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