If you thought this summer’s coordinated strike by the United Auto Workers and the resulting response from Detroit’s three main automakers was a bruising affair, just wait for the UAW’s drive to unionize currently unaffiliated plants. A company that might be at the top of the list? Tesla.
I watch a lot of sports movies, and a core lesson I’ve taken away is: Don’t stop when you’re on a streak. This is true for websites as well. (Would you believe we had two of our best stories almost back-to-back in the same month this summer?). Assuming the rank-and-file accept these tentative agreements, the UAW has won the biggest concessions in decades. So why stop there?
And speaking of unions, it seems like Stellantis may have lost the least coming out of the strike.
We’ll also talk about Toyota, which looks like it’s in pretty decent shape. And finally, let’s end The Morning Dump with some maybe good news from Chevy regarding the Equinox EV’s possible eventual price.
The UAW’s Tesla Push
Workers have tried to unionize Tesla’s North American operations before, but have not yet been successful. At one point, CEO Elon Musk even dared the UAW to try to unionize its plants and he’s been critical of unions in his social posts. Musk has already been forced to delete a tweet threatening workers who might unionize and is under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board over allegedly firing someone for trying to organize a response to the company-formerly-known-as-Twitter’s return-to-work policy.
While there’s been no official movement, it does sound like the UAW isn’t making much of a secret over trying to add Tesla to its trophy case.
First, from Bloomberg (via the Victoria Advocate of Victoria, Texas, aka where you stop for Whataburger en route to South Padre):
Tesla’s roughly 20,000-worker plant in Fremont, California, currently has a UAW organizing committee whose members are talking to coworkers about the advantages of collective bargaining, according to a person familiar with the efforts who spoke on condition of anonymity. The UAW has committed to providing whatever resources are necessary for the campaign, that person said. The union didn’t respond to a request for comment on its spending plans.
Unionizing the EV maker would not only grow UAW’s membership but it would help the union exert its clout as the industry shifts to a battery-powered future.
“The UAW would love to get into Tesla, but I don’t think they have a chance,” said Mark Eberley, a former employee at the Fremont plant who worked on a UAW-backed union drive at Tesla before leaving in 2020.
Can you imagine UAW President Shawn Fain versus Musk? In spite of his environmental credentials, Elon Musk garners little affection from the left-wing arm of the labor movement (and Democratic Party) that’s come in to help support the UAW’s leadership.
There’s a great piece in The Wall Street Journal that talks about the trio of young (one of the guys is 39, so thank you WSJ for that) liberal activists behind the UAW’s successful drive this summer. From that article:
The group includes Chris Brooks, a 39-year-old labor activist recruited early this year to manage the new president’s transition team who then became a top aide. He helped overhaul the 88-year-old union, bringing a renewed militancy and empowering rank-and-file workers by pushing for frequent rallies and events where Fain heard them out.
Part of his strategy has also been to make sure nonunion workers at factories in theSouth were listening. Fain indicated on Sunday that the union would turn to organizing at automakers such as EV leader Tesla and foreign car companies.
The timing is great, with about 2/3rds of Americans supporting unions and the UAW having the wind at its back.
Tesla, and Elon Musk in particular, make a difficult but appealing target for the UAW. Automakers in this summer’s strike complained about competitors not having to pay union wages and, in particular, referenced Tesla multiple times. Tesla is also the most valuable car company in the world and, if the Union were somehow successful, it could potentially be harder for foreign automakers in the South and Midwest to continue to resist union drives. The fact that Tesla’s Fremont plant is ccurrently under investigation for racial discrimination of its workers doesn’t help.
Of course, Elon Musk seems to relish these sorts of fights. He’s one of the richest men in the world and doesn’t seem to mind firing people. Additionally, Tesla offers vesting stock options and Tesla’s stock is enormously valuable.
From a CNN article explaining why Tesla isn’t unionized yet:
Making it harder to unionize, Tesla offers production workers stock options, which typically have a vesting period of four years, so employees must remain at Tesla to cash them in. Tesla is one of the most valuable companies in the world, and some production workers have become millionaires from their shares in Tesla, Musk has said.
If the UAW does indeed go down this route, expect it to be, as one person quoted in the Bloomberg piece says: “A battle royale.”
The UAW Strike Apparently Didn’t Cost Stellantis As Much As It Did The Other Two
Stellantis doesn’t release quarterly profit reports, so we’re going to have to wait until the end of the year to know how, exactly, the company is doing, but the company’s Chief Financial Officer Natalie Knight did share some interesting news with reporters – specifically, that the cost of the strike would only be about $800 million.
“We believe we continue to be in a very strong position globally and in the U.S.,” she said in a media briefing. “We’re going to continue to be very focused on sales and profitability in all our regions.”
Knight, who started the job this summer, said the 750 million euro hit to profitability would be the smallest among the Detroit Three.
That’s likely true since both Ford and GM expect losses to exceed $1 billion each. Also, here’s a fun tidbit from Cox Automotive:
Stellantis sales slipped by 2% to 379,817 units from the year earlier, its lowest sales level for a third quarter in at least six years and far from the third-quarter high of 565,034 vehicles in 2019, according to Cox Automotive calculations.
The Chrysler brand was the only gainer, with sales nearly doubling to 42,315 units to their highest volume in at least six years of third quarters. The increase came from one of the two models the brand sells. The Pacifica minivan had a 120% sales increase to 38,353 units. Sales of the aged 300 sedan were down 5% to under 4,000 units.
Coincidentally, the company is also running the highest incentives. Maybe now is the time to get a PHEV Pacifica? I’m a fan.
Toyota Isn’t Doing So Bad
Toyota is claiming a worldwide record for the company in both sales and production. Specifically, Toyota says it sold 921,308 vehicles in September (up 11.6%) and produced 900,000 vehicles (up 1.5%, thanks mostly to a 12.8% increase in Japanese production).
A quick look at the chart above also shows year-to-date sales up about 6.7% globally, and up by almost 33% in Japan.
Curiously, minivehicle sales in Japan are lagging behind everything else.
Chevy Equinox EV Price Now $34,995 For 319 Miles Of Range
Do I trust the price of a far-off future GM, Ultium-based electric vehicle? I do not. GM got a lot of good headlines when it announced that the handsome new Chevy Equniox EV would cost around $30,000 when it launched.
That was going to be for the entry-level LT trim with a smaller battery capable of about 250 miles. Now GM has announced there will be, eventually, a version that will start at $34,995 with destination. Here are the details via Edmunds:
The Equinox EV will eventually start at $34,995, including destination — we say “eventually” because the first models off the line will be well-equipped 2RS models priced from $48,995 (front-wheel drive) to $52,395 (all-wheel drive). The budget-friendly version will appear sometime in calendar year 2024, though Chevy declined to say whether this would be a model year 2024 or 2025 vehicle.
So sometime next year there will be a $34,995 Equinox EV that will qualify for a, hopefully, point-of-sale $7,500 tax credit, meaning that in theory a sub $30,000 EV for qualifying buyers. This could be quasi-competitive with the Model 3 and Model Y, especially since GM is touting an estimated 319 miles of range.
Of course, GM has been as inconsistent with pricing as Tesla has been, so if you think all the prices of all these vehicles will be the same by the time this car is actually available I have a signed copy of the Shroud of Turin to sell ya.
The Big Question
Is there any way in hell that the UAW can successfully unionize Tesla’s Fremont plant?
Lead image: UAW Facebook