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NEWS ARTICLE
INDEX

Ford Canada,
Unifor reach
tentative deal
that includes
$2B in EV
contracts
______

Ottawa says
governments
offering
$500M to
bring electric
vehicle
production
to Ford’s
Oakville plant
_______

Ford to build
new electric
vehicle center
at Rouge
complex, add
300 jobs
______

Ford Ranger
tops 'made in
America' index
_______

Long-promised
disability aid
payments
to be made
in the fall
_______

U.S. abruptly
lifts tariffs
on Canadian
aluminum
_______

Ford Bargaining Update #4
_______

Carbon-fiber
Shelby GT500
Mustang
concept now
for sale
starting at
nearly $300K
_______

Private
Vancouver
clinic loses
constitutional
challenge of
public health-
care rules
_______

Ex-UAW
President
Williams set
to plead
guilty
in union
embezzlement
scheme
________

Unifor
announces
Ford as
target
_______

Here Are the
CHP's Last 2
Ford Crown
Victoria Police
Cars Ever
_______

Colder weather
and holidays
bring new
COVID-19
concerns
_______

Ford to
offer early
retirement incentives
to 1,400 US
white-collar
employees
as part
of a multi-
year $11
Billion
Restructuring
Plan
________

Ford to cut
1,000 salaried
jobs in U.S.
amid overhaul
_______

Ex-UAW boss
Williams
charged in
embezzlement
scandal as
federal probe
continues
_______

2020 Ford
Mustang
Shelby
GT500
test drive
_______

UAW Moves Closer to Teamsters-Style Government Monitoring
______

Ford
introduces
accessories
to customize
Bronco,
Bronco Sport
______

Canadians left
holding the bill
for cancelled
flights looking
to U.S. for
refunds

_______

Negotiations
underway
between Unifor
and Detroit 3
auto makers
______

Ford recalls
midsize SUVs
to fix possible
brake fluid
leaks
_______

Union,
automakers
begin
negotiations
as uncertain
economy
raises stakes
_______

FCA CEO calls
claims it used
offshore
accounts to
bribe UAW
officials
'blatantly
false'
_______

Despite new
NAFTA, Trump
slaps Canada
with 10%
aluminum
tariff
_______

Ford ends
sedan
production
for US as
Fusion is
phased out
________

Ford
Announces
Jim Hackett
to Retire as
President
and CEO;
Jim Farley
to Succeed
Hackett
________

Auto industry
conspirators
stashed bribes
offshore, GM
alleges
________

Ford takes
$1.9 billion
hit in second
quarter, but
that's far
better than
expected
_______

Drivers hold
onto cars in
pandemic

_______

Ford looks
to Intel's
Mobileye for
Bronco, F-150
collision-
avoidance
_______

Ford trains
robotic dog
to map
its plants
_______

Ford gets commitments
to extend
most of
$5.35B
in loans,
report says
________

Ford Mustang
SUV prototype
has 7 electric
motors
_______

Retiree Bill
Studholme
Passes Away
July 15, 2020
_______

Ford
executives,
dealers
report big
early
demand for
2021 Bronco
_______

Retiree Wilmer
Little's Wife
Anne Passes
Away July 1,
2020
________

Trudeau urges
Trump to
not impose
aluminum
tariffs
_______

2021 Ford
Bronco SUV
revealed with
retro styling
and off-road
tech
_______

Engine
shortage
from Mexico
could shut
down Ford
plants

_______

Ford CEO
resists
employees’
push to end
sales of
police
vehicles
________

Next-gen Ford
Ranger Raptor
may come
to U.S.
(and Canada)
after all
________

Bronco
is more
than a ute,
it's a brand
________

Ford to end
production of
the Lincoln
Continental at
end of 2020
________

Ford sales
down 33%
in second
quarter

_______

Reopening the
Canada-U.S.
border will
be a long,
piecemeal
process
_______

New NAFTA
takes effect
amid
carmaker
COVID-19
recovery
_______

Ford joins
growing
corporate
boycott,
halts
all US
social
media
advertising
______

Ford F-150's
roots go back
to early 20th
century
________

Ford's
redesigned
F-150 pickup
will offer
sleeper seat
_______

UAW training
center
reforms seek
transparency,
higher
standards
_______

Ford and
Fiat
Chrysler
return
to full
production
Monday
_______

Ford teases
new F-150
ahead of next
week's world
premiere
_______

Future of
Ford Edge,
and Canadian
plant where
it's built, in
question
______

Ford rolls
out its first
Mustang
Mach 1
since 2004
______

Ford, GM
and VW say
production
and new
vehicles are
back on track
_______

NAFTA
replacement
looms as
carmakers
emerge from
COVID-19
shutdowns
______

Ford recalls
about 2.5M
vehicles for
latch, brake
troubles
_______

UAW accepts
offer on
controversial
Black Lake
home
built for
Dennis
Williams
_______

Ford, VW
to make
about 8M
commercial
vehicles
_______

1st Ford
Escape Plug
-In Hybrid
gets best-
in-class
100 MPGe
_______

Unemployment
rate hits
record high
even as
economy
adds jobs
_______

Auto recovery
may take
years, with
$72 billion in
new debt to
pay off amid
projected
sales slump
_______

FCA
distributing
1,300 buyout
packages
at Windsor
Assembly
Plant
_________

UAW corruption
scandal nears
milestone with
Jones plea
______

Ford Mustang
brings back
iconic Mach
1 alongside
electric
Mach-E
________

What's Safe
to Do and
What's Not
COVID-19
________

Auto not
targeted
by Ontario's
new COVID-
19 testing
strategy
_______

Three UAW
leaders
created
sexually
hostile
environment,
lawsuit
alleges
_______

Ford's Police
Interceptor
vehicles can
now turn up
the heat on
coronavirus
_______

Carmakers
push forward
on EVs as self
driving hits
pandemic
speed bumps
_______

Doug Ford
says anyone
who wants a
COVID-19 test
in Ontario will
be able to
get one
_______

Workers return
to U.S. Big
Three plants
in major
test for
auto industry
________

Bomb threat
was made
against Unifor
blockades in
February
_______

Liberals won’t
commit to
boosting old
age security in
July despite
campaign
pledge
_______

Ford
shareholders
lament
sagging
stock,
slowed
production
amid
pandemic
_______

Seniors to
receive up
to $500 in
a one-time
payment to
offset added
costs due to
COVID-19
_______

Unifor lobbies
FCA to build
midsize
Dakota truck
in Ontario
______

GM Canada to
resume engine
production
May 11 in
Ontario
______

In push for
auto restart
timeline, Job
One is to get
it right the
first time
________

Ford COO spends
almost entire
salary buying
$1 million
in stock
_______

Ontario lays out safety guidelines for auto industry
_______

Ford signals
restart of auto
production, as
soon as COVID-
19 stay-at
home orders
lifted
_______

Talk turns
negative
on Ford,
naturally, as
COVID-19
headwinds
intensify

________

Amid COVID-19
outbreak, Ford
signals $5
billion loss for
second quarter
_______

Ontario unveils
broad outline
for reopening
economy in
three stages
______

GM Canada to make millions of masks at idled Oshawa, Ont., plant
_______

Unifor
'cautiously
optimistic'
Canadian
plants will
open in
early May
_______

FCA, Unifor
in COVID-19
safety talks
as automaker
eyes return
to production
______

Ontario
premier
approaches
auto industry's
restart with
caution
______

Composer
sues Ford
for copyright
infringement,
claims
automaker
used songs
without OK
______

Ford warns of
US$2 billion
quarterly loss
as it seeks
more cash
_______

Ford, GE
Healthcare
sign federal
contract to
build 50,000
ventilators
_______

Magna
preparing for
N.A. return to
work May 4
_______

Ford considers
production
restart,
expects $600
million Q1
earnings loss
______

Auto tech
sector wants
financial
aid from
feds during
COVID-19
pandemic
_______

The year’s
hottest new
cars just got
cold as ice
______

FCA Canada
implements
temperature
taking
protocol for
workers
_______

Ontario
dealers told
to end test
drives now
or face a
range of
penalties
________

Ford to make
100K face
shield in
Windsor Ont
to aid
in COVID-19
fight
_________

We Love You
Very Much,’
Chrystia
Freeland
Tells
Canada’s
Seniors

________

Detroit's auto
industry steps
up against
COVID-19

________

Ford vehicle
sales fell
12.5% in
first quarter
F-150 still
truck king

________

Ford CEO
Jim Hackett
received
$17.36
million in
compensation
in 2019
________

It won't be
'business as
usual for quite
a while,'
Unifor says
of auto
industry
________

Ford delays
restarting
production
indefinitely
________

As COVID-19
death toll
mounts, when
to reopen
North
American
plants?
_______

Ford to restart
some plants in
April;Toyota,
Honda, FCA
extend
closing
_______

Ford recalls
268K cars in
North America
to fix door
latches
_______

Ford Works
With 3M, GE,
UAW to Speed
Production of
Respirators
_______

Ontario
dealers can
complete
sales via
email during
coronavirus
pandemic
_______

Border closure
not expected
to affect
production,
supply chains
or dealer stock
________

GM and Ford
N.A. plants
to shutter
thru March 30
_______

Detroit
carmakers
will close
plants due to
coronavirus
concerns
_______

Unifor,
Detroit 3 form
coronavirus
task force

________

Windsor FCA
workers return
as carmakers
try keeping
plants running
during virus
crisis
_______

Ontario offers
more help
to laid-off
autoworkers
looking for
new careers
______

NY Auto
Show
postponed
due to
coronavirus
_______

FCA-UAW
bribery
scheme
'targeted
& directly
harmed'
automaker
_______

Charges
against ex-
UAW boss
inch union
closer to
federal
oversight
_______

USMCA update
puts Canada
in the role
of labour
watchdog for
Mexico
_______

Ford, Fiat
Chrysler
restrict air
travel for
employees
due to
coronavirus
______

USMCA update
puts Canada
in the role
of labour
watchdog
for Mexico
_______

FCA to end
third shift
at Windsor
Assembly
Plant in June
affecting
1,500
workers
_______

Ford v Ferrari
cars take a
victory lap
at Autorama
_______

Failed
execution,
culture weigh
on Ford
performance,
shares
_______

Retiree Nom
Evans Wife
Passes Away
Feb 27, 2020

______

Ford recalls
popular F-150
pickup to fix
headlamp
problem
________

Ford seeks
$1M in
damages and
to rescind
original GT
sale after it
was 'flipped'
_______

Ford’s
lending arm
is generating
more profit
than ever
_______

2021 Ford
F-150 design
cues, big
screen
exposed in
spy photos
_______

UAW's new
dissidents
not the
first to
call for
one-member
one-vote
_______

A Ford service
tech's newest
tool? Virtual
reality headset
________

Jim Farley
could get
32% pay
raise as
Ford chief
operating
officer
_______

Former UAW
President Owen
Bieber dies
at 90
________

Retiree
Guenther Gahs
Passes Away
Jan 12, 2020
________

Magna CEO
says USMCA
will mean
'more jobs,
more
investment'
in Canada
_______

Pensions are
a promise
________

Ford recalls
over 240K
vehicles
to fix
suspension
problem
______

Coronavirus expected to hit
automakers'
bottom lines
______

Ford
shakeup
signals
pressure
to perform
in present,
future
________

Ford completes
400 layoffs at
Oakville plant
_______

Ford’s Hinrichs
to retire, Farley
becomes COO
________

Ford shakes
up leadership
after missing
2019 earnings
targets
_______

Ford's profits
fall nearly 99%
for year, due to
Explorer woes
_______

Ford to pay
UAW members
$6,600 in profit
sharing
_______

Frank Marek
Passes Away
Feb 1, 2020
________

Trump signs
new USMCA
trade deal,
clearing way
for Commons
debate
______

GM wants to
see documents
UAW gave
to federal
government
in corruption
probe
_______

Unifor to
pay $36,000
of Nemak's
legal costs
associated
with wildcat
strike
_______

Lincoln's first-
ever electric
vehicle will
be built
with Rivian
______

Ford reaches
new settlement
over Focus,
Fiesta
transmissions
_______

The original
Bullitt
Mustang The
incredible
story behind
the car
that few
people know
_______

REGINA CO-OP
REFINERY
PICKET LINE
Jan 20, 2020
_______

Ford proposes
$30M-plus
settlement in
transmission
suit
_______

Fiat Chrysler
says GM's
racketeering
suit fatally
flawed
_______

NDP caucus
will discuss
whether to
support new
NAFTA
_______

Unifor
President
Jerry Dias
Arrested Amid
Union Protest
Against Regina
Oil Refinery
______

USMCA
ratification
a top priority
for MPs when
Parliament
returns
______

Ford preps
dealers for
its first-ever
battery-electric
Mustang SUV
_______

2020 Ford
Mustang
Shelby GT500
test drive
_______

FCA trims
output at
4 plants,
including
Windsor, Ont.
after backlog
_______

U.S. Senate
Republicans
expect USMCA
vote Thursday
_______

Ford, GM see
sales in China
fall with
another tough
year ahead
______

GM says Fiat
Chrysler not
cooperating in
racketeering
suit
_______

Bullitt' Mustang
fetches a cool
$3.74 million
at auction
_______

UAW President
Rory Gamble
under federal
investigation
_______

Ford sales
were off 3%
last year, but
industry-wide
totals still hit
17.1 million
_______

10 vehicles
that defined
the decade
_______

If Oshawa
Assembly can
close, what’s
next?
______

Judge
issues
order
restraining
Unifor from
impeding
refinery
traffic
________

Turbulent
decade for
automakers
in Washington
comes to
a close
_______

Orville Shaw
Wife Helen
Passes Away
Dec 30, 2019
_______

Dec 2019
Articles

Made In Canada Matters

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Ford Canada, Unifor reach
tentative deal that includes
$2B in EV contracts

Anita Balakrishnan
The Canadian Press
Sept 23, 2020

TORONTO -- Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd. has agreed to spend nearly $2 billion on its Canadian plants as part of tentative contract deal with Unifor announced Tuesday.

Under the proposed settlement, Unifor national president Jerry Dias said $1.95 billion will be invested in Ford's Canadian plants, including $1.8 billion toward the production of five electric vehicles in Oakville, Ont., and an engine contract that could yield new jobs in Windsor, Ont.

The 6,300 union workers at Ford will vote on the deal this weekend, Dias said.

Talks between the union and the automaker came to a head on Monday ahead of a bargaining deadline of 11:59 p.m. ET, and talks continued for much of the night before parties settled on a deal around 5 a.m.

Workers had voted to support a strike if a deal could not be reached, with the future of the Oakville plant potentially on the line amid the end of the Ford Edge production.

The plant will now be retooled for electric vehicle production starting in 2024, Dias said, with the fifth and final model of the new deal hitting the assembly line in 2028.

Of the 4,250 Unifor workers at the plant west of Toronto, 3,400 are actively working (and not laid off or on leave.) Dias said he foresees about 3,000 jobs staying in Oakville under the new contract, but said that some of the current workers would be eligible to retire soon either way.

“This is a major commitment from Ford,” Dias said. “This is going to be a key facility, not for the short-term, but for the long-term … this is a decade-long commitment.”

Dias thanked local and federal politicians for support during the negotiations. When asked about government contribution toward electric vehicle production, Dias declined to confirm earlier news reports on the topic, saying the government will have to announce how much they plan to kick in.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said that the province is contributing a “massive amount” to “businesses like (Ford Canada) to bring battery manufacturing” to the province, but has not shared a specific amount, citing ongoing negotiations. John Power, spokesman for federal Industry Minister Navdeep Bains, also declined to say how much Ottawa could commit, saying only that electric vehicle production would help meet climate goals and create jobs.

“We have been talking for decades about having a national auto strategy in this country, and for some reason, we can never seem to get everybody in the room at the same time,” Dias said.

“Over the last several months, those walls have really been torn down … I'm really pleased to see that the federal government and provincial government are working hand in hand.”

Dias said that the provincial government's negotiations encompass the complete, A-to-Z manufacturing of batteries - a process that still requires a major manufacturer. Unifor's deal with Ford will encompass just the assembly stage of the manufacturing process.

Once agreed to by union members, Ford's deal on new product lines, shifts, wages, pensions and benefits will set the tone for upcoming talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors.

Dias said Fiat Chrysler will be next in line for negotiations, as the union plans to go toe-to-toe over shift cuts in Windsor and Brampton, Ont. facilities.

Although the last formal labour negotiations took place in 2016, the union has been in active scrimmages with GM since then, after last year's downsizing at a GM plant in Oshawa, Ont.

In the U.S., GM's union workers went on strike last year. Going forward, Dias said the Canadian and U.S. unions will negotiate with the Detroit Three on the same schedule, as both groups try to keep jobs from moving south to Mexico.

That means the 2020 deal will be renegotiated in 2023, amid the expiration of major programs in GM's powertrain operation in St. Catharines, Ont.

Dias said Canadian natural resources, such as lithium, aluminum and cobalt, put the members in a strong position as more companies move toward electric vehicles.

“It's an opportunity for our young people that work in Oakville, and frankly in Windsor, as well, and throughout the other operations, to sit back and say, `With this announcement I can buy a house, I can plan my future, I can plan a family,”' Dias said.

“It really is about young people being able to plan 20 years ahead, which will make a significant difference in their life.”

 

Ottawa says governments offering
$500M to bring electric vehicle
production to Ford’s Oakville plant

By Heather Scoffield
Ottawa Bureau Chief
Sept. 21, 2020

The federal government has indicated that it’s willing to put up to half a billion dollars into financing electric vehicle production in Oakville, with some money coming from the provincial government — an offer that could allow the Ford plant to stay open for years to come, the Star has learned.

Ford Motor Co. and its main union are in the midst of labour negotiations ahead of a deadline midnight Monday night, and a push for a retooling of the plant for mass production of EVs and their high-tech batteries is central to the talks.

After months of discussion and pressure from environmentalists and labour, Ottawa has told the company it is willing to do what it takes to bring electric vehicle production to Ontario and expects its funding to be part of an eventual $2-billion investment for a new mandate at the Oakville Assembly Complex.

The exact amount from the Ontario government is still being negotiated, a federal source, said, and all of it is wrapped up in the broader labour talks between Ford Canada and its biggest union, Unifor.

The money would be a major lifeline for the plant. Retooling is expected to start as soon as next year, giving the Oakville Assembly Complex and its thousands of workers a new lease on life.

The plant has had a question mark over its head for months now amid analysts’ projections that it would stop producing the Edge SUV. The mandate for the Edge ends in 2023, and there is no firm commitment from Ford that production would continue in Oakville after that time, throwing more than 4,000 jobs into a state of uncertainty.

Unifor’s national president, Jerry Dias, has been pushing for an electric vehicle mandate and substantial federal funding for Oakville. But reached on Sunday night, Dias said he was not aware of the federal offer.

Unifor targeted Ford for the first of its Big Three automaker negotiations, which come every four years. The hope was to set a high bar for negotiations with the other automakers.

Ottawa is set to use its Strategic Innovation Fund to finance the contribution.

For the federal government, the deal checks off quite a few boxes.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains has been increasingly concerned that auto manufacturing in Ontario has dwindled and that the province needs to get into the EV market in order to flourish into the future.

He has argued that Canada should be able to marry its traditional expertise in the auto sector with its abundance of many of the natural resources that are needed to make electric-vehicle batteries.

At the same time, pushing Canada towards electric and autonomous vehicles is central to Canada meeting its environmental goal of having net-zero emissions by 2050.

 “The choice to dedicate the Oakville Assembly Plant to the production of battery electric vehicles shows alignment between Ford’s commercial priorities and Canada’s commitment to sustainable growth,” Bains says to Dean Stoneley, president and CEO of Ford Canada, in a draft letter obtained by the Star.

“It also reflects our productive dialogue in recent months, built on top of an enduring partnership.”

In parallel with the talks between the company and Ottawa, Unifor has been pushing Bains for months to use federal funding to ensure electric vehicle production in Ontario. Unifor represents 6,300 workers at Ford Motor Co.

In the draft letter, Bains says he sees the arrangement with Ford as a jumping-off point to modernize the entire auto sector in Canada, and turn it into a global powerhouse for electric vehicle production.

“The size and the scope of the proposed investment reflect this significance.”

A spokesman for Bains would not comment directly on the labour negotiations on Sunday, but issued a statement about the value of attracting mandates for electric vehicles in Canada.

“Minister Bains believes that Canada is well positioned to become a leader in electric vehicle and battery production. Developing domestic manufacturing in this sector will secure more good paying jobs for Canadian workers, and more opportunities for Canadian businesses. It will position Canada’s auto industry as a global leader in a growing market, and help us meet our climate ambitions,” spokesman John Power said in an e-mail to the Star.

An April report put together by the Pembina Institute and the International Council on Clean Transportation found that Canada has steadily lost global market share in auto manufacturing over the past 20 years and is dramatically under-invested in the rapidly growing EV market of the future.

The report says Canada manufactures about two million light-duty passenger cars and trucks a year and is the 12th largest auto producer in the world, down from fifth largest in 2000.

 

Ford to build new electric
vehicle center at Rouge
complex, add 300 jobs

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Sept 21, 2020

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it will build a new, 500,000-square-foot electric vehicle manufacturing operation at the historic Ford Rouge Center, creating 300 new jobs to support battery assembly and production of hybrid and battery-electric versions of the automaker's profit-rich F-150 pickup truck.

The Blue Oval is eyeing a mid-2022 launch of the first battery-electric version of the truck. Meanwhile, it is now launching production of the next-generation F-150, which is due on dealer lots later this year. In all, the automaker says it will invest $700 million in the Rouge complex to support production of the new F-150 lineup.

The project will be Ford's second major investment in the site since 2004. The last came when the automaker retooled Dearborn Truck Plant for the 2015 F-150, which featured a new aluminum alloy body.

"We are proud to once again build and innovate for the future here at the Rouge with the debut of our all-new F-150 and the construction of a modern new manufacturing center to build the first-ever all-electric F-150," Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement. "This year's COVID-19 crisis made it clear why it is so important for companies like Ford to help keep our U.S. manufacturing base strong and help our country get back to work."

Ford is billing the new site — which will feature robots working alongside employees, and self-driving "sleds" that can move vehicle beds between stations — as its most technologically-advanced facility to date.

"Like the all-new electric model, the facility that will be home to the electric F-150 is also being designed to bring Ford's vision of American manufacturing and sustainability into the future. Using smart, connected technologies, we can communicate directly with the vehicles we are assembling," said Gary Johnson, Ford's chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer.

And, Johnson said, the new facility can be expanded in the future, as demand for electric vehicles grows. EVs currently make up just a tiny slice of overall vehicle sales in the U.S., but Detroit's automakers are betting that the future of the industry will be defined by electric and autonomous vehicles. Ford has committed to investing $11 billion on EV development by 2022.

The automaker on Thursday shared new details about the electric F-150, which it claims will deliver the most horsepower and torque of any F-150 yet, the fastest zero-to-60 times, and the ability to tow heavy trailers.

The battery-electric truck will debut new technology that allows mobile power generation; come with dual electric motors; and feature a front trunk to add cargo-carrying capacity. As with the rest of the new F-150 lineup, the electric version will offer over-the-air software updates. And Ford claims electric truck owners stand to save as much as 40% over the vehicle's lifetime compared to the costs of owning a vehicle with an internal combustion engine because electric vehicles require less maintenance.

Ford is contrasting its electric truck offering with those of its competitors by emphasizing that it will retain the work capabilities for which the F-Series is known: "Other electric pickups are competing for lifestyle customers," said Kumar Galhotra, president of the Americas & International Markets Group. "The all-electric F-150 is designed and engineered for hard-working customers who need a truck to do a job." 

The decision not to make a "lifestyle" truck was guided by customer research, he said: "We found a very clear and substantial market for people who want a vehicle like this, who want the silhouette to look 'Built Ford Tough' like our present vehicles, but still distinct. It's going to look different than the (internal combustion engine) F-150, but it will have the same Built Ford Tough DNA that we have in all our trucks."

"Simply put, this isn’t a gimmick. It’s a workhorse, not a show horse destined for a shiny garage filled with four other luxury cars," said Jim Farley, chief operating officer and incoming CEO, according to an excerpt of prepared remarks he will deliver Thursday. "It’s not for 'never-nevers' — never tow, never haul — it’s for serious truck owners."

As it embarks on the crucial launch of the redesigned F-150, and amid an election cycle in which issues such as manufacturing and trade have taken center stage, Ford is touting its position as the No. 1 employer of hourly autoworkers in the country and its commitment to building in America.

The Blue Oval shared the results of an economic-impact study it commissioned from Boston Consulting Group which found that up to 14 American jobs are supported by each F-Series employee, for a total of about 500,000 jobs tied to the Blue Oval's signature truck lineup. The study also found that, in 2019, the truck franchise alone generated more revenue than major companies such as Nike and Coca-Cola, and accounts for about half of Ford's $100 billion contribution to the U.S. GDP.

"As the most widely-used vehicle in 39 of 50 states, the F-Series' 16.6 million trucks on the road represent approximately 6% of all vehicles in operation in the U.S.," said Michael Book, managing director and senior partner at the consulting firm. "Such is the F-Series' ubiquity and importance in the country that it ranks among the most popular consumer products in the U.S."

To highlight its commitment to jobs and plants in the U.S., the automaker this week launched a new advertising campaign called "Built for America."

"Our employees, our dealers, our suppliers and our customers are the very fabric of America," said marketing director Matt VanDyke. "Our new campaign represents the heart of Ford and the American values that make us who we are."

 

 

Ford Ranger tops 'made
in America' index

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Sept 20, 2020

Ford Motor Co.'s Ranger mid-size pick-up truck is the most "made in America" vehicle in 2020 with 85% total domestic content, according to an index produced by American University's Kogod School of Business.

U.S. automakers, including Tesla Inc., dominated the top 10 of the list that takes into account the company's headquarters and where research and development is conducted. "Made in America" is a slogan that both President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have touted along the campaign trail, promising to increase U.S. manufacturing jobs.

The Ranger replaces the automatic transmission version of the Chevrolet Corvette and the discontinued Chevy Volt in the top spot. Introduced last year after an eight-year hiatus with 61% total domestic content, this year’s Ranger now holds a U.S.-sourced engine and gets 70% of its parts from U.S. and Canada, up from 50%. 

Overall, General Motors Co. has the highest domestic content score with 70.6% for U.S.-assembled vehicles — up from 70% last year — and 58.2% for all of its vehicles. Ford's domestic content was down to 67.6% from 70% for U.S.-produced vehicles compared to 55% for all. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV was nearly flat with 64.1% domestic content for U.S.-assembled vehicles and 55% for all.

Honda Motor Company Ltd.'s 62.6% total domestic content for vehicles assembled in the United States was the highest among foreign automakers. Volvo Cars' was the lowest with 30%.

Total domestic content for individual automakers is not available before 2019, but the highest domestic content was 90% in 2016 prior to Trump's election for the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia.

After the Ranger, the automatic transmission model of the Chevrolet Camaro was the second-most made in America vehicle in 2020 with 83% domestic content sourcing. The Corvette as well as the mid-size Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups tied for third with 82% domestic content. The Jeep Cherokee Latitude and Trailhawk SUVs were fourth with 78.5% domestic content.

The rest of the top 10 finishes as follows:

  • Tied for fifth with 77.5% domestic content: Three-liter Ford Explorer, Cadillac CT4 and CT5, and Tesla Model S and Y
  • Sixth with 77% domestic content: Cadillac XT4
  • Tied for seventh with 76% domestic content: Chevrolet Camaro with manual transmission, Caddilac XT5 and XT6, and GMC Acadia
  • Tied for eighth with 75.5% domestic content: Ford Expedition and Mustang with a 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine and 5.0-liter engine with automatic transmission
  • Tied for ninth with 75% domestic content: Five-liter Ford F-150, Lincoln Aviator, long-range Tesla Model 3, and Tesla Model X
  • Tenth with 74.5% domestic content: Jeep Cherokee

 

Long-promised disability aid
payments to be made in the fall

Rachel Aiello
Ottawa News Bureau

Sept 17, 2020

OTTAWA -- Canadians with disabilities waiting on the federal government’s promised one-time non-taxable payment of up to $600 will begin receiving that money sometime this fall.

As part of the modified payment program, the federal government has decided to expand eligibility to thousands more disabled Canadians, and as a result has opened up a 60-day application window for those looking to access the benefit, to apply for the existing federal Disability Tax Credit.

The one-time payment will be sent to all those who are certified under that program, and Canadians who may be eligible but aren’t already certified, now have until Sept. 25 to apply.

“We recognize that since the application process involves medical professionals, the time allotted must be sufficient to allow for medical appointments and paperwork to be completed which may take longer during the pandemic,” Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough’s office said in a statement.

The government estimates that 1.7 million Canadians will be able to receive the payment, citing those who currently receive other federal and provincial disability aid as potentially eligible.

The amount that each applicant will receive will vary if they are accessing other federal aid payment, such as the one-time payment made to seniors:

  •  Canadians who have a valid certificate for the Disability Tax Credit will receive $600.
  •  Canadians who are eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension will receive $300.
  •  Canadians who are eligible for both of these programs and are also eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will be receiving $100.

The financial aid payment was first promised on June 5 and was meant to offset the financial pressures of the pandemic, by sending the payments to all who are already eligible and had a valid certificate for the Disability Tax Credit.

The government said that those who were eligible—at the time 1.2 million Canadians at a cost of $548 million— would receive it automatically, without applying. That remains the case, but anyone who is not yet eligible for the Disability Tax Credit but could be has to apply and be approved in order to receive this money.

The piece of legislation that allows the one-time payments to be implemented, Bill C-20, received royal assent on July 27. This comes after the Liberals failed to get the all-party support needed to pass an earlier aid bill that included the payments. After that, the government said it was looking at other ways to deliver the payments but then returned to the legislative route. 

In order to deliver these payments accurately, Employment and Social Development Canada is in the process of building a new delivery system.

“We are going to do the heavy lifting. It is going to be super complicated administratively at the back end, but as a result we are doing the best we can to deliver,” Qualtrough said when speaking to Bill C-20 in the House of Commons on July 20.

Some Canadians with disabilities watched the various announcements for students, seniors, and other targeted demographics during the thick of the emergency phase of the pandemic, and were left wondering why they appeared to have fallen through the cracks.

Many already living on a low income are facing more expenses due to the pandemic, such as increased costs for personal support workers, private transportation, grocery delivery fees and prescription drug dispensing fees.

“This one-time payment is a very important step, but it is just one of many steps that need to be taken to ensure a quality of access and opportunities for people with disabilities in Canada… As we work hard to safely restart our economy and recover from the impacts of COVID-19, we cannot leave anyone behind, and we certainly cannot leave our most innovative, creative problem-solvers, who are our citizens with disabilities, behind either,” said Qualtrough.

 

U.S. abruptly lifts tariffs
on Canadian aluminum

The Canadian Press
Sept 16, 2020

WASHINGTON, Wash. — The United States has suddenly called a tariff truce with Canada, lifting its 10 per cent aluminum levy Tuesday just hours before Ottawa was to unleash a suite of countermeasures.

The tariffs on Canadian aluminum will be lifted retroactive to Sept. 1 because Canadian exports are expected to "normalize'' over the remainder of the year, the U.S. trade representative's office said in a statement.

The news came as Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and International Trade Minister Mary Ng prepared to unveil a list of U.S. aluminum products and manufactured goods Canada had singled out for reciprocal treatment later Tuesday.

Average monthly imports from Canada are expected to decline by 50 per cent from the levels they reached in the first six months of the year, the USTR said.

"Based on these expectations, the United States will resume duty-free treatment of non-alloyed, unwrought aluminum retrospective to Sept. 1, 2020,'' and the next four months will be closely monitored.

"If actual shipments exceeded 105 per cent of the expected volume for any month during the four-month period, then the United States will impose the 10 per cent tariff retroactively on all shipments made in that month.''

Both sides in the dispute had been negotiating for months, and there had been rumblings of a resolution, said Dan Ujczo, a trade lawyer with the Ohio firm Dickinson Wright who specializes in the Canada-U.S. corridor.

A gradual resumption of manufacturing in the U.S., which ground to a halt at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, likely helped ease the pressure.

"I think it's a combination of the threat of countermeasures and the facts on the ground as the purported surge was dropping, based on the economic recovery,'' Ujczo said.

Canadian aluminum producers have been complaining for weeks that what the U.S. saw as a "surge'' was in fact the unavoidable byproduct of emergency measures.

With automakers forced to idle their production lines, demand for specialty value-added aluminum products from north of the border began drying up in March.

Smelters, unable to simply shut down and ride out the storm, instead shifted to producing the same generic, unwrought metal as producers in the U.S., triggering alarm bells and eliciting the wrath of the USTR.

U.S. negotiators have long tried to impose quotas on exporters of Canadian metal, an effort that officials on the Canadian side of the table have strenuously opposed.

The terms of the detente reached Tuesday don't extend into quota territory, Ujczo said.

"I mean, there's certainly thresholds, but I don't think these operate as a limit to completely constrain the industry,'' he said. "These allow for growth within the industry based on market principles.''

The White House had also been under recent pressure to rethink the tariffs.

The governors of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont wrote to President Donald Trump last week in hopes of convincing him to stop what they called "unnecessary and inappropriate'' measures sure to have "negative consequences'' for consumers and suppliers in the United States.

"New England and Canada build things together,'' they wrote. "The rising costs will add to the challenges already facing most business sectors during these challenging times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.''

The U.S. imposed the tariffs last month at the request of two American manufacturers, prompting an outcry not only from Canadian producers, but from the bulk of aluminum producers in the U.S. as well.

The federal Liberal government had already issued a list of products it might have targeted for retaliation, including beverage cans, washing machines and golf clubs.

 

Ford Bargaining Update #4

9/15/2020

Unifor members,

On September 8, 2020, National President Jerry Dias selected Ford Motor Company as the target Company to lead negotiations across the Detroit 3 automakers. It is the Union’s intent to reach a settlement with Ford that will set the pattern for wages, benefits, pensions, and other working conditions for autoworkers across Canada.

Following discussions with each of the automakers in the week preceding the target selection, we determined that on critical matters such as future investment and collective agreement improvements, Ford’s vision most closely aligned with our own. The Union believes that negotiating with Ford first gives us the best chance to address our bargaining agenda and our vision for the industry.

Negotiations between the Union and Ford have proceeded well since Labour Day, with early progress made at the local committee tables, sub-committee tables and master tables.

Despite this encouraging progress, the Union and Company remain far apart on many key matters. This includes compensation and various workplace issues. The Union is also committed to locking in needed investment and job security measures that will be a cornerstone to any final deal. The Company and Union formally tabled their first comprehensive economic offers, which highlight many fundamental differences and challenges to be resolved. 

The week ahead

Bargaining will continue over the course of the next week, with both Union and Company representatives planning to meet as frequently as possible. Committees will work diligently to resolve all outstanding matters and in an attempt to reach a tentative settlement prior to the deadline that is set for 11:59 p.m. on Monday September 21.

Members can expect another bargaining update sent in advance of the deadline that will provide a status check on talks. Members can also expect to receive information from their local Union in regards to strike preparation as well as information related to ratification meetings. This is to help prepare members for either outcome. Be sure to contact your local Union representative for further information.

In accordance with public health rules, ratification meetings will operate differently this year as compared to prior years. Stay tuned for more information, and be sure to follow your local Union’s instructions on how to register for these meetings and enable yourself to vote on the tentative settlement.   

Unifor promoting racial justice

Those who watched the Union’s strike target announcement on September 8 would have seen National President Jerry Dias, National Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne, and the Chairs of the Ford, GM and FCA Master Bargaining Committees, wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts.

At the news conference, Jerry spoke passionately about the need for Unifor to use every platform it has to champion racial justice. There are few platforms with a higher profile in Canada than Detroit 3 bargaining.

It is important to remember that collective bargaining does not exist in a vacuum. It has a direct influence on the workplace, but also on the broader community.  Unifor believes in being a social union – a union that provides support to its members, and all workers, whenever they need it. When workers who are racialized face discrimination, oppression, and struggle for equality – our union will stand with them, in solidarity, and fight for change.

During this round of auto talks, the Unifor Master Bargaining Committees are committed to advancing racial justice, through education, awareness, and by breaking down barriers to racialized communities in the workplace.

The Union will continue to report on progress of talks with members over the coming week, and will relay as much information on the status of talks as possible. Our objective is to be as open and transparent with members as possible, without undermining the integrity of the bargaining process. Please stay tuned for further updates.

 

Carbon-fiber Shelby GT500
Mustang concept now for sale
starting at nearly $300K

The Detroit News
Sept 14, 2020

The carbon-fiber Shelby concept car that brought the 1967 GT500 into the future is now becoming a reality for 25 people to own — if they have a cool $298,000 and are willing to wait 12-18 months for their supercar. 

The Shelby GT500CR was created by Dallas-base Classic Recreations and unveiled in May. This week, the company announced that just over two dozen of these cars will be put into production. 

"We’re excited that the world’s first carbon-fiber-bodied heritage Shelby GT500CR has moved from dream to reality; a true inspiration for future models" Jason Engel, founder, co-owner and lead designer at Classic Recreations, said in a statement. "Far too often, car companies tease the public with concepts that never go into production.

"Our first car of this spectacular new series is being assembled and we look forward to presenting it to its new owner at the Shelby American facility in Las Vegas."

Working with SpeedKore Performance Group, Classic Recreations used original Shelby molds to reproduce the iconic lines of the '67-'68 Shelby Mustang using woven carbon fiber. The company claims this is the first time the material — typically reserved for supercars, exotic rides and aircraft — has been used so extensively on an American muscle car. 

It removed 600 pounds from the stock weight, enhancing performance. 

"Carroll Shelby was a proponent of carbon fiber and leveraged its benefits in everything from lightweight wheels to the Shelby Series 1 sports car,” Gary Patterson, president of Shelby American, said in the statement. "We’re pleased that Classic Recreations is now applying that exotic technology to continuation heritage Shelby muscle cars."

The carbon fiber isn't the only addition to the iconic classic cruiser. The company has added a Whipple supercharged Ford 5.0L Gen 3 Coyote engine matched to a Tremec six-speed manual transmission, upgraded suspension, better braking systems and the latest automotive tech. 

The result: 810 horsepower. 

After the cars are built, Patterson says they will be delivered to Shelby American in Las Vegas, where they will be prepped for sale worldwide. 

"As with all Shelby cars built by Classic Recreations, we will document each one in our Shelby Registry," he said. "Carroll would’ve been proud of this collaboration."

So, if you're ready to pony up the cash for this pony car? The package includes a trip to Las Vegas for delivery with a one-night stay in a luxury hotel, a private tour of Shelby American, a photo opportunity with the vehicle and a specially-curated Shelby gift package.

The new owner will also have a donation made in their honor to the Carroll Shelby Foundation, which is dedicated to providing medical assistance for those in need, including children, educational opportunities for young people through automotive and other training programs and benefitting the Shelby Automotive Museum.

Production of the Carbon Edition Shelby GT500CR is expected to take 12-18 months and there are plenty of customized options available for an additional fee.

 

Private Vancouver clinic loses
constitutional challenge of
public health-care rules

The Canadian Press
Sept 11, 2020

Dr. Brian Day had argued patients have the right to pay for private care if public system is too slow

The B.C. Supreme Court has dismissed a years-long court challenge of public health-care rules in B.C. that claimed the province's health-care system denies patients the right to timely care.

The constitutional challenge launched by private health-care advocate Dr. Brian Day, the owner of the Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver, claimed that prolonged wait times for medical procedures violated two charter rights, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

Day argued patients have a constitutional right to pay for private care when wait times in the public system are too long.

Day opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996 and launched court action against the B.C. government in 2009 over sections of the Medicare Protection Act. It prohibits doctors from billing the government for work they do in the public system while also earning money from private clinics as well as billing patients or their insurance companies.

Justice John J. Steeves dismissed both charter claims, noting that B.C.'s Medicare Protection Act is focused on medically necessary care, not ability to pay.

Opponents have said a two-tier system would favour patients who are wealthy enough to pay for "queue-jumping'' private insurance, as well as doctors who could bill both the public and private systems.

Dr. Darius Viskontas, left, prepares to remove a cyst from a male patient's knee, with assistance from Dr. Anne Wachsmuth, centre, and Miwa Holm, an operating room registered nurse, at the Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver on Aug. 31, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Lawyers argued universality of health-care at stake

Lawyers for both the B.C. and federal governments have argued such a system would erode Canada's universal health-care system and negatively impact patients with complex chronic conditions and the elderly.

While the court ruled against Day, Steeves did find that surgical patients are not receiving care in a timely manner, and that these lengthy wait times for surgery result in prolonged pain and suffering for patients.

"Some of these patients will experience prolonging and exacerbation of pain and diminished functionality as well as increased risk of not gaining full benefit from surgery," Steeves wrote.

Day says the trial is about patients' access to affordable treatment, while his opponents accuse him of trying to 'cherry pick' a key act of the medical system. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Day has not commented on the decision but has said in the past he anticipated an appeal.

At a news conference Thursday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is delighted with the decision.

"The ruling emphasizes the strength and the importance of public heath care, which is a cornerstone of our identity in British Columbia," he said.

Dix pointed to one section of the 800-page ruling highlighting testimony from physicians who declared surgical wait times have been improving in recent years, and that the province has implemented measures to successfully reduce them.

A report released last year suggests that wait times have been improving in B.C. since 2014 —  although it also found B.C. patients wait longer for key medical procedures than other Canadians.

'A historic win'

The B.C. Health Coalition was among the intervenors in the case. Edith MacHattie, co-chair of the coalition, said she started crying once the decision was released.

"[The case] has been the most serious attack against our public health-care system that we've ever seen," she told CBC News. "What [Steeves] has really done is uphold our existing medicare laws and really confirming that they're in the best interest of everyone in B.C."

Dr. Danyaal Raza, Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, another intervenor in the case, suggests had the decision gone the other way, wait times for public health care would have gotten longer — not shorter.

"We don't have an unlimited supply of doctors and nurses, so if you take some of them out of the public system, and reserve them just for small number of people that can pay to get care at the front of the line, then there's fewer folks left over to care more people waiting in the public health care system," he said. 

In a statement, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions called the ruling "a historic win for Canada's public health- care system."

Looking to the future

While the decision marks a significant moment in the history of Canadian health care, some members of the community say there is still much more work to be done to improve treatment.

In response to the judgement, the B.C. Anesthesiologists' Society said it's time for the province to commit to Patient Wait Time Guarantees.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Medical Association says healthcare funding has not kept pace with efforts to improve funding for an aging population.

"An increased investment to address these issues would ensure that Canadians have wide-ranging access to the health care they need, when and where they need it," said Dr. Ann Collins in a statement.

 

 

Ex-UAW President Williams set
to plead guilty in union
embezzlement scheme

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Sept 10, 2020

Detroit — Former United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams is scheduled to plead guilty on Sept. 30 and become the second retired union leader convicted of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on personal luxuries.

The plea hearing was set Wednesday in federal court, two weeks after Williams became the 15th person charged in a years-long crackdown on corruption within the U.S. auto industry.

Ex-UAW boss Dennis Williams OK'd using training center funds, aide says

The embezzlement scheme involving Williams and his successor, former UAW President Gary Jones, has revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and illegal benefits from union contractors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives.

The criminal investigation is ongoing. Prosecutors and UAW leaders are negotiating a possible deal that could include prolonged federal oversight aimed at eliminating corruption within the union and implementing reforms.

Williams, 67, of Corona, Calif., was charged with conspiracy to embezzle union funds, a felony punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

The criminal filing capped a prolonged period of uncertainty for Williams, who retired in June 2018. He was publicly implicated in the corruption scandal the next month when The Detroit News named Williams as the unidentified UAW official accused in a federal court filing of illegally ordering underlings to offload entertainment and travel expenses to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The conspiracy outlined by federal prosecutors started in 2010, when Williams was the UAW’s secretary/treasurer, and lasted until September. The conspiracy involved top leaders in the UAW assigned to Detroit and a regional office in Missouri.

Williams and his co-conspirators spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lavish entertainment, private villas, meals, cigars, golf and more during UAW junkets, prosecutors said. And the union bosses hid the expense from members.

There were at least seven members of the conspiracy, prosecutors said. That includes Jones, who pleaded guilty earlier this year and is awaiting a federal prison sentence. Other members include Jones aides Vance Pearson, who oversaw the UAW's regional office in Missouri, and Nick Robinson, who worked at that office.

Prosecutors use letters to refer to three other members of the conspiracy who have not been charged. The News has previously identified them as: Former Jones aide Danny Trull, aka "UAW Official C." Former Williams aide Amy Loasching, aka "UAW Official D," whose home in Wisconsin was raided by federal agents last year.

The late Missouri regional Director Jim Wells, aka "UAW Official E." Wells died in 2012.

 

Unifor announces Ford as
target Big 3 automaker
to move forward on
labour negotiations

Ford employees in Oakville 'most vulnerable' in contract talks

Kaitie Fraser  
CBC News
Sep 08, 2020

Unifor has announced Ford Motor Co. is the Big Three automaker the union will move forward with, guiding labour negotiations ahead of a strike deadline later this month. 

Unifor National President Jerry Dias made the announcement Tuesday morning in Toronto, as the country's largest private-sector union pushes for new product commitments made at Canadian plants — especially electric vehicles — and calls on government to invest in a national auto strategy. 

"I chose Ford because it is important that Ford understands what our vision is in the short and long term," Dias said during the press conference.

"The conversations I've had with Ford [leaders] have been instrumental in the decision .... the bottom line is the group that is most vulnerable is the workers in Oakville." 

The union made the choice over Fiat Chrysler and General Motors Co., and will negotiate with Ford Motor Co. until its strike deadline on Sept. 21 at 11:59 p.m. The deal will serve as a pattern for the agreements made with the other two manufacturers on issues like wages, pensions and benefits. 

The negotiations, which take place every four years, come as Ford employees face expiring product lines in Oakville, Ont., while Fiat Chrysler workers have seen shift cuts in Windsor and Brampton.

Dias said the Ford Edge, manufactured in Oakville, is set to roll off assembly lines in 2023 with no product replacement coming down the pipe. 

"I also felt obliged that our leadership in Oakville, our members in Oakville deserve to be in the driver's seat when it comes to determining their own fate."

He said it was important to the union's selection that the company chosen "understood we need product," and "understood the importance of their footprint to the community."

Union pushing for government support, electric innovation

Dias has continually touted the importance of the auto sector as one of Canada's main manufacturing drivers, and is once again calling on provincial and federal governments to adopt a national auto strategy. 

"The auto industry is critical to the manufacturing industry in this country," Dias said, adding governments have to step up "in order to make this work." 

Dias suggested the federal government use the Strategic Innovation Fund or green infrastructure funding to better support the auto industry in Canada. 

"I would argue that these two funds — if you're talking about a transformation and you're talking about a green economy ... what better place to start than your lead manufacturing industry." 

Unifor members give strong strike mandate

Unifor says it will target the company that offers the best prospects of job security to workers, and that if no deal is reached, workers have voted to support a potential strike.

At the end August, a majority of votes from union members at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (98.4 per cent voted in favour), Ford Motor Company (96.4 per cent voted in favour) and General Motors (95.3 per cent in favour) showed that members will allow their bargaining committees to move forward with strike action. 

"Our members voted overwhelmingly to support their bargaining committees and our bargaining priorities including, job security, product commitments and economic gains for all members" Dias said in a news release at the time.

"We will continue to push our agenda at the bargaining table, but remind government that they have an active role to play in securing our auto industry's future. A future made in Canada."

Unifor began formal contract talks with the Detroit Big Three in Toronto on Aug. 12

 

 

Here Are the CHP's Last 2 Ford
Crown Victoria Police Cars Ever

John Pearley Huffman
Sept 8, 2020

We nailed it. Two years ago, Car and Driver ventured up to Sacramento to experience one of the last Ford Crown Victoria P71 Interceptors in the California Highway Patrol's fleet of black-and-white Panther platform prowlers. The particular car we drove, Unit 2151 in the CHP's fleet, was, according to the CHP, the Crown Vic with the lowest mileage showing on its odometer. And this past week, the agency announced that the last of these big Ford sedans had been retired. There in the photo that accompanied the release was good old Unit 2151—it's the "slick top" without the light bar on the right side of the picture.

Yes, Unit 2151 truly was the last of the CHP P71 Interceptors to be retired. Here’s our story from the May 2018 issue. Or at least one of the last two. We're calling it the last, and that ends the debate we’re having with ourselves.

It's kind of a sad moment here on the left side of the country. From 1996 to 2012, the P71 was the only vehicle the CHP purchased as its regular patrol vehicle. So we all memorized the appearance of those cars, particularly the relationship between the amber driving markers and the headlights, and could spot a Crown Vic bearing down upon us.

According to Greg Zumstein in the North Sacramento CHP office, Unit 2151 left that office's lot on January 14, 2020, with 97,716 miles showing on its odometer. That's up from the 63,952 that were showing when C/D had its encounter in early 2018. We have placed calls with CHP Fleet Operations to find out where 2151 has been used between January and its retirement on September 1. Because it's important questions like this that are at the very heart of Car and Driver's mission and the essence of automotive journalism itself.

The Panther-platform Crown Vic left production back in 2011 after running in two generations from the 1992 to 2012 model years. All the 2012 models were built for export. The square-bodied Panther-platform LTD Crown Victoria ran between the 1979 and 1991 model years. Unit 2151 is a 2010 model. The last P71 Interceptor went to the Kansas Highway Patrol, and the last Crown Vic of any sort left Ford's Saint Thomas plant in Ontario, Canada, on September 15, 2011, and was exported to Saudi Arabia.

While this is the end of the Crown Vic for the CHP, a few of these beefy warhorses—and yes, in this context even a horse can be beef—are still on the job. Even in California. Several agencies stockpiled cars as production was ending and put them in service years later. Both the Los Angeles County and Santa Barbara County sheriff departments still have P71s in the fleets. And in the city of Santa Barbara, they are still used by the police to trawl those mean streets.

The CHP adopted the Explorer-based Ford Interceptor Utility to replace the Crown Vic and later moved over to V-6–powered Dodge Chargers. Currently, some Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs are joining the fleet as patrol vehicles.

It's not like the Crown Vic is the pinnacle of automotive achievement. It was just a big and rugged sedan. But as a police car, it was iconic. Not fake journalist-spewing-words iconic, but literally a vehicle that for many of us is the only police car we knew growing up. Its passing means something.

Not much, but something.

 

Colder weather and holidays
bring new COVID-19
concerns, Tam warns

The Canadian Press
Sept 5, 2020

OTTAWA — The fall will bring new risks in the COVID-19 pandemic along with colder weather and indoor family holiday gatherings, Canada's chief public health officer warned Friday.

With the final long weekend of the summer season upon us, Dr. Theresa Tam said Canadians need to consider their own risk factors and the details of plans for any in-person gatherings with friends and family.

And they should be asking themselves some important questions, she said.

"Are you at high risk of developing serious complications if you become infected?" Tam asked rhetorically.

"Or if you would have to self-isolate, would this seriously disrupt your upcoming plans?"

Knowing the people you're with does not protect you from catching the virus that causes the respiratory illness, Tam warned.

And Canadians need to consider whether people they live with are at high risk of contracting the virus, she said.

After months of dealing with the novel coronavirus, government agencies, employers and individuals understand COVID-19 better now, so the situation Canadians are facing is different from the one in the spring when the disease first began to spread widely, Tam told reporters in Ottawa.

But there is renewed concern that the number of cases could balloon out of control still.

An average of 525 COVID-19 cases a day have been reported in Canada the past week, a noticeable uptick from earlier in the summer, and schools are reopening across the country.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford criticized hosts of backyard parties, whom he blamed for new cases in his province. Friday, Ontario reported 148 new COVID-19 infections, nearly half of them in a suburban region just west of Toronto.

Tam said contagion in private settings is a major concern now, but at the same time local health authorities will order fresh closures and reductions in public activities if they're needed to suppress new outbreaks. Those shouldn't be needed if people follow public health advice, she said.

British Columbia's top doctor warned this week that there is the potential for an explosive spread of COVID-19 cases over the Labour Day long weekend.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged B.C. residents to choose smaller gatherings over larger ones over the weekend in a continuing effort to keep case numbers low.

"Choose to spend time with your household bubble instead of a group of strangers and choose to use those layers of protection wherever you go," Henry said Thursday.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault declared Friday that the contagion was under control in his province, despite authorities there reporting more than 180 new COVID-19 infections for the second consecutive day.

Still, Legault urged Quebecers to be prudent ahead of the long weekend.

"I am asking you not to let your guard down," he said.

Tam said downloading the government's COVID Alert app is one way to mitigate the risks of catching and spreading the illness unknowingly although it is currently only operational in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Quebec has said it does not plan to use the app, but announced Friday that it will launch its own alerting system.

Health Minister Christian Dube told a Montreal news conference the system will allow regions to be designated by zone, depending on the number of COVID-19 cases found in those regions.

Details of the system were to be revealed Tuesday, although Dube compared it to the warning notice boards already found in certain parks in Quebec.

As of Friday, Canada had recorded 130,834 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 9,140 deaths.

 

 

Ford to offer early retirement
incentives to 1,400 US
white-collar employees as
part of a multi-year $11
Billion Restructuring Plan

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Sept 3, 2020

Ford Motor Co. will offer early retirement incentives with hopes of cutting its US white-collar workforce by 1,400 more positions.

The voluntary buyout offers won't apply to every part of the business but most of the reductions will take place in the area of Dearborn, Michigan, where Ford has its headquarters and large product development and engineering operations.

The offers will go to US salaried workers who are 55 years or older and have done at least 10 years of service, 65 years or older with five years of service completed or simply 30 years service completed.

Financial details of the the proposed offers have not been shared.

Information technology workers and those responsible for rolling out new vehicles will not be affected by the reduction, which is about 5 percent of the US salaried workforce

They must snap up the offer by October 23 and are eligible to retire as of December 31, according to an email sent to employees on Wednesday.

Those approved to retire would leave the company by the end of the year.

Information technology workers and those responsible for rolling out new vehicles will not be affected by the reduction which is about 5 percent of the US salaried workforce.

The company said the cuts are part of an $11 billion restructuring plan that started more than a year ago.

Kumar Galhotra, the company's president of the Americas, told employees about the offers: 'We're in a multiyear process of making Ford more fit and effective around the world.

'We have re-prioritized certain products and services and are adjusting our staffing to better align with our new work statement.'

A spokesman says Ford expects to meet its goals with the offers. If it doesn't, then it may consider involuntary separations.

Ford has about 30,000 white-collar workers in the US. The company has 56,000 hourly factory workers.

Last year Ford said it would cut 12,000 jobs in Europe and 7,000 white-collar positions worldwide as it trimmed expenses to prepare for a world of autonomous and electric vehicles.

The 7,000 salaried positions amounted to 10% of Ford's total worldwide workforce and included 2,300 in the US. The cuts were accomplished with buyouts and involuntary layoffs.

Those cuts were designed to reduce bureaucracy and allow the company to make faster decisions.

At the start of the year Ford had 190,000 employees worldwide.

Like other automakers, Ford has been struggling this year as the coronavirus forced factory closures for two months and chased customers away from showrooms.

Shares of Ford rose slightly in Wednesday trading to $6.91. From April through June, Ford's posted better-than-expected results with a $1.12 billion net profit

Factories have been reopened and demand is slowly returning.

From April through June, Ford's posted better-than-expected results with a $1.12 billion net profit.

It was pushed into the black by a $3.5 billion accounting gain on the value of its autonomous vehicle operation. Without that, it would have lost $1.9 billion.

With CEO Jim Hackett retiring, current COO Jim Farley plans to accelerate the retirement effort when he takes over on October 1.

This summer their cleared out many offices as they said they were preparing for a future where many workers don't come into the office every day.

On Monday, BMW announced it was reducing staff 'to align with current market conditions,' Automotive News reported.

'The effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching,' BMW North America CEO Bernhard Kuhnt wrote in letter to dealers. 'Given the reduced size of the business, we now need to … re-scale our business across the company accordingly.'

The German automaker's sales dropped almost 40 percent in the second quarter.

 

Ford to cut 1,000 salaried
jobs in U.S. amid overhaul

Jordyn Grzelewski
Daniel Howes
The Detroit News
Sept 2, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is planning to eliminate 1,000 white-collar jobs in the United States by the end of the year, two sources close to the situation confirmed Tuesday, another step in its years-long, $11 billion restructuring.

The reductions, to be achieved under a voluntary program, are not a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic that interrupted production for eight weeks in the spring, slammed the Blue Oval's earnings and forced most salaried employees to work from their homes.

The looming buyouts are the latest step in a sweeping reorganization intended to reverse Ford's lagging financial performance and achieve what CEO Jim Hackett calls financial “fitness.” The company expects to report a full-year operating loss for the first time in a decade.

Last year, Ford closed plants and eliminated thousands of jobs in Europe, where it has been losing money, and struggled to right-size its operations in China. In North America — the automaker’s most profitable region thanks to F-Series pickups and SUVs — the cutbacks are likely to be smaller. They are in addition to 2,300 previously announced salaried job reductions in the U.S. during Hackett’s tenure.

Ford cut 7,000 salaried positions worldwide last year in the first round of the global overhaul. Those reductions were expected to save the company $600 million a year. The carmaker had a worldwide workforce of 190,000 people at the end of 2019.

A Ford spokesman declined to comment on the latest cuts.

The pain of the pandemic also is being felt keenly elsewhere in the auto industry, with BMW AG planning unspecified cuts to its U.S. salaried workforce. The German automaker is reducing headcount “to align with current market conditions,” a spokesman said Monday. BMW’s sales in North America slid almost 40% in the second quarter.

Ford’s latest retrenchment comes as Hackett prepares to retire and make way for Jim Farley, who becomes CEO Oct. 1. Farley has promised to “swing for the fences” and return Ford’s North American region to a 10% profit margin. His first big test will be the complicated launch of a redesigned version of the cash-cow F-150 pickup at two U.S. factories.

Farley, who helped guide the company through a two-month shutdown at the outset of the pandemic, has said he sees a resolve in the workforce reminiscent of the company’s existential crisis during the Great Recession of 2009.

“Everyone at Ford knows the situation we’re in,” Farley said just before becoming chief operating officer March 1. “I can see it on the faces of my colleagues and it takes me back to about 10 years ago. I’ve seen the look before.”

The new round of white-collar job eliminations was first reported by StreetInsider.com and Bloomberg News.

 

Ex-UAW boss Williams charged in
embezzlement scandal as federal
probe continues

Robert Snell
Jordyn Grzelewski
Breana Noble
The Detroit News
August 31, 2020

Detroit — Retired United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams was charged Thursday with conspiracy to embezzle union funds following a years-long investigation into racketeering, bribery and other crimes that has pushed one of the nation's most powerful unions to the brink of a federal takeover.

Williams, 67, of Corona, Calif., is the second UAW president charged during an investigation by agents from the FBI, Labor Department and Internal Revenue Service during a probe that has led to 14 convictions.  It has revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and illegal benefits from union contractors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives.

That criminal investigation is ongoing, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider told The Detroit News in an interview: "We're not done. This is a very significant step and we are going to continue."

Williams was charged in a criminal information, which means a guilty plea is expected. The criminal charge is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

“We are aware of criminal charges filed against former UAW President Dennis Williams," UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in a statement. "Any violation of Mr. Williams' oath of office and his responsibility to oversee our members and their sacred dues money, should rightfully face criminal penalty. Today’s development is a sad day for UAW members. But it is also a humbling day of truth and justice demonstrating that no one is above the law, regardless of their position."

Under President Rory Gamble, the UAW is focused on "comprehensively reviewing and strengthening our union's financial and ethical policies and controls," Rothenberg said. "As we have committed to our membership, when the UAW finds there has been wrongdoing, we will take all available actions to hold that person accountable, no matter how high the office they hold. Let us begin to turn the page to a better union — but let us never forget the painful lessons of the past.”

The case against Williams was filed one day after The Detroit News was first to report that criminal charges against the former UAW president were imminent. His criminal defense lawyer, Chicago attorney Sean Berkowitz, did not respond immediately to a message seeking comment.

“The charges today are further steps forward in our relentless effort to ensure that the over 400,000 men and women of the UAW have honest and ethical leadership," Schneider said in a separate statement. “The UAW’s members deserve leaders dedicated to serving the members and their families, not serving themselves.”

Schneider declined to talk about the status of an investigation focusing on Gamble, the current UAW president. The News reported in January that federal agents were investigating ties between Gamble and one of the union's highest-paid vendors as well as whether labor leaders received bribes. Gamble has denied wrongdoing.

“It is not our policy to comment on ongoing investigations and whether they exist or not,” Schneider said. “It takes time to follow up on leads in any case.”

Thursday's filing "is consistent with the government's view that there is a long-lived conspiracy amongst one UAW leader after another," said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross Business School. "That's important to the government's attempt to wrestle management of the union from its current leaders, who, in the government's eyes, could be just the next round of leaders in a long line of leaders who have been found to be corrupt."

The criminal filing caps a prolonged period of uncertainty for Williams, who retired in June 2018. He was publicly implicated in the corruption scandal the next month when The News named Williams as the unidentified UAW official accused in a federal court filing of illegally ordering underlings to offload entertainment and travel expenses to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Williams is the 15th person charged with wrongdoing since the investigation emerged publicly three years ago.

“It’s sad to see that happen,” Neal Kesterson, an electrician at General Motors Co.’s aftersales parts distribution center in Ypsilanti, said of the federal probe’s findings. “Experience is usually a good thing. But your experience has dated you and caused you to go sour. Now, you’re a bad example. They need to get out of the picture, so we can have good examples for the future generations coming up."

Art Wheaton, an automotive industry specialist at Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations School, however, does not expect Thursday's filing naming Williams to change the calculus: "There is nothing new here. These are all part of the original allegations from the very beginning."

In Wheaton's view, the federal government is ill-equipped to manage a large union, and he does not believe the case rises to the level of, for example, the influence of organized crime on the International Brotherhood of Teamsters that led to 30 years of federal oversight.

A more productive outcome, he believes, would be a negotiated set of reforms, including changing the UAW's constitution to allow direct elections of union officers: "There is a way to have government auditing, government assistance and check-ins, but it doesn't mean it has to be a complete and total takeover of the union. I'm a firm believer in collective bargaining in which they make changes that everybody can live with."

Some UAW members think some type of third-party oversight could help: “I don’t see a problem with that if they’re making sure it is done right,” Kesterson said. “I think it’s a great idea. Where there’s an opportunity to have votes be falsified, whether it’s a president’s election of the elections of the (local) UAW, we need to have the proper votes.”

Others through the rank-and-file Unite All Workers for Democracy movement are calling on their colleagues to step up and demand a special convention be held to implement the direct election of officials and bring greater accountability to the union.

Scott Houldieson, an electrician at Ford Motor Co.'s Chicago Assembly plant and a founding member of the movement, said his request for the UAW in October to investigate and charge Williams under the union's constitution recently was denied. He is working to appeal it with the union's Public Review Board, but he would welcome the international leaders taking action now.

"It was very disappointing that they felt the federal government needed to step in before they would," Houldieson said.

The conspiracy outlined by federal prosecutors started in 2010, when Williams was the UAW’s secretary/treasurer, and lasted until September. The conspiracy involved top leaders in the UAW assigned to Detroit and a regional office in Missouri.

Williams and his co-conspirators spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lavish entertainment, private villas, meals, cigars, golf and more during UAW junkets, prosecutors said. And the union bosses hid the expense from members.

There were at least seven members of the conspiracy, prosecutors said. That includes his successor Gary Jones, who pleaded guilty earlier this year and is awaiting a federal prison sentence. Other members include Jones aides Vance Pearson, who oversaw the UAW's regional office in Missouri, and Nick Robinson, who worked at that office.

Prosecutors use letters to refer to three other members of the conspiracy who have not been charged. The News has previously identified them as: Former Jones aide Danny Trull, aka "UAW Official C." Former Williams aide Amy Loasching, aka "UAW Official D," whose home in Wisconsin was raided by federal agents last year.

The late Missouri regional Director Jim Wells, aka "UAW Official E." Wells died in 2012. Jones was previouly identified as "UAW Official A," and Williams as "UAW Official B."

The News last year was the first to identify Williams as "UAW Official B," the pseudonym federal prosecutors used in court filings while accusing Williams of criminal wrongdoing. Prosecutors often use nicknames to refer to people in court filings who have not been charged with a crime.

In court filings, prosecutors accused "UAW Official B" of helping embezzle more than $1 million spent on personal luxuries and illegally used money from Detroit automakers to renovate the union’s northern Michigan resort, where the union built him a $1.3 million lakefront home.

 

 

2020 Ford Mustang
Shelby GT500 test drive

August 21, 2020

The 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is no one-trick pony. The most powerful Ford ever is as happy on a twisty track as it is on a drag strip, Fox News Automotive Editor Gary Gastelu says.

 

UAW Moves Closer to Teamsters-
Style Government Monitoring

Aug 20, 2020
LaborPains.org Team

After a years-long federal investigation into corruption in the ranks of the United Auto Workers (UAW), more than a dozen people have been convicted — most of them former UAW officials. Now, the threat of a government takeover of the union is one step closer to becoming a reality.

This week, the U.S. Justice Department proposed subjecting the UAW to “10 years of federal oversight to eliminate corruption within the union.” The proposal comes after the latest guilty plea from former UAW President Gary Jones, who confessed to embezzling hundreds of thousands of members’ dues dollars. According to court documents, Jones was part of a multi-year scheme to divert money from the UAW for his personal use and the use of other UAW officials. Jones reportedly used the money to “splurge on private villas, golf outings, boozy meals and horseback rides on the beach.”

As one analysis from a Penn State Harrisburg professor stated, “Removing the top leadership doesn’t necessarily lead to long-term change. Monitorship could be a healthy remedy.” Auto workers seem to agree. One UAW member at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Warren Truck Plant said a takeover was “definitely needed.” In fact, auto workers appalled by the union’s actions have already been calling for their own reforms. They formed a group called United All Workers for Democracy that aims to instate “one member, one vote” elections. The goal is to help members better hold their leadership accountable.

Given this latest bout of bad press, it’s no wonder the union’s international leadership is avoiding the spotlight. The Democratic National Convention taking place this week would normally prompt participation from the UAW’s top leaders, especially considering presidential nominee Joe Biden’s stated commitment to bolstering the U.S. auto industry. Then-president Dennis Williams notably held court with reporters at the 2016 National Convention. In 2012, UAW President Bob King addressed the convention with an onstage speech. Alas, this year there’s been no sign of anyone from the union’s current headquarters.

Instead, former president Bob King made a brief appearance, though it wasn’t in support of Joe Biden. Additionally, vice president of Michigan-based UAW Local 5960 is scheduled to speak. Perhaps the union hopes remarks from a local leader will be a distraction from the International’s misdeeds.

Unfortunately for the UAW, this is far from the last negative headline regarding the union’s corruption scandal. But for the thousands of auto workers that are tired of the union’s tactics, a government takeover might be the perfect solution.

 

Ford introduces accessories to
customize Bronco, Bronco Sport

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Aug  19, 2020

Holly — Ford Motor Co. is rolling out five "adventure concepts" that show how owners will be able to customize the all-new 2021 Bronco stable.

The introduction Thursday of some of the factory-backed accessories that customers will be able to order comes a month after the reveal of the new Bronco and Bronco Sport. The automaker says it has  racked up 165,000 pre-orders, many more than it expected.

The concepts, with themes that reflect different lifestyles, include a four-door "fishing guide" based on the Bronco Outer Banks trim level; a two-door Bronco "trail rig" tricked out for hardcore trail-riding; a Sport version of the "trail rig"; the Sport "TOW RZR," which adds towing and cargo accessories to the Badlands trim; and the Sport "Off-Roadeo Adventure Patrol." In all, there will be more than 200 factory-backed accessories available for the two- and four-door Bronco, and more than 100 for the Sport. 

Ford in July unveiled the new Bronco, which returns after a years-long campaign by Bronco fans and Ford employees to bring it back after its 1996 discontinuation. The Sport model (built in Hermosillo, Mexico) hits showrooms later this year. The Michigan Assembly-built full-size Bronco should be available next spring. Reservations requiring $100 deposits are still open on Ford's website.

The two- and four-door Broncos are offered with six factory trim levels: Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Wildtrak and Badlands. The smaller Sport comes in four: Base, Big Bend, Outer Banks and Badlands.

Ford came up with the adventure concepts to highlight some of the ways owners can customize those models for different lifestyles. Ford showed the concepts at an outdoor event for the motoring press at Holly Roads ORV Park this week.

The four-door Outer Banks "fishing guide" concept, for example, was built with surf-casting along Cape Hatteras National Seashore in mind. It has a first-row soft top, Yakima roof platform and a rod rack over the front hood.

The two-door "trail rig" concept based on the Badlands trim has a roof rack with mounts for a shovel, a winch, tube doors, beadlock-capable wheels and a 40-inch LED light bar.

Customers will be able to order most accessories through their dealers, and will have the option to finance them as part of the vehicle purchase. Those who lease a Bronco will have the option to add accessories, as well, for a residual fee.

"Our accessories and personalizations are really important," said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service. "With the modifications and personalizations that we can do through our dealers or at the factory, every customer, if they want, can have a unique, one-of-a-kind Bronco."

To foster community among Bronco owners, Ford will host four "Off-Roadeo" events next summer; one will take place in the hill country of Austin, Texas. The event will be open to owners of two- and four-door Broncos, and of the Bronco Sport Badlands edition.

And this fall the Bronco R desert racer will return to the Baja 1000. 

"Last year, the Bronco R race prototype commemorated the 50th anniversary of (Bronco's) win (at the 1969 Baja 1000)," said LaNeve. "It previewed Bronco's design and helped prove out the new suspension, chassis and EcoBoost engine. We're proud to announce that Bronco R will return to Baja 1000."

He added: "We're excited to bring Bronco back. Not just the iconic name and product, but a brand — a whole lifestyle."

 

Canadians left holding the bill
for cancelled flights looking
to U.S. for refunds

Global News
Craig Lord
August 16, 2020

Brian Snyder/Reuters Canadians pushing airlines for full refunds on cancelled flights are finding the U.S. Department of Transportation has their backs.

Many Canadians who had their flight plans disrupted by the novel coronavirus pandemic are turning to a United States travel authority to back them up as they request refunds from airlines.

When COVID-19 first hit North America earlier this spring, airlines were thrown into disarray by travel bans and a general unease around flying during the pandemic.

Thousands of flights were accordingly cancelled, with passengers receiving varying degrees of compensation.

A common offer from the airlines was a voucher for future travel, an option that frustrated many passengers.

Ottawa resident Edith Kehoe tells Global News her 94-year-old stepfather was offered a voucher for future travel when his trip to San Diego, planned in January to attend a military funeral for his brother-in-law, was cancelled by the airline.

Kehoe says the total cost of the flight was roughly $1,000 — not necessarily exorbitant, but significant for a pensioner.

Though her stepfather is in good health, she notes that to give a customer in their 90s a travel credit is “kind of useless.”

The flight, booked through Expedia, was to be code-shared between United Airlines and Air Canada.

Kehoe says she called and emailed the airlines to ask for a full refund but heard nothing in response.

She started looking for other options online and found Canada’s Air Passenger Rights group on Facebook.

There, dozens of Canadians have been asking for the best course of action to push airlines for refunds since the pandemic began.

Among the top advice? For flights that depart from, travel to or transfer through the United States, submit a complaint to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) — not the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), the travel authority’s counterpart north of the border.

“I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it a try,” Kehoe says, though she notes she wasn’t hopeful given that the flight originated in Canada.

She submitted a complaint through an online form in about five minutes and heard back a few weeks later from the DOT requesting more information on dates and flight numbers. A few weeks after that, she learned her complaint had been referred to United Airlines.

Two days later, she was told she’d be receiving a full refund to her credit card.

“I frankly was flabbergasted,” she says.

Kehoe’s story is echoed by dozens of Canadians posting daily on the Air Passenger Rights Facebook group.

Many note that they tried for months to press airlines for refunds rather than vouchers, only to be bounced around from agent to agent or authority to authority. Once the U.S. DOT gets involved, however, refunds often seem to come through in a matter of days.

Gábor Lukács, president of the Air Passenger Rights non-profit and moderator of the Facebook group, says the power of the U.S. DOT to get results for Canadian air travellers comes down to its reputation for enforcing regulations.

The U.S. DOT issued an enforcement notice in April reminding airlines of passengers' rights. In short, if the airline cancelled the flight, the customer is entitled to a full refund.

If they don't pay up, they can expect to hear from the DOT in the form of hefty fines.

The U.S. authority has been “very clear” on the question of flights cancelled due to the pandemic, Lukacs says, as has the European Union.

The CTA, on the other hand, has muddied the waters on the acceptable course of action, he says.

A March statement from the CTA said that vouchers or credits for future travel could be an “appropriate approach” for compensating passengers without drastically damaging airlines’ businesses during an unprecedented global pandemic.

But Lukács says the statement shows the federal government has “sided with airlines” and left Canadians to foot the bill to keep planes flying post-pandemic.

“Canadian airlines have been using the money of Canadian passengers as an interest-free, non-refundable cash advance,” he says.

Lukács has tried to get the CTA to remove the original statement from its website, arguing it gives Canadians a false impression of their rights to push for a refund.

A Federal Court of Appeal has since ruled that the CTA statement does not alter Canadian passengers’ rights to a refund, but earlier this month Lukács filed to appeal the issue to the Supreme Court.

The CTA told Global News in a statement that Canadian legislation does not give the CTA authority to force travel companies to provide full refunds when flights are cancelled for reasons outside the airline’s control, as is the case in Europe or the U.S.

Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR), which came into force in July 2019, require airlines only to complete a passenger’s itinerary when a flight is cancelled for reasons beyond the company’s control.

The CTA said individual airlines might include refund policies in their respective tariffs, but these declarations could include force majeure provisions that exempt them in instances where flights are cancelled for reasons beyond the company’s control.

Lukács disputes the CTA's interpretation of the law, and points to four previous court challenges in which the CTA played a role in forcing an airline to provide refunds for cancellations beyond its control.

In a 2013 case concerning Porter Airlines, the CTA's decision read that "it is unreasonable for Porter to refuse to refund the fare paid by a passenger because of its cancellation of a flight, even if the cause is an event beyond Porter's control."

Vouchers also do not satisfy the APPR, Lukács says, because the value of a flight today is likely to be lower than the cost of the same ticket two years from now.

Not to mention, Canadians have also been significantly affected by the pandemic’s economic disruptions.

“People need the money now,” he says.

As such, in counselling any disgruntled traveller who has been stymied by individual airlines and whose itinerary included a stop in the south of the border, Lukács believes it is the U.S. DOT that can best represent Canadians in their disputes with airlines.

The DOT recently released data showing Air Canada received the third-highest number of complaints in April, outpacing 80 carriers in the same category.

“It’s really an awkward situation. Canadians have to go to a foreign authority that’s owed to them,” he says.

“The government has the tools available to it to deal with the situation, but are not using them.”

Kehoe says she’s not sure if she would have received a refund from the airlines if she hadn’t gone to the DOT.

“I was having no luck reaching the airline on my own,” she says.

Kehoe, a 42-year veteran of Canada's public service, says she’s disappointed the Canadian government hasn’t taken action to draw a harder line on the issue of refunds.

“It’s really rather sad that the Canadian government feels they need to stand behind the airlines as opposed to the travellers who are out of pocket,” she says.

“To suggest, as CTA has, that a credit is somehow a suitable alternative is really quite laughable.”

Legal aid for travellers

There are two kinds of complaints travellers can file with the U.S. Department of Transportation to push for regulatory action against airlines.

There’s a complaint form on the U.S. DOT website, like the one Kehoe filled out for her stepfather, that begins an informal process to put pressure on an airline without escalating to legal action.

But for more serious issues that require a legal response, there’s a formal complaint system, which might require the help of a lawyer to submit.

“That process is not user-friendly at all. You are on your own,” says Lukács.

Lukács was approached a few weeks ago by a team of law students at the University of Ottawa who were completing a course in legal technology. As part of their studies, they had to automate a solution to a legal issue.

Taylor Bain, a second-year law student at uOttawa, says she and her classmates saw the issues with passengers seeking refunds for coronavirus-related travel disruptions and set out to streamline the process.

“A lot of people think it’s difficult to put a complaint like that in, that they might need a lawyer for it,” Bain says.

She and her classmates created Formidable Solutions, an app based on the Documate platform that can draw up a formal legal complaint for submission to the U.S. DOT by inputting just a few documents such as flight confirmations and cancellation notices.

Lukács says he’s impressed with the quick work of the students, who turned around the solution in just two weeks’ time.

Bain says tech like this can expedite “tedious” tasks common in the law and help complainants feel more connected to the legal system.

 

 

Negotiations underway between
Unifor and Detroit Three
auto makers

August 14, 2020

TORONTO– Unifor opened formal contract talks with Fiat Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors in Toronto today telling automakers the theme of these talks is The Future is Made in Canada.

“There is no secret our members are looking to secure and manufacture new products to build this industry and create good jobs for the future," said Unifor National President Jerry Dias after handing the union’s proposals to the companies’ Canadian-based officials while wearing a red Unifor mask with the theme.

“It is not lost on us that auto sales were slowing before COVID-19 forced plants to shut down but we also see opportunity here to find a Made in Canada solution as the industry rebounds.”

Dias also urged the federal government to expedite a manufacturing strategy, pointing out that auto assembly jobs help stimulate the economy, as every job on an assembly line creates or supports approximately 10 additional jobs.

“As we sat down today with the Detroit Three we were very emphatic about what needs to happen in this set of negotiations if we are going to have successful conclusions to this bargaining,” said Dias during a news conference streamed live on Unifor’s Facebook page. “We understand the industry, we understand where it’s heading, and we do not intend on having this industry and our members be left behind as we are heading to more global consolidations and major investments into electric vehicles.”

“Our plants in Windsor, Brampton, Oakville, and Oshawa all present an opportunity to increase volume and capacity and the pandemic exposed the fact that Canada has a well-established infrastructure, secure supply chain, along with research and development expertise that must be built upon,” said Dias.

Unifor will continue its long-standing practice of pattern bargaining. The union is expected to choose which automaker it will negotiate with to establish a pattern that the remainder of the contracts will be based on.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, strict safety protocols are in place for the duration of the negotiations.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector and represents 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy, including twenty thousand autoworkers and thousands more who work in the auto parts sector. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

To follow the latest news on Detroit Three negotiations and find background on Canada’s auto industry visit the Auto Talks 2020 website. (Click Below)

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Ford recalls midsize SUVs to
fix possible brake fluid leaks

Associated Press
August 13, 2020

Ford is recalling more than 558,000 midsize SUVs in North America because the brakes may not work properly.

The recall covers certain 2015 through 2018 Ford Edge and 2016 through 2018 Lincoln MKX vehicles.

Ford said Wednesday that some front brake hoses can rupture, causing brake fluid to leak. If too much fluid leaks, it could take more effort to stop the vehicle, and stopping distances could increase.

The company says it doesn’t know of any crashes or injuries from the problem.

Drivers should see a brake warning light on the dashboard if the fluid gets too low.

Owners will be notified starting the week of Sept. 14. Dealers will replace the front brake jounce hoses with new ones with a different design.

 

Union, automakers begin
negotiations as uncertain
economy raises stakes

BY ANITA BALAKRISHNAN,
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Aug 12, 2020

 TORONTO — The autoworkers’ union is set to begin formal negotiations on Wednesday with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Company and General Motors, in what one observer calls “the fight of their life”.

Unifor, which represents about 20,000 Canadian workers between the three companies, said the recent COVID-19 pandemic has stoked uncertainty about future job security as economies struggle.

“This round of talks is especially unique and challenging,” said the union, on its website outlining the auto talks. “This year’s contract talks will pivot on good jobs and future investment.”

Ford also said that “global economic uncertainties” have stressed the importance of maintaining jobs in Canada.

“We’ll be asking our employees to work with us to help shape this new reality together,” said spokeswoman Rose Pao in a statement.

The negotiations will focus on collective agreements that expire Sept. 21. The union said that it will identify on Sept. 8 its “strike target” — the manufacturer it will target first to set a pattern for the other agreements.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias says he will be on the lookout for any attempts by the manufacturers to use COVID-19 as an “excuse.” He says other than improving wage increases, he expects major battlegrounds will be a new product investment from Ford in Oakville, putting a stop to outsourcing Ford parts depots, and restoring the third shift in Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor and Brampton facilities. Dias is also eyeing the 2023 expiration of major programs in GM’s powertrain operation in St. Catharines.

While recent trade policy changes, when enacted, will improve the state of play, Dias says the government needs to do more to attract electric vehicle investments to Canada.

“This is an industry that pays a lot of taxes,” says Dias. “And it’s a lot of jobs. So everybody’s going to have to start to row together in the right direction.”

Ian Lee, associate professor of management at Sprott School of Business at Carleton University, says the economic pressure on the auto industry has created an uphill battle for unions.

“GM, Ford, FCA, I think they’re increasingly in the driver’s seat,” says Lee.

“Unifor, in these upcoming negotiations, they’re in the fight of their life. I think that there is not going to be so much on wages. I think it’s going to be, ‘Can we save the plants that are left?'”

The new round of negotiations come as the industry is still dealing with fallout from the novel coronavirus. For example, FCA plants in Canada were down from March 18 to May 4, and GM plants were closed between March 16 and May 25, after which they gradually reopened.

Like previous recessions, auto sales also sputtered during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak. DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. said that auto sales plunged 48 per cent year-over-year in March, but by July, sales had fallen just 4.9 per cent, the smallest decrease since the pandemic began.

Nonetheless, DesRosiers predicted that annual sales rates will remain flat for one to two years.

The new negotiations will be set against the background of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which went into force July 1.

The deal included a provision that a significant percentage of the value of a car be produced by workers earning the equivalent of at least US$16 per hour, something the Canadian government said could improve Canadian automotive manufacturing’s competitiveness compared to that of Mexico.

While some trade policy changes, when enacted, will improve the state of play, Dias says the government needs to do more to attract electric vehicle investments to Canada.

“This is an industry that pays a lot of taxes,” says Dias. “And it’s a lot of jobs. So everybody’s going to have to start to row together in the right direction.”

Between 1999 and 2017, Canada dropped to the No. 10 auto manufacturing country in the world, down from No. 4 in 1999, Unifor previously estimated.

“Mexico is building smaller cars, in a threat to Canada. But I’ve argued that the biggest threat to Canada is not Mexico. It’s the southern United States,” says Lee.

“In the American South, it’s not only wages that are lower … taxes are lower, state taxes are lower, land costs are lower, cost of living is lower.”

In 2016, GM was targeted by the union, which cited the company’s financial surplus and asked for new allocations for vehicles and powertrain and better incentives for new hires and retirees.

The agreements, which can be hundreds of pages in length, ended up converting 700 jobs at GM and securing a $713-million investment and 500 jobs from Ford, among other issues.

Last year marked the culmination of downsizing at a GM plant in Oshawa, Ont. The plant east of Toronto now has about 300 workers, down from about 2,600.

“There’s going to be a great temptation for the three companies: When they close down these particular cars as a segment, they will not replace them. If you don’t replace them, you close up a plant,” says Lee.

 

FCA CEO calls claims it used
offshore accounts to bribe UAW
officials 'blatantly false'

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
Aug. 11, 2020

General Motors Co.'s civil racketeering lawsuit is an attempt to harm the reputation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and its employees with "blatantly false" accusations, FCA CEO Mike Manley told employees Monday in a letter obtained by The Detroit News.

The memo came after Fiat Chrysler responded to GM's amended lawsuit accusing the Italian American automaker of using offshore bank accounts to bribe United Auto Workers officials and keep its own executives quiet.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's lawyers Steven Holley says General Motors Co.'s allegations that offshore bank accounts were used to bribe United Auto Workers officials is baseless and "despicable." (Photo: Daniel Mears, The Detroit News)

"GM’s initial shot at disrupting our business was totally without merit and as such was entirely rejected by the judge last month," Manley wrote. "This most recent filing is nothing more than a repeat of previous salacious claims, all of which are unfounded. It is peppered with absurd conspiracy theories about corporate espionage and double agents, none of which have the slightest foundation and indeed all of which are blatantly false."

In a federal court filing, Fiat Chrysler's lawyer Steven Holley argues the "despicable" new allegations are unsubstantiated. They also do not change the determination that members of the rank-and-file — and not GM — were the direct victims of payments made to UAW officials from training center funds for which three former FCA employees have been convicted, Holley said.

"GM’s proposed Amended Complaint reads like a script from a third-rate spy movie, full of preposterous allegations that FCA paid not one, but two, 'mole[s]' to 'infiltrate GM' and 'funnel inside information to [FCA]' using money 'stashed' in a 'broad network' of 'secret overseas [bank] accounts,'" Holley wrote. "None of that is true."

Fiat Chrysler responded a week after GM claimed the rival automaker used secret offshore bank accounts to hide millions of dollars in bribes. GM raised the new allegations while requesting U.S. District Judge Paul Borman reinstate its civil racketeering lawsuit against FCA and call the secret accounts new evidence.

Borman last month dismissed the case that accused Fiat Chrysler's late CEO, Sergio Marchionne, of orchestrating a bribery conspiracy to corrupt three rounds of bargaining with the UAW. The conspiracy was designed to harm and take over Detroit's largest automaker, according to the lawsuit, which said GM lost "billions" of dollars. Fiat Chrysler has called the claims "meritless."

Last week, GM alleged former UAW officials and Fiat Chrysler executives controlled offshore bank accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Italy, Singapore, the Cayman Islands and other countries. Tens of millions of dollars flowed into the accounts and were used to bribe UAW leaders, according to GM.

The accounts, GM alleged, benefited or were linked to several notable figures, including former UAW President Dennis Williams; former FCA labor negotiator Alphons Iacobelli, who was later hired by GM, and former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton, who sat on GM's board.

"GM stands behind its pleading," the automaker said in a statement. "FCA’s corruption of the collective bargaining process remains undeniable — a federal investigation is ongoing and there have already been multiple guilty pleas. New facts uncovered through GM’s investigation which FCA tries to discount — including offshore accounts in multiple countries  — implicate numerous individuals and make GM’s RICO case even stronger.

"GM seeks to uncover in Court the full extent of harm the FCA bribery scheme caused GM. Nothing in the defendants’ replies counters the significance of these allegations and the direct harm the defendants’ corruption caused GM, and the Court should amend its prior judgment and reinstate our case."

It would be a rare move for Borman to take up the case after dismissing it, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University.

"He's focused on how the UAW members got the short end of the stick," Henning said. "It's likely GM's allegations fail to meet its requirement that newly discovered evidence clearly could have produced a different result if presented before the original decision, and so I don't think he's going to change his decision at all."

Iacobelli's lawyer on Saturday called the claims baseless and "scurrilous," likening GM's conduct to the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy claiming to have a list of government employees who belonged to the Communist party in the 1950s. He denied Iacobelli's ownership of such bank accounts.

FCA acknowledged the existence of overseas bank accounts as a Dutch company headquartered in the United Kingdom doing business all around the world. But the bribery allegations are "the product of a fevered imagination," Holley wrote.

"There is not one wellpled allegation in the proposed Amended Complaint that these foreign bank accounts were used to pay bribes or facilitate any other illegal conduct," he wrote. "Instead, GM merely asserts, on 'information and belief,' that the existence of foreign accounts must mean that Iacobelli and Ashton were 'moles' who infiltrated GM, passed unspecified inside information about GM to FCA, and ensured that the alleged concessions provided to FCA by the UAW were not also provided to GM."

The filing also says payoffs through the foreign accounts benefited former UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, who retired in 2010. In a statement issued by the union, Gettelfinger denied receiving bribes or holding offshore accounts.

GM is precluded from trying to reinstate the lawsuit unless the automaker's legal team finds new information or can point to legal errors. But using "baseless speculation" to tarnish the reputations of FCA and its employees is an "inexcusable litigation tactic," Holley wrote.

"GM must know that the prospect of the Court changing its mind on the crucial issue of RICO causation is slim to none," he wrote, "so this motion is apparently a vehicle for GM to make more defamatory and baseless accusations about a competitor that is winning in the marketplace."

 

Despite new NAFTA, Trump slaps
Canada with 10% aluminum tariff

Keith Laing,
The Detroit News
August 8, 2020

Washington — Just one month after the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect, the Trump administration is re-imposing a 10% tariff on aluminum imports from Canada.

In a proclamation signed Thursday, President Donald Trump said that he is setting aside a previous commitment to exclude Canada and Mexico from tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum he implemented in 2018 under a section of law that allows the president to unilaterally impose tariffs to protect the nation's security.

Trump said he is doing so because Canadian aluminum imports have "increased substantially in the twelve months following my decision to exclude, on a long-term basis, Canada from the tariff" imposed in 2018.

"Imports of non-alloyed unwrought aluminum from Canada during June 2019 through May 2020 increased 87 percent compared to the prior twelve-month period and exceeded the volume of any full calendar year in the previous decade," Trump said in the proclamation.

"Canada was taking advantage of us, as usual," Trump said during a speech in Ohio. "I signed it and imposed because the aluminum business was being decimated by Canada. Very unfair to our jobs and our great aluminum workers." 

The 10% tariff on foreign aluminum, along with a 25% tariff on imported steel, were imposed by Trump under a section of federal law — Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 — that allowed him to place levies on foreign steel and aluminum under the guise of protecting the country from a national security threat.

The U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement requires automakers to produce cars with 75% of parts originating from the United States, Canada or Mexico — up from 62.5% — within five years to qualify for duty-free treatment. The U.S. was expected to include Canada and Mexico from steel and aluminum tariffs once the agreement was signed.

Detroit automakers declined to comment, deferring to the lobbying groups in Washington who decried the move to re-impose tariffs on Canadian aluminum by Trump. 

“This move will place American Automakers at a competitive disadvantage with our global competitors, while hurting the hundreds of thousands of workers we employ at a time when the industry can least afford it," the American Automotive Policy Council, which lobbies for Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, said in a statement. "Instead, we should let the USMCA’s groundbreaking steel and aluminum requirements achieve their intended effect, rather than reimposing tariffs on key trading partners.”

Autos Drive America, which lobbies for foreign-owned automakers, added: "New tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada will not aid in (economic) recovery and are not justified on national security grounds.

"We urge the immediate reconsideration of these tariffs so the industry can continue to ramp up production, make the significant adjustments required by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and continue to provide competitively priced vehicles to American consumers," the group said.

The administration’s move to re-impose tariffs on aluminum from Canada is "a step in the wrong direction," said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“These tariffs will raise costs for American manufacturers, are opposed by most U.S. aluminum producers, and will draw retaliation against U.S. exports — just as they did before," the Chamber said in a statement. "We urge the administration to reconsider this move."

Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which lobbies for open, rules-based international trade rules, added: "This is a misguided action and I urge the Administration to reconsider. It was taken without meaningful justification or investigation and will undoubtedly hurt more U.S. manufacturers than it helps, especially in the middle of an economic downturn.

"These tariffs undermine the new USMCA agreement," Yerxa continued. "We should not be imposing unilateral tariffs so quickly after its entry into force. Canada is our largest trading partner and one of our closest allies and this move will only hurt the relationship.” 

Canada to retaliate dollar for dollar
after US announces 10% tariff
on aluminum

August 8, 2020

Canada to impose C$3.6bn in tariffs as Chrystia Freeland says: ‘Any American who buys a can of beer … will suffer’

Canada has announced that it will retaliate dollar for dollar – to the tune of C$3.6bn – after the US announced a 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum.

Donald Trump announced the new aluminum tariffs on Thursday at a campaign stop at a Whirlpool appliance plant in Ohio, accusing Canada of taking advantage of its trade relationship with the US.

“The aluminum business was being decimated by Canada, very unfair to our jobs and our great aluminum workers,” he said.

At a news conference on Friday, Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, called the move “unwarranted and unacceptable” and said Canada would not escalate a trade war – but that it would not back down either.

Freeland described the tariff – which would apply to unalloyed, unwrought aluminum – as an act of self-sabotage on the part of US, since it will increase the manufacturing cost and sale prices of consumer items including beer cans, appliances and cars.

“These tariffs will hurt American consumers and they will hurt American workers,” said the deputy prime minister. “Any American who buys a can of beer, a soda, a car or a bike will suffer.”

She also rebuffed the Americans’ use of a national security proviso in the country’s Trade Expansion Act to trigger the tariff.

“Canadian aluminum in no way presents a threat to US national security.” she said, adding that key US industries including defence rely on Canadian aluminum. She also said it makes the North American aluminum industry more competitive globally.

Thursday’s tariffs marked the second time the Trump administration had targeted Canadian metal. In June 2018, the US imposed a 10% tariff on aluminum, along with a 25% tariff on Canadian steel, also citing national security concerns.

At that time, Canada retaliated with C$16bn in tariffs on American products, targeting items manufactured in key Republican-held electoral districts including ketchup, bourbon and lawnmowers.

The US ultimately backed away from the tariff in May 2019. The standoff on aluminum and steel was one of the last barriers standing in the way of the two countries signing the new Nafta agreement, USMCA.

This time, Freeland said Canada would spend 30 days consulting Canadian consumers and businesses about which American-made products should face tariffs. On the list of potential targets are golf clubs, bicycles, exercise equipment and washing machines – like those manufactured by Whirlpool.

Rumours about the tariff began swirling earlier this summer. In June, the Canadian auto worker union president, Jerry Dias, told CBC: “The long-term negative ramifications for Canada would be huge. But it would be equally so for the United States. All it does is gouge the American consumer.”

Freeland said the government hopes the US cancels the aluminum tariff before it takes effect 16 August.

“Common sense will prevail,” she said. “I just hope that happens sooner rather than later.”

 

 

 

Ford ends sedan production for
US as Fusion is phased out

The final Fusion left the assembly line on July 31, meaning Ford no longer builds a sedan for America.

Sean Szymkowski
Aug. 6, 2020

It's officially the end of an era at Ford. The Blue Oval no longer builds a single sedan for its home country, the US.

Ford confirmed with Roadshow on Wednesday that Fusion production ended in Mexico on July 31. The Fusions that remain on dealership lots will be your final chance to take home a new Ford sedan.

"As promised, Ford is reinventing the car to match consumers' preferences and growing our business by significantly expanding our North America sport utility vehicle portfolio with the all-new Bronco and Bronco Sport, all-electric Mustang Mach-E and all-new versions of Escape and Explorer, America's all-time best-selling SUV," a spokesperson for the automaker said in a statement. "As part of this shift, we ended Fusion sedan production on July 31."

Ford already confirmed it planned to pull the plug on every single passenger car it sold in the US back in 2018, a decision made under soon-to-retire CEO Jim Hackett. The Fiesta and Focus departed first, followed by the Taurus. The Fusion got a slight stay of execution until its production ended last week. The Fusion lives on in Europe, where it's badged as the Mondeo.

Today, if you're looking for an entry-level Ford, that'd be the Ecosport, which isn't exactly our favorite subcompact crossover on sale.

But even as Ford says goodbye to sedans, it has a lot more in the pipeline. Two new vehicles will likely help fill the void left by the Fiesta and Focus, specifically. A new pickup truck smaller than the Ford Ranger, perhaps called the Maverick, is more than likely in the pipeline. There will also be an Ecosport replacement that we hope is a lot better.

As for the Fusion, it could live on, too. Ford earlier this year filed a trademark application in Europe for the name "Stormtrak" and rumors suggest this could be an indirect replacement for the Fusion. It won't be a traditional four-door, but instead a lifted wagon of sorts like the Subaru Outback, should the rumors prove true.

Ford told Roadshow it files trademarks "routinely to protect new (or existing) phrases, designs or symbols, but this does not indicate any new business or product plans." As of this writing, the Stormtrak trademark has been accepted and remains a live name for Ford to rightfully use in the future.

 

Ford Announces Jim Hackett to
Retire as President and CEO;
Jim Farley to Succeed Hackett

Aug-05-2020

DEARBORN – Ford Motor Company today announced that Jim Hackett, who has led the company’s transformation since 2017, plans to retire from the company. Jim Farley has been named the company’s new president and CEO and will join the board of directors, effective Oct. 1.

Hackett, 65, and Farley, 58, will work together on a smooth leadership transition over the next two months.

Under Hackett, Ford moved aggressively into the new era of smart vehicles and drove a deeper focus on customers’ wants and needs. At the same time, Ford improved the fitness of the base business – restructuring operations, invigorating the product portfolio and reducing bureaucracy.

“I am very grateful to Jim Hackett for all he has done to modernize Ford and prepare us to compete and win in the future,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman. “Our new product vision – led by the Mustang Mach-E, new F-150 and Bronco family – is taking shape. We now have compelling plans for electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as full vehicle connectivity. And we are becoming much more nimble, which was apparent when we quickly mobilized to make life-saving equipment at the outset of the pandemic.”

Farley, an automotive leader with deep global experience and a successful track record, collaborated with Hackett over the past three years to develop and execute Ford’s Creating Tomorrow Together plan to transform Ford into a higher-growth, higher-margin business.

“Jim Farley matches an innate feel for cars and customers with great instincts for the future and the new technologies that are changing our industry,” Bill Ford said. “Jim’s passion for great vehicles and his intense drive for results are well known, and I have also seen him develop into a transformational leader with the determination and foresight to help Ford thrive into the future.”

Farley joined Ford in 2007 as global head of Marketing and Sales and went on to lead Lincoln, Ford South America, Ford of Europe and all Ford global markets in successive roles. In April 2019, Farley was chosen to lead Ford’s New Businesses, Technology & Strategy team, helping the company determine how to capitalize on powerful forces reshaping the industry – such as software platforms, connectivity, AI, automation and new forms of propulsion. He was named chief operating officer in February of this year.

Hackett, who will continue as a special advisor to Ford through March of 2021, said the time is right to pass the mantle of leadership to Jim Farley.

“My goal when I took on the CEO role was to prepare Ford to win in the future,” Hackett said. “The hardest thing for a proud, long-lived company to do is change to meet the challenges of the world it’s entering rather than the world it has known. I’m very proud of how far we have come in creating a modern Ford and I am very optimistic about the future.

“I have worked side-by-side with Jim Farley for the past three years and have the greatest confidence in him as a person and a leader,” Hackett said. “He has been instrumental in crafting our new product portfolio and redesigning our businesses around the world. He is also a change agent with a deep understanding of how to lead Ford in this new era defined by smart vehicles in a smart world.”

Said Farley: “I love Ford and I am honored by the opportunity to serve and create value for Ford’s employees, customers, dealers, communities and all of our stakeholders. Jim Hackett has laid the foundation for a really vibrant future and we have made tremendous progress in the past three years. I am so excited to work together with the whole Ford team to realize the full potential of this great company in a new era.” 

 

Auto industry conspirators stashed
bribes offshore, GM alleges

Robert Snell, Breana Noble
and Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
Aug. 4, 2020

Detroit — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives and top leaders of the United Auto Workers used secret offshore bank accounts to hide millions of dollars in bribes, according to a federal court filing Monday from a rival automaker.

General Motors Co. leveled the new allegations while asking U.S. District Judge Paul Borman to reinstate the automaker's civil racketeering lawsuit against FCA. Borman dismissed the case last month that accused Fiat Chrysler's late CEO, Sergio Marchionne, of orchestrating a bribery conspiracy to corrupt three rounds of bargaining with the UAW. The conspiracy was designed to harm and take over Detroit's largest automaker, according to the lawsuit, which said GM lost "billions" of dollars.

GM investigators discovered evidence of offshore bank accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Italy, Singapore, the Cayman Islands and other countries, according to the filing.

The accounts benefited or were linked to several notable figures, including former UAW President Dennis Williams, former Fiat Chrysler Vice President Alphons Iacobelli and former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton. And the filing says payoffs through the foreign accounts also benefited retired UAW President Ron Gettelfinger, who retired in 2010.

"As we have said from the date the original lawsuit was filed, it is meritless," Fiat Chrysler said in a statement. "The court agreed and dismissed GM’s complaint with prejudice. FCA will continue to defend itself vigorously and pursue all available remedies in response to GM’s attempts to resurrect this groundless lawsuit."

For the first time, GM lawyers accuse current Fiat Chrysler executives — including top labor negotiators — of controlling access to a secret network of overseas bank accounts and funneling bribes to Gettelfinger and other UAW officials. The lawsuit portrays UAW leaders as financially savvy schemers who had access to foreign bank accounts, a portrayal at odds with the union's attempts to position its leaders as blue-collar workers dedicated to serving their brother and sister workers.

"New facts about the direct harm FCA caused GM have come to light and they are detailed in our amended racketeering complaint," GM said in a statement. "These new facts warrant amending the court’s prior judgment, so we are respectfully asking the Court to reinstate the case."

The allegations provide new fodder for an ongoing federal crackdown on corruption within the U.S. auto industry that has led to 14 convictions, including one former union president, two UAW vice presidents, a union widow and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives.

"The UAW is unaware of any allegations regarding illicit off-shore accounts as claimed this morning by GM 'on information and belief,' nor has the U.S. Attorney’s Office, or anyone else, ever raised this type of allegation with the UAW," the union said in a statement.

It added the alleged payments and the existence of such offshore bank accounts would be a violation of the responsibilities of anyone in UAW leadership: "If GM actually has substantive information supporting its allegations, we ask that they provide it to us so we can take all appropriate actions."

The continuing federal corruption probe has revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes. Williams remains under investigation and is believed to be negotiating a potential plea deal with federal prosecutors. He couldn't be reached Monday.

GM lawyers supported the case with details from convictions of three former FCA executives who pleaded guilty to bribing UAW officials with funds designated for training blue-collar workers. GM says it lost “billions” from the arrangement that it says cast onto the company higher labor costs. Fiat Chrysler has called the allegations “groundless” and a response to its intentions to merge with French automaker Groupe PSA, maker of Peugeot and Citroën vehicles.

Borman last month dismissed GM’s case against Fiat Chrysler. Civil racketeering suits require the conspiracy to directly harm the plaintiff. But UAW members were the direct victims of the bribes because they were paid less, Borman wrote, not GM, which suffered only indirect competitive harm.

Borman’s decision came after an appeals court overturned his order requiring the companies’ CEOs meet within a week, discuss the issue in person and report on their conversation to the judge.

GM is precluded from trying to reinstate the lawsuit unless the automaker's legal team finds new information or can point to legal errors. The federal court filing Monday covers both of those issues.

"This previously hidden network of accounts, utilized by defendants and controlled in part by individuals purportedly acting on GM’s behalf, reveals a magnitude of bribery and illegal activity specifically targeting GM that was not previously known or reasonably knowable," GM lawyer Jeffrey Lamb wrote in the filing.

The filing Monday includes new allegations that Fiat Chrysler officials bribed labor leaders in order to raise GM’s labor costs while lowering FCA’s. GM alleges the bribes were funneled through a broad network of foreign bank accounts containing millions of dollars.

“The existence and use of these foreign accounts have never come to light publicly and by their very design were intended to remain secretive from criminal investigation,” GM’s lawyer wrote.

In the filing, Ashton is portrayed as a particularly pivotal figure in helping harm GM. He served as UAW vice president and director of its GM Department before being appointed in 2014 to GM’s board of directors as a representative of the union's retiree health care trust.

Ashton was acting clandestinely on Fiat Chrysler’s behalf while working inside GM’s boardroom, according to the filing. The Detroit automaker's lawyers say he maintained at least one account in the Cayman Islands while Fiat Chrysler was making illegal payments to UAW leaders.

“This newly discovered evidence gives rise to a far-more-than-plausible inference that Ashton operated as a paid mole inside GM’s boardroom during 2015 collective bargaining negotiations and FCA NV’s merger effort…,” GM’s lawyer wrote.

GM says newly discovered facts show Ashton and Williams likely received money from Fiat Chrysler executives via foreign bank accounts, according to the filing. That includes money deposited in accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

“This newly discovered evidence supports additional inferences regarding Williams’ decision to place Ashton on GM’s Board,” the GM lawyer wrote.

Ashton, who couldn't be reached Monday, is awaiting a federal prison sentence after pleading guilty for his role in the scandal. Williams has not been charged with wrongdoing during the ongoing investigation.

The allegations are the first time Gettelfinger has been mentioned in regards to the scandal. Gettelfinger — a veteran labor leader who helped steer the UAW through the Great Recession and bankruptcies of GM and Fiat Chrysler — helped preserve a conspiracy to harm GM by ensuring corrupt leaders, including Williams, maintained power within the union, according to an amended version of the GM lawsuit filed Monday.

Gettelfinger received bribes through foreign accounts he controlled, according to the lawsuit. The accounts “apparently exist in Panama and Switzerland in his name and the name of a family member." Attempts to reach Gettelfinger on Monday were unsuccessful.

The allegations against Gettelfinger would be shocking, if true, said Art Wheaton, an automotive industry specialist at Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations School. “He is very much known as a square or straight arrow. He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t gamble.”

The lack of such vices often helped at the negotiating table, he noted, allowing for talks to continue late into the night and start early in the morning. Gettelfinger also was known for getting the union's finances in order and making cutbacks amid trying times for Detroit's automakers.

Wheaton recalled teaching a joint labor-management program at the UAW’s Black Lake Conference Center in northern Michigan. When Gettelfinger came into the classroom to speak, he noticed some data Wheaton was discussing. Gettelfinger briefly left to doublecheck the math.

“He struck me as being very genuine in terms of the leaders,” Wheaton said. “He was not necessarily the most fun at a party, but he was the right persona at the right time for the UAW.”

Several Fiat Chrysler officials also oversaw payments to the offshore accounts and helped hide the alleged conspiracy, according to GM. They include:

• Iacobelli, who is serving a 5 ½ year federal prison sentence. He controlled millions of dollars held in accounts in Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, and Singapore. He controlled the accounts through family and an undisclosed corporate entity, the lawsuit alleged.

• Former Fiat Chrysler Director of Labor Economics Colin Lightbody, who retired in 2018. The lawsuit alleged: “FCA NV provided Lightbody with control over a Luxembourg financial account to pay for his role in executing and covering up the scheme.” Lightbody did not respond for comment Monday.

• Linda Knoll, chief human resources officer for FCA NV who reported directly to Marchionne. Her role included preventing employees from becoming whistleblowers, GM alleged.

“For her role in executing and covering up the scheme, FCA NV provided her with control over financial accounts in at least Luxembourg and Switzerland,” according to the lawsuit.

• Peter Glenn Shagena, vice president of employee relations for FCA North America, who last year oversaw contract negotiations with the UAW. Shagena helped facilitate bribery of UAW leaders and was paid to ensure he did not reveal the conspiracy, according to the lawsuit.

UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, left, and Fiat Chrysler Vice President Glenn Shagena shake hands during the ceremonial start of contract negotiations in 2015.

"This compensation," the lawsuit alleges, "included funding one or more financial accounts for Shagena in one or more Swiss financial institutions." Fiat Chrysler did not provide comments when asked about Knoll and Shagena and instead referred back to its earlier statement.

For autoworkers, the claims are another reason for their frustration and what they feel could be another nail in the coffin of their union as it stands.

John Barbosa, a 49-year-old team leader at Fiat Chrysler’s Dundee Engine plant, lamented the influence the automakers have had on the union since the creation of joint training programs in the 1980s: “It has turned the Solidarity House into nothing more than a company union. They just open the door for cooperation with the company instead of standing up and defending the rights and benefits of the workers.”

“These billion-dollar corporations are always bribing to avoid their fair share of taxes, and then they put it on the workers," Barbosa said.

Kenneth Larew, a 46-year-old line worker at General Motor Co.'s Spring Hill Assembly plant in Tennessee, added: "You hear more about how our leaders have let us down; it is imperative we do everything we can to reform the UAW, whether it’s helping the government or doing everything ourselves.”

 

Ford takes $1.9 billion hit in
second quarter, but that's
far better than expected

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit
August 2, 2020

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. took a $1.9 billion hit to its pretax earnings during the second quarter — far better than the $5 billion the automaker had warned it might lose during the eight-week pandemic shutdown.

But by recording a one-time $3.5 billion gain on its investment with self-driving software Argo AI, the automaker managed to post an overall $1.1 billion profit. That gain was recorded as a "special item" on Ford's balance sheet, chief financial officer Tim Stone told investors Thursday. The automaker would have posted a loss without that item.

After a $2 billion net loss and $632 million pretax earnings loss in the first quarter, the automaker had signaled that it expected the second quarter — which bore the brunt of an industry-wide North American manufacturing shutdown that went through mid-May — to be even worse. At that time, Ford projected it would lose $5 billion in the April through June period.

But the Blue Oval, not counting the Argo investment, posted a 35-cent per share loss, beating Wall Street's prediction of a $1.17 per share loss. Ford shares rose 3.1% to $6.95 on the news in after-hours trading. Shares are down more than 25% so far this year.

Ford executives attributed the better-than-expected results to strong operational execution, the automaker's focus on safely restarting manufacturing plants, efforts to reduce costs and a favorable pricing environment, among other factors.

“I could not be prouder of the Ford team’s optimism and effectiveness as we manage through this pandemic,” Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement. “We delivered a strong Q2 while keeping each other safe, caring for customers and neighbors, and assuring tomorrow.”

For the full year, however, Ford expects to post a net loss. The automaker is projecting a profit of $500 million to $1.5 billion in the third quarter, but a net loss in the fourth quarter, due in part to costs associated with the changeover to the next generation of the new F-150 that launches later this year. 

Ford said it burned through $5.3 billion in the second quarter amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Blue Oval's revenue was down to $19.4 billion from $38.9 billion in the second quarter of 2019.

Ford has taken a number of steps to shore up its balance sheet and preserve cash to get through the crisis, including drawing down $15.4 billion from existing credit lines, issuing $8 billion in bonds, temporarily suspending its quarterly dividend and share buybacks, lowering operating costs, reducing capital expenditures and deferring portions of executive salaries.

The automaker announced Thursday that it paid off $7.7 billion on its revolving credit facilities earlier this week, and extended $4.8 billion of its three-year revolving credit lines. Ford executives said Thursday the company is in a strong position with more than $39 billion in cash. 

The company said that should be enough to meet a target cash balance of $20 billion through the rest of the year, even if demand drops off or plants have to close again.

The Blue Oval's sales in the second quarter were down 33% from the previous year, it reported earlier this month. Sales for all of the Detroit Three were down by at least one-third.

One bright spot for U.S. automakers, including Ford, is that retail sales of profit-rich SUVs and trucks have held up relatively well. Sales of Ford's F-Series truck lineup were down only 22.7%. And Ford's Explorer SUV was the best-selling midsize SUV in the second quarter, posting a 12% sales increase over last year.

Industry analysts noted other bright spots for the automaker, including upping its average transaction price and increasing its market share, to 14.9%.

But the onset of the pandemic amid an $11 billion global restructuring by Ford and ahead of numerous new product launches "put a damper on what should have been flashy and exciting new introductions," Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for Edmunds.com Inc. said in a pre-earnings statement.

"After struggling with an aging product lineup for quite some time, the upcoming year was poised to be a bright one for Ford," she said. "And although the product launches are still happening, it's unfortunate that they're happening amidst uncertain consumer demand and the other challenges that COVID-19 has brought to Ford's production facilities around the world."

Key to Ford's financial recovery will be numerous new products that are slated to roll off assembly lines in the coming months, including its next-generation F-150 scheduled to go on sale later this year and the much-anticipated Bronco SUV that will return to production next year after a nearly quarter-century absence. Analysts and investors have said it is critical these launches go off without a hitch — especially after the botched launch of the 2020 Explorer, which was delayed by months with faulty seats, loose wiring harnesses and digital displays with buggy software.

Ford executives announced Thursday that the company so far has gotten 150,000 reservations for the Bronco, far exceeding what it had expected. Demand has been so strong, the company is looking at how to scale up production at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne where the full-size Bronco will be built. Jim Farley, Ford chief operating officer, said a third shift may be added — but, he cautioned, "We have a lot of work to do, because these are reservations, not orders yet."

It is crucial for Ford to have a smooth rollout of the Bronco, said David Kudla, CEO of Grand Blanc-based financial advisory firm Mainstay Capital Management. "After a bruising Explorer launch last year, the execution of the Bronco, one of the most anticipated and talked about product releases for the company in recent memory, has got to be flawless," he said in a pre-earnings note.

And, because Ford is in the middle of a global overhaul of its business, it "will continue to face obstacles, even more so than other automakers," he said.

Ford executives said Thursday that the company is on track with the global redesign, and so far has achieved about $1 billion in structural cost improvements since the plan went into effect in late 2018.

Additionally, executives said the Blue Oval remains committed to investing $11 billion in electric-vehicle development by 2022, and is about halfway through that plan. 

Asked on a call with investors Thursday why Ford has not opted to produce its own electric-vehicle batteries, as GM has, Hackett said the company did a deep dive into that question months ago but concluded the supply chain is strong enough that it would not make sense for Ford to operate its own battery plant.

The Detroit Three have been scrambling to fill dealership inventories, which were depleted during the production shutdown, as retail demand — buoyed by significant incentives — rebounded more robustly than had been expected at the outset of the pandemic. All three have returned to pre-shutdown production levels, but have struggled with high rates of absenteeism and other disruptions at manufacturing plants. 

At the end of the second quarter, Ford had a 75-day supply of vehicles on dealer lots, down 5.2% from last year, according to Edmunds data. This month, Ford has more than 90 days' supply, according to Cox Automotive.

Looking out at the rest of the year, analysts are forecasting further recovery in the vehicle market, but an uncertain one, given the unknowns surrounding the economy and the trajectory of the coronavirus.

GM on Wednesday reported that in the second quarter it burned through $7.8 billion and lost $758 million in net income on revenue of $16.8 billion. The Detroit automaker outlined plans to get back on track in the third and fourth quarters by halting salary cuts, paying back by year's end a $16 billion revolving credit line and generating $7 billion to $9 billion in cash. GM's liquidity was $30.6 billion, as of the end of June.

 

 

Drivers hold onto cars in pandemic

Associated Press
July 29, 2020

Drivers are holding on to cars and trucks longer during the coronavirus pandemic.

The average age of a vehicle on U.S. roads rose by a month this year to a record 11.9 years.

The IHS Markit consulting firm says the pandemic has caused consumers to put the brakes on spending and hold onto their current vehicles for a longer period. As a result, fewer new vehicles are coming onto the roads, pushing up the average age.

IHS said Tuesday that it expects the shift will create opportunities for repair shops and parts sellers because older vehicles need more service. It “anticipates significant upward pressure on average age in 2020 and subsequent years as consumers work toward a new normal both economically and in how they use personal vehicles in a post-COVID-19 era,” said Todd Campau, IHS associate director of aftermarket solutions.

Before the pandemic, U.S. new vehicle sales were expected to be a little under 17 million in 2020, short of the record 17.55 million in 2016, but still at a healthy level. Now most analysts are expecting sales to be around 14 million for the full year.

The average vehicle age has been inching toward 12 years for several years now, and the pandemic is likely to raise it by four to six months in the coming years, IHS said. A decade ago, the average age was 10.6 years.

IHS says that new vehicle sales were trending down even before the pandemic. New vehicles accounted for 6.1% of the vehicles in use last year, compared with 6.7% in 2016. This year, IHS Markit expects the percentage to fall to 5% or less. “Declining new vehicle share in the overall population means fewer younger vehicles to temper average age growth,” the company said in a statement.

There are about 280 million vehicles registered in the U.S., up 1% from 2019.

 

Ford looks to Intel's Mobileye for
Bronco, F-150 collision-avoidance

he next-generation F-150 will include Mobileye's technology to support automated functions, including hands-free driver-assist under the right conditions. (Photo: Ford Motor Company)

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
July 28, 2020

Ford Motor Co. said Israel-based Mobileye, an Intel Corp. company, will provide the cameras and processing software to support driver-assist functions on its next-generation vehicles, including the Bronco and Mustang Mach-E SUVs and F-150 pickup.

It is the first time Ford is committing to the company's technology for the lifecycle of its vehicles. The EyeQ's windshield camera identifies lane markings, traffic signs, pedestrians and other vehicles to support low-level automated driving functions as a part of Ford's Co-Pilot360 technology.

The next-generation F-150 will include Mobileye's technology to support automated functions, including hands-free driver-assist under the right conditions.

"By customizing Mobileye’s excellent software and sensing technology, Ford’s great driver-assist features will continue to evolve and provide customers with confidence on the road throughout the life of their vehicles," Lisa Drake, Ford's chief purchasing officer and chief operating officer in North America, said in a statement.

Mobileye's EyeQ3 and EyeQ4 computer chips offer the vision needed while requiring minimal power consumption. They will support lane-keeping, pre-collision assist and automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlamps. They also will support the active drive assist in the Mach-E and F-150 that allows for hands-free driving when the right conditions are present. The EyeQ4 can process multiple sensors and inputs needed for driver-assist.

Both companies will work with Tier 1 suppliers to provide the technology for integration into the vehicles at mass scale. The vehicle's Sync infotainment system will display Mobileye's name and logo to make customers aware of its contribution to Co-Pilot360.

Ford also is evaluating the use of Mobileye's Roadbook in its vehicles. The software crowdsources data from vehicle cameras to build lane-level maps that driver-assist technology can access.

 

Ford trains robotic dog
to map its plants

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
July 27, 2020

Ford Motor Co. digital engineer Paula Wiebelhaus takes Fluffy outside for walks in the yard. Her cats hide from him. He has his own spot in a corner of the bedroom where after a run, he plugs into his charger to reenergize.

Fluffy is no typical dog. The bright-yellow creature is a nimble four-legged robot adopted by the Dearborn automaker to crawl around its facilities to take 3D laser images that engineers use to redesign and retool its plants. Using the robotic dog is less clunky than the traditional way, could save time and money, and may help bring new products to market sooner, said Mark Goderis, digital engineering manager at Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing Center.

Paula Wiebelhaus navigates Fluffy the robot dog through the Van Dyke Transmission Plant. Ford is leasing two of the robots to map out its factories. (Photo: Ford)

Paula Wiebelhaus navigates Fluffy the robot dog through the Van Dyke Transmission Plant. Ford is leasing two of the robots to map out its factories. (Photo: Ford)

But for Wiebelhaus, Fluffy's trainer who is keeping him at home to maintain her skills controlling the 70-pound quadruped robot during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has become a part of the family.

"I guess I was kind of surprised that I feel as close to it as I do," she said. "I won’t be the handler forever. Other people will be trained to handle the dog. I think that's going to be tough for me. It’s like your favorite car or someone borrowing your favorite dress."

Fluffy is one of two robotic dogs Ford is leasing from Boston Dynamics, a Massachusetts design and engineering firm. The machines, sold under the name Spot, provide a way for businesses to explore environments that can be dangerous or challenging to reach. More than 150 have been used to document construction progress, travel factory floors, monitor decommissioned nuclear sites — even dance in theme parks. The company is seeing strong demand from the auto industry, said Michael Perry, Boston Dynamics' vice president of business development.

Paula Wiebelhaus is training Fluffy the robotic dog at home for Ford during the pandemic. Her cats are wary of the machine. (Photo: Courtesy Paula Wiebelhaus)

"Spot is designed to augment human labor and to conduct important but dull, dirty and dangerous tasks," he said. "Using Spot in such instances reduces human safety risks and improves efficiency of mundane tasks, so that humans can focus on more specialized work."

Paula Wiebelhaus is training Fluffy the robotic dog at home for Ford during the pandemic. Her cats are wary of the machine. (Photo: Courtesy Paula Wiebelhaus)

Next month, Ford will deploy Fluffy into its Van Dyke Transmission plant in Sterling Heights to create a virtual map of the facility with 360-degree laser cameras on its back. 

Creating the renderings is something Ford typically does every two to three years. Equipment in plants often is adjusted or moved during that time, and the virtual images of help hundreds of engineers to get an updated picture remotely. The computer-aided design program also allows them to move around pieces as they decide how to reconfigure for building updates or new products.

Boston Dynamics builds the dog-like industrial robot, which it brands as Spot. The machines can even climb stairs. (Photo: Ford)

"It creates a street view of our facilities for people who don’t know what that looks like," Goderis said. "It scans the facility and keeps it up-to-date."

In the past, obtaining those renderings has been cumbersome. An individual must lug around a tripod, waiting five minutes to get scans taken before moving to the next spot. It especially could be difficult getting into tight places.

Boston Dynamics builds the dog-like industrial robot, which it brands as Spot. The machines can even climb stairs. (Photo: Ford)

Not so for Fluffy. Its compact size — bigger than a Cocker Spaniel, smaller than a German shepherd — and its ability to stretch and crouch make it an ideal solution for scanning those challenging spaces. It can travel rough terrain, even climb stairs. It can walk up to 3 miles per hour with a battery that lasts for two hours.

It also can sit on its robotic haunches and hitch a ride on Scouter — a small, round autonomous mobile robot programmed by Ford's research and engineering team — as it maneuvers up and down aisles. This conserves Fluffy's energy for the tighter spaces, as Scouter scans the bigger picture. They communicate via Wi-Fi.

Using the robots costs a fraction of the $300,000 Ford in the past has spent on mapping its facilities. And while the tripod method can take two weeks, Fluffy and Scouter can perform the task in 48 hours.

The intent is to operate the robots remotely, programming them for plant missions and receiving reports immediately from anywhere in the country, Goderis said.

For now though, Wiebelhaus can manage Fluffy up to 50 feet away with a tablet. It allows her to program Fluffy's mission and monitor its cameras.

 

Ford gets commitments to extend
most of $5.35B in loans, report says

MICHELLE SIERRA
Reuters
July 26, 2020

NEW YORK -- Ford Motor Co. has obtained commitments from enough banks to extend the maturity of at least 90 percent of $5.35 billion of revolving loans for one year, a person close to the financing said.

The automaker has been in discussions with its lenders this month about a one-year extension of its $3.35 billion, three-year main corporate revolving credit facility and its $2 billion, three-year supplemental revolving credit facility.

JP Morgan leads the deal, according to thee people close to the transaction.

Ford is seeking to address loan maturities for the first time since downgrades in March removed its last investment-grade rating. The move is expected to test banks’ willingness to lend to a household name in an industry that has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

More lenders could agree to extend before the transaction closes on July 27. The company is looking to complete the extension ahead of its earnings call on July 30, a second person said.

“They want to be prepared so they can say something good,” the second person said. “That they were able to extend the liquidity by another year.”

To incentivize banks to agree to the extension, Ford offered to repay the $3.35 billion three-year main corporate revolver it borrowed in March as part of a larger $15.4 billion draw-down under its credit facility, the two people said.

The company is expected to use cash on its balance sheet to repay the $3.35 billion, three-year loan on July 27 after the amendment and extension closes, two people familiar with the transaction said.

As of April 9, Ford had cash of $34.6 billion, including the revolving credit draw-downs, and $8 billion in bond issuances, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

“We typically don’t comment on rumor or speculation,” said a Ford spokesperson. A JP Morgan spokesperson declined to comment.

Both the $3.35 billion three-year main corporate revolving credit facility and the $2 billion three-year supplemental revolving credit facility come due on April 30, 2022, according to SEC filings. The loans will be extended to 2023, two people close to the transaction said.

The company is offering an all-in spread of 225 basis points over Libor, split between a drawn spread of 175 basis points and an undrawn fee of 50 basis points for the main corporate and supplemental revolving credit facilities that are extended, two sources said.

All lenders who agree to the extension will receive a 40 basis-point fee on the amount extended.

Lenders who choose not to extend will remain in the existing loans at a current all-in spread of 175 basis points over Libor, split between a drawn spread of 147.5 basis points and an undrawn fee of 27.5 basis points for the main corporate and supplemental revolving credit facilities.

The company is leaving unchanged its fully funded $1.5 billion supplemental term loan that matures on Dec. 31, 2022, and the $10.05 billion five-year corporate revolving credit facility due April 30, 2024.

"It's good. Given that they are not in an easy sector," the first person close to the transaction said. "It's a good outcome."

The fees Ford’s lenders received for its $8 billion in bond issuances in April may have helped them get more comfortable with the extension. The perception the US government supported the automaker via the Federal Reserve's corporate bond purchasing program may have been another positive, the source said.

COVID-19 challenges

The company first reached out to its JP Morgan-led bank group in February to refinance $15.4 billion in revolving credits but in March decided to draw down on the facilities and postponed its refinancing plans as market conditions deteriorated, two banking sources said at the time.

The company said borrowings would be used to “offset the temporary working capital impacts of the coronavirus-related production shutdowns and to preserve Ford’s financial flexibility,” according to a March 19 press release.

Ford reported a 33 percent drop in U.S. sales in the second quarter tied to shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders due to the coronavirus.

 

Ford Mustang SUV prototype
has 7 electric motors

The 1,400-horsepower Mustang Mach-E 1400 has seven electric motors, a massive rear wing, and seating for four. (Photo: Courtesy Ford Motor Company)

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
July 22, 2020

Electric cars aren't just for tree-huggers anymore.

Ford Motor Co.'s performance arm announced the Mustang Mach-E 1400 prototype SUV Tuesday — a 1,400-horsepower electric track-monster with seven electric motors, massive rear wing, and seating for four adventure seekers.

The prototype aims to show that battery-powered vehicles can run with the fastest of their gas-guzzling cousins. The Mach-E 1400's horsepower is on par with the most powerful hypercars made, the million-dollar-plus hybrid Koenigsegg Regera and 16-cylinder Bugatti Chiron, which both turn a claimed 1,479 horsepower — and well above the most powerful Motor City contender, the 840-horsepower Dodge Demon.  

The Ford is a one-off prototype with no plans for production.

Developed in collaboration with hot rod-shop RTR Vehicles, the Mach-E 1400 follows on the heels of the Mustang Cobra Jet 1400 — Ford's first all-electric, 1,400-horse dragster introduced earlier this year. But while the Cobra Jet is focused on straight-line speed, the Mach-E 1400 is billed as an all-around athlete that can compete in drag strip, road race or drifting competitions.

"The whole intention of this product is to show what the Mustang Mach E is capable of,” Ford Performance chief Mark Rushbrook said in an interview. “The Mach-E 1400 expands the envelope of all aspects of the production car.”

Ford has done halo supercars before, of course — most recently the limited-edition Ford GT supercar that won the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans in race trim. But the Mach-E 1400 project is different.

“The Ford GT was a technical challenge to make a road car that could also win within the limits of an international race series,” said Rushbrook. “In the case of the Mach-E 1400, there are no rules. We were free to do whatever we wanted.”

The result is a Frankenstein’s monster that more than doubles the power of the 647-horse, $500,000 Ford GT. The seven electric motors make an unholy shriek at full power. Without any regulatory restrictions, the Mach-E 1400 is sucked to the earth by more down-force, said Rushbrook, than the Ford GT race car that dazzled Le Mans.

The prototype is built off on the $61,600 Mach-E GT's performance trim (the standard Mach E will sticker for $44,995 when it hits showrooms this fall). Then it was injected with steroids.

The prototype is built off on the $61,600 Mach-E GT's performance trim. (Photo: Courtesy Ford Motor Company)

Pushing the limits of SUV performance capability, the all-wheel-drive Mach-E 1400 is equipped with four electric motors in the rear and three up front — compared to the production car's one front, one rear. Looming on the rear deck like a scorpion's tail is a massive rear wing that helps generate 2,300-pounds of downforce at 160 mph.

“This car shows that Ford is serious about making electric cars,” said Rushbrook. “We are investing $11 billion in EVs, and we want to make them fun for people to drive.”

A massive rear wing helps generate 2,300-pounds of downforce at 160 mph. (Photo: Courtesy Ford Motor Company)

Though the prototype is not intended for any race series, Rushbrook and his team have every intention of sharing it with the public. Unlike most race cars that are hollowed out save for a driver’s seat, the Mach-E 1400 comes equipped with four racing seats so that three passengers can enjoy the fun inside a full roll cage.

The Mach-E 1400’s battery is 56.8 kWh — not much different than performance EVs like the Mach-E GT or Tesla Model Y — and well shy of the 100 kWh battery that powers Tesla’s almighty Model S Performance. The Ford team was focused less on range than of raw performance which is why it gets seven electric motors — four more than the Cobra Jet 1400 dragster.

The Mustang Mach-E 1400 was developed in collaboration with hot rod-shop RTR Vehicles. (Photo: Ford)

“The 1400 can run for about an hour, then be recharged in an hour,” said Rushbrook. “We want it to be demonstration vehicle for what an EV can do. We want to put a smile on peoples' faces.”

Ford collaborated with RTR and its reputation for making top-dog drift racing cars.

“Getting behind the wheel of this car has completely changed my perspective on what power and torque can be,” said RTR founder and racer Vaughn Gittin Jr. “This experience is like nothing you’ve ever imagined, except for maybe a magnetic roller coaster.”

Look for the Mustang Mach-E 1400 to debut at a NASCAR race later this year, ahead of the production Mach E’s debut in showrooms. NASCAR makes a good fit since the series will be going hybrid-electric in a few years.

Electrification is a trend in racing that Ford intends to exploit as it learns from hellions like the Mach-E 1400 project. (Photo: Courtesy Ford Motor Company)

Electrification is a trend in racing that Ford intends to exploit as it learns from hellions like the Mach-E 1400 project.  

“This prototype can’t race in any current series,” said Rushbrook. “But we are committed to electric racing. The only electric series now is Formula E, but there are a whole lot more options coming in the near future.”

 

Retiree Bill Studholme
Passes Away July 15, 2020

William Studholme
1929 - 2020
Retired Jan 1, 1995
22.4 Years Service

It is with great regret that we inform you of the passing
of Retiree Bill Studholme on July 15, 2020. Our sincerest
condolences go out to his wife Marie and entire family.

William (Bill) Earl Studholme, of Brampton, Ontario, passed peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

Bill is survived by his wife of nine years, Marie Taylor, his daughter Melanie Studholme, son Patrick (Karen) Studholme Scott, daughter-in-law Carole Studholme, brother Harold (Marilyn) Studholme, loving grandchildren Stefan, Kyle, Joshua, Charlotte, Malcolm, Maria and great-grandchildren Camron and Caleb, three step-children, their partners and spouses and many step-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents Norman and Pearl Studholme, his son Shawn Studholme and his wife of 35 years Jo-Ann Studholme.

Bill was born on December 18, 1929 in Toronto. As a child, he learned to love ice skating and dance and became very accomplished in the sports. As a teen he traveled world-wide, competing in ice skating and ballroom dance competitions. He began a career with Ford Motor Company and proudly retired after nearly 40 years of loyal service to the company.

Bill was a genuinely loving and friendly man, full of great stories and belly laughs. He loved to spend time at his cottage with family, boating, fishing, and sitting around the campfire. Bill had a great love of travel and was fortunate enough to visit many countries, including Australia and New Zealand where he connected with other Studholme family through extensive genealogical research. But, Bill was always happiest spending time with friends at the curling club or just talking away the day over a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee and some Timbits. When Bill met Marie after the loss of his wife Jo-Ann, he found a loving companion and friend with whom he truly enjoyed spending his later years. Together they enjoyed theater, travel, and time with friends.

Service

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020 10:30am
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church Brampton
66 A Main Street South
BRAMPTON, ON L6W 2C6

https://memorials.wardfuneralhomes.com/william-sutdholme/4271290/index.php

 

 

Ford executives, dealers report big
early demand for 2021 Bronco

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
July 19, 2020

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. was confident the 2021 Bronco would be a hit.

But within just a few days of the debut of the all-new off-road SUV, which is mounting a comeback 24 years after Ford discontinued it, Ford executives and franchise dealers say demand has been "overwhelming."

Although the automaker won't say how many $100 deposits it's received since the Monday night debut of the new family of vehicles that includes Sport, two-door and four-door models.

The reservation page crashed soon after the 8 p.m. debut because so many people were attempting to log on at once, Ford says. A First Edition model with a limited run of 3,500 was spoken for by the end of the night.

One Phoenix-area dealer said he had more than 500 deposits by Friday morning.

"I was super-optimistic about the product," Mark LaNeve, vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service for the Blue Oval, told The Detroit News on Friday. "But the number (of reservations) that I had in my mind that we would get in the first two weeks, we have completely blown away in four days."

Industry analysts, however, say that while advance reservations are a good gauge of demand for a new product, only time will tell how successful the Bronco will be — and, with a lot riding on the launch, it's imperative it goes off without a hitch.

Bronco vs. Jeep

Ford officials, dealership owners and fans say it's the right time for the Bronco's return, as the market for off-road SUVs grows and many Americans turn to outdoor adventures during the coronavirus pandemic.

The resurrected Bronco also taps into nostalgia many feel for the SUV that originally had run from 1966 through 1996. And, dealers agreed, the Ford design team hit the nail on the head: Yes, the Bronco comes equipped with the latest technology, but, most importantly, it looks like the original 1966 version.

Experts say there is plenty of room in the off-road segment — for years dominated by the Jeep Wrangler — for a new vehicle, especially as Americans continue to favor SUVs over sedans.

It's no secret that Ford is attempting to go head-to-head with Jeep by reintroducing the Bronco, but LaNeve said he sees the two customer bases as somewhat distinct. Winning over Jeep customers is "not necessarily our ambition," he said. "We think there's enough market out there."

Ford executives and dealers described Bronco as hitting a certain sweet spot the original Bronco was known for: It has off-road capability, but many will simply drive it to the supermarket.

Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights for auto information website Edmunds.com, however, says most anyone who is shopping for an off-road vehicle is going to look at both Jeep and Bronco: "There is more overlap than there is the opposite."

Early enthusiasm

San Tan Ford is the Arizona dealership that says it had 500-plus reservations by Friday. Owner Tim Hovik had hoped to hit 100.

"This is beyond my wildest expectation," said Hovik, who is vice chairman of Ford's national dealer council and has been in the auto industry for 29 years.

The hype leading up to the return of the Bronco lasted so long that Hovik wasn't sure the actual rollout Monday would keep people's attention. 

"It was probably the longest lead-up to a reveal in automotive history," he said. "So when we hit the 'reveal' button and we pushed 'go,' to have this level of enthusiasm, that to me has been a big part of this story."

Nearly 2,000 miles across the country, Rhett Ricart, president of Ricart Automotive Group outside Columbus, Ohio,  says his dealership so far has taken about 100 reservations.

"It blew right past the Mach-E, and the Mach-E was unbelievable," Ricart said of Ford's upcoming electric SUV. "(Ford) hit every button on this one. I wish I had it right now, as a dealer."

Ricart, an enthusiast who owns a 1977 Bronco, was impressed by the range of tools on the new Bronco that he likens to a Swiss Army knife.

Doug North, president of North Brothers Ford in Westland, said his dealership has about 50 reservations — "huge," he says, compared to the 15 or 20 they got for the Mach-E. He reserved two of the "Wildtrak" trim levels (Ford offers six) for himself and his wife.

But only time will tell if the Bronco is a true success, says Edmunds' Drury. The buzz around the launch puts extra pressure on Ford to get it right, especially on the heels of a botched Explorer launch in 2019: "It cannot go poorly."

And the true measures of success won't be known for years. It's one thing for hardcore fans to rush to put down a deposit; the real test, he said, will be: "Does it have staying power?"

Eric Wilkinson, 33, of Howell falls into the hardcore fan category. He was on Ford's website at 8:01 p.m. Monday making a reservation for a four-door Bronco, and he managed to snag one of the First Edition models.

He and his wife are classic-car enthusiasts who own vintage Broncos and Mustangs. And, as a sales manager at Hines Park Ford in New Hudson, Wilkinson gets to be part of the excitement as both a salesman and customer. His dealership had gotten about 160 reservations by Friday, he said.

Now, with production not starting for months: "I've got to sit and wait with bated breath, not only to sell them, but to get my own."

 

Retiree Wilmer Little's Wife
Anne Passes Away July 1, 2020

Anne Little
In Loving Memory
1941 - 2020

Our most sincerest sympathies go to Retiree Wilmer Little
and his family on the passing of his wife Anne Little.

Both Wilmer and Anne attended many of our Retiree
social events & meetings, she will truly be missed.

Wednesday July 1st, 2020 at Headwaters Health Care, Orangeville. Anne, in her 80th year, beloved wife of Wilmer for 61 years. Loving mother of Barry (Donna), Carol (Ted) and Cathy (Rob). Loved grandmother of Julie (Andrew), Kyle (Heather), Lisa (Jemar), Caitlin (Dylan), Brianna (Dane), Jenny (Peter), Brandon (Justina), Rachel (Daniel), Danielle (Yves), Laurie (John), Amanda (Riley) and Brittney (Jordan). Great-grandmother of Reese, Ella, Griffin, Calle, Camille, Charleigh, Harper, McKenna, Hank, Lachlan, Nora, Kayleigh and Brezden. Dear sister of Art Davis (Bev). Loving Aunt of Jackie (Mike), Debbie (Neal) and Barbara (John). Anne is predeceased by her parents Jim and Edna Davis, her in-laws Florence and Emerson Little, her sister and brother-in-law Mildred and Bill and Glenford and Bonnie. She was loved by many cousins, great nieces and nephews and friends. A private family service was already held in the chapel at the Jones


https://jonesfuneralhome.co/tribute/details/3020/Anne-Little/obituary.html#tribute-start


Photo taken at our Thanksgiving Luncheon Oct 2017

 

 

Trudeau urges Trump to not
impose aluminum tariffs

The Canadian Press
July 16, 2020

WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Donald Trump to think twice Monday before imposing new tariffs on Canadian aluminum, saying the sector is emerging from the pandemic-induced production stance that prompted the White House to consider such measures in the first place.

Trudeau, who said he had spoken to the U.S. president earlier in the day, told him that with the North American economy getting back up to speed, Canada's aluminum smelters would soon be back producing value-added specialty products for the American auto sector.

The spectre of new tariffs emerged last month after Canadian producers, unable to shut down production and with their usual customers hamstrung by the impact of COVID-19, were forced to make a more generic form of aluminum and ship it to warehouses in the United States.

That alarmed certain U.S. smelter owners and operators, who have been urging the U.S. trade representative's office to slap fresh levies on imports from Canada.

"I highlighted to the president that the pandemic has disrupted usual manufacturing processes and supply chains, and that has caused certain disruption in the aluminum sector that is starting to realign itself, given the economies are starting up again and manufacturing is getting going," Trudeau said after a call with Trump.

"I impressed upon him that it would be a shame to see tariffs come in between our two countries at a time where we're celebrating NAFTA and at a time where we want our businesses and our manufacturers to get going as quickly as possible."

Canada has been on the outside looking in when it comes to the coming into force of NAFTA's successor, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

While Trump welcomed Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to a celebratory event at the White House last week, Trudeau kept his distance, citing the tariff dispute and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic among his reasons.

The U.S. trade representative reportedly gave Canada a deadline of July 1 to impose export restrictions — the very day the USMCA took effect. That deadline has come and gone without a hint from U.S. trade ambassador Robert Lighthizer about what happens next.

Trudeau said he and Trump also discussed the Canada-U.S. border, where non-essential travel has been curtailed since March in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. The 30-day bilateral agreement to limit discretionary cross-border travel without restricting trade or essential workers has been extended three times and is now set to expire July 21.

Since the last extension, however, the public health crisis in the U.S. has exploded.

More than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases were identified over the weekend, particularly in southern states that reopened early, with Florida emerging as the new epicentre. Canada has had 108,000 confirmed cases in total.

Hospitals in major urban centres across the United States are again nearing capacity and health care workers face another critical shortage of personal protective equipment like masks and respirators.

Trudeau demurred when asked whether this time, Canada might consider extending the 30-day window.

"We've pledged to continue to monitor closely the situation that is constantly evolving," he said.

"We will be discussing with our American partners what the next steps should be, and I think this is a situation that is evolving rapidly and we need to keep responding to the situation on the ground."

 

2021 Ford Bronco SUV revealed
with retro styling and off-road tech

A classic nameplate returns on all-new truck.

By Gary Gastelu
Fox News
July 14, 2020

Ford is bringing back the Bronco as a lineup of SUVs aimed at off-road and outdoors enthusiasts.

Three years after Ford announced it was on the way, the reborn Bronco has arrived.

The midsize SUV unveiled Monday night was developed as a direct competitor for the Jeep Wrangler with styling inspired by the original 1966 Bronco, body-on-frame construction, standard four-wheel-drive and a removable roof and doors. A smaller Bronco Sport crossover will join it in showrooms as part of a new Bronco sub-brand of Ford.

The Bronco Sport will be sold alongside the 2-door and 4-door Bronco.​​​​​

The 2021 Bronco will be built alongside the Ford Ranger pickup in Michigan and share its 270 hp 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. The Ford F-150’s 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 is optional and rated at 310 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are offered with a 10-speed automatic transmission, but the four-cylinder can also be matched to a 7-speed manual with an ultra-low “crawler” gear for extreme off-roading.

Two-door and four-door models will be available with tons of accessories across six trim and equipment levels starting at $29,995, plus a limited production top-of-the-line First Edition.

Unlike the Wrangler, the Bronco has an independent front suspension that Ford maintains is better for high-speed desert running and on-road refinement than the Wrangler’s solid axle, but can still boulder with the best of them. Two 4x4 systems with two-speed transfer cases are offered across the lineup, the upgrade version adding a full-time 4x4 setting.

Several suspension configurations are available, including a “Sasquatch” package that delivers the most off-road capability, thanks in part to its 35-inch tires and a stabilizer bar that can be disconnected when the Bronco is already at an angle and automatically reconnects as speeds increase. With this setup, the Bronco has 11.6 inches of ground clearance, can ford 33.5 inches of water and has best-in-class departure and breakover angles.

Off-road tech includes a selection of seven so-called G.O.A.T driving modes, which calibrate the drivetrain for different surfaces and play off the original Bronco’s claim to be able to Go Over All Terrain. There’s also a low-speed cruise control for rock crawling, a 4x4 turn assist that uses the inside rear brakes to help it maker sharper turns on loose surfaces and a unique one-pedal driving system that applies the brakes as you ease up on the throttle so you don’t need to use both feet to negotiate tricky terrain.

Ford designed the first Bronco in 25 years to be configurable and customizable, with parts like bumpers and fender flares engineered to be easily removable and frameless doors that are compact enough to pack into the trunk in storage bags. Two hoops on top of the fenders serve both as corner sights and tie-down points for roof-mounted cargo or limb-risers. A swing-out tailgate is complimented by a slide-out tray that can be used as a table or seat.

When the hard or soft top is removed, the cabin is entirely open to the sky and the elements. The Bronco doesn’t have a crossbar connecting the roof rails behind the driver’s seat, but does have waterproof switchgear, available water-resistant marine grade upholstery and rubber flooring with drain plugs. High-end models feature a 12-inch central display while the top of the dashboard has power ports and attachment points for a rack that can be used to mount mobile electronic devices and action cameras.

The instrument panel in the 2021 Bronco two- and four-door models is ready for installation of accessories such as a bring-your-own-device rack shown on this prototype. (Prototype interior shown not representative of production vehicle.)

The instrument panel in the 2021 Bronco two- and four-door models is ready for installation of accessories such as a bring-your-own-device rack shown on this prototype. (Prototype interior shown not representative of production vehicle.)

A 360-degree camera system with bird’s-eye and front views is available, and Ford’s Co-Pilot360 driver suite of driver aids offers blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking, but not adaptive cruise control. All Broncos have over-the-air software update capability that can be used to add features and troubleshoot issues with all vehicle systems.

Ford is now accepting reservations for the Bronco with a $100 deposit and deliveries are scheduled to begin next spring.

 

Engine shortage from Mexico
could shut down Ford plants

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
July 12, 2020

Ford Motor Co. may have to shut down production at plants in the U.S. due to a shortage of engines from Mexico.

The supply issue and potential shutdown was first reported by Reuters, which cited comments made Thursday by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau during a talk organized by the Atlantic Council.

In a statement, Ford confirmed it is experiencing a supply issue: "Due to COVID-19, the State of Chihuahua in Mexico has limited employee attendance to 50%, a region in which we have several suppliers," said Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford's Americas and International Markets Group. "With our U.S. plants running at 100%, that is not sustainable. While we do not expect any impact to production next week, we are continuing to work with government officials on ways to safely and constructively resume remaining production."

According to Reuters, at issue are engines produced in Mexico for Ford vehicles. Landau said he discussed the issue with an unnamed senior Ford executive on Wednesday: "They're saying that they're going to start shutting down factories in the United States as of next week if they don't get that rolling," Landau said, Reuters reported.

Ford declined to provide further comment about the timing of a potential shutdown and what U.S. plants or vehicles would be affected.

Ford's Chihuahua Engine Plant currently makes the Duratec I4, Scorpion 6.7-liter and Diesel V8 4.4-liter engine lineups, according to the company's website. The Scorpion 6.7-liter engine is used to power Ford's Super Duty pickups. The plant's current product lineup includes at least two engines used in hybrid vehicles.

A widespread U.S. production shutdown would be a major setback for the effort to restart auto manufacturing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Detroit's three automakers shut down North American production for eight weeks, from the end of March to mid-May, to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 

The simultaneous restart of all three automakers was a historic moment in the industry, and one that experts said would be a major test, given possible disruptions in the industry's global supply chain and the need to prevent COVID-19 from spreading within plants.

Ford, along with its crosstown rivals, restarted on a reduced production schedule. But within five weeks, the Dearborn automaker announced it was back to full, pre-coronavirus production levels, ahead of schedule. All three automakers have been rushing to fill depleting inventories on dealership lots, as consumer demand for new vehicles has rebounded stronger than expected.

 

 

Ford CEO resists employees’
push to end sales of police vehicles

Sophia Cai,
Bloomberg
July 10, 2020

Ford Motor Co.’s top executive has pushed back against some employees calling for the top seller of vehicles to U.S. police departments to exit the business.

Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett sent a more than 600-word letter to senior staff in response to messages he’s received both from within and outside Ford’s ranks to reconsider producing police vehicles.

Hackett, 65, said that while he and Executive Chairman Bill Ford support the Black Lives Matter movement and believe police should operate with more transparency and accountability, first responders “play an extraordinarily important role in the vitality and safety of our society.”

“Our world wouldn’t function without the bravery and dedication of the good police officers who protect and serve,” Hackett wrote. “But safety of community must be inclusive of all members and today, it is not.”

“Holding these two thoughts together in one’s mind is possible, but now there is tension,” Hackett continued. “It’s our belief the recent issues surfacing from the George Floyd tragedy are bringing a very intensive and necessary spotlight on police training and reform.”

The second-largest U.S. automaker by sales joins household-name companies including Facebook Inc. and PepsiCo Inc. in being pressured to reconsider or change business practices following the police killing of Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in May.

The fallout has been significant for some – Facebook is being hit by a major advertiser boycott – while Pepsi and others have abandoned brands rooted in racism. Amazon.com Inc. has implemented a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition software.

Ford Police Interceptor sedans and sport-utility vehicles – souped-up versions of its Fusion and Explorer models – are a small sliver of the more than 2 million cars the automaker sells in the U.S. every year. But its domination of the segment has long been a point of pride. The company boasted less than a year ago that it accounted for almost two-thirds of U.S. police vehicle sales.

“It’s not controversial that the Ford Police Interceptor helps officers do their job,” Hackett wrote. But he pushed back against the notion that supporting police accountability and producing vehicles for departments across the U.S. are mutually exclusive.

“The issues plaguing police credibility have nothing to do with the vehicles they’re driving,” Hackett said.

 

 

Next-gen Ford Ranger Raptor may
come to U.S. (and Canada) after all

Setting a new benchmark in off-road capability, the Ranger Raptor has been purposefully-designed to incorporate Ford Performance DNA as well as the toughness of core Ranger design and engineering capability

Alex Reid
MSN News
July 9, 2020

Ford is redesigning the Ranger for 2022, and along with it will come another Raptor variant, which might be coming to North American markets for the first time.

Sources claim the next-generation Ranger Raptor will be available with three different engine options, according to Car Expert , including one powertrain already available in the F-150 Raptor.

In other markets, the Ranger Raptor was designed to house a diesel powerplant between its fenders, which is why it was never offered in the U.S. The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder produced 210 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 2022 Raptor will be powered by that same engine but will also be joined by a variety of V6s, including a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel with 250 horsepower and 440 lb.-ft. of torque, and a 2.7-litre turbocharged gasoline engine with 325 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque, according to these reports.

While the diesel powertrains will likely not make it to the U.S.- or Canadian-spec model, we’re betting the 2.7-litre V6 will. The engine is already used in the F-150 Raptor with slightly more power, so it would be easy to de-tune it for the smaller Ranger. The engine could make its way, too, to the Bronco, as the T6 platform it rides on will also underpin the next-generation Ranger.

The redesigned Ranger Raptor will be unveiled in 2021 as a 2022 model, along with the standard Ranger.

 

Bronco is more than a ute, it's a brand

,
The Detroit News

July 7, 2020

When Ford Motor Co. unveils the all-new, 2021 Ford Bronco on July 13, it will be more than a rugged SUV. It will be a brand.

Like Ford’s Mustang sub-brand which now includes an electric SUV in addition to a stable of two-door muscle cars, the four-wheel-drive Bronco brand will include a truck-based SUV in two-door and four-door trim, and a Bronco Sport SUV based on the unibody Ford Escape. Customers will also have access to off-road parks, driving instruction, an online community and apparel.

The outdoor SUV brand — complete with the “Built Wild” marketing tagline — will be a key ingredient of Ford’s evolutionary, three-pronged product strategy built on SUVs, the Mustang sport coupe and pickups. Ford will no longer produce sedans for the U.S. market.

Ford Bronco teases on Instagram (Photo: Ford)

Echoing Mustang, the Bronco brand will be emotionally anchored in 1960s nostalgia when Ford introduced the first “sport utility vehicle” as an off-road, Jeep-inspired lifestyle vehicle. The 1966 Bronco was introduced just a year after the Mustang set the performance world on fire with an affordable, drop-top muscle car.

“Bronco gave rise to the fun and versatile off-road SUV in 1966, becoming the first enjoyable sport utility vehicle for those who wanted to live, work and play outdoors,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s chief operating officer. “Like the original, the all-new Bronco family is engineered to take you to epic places, with capability to deliver confidence on any type of terrain.”

Like the original, the Bronco brand supports a race car — the Bronco R — for the grueling Baja 1000 off-road race. The Bronco R made its debut last winter at the famed Mexican endurance race. A Bronco won the Baja 1000 in 1969, the first time a production vehicle had ever won the race — a record that stands to this day.

Ford’s 1960s success runs deep through the brand. Its halo Ford GT supercar — in production since 2017 — builds on Ford’s historic 1966 Le Mans 24-hour win. The Bronco was launched in 1966 and the Mustang in 1965.

"The mid-1960s were very good years for Ford," said IHS Markit principal auto analyst Stephanie Brinley. "If you’re a traditional automaker, you have to evolve your brands. Ford is talking about its past and future at the same time."

Though the Bronco name has been out of circulation for 25 years, it still peppers popular culture. It’s appeared in 1,200 films, as John Paul II’s Popemobile in 1980, not to mention the infamous 1994 O.J. Simpson chase. 

Under the Built Wild tagline, the Bronco brand will seek to build an off-road and virtual community for owners that includes outdoor adventure playgrounds and social media.

Dubbed Off-Roadeo, the playgrounds will have four locations around the U.S. starting in 2021 and will be a place where owners can test their steeds — or get driving instruction — on challenging terrain similar to public Michigan parks like The Mounds near Flint or Jerome’s Bundy Hill. No word yet on whether one of those locations will be in Michigan.

When they’re not at play, Bronco enthusiasts can tune into Bronco Nation (www.thebronconation.com), an independent online community. It’s a forum for owners and enthusiasts to share off-asphalt adventures as well as vintage Bronco vehicle information and event calendars. Ford promises Bronco brand apparel, too.

“Bronco delivers on the common thread desired by enthusiasts — authenticity,” said Ford marketing manager Mark Grueber. “Building Bronco as Ford’s distinct outdoor brand includes engagement that extends far beyond ownership.”

In addition to helping re-order Ford’s lineup for an SUV and electric future, Bronco brand wants to capitalize on the "overlanding" trend. Made popular by the Jeep Wrangler, overlanding is an outdoor lifestyle of traveling around the country to often remote locations.

"There is a commonality in American culture going back decades that we want to go places, we want to explore," said IHS Markit’s Brinley. "The Bronco very much taps into  that American psyche."

While more details of the Ranger pickup-based Bronco will be forthcoming July 13, we do know the two-and-four-door Broncos will come standard with 4x4 drive as well as removable body panels like the Wrangler.

The Bronco Sport, to be unveiled the same day, will seek to capitalize on this appeal as well, though it will be based on the same unibody architecture of Ford’s popular Escape crossover. 

With the introduction of Bronco Sport, Ford will bifurcate the compact SUV segment. The sleek Escape will be aimed at urban commuters, while the Bronco Sport — complete with boxy design cues from the Bronco — will appeal to a more niche lifestyle owner.

"As Ford’s lineup changes, it’s not enough to offer another SUV," said Brinley. "You have to do something different if you want to keep your buyers. People want to feel special about their vehicles whether they are sedans or SUVs. Bronco hopes to make that emotional connection using a great history."

 

 

Ford to end production of the
Lincoln Continental at end of 2020

Jordyn Grzelewski and
Kalea Hall,
The Detroit News
July 6, 2020

Ford Motor Co. confirmed Wednesday it will permanently end production of the Lincoln Continental built at the Blue Oval's Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

The move is just the latest in the Dearborn automaker's long-term strategy of ditching sedans and compact cars in favor of a wider array of profit-rich trucks and SUVs that U.S. customers have come to prefer.

It also brings Ford a step closer to fulfilling the strategy it announced in 2018 of no longer producing traditional cars, except for such select models as the Mustang and its multiple variants. By axing the Continental, Lincoln's lineup will be all-SUV since the brand previously announced the discontinuation of the other remaining car, the MKZ.

In confirming the discontinuation of the Continental, Lincoln emphasized its SUV lineup, which includes models such as the Aviator and Navigator: "Lincoln is investing in growth segments and the brand will feature a full portfolio of SUVs, including a fully-electric vehicle in the future," spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said in a statement.

"Lincoln will continue to keep its newest SUVs fresh and we will have more news to share later this year; however, as the full-size premium sedan segment continues to decline in the U.S., we plan to end production of the Lincoln Continental at the end of this year."

A 2021 model year Continental will be offered in Ford's China market, before the model is discontinued there, as well: "The Continental has had a really rich past, but we'll return the name to the vault after that," Kozleski said.

The Flat Rock plant also produces the Mustang. Kozleski said Ford does not anticipate any layoffs as a result of discontinuing the Continental.

The Continental makes up just a small portion of Lincoln brand sales. In 2019, Ford sold just more than 6,400 Continentals, down nearly 25% from the previous year. The brand as a whole delivered more than 112,000 vehicles, most of them SUVs.

It makes economic sense for Ford to drop the Continental because the luxury sedan shares the same chassis as the Ford Fusion, and Fusion production is slated to end this year, said Karl Brauer, executive publisher for Cox Automotive. A Ford spokeswoman confirmed production of the Fusion will end this summer.

“That plant, that assembly line, that chassis, the R&D budget to keep evolving it, all of those things are more important for the volume model than the luxury model," said Brauer. "If the volume model can’t exist, the luxury model is gone."

But he said the new Continental was not just a “gussied up Ford Fusion: "Yes, somewhere in the heart of its chassis was a Ford Fusion, but they did such a good job on its exterior design and proportions … it looked like its own vehicle.”

The history of the Continental dates back to the World War II era. The Lincoln Zephyr Continental was introduced in 1939 and was "an immediate design icon," according to a history of the model on Ford's website. The Continental was commissioned by founder Henry Ford's son, Edsel Ford. He headed up the Lincoln division at the time and wanted to make a vehicle reminiscent of the automobiles he encountered in Europe.

The original version of the Lincoln was discontinued for several years, before being revived in the 1950s as the Lincoln Continental Mark II.

The Continental and Fusion are just two victims on a long list of discontinued cars as sales have plummeted in recent years. General Motors Co. nixed its Cadillac XTS, a full-size luxury sedan, the Chevrolet Impala and Cruze. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV was the first to start exiting the car market with the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200.

Now, with consumers favoring trucks and SUVs, automakers are resurrecting old, larger vehicle nameplates, including the Ford Bronco, GM's Hummer and the Jeep Wagoneer.

 

Ford sales down 33%
in second quarter

Kalea Hall,
The Detroit News
July 5, 2020

The Detroit Three posted sales declines of more than 30% in the second quarter as the coronavirus pandemic raged through the United States. 

Ford Motor Co. sales in the second quarter dropped 33%, the Dearborn automaker reported Thursday. The numbers come a day after General Motors Co. reported a 34% sales decline and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV a 39% drop in the same three-month period, showing just how hard COVID-19 affected auto sales as much of the U.S. economy was shut down.

State economies have reopened and there's been positive growth in jobs, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics saying Thursday that 4.8 million jobs were added in June. But it remains unclear how recent surges in coronavirus cases that have revived certain stay-at-home restrictions —  and expiring unemployment stimulus — will hit future sales.

Incentive programs offered by Ford during the second quarter, including 0% for 72 months, helped dealers like Tim Hovik, owner of San Tan Ford in Gilbert, Arizona, and vice chairman of Ford’s national dealer council.

"The Ford programs are more competitive and more consumer friendly, and have given us a leg up on competition," Hovik said. "That has been a key to our success. We have had a better line of sight than a lot of competition and it's really allowed dealers to be much more positive and develop very solid, consistent business plans as we worked through this thing."

Hovik never had to close his dealership during the pandemic. His sales for the year are flat over last year, he said: "We are holding up pretty well." 

He had about $54 million worth of inventory in mid-March and is down to about $26 million, but "the sun is coming back to shine," he said, since he's expecting a 30-days supply shipment in the next 30 days. The latest data from Cox Automotive shows Ford with inventory levels closer to 90 days, above the national average of 70 days.  

"As the capacity of the factories increases, I will be getting more … the reality is we are going to be a little tight for the rest of the year," he said.

With people transitioning to cross-country vacations with their car during the pandemic, Hovik is hopeful that movement will boost sales the rest of the summer: "That’s played a factor and I think that will continue to drive demand in our business."

Jim Seavitt, owner of Village Ford in Dearborn, sold 265 new vehicles in June, making for his best month ever in the last three years. Incentives and pent-up demand helped lure would-be buyers back to the showroom.

“People are back on the market and people have money and they have confidence in their jobs,” he said. “For the month of July, I don’t think we have a chance to be as good as we were in June."

With its dealer network, Ford and other automakers shifted to online and remote sales in the second quarter, which helped grow the automaker's retail share by an estimated full percentage point to 13.3% — Ford’s best retail share quarter in five years.

"Our performance in Q2 was really driven by Ford and our dealers’ deep commitment to customers and quick action taken to support our customers during these unprecedented times," said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a statement. "Our support programs continue with our recent introduction of ‘Ford Promise’ to provide extra security during these difficult times. It’s another way Ford is standing with hard-working Americans.”

Ford sold 433,869 in the second quarter, down from 650,336 sold last year. Ford's retail sales were down less than 14.3%. The coronavirus shutdown affected fleet sales the most. Daily rental was down 94%, while commercial was off 78% from production shutdowns. The commercial performance did improve through the quarter, Ford noted.

Ford's profitable F-Series had overall sales of 180,825 pickups, down 22.7% over last year. The F-Series did expand its leadership position in the second quarter with an estimated 2.6 percentage point increase in retail share. In June, the Ford Explorer led as the best-selling midsize SUV. Overall Explorer sales were up 12% over last year. 

The performance, Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.com, says, "reiterates how strong their truck and SUV lineup is for them and how that really is carrying these automakers, particularly the Detroit automakers, through this downtime."

Ford recently revealed its new generation of its money-making F-150, which is scheduled to go on sale later this year. The Blue Oval will unveil the new Bronco, a vehicle that's been out of production since 1996, on July 8. The automaker will broadcast the virtual reveal of the Bronco across Disney’s broadcast, cable, digital and streaming properties, including ABC, ESPN, National Geographic and Hulu, during the first commercial break in the 8 p.m. EDT hour on July 13. The Bronco will launch in 2021.

"They are selling down a lot of vehicles and then launching going forward," said Michelle Krebs, senior director of automotive relations for Cox Automotive. "They have decent inventories. They have a lot of new product launches if they nail those they will be in pretty good shape."

 

Reopening the Canada-U.S. border
will be a long, piecemeal process

CBC News
Aaron Wherry
July 2, 2020

The Donald Trump era began in 2015 with a promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. Five years later, the Trump era may end with citizens in much of the rest of the world — Canadians, in particular — insisting on a virtual wall between themselves and the United States.

With the United States adding 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day, the European Union is leaving the U.S. off a list of 15 countries whose citizens soon will be allowed to visit its 27 member nations. In Canada, there seems to be no great desire to quickly reverse the unprecedented border restrictions that were imposed in March.

The question for Canadians is how much longer the virtual wall will have to be in place — and how much it might hurt to keep it there.

"My guess is it's going to have to stay closed for more than 12 months," Colin Furness, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, told CBC News this week. "It's hard to imagine what's going to happen in the United States until we have a vaccine or until the population has been sufficiently infected that you have herd immunity."

Canadians are in no rush to reopen

When Leger Marketing asked Canadians in May when they thought Canada should reopen its border with the United States, 47 per cent of respondents said "not before the end of the year." With more than 2.6 million cases now in the United States, it's unlikely Canadians' enthusiasm for welcoming our American neighbours has increased since then.

An exemption for "essential" travel significantly reduced the disruption to the Canadian economy. "Canadians continue to get the food, medicine, commercial goods, and other essential supplies they need to live and work, and Canadian exporters for the most part have not suffered disruption," said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.

But the decline in traffic across the border has still been precipitous. According to data obtained by Postmedia, between June 15 and June 21 just 170,998 people entered Canada at a land crossing with the United States — and 104,247 of those people were truck drivers. Over the same period in 2019, more than 1.2 million people traveled through a land crossing from the U.S. into Canada.

Based on those numbers, the pandemic is going to leave a deep mark on the Canadian tourism industry and on border towns like Windsor and Sarnia, Ontario. Hyder and the Business Council have called on the federal government to extend its wage subsidy for the tourism sector through the rest of the year.

The damage could be lasting

But it can't be assumed that the exemption for essential business travel and widespread use of video conferencing are preventing all damage to the economic relationships between Canadians and Americans.

"People say, okay, well, the trucks are going, so the supply chains are working. But the supply chains reflect agreements and contracts that were made in the past with a lot of face-to-face interaction," said Bill Anderson, director of the Cross-Border Institute in Windsor. "If those agreements aren't being made now, the question is — what's the supply chain going to look like six months to a year from now?"

It also can't be assumed that cross-border travel will quickly return to its pre-COVID-19 normal once the threat of the disease has passed, Anderson added. Traffic between Canada and the United States dropped significantly after 9/11 and had yet to fully return to previous levels when the pandemic hit.

Beyond the economic concerns, there are the personal plights — the families still being kept apart by the border restrictions. An exemption introduced in June only applies to "immediate" family members such as spouses, parents, children and guardians.

A pandemic running rampant in the U.S.

But all complications associated with the current restrictions must be balanced against the significant health risks of reopening the border — and the economic disruption that would occur if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in Canada.

Furness said his suggestion of 12 months was not meant to be perfectly precise. "It's a very, very rough idea," he said. "I just want people to get used to the idea that maybe it's not going to be next week or next month."

But his projection is based on a belief that COVID-19 has now spread too far in the United States for it to be contained. "My assumption is that the genie is so far out of the bottle that there isn't even a bottle anymore," he said.

In these circumstances, it might be hard for any industry or community to argue that the border should be reopened. But accepting that a return to normal is unlikely in the near future could refocus the discussion on what, if anything, can be done to find a new normal that is even just slightly less restrictive.

Baby steps

"I don't think the solution is to say, 'Let's pick out a date and say, OK, the border is now open.' In fact, I would say that maybe 'open' is the wrong term to use," said Anderson, who is also thinking of COVID-19 as a long-term problem. "I think what you need to do is try to find rational and safe ways to ease some of the restrictions."

Anderson said that expanded testing (likely conducted away from the border crossings themselves) might allow some travellers to cross if they can show that they have recently tested negative. The effectiveness of that approach, of course, would depend on the accuracy of the testing.

Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at West Washington University, said the current exemption for family members could be broadened to include extended family like grandparents. Furness also would look at family unification.

"I really would like us to revisit that with a long view," Furness said of the current policy on family members. "To say, 'This is going to be in place for a long time, now how can we alleviate the worst of the suffering?'"

a person is walking down the street: Two friends embrace during a visit at the Canada-U.S. Douglas-Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey, British Columbia on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.© Ben Nelms/CBC Two friends embrace during a visit at the Canada-U.S. Douglas-Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey, British Columbia on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.

If that meant a lot more people crossing the border, then testing could be a useful policy, Furness said. But he suggests that what is currently a "tiny trickle" of cross-border travellers should only be allowed to become a "slightly bigger trickle" — no tourists or unnecessary business travel. He said international students should still be allowed to enter Canada, but he would like greater clarity on what constitutes "essential" travel.

The border restrictions put in place in March have been extended three times and are now set to expire on July 21 — officially, at least. Even if the deal is only extended for another month, it's likely time to accept that a largely closed border between Canada and the United States is, like the disease itself, going to be our reality for the foreseeable future —  and to plan accordingly.

"Right now I think everyone's responsibility is to figure out how we're going to live with this thing," Anderson says. "Because it might not go away for a long time."

 

New NAFTA takes effect amid
carmaker COVID-19 recovery

Keith Laing,
The Detroit News
July 1, 2020

Washington — The replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement takes effect July 1, meaning automakers will have to begin grappling with a new set of trade rules as they try to remain afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the trade rules by which automakers have played since 1994 will be replaced by a new pact requiring automakers to produce cars with 75% of parts originating from the United States, Canada or Mexico — up from 62.5% — within five years to qualify for duty-free treatment. The pact, known as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, was signed into law by President Donald Trump in January.

In addition to the USMCA's new requirements for parts, known as "rules of origin," the new pact requires 40-45% of an auto’s content to be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour. Vehicles not meeting the requirements will be subject to a 2.5% duty. Automakers and other companies will also have to make sure 70% of the steel and aluminum they use comes from North American companies.

The U.S. Trade Representative only recently released uniform rules for the trade pact that has been agreed to by the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Trump administration officials expressed confidence on Tuesday that enough information has been shared with U.S. companies to ensure a smooth transition for affected industries, including automakers.

"We have done a significant amount of communications and outreach," Brenda Smith, the Executive Assistant Commissioner, Office of Trade, at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a press call. She noted that her agency has released three sets of implementation instructions since April, including one set on monitoring and enforcement procedural guidelines that was released publicly on Tuesday.

Smith said automakers will have about a six-month transition period to get up to speed on the new rules, followed by six months of "informed compliance" in which regulators will keep an eye on their documentation to make sure things are in line with the new expectations. But they avoid stiff penalties. She acknowledged automakers will be in a whole new trade world, beginning on Wednesday.

"Any time you've trained and built processes around a 25-year set of rules, any change is going to be a challenge," Smith said.

"We will not be in a gotcha mode, but we certainly want to make sure that industry is in compliance with the agreement," she continued. "Generally, the expectation of the government is if you make a claim for preferential treatment, your production and content is compliant with the agreement."

Smith said she was not worried about the possibility that the coronavirus pandemic and the international travel restrictions that have been in place in recent months would hamper companies' ability to comply with the requirement, noting that the new rules will be phased in and a lot of the compliance documentation will be submitted electronically.

"In terms of essential workers, they're able to cross the border," she said. "We don't think travel restrictions that are currently in place will impact on our ability to implement this agreement."

In a statement, Ford Motor Co. said it has "long supported USMCA as a template for future U.S. trade agreements and are pleased that it is now officially in effect." The company added it "will continue working closely with (U.S. Trade Representative) to ensure that its implementation spurs innovation and keeps the U.S. auto industry globally competitive.”

General Motors Co. declined to comment, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Safavian, president and CEO of Here for America, which lobbies in Washington for the U.S. operations of international motor vehicle manufacturers, said in a statement the USMCA's implementation is an important step because "an integrated North American automotive market has been key to the expansion of international automakers’ operations in the United States, who together build nearly half of all cars and trucks produced here and support over 2.4 million American jobs." 

Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist and senior director of industry insights for Cox Automotive, said automakers will be juggling a lot of competing demands between the new trade rules and the pandemic.

"The industry has so much to worry about right now that USMCA implementation is just icing on the cake," he said. "There will likely be some issues with paperwork and documentation with the new agreement that will take time to sort out.  But the industry is more focused on supply and demand issues in front of them today.  Factories are trying to maintain COVID compliance and get inventory levels back to more robust levels."

He added: "With the shut downs in March, inventory has fallen and this could hinder sales in June and July.  If buyers can’t find exactly what they want, they may decide to delay purchasing. 

"Inventory on dealer lots has fallen significantly in recent weeks as demand has improved while supply was constrained," Chesbrough said. "This issue is likely more pressing for OEMs, but certainly supply chain disruptions due to COVID, or USMCA compliance, would not be helpful right now." 

Joseph Semsar, Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade for the U.S. Department of Commerce, said in a webinar hosted by the Washington, D.C.-based Wilson Center, a non-partisan policy forum, on Tuesday "the USMCA modernizes critical provisions of NAFTA and sets the stage for creating the automotive industry of the future in North America."

He touted provisions in the trade pact boosting the requirements for the number of North American parts and wage requirements for automakers as seminal achievements for the Trump administration, which has promised to rewrite trade deals the president deemed unfair to American workers during his 2016 campaign.

"According to estimates from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative new capital investments in the U.S. attributable to USMCA by automakers and battery suppliers will total approximately $34 billion over five years," he said. "The USMCA will incentivize at least $23 billion annually in new U.S. automotive parts purchases within five years."

 

Ford joins growing corporate
boycott, halts all US social
media advertising

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit
June 30 2020

Ford Motor Co. has joined the growing roster of corporations that are using their advertising dollars to send a message to social media platforms where hate speech and the spread of false information often go unchecked.

The Dearborn automaker confirmed Monday that it is halting all social media advertising in the U.S. for 30 days "to re-evaluate our presence on these platforms."

In recent days, amid ongoing nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality spurred by George Floyd's death while being arrested by Minneapolis police, dozens of major companies around the world have stopped advertising on social media platforms. Civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League, launched a "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign asking companies to halt advertising on Facebook for the month of July, saying the social media giant has not done enough to monitor harmful content.

"We know what Facebook did," a statement on Stop Hate for Profit's website reads. "They  allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of (the deaths of) George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony  McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and  so many others. ... Could they protect and support Black users? Could they call out Holocaust denial as hate? Could they help get out the vote? They absolutely could. But they are actively choosing not to do so."

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Starbucks Corp. was pausing its social media advertising. Participants in the boycott include Unilever, a major multinational consumer-goods company that is behind brands such as Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and Dove soap; Coca-Cola; and Verizon.

Well-known retail brands such as Eddie Bauer, Patagonia and lululemon are also among the participants. The AP reported that some companies are halting ads only on Facebook, while others have stopped advertising on all social media platforms. Some have aligned themselves with #StopHateforProfit, while others have shied away from directly associating themselves with the campaign.

Honda Motor Co. is also participating in the boycott.

In a statement, a Ford spokesman said: "The existence of content that includes hate speech, violence and racial injustice on social platforms needs to be eradicated. We are actively engaged with industry initiatives led by the Association of National Advertisers to drive more accountability, transparency and trusted measurement to clean up the digital and social media ecosystem."

General Motors Co. does not seem to have gone as far as boycotting social media platforms, as of Monday. The automaker said in a statement that as it "work(s) to eliminate injustice and drive inclusion, we are reviewing and reinforcing our strict marketing guidelines that ensure our brands are never associated with content that is hateful or harmful."

"When we have concerns, our approach is to engage our advertising partners directly and privately and work to find solutions," a GM spokesman said.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

Retiree Ross Lowery celebrating
Father's Day at Home



 

'Continuing the legacy:'
Ford F-150's roots
go back to early 20th century

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
June 25, 2020

When Ford Motor Co. debuted its F-Series truck lineup in 1948, advertising campaigns proclaimed the trucks were "Built Stronger to Last Longer."

Today, the messaging is remarkably similar: the Dearborn automaker declares its trucks are "Built Ford Tough." In the decades-long history of the F-Series and all its permutations, the design and amenities of the trucks have evolved with the times, but the promise of the lineup has remained consistent: Utility. Reliability. Functionality.

The result has been the growth of a loyal customer base that has made the F-Series the bestselling vehicle for decades running not only in Ford's lineup, but in the entire country, and the perennial engine of the automaker's revenue and profitability.

On Thursday, Ford will open the next chapter in the series' history with the reveal of the new, 14th-generation F-150 pickup truck. The redesigned model will be unveiled at 8 p.m. via livestream on YouTube, and the truck is scheduled to go on sale later this year.

Details of the new truck — slated to come in hybrid and, eventually, fully battery-electric variants alongside the usual complement of gas-powered models — have been kept under wraps. But experts expect a new-and-improved take on the vehicle that has kept customers coming back year after year.

"It hasn't changed. That's the beauty of the F-Series truck," said Ted Ryan, Ford's archives and heritage brand manager. "All the others change and change and change. The F-Series has its North Star."

Dana Sturtz is a mother of two who used to buy minivans and SUVs before switching to a truck. Now the 45-year-old teacher from Huntington Woods counts herself among the F-150's dedicated customers.

"I feel like I've been missing out for years," said Sturtz, who began leasing the pickup late last year. "It's the best car I've ever had. I'm in love with it. I don't think I'll ever go back. It's just an awesome, awesome vehicle for our family."

She never saw herself in a truck until the staff at the Village Ford dealership in Dearborn convinced her to try it. The size of the four-door's cabin blew away her preconceived notions. The vehicle has proven to work well, even for carpooling with a 16- and 13-year-old.

Plus, when the family goes camping Up North, the bed provides plenty of space for all their gear. And Sturtz thinks the gas mileage is an improvement on the Ford Explorer the family had before.

She raves about the vehicle to friends and is looking forward to seeing the redesigned version: "I'm so content and happy. I think anything they add would just be a bonus."

That's just what the guardians of the Blue Oval want to hear. Ford's first truck, the Model TT, debuted in 1917, 14 years after Henry Ford founded the company in Detroit. The inaugural truck was true to Henry Ford's philosophy of building strictly utilitarian vehicles.

"He didn't care about style. He didn't care about beauty," Ryan said. "He was trying to build the best cars in the world that were economical and useful."

So when the need for a flatbed truck arose, Ford essentially tacked on a flatbed to its Model T: "It was the most Henry Ford of all the Henry Ford things," Ryan said.

Henry Ford's vision to create a vehicle with a cab and work-duty frame capable of accommodating cargo beds and third-party upfit equipment proudly endures a century later in the Built Ford Tough F-Series lineup, from F-150 to F-750 Super Duty

Three decades later, in 1948, Ford launched the F-Series with a half-ton vehicle called the F-1. Looking back on advertising brochures from the era, you will find phrases such as: "'Hard-working.' 'There for you.' 'Heavy capability,'" Ryan said. "That 1948 brochure reads like a 2020 brochure."

Some of the most significant milestones for the lineup came in the 1970s. In 1974, Ford introduced the SuperCab, giving customers who were increasingly buying trucks for personal use, and not just for work, the option for a roomier ride. Then, in 1975, Ford debuted the F-150; a few years later, in 1978, it sold a record 864,000 F-Series trucks.

In the 1980s, the lineup underwent a significant redesign and added diesel pickups. In 1999, production began on the F-Series Super Duty.

The current-generation F-150 launched in 2015. The 13th-generation model featured a first-of-its-kind military-grade, aluminum-alloyed body. The launch was the culmination of at least five years of research and development as Ford overhauled the building process, from exterior painting to interior design, to incorporate the lightweight but costlier material.

The changes the series has gone through over the years have responded to customer preferences while staying true to the F-Series' roots, Ryan said: "The design has changed to make them, A, more comfortable, and B, to infuse technologies that make it easier for people to work or place. (Ford has built) different features into the cab, the liners for the beds, the hooks — anything that can be done to make them more utilitarian more useful."

With the new F-150, "I think we're continuing the legacy we started in 1917 and enhanced in 1948," he said.

The 2019 Ford F-150. A first-ever offering from Ford, the off-road leveling kits bring FOX shocks, exclusive Ford Performance tuning, 2-inch front lift, new front coilovers, vehicle-specific upper front mounts and locking spring pre-load rings

The F-150 consistently leads the increasingly competitive light-duty, full-size pickup truck segment, which has carved out a crucial — and lucrative — space in the auto industry.

The F-150 made up 22.6% of new leads in the segment on CarGurus.com, as of earlier this month. And, according to data from Edmunds.com, Inc., the F-150 makes up about one-third of U.S. light-duty truck sales; Ford sold nearly 600,000 F-150s last year, compared to about 450,000 of the No. 2 Chevy Silverado 1500.

The truck also has generated higher-than-average loyalty among customers. A recent CarGurus survey of current and former pickup truck owners found that 27% of Ford full-size pickup owners would not consider purchasing another brand, compared to 17% among full-size pickup owners in general.

A successful launch of the new F-150 is crucial for Ford, as it grapples with the economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. Pre-pandemic estimates by Morgan Stanley have pegged the value of the lineup at more than the company as a whole.

"The F-Series launch is a pivotal moment for Ford," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights. "This truck has been Ford's cash cow for years and a bright spot during this pandemic, but it has also been in need of a fresh redesign as the truck wars have grown more heated."

The F-150, she said, "is what pays the bills," so "Ford needs it to succeed the most to get through this economic crisis and beyond."

 

Ford's redesigned F-150 pickup
will offer sleeper seat

BEN KLAYMAN
Reuters
June 24, 2020

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. next week will show the next generation of its brawny F-150 pickup truck that offers a new sleeper-seat feature and over-the-air software updates.

The new F-150, part of the best-selling vehicle line in the United States, accounts for $50 billion (all figures in USD) in annual revenue, and a significant share of Ford's annual profit. The truck is the top-selling vehicle in Canada and has been the best-selling pickup in Canada for more than 50 years.

While Tesla Inc and General Motors Co have moved faster on over-the-air software upgrades and high-speed in-vehicle data networks, the new F-150 will bring such technology squarely into the mainstream.

The new truck, expected to launch later this year, is a critical plank in Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley's plan to slash $5 billion in warranty costs, speed Ford's push into vehicle connectivity and add to the No. 2 U.S. automaker's already-strong position in the North American commercial vehicle market.

Automotive News in February reported on some of the new F-150's design ques.

Ford has borrowed more than $20 billion to ride out the economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic. Revenue generated from the new F-150 will be key to paying that money back.

Ford is not taking big risks with the exterior look of the new truck given its sales dominance, instead focusing on improving the interior, according to those who have seen it. Ford is scheduled to publicly show for the first time the new F-150 online on June 25.

"It's really about technology and productivity," Farley said at a Deutsche Bank conference on June 10.

One prominent feature will be the lay-flat passenger seat like those seen in first-class cabins on some planes, said a person familiar with the plans who asked not to be identified. "You can basically live in the truck," the person said.

Ford's nicer interior, including a larger display screen, follows a similar move by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with its new Ram truck, which received enthusiastic reviews for its stylish interior and optional 12-inch display screen.

"Ram taught everybody a little bit of a lesson," said Rhett Ricart, owner of Ricart Ford in Columbus, Ohio. "The old 5-inch screen for your navigation and radio controls is gone. They're all going to be 10-, 12-, 15-inch screens. That was started by Tesla."

The F-150's new electrical architecture will allow Ford to provide over-the-air updates to key modules controlling the vehicle, replacing trips to the dealership.

The new truck's connectivity also will help Ford boost sales to commercial customers, and reduce warranty costs, Farley told investors.

The F-Series truck has been around since 1948, while the F-150 debuted in 1975. Sales of the current version have remained strong despite its age, and the new model could help Ford hold or even build its position in the segment, said Sandy Munro, CEO of Michigan-based consulting firm Munro & Associates.

"If they add the same stuff as what Ram did and if they can add more stuff like Tesla's doing, there'll be a gigantic gap between Ford, and Ram and Chevy," he said.

The key for Ford will be to avoid the kinds of costly production problems that hobbled the launch of the new Explorer SUV last year. Ford acknowledged it erred in trying to launch the Explorer and Lincoln Aviator simultaneously while breaking in a new assembly line at its 95-year-old plant in Chicago.

Farley has been visiting the plants in Dearborn, Mich., and Kansas City, Mo., that will build the new F-150. Despite delays related to the virus, he said the launch is in "really good shape."

 

UAW training center reforms seek
transparency, higher standards

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
June 23, 2020

Structural changes to the United Auto Workers' training centers jointly operated with Detroit's three automakers, coupled with new U.S. Labor Department rules, could subject the embattled organizations to greater reporting requirements and the highest levels of scrutiny, according to officials.

The training centers have been at the center of a five-year federal corruption investigation into the union for the misappropriation of funds to bribe UAW officials and the misuse of trinkets and trash contracts to solicit kickbacks.

Labor contracts ratified last year with the automakers dissolve the corporate nonprofit training centers, creating two trusts each in their places. The new structures, according to officials, will subject the funds designated for training blue-collar workers to more federal oversight, annual audits, greater transparency and stricter administrative standards that could help prevent future scandals.

"I think it's a good-faith effort that the two sides are coming together to repair the damage that was done with the corruption," said Jonathon Mason, a 43-year-old production worker at Ford Motor Co.'s Dearborn Truck plant. "They need to get that on track. It's the training center — that's for the future of the companies and the UAW."

The structural changes follow a number of reforms implemented to address corruption within the organizations, including the elimination of training center credit cards, stricter asset and monetary rules, budget reviews, multi-vendor bids for contracts and bans on charitable gifts.

Fourteen people have been convicted in relation to corruption stemming from the training centers. Three former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives, including Vice President Alphons Iacobelli, have pleaded guilty to embezzling National Training Center funds to pay off UAW officials with lavish trips, private villas and other personal luxuries. The conspiracy has led General Motors Co. to pursue a civil racketeering case against the Italian American automaker, which FCA has called meritless.

The government also has secured three convictions related to UAW officials soliciting bribes from contract vendors for the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources. The structural changes to all three centers will not affect the day-to-day operations of joint activities, the union has held, but they will help to ensure sound oversight and governance.

"The newly reconstituted joint program centers," according to a statement from the UAW, "will protect UAW members by imposing strict fiduciary standards on the conduct of trustees managing the centers and allow UAW members more access to financial information related to the centers."

In place of the current training centers, according to the contracts, will be two Taft-Hartley nonprofit trusts each. Taft-Hartley refers to the Labor Management Relations Act that regulates unions.

"The Taft-Hartley trust structure, which is used throughout the US, imposes strict fiduciary obligations on the trustees of each trust to use assets properly, and makes those trustees personally responsible for meeting their obligations," said Ben Eisner, co-counsel to the UAW-FCA National Training Center, in an email.

"The Taft Hartley structure will hold the people in charge accountable and will provide additional confidence in these valuable and important joint training and other programs."

The reforms will bring a much-needed formal process of scrutiny to the training centers for the first time in 40 years, said Thomas Adams, a retired autoworker who has studied corruption in relation to the training centers for years and is turning his 2010 doctoral dissertation on the subject into a book. But the continued operation of so many joint operations, he believes, should be examined, as well.

“The joint programs are a way to buy influence into the union,” Adams said. “They bought labor peace that way. Instead of representing the interest of the workers, they maintained the interest of the (training centers’) bureaucracy and the largesse to the political machine and the Administrative Caucus,” the union's equivalent of a political party that has represented nearly all of the UAW's top international leaders for 70 years.

'Every dollar'

The two trusts replacing each center are broken between the responsibilities subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and those that are not. The Labor Management Committees Trusts will cover those that are not, such as health, safety, diversity and inclusion training as well as new-hire orientations.

The second trusts are Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Associations, or VEBAs. They will oversee programs such as tuition reimbursement and employee assistance. UAW members might be familiar with such associations from the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust launched in 2010 to oversee retiree health-care plans.

The UAW said it began discussions on restructuring the joint program centers with General Motors Co. in early 2019 under former UAW President Gary Jones, who pleaded guilty this month for helping steal more than $1 million from training center funds and member dues as part of a racketeering scheme.

UAW President Rory Gamble "was directly involved in the 2019 negotiations concerning reconstituting the joint program centers with these heightened financial reporting and operational standards," the union said. "Such reforms are in line with the efforts he and the UAW have undertaken to ensure wrongdoing like those uncovered by the investigation never happen again."

The transition to the trusts will take some time, though the administrations overseeing the new arrangement are in the works in hopes of creating "new structures that would enhance transparency and internal controls," FCA said in a statement.

The contract with the Italian American automaker, which was the last to be ratified, set a deadline of July 1 to finalize the structure of the final two trusts, but because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it has been extended until Sept. 1. The March 31 deadline in the UAW-Ford contract also has been extended, according to the Dearborn automaker. GM's deadline was the earliest and was unaffected by the virus.

The boards of the trusts will be split evenly in representation between the union and the automakers. Like the current training centers, the trusts must file publicly available tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. They also will undergo annual financial reviews by independent auditors, a practice only recently implemented at the training centers since the federal government's investigation into the UAW began.

The VEBA trusts, in particular, will have additional scrutiny under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a federal law known as ERISA that establishes standards for retirement, health and other benefit plans in private industry.

The duties of the fiduciaries that operate plans or trusts regulated by ERISA are the "highest known to the law," according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Every dollar, every penny is a plan asset under ERISA," said Paul Catenacci, an ERISA specialist and partner at Novara Tesija and Catenacci PLLC law firm in Troy. "You're not allowed to do anything, you're not allowed to spend a penny unless there is a specific exemption that allows you to do that."

ERISA gives the U.S. Labor Department extensive oversight powers that allow it to conduct an audit or look at an organization's books almost at any time. It also often requires additional public disclosures on an organization's service providers, direct and indirect compensation and investments.

Trustees responsible for organizations subject to ERISA must operate the organizations in the interests of the beneficiaries alone. Fiduciaries are expected to diversify the trusts' interests, avoid conflicts of interest and have written documents with specifics on how to spend the money. ERISA also provides the courts the power to take action against fiduciaries who do not meet conduct protocols, including making them personally liable to recover losses.

Contracts typically must undergo strict requests for proposals processes, Catenacci said. Fiduciaries are expected to monitor all professionals they hire.

"Trustees should be actively engaged," Catenacci said. "If there is a manager underperforming, they're expected to ask, 'Should we make any changes in those professionals?' They should be answering those questions. They can't put the plan on autopilot."

ERISA also provides beneficiaries the right to access all documents for funded programs under the plan or trust. They can appeal procedures if they believe they have not received the benefits to which they are entitled.

Additionally, ratified contracts ban promotional items for the training centers and give the automakers sole exclusive discretion to accept, modify or reject expenditures approved by the trusts' leadership.

'Financial integrity'

The Labor Department also is using the corruption in the training centers as justification to require labor organizations to report on funds that they not only exclusively control but over which they exercise domain. Such disclosures under From T-1 were abandoned under the Obama administration.

"The disclosure created by the form would help protect the financial integrity of union training centers and other union funds set up to benefit rank-and-file members," the Office of Labor-Management Standards wrote in May 2019 to propose the new rule.

The department finalized Form T-1 in March. The additional disclosures include details on receipts, disbursements, and employee compensation. They are meant to help workers "maintain democratic control over their labor organizations and ensure a proper accounting of labor organization funds," according to the rule. It, however, does contain an exception for trusts subject to ERISA.

"The UAW acknowledges and appreciates the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s recent efforts to increase financial transparency in labor-related trusts and entities such as the joint program centers," the UAW said in a statement.

"The bargained agreements providing for the reconstituted joint program centers will afford UAW members greater access to financial information related to the centers than the newly announced DOL reporting rule, and much sooner as well."

The 2019 contracts with the automakers also put the UAW-FCA training center in Warren and the riverfront UAW-GM Center for Human Resources in Detroit on the sale block. The companies will provide space at other facilities to conduct joint activities. The Detroit building housing the UAW-Ford National Program Center will continue to support training programs.

In March, more than 70 employees were laid off at the GM center because of its closure. An independent appraiser has assessed the property for the FCA center off Nine Mile, and Eisner said a real-estate professional has supplied a marketing plan to "make sure that any sale is appropriate and fair."

 

Ford and Fiat Chrysler return
to full production Monday

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
June 22, 2020

Detroit's automakers are on pace to resume full, pre-coronavirus production schedules, five weeks since a historic, industrywide restart of North American operations.

Ford Motor Co. will resume its full production schedule in the U.S. on Monday, two weeks sooner than it had planned, the automaker confirmed Friday. And when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV restarts its second shift at Belvidere Assembly in Illinois on Monday, it too will be back to regular production.

General Motors Co. said its truck and SUV plants are firing on all cylinders again, with most car and crossover plants operating at pre-pandemic levels.

The ramp-ups come five weeks after the U.S. auto industry restarted North American operations after being shut down for eight weeks to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Plants came back online on reduced schedules, in part to allow workers to get used to new health and safety protocols that include measures such as daily temperature checks and required face coverings.

The return to normal operating patterns signifies strong consumer demand, that automakers have been able to work through snarls in the supply chain, and that health protocols are working, said Kristen Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor & economics at the Center for Automotive Research.

Detroit's automakers are working to make up for lost time and replenish dealer inventories to meet demand that has been higher than initially predicted at the onset of the pandemic. The resumption of full production is a sign that “demand has remained relatively strong and that there’s a need for the products in the marketplace," Dziczek said.

The auto industry on average had a 60.9-day supply of inventory in May, down from 64.2 days in May 2019 and from 120.7 days in April, according to the latest data from Edmunds.com Inc., an auto information website.

There have been some noted supply-chain issues along the way, including one that prevented GM from adding additional shifts at its profit-rich truck plants. That issue was worked through and GM added the shifts at the start of June. But these moves signify that automakers “been able to overcome whatever hurdles, and there are many in their whole production system, to get all the parts that they need from all the various places they need them from to build these very complex assemblies," said Dziczek.

While there have been some coronavirus cases in auto plants, the virus has not been widespread. Dziczek noted that the protocols the automakers are using have worked as intended, identifying positive cases and preventing employees who should not be in contact with others from working in the plants: “They are continuing to refine and evolve those protocols as they come up against hurdles or as the science changes to try to keep workers as safe as they possibly can be.”

Ford at first was mum on when it expected to get back to its normal production schedule; then, last week, the automaker signaled it expected to return all U.S. plants to pre-coronavirus capacity by July 6.

Those plans have now been bumped up, thanks to the readiness of Ford's workforce and supply base, Kelli Felker, Ford's global manufacturing and communication managers, told The Detroit News: "We are pleased to be able to return to our normal operating pattern in the U.S. on Monday — which is sooner than expected — because our workforce and suppliers are able to support. The safety of our workforce continues to be our top priority."

She noted that U.S. production accounts for the "vast majority" of the Dearborn automaker's global operations. Ford, as well as other automakers, resumed production in other markets, including China and Europe, prior to North America.

The ramp-up comes as Ford is gearing up for key product launches that are upcoming, including the redesigned F-150 pickup truck — Ford's best-selling vehicle — that the automaker will reveal next week and plans to bring to showrooms later this year.

Fiat Chrysler builds the Jeep Cherokee at Belvidere Assembly. With the resumption of the second shift there, "all of our North American assembly plants will be back at their pre-COVID operating patterns next week," Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said.

"All of GM’s U.S. truck and SUV plants are back on three shifts and nearly all of our car and crossover plants are working the same number of shifts as they did pre-pandemic," GM spokesman Dan Flores said. "More than 90% of our hourly team is back to work. As a course of normal business, we will continue to monitor the marketplace and adjust production as needed."

 

Ford teases new F-150 ahead
of next week's world premiere
The computer-generated image shows the darkened profile of the new Ford F-150's front end with no features visible except for LEDs framing the grille. (Photo: Ford Motor Co.)

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit
June 21, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is building up anticipation for the reveal next week of its next-generation F-150 pickup.

The Dearborn automaker on Friday released a teaser image on its website as part of the publicity leading up to June 25 premiere of the truck. The computer-generated image shows the darkened profile of the new F-150's front end with no features visible except for LEDs framing the grille. A disclaimer notes that the representation is of a pre-production model.

The computer-generated image shows the darkened profile of the new Ford F-150's front end with no features visible except for LEDs framing the grille.

The design of the 2021 F-150, which is now in its 14th generation, will be unveiled via livestream at 8 p.m. next Thursday. Those interested in watching can sign up for a calendar reminder on Ford's website.

Although the automaker has yet to share any details of the redesigned truck, some of the new features have been leaked. Reuters, citing an anonymous source familiar with the plans, this week reported that a prominent feature of the truck will be sleeper seats that recline all the way back.

The new F-150 lineup includes plans for hybrid and fully battery-electric variants.

The F-150, along with being Ford's top-selling product and a key moneymaker, has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for more than 40 years. Last year Ford sold nearly 900,000 F-Series trucks compared to 633,694 sales of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Ram pickup and 575,600 sales of General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Silverado.

Sales of the new truck will be key to helping Ford dig itself out of a pile of a new debt it took on to help preserve cash amid the coronavirus crisis. The launch of the next-generation model, slated for later this year, comes as the entire auto industry gets back on its feet following an eight-week production shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Ford confirmed Friday it will get back to up full production capacity on Monday, two weeks earlier than planned.

Detroit's three automakers have been gradually ramping production back up since they restarted May 18, in a bid to make up for lost time and refill dealers' lagging inventories.

Ford is also preparing for the launch later this year of a hotly anticipated comeback of the Bronco SUV. Amid controversy over an original reveal date that coincided with O.J. Simpson's birthday on July 9, the automaker said Friday it had moved the premiere to July 13.

 

Future of Ford Edge, and Canadian
plant where it's built, in question

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
June 18, 2020

The future of the Ford Edge crossover SUV and the Canadian plant where it is built may be in question.

That's according to automotive forecaster Sam Fiorani of Pennsylvania-based AutoForecast Solutions LLC, who told numerous media outlets he's heard from "multiple sources" in the automotive industry that Ford plans to cancel the Edge after the current generation model expires in 2023.

"We got word that Ford had canceled the program for the next-generation Edge," Fiorani told The Detroit News Tuesday.

Prompted by media reports about the vehicle, which is built at Ford's Oakville plant in Ontario, Unifor, the trade union that represents hourly workers there, communicated with Ford officials Monday and Tuesday about the program. Unifor National President Jerry Dias told The News he did not get definitive answers, but said: "There is no question, they are going through a major evaluation of their portfolio, based on a whole host of things," including the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

In response to questions about the Edge reports, Ford spokesman Said Deep said: "Edge remains a critical product in Ford’s winning portfolio of SUVs. We have no plans to exit the segment, particularly as Edge sales were up 3% to nearly 140,000 Edges in the U.S. last year."

Ford reports it has sold 1.6 million Edges in America since it launched in 2006, and noted that retail sales of the all-new Edge ST were up 41% last year. "We also are building on that success with launch of the Edge ST-Line, which is now available for order, plus an upgraded features for the 2021 Edge," Deep said.

Fiorani said the Dearborn automaker may be looking to reduce overlap in its lineup, particularly as it prepares to launch a number of new products in the next few years, including the returning Bronco SUV: "Their lineup seems to be very CUV and SUV-heavy, and it just seemed like there was a lot of overlap within the models. ... The potential of the Bronco Sport overlapping with the Edge, along with two or three other in the market in the near future, it made sense (to give) the Bronco Sport or any other model some breathing room.”

The mid-sized crossover segment is also a competitive one, he noted: "The Edge has been on the market since 2006, so it is one of the oldest players in the market. Breaking free of any tradition and moving on to a new nameplate would give Ford the potential of adding market share, whereas it would be much more difficult to do that with a legacy brand name."

The potential elimination of the Edge calls into question the future of Oakville Assembly, which dates back to 1953. Unifor said the plant, which is located between Toronto and Hamilton, employs about 4,200.

The plant has ceased building the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT and is also set to phase out the Lincoln Nautilus. That would leave the Edge as the plant's only remaining product, at least as of now.

As Unifor prepares to head into contract negotiations with Ford this fall, Dias remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached to keep the plant running.

"(Canada is) a strong market for Ford and always has been, and the Oakville plant is the last assembly plant they have in Canada," said Dias. "(Canadians) are loyal to the OEMs that are loyal to them. ... For Ford to leave Canada makes no sense."

He expects plans for the Edge to be a major point of discussion during collective bargaining: "Can I tell you what (a solution) looks like today? The answer is no. But I'm 100% focused on finding out what the solution looks like."

 

Ford rolls out its first
Mustang Mach 1 since 2004

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 features 480 horsepower, stiffened suspension, and a handling and appearance pack (car at fore) to turn things up a notch. (Photo: Ford, Ford)

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
June 16, 2020

With signature matte-black hood stripe, howling V-8 engine and extensive handling upgrades, the legendary Mach 1 Ford Mustang has been reborn for 2021.

Purists might miss the hood shaker and grille lights, though.

Ford unveiled the special edition Mach 1 in its birthday suit on Tuesday after teasing the car in camouflage two weeks ago. With 480 horsepower (nearly double that of the original, 250-horse coupe that debuted in 1969) and 420 pound-feet of torque like the outgoing Mustang Bullitt special edition model, Mach 1 features a unique fascia, paint scheme and performance pieces from its sibling GT350 and GT500 track monsters.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 features 480 horsepower, stiffened suspension, and a handling and appearance pack (car at fore) to turn things up a notch.

“It is the new pinnacle of 5.0-liter, Mustang performance,” said Mustang marketing chief Jim Owens, who says Mach 1 is defined by three criteria: handling, straight-line speed and style.

Likely to start around $50,000 when it hits dealers next spring, the Mach 1 is the most capable, 5.0-liter V-8 engine-fired stallion in the sixth-generation Mustang stable. It will reside in the middle of a performance lineup that ranges from the affordable 2.3-liter Ecoboost High Performance turbo-4 cylinder model all the way to the track-stomping $70.000, 760-horsepower GT500. The last Mach 1 was produced as part of Mustang’s fourth-gen, 2004 lineup.

The retro-inspired Mach 1 returns, not uncoincidentally, as Ford launches its Mach E, the first electric SUV ever with a Mustang badge. If the Mach 1 symbolizes Mustang’s dominance of pony car’s past, Ford hopes Mach E represents promise for its all-electric future.

Mach 1 and Mach E were spied circulating Pontiac’s M1 Concourse race track together last week, gaining footage that may appear in future marketing campaigns.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (fore) shares signature elements with the original 1969 Mach 1 (rear) like black hood strips, front splitter, and unique grill.

The 2021 Mach 1’s wardrobe pays homage to previous generations that sold from 1969-1978 and 2003-2004. A signature, low-gloss black stripe is prominent on the hood, as are rocker panel stripes down the sides. Unlike the ’69 original, the Mach 1 logo is separated from the stripe to stand alone behind the front fenders. The rear fascia is also painted matte black similar to predecessors.

An appearance package is available in Fighter Jet Gray with a choice of three stripe colors: white, red, and orange. Brake calipers are painted orange.

Purists will be disappointed that the 2021 Mach 1 is not optioned with a shaker (a hood scoop poking through a hole in the hood) for better engine breathing as in previous generations. “The 5.0-liter engine is focused on performance output, and it didn’t need (the shaker),” said Owens.

Budget issues may have been in play given massive amounts of money Ford is spending to bring the Mach E to market.

Another signature piece of hardware – twin lights in the grille - also are compromised compared to past models. Where the 1969 Mach 1 used the grille lights for extra lighting at night, the round inserts are plastic-capped and for show only on the new car.

“We have no doubt some of our customers will punch them out for increased cooling modifications,” smiled Owens.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (fore) builds on the heritage begun by the original 1969 Mach 1 (blue and red in back).

The Mach 1 will be track ready.

Cooling the 305-cubic inch beast within was a priority of engineers. Two heat exchangers and other hardware are added behind the unique Mach 1 fascia for better breathing. A huge, new underbelly pan with special airfoils for cooling and downforce is the vehicle’s most significant aero upgrade, and the Mach 1 gets extensive suspension upgrades like bigger sway bars and stiffer springs.

Out back, bazooka-sized, 4.5-inch chrome exhaust tips signal the Mach 1’s intentions.

Buyers who want even more capability can add a Handling Package that consists of sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (a step up from standard Michelin 4S treads) wrapped around unique 19-inch wheels. Also included are a rear spoiler taken from the GT500, upgraded front splitter and aero tweaks around the fenders. Ford says it will increase downforce on track by 150%.

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 (left) is timed with the Mustang Mach E, the first electric Mustang SUV. (Photo: Henry Payne, The Detroit News)

Inside, purists will revel in the standard, manual, six-speed shifter (with rev-matching for the first time) topped off by a cue ball. An automatic 10-speed transmission is also available. Behind the fat steering wheel is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and the dash is stamped with a chassis number badge.

In addition to Fighter Jet Gray, the Mach 1 can be dressed in an array of Skittle colors including Velocity Blue, Twister Orange and Grabber Yellow.

Seating can also be had with right-hand drive in foreign markets where the Mach 1 will also be sold. Mustang is the best-selling two-seat sports car in the world across 147 countries.

 

Ford, GM and VW say production
and new vehicles are back on track

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
June 15, 2020

Major automakers are pushing full steam ahead to ramp production even as they continue developing autonomous vehicles of the future, leaders of Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG said Wednesday.

Executives from the three automakers headlined the first day of the Deutsche Bank Global Auto Industry Conference, and reported mostly smooth sailing since auto production resumed in North America last month amid the coronavirus pandemic.

An alliance between Ford and Volkswagen will produce a medium pickup truck built by Ford and sold by VW as the Amarok; two commercial vans, one built by VW and the other by Ford; and an electric vehicle for Ford of Europe, built on VW's EV architecture, shown here. (Photo: Seth Wenig, AP)

Ford expects to return all of its U.S. plants to full, pre-COVID-19 capacity by July 6, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said. He reported that in the three weeks since production restarted, Ford has built approximately 96% of its planned volume and is in the process of adding a third shift back to key facilities.

GM expects to be at normal production capacity by the end of June "or sooner if possible," Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara said: "Demand is strong from a customer perspective, so we have been gradually ramping up to meet that demand."

The Detroit automaker also is beginning to introduce overtime again, spokesman Dan Flores confirmed. First shift at the plant in Arlington, Texas, is being called to work on Saturday as the company boosts production of its new full-size SUVs. The company is returning the third shift on Monday.

As suppliers are able to increase their production, so can the automakers, said Scott Keogh, CEO and president of Volkswagen Group of America: "From what we can see right now, the supply base in the U.S. is stable-ish. And Mexico is getting online as we speak."

All three automakers said they are pushing forward with electric- and autonomous-vehicle development, and that the coronavirus crisis may even have made some of these programs more appealing to customers despite the current economic downturn.

"I think people have (now) seen what clean air looks like," said Keogh. "And I think people have seen what happens when a society is unprepared. ... I see trends to electrification coming out of COVID, but these are still early pulses."

Ford and VW took a step forward on their development of next-generation vehicles Wednesday when they completed an alliance under which the competitors will collaborate on the development of several new products. The alliance, first announced last July, will produce a medium pickup truck built by Ford and sold by VW as the Amarok; two commercial vans, one built by VW and the other by Ford; and an electric vehicle for Ford of Europe, built on VW's EV architecture.

The companies, which will remain competitors in the marketplace, say they will produce up to a combined 8 million pickup trucks and commercial vans.

Ford and VW both have invested in self-driving software company Argo AI, whose technology they will use to develop autonomous vehicles. The alliance structure allows them to save on development costs for technology that is considered the future of the industry but which is not expected to yield returns for several years at least.

Ford executives said Wednesday that they do not expect the launches of key products, including the redesigned F-150 pickup truck, to be delayed any longer than the eight-week shutdown period.

Suryadevara of GM reported that the automaker's cross-over vehicle and truck assembly plants have been adding shifts.

Asked about the automaker's free cash flow, she acknowledged that cash the company had expected to generate this quarter might get pushed out to the third quarter, depending on the timing of ramping production back up to full capacity.

GM is pressing ahead with its plans to invest $20 billion over the next five years on EV and AV programs, she said: "While the reveals (of planned EVs) may have been delayed, the product timelines ... have not been impacted. We're all-in on electrification."

And, despite recent layoffs at GM's self-driving subsidiary Cruise, the "mission continues unchanged," Suryadevara said. Cruise "is incredibly well-capitalized, which is very important in times like this."

Another result of the coronavirus shutdown, automotive executives noted, was the acceleration of a digitized car-buying process. Farley reported that 72% of Ford dealers in North America now offer online sales, and about 25% of sales are done online.

 

NAFTA replacement looms as
carmakers emerge from
COVID-19 shutdowns

Keith Laing,
The Detroit News
June 13, 2020

Washington — With assembly lines returning to full production and auto sales beginning to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic’s impact, carmakers are turning their attention to the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which takes effect July 1.

On that date, the trade rules by which automakers have played since 1994 will be replaced by a new pact requiring automakers to produce cars with 75% of parts originating from the United States, Canada or Mexico — up from 62.5% — within five years to qualify for duty-free treatment. The pact, known as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, was signed into law by President Donald Trump in January.

In addition to the USMCA's new requirements for parts, known as "rules of origin," the new pact requires 40-45% of an auto’s content to be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour. Vehicles not meeting the requirements will be subject to a 2.5% duty.

The U.S. Trade Representative only recently released uniform rules for the trade pact that has been agreed to by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The new documents, released in early June by the federal agency, spell out the rules of the road that automakers must follow to continue to avoid tariffs. The documents lay out definitions for terms that will be used to measure compliance with the new trade rules, such as accessories, spare parts, tools and customs value.

Automakers are likely to be grateful for the increased clarity, said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist and senior director of industry insights for Cox Automotive. But he said it will be tough for automakers to focus on compliance as they and their suppliers try to recover from two-month factory shutdowns in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

"The implementation of USMCA couldn’t come at a worse time for the industry," Chesbrough said. "Finally having closure on rules and regulations is something OEMs and suppliers have wanted for some time. However, understanding and complying with new policies could take some time, and some leniency from governments may be necessary.  With plants now reopening under new safety precautions, getting the supply chain up and running and producing at high volumes is the focus today."

Jennifer Safavian, president and CEO of Here for America, which lobbies in Washington for the U.S. operations of international motor vehicle manufacturers, said her organization's members "are very diligently working to become ready" for the implementation of the new trade pact.

"There's no question the COVID shutdown of production threw a wrench in their plans," she said. "This is something they've been planning for, but obviously nobody could have been prepared for that."

Safavian noted that automakers have only had the USMCA definitions for about a week, and she said they are waiting for clarification on other issues like how the new rules for  car worker earnings, known as labor value content, will be defined.

"It's a pretty lengthy document," she said. "Our members are still reviewing it. They definitely have more questions, but they're pleased to have some clarity."

She said the pandemic shutdowns at suppliers could make it more difficult for automakers to get answers about auto parts that will be needed to demonstrate compliance.

"We were hoping to get more time," she said, nothing that the USMCA implementation date was pushed back one month from its original proposed start date. "We're grateful we did get a little more time. The administration was originally looking at June 1."

The USMCA allows automakers to request permission to implement an "alternative staging regime" that would allow them to extend the deadline for compliance with the new trade rules for as long as five years. Automakers have been asked to submit finalized alternative staging plans by Aug. 31.

Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Center for Automotive Research, said the incongruence of the deadlines could cause short-term problems for automakers.

"If you're a company that wants to do alternative staging, you have to get your plan in by Aug. 31, but you have to start complying with something on July 1," she said. "There's a little bit of ambiguity there."

Dziczek said automakers need flexibility in light of the rapidly changing market conditions — especially since demonstrating compliance will require increased communication with suppliers who are also in recovery mode. 

"They know the principle core and content levels they have to get to," Dziczek said. "The base parts of the agreement have been known for a couple of years... They know what they have to do, but how do you certify that you're in compliance?"

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, agreed that automakers need as much clarity as possible on the rules that will begin governing their industry 's North American operations in a scant two weeks.

"This is a critical time for our incredible automotive industry, which is doing everything it can to weather this economic downturn," she said. "With implementation of the USMCA just weeks away, our automakers and suppliers deserve more certainty, clarity and leadership from their federal government."

 

Ford recalls about 2.5M vehicles
for latch, brake troubles

Tom Krisher,
AP Auto Writer
June 12, 2020

Detroit – Ford is recalling about 2.5 million vehicles in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because of a nagging door latch problem and a brake fluid leak.

The door latch recall covers more than 2.1 million cars, SUVs and vans in the U.S. The latches can fail and cause the doors to open while the vehicles are moving. It’s the third recall for the same problem.

Ford also is recalling nearly 344,000 F-150 pickups in the U.S. and Canada to fix a fluid leak from the brake master cylinder. The company says the problem has caused seven low-speed crashes with two injuries.

Ford has had nagging quality troubles with the latches, some car transmissions and other issues that have hurt its bottom line.

The company said Wednesday the previous door latch recalls were done because of defective pawl spring tabs that could crack and fail in high temperatures. Usually the doors won’t close if there’s a failure, but if they do close, they could open again while the vehicles are in motion. The previously recalled vehicles may not have had the latches replaced, or repairs may not have been done correctly, the company said in a statement.

Owners will have the option to inspect the latch date codes and check online to see if the two previous recalls were done correctly or if further service is needed. Those who don’t want to do the inspection, and those whose latches need to be replaced will be told to go to dealers.

The recall covers vehicles in the U.S. and includes the 2012 to 2015 Ford Focus, the 2013 to 2014 Ford Fusion, the 2011 to 2014 Ford Fiesta, and the 2013 to 2015 Ford Escape and C-Max. Also covered are the 2013 and 2014 Lincoln MKZ, the 2015 Lincoln MKC, the 2015 Ford Mustang and the 2014 to 2016 Ford Transit Connect van. Not every recalled vehicle from those model years will be included.

The brake fluid recall covers certain 2014 through 2017 F-150s in the U.S. and Canada. The F-Series pickups are the top-selling vehicles in the United States.

All the recalled trucks have 3.5-liter turbocharged engines. Ford says fluid can leak from the master cylinder for the front-wheel circuit. Depending on how much fluid is lost, the front brakes could lose much of their stopping ability, but the rear brakes would work. That can lengthen stopping distances and possibly cause a crash.

Ford says in a statement the driver could hear a chime or get a warning light on the dashboard. It could also take more pressure on the pedal to stop the trucks.

Dealers will replace the brake master cylinder and the brake booster if it is leaking.

 

UAW accepts offer on
controversial Black Lake
home built for Dennis Williams

Cabin 4 at the UAW conference center on Black Lake in Onaway. (Photo: John L. Russell, John L. Russell)

Robert Snell and Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
June 11, 2020

Detroit — The United Auto Workers has accepted an offer to sell a $1.3 million lakefront home built for retired President Dennis Williams as federal prosecutors signaled their interest in having the property forfeited to the government.

The sale to an unidentified buyer is pending, and UAW officials are in talks with the U.S. Attorney's Office to remove a lien filed against 27 acres of land and the cottage at the union's Black Lake Conference Center in Onaway.

A sale would yield an unspecified amount of money for the UAW and let the union shed a controversial property built with nonunion labor that has become a symbol of corruption during a scandal that has led to 14 convictions. New UAW President Rory Gamble detailed plans to sell the building last year as part of a broader series of reforms after the home was raided by federal agents as part of an ongoing embezzlement investigation targeting Williams.

The UAW confirmed the pending sale Wednesday, three months after federal prosecutors filed a lien on a 27-acre section of the Black Lake resort, which includes a golf course, hotel and conference center.

“This is the right thing to do,” Gamble said in a statement Wednesday. "We committed to this as part of our comprehensive reforms and I believe the government agrees that the sale of Cabin 4 should go forward to an independent buyer and the proceeds from the sale should go back to what our membership intended it be used for to begin with."

The property could be subject to forfeiture because of various crimes under investigation, including embezzlement, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and violations of labor laws barring union officials from receiving money from auto executives, according to the lien filed in Cheboygan County.

The crimes are listed on an affidavit federal prosecutors filed in Cheboygan County on March 11, according to a copy obtained by The Detroit News.

“This means they could go and try to seize the Black Lake property because of the corruption issues going on,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.

The prospective buyer has no ties to the UAW, union spokesman Brian Rothenberg wrote in a statement to The News: "It is our understanding that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has indicated they will remove the filing as soon as they have verified the buyer is an independent party, and we provided all requested information to them about the sale."

Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said the affidavit on the property will be removed "at the appropriate time." She said the deal requires some local and state approval because of lake access and land division.

"We have absolutely no reason to believe the government is interested in blocking the sale and we have been working cooperatively with the government to finalize the sale," Rothenberg added. "We understand there have been some delays in finalizing the sale due to COVID-19."

The lien is the latest legal development in a years-long corruption investigation targeting UAW leaders, and the latest entanglement involving Black Lake. Federal agents raided Black Lake in August and searched a $1.3 million home on the shores of Black Lake the UAW built with nonunion labor for retired President Dennis Williams.

UAW leaders approved construction of the retirement home amid a federal investigation into whether union funds illegally benefited labor leaders. Last week, federal prosecutors accused Williams of helping embezzle more than $1 million spent on personal luxuries and illegally using money from Detroit automakers to renovate the union’s northern Michigan resort.

The 1,885-square-foot home — featuring a secret room hidden behind a hinged bookshelf — was recently listed for sale for $1.3 million as part of a broad series of reforms announced by Gamble.

The government lien could complicate a sale, Henning said: “If I’m a buyer, I’m very fearful that the government is going to seize the property. That’s going to be a problem.”

The Williams cottage is a contrast to the rustic lodging available to rent at the 241-room resort. Opened in 1970, the center features a campground, gym, Olympic-size pool and an adjacent golf course. The ashes of former UAW President Walter Reuther and wife May were scattered on the center’s grounds after the couple was killed in an airplane crash nearby in 1970.

The Black Lake conference center and golf course are valued at approximately $37 million, according to the union's 2018 Labor Department filing. The UAW flirted with selling the Black Lake retreat in early 2010 during the Great Recession, citing shrinking membership. At the time, the retreat had lost an estimated $23 million during the previous five years and the UAW was forced to borrow to keep it afloat, according to Labor Department filings. 

The affidavit does not automatically signal that prosecutors will move to have the Black Lake property forfeited to the government. The U.S. Attorney's Office filed similar liens against others convicted in the corruption scandal, including former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Vice President Alphons Iacobelli and Monica Morgan Holiefield, wife of the late UAW Vice President General Holiefield, but did not seize the homes

 

Ford, VW to make about 8M
commercial vehicles
VW CEO Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett formally announced their companies' partnership in July 2019.

Reuters
June 10, 2020

Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen Group said on Wednesday they would make up to eight million units of medium pickup trucks and commercial vans during the lifecycle of the vehicles as part of an alliance announced last year.

The automakers will collaborate on a city van built by Volkswagen, a one-ton cargo van developed by Ford, and a Volkswagen medium pickup built on the Ford Ranger platform, starting in 2022.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker will also make a new electric vehicle for Europe by 2023, built on Volkswagen's Modular Electric Drive toolkit, and could deliver more than 600,000 units over several years.

Ford and VW announced their partnership plans in January 2019, as carmakers around the globe join forces to invest in electric and self-driving technology to help save billions of dollars. VW CEO Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett formally announced their companies' partnership in July 2019.

 

1st Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid
gets best-in-class 100 MPGe

2020 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid (Photo: Ford)

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
June 9, 2020

Ford announced the first-ever plug-in model of its Escape SUV today, part of the brand’s full-court press to bring electrification to its lineup.

Based on the $26,130 compact Escape that is the best-selling truck that isn't a pickup in the Blue Oval’s lineup, the Escape Plug-In Hybrid will start at $34,285 and achieve best-in-class100 MPGe. On a full charge, the Escape Plug-In can go 37 miles on battery power alone before the gas engine kicks in.

The plug-in is the second hybrid model offered in the Escape lineup after the Escape Hybrid, which starts at $29,000.The plug-in model runs on the same electric motor-assisted, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as the Escape Hybrid, but then adds a more-robust 14.4-kWh lithium-ion battery beneath the second-row seats for extended battery range.

Escape pioneered hybrids in the SUV segment in 2005, but the 2020 models are the first offered since 2012.

The Escape Plug-In will go head-to-head against the pricier $39,220 Toyota RAV4 Prime with an estimated 42-mile battery-only range and 94 MPGe. The RAV4 Prime offers 302 horsepower, versus the Ford's 221 ponies.

n addition to its green chops, the Escape features a sliding rear seat which adds 6 inches of legroom. It comes standard with Ford Co-Pilot360 safety features including blind-spot assist and autonomic high-beams.

On a standard, 110-volt Level 1 wall outlet, the the Escape Plug-In can reach full charge in 10-11 hours. Install a 240-volt Level 2 charger, and that charge time drops to 3.5 hours.

The Escape Plug-In Hybrid is part of Ford’s investment of more than $11.5 billion in electrified vehicles. The plug-in model available on every Escape trim level except S and SE Sport, and hits dealer lots this summer.

 

Unemployment rate hits record
high even as economy adds jobs

Jordan Press
The Canadian Press
June 8, 2020

OTTAWA — Canada added 289,600 jobs in May as provincial governments began easing public health restrictions and businesses reopened, Statistics Canada said Friday.

Still, the unemployment rate in May rose to 13.7 per cent, the highest level in more than four decades of comparable data.

The increase in the unemployment rate, which topped the previous record of 13.1 per cent set in December 1982, came as more people started looking for work.

The monthly labour force survey showed that men gained back more jobs than women in May, resulting in a wider gender gap in employment losses as a result of COVID-19, and that the pandemic continued to disproportionately affect lower-wage workers.

The increase in the number of jobs — which mirrored a similar bump in the U.S. — came after three million jobs were lost over March and April and about 2.5 million more had their hours slashed.

Statistics Canada said the number of people who worked less than half their usual hours fell by 292,000 in May.

Combined with the increase in jobs, Statistics Canada said the country recovered 10.6 per cent of employment losses and absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The rise in the overall unemployment to 13.7 per cent, the highest on record, shouldn't be taken as a sign of underlying weakness, since it simply represents more out-of-work Canadians stating that they are now looking for work," CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes wrote in a note.

"The surprisingly positive readings on employment paint a more optimistic picture of the early part of the recovery, but there's still a long road back."

Provincially, Quebec led the way, gaining 231,000 jobs as it became one of the first provinces to ease restrictions, doing so just before Statistics Canada collected data the week of May 10.

Combined with people working more hours, the province recovered nearly 30 per cent of what it lost in March and April.

Similarly, all four provinces in Atlantic Canada posted jobs gains in May. Western provinces posted gains except for Saskatchewan, which saw little overall change in employment, Statistics Canada said.

Losses continued in Ontario although at a slower pace than in March and April. The provincial unemployment rate rose to 13.6 per cent in May, up from 11.3 per cent in April.

The total number of unemployed Canadians doubled from February to April, a surge driven by temporary layoffs that the vast majority of workers expected to last less than six months.

At the same time, there was a spike in the number of people who wanted to work but weren't actively looking for a job, likely because the economic shutdown has limited job opportunities. People not actively seeking work aren't counted in unemployment figures.

The unemployment rate for May would have been 19.6 per cent had the report counted among the unemployed those who stopped looking for work — largely unchanged since April.

TD senior economist Brian DePratto noted that close to 90 per cent of those who lost work over March and April are still sitting on the sidelines.

Lower-wage workers were among the first and hardest hit during the shutdown, largely because they worked in industries like retail, restaurants or hotels that closed early in the pandemic.

Statistics Canada said lower-wage workers recovered just over one-tenth of the losses they experienced in March and April. But they continued to have a higher share of people working less than half of their usual hours.

The number of jobs men gained in May outpaced gains by women, who had seen significant job losses early on in the pandemic. Women with children under age six also saw slower job gains than those with older children.

Rebounds were also weak for students and recent immigrants.

"Women, low-paid workers, and racialized workers continue to struggle disproportionately," said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

"While women and youth are re-entering the job market, job offers continue to be scarce."

 

Auto recovery may take years,
with $72 billion in new
debt to pay off amid
projected sales slump

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
June 7, 2020

The auto industry was already facing financial headwinds. But new challenges courtesy of the coronavirus may take auto manufacturers and suppliers years to overcome, says a new outlook detailed Thursday by Alix Partners LLP, an industry consultant.

"We were already on the backside of the (global sales) peak, but (the coronavirus) accelerated this in a very unprecedented way," Mark Wakefield, global co-leader of AlixPartners’ automotive and industrial practice, told The Detroit News. "While there will be some snapback in terms of filling inventories, both the demand and supply side will be hit for some time."

AlixPartners warned last year that the auto industry was entering a "profit desert," driven in part by the shift to the autonomous and electric vehicles that require heavy investment but which are unlikely to generate returns in the near-term.

Then came an eight-week production shutdown, induced by the coronavirus pandemic that caused the industry to bleed billions of dollars and led manufacturers and suppliers to assume a whopping $72 billion in debt in just a matter of weeks. Now it may take half the decade for the industry to bounce back.

Auto sales have been on the decline since 2017, when global sales peaked at 94 million. AlixPartners projects 2020 sales will be down to 70.5 million globally. The firm projects 13.6 million in sales volume in the U.S. this year, down from 17.1 million last year.

Overall, it may take until 2025 for the industry to get back to prior-peak sales volume, AlixPartners predicts. Compared to 2019, the industry faces a cumulative volume drop of up to 36 million vehicles this year through 2022.

The recovery of the industry is expected to vary by market, with prospects for China — which shut down first, reopened earlier and now is rebounding — and the U.S. looking stronger than for Europe, according to AlixPartners' outlook.

In the short term, the industry appears poised for a sharp rebound as manufacturers rush to fill depleted inventories and consumers shy away from public transportation and ride-sharing due to the coronavirus. But longer-term, AlixPartners expects a slow recovery hamstrung by reduced consumer demand and the need to pay off debt.

Returns on capital in recent years had already dropped by 47% for automakers and 36% for suppliers from Great Recession levels, as sales softened and the industry poured money into the Auto 2.0 sectors of mobility, autonomy and electrification.

Now, with their financial challenges exacerbated by the coronavirus, automakers will have to make some tough decisions about programs that are considered to be the future of the industry. "You still have to invest in the future," said Wakefield. But, "the cash available for that is just less."

 

The industry is still in the early stages of developing autonomous- and electric- vehicle technology, an effort that requires significant investments with high fixed costs but little return to show for it. Those sectors are not expected to be profitable for at least several years.

"You're shifting your investment and capital into products that aren't returning the level of profit and don't have the scale of the current products in your portfolio," said Wakefield.

Cuts and delays to AV and EV programs are likely (and some have already been announced). As such, the recent trend of automakers teaming up with competitors and technology startups on these ventures will likely accelerate as a way to reduce costs.

A risk the U.S. auto industry's recovery faces is a second wave of COVID-19 cases, Wakefield said. While China has effectively contained the virus and Europe is trending in the right direction, the U.S. has been less aggressive about containing the disease even as cases continue to rise here.

The industry must remain focused on successfully executing the restart of operations, stimulating demand and staying on track for a bevy of product launches that are slated for the next few years, according to the report.

In the meantime, expect major automakers to deepen cuts they have been making over the last few years.

"We do believe almost all OEMs will address structural costs," said Stefano Aversa, AlixPartners' chairman of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. That will likely mean workforce cuts and plant closures, especially because some automakers continue to operate more plants than they need to meet their share of market demand.

 

FCA distributing 1,300
buyout packages at
Windsor Assembly Plant

Dave Waddell 
Windsor Star
June 4, 2020

Just as the Windsor Assembly Plant returns to three shifts next week, FCA Canada will begin distributing buyout packages to eligible workers in an effort to reduce the number of layoffs required when the company eliminates that third shift on July 13.

There will be about 1,300 packages handed out, equivalent to the number of jobs expected to be eliminated.

“On Monday the representatives from WAP will be out canvassing the senior employees for buyouts,” Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy said in a statement posted on the union’s Facebook page Thursday night.

“There is a package and they will be given an offer. You will be able to read over your pension statement and your offer. You will be able to make a decision and then sign up.”

Cassidy wasn’t available for further comment, texting Friday that he was ‘deeply immersed’ in further negotiations with FCA.

Local 444 executives met with the company’s pension department Friday. In another post, it was revealed eligible employees for the buyouts will have until 8 a.m. on June 15 to decide on accepting the package.

Unifor officials had hoped to get the company to keep the third shift so that its future, and possible future product at the plant, could be discussed as part of contract negotiations later this summer.

FCA Canada has already extended the production life of the Dodge Grand Caravan to August 22. Its last production day had originally been scheduled for May 22 but was pushed back due to the pandemic.

Cassidy expressed frustration at FCA’s reluctance to sweeten its buyout offer in an attempt to get more senior employees to retire and reduce the number of layoffs. A pitch to offer packages to newer hires has also been rejected to date.

“I tried taking this company to the mattresses to offer more money in the buyout,” Cassidy said.

“We even tried pushing for packages for new hires. We have fought these issues all the way to the top of the company.

“To all of it, they said they are simply ‘sticking to the contract.’”

The Windsor Assembly Plant, which re-started operations May 19 after a two-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, returns to a three-shift operation for the next three weeks.

The normal three-shift operation will continue until June 22 when the plant begins preparations to wind down the third shift. That will entail blending together the three shifts into two temporarily to allow for the significant shuffling of jobs and the new training required for those staying on in new positions.

The plant seniority list will also require re-aligning before the new jobs can be allocated.

Unifor officials said there would be no layoffs due to the restructuring of shifts prior to July 13.

“The start of two shifts with three shifts of people will start on June 22,” Cassidy said.

“We have fought through that issue, offering many different avenues, with the hopes of stalling this decision until contract negotiations where we could hash this out over a strike deadline. As of today, the company holds that the shift will be done on July 13.”

 

UAW corruption scandal nears
milestone with Jones plea

UAW President Gary Jones fires up delegates Wednesday as he starts the chant, 'We Are One,' during his keynote speech. Jones said automakers are "on notice" over the closing of plants and shipping jobs to Mexico. (Photo: Todd McInturf, The Detroit News)

Robert Snell and
Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
June 3, 2020

Detroit — Gary Jones on Wednesday will become the first president of the United Auto Workers convicted of racketeering and embezzlement during a years-long crackdown on corruption. But he won't necessarily be the last as several labor leaders remain under criminal investigation.

Jones, 63, is scheduled to plead guilty at 2 p.m in federal court. The move solidifies a milestone conviction as part of a plea deal expected to require ongoing cooperation with the investigation of a racketeering conspiracy that prosecutors say involves his predecessor, retired UAW President Dennis Williams.

“This is a real black eye for the union,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “Jones could help (investigators) quite a bit in pointing out where there were violations."

In return for any cooperation, Jones could receive a lighter prison sentence. The embezzlement and conspiracy charges he is facing are punishable by up to five years in federal prison.

Some UAW members said they would like Jones to receive the maximum penalty, but they also hope a plea deal can be used to rid the union of other corruption. Thirteen people have been convicted as a result of the federal investigation into union corruption, and a movement among the rank-and-file seeks to transform how elections of international leaders are held.

"I hope the despicable coward takes as many corrupt union officials with him as possible," said John Barbosa, a 49-year-old block machining line team leader at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Dundee Engine plant. "I hope he sings like a bird. I feel the slate needs to be wiped clean.

"A culture takes time to develop. Anyone who is currently in office is exposed and brought up in that corrupt culture. They need to be removed, and put in a new honest and transparent culture that gives the power to the membership."

The cooperation of Jones comes as prosecutors consider seizing control of the UAW by filing a civil racketeering lawsuit, and as the union copes with a burgeoning scandal involving sexual harassment allegations against top labor leaders. Seizing control under civil racketeering law would give the government broad control of UAW operations, including the ability to fire senior officers and to enable rank-and-file members to directly elect new leaders.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider's spokeswoman Tuesday said the region's top federal law enforcement officer is trying to arrange a meeting with UAW President Rory Gamble as part of union efforts to avoid government takeover. The meeting has been delayed by COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions, some of which were lifted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday.

Gamble offered to meet with the U.S. Attorney after Schneider criticized his attempts at reform and faulted labor leaders for failing to cooperate. Gamble's agreement to meet carries risks, legal experts said, considering agents are probing ties between Gamble and one of the union's highest-paid vendors as well as whether labor leaders received bribes.

Agent are investigating allegations of strip club payoffs to union leaders in exchange for contracts to supply union-branded merchandise, sources told The Detroit News, as well as financial ties between Gamble, retired Vice President Jimmy Settles and one of the union's highest-paid vendors. Gamble has denied wrongdoing, and a lawyer representing Settles declined comment.

"He's a people person," said Julian Wyatt, a 30-year-old machinist at General Motors Co.'s Romulus Engine plant who has known Gamble for years through labor activism. "He has the same background as far as working in the plant and working on the line. He knows the frustrations of the employees. He doesn't have the boss mentality."

Others, including a group inside the UAW known as Unite All Workers for Democracy, are calling for members to directly elected officers to the governing International Executive Board.

"The same group has been in power for 70-some years," said Scott Houldieson, a 58-year-old electrician for Ford Motor Co. who help found Unite All Workers for Democracy. "We need strong checks and balances put in. The membership can be that check for their power. Under the current circumstances, that is not possible."

A team of federal agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Labor Department has spent at least five years investigating a range of potential criminal activity, including racketeering, embezzlement, labor law violations and bribery.

In charging Jones, prosecutors accused him of conspiring with six other UAW officials to embezzle union money spent on personal luxuries, including private villas in California, liquor and cigars. The list of officials includes former regional Director Vance Pearson and UAW official Nick Robinson, both of whom have pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigators.

The racketeering conspiracy described by prosecutors also included labor leaders identified in the Jones plea deal as "UAW Official B," "UAW Official C," "UAW Official D" and "UAW Official E."

Sources told The News the officials, who have not been charged with wrongdoing, are:

• "UAW Official B" is Williams, the former union president who retired in 2018. Agents are investigating whether Detroit automakers indirectly paid to build a lakefront home for Williams at the UAW's northern Michigan resort.

Williams was implicated in the scandal in 2018 when a former labor official told prosecutors Williams directed subordinates to use funds from Detroit’s automakers, funneled through training centers, to pay for union travel, meals and entertainment.

he former UAW official, Nancy Adams Johnson, told investigators Williams issued the directive to relieve pressure on the union's budget.

Federal agents raided his California home in August and the lakefront retirement home as part of a series of nationwide raids targeting UAW leaders. Williams was outside his new $610,000 home near Los Angeles, smoking a cigar while awaiting agents, who later held him at gunpoint before handcuffing the retired labor leader, sources told The News.

Ex-UAW boss Dennis Williams OK'd using training center funds, aide says

• UAW Official C" is Danny Trull, a former Jones aide. Trull served as Jones' deputy overseeing a 17-state regional office based in Missouri and retired in late 2015. He was accused in the criminal complaint against Pearson that outlined a scheme to use member dues to pay for golf, meals and shopping in Palm Springs and trying to conceal the expenses, including $400 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne.

• "UAW Official D" is Amy Loasching. Federal agents raided the former Williams aide's home in Wisconsin in August. UAW funds paid for private villas for Loasching in California from 2014-16, including one villa rented for 67 days at a cost of more than $11,000, according to the Pearson complaint.

The rental overlapped with a villa leased for Williams nearby that cost more than $15,000, prosecutors said.

The government also alleges Loasching bought $1,000 worth of golf apparel and equipment at a pro shop in Palm Springs and put the purchases on Jones' tab. Prosecutors say the purchases were part of a broader pattern of UAW officials spending union money and training funds from auto companies on personal luxuries.

Jones will be the 14th person to plead guilty to federal crimes as part of the government crackdown on auto industry and UAW corruption. The list of convicted officials includes former UAW Vice Presidents Norwood Jewell and Joe Ashton, both of whom served on the union's governing board.

Current members of the UAW executive board are embroiled in a separate scandal involving sexual harassment allegations.

Regional Director Richard Rankin made a "sexually violent threat" to a woman in the workplace in 2015 in response to complaints about inappropriate jokes and comments he had made, according to internal charges issued by the UAW board. The UAW is trying to remove him from office following an investigation.

And last week, a high-ranking female UAW officer filed a sex harassment lawsuit against the UAW and several officials, including Vice President Gerald Kariem. Patricia Morris-Gibson accused three union leaders of sexual harassment, including grabbing, kissing and propositioning her in recent years.

“The sexual harassment allegations are something the government can point to and say the union is out of control," Henning said. “If the government can show that there was a pattern of sexual harassment in the union, that’s going to help if prosecutors want to bring a RICO lawsuit.”

 

Ford Mustang brings back iconic
Mach 1 alongside electric Mach-E

The 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1, shown testing in camouflage, has signature air intakes in the grille.  (Photo: Wes Duenkel, Ford)

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
June 2, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is reviving the storied Mustang Mach 1 badge for 2021, just in time to go on sale next to the futuristic Mach E electric SUV.

The fire-breathing, V8-powered Mach 1 will be the old-school bookend to Ford’s performance lineup as it introduces its stealthy, high-torque Mach-E — which Ford says is the battery-powered future of the company. The Mach-E is the first electric SUV ever produced by Mustang as it expands the legendary pony car beyond its two-door sports car roots.

Ford says the Mach 1 will be Mustang's most track-focused coupe. It will replace the Bullitt badge as a limited-edition, V-8 performance model slotted between the $36,725 GT and top-of-the-line, supercharged $71,495 GT500. Mustang is the world's most popular sports car with over 100,000 copies sold globally each year.

“Mach 1 has a special place in Mustang history,” said Dave Pericak, director of Ford icons. “Like the original, the all-new Mustang Mach 1 will be true to its heritage, delivering great looks and as the most track-capable 5.0-liter Mustang ever.”

Just as the iconic, fastback Mach 1 helped define the 1960s muscle car era when it was introduced in '69, so does Ford hope the Mach-E will define the emerging electric car era of the 2020s.

“The timing is undeniable with the introduction of the Mach-E,” said Karl Brauer, auto analyst, muscle car enthusiast and executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book. “The heritage of the Mach I invokes a sense of speed, and the Mach-E brings a distinctive name to the electric space with that heritage behind it.”

Badging aside, the Mach 1 and Mach-E couldn’t be more different. The iconic fastback coupe that debuted during the '60s golden era of muscle cars returns as Mustang’s ultimate, naturally-aspirated, 5.0-liter V8 beast. When it debuted in 1969, the Mach 1 set design cues that would carry through three generations of the Mach 1. The last Mach 1 was produced from 2003-2004.

The original Mach 1 featured quad headlights with the inner pair inset in the grille. Camouflaged shots of the 2021 Mach 1 released by Ford show round air intakes in the grille reminiscent of the '69 car's lights. The inlets might take the place of the Mach 1’s traditional hood scoop in order to cool the 5.0-liter V-8 beast within.

The Mach 1 traditionally features a hood scoop and a “shaker” option (a hood scoop that sticks through a hole in the hood), though Ford gave no indication of the latter. Rear photos do indicate that the 2021 Mach 1 will, however, continue the traditional rear wing and bazooka-sized quad tailpipes. Expect the new Mach 1 to also feature a signature matte black hood stripe and front spoiler.

By contrast, the battery-powered Mach-E will not exhale through rear tailpipes because it will be powered by either one or two electric motors. The latter version will get the performance GT moniker and boast 459 horsepower and 612-pound feet of torque — competitive with the Mach 1’s power stats which should be similar to the Bullitt’s 480 horsepower and 420-pound feet of torque. The Mach 1 will have to hustle to stay with the EV's sub-4 second zero-60 time.

Expect dramatically different interiors as the Mach 1 will feature Mustang’s familiar dash and instrument displays with round, aviation-style air vents, while the Mach-E EV interior will be spartan with a big tablet center screen like its chief Tesla Model Y competitor.

In an indication of the expense of electric cars versus their gas-powered cousins, the Mach-E will start at $44,995 ($61,600 for the GT) while the Mach 1 will likely start at a price similar to the $48,905 Bullitt it replaces.

With the Mustang Bullitt and GT350 models slated for the chopping block at the end of the 2020 model year, the 2021 Mustang Mach 1 should take its traditional place as the most capable, normally-aspirated V-8 Mustang in the showroom.

“Starting in 1969, the Mach 1 was the best-known, highest-volume, highest profile performance version of the Mustang,” said KBB’s Brauer.

The first generation Mach 1 was re-imagined in 1974 as a hatchback version — a body style that the Mach-E EV will revive in SUV form. The Mach 1 badge returned for a third generation in 2003-2004 with a more athletic suspension and performance Brembo brakes. Photos indicate the new Mach 1 will also feature Brembos.

“Mach 1 has always been that bridge between base Mustangs and the Shelby models,” said Ted Ryan, heritage brand manager, Ford Archives. Now, Ford hopes it will help build a bridge to a new electric era of the performance automobile.

 

I'm an Infectious Disease Doctor.
Here's How I Decide What's
Safe to Do and What's Not.

Alesandra Dubin
Best Life
May 31, 2020

I'm an Infectious Disease Doctor. Here's How I Decide What's Safe to Do and What's Not.

As the country begins to reopen in phases and people start to venture outside again, we're all making decisions that could affect our health every day. Many of us are basing our choices on some combination of news reports and intuition. But how does an infectious disease doctor decide what's safe to do and what's not in the age of the coronavirus? We spoke with Thomas Russo, MD, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, to learn what he takes into consideration as the pandemic rages on.

1. Is it an outdoor or indoor activity?

By now, you've likely read that you're much more likely to contract the coronavirus indoors than out. In fact, a study conducted by Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases, which has not yet been peer reviewed, determined that "the odds that a primary case transmitted COVID-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater compared to an open-air environment."

So, for Russo, whether or not an activity is outside versus in a confined space where the air volume is finite is an important factor he takes under consideration in a scenario in which other people would be present. "When you're dealing with people [and] you're not sure whether they could be infected or not—new individuals, not people in your house—outdoors always trumps indoors," he says

2. How many people will be there?

The virus is largely known to spread directly from person to person, so Russo always considers how many people are likely to be in an environment and how closely they will be concentrated. "Fewer people is better than more people," he says. "Whenever you can increase distance and decrease interactions, those are positive scenarios."

3. Are they people I know?

Russo says he'd consider a socially distanced gathering in your own backyard or at a friend's place an acceptably low risk. When you're dealing with people you're familiar with and are confident will follow guidelines, "you can space tables out, you can set a food table where people go up individually, and you can maintain all of these safety measures," he says. But with public venues, Russo points out, "you're at the whim of who happens to be there and how they're behaving at the moment."

4. Will people be wearing masks?

Indeed, how other people behave figures heavily in Russo's calculus. He is a big proponent of wearing masks, and he makes plans after considering whether other people will be wearing them or are likely to flout the whole idea.

"Using masks is always better than not using masks," he says. "It's when you get into situations with close contact with individuals for more than a transient timeframe that your risk is going to increase, particularly if individuals are demonstrating bad behavior and not wearing masks."

5. How much control do I have over the situation?

When Russo weighs making plans involving himself and his family, he prefers to enter into situations in which he has as much control as possible over these important variables, so that he doesn't find himself surprised by a suddenly dangerous environment.

"If you go to a drive-in movie, you can control that. You're in your car. Even if you want to venture to the bathroom with a mask, that would probably be safe," he says. "Or if you want to take an RV across the country, that's like a moving house with known entities that you're traveling with, and then you can pick sights that are less crowded or maintain distancing. Some things are unpredictable and you can't control them. Others are more controllable." He picks the latter whenever possible.

6. What's the risk versus the reward?

It's not feasible for everyone to isolate indoors forever or even until there is a coronavirus vaccine. But when Russo decides to expose himself to any potential risk, he does it after considering how important it is to his quality of life. For instance: Is it an ordinary grooming appointment or a once-in-a-lifetime family milestone? And he suggests others also weigh their own personal vulnerabilities—such as age and existing health conditions—against the potential risks, too.

"By no means am I advocating that we should isolate ourselves. I think getting out is good, but try to do it under circumstances where you have a sense of what you're getting into and how people are going to be behaving," he says. "I'm a big fan of getting out in a safe way.

 

Auto not targeted by Ontario's
new COVID-19 testing strategy

Premier Doug Ford last week said he wanted to increase testing in “areas of the automotive sector and start testing people in automotive sector right across the province.” - The Canadian Press

Automotive News
Staff and wire reports
May 30, 2020

Ontario's new COVID-19 testing strategy does not yet focus the auto industry. Instead, the province will target specific workers such as first responders, LCBO staff and people in businesses with outbreaks, and sometimes bringing mobile testing units to them.

The province has at times struggled to meet its daily testing goals, and is now expanding the list of those who can get tested.

A testing strategy released Friday says the province is testing staff and inmates in some correctional facilities, staff in select hospitals, first responders in Toronto and their families, LCBO workers, all residents and staff in retirement homes and people in long-term care homes for a second time.

Premier Doug Ford last week said he wanted to increase testing in “areas of the automotive sector and start testing people in automotive sector right across the province.”

However, that’s not yet the case. But, autoworkers are mentioned in Ontario’s new testing guidelines, entitled Protecting Ontarians Through Enhanced Testing.

“The province is also looking to expand testing to additional essential workplaces and is working collaboratively with sector leaders, including auto manufacturers, major retailers and trucking,” the document reads under the Targeted Testing Campaigns section.

“Branch testing…could include retailers, transportation workers, auto workers and educators and school staff as schools open, among others. Moving forward, the province expects that private-sector workplace testing will leverage private and public resources as the government works with private-sector employers to develop the appropriate models for their environments.”

General Motors Canada supports Ford’s plan to implement mass testing for COVID-19 and it’s offering up a site in the Greater Toronto Area to help the effort.

The province says that next week community testing will also start in places with a high number of COVID-19 cases, with a van or bus going to affected workplaces, or simply directing employees to go to assessment centres.

Ontario has intended to do 16,000 tests per day throughout May, and while it has met that goal less than half of the time, the numbers have increased in recent days, with 18,525 tests reported today.

Levels dropped sharply once a blitz of nearly all long-term care residents and staff was completed over the long weekend, but they have picked up again in recent days after Ontario relaxed criteria for members of the public to be tested.

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 can now get tested, whether or not they have symptoms.

Ford has spoken about testing asymptomatic front-line health-care workers, large workplaces such as food manufacturing facilities, groups such as truck or taxi drivers, and doing a second round of testing in long-term care.

He said mass testing is the province's best defence against the virus.

Ontario reported 344 new COVID-19 cases Friday, and 41 more deaths. That brings the provincial total to 27,210 cases, which is an increase of 1.3 per cent over the previous day. The total includes 2,230 deaths and 20,983 cases that have been resolved.

Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, has said new cases from a round of long-term care testing earlier this month are still coming in, so he's not sure yet what percentage of the new cases are from the community.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 and in intensive care dropped, but the number of people on ventilators rose from 94 to 100.

 

Three UAW leaders created sexually
hostile environment, lawsuit alleges

Robert Snell and
Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
May 28, 2020

Detroit — A high-ranking female officer with the United Auto Workers accused three union leaders of sexual harassment, including grabbing, kissing and propositioning her in recent years, according to a federal lawsuit Wednesday.

UAW international service representative Patricia Morris-Gibson accused the union leaders of creating a hostile work environment, failing to take corrective action and cutting her salary by 50% last month after she raised concerns, according to the lawsuit filed against the union and several senior officers, including newly appointed Vice President Gerald Kariem.

Kariem is the latest member of the UAW's governing board accused of harassment since leaders moved to oust regional Director Richard Rankin in March following an investigation.

The lawsuit coincides with an ongoing federal corruption investigation involving the UAW that has led to the convictions of 13 people and exposed the union to possible takeover by the federal government. Former UAW President Gary Jones is expected to plead guilty next week to racketeering and embezzlement charges.

Morris-Gibson, 56, lives in Taylor and works as an international service representative, a $127,790 job that includes travel and work far removed from the assembly line.

"Throughout her employment with the UAW, plaintiff was subjected to discrimination and sexual harassment including but not limited to unwelcome sexual advances, comments, and offensive conduct of a sexual nature," Morris-Gibson's lawyers, Avery Williams and Gerald Evelyn, wrote in the lawsuit.

The UAW has not yet been served with the lawsuit and, typically, does not comment on litigation, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg wrote in an email.

The lawsuit includes allegations involving Morris-Gibson's supervisor, Assistant Director Miguel Foster, during a Coalition of Black Trade Unionists convention in Atlanta, Ga., "asked plaintiff to sleep with him," the lawsuit alleged.

At the time, Foster was director of the UAW's Civil and Humans Rights department, according to the lawsuit.

Foster joined Morris-Gibson's division in 2018 and "almost immediately" started harassing her, according to the lawsuit.

"Foster made comments about bending plaintiff over her desk" and alluded to having sex with her, according to the lawsuit.

In October 2018 at the union's Blue Cross Blue Shield division, Foster "shockingly kissed plaintiff on the side of her mouth without her consent or permission," the lawsuit alleged.

Foster could not be reached for comment.

The alleged kissing incident was reported to a department director, according to the lawsuit.

"Plaintiff’s complaints have always been treated as mere puffery and exaggeration by defendants, who devoted their energy to 'protecting Foster,'" the lawsuit alleged.

In other instances, the UAW failed to take corrective action after being alerted to sexual harassment involving more senior labor leaders, according to the lawsuit.

Morris-Gibson says she suffered numerous other instances of harassment by other UAW officials, including Kariem, now a vice president of the UAW and director of the Ford department.

Kariem, who until earlier this year served as a regional director, allegedly whispered in her ear asking for her to sleep with him during a conference in Washington, D.C. When Morris replied that she was married, he laughed and said that he would not tell, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit does not list the year of the conference.

During a bargaining conference in March 2019 at the TCF Center, Kariem allegedly approached Morris-Gibson and used an expletive to refer to her appearance.

Kariem did not respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.

The lawsuit includes allegations involving former UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who is not named as a defendant. Settles was the union's top negotiator with Ford until retiring in 2018 and being appointed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to a $155,000 job as head of the city's Department of Neighborhoods.

During one meeting, Settles made a comment to now-President Rory Gamble about plaintiff’s breasts, the lawsuit alleged.

"Plaintiff was embarrassed by Settles’ comment and Gamble told Settles to 'leave her alone,'" according to the lawsuit.

Settles also called Morris-Gibson to meet former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick so he could "see a pretty face" to help him feel better before he went to prison, according to the lawsuit.

Settles did not respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday. His lawyer, Steve Fishman, who represents him in connection with a separate federal corruption investigation, declined comment.

Despite UAW leaders witnessing and having knowledge of the harassment, nothing was done to address it, according to the lawsuit. The UAW did not investigate her sexual harassment allegations until April 2019, after Morris-Gibson requested her personnel file, six months after the UAW director was informed of the harassment, according to the lawsuit.​

"The atmosphere of harassment and hostile work environment for women, particularly women of color, was pervasive," Williams and Evelyn wrote.

Morris-Gibson is requesting money for damages in excess of $75,000, an injunction prohibiting any further acts of discrimination, attorney fees and costs.

The lawsuit comes after the UAW’s governing International Executive Board in March moved to remove regional director Rankin from the union. A third-party investigator had “substantiated allegation of workplace harassment,” the union said in a statement at the time.

The union's constitution provides 15 days for an accused official to prepare a defense, but a trial before a 12-member jury has been delayed due to gathering limitations amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Rothenberg said.

Rankin has been suspended of his duties, though he has said in a previous statement from his lawyers he intends to fight the charges.

 

Ford's Police Interceptor
vehicles can now turn up
the heat on coronavirus

Flashing hazard and tail lights of Ford's Police Interceptor Utility vehicle warn officers that the high-temperature interior disinfecting process is running. The sanitation procedure seeks to limit the spread of COVID-19 to first responders. (Photo: Ford)

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
May 27, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is rolling out new software for its Police Interceptor Utility vehicles to heat their passenger compartments to temperatures as hot as Death Valley on its warmest day to disinfect the interior against the coronavirus.

The technology, Ford said Wednesday, heats the interior above 133 degrees for 15 minutes to kill the virus — figures that showed a quick reduction in the virus's stability, according to a study by the World Health Organization. It is immediately available for 2013-19 model-year vehicles in the United States, Canada and other countries.

“First responders are on the front lines protecting all of us. They are exposed to the virus and are in dire need of protective measures,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product development and purchasing officer, said in a statement. “We looked at what’s in our arsenal and how we could step up to help. In this case, we’ve turned the vehicle’s powertrain and heat control systems into a virus neutralizer.”

Ford worked with microbiologists at The Ohio State University to determine the temperature and time duration needed. The researchers found the combination reduced viral concentration by more than 99% on interior surfaces.

Since late March, Ford's engineering team has looked at how to disinfect vehicles using heat. Ford conducted operational trials with a number of U.S. police departments, including the Michigan State Police and New York City Police Department, which directly reached out to Ford for help on the matter.

The software can be activated by a sequence of actions involving cruise control buttons or through an external tool. Flashing hazard and tail lights indicate when the sanitization process is in action. The function also includes a cool-down mechanism.

 

Carmakers push forward on
EVs as self-driving hits
pandemic speed bumps

Kalea Hall,
The Detroit News
May 26, 2020

Detroit — The coronavirus pandemic is proving to be yet another obstacle for the self-driving and ride-sharing movement, delaying the widely touted arrival of next-generation automotive technology.

Ford Motor Co. is postponing for a year the commercial deployment of its autonomous vehicles. Waymo LLC, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., had to temporarily suspend its on-road testing and its ride-hailing offerings in Arizona. Uber Advanced Technologies Group recently announced layoffs of 3,500, citing the pandemic. And General Motors Co. is shutting down Maven, the car-sharing service that debuted in 2016 as the wave of the future.

With demand for car-sharing and ride-sharing diminishing sharply in the age of social-distancing and other forms of vigilant hygiene, companies are shifting their focus to using driverless vehicles to deliver goods before they ferry people — a reversal of a robo-taxi future envisioned just a few years ago, courtesy of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Expensive electrification programs that have yet to create revenue for automakers, however, continue despite automakers losing billions with auto plants closed for eight weeks and many dealerships unable to sell vehicles with stay-at-home orders in place during the pandemic. Still, the prevailing industry consensus holds that electric vehicles must be an option for consumers, and electrified powertrains are the foundation of self-driving vehicles and future mobility technologies.

"Electrification is clearly going to be the priority," said Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for Washington-based Guidehouse Insights, a global management consultancy. "It has to be the priority. For regulatory reasons, they need it for Europe and for China, in particular, and to a lesser degree, North America."

It's also a product line that's a lot closer to delivering profit than automated technology. There have been some small commercial deployments of autonomous vehicles by Waymo and others. Abuelsamid previously predicted thousands would be deployed globally by about 2023 and millions by 2025. Guidehouse now forecasts about 300,000 will be deployed by 2025 and 13 million by 2030.

"The reality is that the technology is still not ready," he said. "Electric-vehicle technology is ready."

Ford, which has partnered with Argo AI on self-driving technology, recently said it would delay the launch of its commercial self-driving services to 2022 instead of next year because of COVID-19's impact on changing customer behaviors. Argo's autonomous fleet has restarted on-road testing in Pittsburgh, one of six cities where it tests, after a temporary pause during the pandemic.

While Ford has "always planned on building and launching services to move people and goods," the automaker is now seeing "a big shift toward package delivery based on the pandemic. This could also impact our go-to-market strategy," Ford Autonomous Vehicle spokesman Dan Pierce said. Ford is still planning to invest more than $4 billion through 2023 on its self-driving business.

Doubts for 'shared mobility'

Doug Parks, GM global product development and purchasing chief, said at the 2020 Car of the Future Virtual Symposium that the COVID crisis might push people away from ride-sharing. But in addition to ride-sharing, the Cruise Origin autonomous shuttle could also be utilized for package delivery, which could accelerate after the crisis. The Origin is an electric self-driving shuttle developed by GM's autonomous subsidiary, Cruise LLC, in partnership with Honda Motor Co.

"We are going to see a lot of these companies shift away from robo-taxis in the near term to goods delivery," Abuelsamid said. "There’s more demand for it, and also it’s an easier problem to solve. In the post-pandemic era, there’s going to be some reluctance to use shared mobility."

Waymo restarted its Arizona testing operations on May 11, and the self-driving unit progressively plans to get back to serving customers with its Waymo One ride-hailing services.

While GM's Cruise has laid off employees, GM has said the pandemic will cause little to no impact on certain programs including the Cruise Origin. Cruise has not confirmed publicly when the Origin will hit roads, and it also has yet to set a new deployment launch date for its autonomous Bolt EVs.

COVID-19 is changing how people perceive mass transit. And that shapes how GM will develop vehicles like the Origin, which is designed to transport many people, GM CEO Mary Barra said during a web conference hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "How do we ensure that it's got the right level of cleanliness or (is) disinfected person to person? I think that is all things we can work on, but it doesn't deter at all our vision and our drive to create this vision."

Amid the pandemic, Cruise had paused its on-road testing until it started using its autonomous fleet of vehicles to deliver food to those in need in San Francisco.

"I’m very pleased with the progress that they are making from a technology perspective at Cruise," Barra told investors during a first-quarter earnings call. "We are continuing to hit milestone after milestone there, so I’m very positive about what’s happening at Cruise. I see huge opportunity, and so our commitment … is unwavering."

In April, GM confirmed it would end its Maven car-sharing service after suspending it at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. GM reviewed the business during the suspension and decided to shift its resources to areas with greater potential for profit and growth. The business had been struggling before the pandemic, in large part because car-sharing failed to resonate with users the way ride-sharing did.

Maven last year exited eight cities that didn't produce the demand needed to sustain the service. Ford Motor Credit Co. last fall announced it was selling its vehicle subscription service Canvas to a California-based car-rental app, Fair. And Ford Motor Co. ended its shuttle service, Chariot, last year.

Meanwhile, Zipcar, a car-sharing network operating in select cities, including Detroit, launched earlier this month "Instant Access," which enables new members to access a car with a smartphone and drive within minutes of joining, according to the company.

Unchanged plans

Even though some electric-vehicle programs have seen delays, GM consistently has said its programs, including the GMC Hummer EV and Cadillac Lyriq EV, will see little to no delays from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hummer, slated to debut in fall 2021, will be built at a repurposed Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant. GM remains committed to its autonomous program with subsidiary Cruise LLC to move people and packages around in electric autonomous vehicles.

"Our strategy is an all-electric future," said Ken Morris, GM's vice president electric and autonomous vehicles. "We want zero congestion, zero emissions and zero crashes. You can’t work on everything when the revenue is different ... you do have to decide: What are we going to put our focus on? And we are going full-speed ahead on the electric and autonomous vehicles programs."

The Detroit News previously reported there would be delays on refresh launches of the light-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks, the GMC Terrain SUV as well as Chevrolet Equinox and Traverse SUVs, Bolt electric car and Camaro sports car. A future variant of the Chevrolet Corvette that was not slotted for 2020 also will be delayed.

Despite a delay in the refresh program of the Bolt EV because plants had been down since mid-March, GM hasn't delayed other electric vehicle programs it's publicly announced. The automaker plans to have 20 electric vehicles worldwide by 2023, and it still plans to deliver on that goal.

"We haven’t changed any of our plans," Morris added. "We are basically doing everything we possibly can to make sure that (we) meet or beat that timing. We would like to get them out even earlier, so we are working with full intensity."

Before the pandemic, GM hosted an EV Day to show the company's electric-vehicle products and its new battery technology that expands its battery range and lowers the cost, top concerns among potential buyers. GM is moving forward with the construction of a battery-cell manufacturing plant in northeast Ohio in a joint venture with partner LG Chem. The plant is slated to come online in early 2022.

GM's Barra used the event in early March to say the automaker plans to spend $20 billion on electric and autonomous vehicle development through 2025. It hasn't retreated from its commitment to that investment, Morris said, despite gas prices below $2 during the pandemic. Automakers stress cheaper gas prices matter less to consumers weighing the longer-term lower cost of owning an electric vehicle: the vehicles don't require gas and come with fewer parts, translating to less maintenance over the vehicle's lifetime.

Ford also is sticking to its more than $11.5 billion-plus investment in electric vehicle programs through 2022, though the automaker and Plymouth-based electric vehicle startup Rivian Automotive LLC have canceled plans to develop a new electric SUV for the Lincoln luxury brand because of the current environment created by COVID-19 outbreak. Lincoln still plans to deliver an electric vehicle, and Ford and Rivian remain committed in their partnership.

Ford plans to launch its electric Mustang Mach-E and a hybrid F-150 pickup later this year. An electric Ford Transit van is slated for 2022. The Dearborn automaker has also said it will deliver an electric F-150 in a few years, though it hasn't given an exact release date.

FCA 'on track'

Increasing regulatory requirements, particularly in Europe, are driving Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s efforts to continue electrifying its portfolio, CEO Mike Manley recently told investors: “In Europe, on the passenger-car side, we are absolutely on track.

“At this moment in time, I foresee no issues this year on passenger cars because we delayed projects that did not include those vehicles that contribute heavily to our compliance. … There may be a week slippage here and there but largely on track to what we thought.”

Those include the battery-electric Fiat 500 city car, plug-in hybrid Jeep Renegade and Compass SUVs and several electric Maserati vehicles currently in development. In its commercial business, however, the Fiat Ducato electric van, which was scheduled to launch this year, is facing delays.

Whatever the short-term dip in electric vehicle releases might be, there's a positive long-term trajectory for them, said Lea Malloy, associate vice president for research and development at Cox Automotive Mobility.

"What's driving that is the consumer is starting to get a taste for what's compelling about the EV," she said. "The environmental benefits are hard to miss when you see clear skies ... so that, in combination with EVs (that) are more fun to drive and have lower cost profiles, it's sort of, in my mind, a no-brainer."

As consumer interest in electric vehicles grows and automakers amp their strategic responses, would-be customers are showing signs they're satisfied for now with the present level of assisted driving, Malloy said: "They are not really demanding this completely automated experience."

 

Doug Ford says anyone who wants
a COVID-19 test in Ontario
will be able to get one

By Salmaan Farooqui
The Canadian Press
May 25, 2020

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Sunday that anyone in the province can get tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether they have symptoms, as cases continued to mount and officials criticized thousands of people who gathered in a Toronto park a day earier.

The premier said mass testing is the province’s best defence against the virus, adding that the only way for the province to reach its testing capacity of nearly 25,000 is for people to show up to provincial assessment centres.

Currently, daily testing rates hover around 11,000.

“If you are worried you have COVID-19, or that you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, even if you’re not showing symptoms, please go get a test,” Ford said during a televised speech on Sunday.

“You will not be turned away, you don’t need an appointment, just show up.”

A spokeswoman for the Minister of Health later said in an email that the province doesn’t anticipate demand for tests outpacing supply, even with this directive.

The messaging is a marked change from earlier guidelines for the general public, which said that only people displaying one or more symptoms of the novel coronavirus should be tested.

Ford also said a new detailed testing strategy targeting specific sectors will be unveiled next week.

The announcement comes as cases continue to mount in Ontario, with 460 confirmed cases reported on Sunday along with 25 deaths related to the virus.

The new cases account for a 1.8 per cent increase over the previous day.

The province now has 25,500 confirmed cases, which includes 19,477 that are marked as resolved and 2,073 where patients have died.

The Ministry of Health said it completed 11,383 tests over the previous 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the premier criticized Torontonians who flocked to a popular downtown park on Saturday after city officials said thousands of people at Trinity Bellwoods Park were flouting physical distancing rules.

“I thought it was a rock concert in the beginning when I went out there, I was in shock,” Ford said.

“I get it, it’s a beautiful day out, everyone wants to get out and have a great time … but the images I saw, we just can’t have that right now, it’s just too many people too close.”

On Sunday, far fewer people were at the park, Toronto police said, noting that there were more cops and bylaw officers present to issue $1,000 tickets to those violating the rules.

 

Workers return to U.S. Big
Three plants in major
test for auto industry

Kalea Hall,
Jordyn Grzelewski
and Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
May 20, 2020

Dajuan Hampton was headed to his 5 a.m. shift at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Warren Truck plant with a mask strapped around his head when former first lady Michelle Obama came over the radio to encourage listeners to stay home.

Instead, Hampton, like thousands of other autoworkers heading back to plants after an eight-week pandemic-induced shutdown, kept driving to work on Monday — the first step in the historic restart of an industry that accounts for nearly 4% of the nation’s economy.

"The factory is the most cross-contaminated workplace next to a buffet. Period," said Hampton, 39, of Detroit, who installs seats. "There is no way to make it coronavirus-proof."

Most workers at FCA Warren Truck came prepared for a restart under new safety guidelines, with masks already strapped around their faces. But many expressed concern and frustration about going back to work when uncertainty about the virus remains.

How successful the resumption of auto production ultimately will be, will depend in large part on whether Ford Motor Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and General Motors Co. can keep their employees safe at work. Workers who returned to work Monday expressed a mixture of optimism and skepticism that it will be possible to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in manufacturing plants.

Hampton's concerns weren't eased after the eight-hour shift. He kept thinking about that message from the former first lady telling him the importance of staying home to stay safe, he said: "This is unreal. We are going back to work to build a truck while Michelle Obama is telling us to stay home."

Meanwhile, work was "pretty smooth" at Ford Motor Co.’s assembly and stamping plants in Wayne, said MaryLisa Poole, 57, of Canton Township, who works as a receiver for trucks delivering materials: "As far as the virus, (there's) nothing to mention. I wore my mask. I had my face shield.”

The restart of vehicle production at GM, Ford and FCA, one week after major suppliers resumed production, is the linchpin of an unprecedented and coordinated effort to rev up almost the entire auto industry, foreign and domestic, after the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic and government responses to it.

"It’ll be the first time in history everybody comes back up at the same time," Gary Johnson, Ford's chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer, told The Detroit News last week. "So that will be a test."

The restart will test the new health and safety protocols the automakers have developed and implemented already in China, in Europe and in U.S. plants producing medical equipment and supplies. How effective those protocols prove to be should help ease anxieties of those returning to work.

Hampton reserved some of his criticism for the UAW, saying: "I am little taken back because I thought there would be resistance from the union because of this pandemic." To him, there's no logic in going back into a plant to build trucks with new cases still cropping up: "If the numbers decrease, then I would see more reasoning into bringing us back."

Michigan on Monday confirmed 24 deaths tied to the virus, marking the ninth straight day with fewer than 100 new deaths from the illness reported in the state. Monday was the fourth consecutive day that the state had fewer than 800 new cases of COVID-19, for a total 51,915 known cases since reporting began, according to state data.

But while the UAW can advocate for stronger health and safety protections, the contracts between the union and the automakers give the companies the final say on when production resumes, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said.

"The UAW will continue to do everything we can to protect the health and safety of all members as plants reopen," the UAW said in a statement Sunday, noting that the union continues to advocate for the automakers to test all workers for COVID-19 when testing becomes more widely available.

Prior to restarting, the automakers did not know exactly how many workers would return, or how many would be unable to work after answering questions about their potential exposure to the virus. But, Rothenberg said he heard from all three companies Monday that they had full staffing, and in some cases, more than expected. Absenteeism did not appear to be an issue.

In a statement, FCA said it was "pleased" with Monday's restart. The automaker brought back some 12,000 U.S. employees. "Everyone followed the new protocols and our plants were fully staffed to start production," the company said. "We are very confident that we have all the right protection measures in place to keep them all safe."

As they shuffled back into work Monday morning, however, some employees at the Warren Truck plant were not quite as convinced. More than 1,280 workers were called back to work there for the first shift from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. A second shift is scheduled to restart in a few weeks.

At least one worker was sent home after answering "yes" to being exposed to the coronavirus.

Theresa Segura, 61, of Lincoln Park recently saw her brother, who has tested positive for the virus. She'll have to get tested now before she can go back to work, which is fine with her because she doesn't want to get any of her co-workers sick: "There's a lot of other people out here sick already, and you don't want another life to pass away."

Segura knew some of FCA Warren Truck workers who died from COVID-19 complications. At least four Warren Truck employees have died after contracting the coronavirus, prompting heightened anxiety among employees at the plant about returning to work.

"Everybody should be tested before they go in the plant because you can go in the plant and get sick and you don't know it," said Segura. "You are risking your life to go in there."

Not all employees will be tested for COVID-19, though the companies are offering testing through their medical teams or partner health systems to employees who have symptoms of the virus.

FCA assembly worker Richard Werth, 56, of Redford Township, a 25-year employee of the Warren Truck plant, was not necessarily excited about coming back Monday after being off for two months. But he wasn't concerned because he's already "been out and about."

"It's no biggie as long as they take precautions," he said. "Just be safe. Keep your hands clean. Keep your distance."

Meanwhile, Harnett Weatherspoon, 34, of Detroit works in the trim department at FCA's Warren Truck. He was "very fearful of coming to work" because he believes it's not safe, despite new virus-related safety protocols.

"If you guys have to do all this, it's not safe for us to be in here," Weatherspoon said of the company's safety precautions. "Why am I coming to work with this on?" he asked, pointing to the black mask around his head.

An FCA employee at Sterling Heights Assembly plant who returned early to help prepare the plant for restart was also sent home Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19, causing some concerns among the rank-and-file.

In a letter sent home to workers, Mark Stewart, the company's chief operating officer in North America, said workers were wearing the required face masks and safety glasses provided to them and that the company was continuing to strengthen its procedures.

Another complication for the industry, which provides hundreds of thousands of American jobs, is the potential for snarls in the supply chain. Already, Daimler AG said it was idling its Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama, which had reopened in late April, due to a parts shortage. Having to shut down factories after reopening them is the last thing automakers and their suppliers want, according to experts, and is a strain on their capital.

Mexico accounts for almost 40% of imported auto parts. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced plans last Wednesday to begin a phased reopening in his country on Monday to coincide with many U.S. plants. After some confusion about when exactly plants there are allowed to reopen, the Mexican government clarified that plants can begin reopening this week after receiving approval for their safety plans.

"The industry shut down all at the same time," said Jeff Schuster, head of global vehicle forecasting for LMC Automotive. "In terms of a parts shortage, that's still a risk. And all it takes is many outbreaks in a supplier plant or assembly plant for things to have to get re-evaluated."

The companies are returning workers in phases. GM last week restarted production at three engine and propulsion plants to fill its supply pipeline but is recalling one shift at most of its assembly plants this week. Ford's three-shift plants are starting with two, and two-shift plants with one. Fiat Chrysler has said it is basing its ramp up on demand and will reduce jobs per hour to ensure safe distancing.

Workers will go through safety briefings at all of the companies before production resumes. The companies also have sent home fliers and packets with information on the return-to-work procedures.

“The last thing we want is to see a spike when the governor starts pulling back restrictions,” said Jim Glynn, GM's vice president of global workplace safety. “The reason we are sharing all of this information is because we want to be successful. Everybody has to make that decision: ‘Do I feel comfortable coming to work?’ We want everybody to feel comfortable."

The automakers have installed plexiglass barriers, signs and other cues to help with social distancing in the plants. Ford is providing wristwatches that beep when employees get within 6 feet and that can help with contact tracing if a case is identified.

The automakers are having employees fill out questionnaires asking them about travel and if they are experiencing symptoms. GM and Ford also are checking temperatures with thermal cameras; FCA is providing temperature strips for employees to check daily at home.

The protocols will be a transition, company executives say, adding that plant management will continue to follow up with employees about questions and concerns throughout the week.

"Every human being, myself included, is going to have some anxiety," said Shaun Whitehead, Ford's director of manufacturing, transmission and driveline components, last week. "We're going to give ourselves some time. ... There are a lot of very small things that we do differently now."

 

Bomb threat was made against
Unifor blockades in February

Arthur White-Crummey,
Regina Leader-Post
May 19, 2020

Regina’s mayor received an anonymous letter in February from someone threatening to blow up Unifor blockades if police didn’t dismantle them. The local representing locked-out Co-op refinery workers insists it was never warned.

The letter, which purported to come from farmers facing fuel shortages, said “special mixes” had been set up that could cause pallets and gates to “start flying.”

“Only a cell phone call away from Ignition Time,” the letter reads. “If we see no progress this week — it will be time to act.”

The anonymous letter claimed that the alleged would-be bombers had a list of names and home addresses of union officials living outside Saskatchewan.

“Time for action there as well if things do not start happening — first get rid of the Unifor A**holes,” the letter continued.

Unifor 594 posted the letter to its website on Sunday, along with an explanation of how it obtained a copy through a freedom of information request.

“Buried in a mountain of documents, we have unearthed a very alarming letter that shows there were credible threats made against Unifor 594 members,” the post said. “The letter frighteningly details a plan to blow up picket lines.”

The copy of the letter posted online was addressed to the RCMP and the Regina Police Service (RPS). But it was also marked with a “received” stamp from the mayor’s office dated Feb. 18.

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere confirmed on Sunday that the letter posted to the Unifor 594 website looks very much like one he received, though he was not at his office to verify the specific date and details. He said he passed it along to the RPS immediately after receiving it.

Fougere said there was no return address or markings on the letter that would allow him to identify its author.

Neither the RPS nor the RCMP were not immediately available to comment on Sunday. Fougere said he’s not aware of how police responded to the letter since it’s not up to the mayor’s office to follow up on any investigations.

In its web posting, Unifor 594 faulted Fougere and the police for not warning union officials about the threat.

“The most horrifying reality is that these threats were never conveyed to members of the local union,” said the posting. “These credible threats were never once passed along by the police who initially received it.

“The officials who are charged with the safety of the citizens of Regina chose not to pass along information that people were in danger,” the Unifor 594 post said. “They willfully ignored that people could be blown up.”

Fougere confirmed that he did not forward the letter to Unifor. He was not aware whether the police did so.

“It would be up to the police service to take the steps necessary. They would ordinarily do on any sort of a threat,” he said. “We certainly didn’t do that. It’s not the role of the mayor’s office to look at the validity of a threat. It’s for the police service to do.”

He responded to Unifor’s criticism by noting that “there is a lot of emotion and anger” in the months-long dispute .

Kevin Bittman, president of Unifor Local 594, reiterated in a telephone interview that union officials were never informed about the threat in any way.

He accepts that they mayor’s office isn’t responsible for investigating a bomb threat, but thinks Fougere should have done more to follow up with police.

“I think theres probably some onus on him to follow up if there’s a death threat in his city,” said Bittman.

Unifor 594 added that union members have repeatedly faced threats of violence over the course of the lock-out, which began on Dec. 5 of last year .

“Several social media posts, comments and direct messages, on both Twitter and Facebook, outline a variety of threats of physical violence towards union members,” said the Sunday web post.

“Since the lockout began the union office has also received dozens of venomous and menacing phone calls from Co-op supporters.”

Bittman said it’s not unusual to hear hostile comments on the lines, but he said the threat in the letter was “next level.”

He said the union never found any devices or suspicious items in the blockades that would suggest anyone actually carried out the threat made in the letter.

He would have, however, appreciated the heads-up, just in case something was there that could “blow someone to smithereens.”

January and February were in many ways the height of the conflict between Unifor and the Co-op Refinery Complex. Days before Fougere received the letter, a judge fined Unifor 594 $250,000 for contempt in relation to the blockades.

On January 20, Unifor national president Jerry Dias was arrested at the refinery blockades . Special mediator Vince Ready began his work about the time the letter arrived at city hall, but Unifor continued to set up blockades at other CRC facilities afterwards.

 

Liberals won’t commit to boosting
old age security in July despite
campaign pledge

Global News
Beatrice Britneff
May 18, 2020

Days after announcing additional financial relief for seniors struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal minister responsible for seniors wouldn't confirm Ottawa will move ahead with a planned increase to the Old Age Security (OAS) pension in July -- a promise made by the governing Liberals during their campaign for re-election.

In an interview with The West Block's host Mercedes Stephenson this week, Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said the federal government is "completely committed" to implementing their campaign promises but right now is "completely focused" on helping Canadians through the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are committed to delivering on our promises but right now the pandemic is taking all efforts and energies and that’s where our focus is," Schulte said.

Last fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to implement a 10 per cent increase to the Old Age Security program for seniors once they turn 75, as he courted seniors' votes.

During the 2019 campaign, the Liberals said the increase -- scheduled to take effect in July 2020 -- would amount to an extra $729 for most seniors annually and would be indexed to keep up with inflation.

The increase to the OAS as a whole would cost $1.63 billion in 2020-21, rising to $2.56 billion in 2023-24, the party estimated in September.

Asked whether the Liberal government is still on track to fulfill that pledge this summer, Schulte wouldn't confirm. Instead, she emphasized the recent top-ups announced in April and May for seniors facing additional living costs due to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, such as grocery deliveries and additional dispensing fees at pharmacies due to prescription refill limits.

In April, Schulte said single seniors on low and modest incomes would have received an extra tax-free GST credit of $375, on average, with senior couples receiving more than $500.

Then on May 12, federal officials announced a plan to give seniors eligible for the OAS pension a one-time, tax-free payment of $300. Those also eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) would get an additional $200, the government said.

Officials said they expect this financial relief for seniors to cost $2.5 billion.

The OAS pension is a monthly payment made to eligible seniors who are 65 years old and older. The GIS is a monthly, non-taxable benefit provided to low-income recipients of the OAS pension.

Asked why the OAS and GIS top-ups weren't announced until mid-May -- about two months into a near country-wide shutdown -- Schulte said the federal government "saw there was need for more" after the April GST credits were doled out.

"We definitely recognize that seniors are being heavily impacted not only from their health perspective -- being more vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, the COVID-19 virus -- but also with the impacts of the additional costs that they’re facing," the minister said.

"That's why we brought forward this announcement this week."

 

Ford shareholders lament
sagging stock, slowed
production amid pandemic

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
May 17, 2020

Ford Motor Co. shareholders on Thursday quizzed company executives about the low value of the automaker's stock — a longstanding point of frustration that the coronavirus pandemic appears only to be deepening.

Company leaders also were pressed during the virtual annual shareholder meeting about steps the company is taking to manage its finances amid COVID-19, and how quickly production will ramp up to full capacity as the automaker prepares to restart its North American operations on Monday.

Meanwhile, a proposal to abolish the company's two-tiered share structure — which enable Ford family members to wield 40% voting control of the 117-year-old automaker — was voted down, as it has been in previous years.

"The true economic fallout (of the coronavirus) ... won't be known for some time," CEO Jim Hackett told shareholders. "And we're mindful there might be new (COVID-19) outbreaks ahead. That's why we've taken significant actions to reduce costs, preserve cash, and make sure we've got the financial flexibility to ride this out and emerge as a stronger company on the other side."

The Dearborn automaker and its crosstown rivals shut down North American operations in late March to help halt the transmission of COVID-19. After nearly eight weeks of down time that has cost the Detroit Three billions of dollars, plants are set to begin phasing in production Monday. Ford reported a $2 billion net loss in the first quarter, and has said that its losses in the second quarter will be much greater

Top among the questions from shareholders was why Ford's share price trades so low compared to its industry peers — on Thursday, Blue Oval shares closed up 3.6% at $4.90 but down 48 percent since the start of the year — and what company leaders are doing to boost it.

"We had a very good first quarter last year and our stock was headed in the right direction," said executive chairman Bill Ford, citing the botched Explorer SUV launch in 2019 and warranty issues as factors that "knocked us back."

Now, "coming out of COVID, it really is all about performance and executing on our plan," he said. "Management's compensation is heavily tied to our stock, so it's in everyone's interest to get our stock price back up."

Queried about the company's suspension of its dividend in March in a move to preserve cash, chief financial officer Tim Stone said company executives will consider reinstating the payout "as soon as is practical."

In another move to strengthen its cash position during the downturn, Ford has been working to cut costs even as it issues new debt and draws on existing credit facilities to raise capital to weather the coronavirus-induced downturn. 

The company's top 300 executives are deferring 20% to 50% of their salaries for five months, and Bill Ford is deferring his entire salary during that time. Asked whether company leadership would consider adjusting performance-based targets for executive compensation or further pay cuts for management or board directors, executives said they are focusing on deferring, rather than eliminating, compensation, but continue to evaluate.

The company has identified billions in potential spending cuts, but "we know this will not be enough to recover everything this year from the production stoppage," Stone said.

And, as the company shifts to ramping production back up, shareholders wanted to know how long that will take. Production is already coming back up in Asia and Europe, and North American autoworkers will start returning to work Monday on reduced shifts and with stringent health and safety protocols in place.

The intricate restart process depends in large part on the automaker's supply base, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said: "It's a very complex formula, because the ecosystem of getting our plants back up to full production is complicated. ... It will really come down to our suppliers' preparation."

Executives emphasized that the automaker remains committed to upcoming product launches — namely a redesigned F-150 truck and the revival of the iconic Bronco SUV — as well as an all-electric future. Ford is investing $11 billion in electrification to deliver 40 new hybrid and electric vehicles by 2022, the company said.

John Chevedden, a shareholder long critical of Ford, again presented a proposal that each share be worth one vote. Via Class B shares, Ford family members have greater voting power than other shareholders — which Chevedden argued "reduces accountability by allowing corporate control to be retained by insiders disproportionately to their money at risk."

That proposal was defeated, with only 35% voting in favor.

The company has identified billions in potential spending cuts, but "we know this will not be enough to recover everything this year from the production stoppage," Stone said.

And, as the company shifts to ramping production back up, shareholders wanted to know how long that will take. Production is already coming back up in Asia and Europe, and North American autoworkers will start returning to work Monday on reduced shifts and with stringent health and safety protocols in place.

The intricate restart process depends in large part on the automaker's supply base, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said: "It's a very complex formula, because the ecosystem of getting our plants back up to full production is complicated. ... It will really come down to our suppliers' preparation."

Executives emphasized that the automaker remains committed to upcoming product launches — namely a redesigned F-150 truck and the revival of the iconic Bronco SUV — as well as an all-electric future. Ford is investing $11 billion in electrification to deliver 40 new hybrid and electric vehicles by 2022, the company said.

John Chevedden, a shareholder long critical of Ford, again presented a proposal that each share be worth one vote. Via Class B shares, Ford family members have greater voting power than other shareholders — which Chevedden argued "reduces accountability by allowing corporate control to be retained by insiders disproportionately to their money at risk."

That proposal was defeated, with only 35% voting in favor.

The company has identified billions in potential spending cuts, but "we know this will not be enough to recover everything this year from the production stoppage," Stone said.

And, as the company shifts to ramping production back up, shareholders wanted to know how long that will take. Production is already coming back up in Asia and Europe, and North American autoworkers will start returning to work Monday on reduced shifts and with stringent health and safety protocols in place.

The intricate restart process depends in large part on the automaker's supply base, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said: "It's a very complex formula, because the ecosystem of getting our plants back up to full production is complicated. ... It will really come down to our suppliers' preparation."

Executives emphasized that the automaker remains committed to upcoming product launches — namely a redesigned F-150 truck and the revival of the iconic Bronco SUV — as well as an all-electric future. Ford is investing $11 billion in electrification to deliver 40 new hybrid and electric vehicles by 2022, the company said.

John Chevedden, a shareholder long critical of Ford, again presented a proposal that each share be worth one vote. Via Class B shares, Ford family members have greater voting power than other shareholders — which Chevedden argued "reduces accountability by allowing corporate control to be retained by insiders disproportionately to their money at risk."

That proposal was defeated, with only 35% voting in favor.

 

Seniors to receive up to $500 in
a one-time payment to offset
added costs due to COVID-19

PM promises help for long-term care facilities after pandemic exposed vulnerabilities

Kathleen Harris
CBC News
May 13, 2020

Seniors will be receiving a one-time payment of up to $500 to help offset any increases in the cost of living due to COVID-19 — and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today promised to help find long-term solutions to the tragedies unfolding in long-term care facilities.

Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said today that seniors who qualify for Old Age Security (OAS) will be eligible for a one-time, tax-free payment of $300, and those eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will get an extra $200.

Those eligible for both will receive $500.

The direct supports will amount to $2.5 billion and are expected to help 6.7 million older Canadians.

Schulte said seniors are facing extra dispensing fees for prescriptions, added costs for grocery delivery services and taxi fees when they might normally take the bus.

"It's all small amounts, but it adds up," she said.

Seniors who already are receiving OAS and GIS will receive the one-time benefit automatically; they will not be required to apply for it.

Asked by reporters why the aid for seniors took so long to arrive, Schulte said the government already has announced measures for seniors — including a one-time special payment through the GST credit and the reduction of minimum withdrawals from registered retirement income funds by 25 per cent in 2020.

Pandemic taking financial, emotional toll on seniors

During his daily briefing today, Trudeau said COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on seniors both emotionally and financially, and today's announcement is meant to alleviate some of the stress they're experiencing.

He said there is more work to be done on both short-term fixes and longer-term solutions.

COVID-19 has exposed some "uncomfortable truths" about Canadian society, including how we care for seniors, he said.

"We've seen heartbreaking tragedies in long-term care facilities and nursing homes right across the country. Overworked staff. Understaffed residences. Grieving families. There are serious, underlying challenges facing these facilities. And in the coming months, the federal government will be there to help the provinces find lasting solutions," he said.

The novel coronavirus has spread quickly through many long-term care facilities. About 80 per cent of all COVID-19 related deaths have taken place in those facilities.

Halifax senior Joan McDougall called the situation "heartbreaking" and said it makes her more determined than ever to keep living independently for as long as possible.

"I hope I can put that decision off as long as I can," she told the CBC's Rosemary Barton.

As for today's announcement, McDougall said "every little bit counts" when someone is on a fixed income, but she hopes the government comes through with other measures to help seniors.

With instability in the markets, she said she would welcome any measures to help protect investments without penalties.

"With that instability that we're seeing now, that's what causes me the stress and I'm hoping that will be addressed to some extent," she said.

$20M to help counter isolation

The government is also investing another $20 million on the New Horizons for Seniors Program, which funds various community projects for seniors. Schulte said that money will help to mitigate the impacts of isolation with things like virtual exercise programs and tablet laptops.

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos said the measures announced today will not require parliamentary authority and the supports are expected to flow within weeks.

Conservative seniors critic Alice Wong accused the government of "letting our seniors down" during the pandemic, saying the help is arriving late.

 "We have heard that Canadians are looking for penalty-free access to their savings during this crisis. Conservatives put forward constructive proposals to help, including allowing Canadians to make a special one-time tax-free withdrawal from their RRSPs and waiving mandatory RRIF withdrawal," she said in a statement.

 "Conservatives will continue to help Canadians who are falling through the cracks."

NDP seniors critic Scott Duvall said he is "largely disappointed" with the emergency aid plan for seniors.

"Providing a one-time payment indicates the government has decided the pandemic will only last for a month. How are seniors going to meet their increased costs in the following months?" he said in a statement.

"The government should help seniors with an ongoing increase in their OAS and GIS. We are happy the government listened to us in ensuring that no one is cut off GIS come July. Allowing GIS recipients until October 1 to file their taxes will certainly help seniors who are struggling right now."

Marissa Lennox, chief policy officer at the seniors advocacy group CARP, said in addition to added grocery and prescription costs, seniors also are seeing free or discounted community services — such as laundry services, meals at community centres and volunteer tax preparation — dry up because of the global pandemic.

She welcomed today's announcement but urged the government to do more to address the retirement security crisis caused by COVID-19.

"The one-time tax-free payments of $300 and $200 for those who qualify for OAS and GIS, respectively, will serve to support immediate needs around grocery delivery and additional prescription medication costs, but are not solutions for beyond the short term. It's unclear how long this will last," she said.

Lennox said many seniors also have seen their retirement savings shrink because of a drop in the stock market.

CARP had asked the federal government to waive mandatory registered retirement income fund (RRIF) withdrawals in 2020. CARP says the mandatory withdrawals increase the tax liability for the year as seniors struggle with added costs related to the pandemic.

"Anything that is withdrawn from a RRIF is fully taxable, and in this unpredictable time, seniors are looking to maximize their cash, reduce their tax liability and maximize their flexibility in arranging their affairs," Lennox said.

CARP also has urged the government to eliminate withholding tax on RRSP withdrawals for the 2020 tax year and allow two years to repay taxes owed.

The group is asking the government to follow through on an election promise to increase Old Age Security (OAS) and Canada Pension Plan (CPP) payments.

During the 2019 campaign, Trudeau said a re-elected government would provide a 10 per cent boost to OAS at age 75 and a 25 per cent increase to the Canada Pension Plan for widows or widowers.

At the time, the Liberal Party said the OAS increase would give Canadians aged 75 and older an extra $729 each year and lift 20,000 seniors out of poverty, while widows or widowers would receive up to $2,080 in additional benefits every year with the increased survivor's benefit under the CPP and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP).

Those changes were to take effect in July, 2020.

Asked about those promised benefits today, Duclos said Tuesday's announcement is meant to provide "quick, solid support" for seniors during the health crisis, and that the government will also deal with financial security for seniors more generally.

Schulte's spokesperson Scott Bardsley said the government has taken steps to support all seniors – especially those who are most financially vulnerable – and that it has more than doubled the financial assistance promised in the election platform ($3.8 billion, instead of $1.56 billion.)

"While the government remains committed to implementing the policies in our platform, at this time we are focused on managing the COVID-19 public health crisis," he said.

 

Unifor lobbies FCA to build midsize Dakota truck in Ontario

Automotive News
Greg Layson
May 8, 2020

Unifor is lobbying Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to build in Windsor, Ont., a vehicle the automaker hasn’t even confirmed, yet.

In an early-morning Facebook post Thursday, Unifor Local 444, which represents about 5,000 workers at FCA’s minivan plant, called on the automaker to build a midsize pickup at the factory.

Multiple U.S. media outlets say the company filed a trademark application for the name "Dakota," related to "parts for vehicles, namely, automotive exterior decorative trim," according to a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office posting.

Ram dropped the midsize pickup in 2011 after a 25-year run.

“To be clear, Ram has *not officially announced its intention to launch a new Dakota just yet. However, while FCA *may have applied for a Dakota trademark to protect itself from others using the name, it does signal that the company may actually use the name in the coming years,” Unifor Local 444 posted on its Facebook page Thursday at about 1 a.m. ET. “If you want it built right, build it Windsor! It’s what we do!!”

FCA Canada wasn't immediately available for comment.

Unifor’s post comes just months before the union and automaker are scheduled to engage in contract talks, beginning in the fall.

FCA intends to cut one of three shifts at the plant, which currently builds the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Pacifica and Chrysler Voyager, another badge resurrected by Chrysler.

Ford and General Motors have both brought midsize trucks — the Ranger and Canyon, respectively — back from the dead.

Unifor has made it clear new product is priority No. 1 come bargaining.

FCA CEO Mike Manley said a year ago that the Ram team is "focused on solving a metric ton midsize truck solution for us because it's a big part of the portfolio and growth we want to achieve."

At that time, it sounded as if the decision was coming down to how best to execute a platform for the midsize Ram pickup.

"Being able to find a cost-effective platform in a region where we can build it with low cost and it still being applicable in the market is what they're struggling with at the moment," Manley said. "I want that problem solved, frankly, because it's a clear hole in our portfolio. It will not be filled by Gladiator because Gladiator is a very, very different mission. Trust me, they're focused on it. We need to get it fixed soon."

However, suppliers told Automotive News last year that the midsize Ram pickup would be built in Toledo, Ohio, at the same plant where the Jeep Gladiator is produced. A release timeline is still uncertain. Automotive News previously forecasted the vehicle would be “new in 2022” while Motor Trend, in a story this week, said a new Dakota could arrive as early as the 2021 model year.

 

GM Canada to resume
engine production
May 11 in Ontario

Automotive Canada
John Irwin
May 7, 2020

A portion of General Motors Canada’s transmission plant in St. Catharines, Ont., will come back online on May 11, with most of the rest of its North American manufacturing operations resuming the week of on May 18, the automaker said today.

In a statement, GM Canada said “a portion” of its HFV6 engine line would resume on May 11. The 3.6-litre HFV6 engines power the Chevrolet Impala sedan, Chevrolet Colorado pickup, Buick Enclave crossover and GMC Terrain crossover, according to the automaker’s website.

The rest of the St. Catharines plant, as well as the automaker’s CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., where the Chevrolet Equinox is assembled, and Oshawa, Ont., stamping operation will “come back gradually in the weeks that follow,” GM Canada said. It was not immediately clear if they would resume the week of May 18, though the GM in Detroit said it planned to resume production at a majority of its North American plants then.

“Based on conversations and collaboration with unions and government officials, GM is targeting to restart the majority of manufacturing operations the week of May 18in the U.S. and Canada under extensive safety measures,” GM Canada said in a statement. “These procedures meet or exceed the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines, and are designed to keep people safe when they arrive, while they work and as they leave the facility.”

Unifor President Jerry Dias said there would be about 300 workers who begin work at St. Catharines on Monday. He said they would be “strictly volunteers” and that they would pass through “heat cameras” when entering the factory and will receive personal protective equipment.

Dias said he anticipated the CAMI plant coming back online on “more like the 25th” of May, as opposed to May 18, though he stopped short of endorsing a return to work then.

“We’ve got to make sure that our members are comfortable,” he said. “I’m not rushing into any sort of decision here.”

GM was the latest automaker to target a May 18 restart date for most of its North American assembly plants. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it was also aiming to resume production that week, though Dias told Automotive News Canada on Tuesday that Unifor was not yet convinced that FCA’s plants would be safe enough by then.

Canadian auto manufacturing has been virtually shut down since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In push for auto restart
timeline, Job One is to get
it right the first time

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
May 6, 2020

In less than two weeks, Detroit’s automakers, their suppliers and the United Auto Workers hope to begin restarting complex manufacturing operations — and they need to get it right.

A false start marred by supply interruptions or an unfortunate outbreak of COVID-19 on the plant floor could scuttle a restart before it gains momentum. That would have far-reaching implications, starting with the confidence of the men and women returning to plants after a roughly two-month hiatus.

Two organizations representing auto suppliers told Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a letter last Thursday that continued delays in an industry restart would "pose increasing liquidity issues for suppliers and jeopardize long-term capital investment and employment for Michigan," according to the Original Equipment Suppliers Association and the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association.

One risk: Suppliers could "look to move products and employment to a location allowing them to support their global customer base. The future of our workers, our industry, and our state depends on the industry’s collective ability to ramp up vehicle and parts production in a safe and effective manner. It is time to establish a path forward for all."

Translation: The industry needs a timetable for restarting, governor, and it needs it now. Suppliers say they should restart component production five days before automakers to ensure timely delivery of parts and subsystems to assembly plants, meaning supplier production under comprehensive COVID-19 workplace protocols could begin as early as next Monday.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are eyeing Monday, May 18, to begin the process of restarting operations. They plan to slowly ramp up production starting with single shifts, as rank-and-file members adopt new hygiene standards and workplace practices intended to keep the COVID-19 pandemic outside.  

The complexity is mind-boggling. Demonstrating the plants can be operated safely amid COVID-19 should help build the confidence of both hourly employees and management, as well as investors hungry for clues that major players in key sectors like the auto industry can adapt to a new normal.

Many of the proposed safety protocols already are being used — by GM and Ford plants in China, by FCA plants in Italy, by GM and Ford components operations in Michigan and Indiana producing masks, face shields and ventilators with paid volunteers drawn from the ranks of temporarily idled UAW members.

The prevailing sense is a sort of, "We know how to do this." That's because, to a limited extent, they already are ... with union labor in existing facilities. But large-scale production awaits in a state ranked among the top three or four in both total cases and total deaths attributed to the virus. Quelling uneasiness over such facts is why the automakers are producing such detailed safety protocols and sharing them with their employees, the public and the news media.

"During this time of unprecedented global crisis, we know that what people want most is answers, especially when it comes to returning to work," GM CEO Mary Barra and Jim Glynn, vice president of global workplace safety, wrote in the introduction to the automaker's "Returning to Work with Confidence" COVID-19 playbook. The goal is to provide "assurance that robust protocols are being implemented so they can return to work with confidence."

Intricate, often just-in-time supply chains crossing state and international borders must reckon with varying public-health orders in states and at least three countries — Canada, Mexico and the United States. And no single U.S. state boasts more vehicle production than Michigan, also one of the states hit hardest by both reported infections and deaths.

Restarting vehicle and parts production is a critical precondition to reviving the state's economy, to restoring sagging tax revenue, to easing pressure on the over-burdened unemployment insurance system, to enabling dealers and automakers to test market demand with costly incentives and longer-term financing with essentially zero borrowing costs.

Moving ahead with a transparent schedule is critical, and getting it right is as much good politics as it is good business. With the help of the UAW, Detroit's automakers leveraged their engineering and manufacturing heft to design and build medical supplies — now they need a chance to show they can adapt their manufacturing for the age of COVID-19. 

 

Ford COO spends almost entire
salary buying $1 million in stock

Keith Naughton
Bloomberg
May 5, 2020

Ford Motor Co. Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley spent the equivalent of almost his entire 2019 salary to purchase $1 million of stock in a show of confidence in the automaker’s recovery prospects.

Farley, 57, earned $1.1 million in salary as part of a compensation package that totaled $8.36 million last year when he was president of Ford’s new business, technology and strategy. He was promoted to COO on March 1 in a management shakeup that included the abrupt departure of his chief rival, Joe Hinrichs.

Farley purchased 194,950 shares at an average price of $5.13 on April 30, according to regulatory filing Monday. The transaction increased his direct share ownership by 31% to 828,922. The stock is down 47% this year.

The carmaker has made clear that Farley is heir apparent to Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett, 65, who has struggled to institute a sweeping $11 billion reorganization. Before the coronavirus closed Ford’s factories, Farley pledged to accelerate a turnaround at a company that has seen profits decline for three consecutive years.

“Everyone at Ford knows the situation we’re in,” Farley said February 26 at a Wolfe Research conference in New York. “I can see it on the faces of my colleagues and it takes me back to about 10 years ago. I’ve seen that look before.”

Farley’s challenges have only grown since. With North American factories shut since mid-March – and no restart dates scheduled – Ford is forecasting a $5 billion loss in the second quarter, following a $2 billion operating deficit in the first three months of the year. It burned through $8 billion in the first quarter, suspended its dividend, had its credit cut to junk and sold $8 billion in junk bonds.

Farley last week outlined how the company plans to resume production with safety protocols that include mandatory face masks, temperature checks, social distancing and closed common areas such as cafeterias. But he gave no timeline for reopening.

“We want to restart as soon as we can and do it safely,” Farley told reporters. “We’ve gone through so many things as a company for over 100 years, but this is really unprecedented.”

 

Ontario lays out safety
guidelines for auto industry

Greg Layson
Canada Automotive
May 4, 2020

The government of Ontario has issued the province’s auto sales and manufacturing industries safety guidelines intended to keep workers healthy as the economy gradually reopens. 

The sectors were two of several that were issued guidelines Thursday. The sector-specific guidelines contain recommendations and tips for employers on how to keep workers safe on the job. 

Some of the suggestions the province makes for auto retailers include:

  • Having all employees and visitors wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, before entering the workplace, after contact with others, or with surfaces others have touched;
  • Including handwashing before breaks and at shift changes;
  • Sanitizing the workplace thoroughly and often, especially frequently touched surfaces;
  • Identifying all activities where people may come into contact with others, and employing ways to minimize contact and maintain physical distance;
  • Keeping visitors and staff a safe distance apart by using floor markings, installing barriers and partitions, and changing the work layout where possible to increase physical distance;
  • Rescheduling unnecessary visits by supply chain partners, vendors, service technicians, or others;
  • Introducing more fresh air by increasing air intake and opening windows and bay doors; 
  • Avoiding central recirculation where possible, and;
  • Screening workers regularly for health issues.

The province says dealers should consider issuing or requiring personal protective equipment (PPE) “as a last resort.”

“PPE is effective only if appropriate to the situation and people wear it correctly,” the province says on its website. “Ensure PPE training includes the fit, use, care, putting on and taking off, maintenance, cleaning and limitations of the PPE.”

Premier Doug Ford didn’t give the green light for businesses to open immediately, which means showrooms will remain closed and, despite the protest from dealers, test drives will be disallowed for the time being. The province says “the guidelines are not an indication of which workplaces will be opening.”

Ford said the province is still waiting to see two-to-four weeks of steady decline in the number of COVID-19 deaths and cases before non-essential businesses, such as dealerships, can open.

“Today, we are on the path to reopening the economy. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Ford said during his daily news conference at Queen’s Park. “We’re telling our businesses how to be ready when we get that green light. We can’t throw out the guidelines and expect people to open up overnight. I just want people to be prepared.

“I know how much people want to get back to work. I know how much we all want to get back to normal. I feel your frustration.”

Some of the suggestions the province makes for manufacturers include:

  • Adding floor markings and barriers to manage traffic flow and physical distancing;
  • Staggering start times, shifts, breaks, and lunch times;
  • Installing barriers, including plexiglass, where practical;
  • Having all employees and visitors wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before entering the workplace and after contact with surfaces others have touched;
  • Including hand-washing before breaks and at shift changes;
  • Enforcing rigorous use of site sanitation protocols such as use of foot wear cleaning (for example, boot buddies/boot sanitizing trays);
  • Introducing more fresh air by increasing the ventilation system’s air intake or opening doors and windows. Avoid central recirculation where possible, and;
  • Rescheduling any unnecessary visits to the workplace by supply chain partners, vendors or others who don’t need to be there now.

Posters for both employers and workers also offer advice on preventative actions, including physical distancing and workplace sanitation. Employers are encouraged to download the posters to print and post in the workplace.

“I am laser-focused on opening things up as quickly as possible,” Ford said.

Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton also said Thursday that province has hired 58 new labour inspectors, some of whom will assist in communicating the new safety guidelines. Others will enforce physical distancing recommendations and close non-essential businesses that are open. All the inspectors have the power to issue $750 fines to noncompliant businesses.

 

Ford signals restart of auto
production, as soon as COVID-19
stay-at-home orders lifted

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
May 1, 2020

Dearborn – Ford Motor Co. on Thursday signaled it is ready to restart auto production in North America, just as soon as governments battling the COVID-19 pandemic give the go-ahead.

The automaker detailed health and safety protocols modeled on practices already being used at plants in China, as well as U.S. plants making medical supplies, that the Blue Oval will implement at its North American facilities as soon as stay-at-home orders are lifted and plant employees return to work.

"We've been working intently on how to restart our operations and safely bring back our employees and we're ready," Jim Farley, Ford's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "We have gone through and trialed these processes. We're abiding by our first principles, and we are working with our union and government partners to restart."

The protocols include:

  • Before coming to work each day, employees must self-certify their health via an online form.
  • No-touch temperature scans will take place upon arrival. Anyone with a raised temperature won't be allowed to enter, and will be instructed to visit a doctor to be cleared.
  • Every worker will be required to wear a face mask. Ford will provide its employees with kits containing masks and other items such as disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.
  • Safety glasses or face shields are required for employees whose jobs don't allow them to maintain the recommended six feet of physical distancing.
  • Facilities will be cleaned more frequently.
  • Hand sanitation stations will be installed throughout facilities.
  • All employees will receive a playbook detailing health and safety measures.

The automaker also will supply personal protective equipment to Ford dealerships.

When General Motors Co. employees head back to work, according to a guide for site leaders the automaker released April 25, they will be asked if they’ve traveled internationally in the last 14 days, have come in contact with a COVID-19 patient in that time, and if they’ve felt sick to gauge their potential risk of having the disease.

Employees who answer yes will be sent to see the medical staff. Employees will also have their temperatures checked upon arrival. They will be provided masks and safety glasses before entry.

Common areas, including entry/exit points and restrooms, will be cleaned three to four times per shift and between shifts. Employees will be given time before each shift to clean their workstations. GM will provide hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes at multiple sanitization stations throughout its work sites.

There will be numerous markings throughout facilities to help maintain six feet of distance. There will be staggered start/stop times and lunch breaks to help prevent congestion in high-traffic areas.

Since it’s possible for high-velocity airstreams to move airborne droplets around if someone is infected and they cough or sneeze, GM is evaluating ventilation systems in all locations to manage and direct airflow.

Meanwhile, Ford officials did not provide a restart date for North American production, saying one has yet to be determined. But the timing likely will be dependent on when Michigan's stay-at-home order is lifted, because so many of Ford's suppliers for North America are based in Michigan.

Right now, the order is slated to end May 15, and industry sources familiar with the restart planning have told The Detroit News in recent days that automakers, suppliers and government officials are eyeing Monday, May 18, to restart production — though that could be postponed to better ensure production successfully resumes.

Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV halted North American auto production at the end of March to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The shutdown has dealt brutal blows to their bottom lines. Just this week, Ford reported a $2 billion net loss in the first quarter, and said it expects a $5 billion adjusted pretax earnings loss this quarter.

Ford's U.S. facilities will all come back online at once, rather than bringing some plants back before others, Farley said on a conference call: "The reality of our industrial system in the U.S. is it's completely intertwined. In the U.S., we've looked at it as a complete ecosystem, and we have to bring up the system all at once."

The automaker will not be able to make COVID-19 testing available to its entire workforce, officials said. However, the automaker has agreements in place with local hospitals and clinics to test employees who are experiencing symptoms of the disease or who believe they have been exposed to it.

"We will not have a reliable and scaleable testing solution for several weeks, and it may even be months, (but) this is a key priority for us," said Kiersten Robinson, Ford's chief human resources officer. "Hopefully in the coming weeks or months, that will be part of our protocol."

In southeast Michigan, the automaker has such an agreement with Beaumont Health.

United Auto Workers President Rory Gamble previously cited inadequate testing as a key reason why he opposed restarting auto production in early May, a timeline the Detroit Three abandoned after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended Michigan's statewide shutdown to May 15.

In a statement Thursday, Gamble said the UAW understands "the availability and accuracy of tests are fluid." The union wants to "employ as much testing as is possible at the current time" and for Ford to "commit to full testing as soon as it is available."

"We are also strongly advocating self-reporting and testing for those exposed to the virus or exhibiting symptoms at a minimum," he added, "and a stringent adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization guidelines."

Gerald Johnson, head of global manufacturing for GM, previously told The News that testing the automaker's entire workforce would be "impractical." Instead, GM is working with testing labs and will administer test samples to employees who meet certain criteria.

“What we will do is identify people who are symptomatic or who have confirmed that they have been in contact with someone who is a confirmed case," he said. "We will have enough testing capacity to test them and get them feedback in 48 hours or less."

Changes are also being made within Ford facilities. Additional time will be scheduled between shifts to limit interaction between employees and to allow time for cleaning. Work spaces have been modified to allow physical distancing. Communal areas such as cafeterias and meeting rooms will be closed.

Ford's decision on when and how to return to work will be based on several key criteria, including direction from governments and data and analytics on COVID-19 cases. The automaker is tracking virus data, such as confirmed cases and death rates, on a daily basis, in some cases down to the level of city-specific numbers.

The return to work will be a "progressive and gradual ramp-up," Robinson said. For example, plants likely will begin operations with only a single shift. And, the company is not yet bringing back to work spaces the approximately 125,000 non-plant employees who have been working remotely until late June or early July.

In addition to input from the UAW and its in-house data and analytics team, the automaker is receiving guidance on its return-to-work strategy from outside medical experts. "Science and data are driving Ford's return to work, including close collaboration with experts in the field of infectious disease and epidemiology, to set safety standards we are confident will protect employees as they return to work," said Dr. Walter Talamonti, Ford's corporate medical director.

North American plants will not operate at full capacity for at least several weeks, if not months. In China, for example, where plants have been up and running for more than two months, facilities are at about 90% capacity, officials said.

One thing that will not change is line speeds, because it would be nearly impossible to do that, said Gary Johnson, Ford's chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer:  "The line speeds will stay the same ... but there may be certain areas where we have spaces or gaps in the schedule."

Ford is closely communicating with its supplier base to ensure its suppliers are ready to return to production when the automaker does. The company has surveyed more than 1,500 suppliers to gauge their readiness.

And meanwhile, the automaker is gearing up to bring its European facilities back online May 4. In North America, a "small number" of employees went back to work this week "to begin installing equipment and putting in place new safety protocols," the company said in a release.

"With our safety protocols in place with those core conditions," Robinson said, "when governments are ready, we're ready."

 

Talk turns negative on Ford,
naturally, as COVID-19
headwinds intensify

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
April 30, 2020

Now that Ford Motor Co. says it expects to lose another $5 billion in the second quarter courtesy of the economic shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, talk naturally turns cataclysmic for the Dearborn automaker — 'cuz that’s how we roll in this town when things get tough.

Ford apparently should be for sale, says Forbes. It must be, given its present predicament, caught between a once-in-century contagion, weak international markets and a years-long restructuring still unspooling amid the economic shock.

Or it’s ripe for a merger, a leading Wall Street analyst recently told Automotive News, presumably with the Germans at Volkswagen AG who, well, don’t have a knack for playing well with others. Never mind that such deals (can you say, "DaimlerChrysler"?) struggle to muster the staying power of two product cycles, much less prove exemplars of strategic brilliance.

And Ford's renovation of the Michigan Central Depot in Corktown? It's doomed, despite a ranking source insisting it's not, just barely after it started. Meaning the gap-toothed hulk looming over the western edge of downtown will remain a testament to overreach that failed to account for the ravages of the coronavirus and relentless global competition.

That’s all one way to look at this dire economic moment. But the guy whose name is on the building, whose great-grandfather founded the automaker nearly 117 years ago in Detroit, offered a different take when asked in an April 16 “global team huddle” about the possibility of Ford agreeing to a merger with a global rival:

“No,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford said, according to two sources who participated in the call. “As a matter of fact, hell no.”

For anyone who knows Bill Ford, or has spent more than a few minutes listening to him riff on the automaker, his family's deep connection to it, or the commitment of the many employees to a company often called "Ford's," that reaction is totally, unequivocally unsurprising.

That's not to say Detroit's No. 2 automaker doesn't face some enormous strategic challenges. It does. Its European operations, seemingly in continual restructuring mode, got whacked hard by COVID-19 even as it struggled to find its footing. Its business in China, also slammed by the virus, continues to seek stability after misjudging the domestic market there by producing vehicles consumers didn't much want.

And South America — no one from this continent seems capable of making much money there, even in the best of times. That's why pressure for Ford to exit chronically underperforming markets is likely to intensify amid the pandemic swoon. But surrender? I wouldn't bet on it, not yet.

There are no guarantees. Ford's financial resources are not bottomless; it's competitive position is not unassailable, especially outside the fat profit centers of full-size pickups and SUVs; and its challenges managing the interdependent traditional business and the Auto 2.0 spaces of mobility, autonomy and electrification are every bit as difficult as those its rivals face.

Ford and crosstown rival General Motors Co. are girding for their biggest battles since their parallel fights for survival during the Great Recession a dozen years ago. They're drawing down credit lines to raise billions in cash, suspending dividends (never popular among the Ford family diaspora), and the Blue Oval raised even more cash by issuing $8 billion in new debt.

Defensive? Sure. Surrender? No. Predicting the subjugation of a company like Ford to some foreign rival angling for control of arguably the most profitable vehicle program on the planet — the F-Series pickup lines — would be the triumph of the very German schadenfreude over the economic interests of Detroit, Michigan and industrial America.

"Now that Ford has effectively secured its balance sheet to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and market crisis, the focus becomes restarting/ramping production, right-sizing cost structure, and managing product portfolio," Bank of America wrote in a note analyzing Ford's first-quarter financials.

"We believe the unprecedented market pressure has likely catalyzed Ford’s planned restructuring and cost reduction efforts, while a renewed focus on higher mix and franchise product coming out of the sales/production trough will help support price and margin."

Deutsche Bank is less optimistic: "Ford’s steep losses and cash use since the beginning of the Covid-crisis, which management expects to get dramatically worse in Q2, are a sobering reminder of the main reasons we are staying on the sidelines of U.S. automakers' stocks: large fixed costs and considerable working capital unwind are resulting in eye-popping cash burn in the current production shutdown."

There's a familiar saying in Dearborn that applies here. Paraphrased: Ford and its people do their best work when their proverbial backs are against the wall. Now, we can debate the exact confluence of events — at least one big one is beyond the Blue Oval's control — that led the Blue Oval to this particular cul-de-sac. But it's here.

Bill Ford's "hell no" doesn't speak just for him or the Ford family writ large. It evokes a spirit embedded in the employees who walked back into plants to assemble masks, face shields and ventilators to help medical professionals care for sick patients. It channels the engineers who took three weeks to do what otherwise would take a year or more, everyday folks who did their part to help flatten the curve.

It exemplifies the grit that helped the allies win World War II, helped predecessors overcome competitive challenges and the dulling pall of mediocrity, helped states suppress COVID-19. Yup, hell no.

 

Amid COVID-19 outbreak,
Ford signals $5 billion
loss for second quarter

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
April 29, 2020

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. is signaling just how costly the coronavirus pandemic is shaping up to be for global automakers, confirming it expects pretax losses to balloon at least another $5 billion in the second quarter.

The startling estimate framed the automaker's first-quarter financial results, released Tuesday, in which the Blue Oval confirmed a first-quarter net loss of $2 billion. Ford reported an adjusted pretax earnings loss of $632 million for the first three months of the year on revenue of $34 billion as it battled unprecedented headwinds from a sharp economic slowdown attributed to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The results reflect the crippling effects of the pandemic on automakers’ bottom lines, even though the ongoing North American production shutdown went into effect less than two weeks before the end of the quarter.

Results from the current quarter are sure to be even worse, Ford said, with no cars, trucks or SUVs rolling off North American assembly lines in April and Detroit automakers tentatively eyeing a mid-May restart date — roughly midway through the second quarter.

In a release, the company attributed the "significantly reduced" results to the pandemic, as it noted that "protecting people and helping society respond to the crisis became primary measures of current success alongside balance-sheet management and operational excellence."

"Ford people are keeping each other safe, limiting the spread of the virus, safeguarding health care workers and first responders, and taking care of customers," CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement. "The imagination, initiative and execution of our team is helping save lives today, and those qualities will allow Ford to emerge from this as a stronger company.”

In March, the automaker quickly shifted gears from assembling cars, trucks and SUVs to producing badly needed medical supplies. The company, along with the United Auto Workers and Ford's medical and manufacturing partners, has committed to producing hundreds of ambulances, millions of face shields, 50,000 ventilators and up to 100,000 respirators, among other products.

Ford shares closed up more than 4% Tuesday at the close of trading, ending the session at $5.38 per share. But year-to-date, shares in the Blue Oval are down more than 40% from $9.42 per share at the beginning of the year.

In the first quarter, adjusted earnings per share was negative 23 cents. In North America, the automaker's business operated at a 1.6% margin, down from 8.7% in the first quarter of 2019.

In the automaker's other global markets, the results were more dire. Profits of $346 million in North America were offset by losses in South America, Europe and China, where the businesses delivered negative margins 15.5%, 2.3% and 40.7%, respectively.

And, in another reflection of the pandemic's economic consequences, the automaker's sales dropped 12.5% in Q1. The decline was the largest of any of the Detroit Three, and was Ford's biggest quarterly decline in 11 years, according to Edmunds.com, an automotive information website.

"Last year, Ford confessed to issues with 'operational execution' and faced a significant amount of criticism over its botched Explorer launch," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights, in a pre-earnings release statement.

"2020 was supposed to be different: this should've been a promising year for the company, with exciting big-name launches such as the new Bronco and F-150. But the world has radically changed and model launches seem insignificant when compared to fighting a global pandemic."

One bright spot, she said, is that there have been "encouraging" signs about pickup truck sales, "and Ford has that in spades. Earnings will be far from ideal for the first half of the year but a strong truck business is somewhat softening the blow of a collapsed auto market."

Ford's truck sales were only down 5.4% in the first quarter from a year earlier, compared to 36% and 11% drops in car and SUV sales, respectively. And, Caldwell noted, Ford has strong trade-in loyalty, "mostly thanks to its devoted base of pickup truck owners."

On the heels of a disappointing 2019, Ford had released guidance saying it expected to post between $5.6 billion and $6.6 billion in earnings before interest and taxes in 2020. But because of the virus-induced shutdown, the automaker earlier this year withdrew all guidance for 2020. It also stopped paying dividends to shareholders.

But in Tuesday's release, Chief Financial Officer Tim Stone said while conditions remained "too ambiguous" to provide full-year guidance, he expects second-quarter adjusted pretax earnings to be a loss of more than $5 billion: "We believe we will see the largest impact of this crisis in the second quarter."

Were it not for the virus and the economic slowdown it has delivered, he added, Ford would have been on track to post adjusted pretax earnings of at least $1.4 billion.

Ford has taken several steps to preserve cash. Earlier this month, the company raised $8 billion by issuing bonds.

In March, Ford drew down more than $15 billion from two existing credit lines. Cash will be critical for automakers to weather the production shutdown and will be something analysts watch closely. On Tuesday, Stone said the automaker has enough cash to make it through the end of the year. As of Friday, Ford had $35 billion in cash and liquidity.

“Cash is king for industrial companies during a crisis, and we expect that the company’s cash burn will be the new point of focus for (Tuesday’s) release,” said David Kudla, CEO and chief investment strategist of Grand Blanc-based Mainstay Capital Management LLC, in a statement ahead of the earnings report.

In a note prior to the earnings release, J.P. Morgan estimated that Ford had a cash burn rate of approximately $4.5 billion in the first quarter: “We anticipate the bulk of the cash use to have been driven by working capital outflows as Ford began shutting down its domestic and European plants toward the back half of March. We will be looking for an update on the company’s cash position in addition to the company’s current deficit.”

Additionally, Ford is cutting costs by deferring merit-based salary increases, suspending overtime for salaried workers and freezing hiring of non-critical skill roles. And the company continues to look for new ways to reduce costs.

"We are looking at any and all expenditures that we make across our business to determine if we need to reduce them or defer them while still investing and making the right long-term choices for customers," Stone said.

"We have identified billions of dollars of opportunity thus far, and we are going to keep addressing opportunities to improve fitness and redesign the business so we come out of this more well-positioned than ever.”

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., asked in a recent "60 Minutes" interview about whether the automaker would need a government loan similar to what it received during the Great Recession, said he did not expect to ask for one.

"We think we can get through this ... but we’re in an unprecedented time, so I suppose you never say never. But that’s not our plan,” he said.

At that time in 2008, Ford posted its worst financial results in its history — a $14.6 billion loss that year. In the second quarter of 2008, Ford reported a net loss of $8.7 billion alone.

Meanwhile, the company is in the midst of an $11 billion global restructuring, an effort initiated by Hackett, who became CEO in 2017 and was tasked with implementing change at the 117-year-old company. Stone said Tuesday that restructuring remains "on track."

The automaker got off to a strong start in 2019, but results for the year took a hit due to Ford’s botched launch of its new Explorer SUV.  For 2019, the automaker reported net income of just $47 million, a 99% decline from 2018, The Detroit News previously reported.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will release its earnings May 5 and General Motors Co. will release its earnings May 6.

None of the Detroit Three has publicly committed to a restart date. FCA had planned to restart Monday, but said this week it was "re-evaluating" after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the state's stay-at-home order through May 15.

Discussions between Ford, GM, FCA and the state of Michigan are coalescing around May 18 as a possible resumption date, said one person familiar with the situation that was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

But that depends on complex coordination by automakers with suppliers, conflicting stay-at-home policies in various states and the political and public health agendas of at least three national governments: Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Ford said Tuesday it plans to restart, in phases, auto production at most of its European facilities May 4. And executives said the North American restart would model protocols to be used in Europe that already have been used in China.

In China, for example, the company developed air freight capacity to deliver parts and personal protective equipment, and used a logistics portal to manage its supply chain, said Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley: "The actions we took in China became best practice for us. What we learned in China is, you've got to make sure your suppliers are ready."

Additionally, Farley said the company is moving forward with several long-planned product launches, including the revival of the eagerly anticipated Bronco SUV. The company did not have any launch dates to announce Tuesday.

 

Ontario unveils broad outline for
reopening economy in three stages

Automotive Canada
April 28, 2020

TORONTO — Ontario says its plan to ease restrictions introduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic will happen in three stages, though the steps unveiled today contain few specifics or timelines.

Stage one in the framework published today could include opening select workplaces that can modify operations, such as providing curbside pickup or delivery; opening parks; allowing for more people at certain events such as funerals; and having hospitals resume some non-urgent surgeries.

Stage two could include opening more businesses, such as service, retail or office workplaces; opening more outdoor spaces; and allowing some larger public gatherings.

Stage three would include having all workplaces open and further relaxing rules on public gatherings — though large ones such as sports events and concerts would still be restricted.

None of the stages specifically mentions the auto industry or manufacturing.

The framework says each of the three stages will last about two to four weeks, though it does not provide any specific dates.

At the end of each period, the chief medical officer could advise staying in that stage longer, moving onto the next stage or reintroducing certain restrictions to prevent new outbreaks.

Dr. David Williams will take various factors into account for those decisions, the framework states, including seeing a consistent, two-to-four week decrease in the number of new cases and a decrease in cases that can't be traced back to a source.

Williams would also need to see fewer new hospitalizations and enough acute and critical care capacity in hospitals, including access to ventilators and a good supply of personal protective equipment.

The gradual reopening will continue until the pandemic has passed or a vaccine is available, the framework says.

Businesses that are reopening will be given guidelines by the government on how to do so safely, including hygiene and sanitation standards and physical distancing measures.

The province recently extended a state of emergency in place since mid-March to mid-May. Public gatherings of more than five people are banned and all non-essential businesses have been closed, as have child-care centres and outdoor recreational amenities.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Sunday that publicly funded schools will stay closed until at least May 31.

Ontario reported 424 new COVID-19 cases Monday and 57 new deaths.

That brings the total of cases in the province to 14,856, a 2.9 per cent increase over Sunday's total, continuing several days of falling growth rates.

Ontario's total number of cases includes 892 deaths and 8,525 resolved cases. That means more than 57 per cent of Ontario's confirmed cases are already resolved.

 

GM Canada to make millions of
masks at idled Oshawa, Ont., plant

Greg Layson
Automotive Canada
April 27, 2020

General Motors Canada says it will use its idled assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., to manufacture face masks for health-care workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The automaker says it is preparing portions of the factory to produce approximately one million masks per month. The production will be based on the model already being used at GM plants in Michigan.

“The project still requires completion of additional work with our governments and our Unifor partners and we will provide updates as we get ready to begin production,” GM Canada said in a statement Friday afternoon.

About 140 people currently work on two shifts producing surgical masks and more robust N95 masks at a pace of about 1.5 million masks a month in Michigan, Joe Mizzi, the GM manager who launched and oversees the operation, told Reuters on Friday.

GM Canada says it will have about 50 employees making masks at cost for the federal government. The masks will not be of the N95 variety.

"N95 masks represent about five per cent of the need in Canada. These masks we will make in Oshawa are for both health care workers and Canadians where there is a greater need," GM Canada spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said in an email to Automotive News Canada.

Unifor President Jerry Dias said in a statement that his members are willing to "make whatever our country needs."

“The fact that Unifor members will help GM produce as many as a million fabric masks a month, for Health Canada at cost, is an example of what we can do when we work together," Dias said.

The modern Oshawa assembly plant that produced its last vehicle on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2019, dates back to 1953 and has produced everything from the Chevrolet Bel Air to the Chevrolet Silverado. 

The plant has been reduced to a stamping operation, building parts for discontinued models. However, GM Canada says that work had not started yet. However, until the pandemic struck, it had been stamping parts for the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., where the automaker builds the Chevrolet Equinox.

The program gives the plant a lease on life, albeit one that employs just 300 or so people, instead of the 2,600 that had been assembling cars and trucks for years. Each aftermarket part produced there will be built for 10 years, according to GM, giving remaining workers a sense of stability. 

 

Unifor 'cautiously optimistic'
Canadian plants will open
in early May

John Irwin
April 24, 2020
Automotive Canada

Unifor President Jerry Dias on Thursday said he is “cautiously optimistic” that Canadian plants will be able to re-open on the early May timetable much of the industry is aiming for.

“We will give the green light at the end of the day if our local union leadership feels comfortable with that,” Dias told Automotive News Canada. “I’m going to have another call tomorrow with the heads of all of our locals at the auto plants to make sure things are still moving properly. But as of now, we haven’t heard this big outcry saying, ‘Don’t do it, it’s too early.’ We haven’t heard any of that.”

His comments come after Rory Gamble, president of the United Auto Workers in the United States, said it would be “too risky” for workers and their families if auto plants restarted in early May. Auto factories in Canada and the U.S. have been shut down since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and companies and unions in North America have been grappling in recent weeks with finding ways to safely restart production while preventing the spread of the virus.

Dias said he understands why the UAW would oppose the early May production start-up because the United States has been hit harder by the pandemic than Canada has. The U.S. has more than 861,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 46,300 deaths, the most in the world. That compares with more than 42,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths in Canada, according to Health Canada.

“The impact that we have had has been significant, but we haven’t had the types of deaths and realities that they’ve had to deal with, especially in Michigan,” said Dias, whose union represents 14,500 hourly workers at Ford, General Motors and FCA plants.

Michigan, home to Detroit and the UAW’s headquarters, has the third-highest death count and seventh-highest total case count among the 50 U.S. states, according to the New York Times. In the U.S., more than 20 workers for the Detroit automakers have died, according to a count by Automotive News.

In Canada, meanwhile, auto industry cases have been kept to “a handful,” Dias said.

“We dodged a major bullet here, for sure,” he said. “The UAW has had a hell of a lot more confirmed cases of COVID-19 and have had deaths, and we haven’t had the deaths or anywhere near the numbers.”

FCA Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said on Thursday that “a very small number” of Canadian workers have contracted the virus, but declined to disclose how many or where they work.

FCA, which has two assembly plants in Ontario, is aiming to begin restarting its U.S. and Canadian factories on May 4. Automotive News, citing a webinar FCA hosted with suppliers this month, reported on April 16 that the company planned to re-open the Brampton, Ont., plant on May 4, followed two weeks later by the Windsor, Ont., plant on May 18.

In statements earlier this week, GM Canada and Ford of Canada both declined to commit to a firm restart date, though Automotive News reported that information given to employees and suppliers indicated that Ford Motor Co. and General Motors were considering a similar time frame.

“As of now, we’re proceeding” with the proposed timelines, Dias said. “But that could change at any minute.

Dias said Unifor and the Detroit Three remain in “constant communication” about safety standards and new protocols. Automotive News Canada reported on Wednesday that protocols being discussed include mandatory temperature checks and dividers being installed between work stations that are in close proximity.

Similar discussions were taking place between the UAW and automakers in the U.S. While Gamble, the UAW president, said the union was “happy with the auto companies’ response and cooperation” on drawing up health protocols, he said it would be unwise to return to work in early May.

"At this point in time, the UAW does not believe the scientific data is conclusive that it is safe to have our members back in the workplace," Gamble said in a statement. "We have not done enough testing to really understand the threat our members face. We want to make sure the scientific data is supportive and every possible health protocols and enhanced protections are in place before UAW members walk into the workplace."

A UAW spokesman said the union has agreed to voluntary assignments for its members as long as safety protocols are in place, as has been the case during the shutdown at plants where automakers are building medical equipment and protective gear.

When asked if the union would keep workers home should the automakers reopen their plants May 4, the spokesman said: "We continue to have dialogue with the Detroit Three."

Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

 

FCA, Unifor in COVID-19 safety
talks as automaker eyes return
to production

John Irwin
Canadian Automotive
April 23, 2020

FCA Canada and Unifor are discussing implementing new safety protocols including mandatory temperature checks and dividers installed between work stations in close proximity to each other as the automaker eyes restarting U.S. and Canadian manufacturing beginning May 4, according to a local union official.

“In the end, we want to make sure that our members are well protected if they are going to go back,” said Jaspal Brar, president of Unifor Local 1285, which represents workers at the FCA assembly plant in Brampton, Ont. “We need to make sure all proper safeguards are taken and to ensure as much safety as possible.”

Brar said plans currently call for the Brampton plant, which builds the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger, to come back online as a one-shift operation to allow for production to ramp back up and to make it easier to adjust safety protocols if needed. Brampton Assembly, like FCA’s Windsor, Ont., plant, has been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an email to Automotive News Canada, FCA Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin would only say that FCA plans to “progressively restart” Canadian and American manufacturing on May 4, with its “restart cadence” being confirmed “at the appropriate time.”

The automaker was working with Unifor and government officials to “implement new procedures to certify the daily wellness of our workforce while also redesigning work stations to maintain proper social distancing and expanding the already extensive cleaning protocols at all locations,” she said.

According to Brar, measures being discussed include taking employees’ temperatures before they enter the building, workers being given personal protective equipment such as gloves and facemasks and dividers being installed between stations that require workers to be close to one another. Work stations and common areas such as eating areas and restrooms would undergo frequent deep cleaning, he said.

Brar said the discussions about the Brampton plant are taking place with the May 4 restart date in mind, though he cautioned that the date could change if it’s determined it would be unsafe to reopen then.

“It is the 4th at the moment, but it’s changed twice already in the past. If and when that comes around, then we’ll see,” Brar said. “We understand that people need to work, and so do the employers. They want to start up their businesses. But this isn’t something where we just want to rush in until people are safeguarded.”

Automotive News reported on April 16 that FCA aimed to reopen the Windsor minivan plant on May 18, two weeks after a projected start date for Brampton.

Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy, who represents workers at the Windsor plant, said in Facebook post Wednesday afternoon that he is schedule to have a conference call with company executives on Thursday evening.

The safety discussions between FCA and Unifor come as the Detroit Three automakers and the United Auto Workers union discuss how to safely re-open plants in the United States. Discussions in the U.S. have revolved around similar safety procedures as those discussed in Canada, in addition to local unions pushing for paid sick leave, according to a Reuters report.

GM, FORD

It was not immediately known what conversations between Unifor and General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have entailed, though the Canadian CEOs of all three Detroit automakers and union president Jerry Dias sit on a task force charged with implementing enhanced safety measures at their plants.

In a statement emailed to Automotive News Canada, GM Canada spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said the automaker has yet to announce a “firm date” to restart North American production and is “evaluating the situation regularly.”

“When we do resume production, we will be following safety procedures developed to support ventilator and mask production in the U.S., as well as the guidelines from the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada, including extensive screening and cleaning, along with the use of masks,” Wright said.

Lauren More, a spokeswoman for Ford of Canada, wrote in a statement that the company would continue to “assess public health conditions, government guidelines and supplier readiness to determine when the time is right to resume production in our North American plants.”

Voicemails left for Dias and other Unifor officials were not returned.

 

Ontario premier approaches auto
industry's restart with caution

Greg Layson
Canadian Automotive
April 22, 2020

Ontario Premier Doug Ford doesn’t want automakers in his province to resume production too quickly.

His province is home to seven assembly plants operated by by five automakers.

FCA, which has two factories in Ontario, plans to fire up its Brampton, Ont., plant May 4 and its Windsor, Ont., facility May 18.

Canada’s biggest parts supplier Magna International says it plans to resume North American operations on May 4.

But the premier was cautiously optimistic Monday when asked when the province might reopen for business.

“I know – I think — the automotive industry in North America, they're opening up roughly around May 4th I hear. So, let's just see each sector, how it goes,” Ford said at his daily briefing in Toronto. “I just do not want to put a date on this. I really don't, because this could bite us from the backside in about 10 seconds. 

“It could come up with a second wave again. I'm very, very concerned about fall, the flu season in fall, and we just have to keep an eye on everything. 

“There's no one, there's nothing out there, that wants to open up the economy more than I do. But…we have to hold off for a bit.”

Toyota, which has assembly plants in Woodstock, Ont., and Cambridge, Ont., is aiming to resume production May 4, said spokesman Michael Bouliane.

"Some essential work must be done to ensure our facility is functional and safe for our employees when we eventually return to production," he said in an email statement to CBC News late last week. “For this reason, some of our team leaders and maintenance staff have been asked to return to the facilities.”

Ford, General Motors and Honda haven’t said when they hope to restart their lines.

New modelling released Monday predicts there will be fewer than 20,000 COVID-19 cases during the “first wave” of the pandemic in Ontario — much less than the previous forecast of 80,000 — and with a peak earlier than the previously anticipated one of May.

The restrictions that have closed schools and non-essential businesses, banned public gatherings and encouraged people to stay home as much as possible have led to the better outcome, government officials said.

Ford said Ontario has avoided the worst-case scenario, but the province isn't out of the woods yet.

“Today we saw new modelling that shows there's some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “The numbers clearly show that the steps we have taken as a province are working and they're working because of you.”

Ivana Yelich , Ford’s press secretary, told Automotive News Canada on Monday that “it’s too early to say” when the province’s auto sector will return to work.

“It’s important we remain vigilant to avoid additional surges or waves,” Yelich said. “Our focus is on ensuring Ontarians follow the public health measures in place. Ontarians have done a good job so far and that evidence will be clear in today’s data. 

“Our health experts are looking at how measures can be scaled back and reduced post-peak. That is part of our forward planning.

“But as always, we will continue to rely on our Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Williams. His advice and guidance, along with our Command Table are going to be critical in getting this right.”

Officials from Unifor and the Detroit Three automakers have formed a task force focusing on implementing measures designed to ensure the health and safety of autoworkers once plants re-open.

Yelich said businesses should put in place protocols for physical distancing and regular hand-washing in order to protect the health and safety of employees and the general public. Some recommendations for employers to keep workplaces safe during the COVID-19 outbreak include:

  • Allowing employees to work from home if possible.
  • Staggering staff breaks at different times to avoid large groups.
  • Ensuring all high-touch tools and surfaces are cleaned regularly.
  • Reducing the number of passengers in elevators, stairwells, hoists, trailers and other tight spaces.
  • Supporting physical distancing where possible (for example, work two meters apart).
  • Provide a means for hand hygiene such as soap and water to ensure workers can keep hands clean.
  • Ensuring workers are using any required personal protective equipment appropriately.

South of the border, the Detroit Three automakers and the United Auto Workers union are in talks about safely restarting U.S. production halted by the coronavirus pandemic, but local union leaders said on Monday any workers who feel sick must be allowed to self quarantine without losing pay.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

 

Composer sues Ford for copyright
infringement, claims automaker
used songs without OK

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
April 21, 2020

On dozens of occasions, Ford Motor Co. illicitly used songs from a digital music catalog owned by a prominent composer, according to a federal lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday on behalf of Freeplay Music LLC, alleges that the Dearborn automaker used 54 songs to which FPM owns the copyright, in at least 74 promotional and video advertisements over the course of several years — without paying FPM for the right to use them.

"This is an action for willful copyright infringement by a multibillion dollar company too cheap to secure licensing before commercially using registered works owned by another company," says the lawsuit filed by Howard Hertz and Richard Busch on behalf of FPM.

Arguing it has lost profits and licensing fees, FPM is seeking the maximum amount of damages allowed for willful copyright infringement under the Copyright Act: $150,000 per infringement, an amount the plaintiff deems necessary because anything less "would not get the attention of a multibillion dollar corporation that continues to commit widespread infringement."

In total, the plaintiff estimates damages could total at least $8.1 million. Through a spokeswoman, Ford declined to comment on pending litigation.

New York-based FPM, an online library of more than 50,000 works, is owned by Scott Schreer, described in the filing as "one of America's most prolific and performed TV composers and producers." Among numerous other credits, Schreer wrote the NFL on Fox theme song.

Hertz, whose Hertz Schram PC firm is based in Bloomfield Hills, is a well-known entertainment lawyer who over several decades has represented many high-profile clients, including record labels, songwriters, and recording artists. Busch, a principal at King & Ballow Entertainment Law in Nashville, has litigated a number of copyright infringement cases, including one in which he successfully represented Marvin Gaye's estate against the creators of the song "Blurred Lines."

FPM tracked down instances of copyright infringement using Schreer's software platform, TuneSat, which found Ford had used FPM's copyrighted works in at least 74 different videos and ads, according to the filing. TuneSat notified Ford of its unauthorized use of FPM's work starting in April 2017, at which point Ford "was unable to provide proof of licensing." FPM claims Ford continued to use songs without permission, until as recently as Thursday.

"Finding these infringements is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. (Ford) apparently counted on the difficulty of being caught in deciding to engage in this massive willful copyright infringement," attorneys wrote.

Further, the filing states that FPM's website clearly spells out the requirement to obtain licensing, as well as the fees it charges.

FPM has requested a jury trial. Additionally, FPM is seeking an award of attorneys' fees and costs, interest, and a permanent injunction "prohibiting future infringement, reproduction, distribution, sale, public performance, other use, or exploitation of FPM's registered works."

 

Ford warns of US$2 billion
quarterly loss as it seeks more cash

Reuters
April 20, 2020

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co.  projected a first-quarter net loss of $2 billion (all figures USD) and said it would tap debt markets to shore up cash reserves as the coronavirus outbreak halted production and curbed vehicles sales.

The automaker has already suspended its dividend and drawn down more than $15 billion to ride out the damage to its business from the pandemic.

In a regulatory filing Friday, Ford also said it had filed for a debt offering but did not disclose the amount. The company had about $30 billion in cash on its balance sheet as of April 9.

The disclosures provide a more-complete picture of what Ford will report on April 28, when first-quarter financials will be released. On Monday, the company said it expects to post a pretax loss of about $600 million for the quarter.

"We believe we have sufficient cash today to get us through at least the end of the third quarter with no incremental vehicle production and wholesales or financing actions," CFO Tim Stone said then.

Ford's U.S. vehicle sales fell 12 per cent in the first quarter, with most of the damage coming in late March as the pandemic swept across the U.S.

In response, Ford joined other automakers in shuttering plants in North America and Europe.

The U.S. market, with its highly profitable pickup truck and SUV segments, generates the overwhelming majority of Ford’s profits.

Ford shares rose 4.7 per cent to $5.18 in midday trading on Wall Street.

 

Ford, GE Healthcare sign federal
contract to build 50,000 ventilators

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
April 17, 2020

Ford Motor Co. and partner GE Healthcare this week inked a $336 million contract with the federal government to build 50,000 ventilators by July 13, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday.

The deal is the latest in a series of federal contracts, including one with General Motors Co. announced last week, that fall under the Defense Production Act. President Donald Trump on April 2 instructed HHS Secretary Alex Azar to invoke the act to accelerate the production of the devices needed for the care of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

"HHS's use of the DPA at the direction of President Trump is helping get critical materials into the hands of American companies like GE to initiate and scale up ventilator production," Azar said in a statement Thursday, noting the president's March 27 vow that the U.S. would produce 100,000 new ventilators by early July.

HHS now has contracts in place to produce more than 117,000 ventilators by then, and expects more than 187,000 to be built by the end of the year. Under current contracts, HHS expects 41,000 ventilators will be available by the end of May.

"These companies and their incredibly dedicated workers will ensure that our country can provide our hospitals and healthcare providers with the ventilators needed to sustain and save lives during this pandemic," Azar said. "The thousands of ventilators delivered to the Strategic National Stockpile starting this month, continuing through the spring and summer, will mean we have more capacity to respond to the pandemic as it evolves."

Even before the contract was finalized, Ford and GE had publicly committed to building 50,000 ventilators. The ventilator they will build is a $7,000 device designed by Florida-based Airon Corp. Production is slated to start next week at Ford's Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti.

"We appreciate the federal government's action and will continue to work closely with the administration to meet the immediate needs of coronavirus patients," Ford said in a statement.

General Motors this week began production on ventilators at its Kokomo Operations in Indiana. In partnership with Washington-based ventilator manufacturer Ventec Life Systems, GM is set to produce 30,000 ventilators by the end of August under a $489.4 million contract with HHS, The Detroit News reported. The automaker will deliver 6,132 of them by June 1.

Ventilator production is just one way U.S. automakers, which have shut down auto production to help stop the spread of COVID-19, have stepped up to produce medical equipment and personal protective gear that is urgently needed by hospitals and workers on the front lines of the pandemic. Earlier this week, for example, Ford announced new initiatives to boost production of respirators, face masks, gowns and COVID-19 test kits.

As of Thursday, the respiratory disease that has hit the Metro Detroit area particularly hard, was confirmed to have infected more than 2 million people and killed nearly 140,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

 

Magna preparing for N.A.
return to work May 4

BEN KLAYMAN
Reuters
April 16, 2020

Canadian auto supplier Magna International Inc. is planning for a return to production in North America on May 4, with a subsequent gradual increase in output as the industry recovers from the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a top executive said on Wednesday.

Most U.S. states have stay-at-home orders in place through the end of April, but many automakers and suppliers hope evidence of an easing in the COVID-19 infection rate will lead to a reopening of factories. President Donald Trump has expressed a desire to get Americans back to work soon.

"As we stand today, we have everything in place as if the plants are coming back on May 4," Magna President Swamy Kotagiri said in a telephone interview.

The auto industry has already reopened in China, where Magna has some plants back at 80 per cent capacity, and is just now restarting operations in Europe. In the U.S., General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and other companies are waiting for the go-ahead from various governors but are aiming for an early May restart.

Kotagiri said there is "no written playbook" for the pandemic and understands production could be further delayed, but he is ready if that happens. What would worry him more would be restarting and then having to stop again.

"The most important thing is, how can we as an industry coordinate and minimize the start-stops?" he said.

"If someone comes and says, 'It's not May 4, it's May 10.' That's OK. It's easy to deal with," said Kotagiri, who was promoted to president in January. "But if somebody comes and says to start on the 4th and we stop again on the 12th, that's a bigger problem."

Magna, which makes parts such as body structures, chassis and powertrain for customers including Ford and Volkswagen, has about 70 employees globally recovering from COVID-19 and has seen three in North America die from the virus.

Last month, Magna withdrew its financial outlook, citing the pandemic, but said its liquidity was strong. After increasing a revolving credit facility on Tuesday, Magna has US$1 billion in cash and US$3.7 billion in available credit lines.

As for the restart, Magna is planning heavily for it, including drawing up an almost 60-page "Smart Start Playbook" to help with the transition, talking about best practices, and details like disinfecting guidelines, the use of personal protective equipment like masks and face shields, as well as treating and tracing infected employees.

 

Ford considers production
restart, expects $600
million Q1 earnings loss

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
April 15, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is “considering a scenario” to restart its manufacturing plants as early as next month even as it expects to post a $600 million adjusted earnings loss for the first quarter. First-quarter financial results are set to be released April 28.

The Dearborn automaker says it has enough cash on hand to  make it through at least the third quarter — even without restarting production — but said it is considering “additional financing actions” to shore up its balance sheet. Along with General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, Ford suspended production March 19 at its plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“We continue to opportunistically assess all funding options to further strengthen our balance sheet and increase liquidity to optimize our financial flexibility,” Tim Stone, Ford’s chief financial officer, said in a statement. “We also are identifying additional operation actions to enhance our cash position.”

The grim earnings forecast was not unexpected. "We know the quarter is going to be dreadful for everyone," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Cox Automotive. "[Ford] putting out preliminary results is probably a smart idea, [because it] stops the speculation."

As of April 9, Ford had about $30 billion in cash on its balance sheet, including $15.4 billion borrowed in March against two of its existing credit lines. Also in March, the automaker suspended its regular quarterly dividend and stock buybacks, a move aimed at preserving cash. It also withdrew all guidance for its 2020 financial performance.

When production does restart, even though changes in consumer behavior may be unknown, it would make sense for Ford to focus on producing reliable moneymakers, such as pick-up trucks and commercial vans, to quickly raise much-needed cash, Krebs said.

Financial results for the first quarter are not yet finalized. But as of Monday, Ford said it expected to report revenue of about $34 billion and an adjusted earnings loss, before interest and taxes, of $600 million.

The company is looking at ways to phase in a restart at its manufacturing plants in the second quarter. A restart would come with “enhanced safety standards” for workers, and the decision would be made in cooperation with unions, suppliers and dealers, the automaker said.

A phased-in restart makes sense, Krebs said, because automakers won't be able to simply "flip the switch" and produce at full capacity. Plus, they will have to take into account their inventory levels, how consumer behavior may have shifted amid an economic downturn, and how they can reconfigure plants to keep workers safe.

"I'm assuming they'll bring back maybe one shift, and certainly not up to full production speed. Protocols will have to change," she said. "We've restarted plants when they've been down for a long time, but not because of this kind of situation."

 

Auto tech sector wants financial
aid from feds during
COVID-19 pandemic

Rob Bostelaar
Automotive News
April 14, 2020

A fast-growing part of Canada’s auto industry is at risk unless the federal government broadens financial aid in the Covid-19 pandemic, a trade group has warned.

“What we see is that daily, companies are dropping. And once they drop they're gone,” Suzanne Grant, CEO of the Ottawa-based Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) told Automotive News Canada.

Of some 12,000 small tech companies that collectively employ 85,000 in Canada, a significant if uncharted number, focus on transportation, from autonomous driving to hydrogen fuel cells and electric-car batteries.

On April 5 CATA urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to establish a $3.6-billion emergency fund for the tech sector and release $200 million in backlogged claims for scientific research and experimental development incentives.

The aid could mean survival for start-ups that have yet to show a profit and thus don’t qualify for government wage subsidies announced in March, or whose founders are unable to meet bank demands to personally guarantee up to 20 per cent of loans otherwise backed by government in the new Business Credit Availability Program.

“Those entrepreneurs may have already leveraged everything to get a company off the ground, and they just may not have that available to them,” said Grant.

CATA has since been in talks with the Prime Minister’s Office and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. So far there’s been no commitment from a government scrambling to meet the COVID-19 crisis on multiple fronts.

Without help, Grant fears a loss of crucial momentum in a tech sector starting to show the fruits of $36 billion in annual investment spread between universities, research institutes and programs to commercialize intellectual property. Already, multinational giants better able to withstand a COVID-19 shutdown are scooping up engineers and developers laid off by start-ups, she said.

Colin Dhillon, chief technical officer at the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, said he has yet to hear concerns from the group’s high-tech members, some of which have pivoted to help in efforts to supply needed medical supplies in Canada.

He urged any company that is struggling to contact the Business Development Bank of Canada or Export Development Canada, which are overseeing federal relief efforts for business.

 

The year’s hottest new cars
just got cold as ice

Hannah Elliott and Kyle Stock,
Bloomberg
April 12, 2020

At least three years and about $1 billion. That’s roughly what it takes to make a new vehicle, from drafting table to dealerships.

Car companies live and die by that long-range gamble — but every once in a while, the bet coincides with an economic disaster. The coronavirus pandemic and its attendant recession may be the worst time to launch a car since, well, since we’ve had cars. Selling a Model A was a tough task during the Great Depression, but at least dealerships were open and some assembly lines still humming.

The global auto industry of 2020 is witnessing an unprecedented, near-instantaneous drop in demand as potential customers steer clear of car lots, and dealers close up shop to comply with public health mandates. Volkswagen, Honda, Hyundai and Mazda each reported a more than 40% decline in U.S. sales last month. For the year, S&P expects global auto sales to plummet almost 15%.

In a normal economy, the first few months for any shiny new machine are relative magic. Overeager customers clamor for the fanciest, most profitable versions, and dealers seldom have to offer discounts or incentives. Now, every sale (done online or over the phone) will be considered a coup.

With would-be buyers now focused on the grave crisis at hand, this is less a preview of automaker glory than a wistful look at what might have been.

SUVs

The much-anticipated new Land Rover Defender launches this year with the historic brand’s manufacturing sites shuttered. While the vehicle’s release remains on schedule, the first media test drives planned for April were predictably canceled. The good news for the British automaker: The Defender’s official debut took place at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Along with the Defender, the reborn Ford Bronco is one of the most hyped vehicles in years. In 1996, Ford parked the Bronco name (which dates to the mid-1960s) after O.J. Simpson provided the worst kind of publicity. In subsequent years, the seminal SUV became a design icon and collector’s item. We were supposed to see the new Bronco on April 2, but its debut has been delayed.

Crosstown rival Chevrolet has turned to Trailblazer, a nameplate that’s been defunct in the U.S. since 2009, to carry its newest, small crossover with an optional three-cylinder engine and a sticker price below $20,000. Kia is aiming for the just-right-size SUV market with its new Seltos. For now, the machine is coming from factories in Korea, which are still running.

Aston Martin is still hoping to deliver its first SUV, the DBX, in late summer. The automaker first showed the 542-horsepower DBX at the L.A. Auto Show in 2019; media drives were planned for May. Those have been postponed and production at all the company’s manufacturing sites halted.

Electric vehicles

Tesla’s all-electric flatbed Cybertruck that almost broke the internet when it debuted last year. The Blade Runner-style vehicle boasts driving range estimates of up to 500 miles and a zero-to-60 mph sprint of 2.9 seconds. Production is tentatively slated to begin in 2021, and Tesla is already taking deposits, but all this could change.

That shutdown also applies to Tesla’s Model Y, a compact SUV the company started delivering to customers in March.

Rivian Motors in Plymouth promises its R1S will be able to travel 400 miles on a charge, drive through three feet of water and zip up to 60 mph in three seconds, all with Costco-capable cargo space. But at the moment its facilities are shuttered.

Ford has also been hustling to finish its Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric vehicle whose November debut won broad praise. Now, dozens of early versions are cycling among the homes of Ford engineers, who disinfect each before continuing work.

The fastback Polestar 2, Polestar’s second vehicle and first all-electric car, started production on March 23 in Luqiao, China. The Polestar 2 produces 408 horsepower with an estimated range of 292 miles. It remains unclear, though, how many units will be produced or when deliveries might begin.

Last month, BMW “e-revealed” the BMW i4 Concept. It’s expected to be an all-electric sedan that uses an 80-kilowatt-hour battery to get 530 horsepower and 372 miles of driving range. Despite the closure of production plants, the i4 is expected to start selling toward the end of 2021.

Sports cars

Porsche had big plans to roll out the 640-horsepower 911 Turbo S version of its franchise machine with group media drives. Instead, the company delivered the machines one by one via fleet drivers. Porsche’s German manufacturing plants in Zuffenhausen and Leipzig have been silent since March 21.

Ferrari is hoping it can eventually add factory shifts to help deliver its all-new Roma on time.

The $225,000 supercar debuted in November, but a total Ferrari production halt on March 14 included production of the 611-horsepower, V8 Roma, which was supposed to roll into dealerships toward the end of the year.

Finally, Lotus is trying to piece together its first new vehicle in more than a decade. The machine, dubbed Evija, is stunning — and costs $2.1 million.

Shaped like a spaceship with trimmed sides and massive wheels, it boasts nearly 2,000 horsepower generated from four electric motors. Only 130 will be built; as for when, that will be determined later. Production has halted at Lotus’ Norwich headquarters while engineers continue tweaking designs from home.

 

FCA Canada implements
temperature taking protocol
for workers

Automotive Canada
Greg Layson
April 10, 2020

As automakers eye a return to production, FCA Canada says it is taking steps to keep its factory employees safe on the shop floor.

Some employees are currently working at the automaker’s Ontario assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton. They’re deep cleaning the facilities and tweaking job stations to make room for social distancing. But those that arrive for work each day no longer simply swipe their time card and walk into the factory as they used to.

FCA Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin told Automotive News Canada that employees are now required to wear face masks and gloves.

“Employees also will be asked to complete a wellness self-assessment at home each day before reporting to work. This includes taking their temperature and answering five survey questions,” Gosselin said in an email.

FCA on Monday said said that it “intends to progressively restart its U.S. and Canadian manufacturing facilities beginning May 4.”

“During this current production pause, we are working with government officials and our unions to implement new procedures to certify the daily wellness of our workforce while also redesigning work stations to maintain proper social distancing and expanding the already extensive cleaning protocols at all locations,” the automaker said in a statement April 6. “As a result of these actions, we will only restart operations with safe, secure and sanitized workplaces to protect all of our employees.”

FCA Canada currently builds the Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans in Windsor. In Brampton, just outside of Toronto, it builds the Dodge Charger and Challenger cars and Chrysler 300 sedan.

Reuters on Thursday reported that safety measures differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, Ferrari said on Wednesday it would offer voluntary blood tests to employees who wanted to know if they had been exposed to the virus.

Most automakers, including FCA Canada, are converging on a consensus that temperature screening, daily health questionnaires, assembly lines redesigned to keep workers three to six feet (0.9 m to 1.8 m) apart, and lots of masks and gloves can enable large-scale factories to operate safely.

At General Motors’ ventilator assembly plant in Kokomo, Ind., workers and managers have been fine-tuning details such as when employees are handed masks, and when they step in front of a temperature screening device.

Initially, ventilator assemblers in training at Kokomo walked down a hall before getting a mask, said Debby Hollis, one of the UAW-represented workers. Last week, she said, "They met us at the door and had us get in the masks there."

The time workers spend putting on extra protective gear, the time spent doing extra cleaning, and spreading workers out on assembly lines designed to have one vehicle roll off the end every 60 seconds could undercut productivity.

"If we can protect employees, we can get work done," said Johnson, the GM manufacturing chief. "The magnitude of the incremental cost is irrelevant. Costs will be managed."

 

Ontario dealers told to
end test drives now or face
a range of penalties

Stephanie Wallcraft
Automotive News
April 9, 2020

TORONTO – Ontario dealers are being warned to no longer offer test drives, including those conducted at customers’ homes, or risk being in contravention of the province’s most recent COVID-19 Emergency Order released on April 3.

Dealers who continue to offer them will be subject to administrative action up to and including a proposal to revoke registration, said spokesman Terry O’Keefe, spokesman for the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC)

“Failing to comply with the province’s Emergency Order may result in administrative action by OMVIC, ranging from a discipline hearing to the issuance of a proposal to revoke registration,” O’Keefe told Automotive News Canada. “Since dealers were ordered closed by Ontario’s Emergency Order [except for online sales], it is OMVIC’s opinion that taking a vehicle to a customer’s home for the purpose of a test drive violates the Emergency Order and its intention to protect the health of all Ontarians and lessen the spread of Covid-19.”

Ontario’s most recent order also declared dealer showrooms to be non-essential businesses and forced them to close. O’Keefe says that violating the order in any capacity would be viewed as being in violation of its Code of Ethics.

“Ontario’s Emergency Order is in place to save lives – ignoring it, or seeking ‘work arounds’, is illegal and/or unethical,” he said. “The [Motor Vehicle Dealers Act] requires dealers to conduct themselves with honesty, integrity and in accordance with the law, and the Code of Ethics requires registrants not engage in any act or omission that, having regard to all of the circumstances, would reasonably be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable, unprofessional or unbecoming of a registrant.

“OMVIC is confident the vast majority of registrants agree that protecting Ontarians must be our number priority.”

The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, which represents more than 1,000 new-vehicle dealers across the province, supports OMVIC’s position, said Frank Notte, director of government relations.

“We are in lockstep with OMVIC that test drives should not be undertaken,” Notte said. “Our legal analysis of the Emergency Order also does not permit test drives at this time. Furthermore, test drives are not conducive to social distancing, which is a top directive from all public health organizations and governments as the world fights COVID-19.”

OMVIC suggests that dealers include cancellation clauses in sales contracts while customers are unable to assess vehicles with test drives, said O’Keefe.

“To help protect consumers and to ensure confidence and trust in the online purchase process, OMVIC encourages dealers to provide remote customers with a contract cancellation period,” O’Keefe said.

 

Ford to make 100K face shields
in Windsor, Ont., to aid
in COVID-19 fight

Unifor Local 200 President John D'Agnolo displays one of the face shields his members are making Ford's engine plant in Windsor, Ont.

Canadian Automotive
Greg Layson
April 8, 2020

Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd. says it has started production of 100,000 face shields in Windsor, Ont., in an effort to help protect Canadian medical personnel and first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The automaker said in a news release late Monday that it is working closely with the Ontario and federal governments to distribute the face shields throughout the province, and across Canada. Shipments are scheduled to start this week.

“Ford of Canada has a long history of supporting Canada and its communities in times of need,” Dean Stoneley, president and CEO, Ford Motor Co., of Canada Ltd., said a joint statement with the union, Unifor. “By repurposing our production facilities in Windsor to meet the urgent demand for face shields, we can help protect the lives of our heroic health-care professionals and first responders as they continue to treat the most vulnerable among us.”

A Ford spokesperson said the "initial donation of 100,000 face shields" will be made at the Windsor Engine plant, which normally produces 6.8-litre V10 two-valve and three-valve engines.

Neither Ford of the union said how many employees will be needed to make the shields.

“I am incredibly grateful to our members at Ford in Windsor for doing a tremendous service for their community and their country during this national emergency,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said in the statement. “I commend Ford for working with Unifor to ensure that strict health and safety protocols are in place that will ensure our members can manufacture badly needed medical supplies and return home safely to their homes and families.”

The automaker said that at the advice of government and health officials, Unifor and Ford of Canada remain in continuous communication at the national and plant level to ensure all safety actions and precautions are taken to help keep workers and their families protected.

 

We Love You Very Much,’ Chrystia
Freeland Tells Canada’s Seniors

Zi-Ann Lum
April 7, 2010

OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland shared a moving message to Canada’s seniors at a daily press conference with public health officials on the coronavirus pandemic Friday.  

“I’ve been thinking about you a lot,” Freeland said in a sparsely populated room in Parliament’s West Block. “You raised us. You built our amazing country. Now you are staying inside and you are physically separated from your loved ones.” 

She said she knows the situation is hard for many people.

“I want you to know that we love you very much. And we are doing everything in our power to keep you safe.”

Freeland’s message comes a day after a leading health columnist, The Globe and Mail’s André Picard, warned people to pull their relatives from seniors’ homes if they can.

Citing how COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in at least 600 seniors’ residences across the country, Picard warned, “This is a wildfire that could soon grow far worse.”

Pinecrest Nursing Home, a long-term care home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., has become a case study in how fast the highly contagious respiratory disease can spread. As of Friday, 20 residents have died at the 65-bed facility in just over two weeks. The virus also claimed the life of Jean Pollock, who wasn’t a resident at the facility. 

Pollock visited her 91-year-old husband, a resident at Pinecrest, every day and volunteered at the nursing home, according to CBC News.

There are 11,747 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada as of Friday morning, according to Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam. At least 152 deaths have been linked to the disease.

Symptoms include cough, fever, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia in both lungs. The disease is spread through the respiratory droplets from an infected person. 

Enhanced testing coming, Ontario health minister says

Canadians have been told to respect physical distancing, from staying at home as much as possible to keeping a two-metre distance from people in public. Crowd control measures have also been widely adopted across the country, from bans on public gatherings to limits on the number of people who can shop in grocery stores at one time.  

Public health officials have said a majority of people who get COVID-19 recover and do not need hospitalization. But because the prevalence of pre-existing conditions is higher among seniors, they are considered at a higher risk of contracting potentially life-threatening pneumonia associated with the disease.

In Ontario, there have been 1,047 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among people over age 60 since January 15, according to statistics released by the province. The case fatality rate of those who contract the disease is significantly higher for people over 80.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters Friday it’s not realistic that every long-term care home resident will be released into their care of family.

“Most people will remain in homes,” she said.

The health minister offered reassurance saying that the province is taking the situation facing seniors very seriously. “We are really trying to build that iron ring of protection around them.”

Enhanced testing measures are coming, Elliott said, adding that incoming strict no-visitor rules may be difficult for some family members to accept. 

 

Detroit's auto industry steps
up against COVID-19

Pat Tucker, 55, of Roseville makes face shields at the Troy Design Manufacturing facility in Plymouth. (Photo: Courtesy Ford Motor Company, The Detroit News)


Breana Noble and
Kalea Hall,
The Detroit News
April 6, 2020

Pat Tucker could have waited it out when Ford Motor Co. shut down North American manufacturing. Instead, she's helping to make thousands of face shields a day for health care workers and first responders.

"If it’s to help, then I’m in," the 55-year-old employee of Ford subsidiary, Troy Design & Manufacturing Co. in Plymouth, recalled saying when asked about the opportunity. "Because something has got to be done. We are working 12 hours a day now. The more we can get out the better. We have so many people emailing and needing them. We are

Hundreds of autoworkers and engineers and thousands of global suppliers are answering the call for help with remarkable speed in an effort becoming known as the "Arsenal of Health," a reference to Detroit's military production surge during World War II.

In a matter of days to weeks, Detroit's three automakers and key suppliers have gone from producing parts and vehicles to preparing facilities to make equipment desperately needed to save lives of severely sick patients and protect front-line workers combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra told the company task force created for the effort: "Every day we slow down is a day someone's life is at risk," Shilpan Amin, GM's vice president of global purchasing and supply chain, recalled from the meeting. "We didn't have any experience in doing this. In our minds, we didn't know it couldn't be done, so we made it happen."

Scaling up

The pace of progress is unlike anything Troy Design President Todd Jaranowski, a more than 30-year Ford veteran, has seen. The face shield project took over 200,000 square feet of the Plymouth facility on Tuesday, March 24.

"We ran like 1,000 units and then ramped up to 4,000," Jaranowski said, "and then by Thursday, we ran 25,000."

Elastic for the shields' head bands were in short supply from the start. But a Ford supplier, which the company declined to name, opened its doors and its parts bins at 4 a.m. to provide weather stripping to supplement, Howard Lew, Ford vehicle components and system engineering strategy and initiatives manager, said in a statement.

The electric staplers being used, however, weren't cutting through the rubber tube. But Ford found a non-latex rubber band that worked, and it made a "very automotive request to a very un-automotive supplier" to provide 200,000 bands in about 48 hours, Lew said. The supplier had them ready in 26.

Meanwhile, Doug Randlett, Troy Design engineering supervisor, learned something: instead of stapling the weather stripping to the shields, the company could use common push pins used all over vehicles to fasten parts.

"Doug hit such a grand slam we named it 'The Dougie,'" Lew said. "We had three viable designs for the face shield. ... Based on available supply, it looked like we had design solutions that could be produced anywhere in the world if needed."

Now, about 1.2 million face shields have been shipped to medical workers across the country to Detroit, California, Florida and New York. The goal is to make 1 million a week — but, Jaranowski said, there's demand for 9 million.

Likewise, the United States needs ventilators, devices that help patients with the respiratory illness to breathe in severe cases. In mid-March, the Society of Critical Care Medicine estimated that 960,000 U.S. COVID-19 patients would need ventilators with only about 200,000 available. Medical equipment manufacturers are scampering to increase production exponentially.

"The biggest challenge is taking a product that just over two a day is made or 10 a week and scaling that to over 7,000 a week in the future as we ramp up," said Adrian Price, director of Ford's global manufacturing core engineering division.

The Blue Oval plans to produce by Independence Day 50,000 copies of Florida-based Airon Corp.'s simple, approximately $7,000 air-powered ventilator at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti. Ford will provide the devices to GE Healthcare.

The request echoes the historic "Arsenal of Democracy" transformation by GM, Ford and Chrysler Corp. during World War II when they converted plants to make bombers, tanks and trucks. They simplified the machines and put assembly lines to work. Instead of taking one month to build one plane, Ford by 1944 was making one per hour at its Willow Run plant. In the 1940s, Ford also developed a portable baby incubator and an "iron lung" for polio patients.

Ford's Airon ventilator project is part of the Trump administration's goal of producing 100,000 ventilators in 100 days. President Donald Trump also called on GM to contribute, last month taking action under the Korean War-era Defense Production Act. He signed a presidential memorandum ordering GM to make ventilators for the government — despite the Detroit automaker hours earlier saying it was moving forward with building the devices for Washington-based Ventec Life Systems at its Kokomo Operations electric components plant in Indiana.

“We could not be prouder of the UAW members that have volunteered to make such a difference at this critical time in our history," UAW Vice President Gerald Kariem said in a statement. "These UAW Ford Members have sacrificed beyond themselves for all of us."

Trump later changed his tone, saying GM was doing a "fantastic job." But the automakers' efforts began well before the president called upon the companies to help.

'Project V'

On March 17, GM's Barra took a phone call from Kenneth Chenault, a former American Express Co. CEO who founded StoptheSpread.org to activate companies to help combat COVID-19. Their chat led to a conversation with Ventec the next day. On Thursday, a GM team flew to Seattle to figure out how to boost Ventec's production from a couple hundred to several thousand a month.

By the evening of March 20, GM had organized a conference call with its suppliers to ask for their help with an effort dubbed "Project V." Barra tasked Amin's team to determine within 48 hours where all 419 of the ventilator's parts, as well as their thousands of sub-assemblies, could be acquired.

"It was kind of a call to action: Are you in, or are you out?" recalled Dan Kennedy, executive director of sales for Illinois-based Flex-N-Gate, which makes metals, plastics and other parts for GM. He texted the company's executives: "'You can't imagine the call I am on right now.' Literally within seconds, they were responding, 'We're in.' You don't know what you are in for, you just know we are in."

Ventec had FedExed one of its devices to Michigan. GM disassembled it, laying the pieces on a conference room table inside the idled Warren Transmission Plant. The company disinfected the space between teams of suppliers — each donning masks and gloves — taking photos and measuring the parts to determine what the companies could make. 

Each of GM's 120-member purchasing team became the "CEO" of at least one part with the responsibility for coordinating manufacturing, logistics and quality, Amin said. Some were more complex: One circuit board has 1,200 components sourced from companies in India and Malaysia, deep in the supply chain.

"These are where one of the biggest bottlenecks are happening," Amin said. "We built incremental capacity based on our suppliers' capabilities, and it starts opening the doors across the ventilator production industry."

After 48 hours, 95% of the parts were sourced. The last 5% was secured by the early afternoon the following day. Starting this week, Flex-N-Gate will begin manufacturing seven injection molds for each device in Grand Rapids with its presses. Illinois-based Tenneco Inc.'s headlights wire harnesses will light up the ventilators; it sent sample parts to Kokomo on Wednesday.

"It's been a blur," said Mike Bugbee, Tenneco's global customer director for GM and lighting product line general manager. "That fast decision-making, decisiveness is what really got us here."

GM last week began training the 1,000 paid volunteers in Kokomo who eventually will build 10,000 of the devices per month with shipments starting in mid-April.

 

 

Ford vehicle sales fell 12.5% in
first quarter, F-150 still truck king

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
April 5, 2020

Ford Motor Co.'s sales fell 12.5% in the first three months of the year, the automaker said Thursday, following the dismal results of other carmakers who reported their numbers the previous day, as the pandemic closes dealerships across many parts of the country.

The sales drop was the largest of the Detroit Three automakers with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles down 10% for the quarter and General Motors Co. off 7% as government-mandated stay-at-home orders and a souring economy slowed buyer traffic to a crawl.

But the Detroit truck wars raged on, with Ford maintaining its crown as best-selling truck brand.

Other bright spots included Lincoln and the Mustang, which both gained sales ahead of what is sure to be a harrowing April. With most of the country anticipated to be in lockdown against the coronavirus storm, analysts expect auto sales to erode by 80%.

"Our Ford team is working around the clock on everything from building healthcare equipment, assisting our dealership network and providing our customers peace of mind through deferred vehicle payments," said U.S. Ford marketing chief Mark LaNeve. 

Dealer incentives were a big reason that Ford's overall pickup sales were off only 5.4% as J.D. Power reported that automakers shoveled truckloads of incentives, including no-interest loans, to maintain volume in their most profitable segment. Ford's truck line includes F-Series and Ranger pickups, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, Transit vans, Transit Connect and E-Series vans.

Though even the mighty F-series was not immune to COVID-19's effects with sales off 13.1%, it maintained its status as America's best-selling vehicle with 186,562 units sold. Chevy SIlverado sales were 143,698 while Ram clocked in at 128,805.

Overall, GM, FCA, and Ford gained a whopping 11 points in U.S. market share thanks to healthy pickup sales.

Another Ford icon, the Mustang, also continued to dominate sales in the muscle car segment. With the twin GT350/Shelby GT500 performance snakes in the showroom for the first time ever, Mustang sales gained 6.8% to 18,069 vehicles, outdistancing second-place Dodge Challenger at 12,138.

Mustang's success has inspired a sub-brand that is moving full speed ahead despite the coronavirus. The first-ever electric car, the Mustang Mach E, is due later this year.

Lincoln sales jump of 6.9% bodes well for Ford’s resurgent luxury brand for when markets return to normal. The gain came in the face of deep luxury sales losses from Lexus, BMW, and Audi as key premium markets like California and New York shuttered (although they are still permitted to do online sales, unlike Michigan). New York alone accounts for 14% of U.S. luxury sales.

Lincoln has recast itself as an SUV-oriented brand with the all-new, mid-size Aviator and compact Corsair lifting sales. Once a geriatric brand, Lincoln's fastest rate of growth for Q1 came from the 35-44 year old demographic.

Analysts cautioned, however, that luxury and performance cars are likely to see the steepest falls in the current climate, putting more pressure on automakers like Ford to incentivize the sales of meat-and-potatoes trucks and vans.

“As the situation wears on, we may see that buyers in the next weeks will be interested in more practical automotive purchases, along with many buyers opting to delay planned purchases," said IHS Markit analyst Stephanie Brinley. "The delay could impact discretionary vehicle purchases, like sporty cars and sedans or high-performance cars and utilities, even more sharply than daily-use vehicles." 

 

Ford CEO Jim Hackett
received $17.36 million
in compensation in 2019

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
April 4, 2020

Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett in 2019 received $17.36 million in total compensation, the Dearborn automaker reported in a Friday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Hackett's income last year, his second full year as CEO, fell 2.2% from the $17.75 million the chief executive was paid in 2018. While Hackett's base salary was steady at $1.8 million and his stock awards were up 3.5% at $13.19 million, incentive bonuses fell 32% to $1.75 million.

Ford's $6.379 billion in earnings before interest and taxes in 2019 missed the lowered guidance the automaker set of between $6.5 billion and $7 billion. The start of production of the company's redesigned Explorer SUV faced manufacturing problems, resulting in delays and fallen sales.

Hackett's compensation was 157 times more than the median employee compensation of $110,706, which was up from $64,316 in 2018 because of increased pension contributions.

The annual report filed Friday with the SEC details the pay for Ford's top executives.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. made $16.76 million in 2019. That's more than the $13.83 million total compensation he received in 2018 mostly from a $2.65 million change in pension value and deferred compensation earnings. Ford's base salary in 2019 was $1.7 million, the same as in 2018.

Jim Farley, Ford's former president of new businesses, technology and strategy who became chief operating officer last month, made a total of $8.36 million in 2019, down from $5.86 million in 2018. Farley's base salary in 2019 was $1.1 million, up from $1.07 million in 2018. Farley received a discretionary bonus that valued $185,600.

In his new role, Farley's compensation includes a $1.4 million base salary, a performance-based incentive bonus target of $1.89 million and an annual stock grant of $5 million, the automaker recently disclosed.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford's former president of automotive, received $11.02 million in total compensation in 2019. That was more than the $5.81 million he made in 2018 when he received a $97,920 bonus. Although Hinrichs did not receive a bonus in 2019, he received more in stock awards valued at $6.09 million and $2.65 million from a chance in pension value and deferred compensation earnings. Hinrichs' base salary last year was $1.3 million, up slightly from $1.1 million in 2018. Hinrichs retired last month after Ford reported its disappointing 2019 earnings results.

Tim Stone, Ford's chief financial officer, received $8.32 million for the first year the automaker publicly reported his compensation. That included a $783,338 base salary, a $1.48 million discretionary bonus, $4.3 million in stock awards and $742,500 in incentives.

Bob Shanks, Ford's former chief financial officer, was paid $8.32 million in total compensation in 2019, down from $8.42 million in 2018. His base salary was $1 million, up from $971,250 in 2018.

All of Ford's top executives had to meet performance goals in quality; automotive-segment operating cash flow and operating margin; Ford Credit pre-tax profit; and automotive revenue to receive the bonuses included in their total pay. These incentive bonuses ranged from $1.75 million for Hackett to $486,000 for Bill Ford.

Farley's was $742,5000, Hinrichs' was $850,500, Stone's bonus was $742,500 and Shanks' was $675,000.

Ford also paid $419,275 for Bill Ford's personal use of company aircraft and $899,219 for security. The company paid $91,523 for Hackett's use of the aircraft. Stone received $692,652 to relocate from California.

Hackett's compensation in 2019 tops that of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Mike Manley, who received $12.46 million. GM has not yet reported 2019 salaries.

The Detroit automaker typically releases its annual report in April. GM CEO Mary Barra was the highest-paid executive of Detroit's three automakers in 2018, earning $21.87 million.

Tesla Inc. also has not filed its proxy statement. In 2018, Elon Musk, CEO of the Silicon Valley electric-vehicle maker, received $2.28 billion in total compensation — the most by far, according to The New York Times, of the largest 200 publicly traded corporations in the United States.

 

It won't be 'business as usual
for quite a while,' Unifor
says of auto industry

John Irwin
Automotive News
April 2, 2020

Unifor President Jerry Dias said he anticipates assembly plants coming back online will do so initially as one-shift operations whenever it is determined that they can safely re-open.

“Even if they open up, it’s not going to be business as usual for quite a while,” Dias said. “They’ll ease into it based off of parts [availability] and based off the cleanliness of the facilities. They’ll likely rotate shifts and have groups at home. There’s going to have to be extended periods of time for cleaning.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has rattled the North American auto industry this month, virtually shutting down manufacturing in a matter of days and sending new-vehicle demand plummeting. All of Canada’s auto assembly plants have been temporarily shuttered as government and health officials urge people to stay home.

It remains unknown when automakers will restart their factories. Ford Motor Co., announced on Tuesday it was indefinitely delaying the restart of North American vehicle production, after previously saying it would ramp some of its factories back up starting April 6.

General Motors, after initially offering a reopening date of March 30, told Automotive News it does not have “firm return-to-work dates,” while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said its shutdowns would last until at least April 14, “dependent upon the various state stay-in-place orders and the readiness of each facility to return to production.”

Dias, whose union represents workers at the four Canadian Detroit Three vehicle assembly plants, said Ford was being “incredibly optimistic” with its prior return timetable. He cautioned that more shutdowns are possible even after plants restart.

“The bottom line is this is going to be based on the virus, and the scary part of this is that the [health] professionals are saying we’re going through the first episode and that there’s quite likely to be a second episode,” Dias said.

He said how quickly plants can restart after it’s determined to be safe to do so will depend in large part on how easily the automakers are able to source parts. Due to the regional and global nature of the supply chain, that means how quickly Canadian plants come back online would be determined in part on how quickly the United States can get the virus under control, he said.

“I’m more concerned about the United States than I am with Canada because I think the Canadian government got off the mark a hell of a lot faster than the U.S. government,” Dias said.

With more than 180,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday morning, the United States has more COVID-19 cases than any other country, according to a count by National Public Radio in the U.S. The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that several epidemiological models studied by the White House show that the pandemic “is likely to ravage the country over the next several months, killing close to 100,000 Americans and infecting millions more.”

According to Health Canada, there are 8,548 confirmed cases as of yesterday.

 

Ford delays restarting
production indefinitely

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
March 31, 2020

Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday said it will further delay restarting production at its North American plants as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread in the United States.

The Dearborn automaker last week had shared its intentions to begin manufacturing again at Hermosillo Assembly in Mexico starting next Monday and at select U.S. plants, including Dearborn Truck, on April 14. The plants will remain idled indefinitely.

“The health and safety of our workforce, dealers, customers, partners and communities remains our highest priority,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford president of North America, said in a statement. “We are working very closely with union leaders — especially at the UAW — to develop additional health and safety procedures aimed at helping keep our workforce safe and healthy.”

The decision comes after the Trump administration this week extended federal social distancing guidelines through end of April as medical consultants said the United States could see more than 100,000 deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak. And Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday indicated Michigan could be weeks away from a peak in cases.

Unlike Ford, General Motors Co. has not announced a restart date for production since extending its shutdown beyond this past Monday. Some employees, however, have been told to file for unemployment until as late as May 1 in states that require an end date to make the request.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV last week also said its U.S. and Canadian plants would remain closed through April 13, though it is continuing to monitor the situation.

Industry experts have said it is unlikely most plants will restart before May, not only to keep workers safe but because of declines in demand as stay-at-home orders keep people from buying cars and close non-essential businesses, putting people out of work.

But as of Monday, foreign-owned automakers were holding onto plans to restart production in April. Toyota Corp.'s North American plants are set to open April 17 with production resuming April 20. Volkswagen AG intends to restart production at its Tennessee plant at 10 p.m. April 5. Honda Motor Co. Ltd.'s 12 manufacturing facilities, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.'s Mississippi and Tennessee plants and Subaru Corp.'s Indiana plant are closed through April 6. Hyundai Motor Co. has suspended production in Alabama until April 10.

The United Auto Workers had expressed "great concern and caution" over Ford and Fiat Chrysler's plans to restart production in the coming weeks.

“Today’s decision by Ford is the right decision for our members, their families and our nation,” UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement. “Under Vice President Gerald Kariem, the UAW Ford Department continues to work closely with our local unions and Ford to make sure that as we return to production all members are safe, and our communities are protected from this spreading pandemic.”

Ford's decision does not affect the automaker's plans to build ventilators at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti starting the week of April 20. Three shifts of 500 total paid UAW volunteers will work to produce 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days.

The volunteers will have to self-certify online every day. Work stations will be six feet apart, and shifts will be scheduled so the workers from different shifts have no contact. Other high-tech solutions, Ford added, are in the works, as well.

 

As COVID-19 death toll mounts,
when to reopen North American
plants?

Vince Bond Jr.
Automotive News
March 30, 2020

DETROIT — Whenever Fiat Chrysler Automobiles restarts North America production, the UAW members working the lines will have to cope with the grim reality that COVID-19 has claimed the lives of several colleagues.

While it hasn’t been reported that an autoworker is among the dead in Ontario, Unifor is skeptical about a quick return to work.

The rising U.S. death count from the global coronavirus pandemic is personal for UAW members now. It includes familiar faces who walked the same halls and toiled on the same factory floors they did.

Clocking in won't be the same for Aric Holloway, a longtime worker at FCA's Warren Truck Assembly Plant north of Detroit. A co-worker who would greet people at the door died Wednesday, March 25.

"He would usually be there in the morning when you come in the front door, shaking your hand and telling you, 'Thanks for coming to work.' It was a joke that we" had, Holloway told Automotive News. "He would be in front of the plant every morning."

These deaths loom as automakers plot their courses of action. Mid-April appears to be the earliest that most North America production could come back on line. Ford Motor Co. last week said it planned to restart operations April 6 at one assembly plant in Mexico before reviving several U.S. factories April 14.

FCA said its production suspension will last until April 14, "dependent upon the various state stay-in-place orders and the readiness of each facility to return to production."

General Motors, after initially aiming to reopen its plants Monday, March 30, said last week, "The situation is fluid and can change week to week. We don't have firm return-to-work dates at this time."

Previewing what could be a battle over when workers should come back, UAW President Rory Gamble said the union was reviewing "with great caution and concern decisions being made about restarting workplaces, especially at advanced dates." Gamble said automaker executives must be guided by one simple question: "Would I send my family — my own son or daughter — into that plant and be 100 percent certain they are safe?"

In Canada, one local Unifor president said last week his members will take the lead from health agencies, not automotive executives.

“We’re going to go with what the medical professionals say. There’s a lot of things that need to be put in place,” Unifor Local 444 President David Cassidy said.

He represents about 4,500 workers at FCA’s Windsor, Ont., assembly plant, which produces the automaker’s minivans.

His members walked off the job nearly two weeks ago in fear of the virus after they found out one member was self-isolating after possibly secondhand contact with an infected person.

“We’ll play this by ear. The safety of our membership is No. 1,” Cassidy said.

Unifor Local 200 President John D'Agnolo, who represents workers at Ford’s engine plants in Windsor, Ont., told the CBC on March 25 that he wants to make sure his members are safe before returning to work.

"Right now, we're going to be going back to work as of April 20," he told the public broadcaster. "They haven't given us any more details after that.

“"They're ordering more supplies, like masks, like shields, to protect people that are going to be working within a six-foot radius. But that doesn't mean that they will be entirely safe. That's the dynamic we have right now."

TOUGH DECISIONS

In picking dates to restart idled factories across North America, automakers are attempting to balance worker safety with financial stability. They book revenue as vehicles are produced, and their cash reserves shrink with each day plants remain dark. But whenever production resumes, fear of COVID-19 could still linger among the work force.

The decisions are becoming even more difficult as the number of blue-collar workers who test positive for the virus — and die from it — grows.

"There is going to be some risk/reward calculation about when we go back to work, how we go back to work and what changes about that work," said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "It would be really hard to go back into a plant when you know someone who contracted the disease and died."

Plants are like small cities where word travels fast. Workers could be shunned if colleagues find out they've been exposed to the virus.

"What happens when word spreads [that] your co-worker's spouse, or someone in their family that they live with, has COVID-19?" asked one former auto executive who asked to remain anonymous. "That is going to spread like wildfire through the plant. No one is going to want to work near that person."

The former executive also wondered how workers with medical conditions will feel about returning. He said automakers will need a plan to deal with worker uneasiness.

Companies, for instance, may need to back off on some disciplinary measures for absenteeism and try to loosen restrictions on the number of temporary employees they can use at a given time to make up for absences. Panicked workers could end up on short-term disability leave because of stress instead of going into the plants during this uncertain time.

Companies will need to "recognize that certain people just would rather not have the money, or have a reduced amount of money, and not be exposed to it," the former executive said. "How many deaths is it going to take before they shut the plant down once it gets going? It's more of a moral thing. What's acceptable?"

Through last week, at least four FCA union workers — three in Michigan and one in Indiana — had died in connection with COVID-19, as had two Ford workers in Michigan, according to the UAW.

A nonunion technical support worker at FCA's technology center in Auburn Hills, Mich., also died, two Detroit newspapers reported, prompting the postponement of work associated with its test laboratories and pilot plants there. FCA declined to comment on employee health matters, citing privacy restrictions.

The automakers face dire economic forecasts.

The Detroit 3 have borrowed billions of dollars in recent weeks to help weather the crisis. Ford and GM each withdrew their financial guidance for the year.

"Automakers have done all kinds of planning and girding their balance sheet for a recession, but no one planned for things to go down this quickly, and no one planned for zero production," Dziczek said. "Automakers are only making money when they're making vehicles. They're going to try and be down for the least amount of time necessary."

Jeff Schuster, president of Americas operations and global vehicle forecasts at LMC Automotive, said any extended downtime would significantly hurt margins and upcoming vehicle launches.

"It's like a strike, in a lot of ways, across the entire industry," he said.

While the ultimate cost of the current plant downtime is unknown, GM said it lost nearly $4 billion over the course of the 40-day UAW strike last fall during contract negotiations.

 TAKING CARE OF FAMILIES

Whenever assembly lines start to move again, automakers face another potential problem: excess inventory as a result of low demand. Unemployment claims soared last week, and most consumers still working are more focused on buying groceries and other essentials right now and thus are liable to put off a big purchase such as a new vehicle.

LMC predicts full-year U.S. auto sales will fall to 14.2 million units, a 17 percent drop from 2019.

Art Wheaton, a professor of labor at Cornell University, said automakers could try to ease into production by running fewer shifts at first.

"I think there's going to be people who will take the sick days, or take the vacation days, and try to exercise the time off," Wheaton said. "But there's also a lot of people that [could say], 'I'm ready to go back to work. This is what we're paid to do. Let's go and make money so we can have a profit-sharing check and we can take care of [our] families in the future.' "

Of course, the longer the plants are down, the smaller next year's profit-sharing checks will be.

 

Ford to restart some plants in April;
Toyota, Honda, FCA extend closing

Automotive News
Michael Martinez
March 27, 2020

Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. on Thursday updated plans to resume North American light-vehicle output. Here’s the latest:

FORD

Ford Motor Co.will restart production at some of idled North American plants in early April.

It expects to reopen a Hermosillo assembly plant in Mexico with one shift on April 6 and plans to restart production April 14 at Dearborn Truck, Kentucky Truck, Kansas City Assembly and Ohio Assembly.

Ford did not offer restart dates for Chicago Assembly, Flat Rock Assembly, Michigan Assembly, Louisville Assembly, Cuautitlan Assembly in Mexico or Oakville Assembly in Canada.

The company's plans raised more concerns at the UAW, which has pressed the Detroit Three to shutter plants to protect workers. Several FCA hourly workers have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by exposure to the coronavirus.

"We are reviewing with great concern and caution today's announcement," the UAW said in a statement Thursday. "Our priority is the health and safety of our members, their families and the American public."

The Hermosillo plant builds sedans: The Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, although both vehicles will be discontinued in coming years. The four U.S. assembly plants slated to restart production all build Ford’s most profitable vehicles; F-Series pickups, vans and full-size SUVs.

Dearborn Truck produces the F-150 pickup, Kansas City builds the F-150 and Transit vans, Kentucky Truck builds Super Duty pickups, Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs, and Ohio Assembly builds larger pickups and E-Series cutaway and stripped chassis vans.

The automaker said a number of other operations also are scheduled to restart April 14 to support the assembly plants. Those are Dearborn Stamping, Dearborn Diversified Manufacturing, integrated stamping plants inside Kansas City Assembly and Kentucky Truck, Sharonville Transmission and portions of Van Dyke Transmission, Lima Engine and Rawsonville Components.

"We will continue to assess public health conditions as well as supplier readiness and will adjust plans if necessary," Kumar Galhotra, Ford's president of North America, said in a statement.

The automaker's North American plants have been down since March 20. Ford originally planned to restart production March 30 but pushed back the deadline after many states, including Michigan, issued stay-at-home orders that extend beyond those dates.

Michigan's order ends April 13. In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford ordered all non-essential businesses to close for 14 days. They can reopen April 8.

TOYOTA

Toyota, citing a decline in vehicle demand, said it will extend the shutdown of all light-vehicle and components plants in North America, including Canada and Mexico, through April 17, with output to resume April 20.

The company planned to restart plants on April 6.

"Our service parts operations and finished vehicle logistics centers will continue to operate in order to continue meeting the needs of our customers," the company said. "We will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate action in a timely manner."

HONDA

Honda Motor Co. will extend the shutdown of U.S. and Canada plants by a week, resuming production April 7, as the coronavirus saps consumer demand for cars and light trucks. The company's suspension was originally scheduled for March 23-30.

Honda operates four vehicle assembly plants in the U.S. and one in Ontario. It also manufactures engines, transmissions and other components.

The company, in a statement Thursday, said it will continue to provide opportunities for workers to be paid, including providing full pay for some nonproduction days and pulling ahead vacation for others.

FCA

FCA plants across the U.S. and Canada, as well as headquarters operations and construction projects, are intended to remain closed until April 14, dependent upon the various states' [and provinces'] stay-in-place orders and the readiness of each facility to return to production.

FCA had originally said its plants would shut down through the end of March.

  

 

Retiree Harry Chadwick
Passes Away
March 23, 2020

Harry Chadwick

November 13, 1930 - March 23, 2020

Retired May 1, 1992

Harry was President of Local 584 in the Early 80's and also
served as Alderman for the city of Brampton and
as a Member of Parliment from 1988 to 1993

Our sincerest condolences go out to his family.

Harry Chadwick will be buried in Collingwood on April 8th. 
Brampton will be lowering the flag at City Hall
and will recognize his passing at the next City
Council meeting on April 8th

www.fawcettfuneralhomes.com

Obituary

Harry Posting Chadwick
November 13, 1927 – March 23, 2020

Harry was married to Shirley from 1953 until she passed away in 1992. He was the loving dad of Kenneth and Donna, devoted and adoring grandpa to Shawn, Karen, Shelby and Jeffrey. He was their hero with his amazing strength and abundance of love. They are all so proud of him and of his many accomplishments.

Harry will be dearly missed by Ruth Lowther and her family; his good friend Elizabeth Gibson; the congregation at Wasaga Beach Community Presbyterian Church and the many friends and political colleagues from his years of campaigning and canvassing.

Harry served in a public capacity for 10 years as an Alderman for the City of Brampton and for 5 years as a Member of Parliament for Bramlea-Gore-Malton. He was also the president of his local C.A.W. while he was employed at Ford Bramlea Parts Distribution Centre. Harry retired to Wasaga Beach in 2003 and was still active in politics.

Harry fought with all he had to beat the cancer that would eventually take him from all of us. As an expression of sympathy memorial donations can be made to a hospital or medical care facility of your choice. Harry received the best care at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie as well as wonderful homecare provided by the personal support workers from St. Elizabeth Health Care; Colleen in particular was Harry’s superstar.

Due to the ongoing public health crisis there will be a small private funeral service for the family and a Celebration of Harry’s life will be held at a later date.




 

 

Ford recalls 268K cars in North
America to fix door latches

The Associated Press
March 26, 2020

Detroit – Ford is recalling more than 268,000 cars in North America to fix doors that could open unexpectedly or may not close.

The recall covers the 2014 through 2016 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, and the 2014 and 2015 Ford Fiesta. Cars in Mexico, U.S. territories and 16 states with high temperatures are affected.

Ford says a lever in the door latch can crack and fail. Typically doors won’t close when it fails, but customers may be able to latch it after repeated attempts. If that happens, the doors could open while the cars are in motion.

Ford says it’s not aware of any crashes or injuries caused by the problem.

Dealers will replace the side door latches. Owners will be notified starting May 4.

Vehicles that are or have been registered in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington are affected.

 

Ford Works With 3M, GE, UAW
to Speed Production of Respirators
for Healthcare Workers, Ventilators
for Coronavirus Patients

Mar 25, 2020 | DEARBORN, Mich.

  • Ford is working with 3M to manufacture at scale Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPRs). Ford and 3M are collaborating on the new design leveraging parts from both companies to meet urgent demand for first responders and health care workers; Ford is exploring production of the new PAPR in a Ford facility in addition to 3M production
  • Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing
  • Ford, in cooperation with the UAW, will assemble more than 100,000 critically needed plastic face shields per week at a Ford manufacturing site to help medical professionals, factory workers and store clerks; Ford also will leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment

DEARBORN, Mich., March 25, 2020 – Ford Motor Company, joining forces with firms including 3M and GE Healthcare, is lending its manufacturing and engineering expertise to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders and patients fighting coronavirus.

In addition, Ford plans to assemble more than 100,000 face shields per week and leverage its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment.

“This is such a critical time for America and the world. It is a time for action and cooperation. By coming together across multiple industries, we can make a real difference for people in need and for those on the front lines of this crisis,” said Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman. “At Ford, we feel a deep obligation to step up and contribute in times of need, just as we always have through the 117-year history of our company.”

Powered Air-Purifying Respirators

Ford team members are working with 3M to increase the manufacturing capacity of their powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) designs and working jointly to develop a new design leveraging parts from both companies to meet the surge demand for first responders and health care workers. This new respirator could be produced in a Ford facility by UAW workers.

To go as fast as possible, the Ford and 3M teams have been resourcefully locating off-the-shelf parts like fans from the Ford F-150’s cooled seats for airflow, 3M HEPA air filters to filter airborne contaminants such as droplets that carry virus particles and portable tool battery packs to power these respirators for up to eight hours.

Ford is looking at how it might produce these new-generation PAPRs in one of its Michigan manufacturing facilities, helping 3M boost production potentially tenfold.

“Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,” said Jim Hackett, Ford’s president and CEO. “We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs. We are focusing our efforts to help increase the supply of respirators, face shields and ventilators that can help assist health care workers, first responders, critical workers as well as those who have been infected by the virus.”

“We’re exploring all available opportunities to further expand 3M’s capacity and get healthcare supplies as quickly as possible to where they’re needed most – which includes partnering with other great companies like Ford,” said Mike Roman, 3M chairman of the board and chief executive officer. “It’s crucial that we mobilize all resources to protect lives and defeat this disease, and I’m incredibly grateful to Ford and their employees for this partnership.”

Ventilators

In addition, Ford and GE Healthcare are working together to expand production of a simplified version of GE Healthcare’s existing ventilator design to support patients with respiratory failure or difficulty breathing caused by COVID-19. These ventilators could be produced at a Ford manufacturing site in addition to a GE location.  

“We are encouraged by how quickly companies from across industries have mobilized to address the growing challenge we collectively face from COVID-19,” said GE Healthcare President & CEO Kieran Murphy. “We are proud to bring our clinical and technical expertise to this collaboration with Ford, working together to serve unprecedented demand for this life-saving technology and urgently support customers as they meet patient needs.”

Work on this initiative ties to a request for help from U.S. government officials.

Respirators and Face Shields

Meanwhile, Ford’s U.S. design team also is quickly creating and starting to test transparent full-face shields for medical workers and first responders. The face shields fully block the face and eyes from accidental contact with liquids and when paired with N95 respirators can be a more effective way to limit potential exposure to coronavirus than N95 respirators alone.

The first 1,000 face shields will be tested this week at Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace Hospitals. Roughly 75,000 of these shields are expected to be finished this week and more than 100,000 face shields per week will be produced at Ford subsidiary Troy Design and Manufacturing’s facilities in Plymouth, Mich.

Ford is leveraging its Advanced Manufacturing Center in Redford, Mich., and in-house 3D printing capabilities to manufacture components and subassemblies for use in personal protective equipment.

Ford is evaluating a separate effort not involving GE Healthcare with the U.K. government to produce additional venitlators.

In China, Ford of China joint venture partner Jiangling Motors also has donated 10 specially equipped Transit ambulance vans to hospitals in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began. Ford is also reacquiring 165,000 N95 respirators from China that were originally sent by Ford to China earlier this year to help combat coronavirus.

Ford has also kicked off a working team to help hospitals locate and secure urgently needed surgical and N95 respirators. Ford has so far committed sending Henry Ford Health Systems 40,000 surgical masks while it locates additional supplies.

Additional companies and individuals who are interested in contributing to this effort can submit their information here at www.fordnewideas.com.

Ford, along with the companies it is supporting, will provide additional updates as these special projects progress. 

 

Ontario dealers can complete
sales via email during
coronavirus pandemic

John Irwin
Automotive News
Sept 20, 2010

Ontario dealers can complete sales via email during coronavirus pandemic

Ontario’s regulations prohibiting the signing of contracts off of a dealership’s property remain in effect during the coronavirus pandemic, although there are legal workarounds for dealers, according to a new bulletin by the province’s vehicle-sales regulator.

Today’s Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) bulletin said all trading — including buying, selling and leasing vehicles — still must take place either entirely on a dealership’s physical premises or completely online. And dealers still cannot take a contract to a customer’s home for a signature, as “that would constitute trading off-premises,” according to OMVIC.

However, a dealer can email contracts to customers for them to sign at home before scanning and emailing the contract back to the dealership. Alternatively, e-signatures are allowed. Once the contract is signed, a dealer can deliver the vehicle directly to the consumer’s home.

The bulletin comes as dealers in Canada’s largest province are scrambling to adjust their businesses in the wake of the pandemic as more consumers stay home and limit physical contact with others. Many dealers have indicated they would be looking into ways to increase remote offerings to prop up sales and service while customers choose to stay home.

“The bulletin was sent in response to inquiries and to address some confusion in the dealer community regarding these issues,” OMVIC spokesman Terry O’Keefe wrote in an email.

O’Keefe said OMVIC has received numerous inquiries from dealers about what is or is not allowed. He said that no regulations have changed as a result of the pandemic, as rules are set by the Ontario legislature.

The OMVIC bulletin said sales to remote customers “may be allowed if appropriate measures are enabled to comply with the [Motor Vehicle Dealers Act] and ensure consumer protection.” Examples of those measures include explaining contract terms to customers and ensuring that any vehicle sold is “fit for purpose,” according to the regulator.

“To help facilitate consumer protection, some dealers have agreed to terms and conditions of registration that provide remote customers with a contract cancellation period,” the bulletin reads.

OMVIC said dealers are allowed to take a vehicle to a customer’s home or elsewhere for a test drive, on the condition that the person delivering the vehicle is a registered salesperson. Additionally, the test drive should be “offered solely for evaluating a vehicle’s performance, suitability and/or condition prior to purchase or lease,” and for no other reason, OMVIC said.

In the event that a vehicle is sold to a customer who has not seen the vehicle in person, OMVIC said it requires dealers give them “full, clear and comprehensible disclosures” and to give those customers the chance to drive the vehicle and cancel the contract if it is “not suitable or not as represented.”

 

Border closure not expected to
affect production, supply
chains or dealer stock

Greg Layson
Automotive News
March 19, 2020

North American auto production and dealer inventory shouldn’t be affected by the mutually agreed upon decision by Canada and the United States to close its border, say industry stakeholders.

However, it might not matter if automakers continue to shutter plants during the pandemic. Ford, Honda and General Motors have all stopped production to some extent in North America.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump agreed Wednesday morning to close the border to non-essential traffic in both directions.

Trump first posted the news on Twitter just after stock markets opened.

“We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!” Trump tweeted, the morning after CNN first reported a closure was coming.

Trudeau then confirmed the news at a news conference in Ottawa.

“Travellers will no longer be permitted to cross the border for recreation and tourism,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister said it was “critical to maintain supply chains” that link the two countries.

Neither leader made it clear when the restrictions would go into effect.

About $2 billion dollars worth of goods crosses the border in bilateral every day, according to the Canadian government.

Trudeau said the policy ensures “the smooth flow of goods” and essential materials” as well as medical supplies as the two countries continue to try and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Trudeau said “supply chains are critical” and promised “trucking will not be affected.”

David Adams, president of the Global Automakers of Canada, which represents the interests of overseas automotive companies who do business in Canada, says the announcement was not unexpected.

“I think both Trump and Trudeau have been clear that trade and commerce between the two nations will continue,” he said in an email to Automotive News Canada. “I do not see any immediate impact on the membership or in the integrated North American automative industry.”

Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association in Canada, agreed.

He said his association has been in constant contact “all day long” with the federal government “for about week now.” He said policy makers consulted with his association before they made any decision on the border.

Volpe said the closure “might thicken the border” as screening for non-essential travel ramps up.

“But with the demand for cars declining, it balances out,” Volpe said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average took another tumble early Wednesday morning, a day after modest gains. The Toronto Stock Exchange was also down early Wednesday.

Volpe said parts from the United States destined for assembly plants in Canada and parts from Canada destined for the United States will all still flow.

“That’s the intention, anyway,” Volpe said.

David Worts, spokesman for the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association of Canada doesn’t believe production at Honda and Toyota plants in Ontario will be affected.

“This should not impact just-in-time manufacturing,” he said. “The temporary closure of the Canada/US border ‎will still allow trade in goods which is essential given the deeply integrated auto industry supply chains, particularly between Canada and the U.S.”

Volpe essentially said it will be business as usual, for as long as possible.

“The core principal is that business continue as long as it doesn’t affect health and safety,” he said. “Sending people home and stopping pay is going to be a bigger problem than anything we’ve seen so far.”

 

Detroit carmakers will close plants due to coronavirus concerns

Breana Noble and Kalea Hall,
The Detroit News
March 18, 2020

Detroit — Ford Motor Co. will close all of its plants in North America starting Thursday evening through March 30, the Detroit automaker said Wednesday.

All of Detroit's three automakers have agreed to close plants due to worker fears about the coronavirus, according to two sources familiar with the talks. It wasn't immediately clear how long plants would be closed or the number of them.

“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe – even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need, Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America, said in a statement. “In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”

UAW and Ford leaders say they will work together on how to best structure plant restart plans.

“Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” said Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”

The other automakers are expected to release details of their closures later Wednesday. The United Auto Workers union has been pushing for factories to close because workers are fearful of coming into contact with the virus.

The Detroit automakers' decision to close plants comes after Honda Motor Co. said Wednesday it would suspend production at its plants in North America for six days beginning Monday, with current plans to return to production on March 31. Honda has U.S. plants in Ohio, Indiana and Alabama.

The 27,600 Honda workers affected by this will continue to receive full pay. The company says it will use the down-time to continue deep-cleaning of its production facilities and common areas.

Multiple Michigan auto assembly plants shut down Wednesday amid positive cases of coronavirus among workers and just one day after rejecting union calls for broader two-week plant closures.

Ford on Wednesday temporarily closed its Michigan Assembly Plant final-assembly building in Wayne, Michigan building after one of the employees there tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Stamping and the body shop operations are still running, Ford said.

Michigan Assembly employs about 3,000 workers who make the Ford Ranger pickup truck; about 2,800 of those are hourly employees.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles earlier Wednesday suspended production at its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant a second time in less than 12 hours after an employee there tested positive for coronavirus.

The shutdowns came after a task force made of officials with the United Auto Workers and Detroit's three automakers met into the evening Tuesday about how to continue production amid the pandemic. Although the UAW earlier this week had pushed for a two-week shutdown, the group agreed the companies would schedule rotation shifts that would partially close plants and allow for greater space between workers.

FCA sent home the first shift at Sterling Heights and directed the second shift to not show up for work at the plant that produces the Ram 1500 pickup trucks. Fiat Chrysler also had shut down the plant the evening prior, Tinson confirmed.

"Out of an abundance of caution for the health and welfare of the employees at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, FCA is suspending production on Wednesday," company spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said in a statement. "The company is working to align the plant’s shift pattern with yesterday’s announced agreement with the UAW."

"Employees did not walk out," she added, following some reports that they had. "They were released so the plant could be deep cleaned."

The sick hourly employee at Sterling Heights had not been in the plant for a week, according to Fiat Chrysler, and was receiving medical attention. The company's medical team was contacting colleagues who may have come into contact with the individual and were recommending self-quarantine. The employee's workstation was sanitized.

The case was the second COVID-19 case in one of Fiat Chrysler's plants after a salaried worker in Indiana's Kokomo Transmission Plant tested positive last week.

Autoworkers have contacted media and government officials over their concerns about the cleanliness of the plants and the resources available to ensure their health and safety. Last week, 17 paint shop employees at Fiat Chrysler's Warren Truck plant walked off the job, though operations there resumed shortly thereafter and production was not impeded, according to the company.

While experts say the automakers could make up production volumes from a two-week shutdown, the companies continue to receive orders for new vehicles. That is unlike in Europe, where many dealers' sales operations have closed and demand almost has disappeared. Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler have joined other automakers in shutting down plants there.

A salaried employee at General Motors Co.'s Cole Engineering Center on its Warren Technical Center campus tested positive, the automaker said Tuesday. Co-workers were being contacted about possible exposure. A salaried employee at Ford Motor Co.'s Building 5 in its Dearborn product development campus also tested positive. The individual, however, had been exposed to the virus after leaving the facility and had not returned since, the company said.

GM and Ford N.A. plants to
shutter through March 30

DETROIT – Ford Motor Co. and General Motors said that all manufacturing sites in the United States, Mexico and Canada will close through at least March 30 as the automakers battle the coronavirus epidemic. 

GM said it will begin cutting production today in a cadence. 

“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe – even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America, said in a statement. “In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”

Ford said it would work with the UAW on plans to restart U.S. production. 

“Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” Rory Gamble, president of the UAW, said in a statement. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”

A Ford spokeswoman said Ford’s parts distribution facilities will remain open so they  can supply parts to customers. 

Earlier Wednesday, a source told Automotive News that the Detroit 3 automakers have agreed to shut down their U.S. manufacturing facilities due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

FCA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The status of FCA’s Canadian plants remained in limbo.

Unifor officials told Automotive News Canada at 1 p.m. ET they were in talks with FCA.

 

 

Unifor, Detroit 3 form
coronavirus task force

John Irwin, Greg Layson
Automotive News
March 18, 2020

The Detroit Three and Unifor said late Tuesday they are forming a joint task force to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies during the global coronavirus pandemic.

It’s similar to the task force created by the automakers and the United Auto Workers union in the United States.

The announcement came just hours after Unifor Local 88 called for a two-week shutdown of General Motors’ CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., where members assemble the Chevrolet Equinox. Local 88 Unit 1 chairperson Mike Van Boekel told Automotive News Canada that he called on GM to put the roughly 2,500 workers at the CAMI plant on layoff beginning March 23 for a minimum of two weeks.

"This may be the first time any union official has asked for a layoff of their entire membership, but these are not normal times," Van Boekel said.

Last week, members of Unifor Local 444 in Windsor, Ont., refused to work at FCA's minivan plant there after it became aware one of its members had come into what the company called "secondary contact" with a person who was being tested for COVID-19.

The task force consists of:

Jerry Dias, president, Unifor

Scott Bell, president and managing director, GM Canada

Dean Stoneley, president and CEO, Ford of Canada

David Buckingham, chairman, president and CEO, FCA Canada

In a joint news release, the automakers said that preventative actions currently under review at the three companies’ Canadian auto facilities include visitor screening, increased cleaning and sanitizing of common areas and touch points, safety protocols for people with potential exposure and those who exhibit flu-like symptoms.

“The task force members today discussed progress with additional safety practices and actions including break and cleaning schedules, health and safety education, health screening, food service and any other areas designed to improve protections for employees,” GM Canada said in the statement. “Unifor and the three Canadian automakers are in continuous communication at the national and plant levels to ensure they take appropriate actions and continue to follow the advice of medical staff and experts to help keep workers and their families protected from the COVID-19 virus. They are also maintaining ongoing communication with government and health officials at all levels.”

Van Boekel declined to comment on the task force, but said he still wants GM Canada to shut down the Ingersoll plant.

The local's call for a two-week layoff came as automakers and suppliers prepared for the fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to lead to a downturn in new-vehicle sales as people are forced to stay home or are at risk of losing their jobs.

“Everyone is likely very aware that vehicle sales across North America are likely slowing down tremendously during this period and I believe this may cause down weeks in the future once the field stock builds up,” Van Boekel wrote in a letter to General Motors Canada on March 15.

According to Van Boekel’s letter, there were two employees in self-quarantine as of Sunday. He said GM has paid those workers full wages and has acted “in good faith” on the issue. Asked today if that figure has changed, he said it was be difficult to say as workers and their families return from travel and are asked to stay home.

“It’s time to get home now, so most are getting home,” he said.

GM Canada says it has taken safety precautions at its Ontario facilities.

“These include an ongoing focus on production plans, break and cleaning schedules, social distancing, health and safety education, health screening, food service and any other areas that have the potential to improve protections for employees,” GM Canada’s Jennifer Wright said previously.

 

Windsor FCA workers return
as carmakers try keeping plants
running during virus crisis

Breana Noble and Kalea Hall
The Detroit News
March 16, 2020

Detroit — Production at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's Windsor Assembly Plant restarted at 3 p.m. Friday after coming to a standstill a day earlier when employees refused to work because a colleague was in self-quarantine amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

Work resumed at the minivan plant after Dave Cassidy, president of Local 444 for the Unifor Canadian labor union, urged members to stand down. The quarantined employee may have come into contact with an infected individual, but there were no confirmed cases of the virus in the plant, the automaker said.

"Folks, I know these are scary times but we need to take a breath," Cassidy wrote on Facebook. "We are currently not in a full-blown crisis here."

Vehicle assembly is a hands-on activity with thousands working in the same facility, often in close proximity to each other. Shutting down plants would be costly to automakers, though Ford Motor Co. has indicated it could shut down facilities for a day to clean if an employee there tests positive. General Motors Co. is adjusting production schedules to allow for cleaning.

The work stoppage in Windsor came as the United States and Canada were put on high-alert over preventing the spread. U.S. President Donald Trump called a national state of emergency, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer banned gatherings of more than 250 people and shut down grade schools into April. The Detroit automakers escalated measures to protect employees, including allowing many to work from home.

Canada's Ministry of Labour on Thursday visited the Windsor plant to investigate and determined the work environment was safe.

Unifor's Cassidy said the union cannot dictate whether Fiat Chrysler closes its doors and that the union "has made it clear with our workplaces that we need to be kept up to date with their plans of actions and precautions they are taking to keep our members safe."

Windsor Assembly builds the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager and soon-to-be-discontinued Dodge Grand Caravan minivans. It employs more than 5,800 people, though the automaker is eliminating the 1,500-person third shift this summer. On Thursday, Fiat Chrysler extended the deadline to July 13 from June 29.

A Fiat Chrysler employee at the company's Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this week, but production there "continued as normal," company spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said. The employee is the first known person in the United States employed by one of Detroit's three automakers to test positive for COVID-19.

The company has placed into home quarantine the Kokomo employee's immediate co-workers and others in the facility with whom he may have come into direct contact. While the United Auto Workers' contract with the automakers provides some paid sick leave to employees, the union is in discussions with "all sectors" about compensation for employees who cannot work because they are quarantined but not sick and other issues.

"The UAW and FCA are working together during this unprecedented and challenging situation to address issues on a case by case basis," Cindy Estrada, UAW vice president and FCA Department director, said in a statement. "The UAW feels strongly that no member should be disadvantaged in response to the COVID-19 process. Our first priority is to ensure the health and welfare of our members."

FCA's Tinson echoed Estrada's remarks, saying the company is working with the union on "how best to handle a number of issues."

GM and Ford did not have any known coronavirus cases in the United States, representatives said. GM, however, will pay quarantined employees — whether sick or exposed to someone who tests positive — the hours for which they were scheduled, spokesman Jim Cain said. At Ford, it has not been an issue to date, spokesman Mark Truby said Friday on a conference call.

The workspace of the infected FCA employee in Kokomo was sanitized, breaks were rescheduled to avoid crowding and distance was increased between employees, the automaker said. The company has taken similar measures at several plants, CEO Mike Manley wrote Thursday evening in an email to employees. Fiat Chrysler is stepping up cleaning and sanitization at all facilities and providing masks where deemed necessary.

Fiat Chrysler also is "accelerating the deployment of working remotely" that is being rolled out "department-by-department," Manley wrote. The practice already is the "new normal," he said, at offices in China, Korea, Japan and Italy.

GM on Friday followed with CEO Mary Barra sending a message to employees saying starting Monday the Detroit automaker was making a work-from-home allowance "if the nature of your work allows for it." The policy applies globally, though not in China, and will not halt production at GM's manufacturing facilities.

"These are important steps to lower the probability of spreading the coronavirus to coworkers, families and communities and to relieve the burden on public resources," Barra wrote. "It also helps conserve critical resources like cleaning crews, medical staff and supplies so they can be deployed where they are most needed."

GM also is increasing sanitization efforts at its plants and adjusting production schedules to do so. For example, it called off its third shift starting Saturday for the night at its Flint Assembly plant producing heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.

Ford also starting Monday is permitting those who work in jobs that are not "business critical" to work remotely "for the foreseeable future" if they can perform their duties off-site, Truby said. The global policy does not apply to China, "where the conditions there are improving and more in a back-to-work mode." Manufacturing is not expected to be affected.

"Obviously we need to keep our factories moving," Truby said. "That's the goal. We're taking all the precautions we can to do extra sanitization and social distancing where possible."

Ford, however, will "close a specific facility where there was exposure to a confirmed coronavirus case for at least 24 hours so the building can be disinfected," CEO Jim Hackett wrote in a letter to employees.

Truby did not have an immediate figure of how many employees could be working from home, but said it would be "many thousands" and the "vast majority of our white-collar workforce outside of China." Ford also canceled the debut of its highly anticipated off-road Bronco SUV next week.

Fiat Chrysler is postponing or canceling "most company events," including large employee gatherings, auto shows and sponsored commercial events, Manley added.

The automakers have said they are working to ensure a consistent flow of parts and components to continue production. But experts say demand could be the greatest challenge. Auto sales dropped almost 80% year-over-year in February in China because of the virus. There has been some impact on showroom traffic in certain parts of the United States, Ford's Truby said.

Company leaders called on their employees to continue to perform at their best, despite the disruptions.

"Given the current drop in use of public transportation and extensive flight cancellations," GM's Barra wrote, "our customers are looking to us more than ever to ensure they have the vehicles, parts and services they need."

 

Ontario offers more help to laid-off
autoworkers looking for new careers

Greg Layson
Automotive News
March 12, 2020

The Ontario government is making it easier for thousands of laid-off autoworkers in that province to find a second career.

Ontario has loosened the rules governing the Second Career Program, which helps the unemployed pay for retraining costs, including tuition, books and even some transportation.

Effective April 1, laid-off manufacturing workers will no longer be required to search for a job for 26 weeks in order to qualify for the benefits of the Second Career Program. They will also be able to apply regardless of how long they had been working in the manufacturing or auto industry. Previously, applicants had to disclose where they worked before, for how long and what skills they needed for that work. That is no longer the case for those in the manufacturing sector.

The changes to Second Career will apply to manufacturing and auto workers who were permanently laid off on or after Jan. 1, 2019. All other laid-off workers will be able to apply for Second Career under the previously established eligibility rules.

That means approximately 4,700 workers who have recently lost their jobs — or soon will — at GM’s Oshawa plant, FCA’s Windsor factory, Ford’s Oakville facility and GM supplier Nemak in Windsor, are all eligible.

All those workers are represented by Unifor. Union officials weren’t immediately available for comment.

 "We're ensuring our manufacturing workers are given every opportunity to be successful in their career,"' said Vic Fedeli, minister of economic development, job creation and trade.

On average there were over 10,000 manufacturing workers per month in receipt of employment insurance across Ontario from January to November 2019, the province said.

According to the government, some of the most popular occupations that Second Career clients train for include transport truck driver, heavy equipment operator (except crane) and social and community service worker.

 

NY Auto Show postponed
due to coronavirus

March 11, 2020

The upcoming New York International Auto Show is being postponed because of coronavirus fears, organizers said on Tuesday.

The show tweeted: “The health and well-being of all those involved in this historic event is our top priority. We’ll be rescheduling this year’s #NYIAS to August 2020. Stay tuned to our social channels for more info in the coming weeks,"

Recently the 10-day event, which produces more than $330 million in economic benefit, was planning to go on as scheduled April 8, as organizers were working with the venue on measures to control the potential spread of the coronavirus.

The New York International Auto Show is among the largest in the world, with an annual attendance of approximately 1 million.

“We are taking this extraordinary step to help protect our attendees, exhibitors and all participants from the coronavirus,” said Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, the organization that owns and operates the New York Auto Show.

 “For 120 years, ‘the show must go on’ has been heavily embedded in our DNA, and while the decision to move the show dates didn’t come easy, our top priority remains with the health and well-being of all those involved in this historic event. We have already been in communication with many of our exhibitors and partners and are confident that the new dates for the 2020 Show will make for another successful event,” Schienberg added in a statement.

The virus has infected more than 800 people in the U.S. and killed at least 29, with one state after another recording its first infections in quick succession.

Worldwide about 118,000 have been infected and more than 4,200 have died.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Most people recover in a matter of weeks, as has happened with three-quarters of those infected in China.

 

FCA-UAW bribery scheme 'targeted
and directly harmed' automaker

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
March 10, 2020

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives accused of bribing United Auto Workers officials "targeted" General Motors Co. in an attempt to do it harm, the Detroit automaker claimed Monday in its rebuttal to FCA's request for the civil racketeering case against it be dismissed.

In November, GM filed an unprecedented civil racketeering lawsuit against the Italian American automaker. GM argued bribes offered by FCA executives to union officials corrupted three rounds of bargaining and cost the Detroit automaker "billions." Fiat Chrysler has called the allegations "meritless," and in January requested the suit be dismissed for not meeting RICO's requirement that the plaintiff be directly harmed by wrongdoing.

"Defendants assert that GM is suing for lost 'market share,' is a 'bystander,' has only been '“derivative[ly]" harmed, and that GM was only the 'third in line' victim of FCA’s bribery scheme (behind UAW members and the IRS)," GM attorneys Hariklia Karis and Jeffrey Lamb wrote. "None of these characterizations is remotely accurate. GM’s detailed allegations establish that FCA’s bribery scheme targeted and directly harmed GM for years by imposing higher costs on GM in at least the areas of workforce composition, manufacturing costs, and prescription drug costs."

The crosstown battle comes amid the continuing years-long federal investigation into UAW corruption that has convicted 13 union and FCA officials and charged a former UAW president. Payoffs from Fiat Chrysler executives to UAW officials, according to federal prosecutors, began within days of Chrysler Group LLC emerging in 2009 from bankruptcy with $12.5 billion in taxpayer money under the control of a foreign company, Italy's Fiat SpA.

GM says FCA's former CEO, the late Sergio Marchionne, schemed with UAW officials in an attempt to take over and merge with the Detroit automaker. FCA corrupted negotiations in 2009, 2011 and 2015, according to GM, to inflict high, unanticipated labor costs on GM and force the companies to combine.

But Fiat Chrysler says UAW members and the Internal Revenue Services would be the entities directly hurt by the bribery scheme, not GM. It also asserted it did not have ownership of the union to control it for its bidding. But GM asserts that is not necessary.

"Here, FCA successfully bribed top UAW leaders to influence critical and long-term binding decisions of the UAW," Karis and Lamb wrote. "No more is required."

Finally, Fiat Chrysler also claimed GM does not meet the four-year statute of limitations because it would have known it was harmed before UAW members ratified the 2015 contract. GM, however, states it could not have discovered its injuries to the scheme before January 2018 when former FCA labor negotiator Alphons "Iacobelli revealed Defendants' scheme to corrupt the collective bargaining process."

Fiat Chrysler in a statement said it will continue to defend itself and pursue all available remedies to GM's lawsuit.

"As we have said from the date this lawsuit was filed, it is meritless," according to the statement. "It will not distract FCA from its mission to provide its customers with outstanding and exciting cars, trucks and SUVs and the continued implementation of its long-term strategy to create further significant value for all its stakeholders. This includes the landmark agreement to combine with Groupe PSA to create the world's third largest global automaker by revenues."

GM has not said how much it is seeking in damages, which could be tripled under RICO. Some analysts have estimated if GM is successful, payouts could be as high as $15 billion.

Fiat Chrysler secured a minor victory last month when U.S. District Judge Paul Borman ruled the automaker could wait until after the court determines whether to dismiss the case before complying with GM's document requests.

 

Charges against ex-UAW boss inch
union closer to federal oversight

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
March 6, 2020

The biggest of the United Auto Workers’ many bad apples fell to earth Thursday in the federal crackdown on corruption inside the union.

The government charged former President Gary Jones with embezzling union funds in a racketeering conspiracy and with defrauding the IRS of income taxes. Each of the counts could land the 63-year-old union leader in prison for up to five years.

The charges, though widely anticipated, mark a stunning fall for the one-time leader of a cornerstone of the modern American auto industry — and likely bring the union closer to a federal takeover that could broom the top layer of leadership, install strict financial oversight and impose direct election of officers, including for the powerful president.

Reforms like those, and more, would shake the union's clubby leadership culture to its core. It would empower the rank-and-file to directly elect (and hold accountable) their leaders, and likely would imperil the powerful "Reuther Administrative Caucus" that effectively has selected leadership "slates" dating back to the end of World War II.

If Jones cooperates with investigators, as expected, the ex-president alleged to have masterminded an interstate conspiracy to embezzle member dues and pocket some of the cash, the leader whose scheming proved too shocking to ignore, could be the same guy who helps build the case for a federal takeover of the union in exchange for less jail time.

Should federal control of the UAW become a reality, the stain would prove indelible. It would undermine rank-and-file confidence in leadership; would strain trust with Detroit's automakers, suppliers and other employers; would become a recruiting poster for anti-union activists down south trying to block organizing efforts.

It would be humiliating for the UAW and its reputation as a “clean union”; would gut credibility with members whose dues fueled poolside villas and booze, cigars and rounds of golf played far from icy Detroit; would imperil the status of the leaders who survive — for now, until a federal takeover demands an entire layer of leadership be removed.

This is no theoretical threat. U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider used his news conference Thursday to say a government takeover of the union remains under consideration. And he pointed to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ decades-long experience as a potential model to emulate, especially its move to direct elections.

"This isn't a situation where we're looking the other way," he said. "People at the top aren't getting away with it anymore. If it worked for the Teamsters, maybe that's something we need to look at here."

That’s exactly what Jones’ successor, President Rory Gamble, wants to avoid — a federally imposed end to the UAW's self-governance. He says he wants to, quote, “save my union” and prove it can responsibly run its own affairs. But the expanding record of charges, evidence and convictions — much of it clustered in the uppermost reaches of leadership — suggests that will be increasingly hard to demonstrate.

The federal investigation has produced charges against one former president and enmeshed two others. Two former vice presidents have been convicted, a third was implicated after his death from cancer a few years ago, and a fourth is said to be under federal scrutiny. Current and former regional directors and staffers were charged in schemes financed by training center funds, member dues or both.

Altogether, 14 individuals —11 of them connected to the UAW, three once employed by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV — have been charged in the corruption roll-up. And federal authorities signaled in toughly worded language that they are not close to done.

A Department of Labor official, Thomas Murray, condemned “an outrageous abuse of power." An IRS official, Sarah Kull, accused Jones of creating “a culture of corruption that became standard practice … for over a decade … using other people’s money.”

The FBI’s special agent in charge of the Detroit office, Steven D'Antuono, expressed “collective disgust at the illegal conduct of auto executives and union officials.” And the U.S. attorney said the federal investigation is “another step closer to ridding the UAW of its corrupt leadership.”

The message was unmistakable. Even as federal oversight technically remains “an option” to consider, the array of law enforcement agencies detailing the case against Jones signals that federal oversight is a near certainty — especially if the arc of corruption widens as the investigation continues.

The tool to make it happen would be the kind civil racketeering lawsuit that summarily retired an entire cadre of Teamsters leaders, excised elements of organized crime and imposed direct elections on the union Hoffa built.

With each new set of charges, and the convictions that follow, the UAW looks increasingly likely to get its turn — and the members would get their union back.

 

USMCA update puts Canada in the
role of labour watchdog for Mexico

John Irwin
Automotive Canada
March 5, 2020

Late changes made to the new North American trade pact place Canada into the role of an “honest broker” to assess whether Mexico’s manufacturing operations comply with new labour standards, a trade expert says.

In late 2019, Democratic legislators in the United States sought new provisions that would make it easier to enforce higher labour standards in Mexico as part of the new United StatesMexico-Canada Agreement, which is set to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

After balking at the proposal to allow for increased oversight, Mexico signed on after being assured that Canada would assist to sort out remedies for Mexican auto facilities deemed out of compliance with the USMCA.

“What the Mexicans really feared was that, because they didn’t trust the Trump administration to, in essence, not put their thumb on the scale and use what they would see as spurious grounds to justify imposing tariffs or other measures against certain facilities,” said Eric Miller, president of the Washington-based Rideau Potomac Strategy Group and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center Canada Institute.

“They wanted to have mechanisms that were rules-based, and they wanted Canada to come and look at the situation as need be,” said Miller, who sits on the Canadian deputy minister of trade’s external advisory committee on international trade policy.

The USMCA boosts labour standards and oversight at Mexican plants and requires 40 per cent to 45 per cent of a vehicle’s parts to be made with labour making at least US $16 an hour. While the United States and Mexico have ratified the USMCA, that process is just beginning in Canada.

RILED OVER LABOUR RULE

As part of the deal, Mexico will overhaul its labour code. Its legislature has followed suit, voting, for instance, to allow workers the right to secret-ballot votes on labour contracts and union representation.

House Democrats in the U.S. Congress, in turn, sought additional oversight to make sure the reforms were enacted at Mexican plants. A provision also was added to USMCA legislation in the United States that allows the country to designate labour attaches to Mexico to do just that.

This briefly led to a dispute in December, when Mexico signaled it had issues with the move, seeing it as an unnecessary infringement on its sovereignty.

The dispute was resolved days later when Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, clarified in a letter to his Mexican counterpart that the attaches would not act unilaterally, and an independent panel would look over any labour violations found.

The attaches would “work with their Mexican counterparts, workers and civil society groups on implementation of the Mexican labour reform, including by providing technical assistance and disbursing capacity-building funds, and provide assistance to the new U.S. government interagency labour committee,” Lighthizer’s Dec. 16 letter reads.

“These personnel will not be labour ‘inspectors’ and will abide by all relevant Mexican laws.”

EASING MEXICO’S WORRY

Miller, who has been involved in the development of six international trade pacts and has advised 40 countries on trade and economic policy, said Mexico likely felt comfortable resolving that dispute in part because it had agreed to separate “facility-specific, rapid-response labour mechanisms” with Canada and the United States. In essence, that means Mexico agreed to two bilateral deals outlining the process for dealing with automotive facilities, including factories, found to not be in compliance with the USMCA’s labour standards, he said.

Separating Canada and the United States on this issue was crucial to Mexico, Miller said.

“Canada, in some ways, is being brought in as a bit of an honest broker. Canada and Mexico have had their differences over time, but fundamentally, Mexicans feel that within the Canadian DNA is an orientation toward living by the rules. So Canada isn’t going to go up and say that facility violates rules unless it violates rules.”

Having attaches in Mexico will likely lead to more compliance, Miller said though he cautioned that surprises “inevitably pop up” when enacting new rules.

“It’s kind of like when you post a police officer by the side of the highway. Everybody slows down,” he said “The idea of being able to do it, at leas for a while, is likely to push people to ensure that they are being more careful than they might have been about how these things will play out.”

Canada’s reputation as a country that can “broker peace rather than imposing it” proved to be crucial to getting the USMCA passed, said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA).

“Canada’s brand and reputation has not suffered through this process,” Volpe said.

Miller said the deal will increase manufacturing in Canada and the United States, with the APMA estimating up to $8 billion in new annual parts orders in Canada.

“There is actually truth behind the claim that this deal succeeds in delivering more purchases for manufacturing,” he said. “You’re looking at a significant increase in purchases [of auto parts] in Canada, and it increases purchases in the United States.”

 

Ford, Fiat Chrysler restrict
air travel for employees
due to coronavirus

Kalea Hall and Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
March 4, 2020

In moves that signal automakers are intensifying precautions amid the expanding coronavirus, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are restricting non-essential employee air travel — both domestic and international — after two Ford workers contracted the respiratory illness last week in China.

"Those two employees in China are both getting better," said Ford spokesman T.R. Reid on Tuesday, noting that for the safety of its employees, the Dearborn automaker decided to sharply restrict air travel until at least March 27. "We just think caution is the right thing for our folks."

The spread of the virus is heightening the vigilance of automakers to protect employees and others, but the companies are careful to insist they are not banning all air travel. Ford is allowing "business-critical" travel provided it is approved by senior-level management. Fiat Chrysler has requested travel be prioritized to "essential needs" only and be pre-approved by a member of its leadership team, spokesman Mike Palese said in a statement.

Meanwhile, General Motors Co. this week — ahead of a media and investor event on Wednesday showcasing its electric vehicle plans — began requiring all visitors to complete a questionnaire prior to entering GM facilities.

Visitors who say they have experienced cold or flu-like symptoms, or have traveled to China, Italy, Iran, Japan or South Korea within the last 14 days (or have been in close contact with someone who has), will be denied access. Similar restrictions have been put in place at Fiat Chrysler facilities in Europe.

GM employees are not allowed to travel to China, Italy, Japan and South Korea, and additional non-domestic travel is restricted, though travel deemed critical can be approved by senior management. 

Ford said it is not aware that any other employees have been exposed to the virus, and Fiat Chrysler is unaware of any. GM could not immediately provide details on if any employees have been infected.

Ford's move to restrict travel "is not in response to a specific risk, but in the name of caution and good responsibility," Reid said. Instead, according to a source familiar with the situation, Ford's move is an attempt to ensure other facilities and the employees in them are not forced into 14-day quarantines that could be avoided.

BMW AG this week told 150 employees in Munich to stay home after a worker there tested positive for the virus, according to reports.

Coronavirus worries have yet to affect upcoming domestic auto shows in New York next month and in Detroit in June, organizers said, even as the Swiss government forced the cancellation of the Geneva Motor Show this week. The Beijing Motor Show has been indefinitely "postponed."

No automakers have told the North American International Auto Show organizers in Detroit they are pulling their plans for the show, there are no program changes under consideration and the auto show hasn’t asked anyone to refrain from attending.

"We are closely monitoring the latest information about the novel coronavirus and are reviewing our policies and procedures," NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts said in a statement. "We remain optimistic that these health issues will be resolved before the 2020 NAIAS occurs in June."

But George Sboukis, owner of the Caucus Club restaurant in downtown Detroit near the TCF Center, thinks the outbreak is making some attendees skittish. The restaurant has had conversations with Asian or domestic brands and organizations about hosting events during the auto show's media week ahead of the consumer show.

"We've had several conversations, and then in the last couple of weeks we've seen everything stall," said Sboukis, noting the restaurant doesn't offer refundable deposits, though in the past, it typically has had confirmations four months ahead of the auto show when it was held in January. "I think it's those worries that have led these companies to have tabled these things for the moment."

Across West Congress Street, the London Chop House says half of its private rooms are reserved for events during press week by both domestic and foreign suppliers and automakers, general manager Bjorn Lagerfeldt said. Typically by now, however, the restaurant would be booked fully.

"The virus has posed certain challenges," Lagerfeldt said. "We have more clients asking for a clause of postponement and cancellations than I think in years past when I think it has been included but hasn't been verbal."

In the interim before the auto show, GM still plans to unveil its new electric Cadillac crossover April 2 in Los Angeles and its electric GMC Hummer truck in May, though no details have been released.

"At this time, we are continuing with our plans," GM spokesman David Barnas said in a statement to The Detroit News. "But we continue to monitor the situation closely, with health and safety being the number one priority."

Ford's plan to reveal further details on the new off-road Bronco SUV this spring also remains unchanged. Other major automakers said they, too, are monitoring the situation for how it might affect their future plans. Volkswagen AG canceled a media event for the T-Roc convertible next week in Germany.

"When it comes to New York and Detroit, we are planning to be there and are monitoring the situation to see where it goes," Volkswagen spokesman Mark Gillies said.

Organizers of the New York International Auto Show, which typically has a million attendees every year, haven't had any automakers back out of the mid-April show, and they aren't prohibiting anyone from coming to the event at this time. The auto show still has 18 automaker press conferences scheduled.  

Organizers of the New York show are staying in touch with government officials and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. There are more safety measures being taken to limit the spread of the virus, including 70 hand-sanitizing stations throughout the convention center, increased cleaning and having a team of paramedics on-site.

Following the cancellation of the Geneva auto show, Volkswagen, Honda Motor Co. and others live-streamed events to reveal new technology and vehicles. Fiat on social media teased followers to "stay tuned" for more information Wednesday about the new electric Fiat 500 for the European market.

Craig Erlich, executive vice president and general manager at Auburn Hills-based George P. Johnson, a brand and event marketing company that helps automakers showcase their products and their brand at auto shows, hasn’t noticed any concern from automakers about the coronavirus leading to canceling their auto show or product-showing plans. George P. Johnson’s clients include Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Nissan Motor Co.

“None of our clients have expressed interest in pulling out of shows or canceling new vehicle launches,” he said. “I think the way they are looking at it is they are monitoring the situation, and they know how important these events are to the sales of the brand.”

Meanwhile, automakers still are monitoring how supply-chain disruptions in China could interrupt production in North America. The Original Equipment Suppliers Association is working with suppliers and industry partners to monitor the impact of the coronavirus on auto parts.

"Due to the complex, global nature of the supply chain and the expanding virus containment efforts, we expect an increase in short-term part shortages and premium shipments during the coming weeks," OESA President and CEO Julie A. Fream said in a statement.

"Suppliers are working vigorously to mitigate supply issues. At this time, we are unable to predict the long-term impact of the virus on the global automotive supply chain."

 

USMCA update puts Canada in the
role of labour watchdog for Mexico

John Irwin
Automotive Canada
March 3, 2020

Late changes made to the new North American trade pact place Canada into the role of an “honest broker” to assess whether Mexico’s manufacturing operations comply with new labour standards, a trade expert says.

In late 2019, Democratic legislators in the United States sought new provisions that would make it easier to enforce higher labour standards in Mexico as part of the new United StatesMexico-Canada Agreement, which is set to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

After balking at the proposal to allow for increased oversight, Mexico signed on after being assured that Canada would assist to sort out remedies for Mexican auto facilities deemed out of compliance with the USMCA.

“What the Mexicans really feared was that, because they didn’t trust the Trump administration to, in essence, not put their thumb on the scale and use what they would see as spurious grounds to justify imposing tariffs or other measures against certain facilities,” said Eric Miller, president of the Washington-based Rideau Potomac Strategy Group and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center Canada Institute.

“They wanted to have mechanisms that were rules-based, and they wanted Canada to come and look at the situation as need be,” said Miller, who sits on the Canadian deputy minister of trade’s external advisory committee on international trade policy.

The USMCA boosts labour standards and oversight at Mexican plants and requires 40 per cent to 45 per cent of a vehicle’s parts to be made with labour making at least US $16 an hour. While the United States and Mexico have ratified the USMCA, that process is just beginning in Canada.

RILED OVER LABOUR RULE

As part of the deal, Mexico will overhaul its labour code. Its legislature has followed suit, voting, for instance, to allow workers the right to secret-ballot votes on labour contracts and union representation.

House Democrats in the U.S. Congress, in turn, sought additional oversight to make sure the reforms were enacted at Mexican plants. A provision also was added to USMCA legislation in the United States that allows the country to designate labour attaches to Mexico to do just that.

This briefly led to a dispute in December, when Mexico signaled it had issues with the move, seeing it as an unnecessary infringement on its sovereignty.

The dispute was resolved days later when Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, clarified in a letter to his Mexican counterpart that the attaches would not act unilaterally, and an independent panel would look over any labour violations found.

The attaches would “work with their Mexican counterparts, workers and civil society groups on implementation of the Mexican labour reform, including by providing technical assistance and disbursing capacity-building funds, and provide assistance to the new U.S. government interagency labour committee,” Lighthizer’s Dec. 16 letter reads.

“These personnel will not be labour ‘inspectors’ and will abide by all relevant Mexican laws.”

EASING MEXICO’S WORRY

Miller, who has been involved in the development of six international trade pacts and has advised 40 countries on trade and economic policy, said Mexico likely felt comfortable resolving that dispute in part because it had agreed to separate “facility-specific, rapid-response labour mechanisms” with Canada and the United States. In essence, that means Mexico agreed to two bilateral deals outlining the process for dealing with automotive facilities, including factories, found to not be in compliance with the USMCA’s labour standards, he said.

Separating Canada and the United States on this issue was crucial to Mexico, Miller said.

“Canada, in some ways, is being brought in as a bit of an honest broker. Canada and Mexico have had their differences over time, but fundamentally, Mexicans feel that within the Canadian DNA is an orientation toward living by the rules. So Canada isn’t going to go up and say that facility violates rules unless it violates rules.”

Having attaches in Mexico will likely lead to more compliance, Miller said though he cautioned that surprises “inevitably pop up” when enacting new rules.

“It’s kind of like when you post a police officer by the side of the highway. Everybody slows down,” he said “The idea of being able to do it, at leas for a while, is likely to push people to ensure that they are being more careful than they might have been about how these things will play out.”

Canada’s reputation as a country that can “broker peace rather than imposing it” proved to be crucial to getting the USMCA passed, said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA).

“Canada’s brand and reputation has not suffered through this process,” Volpe said.

Miller said the deal will increase manufacturing in Canada and the United States, with the APMA estimating up to $8 billion in new annual parts orders in Canada.

“There is actually truth behind the claim that this deal succeeds in delivering more purchases for manufacturing,” he said. “You’re looking at a significant increase in purchases [of auto parts] in Canada, and it increases purchases in the United States.”

 

FCA to end third shift at
Windsor Assembly Plant in
June, affecting 1,500 workers

Canadian Press
March 1, 2020

WINDSOR, Ont. — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is cutting the third shift at its Windsor Assembly Plant beginning June 29.

The automaker says it notified Unifor Thursday about the change that will affect about 1,500 employees.

The move keeps the shift operational for an additional three months. Originally scheduled to shut down last September, the shift's closing was given a four-month reprieve in November to last until March 31.

FCA says it made the decision to match volumes with demand as production of the Dodge Grand Caravan is phased out at the end of May.

"The company will make every effort to place indefinitely laid off hourly employees in open full-time positions as they become available based on seniority and will offer retirement packages to eligible employees," spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin wrote in an email.

Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy held a news conference in Windsor to discuss the impact.

"We worked to prevent this shift loss with the full understanding of the devastating affect that this would have on our membership," he said in a news release.

"Now we will ensure that these workers receive the support that they need in this process as we continue to fight for new product for Windsor Assembly with the goal of preserving and increasing these good paying auto manufacturing jobs."

The decision will lead to significant job loss in the parts supply chain, and inflict damage to both the local and national economy, the national union said in a statement.

"Unifor is very disappointed that FCA was unable to find a solution that would have avoided job losses," said national president Jerry Dias. "There is no question that the economic ramifications will be felt across the region and throughout the country."

He said investment in Canadian automobile production will be a priority during negotiations that get underway this summer with FCA, General Motors and Ford. It will also continue to press various levels of government about the need for a national auto strategy to stabilize and grow the sector.

The plant, which produces the Chrysler Pacifica and its hybrid version, as well as the Dodge Grand Caravan, has about 6,100 employees.

FCA announced last year that it would invest US$4.5 billion in Michigan to build a new assembly plant and upgrade other operations and create 6,500 jobs in the process.

The planned cut in Windsor will come about six months after General Motors ended production at its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., at a loss of about 2,600 unionized workers.

 

'Ford v Ferrari' cars take a
victory lap at Autorama

The actual Ford GT40 and P330 Ferrari from the movie "Ford v Ferrari" on display at Autorama. (Photo: Daniel Mears, The Detroit News)

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
Feb 29, 2020

Detroit — Autorama is playing the classics this weekend.

In addition to the hot rods vying for the coveted Ridler Award, the 68th annual Autorama will roll out the red carpet at TCF Center from Friday through Sunday for the historic 1966 Ford GT40 Mark II and Ferrari 330 P3 race cars featured in the film “Ford v Ferrari."

Showgoers can revel in more '60s racing nostalgia with the 1969 Trans Am Camaro on display that will be piloted by racing legend Lyn St. James in May as part of the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle. And five of the 20th century’s most storied hot rods will be featured including the Bubble Top Beatnik Bandit, the model for one of the 16 original Hot Wheels toys.

The green-and-white No. 95 GT40 was predominantly used in filming the 24 Hours of Daytona scenes as the lead car that is passed in the closing laps by Ken Miles (Christian Bale). The same car was repainted as the red No. 3 and yellow No. 8 cars that appeared in the Le Mans scenes. It was loaned to Autorama by the Volo Auto Museum outside Chicago.

The Ford was built for the movie by Race Car Replicas of Fraser, Michigan, using a Chevy engine and Porsche transaxle. California’s Superperformance replica shop crafted two, period-perfect GT40s that raced across the finish line in Le Mans scenes.

The muscular GT40 will appear next to a curvaceous replica of the Ferrari 330 P3 (also built by Race Car Replicas), one of the most beautiful race cars ever built.

The pair will evoke the famous line from "Ford v Ferrari" as the cars rolled onto the grid at Le Mans: “If this were a beauty pageant, we just lost," said racer Ken Miles, played by Christian Bale.

Movie producers didn’t have access to the remaining 330 P3s remaining in the world — Autorama producer Peter Toundas says there are only two — so they turned to the Fraser shop to make replicas. Toundas estimates an original P3 today is worth over $30 million.

“'Ford v Ferrari' costs $97 million to make. If they bought one of those cars for the movie it would have cost a third of their budget!” said the Autorama chief.

While Ford was dominating international endurance racing in the '60s, the Camaro was scoring wins in America’s Trans Am series.

That series will come alive again in May at Belle Isle featuring some of the original — not replica — cars from the era. The 1969 Camaro on display here was a unique entry that was built by a student team at the University of Pittsburgh with assistance from Detroit racing icon Roger Penske.

Racing pioneer St. James, one of Sports Illustrated’s top 100 female athletes of the 20th century, will pilot the University of Pittsburgh Camaro in the Belle Isle race and will be available for autographs at Autorama on Friday and Saturday.

“I’ve always loved the racing fans in the Motor City and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at Autorama this weekend,” said St. James, the first woman to win Rookie of the Year honors at the Indy 500.

Autorama has helped popularize hot rods for seven decades and the show will honor its roots: Tommy Ivo’s 1925 T Bucket, Bob McGee’s 1932 Ford Roadster and Norm Grabowski’s Kookie T Bucket (made famous in the “77 Sunset Strip” TV show) will join Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Outlaw and Hot Wheel’s Bubble Top Beatnik Bandit.

Ultimately, though, the museum pieces will take a backseat to Ridler competitors which will be front and center in TCF Center.

They headline 800 of the world’s best chopped, channeled, dumped and decked custom rods at TCF Center. Autorama Extreme – a collection of lowriders, cars and bikes inspired by the 1950s – will be featured down below.

The 30 Ridler competitors will be pared by judges to the “Great 8” finalists before Meguiar's presents the winner with the $10,000 cash prize and trophy. For 57 years the Ridler has honored the best new custom car.

“This is the Motor City," Toundas said, "and Detroit is where hot rod, custom car shows started,”

 

Retiree Norm Evans
Wife Passes Away


Karen Frances Evans
1944 - 2020

Our Condolences go out
to the Evans Family

Obituary of Karen Frances Evans

EVANS, Karen Frances suddenly at her residence early Thursday morning February 27, 2020.  Karen Evans (nee Nicholson) of Wiarton in her 76th year.  Beloved wife of Norman 'Ted' Evans for 59 years.  Devoted mother of Linda, Larry (Denise) and Lisa (Gord).  Adoring grandmother of Tyler, Michelle (Mark), Alex (Jay), Billy, Erin, Karl, Lucas and Liam.  Proud great grandmother of Levi, Cali, Piper and Riley.  Dear sister of Allan (Brenda) and Lois.  Predeceased by parents Bert and Eva Nicholson, sisters Donna and Evelyn and granddaughter April. 

Karen will always be remembered for her love of her family, flowers and as a good friend and neighbour.  Karen's culinary skills will be missed by all. 

Private family funeral arrangements entrusted to the GEORGE FUNERAL HOME, Wiarton.  Expressions of remembrance to the Wiarton Hospital would be appreciated. 

Messages of condolence may be sent to the family through www.georgefuneralhome.com

 

Failed execution, culture weigh
on Ford performance, shares

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
Feb. 27, 2020

When historians record the six years since Alan Mulally retired as CEO of Ford Motor Co., the chapter could be entitled “A Chronicle of Wasted Time.”

Here was COO-designate Jim Farley using a Wednesday presentation to investors to deliver a message as bracing as a bucket of ice water: “I can see it on the face of my colleagues, and it takes me back to about 10 years ago” — to the Great Recession, to the dark days before the Mulally way led the Blue Oval from a wilderness largely of its own making.

Wasted time, indeed. Instead of using some of the best years since the 1960s to retool Ford thoroughly for today’s and tomorrow’s automotive world, Farley is telegraphing a reality that is proving easier to understand than to do. That is, strategic realignment of the past few years under CEO Jim Hackett means almost nothing without the action to achieve it.

And if there are two words that encapsulate Ford’s recent performance, underscore investor impatience and explain the Dearborn automaker's woeful share price, they’re “failed execution.” The question is whether Farley, once a rising star at Toyota Motor Corp., is the guy to increase the collective metabolism of yet another Ford turnaround.

"Ford people are good in crisis," a source familiar with Farley's thinking texted this week. That's true, but it signals a deeper problem that has vexed at least the past five CEOs to lead the automaker. Instead of using in good times the same discipline needed to navigate bad times, Ford's culture tends to follow grace under pressure with complacency.

The net results too often are lower margins and botched launches, rising warranty costs and declining retail market share, products ill-suited for developing markets and business units whose profitability relies almost exclusively on, say, large F-Series pickups and midsize SUVs.

In his pitch to investors, Farley touted the "family" working inside the Blue Oval, a mythic extension of the founding Ford family that regards the automaker's employees as an extension of their own lineage. Maybe so. Or maybe that kinship, spared the pitiless rigors of bankruptcy reorganization, is a big reason the Ford team repeatedly struggles to overcome its bias for complacency.

A "new" Ford tempered in bankruptcy might not have that tendency. But as everyone around here knows, Ford is the only automaker in this town that "didn't take the money" — a theoretically noble ideal whose legacies since have included higher debt levels and a dubious sense of urgency.

"The company shrank dramatically in the crisis and it almost added all the cost back," Hackett said in an interview nearly two years ago. "We had a chance to come back and have scale advantages, but we let that slip away."

We're now a decade removed from the taxpayer-financed bankruptcies of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC. Generally speaking, their ignominious bailouts fueled a sort of "never again" mentality among executive decision-makers determined to reckon — and act — with competitive pressures as they are, not as they want them to be.

"Imagine the whole industry goes bankrupt at that same time, and out of that is birthed more fit competitors," Hackett told me 18 months ago. "They are there now. All of them are much better than back in the day because of the bankruptcy, because of all the restructuring they had to do. What's worse than GM going bankrupt is GM coming out of it and the kind of competitor they became."

That's truer today than the day he said it. As much as this town's automakers hate comparisons to each other, the simple fact is that GM's strategic execution, solid financial performance and cohesive senior management team tend to make Ford's look, well, less so. And that is not lost on sharp-eyed investors, as the performance of Ford shares amply demonstrates.

Farley is setting the right tone. He's stressing urgency, demanding execution, warning of the enormous costs for botching launches of high-profile products like a new F-150, a revived Bronco SUV and an all-electric Mustang Mach-E. In short, Ford simply cannot afford to repeat last year's flawed launch of the iconic Explorer SUV.

And Ford deserves credit for attacking trouble spots in its sprawling automotive business: restructuring its troubled European and South American businesses; shifting its North American product portfolio to higher-margin pickups and SUVs; streamlining its product development processes that too often produced the wrong vehicles for crucial markets.

All of it and more — the redesign of the European business, a revival in China, headway with Mahindra Group in India and Volkswagen AG on EVs and autonomous vehicles — must be delivered before investors believe in the Blue Oval again.

Understanding that reality is not the same as delivering it. Farley calls it "go time," and he's absolutely right.

 

The Associated Press
Feb 26, 2020

Detroit – Ford is recalling more than 217,000 pickup trucks mainly in North America to fix a problem with the daytime running lights.

The recall covers certain F-150 trucks with LED headlights from the 2018 through 2020 model years. The Dearborn, Michigan, automaker says the running lights will keep working if the driver moves the headlight switch from auto to the low beam position. U.S. safety standards require vehicles to change to parking lights in that case.

The problem could reduce visibility to other drivers, but Ford says it doesn’t know of any crashes.

Dealers will update software to fix the problem.

 

 

Ford seeks $1M in damages
and to rescind original GT
sale after it was 'flipped'

Ford charges the defendants with flipping a new GT model worth $690,800 and selling it for more than double that price within a few weeks, in violation of the manufacturer’s 24-month prohibition against reselling the vehicle, according to a case in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Eric Freedman
Automotive News
Feb 25, 2020

Ford Motor Co. is suing participants in an alleged civil conspiracy to improperly acquire a custom-built 2018 Ford GT supercar, resell it for a profit and swiftly resell it again for yet another profit, all within a matter of weeks.

Ford charges the defendants with flipping a new GT model worth $690,800 and selling it for more than double that price within a few weeks, in violation of the manufacturer’s 24-month prohibition against reselling the vehicle, according to a case in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

The defendants are Timothy Quocksister, president of Silver Arrow Cars in Victoria, B.C.; Bradley Nullmeyer, former CEO of Element Fleet Management Corp. of Toronto; Steven Hudson, former CEO of Element Financial Corp.; and Engineered Automotive, a vehicle servicing firm in Concord, Ont.

It’s a complex, high-stakes tale in which all defendants deny wrongdoing while sometimes pointing an accusing figure at others among them. The dispute has generated a brown banker’s box full of documents filed with the court clerk.

Ford said in court papers that it learned the GT was offered for sale in Europe, and Justice Edward Morgan said an “undisclosed buyer” in Hong Kong had purchased it from an exotic car dealership in Richmond, B.C., SR Auto Group.

In a Nov. 13 decision, Morgan upheld a temporary injunction blocking the transfer or sale of the high-performance car pending trial, which isn’t yet scheduled.

Ford’s suit seeks to rescind the original sale deal and block any transfer or resale of the GT. It also demands $1 million in damages for misrepresentation and breach of contract, plus attorney fees.

“Ford’s evidence is that very few ‘supercars’ like this are manufactured and that it is very selective about who can buy this kind of vehicle,” Morgan wrote in his decision. “A very expensive automobile like this is often sold to dealers and collectors who use it for promotional purposes.”

To prevent flipping, the order confirmation form explicitly prohibited its resale or reconveyance for 24 months.

OWNERS CAREFULLY CHOSEN

A Ford spokesman said the resale restriction, “common for the world’s most exclusive cars,” is part of an extensive owner-selection process to “ensure the passion surrounding the Ford GT” is maintained. Ford selected owners “in part based on the likelihood they would showcase their Ford GT on an ongoing basis at events, on social media and on the road and at [race] tracks.” The spokesman said the company cannot comment on the suit itself.

Ford custom-built only eight 2018 model year GTs for Canadian purchasers at prices starting “in excess of” $500,000, the company said in court papers.

Pennsylvania lawyer Bryan Shook, who specializes in vintage-car law and transactions involving collectible and antique cars, said: “If you look at it from Ford’s business standpoint, it’s not good for business suing customers, but it has an interest in maintaining the brand and the value of the vehicle.” That includes requiring purchasers to prequalify and to “protect the price point.”

Concerns include use of “straw” buyers to hide the identity of the real purchaser or so the real purchaser can avoid disclosing his or her assets to the manufacturer, said Shook, who is not involved in the Canadian case.

At the same time, there are situations where a buyer’s financial or family situation may change within the two-year no-transfer period, he said.

THE STORY

Here’s what apparently happened, according to Morgan’s decision and documents filed by the parties:

Ford says it negotiated with co-defendant Hudson to sell the GT supercar through co-plaintiff Downtown Ford in Toronto. Hudson never consummated the deal.

Ford claims it was unaware at the time that Hudson had no ownership interest in the eventual purchaser, a holding company allegedly controlled by co-defendant Nullmeyer, Hudson’s then-business associate.

Hudson declined an interview, but the statement of defence filed in court said, “he was not aware of any allegation or suggestion that Nullmeyer had misled Ford.” The statement denies “any involvement in a conspiracy” and “making any misrepresentations to Ford.”

Hudson’s lawyer, Chris Paliare of Toronto, told Automotive News Canada: “Mr. Hudson is now aware someone else used his name without authorization. When Ford brought this purchase to his attention, Mr. Hudson cooperated fully in the process (and) provided proof he had no involvement in the initial purchase...nor any subsequent sales transactions.”

Paliare said, “Mr. Hudson has testified in this matter to clear his name and will continue to defend his reputation.”

Downtown Ford’s general sales manager, Tim Foster, said he cannot discuss the case until it is resolved.

Nullmeyer didn’t respond to requests for comment, but his lawyer told Ford’s lawyer in a letter that Nullmeyer “vehemently denies the allegations in the claim.”

‘SECRET COMMISSION’

Only 20 days after the initial sale, and despite the two-year ownership restriction, Nullmeyer’s holding company sold all its shares to Quocksister, the decision said. Quocksister’s Silver Arrows Cars is a collectible and luxury vehicles dealership. “Most of the cars Silver Arrows sells go to global buyers,” according to an August 2018 profile in the Victoria News. He denied any wrongdoing but declined to discuss the case with Automotive News Canada.

Quocksister negotiated the deal with the assistance of Concord, Ont., vehicle broker Jeffrey Seigel, who allegedly received a $126,560 commission from Quocksister, plus what Morgan described as a $200,000 “secret commission” from Nullmeyer.

Engineered Automotive allegedly stored the car for about a month on Nullmeyer’s behalf. Its court filing denied being “party to any conspiracy” or being involved in negotiations to sell the GT.

Quocksister contends he didn’t know about the resale restriction, but Morgan’s decision cited evidence that he did, including his admission that the confirmation order was in the package of material Seigel gave him. Seigel testified that he discussed the restriction with Quocksister, the decision said.

The decision said Seigel lied under oath by trying to hide his dealings with the owner of the holding company that bought the GT from Ford. In a court filing Siegel denied lying.

The judge continued: “Given the notoriety of these rare, ultrahigh-end cars among car dealers, Seigel’s statement [about talking with Quocksister about the restriction] makes a certain amount of sense. One does not pay $1,500,000 for an automobile without knowing a little something about it.

 

Ford’s lending arm is generating
more profit than ever

Molly Smith and Keith Naughton,
Bloomberg
Feb 24, 2020

Aside from F-Series pickups hauling in gobs of profit, Ford Motor Co.’s automotive business isn’t carrying much weight lately.

Thank goodness for the finance guys.

Ford Credit, the lending arm that’s become accustomed to propping up the company in good times and bad, now generates about half the automaker’s profit, up from 15% to 20% in the past.

Ford Credit is designed to perform a relatively simple task: make loans to the dealers stocking vehicles, then the consumers who buy them. Now, Ford is relying on its finance unit to help fund multibillion-dollar outlays on electric and self-driving cars while it simultaneously racks up $11 billion in charges from a restructuring that could take years.

“It’s like the ballast that keeps the ship steady,” said Lawrence Orlowski, an analyst at S&P Global Ratings. “It’s a balancing act.”

Ford’s been selling fewer and fewer U.S. vehicles for the last three years, and it’s losing billions overseas, including in China, where its annual vehicle deliveries fell by half during that time span. On Tuesday, analysts expect the company to report lower fourth-quarter automotive revenue and a 44% plunge in adjusted net income. Profit on that basis could be the lowest since 2009.

Ford shares rose as much as 3.6% and traded up 2.7% to $9.06 as of 10:30 a.m. in New York. The stock rose 22% last year.

The second-largest U.S. automaker would be far worse off without its Ford Motor Credit Co. unit, which is effectively funding turnaround efforts by routinely borrowing in the debt markets and paying a dividend back to the parent company. The credit unit is expected to contribute almost $3 billion annually to Ford over the next two years, according to Benchmark Co. analyst Mike Ward. That’s up from just a $400 million contribution in 2017.

Ford Credit borrowed around $10 billion in the U.S. investment-grade bond market in the past year, apart from funds raised in other currencies and securitized debt. By contrast, it’s been more than three years since Ford Motor last issued bonds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as investors fretted about the company’s high debt load and slowing sales.

Credit graders are responding to Ford’s poor automotive performance, with Moody’s Investors Service the most aggressive so far. It downgraded Ford to junk in September, casting doubt on Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett’s turnaround plan in the process.

S&P then cut Ford to the lowest investment-grade rating in October after the carmaker lowered its full-year profit forecast. Another downgrade by S&P would take Ford out of major high-grade indexes, which investors and analysts have contemplated for more than a year. If cut, Ford would be the largest U.S. nonfinancial high-yield issuer, which could add near-term pressure to its funding costs. It has about $35 billion of debt in the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. investment-grade index.

It’s not going to get any easier for the carmaker. Amid growing fears of an industry wide downturn, Ford is rolling out a critically important series of new sport utility vehicles and redesigning the F-150, its most profitable and best-selling model. Analysts are already flagging cost and execution risk tied to those introductions, especially after Ford botched the launch of its Explorer SUV last year.

“It’s quite clear Ford is not where it should be, but the finance arm is a bright spot,” said David Whiston, an equity strategist with Morningstar in Chicago who rates the automaker’s shares the equivalent of a buy. “Obviously you want the whole company operating at full power, which you don’t have right now.”

Ford Credit is contributing more and more to the parent’s earnings. In a normal operating environment, manufacturing cars and trucks should drive most of earnings, with credit only generating 15%-20% of profits, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Joel Levington. For much of last year, Ford Credit constituted somewhere around half the company’s profit.

Ford and its finance arm are inextricably linked. Each supports the other operationally and financially under a a relationship agreement that governs the connection between the two.

Ford Credit is also protecting the automaker’s prized dividend. The unit paid $2.4 billion back to its parent in the first nine months of 2019, covering the dividend cost for the entire year. That may be “unsustainable” in the long run, because Ford’s dividend consumes a much greater percentage of its cash flow than peers, according to BI’s Levington. Ford has repeatedly said it will not cut the dividend.

In a recession, Ford Credit’s role becomes even more important. It doesn’t play much in the subprime market, so the ratio of its losses to total customer bills outstanding stayed below 2% during the Great Recession, a low level. Its repossession rate never got higher than 3.2%.

Those strong metrics allowed Ford’s captive finance unit to generate a dividend for the parent even in 2009, when U.S. auto sales slumped to a 27-year low.

“With a healthy portfolio, a captive balance sheet in an economic downturn actually starts generating and kicking off a bunch of cash flow,” Tim Stone, Ford’s chief financial officer, said during a November interview at Bloomberg News headquarters in New York. “We take a very thoughtful approach to that business.”

Over the past two decades, Ford Credit has sent $28 billion up to Ford, according to company data.

“That’s not a bad thing – that’s exactly the reason you want to have a healthy financial-services company,” said Hitin Anand, a senior analyst at CreditSights. “Ford Credit will come to the rescue of Ford Motor in more ways than one. It’s one of the best-run captive-finance companies in the entire universe.”

Finance companies can be a burden for manufacturers in downturns, as General Electric Co. discovered in the financial crisis. The conglomerate’s credit arm weighed on its share price as investors grew more concerned about complicated financial institutions. GE has been selling off and shrinking the unit’s assets for most of the last decade.

Ford Credit is a bright spot in Ford’s portfolio, and also among its peers. It prides itself on lending to consumers with higher credit scores, which keeps asset quality high and defaults low compared with rivals General Motors Financial Co. Inc. and Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc.

In the third quarter, Ford Credit’s 60-day delinquency rate was just 0.14%. That’s low in an industry where 4.71% of auto loans were at least 90 days late, the highest in more than nine years, according to Federal Reserve data.

“As a credit analyst, I focus on glass half empty. Ford Credit is the positive part of the story,” said Olesya Zhovtanetska, senior director of public fixed income at SLC Management. “They need that cash cow.”

 

2021 Ford F-150 design cues, big
screen exposed in spy photos

Michael Martinez
Automotive News
Feb 23, 2020

Spy photographers have captured the best look yet at the redesigned Ford F-150.

The next-generation pickup, due out later this year as a 2021 model, was spotted this week in light camouflage near the automaker's Dearborn, Mich., headquarters.

The crew cab caught undergoing road testing features what appears to be more stacked headlights, more horizontal fog lamps and a grille that closely mimics the midsize Ranger pickup. The F-150 also appears to have a more raised hood than the current model.

The interior of the vehicle will undergo a more radical overhaul with at least a 12-inch touch screen, following the success of a similar-sized screen in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' recently redesigned Ram pickup.

Ford is planning a hybrid model that's expected to debut this year, as well as a battery-electric version expected out in 2021.

A smooth launch is critical for Ford. The F-Series line of pickups, of which F-150 is a part, has been the bestselling vehicle line in the U.S. for 38 straight years, and the bestselling pickup line for 43 straight years.

 

UAW's new dissidents not
the first to call for
one-member, one-vote

The Detroit News
Kalea Hall,
Feb 22, 2020

Detroit — A group of dissidents in the United Auto Workers is the second in 30 years to attempt change in the democratic union they say has really been ruled by one party: the Reuther Administrative Caucus.

That caucus has nominated the winning candidates for the union's executive board members for most of the past 70 years — with the exception of one notable exception, a challenger from the New Directions movement that rose up in the mid-1980s.

Formed in the union's now-defunct Region 5 based in St. Louis, the New Directions movement called for amending the UAW constitution for a "one-member, one-vote" system. The current process has member-elected delegates from each local elect the international leaders.

The late Jerry Tucker, shown here in 1992, challenged the old guard at the UAW as part of the New Directions movement beginning in the mid-1980s. (Photo: Detroit News photo archive)

"It was a spirited group … who just wanted a better union for the workers," said Mike Cannon, a former New Directions member and retired international representative for the UAW from Region 5. "It was that energy that propelled us into the victories that we were able to accomplish. I don’t regret any of the decisions we made. It was just such an enlightening moment to fight for a great union."

The New Directions efforts inspired the current push from a reform group calling itself Unite All Workers for Democracy. The new group — created as the labor union has been shaken by a federal corruption investigation implicating top UAW officials — has been gathering support from union locals in calling for a special convention to implement the direct election of union officials.

"They were fighting for the same things we are fighting for," said Chris Budnick, a seven-year UAW member at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant and founding member of Unite All Workers for Democracy.

The New Directions movement was born from the frustration of how the region was being run and who was running it. Ken Worley was the region's director at the time, but Cannon said Worley was an ineffective leader who depended on his assistant, Jerry Tucker, who was on the front line fighting for better contracts. Local presidents in the region formed New Directions and asked Tucker to run as director in 1986.

Members of New Directions were concerned about the future of work for union members, and about losing wages and benefits. The movement was suspicious of the union's interest in working with companies on joint programs.

Tucker was elected in 1988 as Region 5 director only after a federal investigation found election-rigging in the 1986 race between Tucker and Reuther Administrative Caucus-backed incumbent Worley. A new election was ordered under the supervision of the Department of Labor, leading Tucker to take office.

But Tucker, who died in 2012, wasn't able to make much headway while on the international board of directors because he was from an opposing party, New Directions members say.

Peter Downs, a former auto worker and New Directors member from Region 5, joined the movement because he felt it “was more true to what I thought unions were supposed to be about.”

“Having one party ruling anything paves the way for a lot of corruption because you have less accountability,” he said.

Supporting Tucker came with a cost. As an international representative who was expected to back the establishment's Worley, Cannon was transferred in 1989 from Region 5 to the UAW president's office at Solidarity House in Detroit. It was a post that international staff members called "Lepers' Row," because it was where that those who challenged the powers-that-be were sent, Cannon said.

"You essentially have leprosy and you are ostracized because of your disease," Cannon said.

The Reuther Administrative Caucus took back power of Region 5 in the 1990s. Tucker challenged Owen Bieber for the presidency in 1992 and lost. The New Directions movement lost momentum and fizzled out.

"People started to lose interest because we were fighting this powerful machine," Cannon said.

The most recent move toward direct elections is “a significant response to the wave of scandal that has beset the UAW,” said Marick Masters, a business faculty member at Wayne State University.

Masters said direct elections of international union officers would be a step in the right direction for the union. He said it would show greater reform than what’s already been implemented by the UAW, including more financial and ethical oversight from within.

Direct elections would maybe do more than anything else to forestall a government takeover, Masters said, because "you would clearly have competition for the current leadership positions."

 

A Ford service tech's newest tool?
Virtual reality headset

Michael Martinez
Automotive News
Canada
Feb 20, 2020

Ford Motor Co., in partnership with automotive supplier Robert Bosch, will use virtual reality to teach service technicians at dealerships how to work on the upcoming Mustang Mach-E electric crossover.

Through the use of a VR headset, techs can learn how to service the crossover's battery pack and how to remove and install the main battery. Bosch said it's working on updates that would allow techs to virtually enter the vehicle.

Ford is the first automaker to pilot the application in its service technician powertrain repair course, the company said. The automaker confirmed the technology will be used in both the United States and Canada.

"Technicians will be immersed in a simulated and gamified world, meaning they won't need to rely on actual Mustang Mach-E vehicles to learn about its components, including the electric SUV's new high-voltage system," Dave Johnson, director of Ford service engineering operations, said in a statement Friday. "This new virtual reality training tool allows technicians to understand the components and steps required to service these high-voltage systems, then confidently perform diagnosis and maintenance."

The Mach-E, due this year as a 2021 model, is Ford's first battery-electric crossover. Ford told its dealers that if they want to sell the vehicle, they'll have to get recertified to be able to service EVs. Officials have said the brand has 9,500 trained EV technicians and 2,000 dealerships certified to work on EVs.

Ford says the VR system allows service techs to learn skills without a physical vehicle. It hopes the technology can attract new workers to the profession.

The system uses the Oculus Quest virtual reality headset from Facebook. Ford has dabbled with virtual and augmented reality in other areas of its business, including product development and vehicle design, previously testing devices such as Microsoft's HoloLens.

 

Jim Farley could get 32% pay raise
as Ford chief operating officer

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
Feb 19, 2020

Ford Motor Co.'s new chief operating officer could see up to a 32% pay increase, the Dearborn automaker revealed Tuesday in a federal filing.

Ford's board of directors increased Jim Farley's annual compensation package to a potential $8.29 million from $6.295 million effective March 1.

Since April, Farley, 57, had been Ford's head of new businesses, strategy and technology. Earlier this month, the Blue Oval said Farley was being promoted to chief operating officer. The promotion came as the company said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of automotive, was retiring at the age of 53 following poor 2019 financial results.

"The compensation reflects his better role, and it is comparable to people with similar positions in large, publicly traded corporations," Ford spokesman T.R. Reid said.

Farley's compensation will include a $1.4 million base salary, a 27% increase from his current $1.1 million pay. His performance-based incentive bonus target is now $1.89 million, up 37% from $1.375 million. And his annual stock grant has been upped to $5 million, a 31% increase from $3.82 million.

In his new role, Farley will oversee Ford's global automotive business and look to converge the traditional retail business with the new mobility sector focused on autonomous, connected and electric vehicles. His promotion also positions him as the top contender to replace 64-year-old CEO Jim Hackett.

Final CEO compensation for 2019 for the Detroit Three automakers is expected to be announced this spring. Hackett received $17.75 million in total compensation in 2018. General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra's $21.87 million package was the most of the three companies that year.

Executive compensation was a frequent criticism among United Auto Workers members last year during labor negotiations. The new contracts guarantee wage increases over the four-year term.

 

Former UAW President
Owen Bieber dies at 90

Kalea Hall and Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
Feb 18, 2020

Detroit — Former United Auto Workers President Owen Bieber died Monday. He was 90.

Bieber led the UAW for 12 years, longer than anyone except the legendary Walter Reuther. Bieber was the union's seventh president, from May 1983 to June 1995.

He's known for leading the union during turbulent times when the auto industry was starting to feel the effects of foreign competition gaining market share while the economy was in a downturn.

"He led the UAW at a challenging time for auto workers and all working people, and he fought for social change in this country and around the world," Ron Bieber, Owen's son and president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, said in a statement. "His loss is felt deeply by his family and all of those whose lives he touched. Owen Bieber left behind a world that is better off because of his activism and dedication to service to others."

UAW President Rory Gamble called Bieber "a man of incredible leadership" who didn't shy away from "tough battles or taking a stand on controversial issues."

“He was not only a devoted trade unionist but a social activist whose impact was felt around the world," Gamble said in a statement. "Whether it was his support to end apartheid in South Africa or in Poland, Owen stood on the right side of history for the nation and the world.”

Bieber, the son of Albert and Minnie Bieber, was born in North Dorr, Michigan, in December 1929.

He worked at McInerney Spring and Wire Co. in Grand Rapids, the same auto supply plant where his father worked. At age 19, Bieber's co-workers elected him Local 687’s shop steward. By 1955, he was elected to the local bargaining committee.

In 1972, Bieber was appointed director of UAW Region 1D, a position he had until 1980, when he was elected vice president. Bieber served as director of the union’s General Motorsdepartment, the union's largest department with more than 400,000 members.

In a statement, GM said: “Owen Bieber will be remembered for his commitment to workers and his leadership of the UAW through challenging times for more than a decade. The entire General Motors family would like to extend its deepest sympathies and condolences to his family.”

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement: “I knew and respected Owen Bieber and he was instrumental in guiding the UAW through some of its most challenging times.  He was an advocate for the union’s membership and his leadership has had a lasting impact. Our thoughts go out to his family at this difficult time.”

In a statement Fiat Chrysler Autombiles NV said: "Owen will be remembered for his unwavering commitment to championing the causes of working people, and fighting tirelessly to protect the standard of living for millions of UAW members and their families. Owen’s leadership in calling attention to labor and civil rights movements, whether here at home or around the world, will be part of his legacy."

Taking the president's seat

Bieber was elected UAW president in 1983 during the union’s 27th Constitutional Convention in Dallas. He succeeded Douglas Fraser and served four consecutive three-year terms.

He oversaw one of the nation's largest unions at a time when Japanese automakers were cutting into the market shares of GM, Ford and the former Chrysler Corp. The external threats from international competition "sort of blindsided the auto industry, and it was on the heels of the energy crisis," said Marick Masters, business professor at Wayne State University.

Bieber was put in the difficult position of balancing the interests of his members and fighting to keep the companies competitive.

Early in his tenure, Bieber negotiated the creation of the jobs bank, which paid laid-off workers most of their salary to do no work or for community service. It was intended to deter downsizing by automakers but became a symbol of union excess during the Great Recession and the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler, when it was eliminated.

Bieber provided a “steady hand” to the union after it had endured the most troubling times economically since the Great Depression, said Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley who studies labor issues.

“It was a particularly critical period and deeply troubling period at times economically during his presidency,” Shaiken said. “He had a very large challenge before him. He was a person that was very, a person of integrity, someone who provided a steady hand and effective leadership through some very troubled times.”

Bieber is credited with diversifying the UAW by inviting new members from areas outside of industrial sectors, including government and private employers.

He experimented with some new approaches to organizing. Although advances at Japanese automaker plants failed, the UAW had some success at joint venture operations with Mazda Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Fremont, California’s New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. project between GM and Toyota Motor Corp. that explored new management-labor relations.

With the Detroit Three, Bieber oversaw the growth of joint training programs with the companies that have been the subject of the federal government’s recent investigation into union corruption.

“Under Bieber was when the union did embrace new ways of organizing work that is the joint programs in the plants with things like quality circles, union participation on quality and things that had been associated with the Japanese automakers,” Shaiken said.

In 1990, Bieber allowed the creation of the innovative Saturn small-car project in Tennessee that functioned under a separate contract and work rules. But over time, Saturn's independence was reined in by Bieber's successors, and the brand died.

'Dependable guy'

Outside of UAW leadership, Bieber took on missions abroad including in South Africa.

He traveled there twice, and while there checked on labor activist Moses Mayekiso, a leader in the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, who was imprisoned for leading a rent boycott. Bieber and others raised the international profile of Mayekiso’s case and the activist was eventually acquitted.

While in South Africa, Bieber captured more evidence of the real impact of apartheid when he smuggled images out of the country showing the scarred bodies of people in South Africa who challenged the country’s apartheid government.

Bieber could be a voice for the workers when needed, but personally came off as a bit shy and quiet, Shaiken said.

“He was a big guy,” he said. “You noticed him in the room. He could very tough, and he had a gentle side to his character. He started on the shop floor. He essentially had jobs at all levels of the union.”

Masters said Bieber wasn't known "for being charismatic or colorful, but he was a steady force and one who had the best interest of the union and the members in mind."

"He was a very dependable kind of guy," he said.

When he exited the union in 1995, Bieber advocated that unions and companies needed to develop mutual goals and work together to accomplish them.

"Labor and management have forged a collective bargaining relationship through which we can find common ground," he said during one of his final speeches as president in Detroit. "The beauty of the process we have created is that it offers a structured and rational means of solving problems."

Bieber voiced opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and was a fighter for the auto industry.

"He was pushing for an industrial policy ... to try and protect the companies from unfair competition and to find domestic assistance to build a strong workforce," Masters said. "He stands out as being a stalwart."

 

Magna CEO says USMCA
will mean 'more jobs, more
investment' in Canada

Automotive
News Canada
John Irwin

Feb 17, 2020

TORONTO — The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement should bring more jobs and investment to Canada, provided details surrounding local content and labour requirements are sorted out, Magna International Inc. CEO Don Walker said.

“There’s a lot of detail here, but overall I think it will be good for the industry,” Walker said Thursday at the Automotive News Canada Congress in Toronto. “There should be more jobs here and more investment here and more trading with great trading partners, the U.S. and Mexico.”

In order to ship between the countries duty-free under the USMCA, 75 per cent of a vehicle’s content must be sourced from within the three countries, up from 62.5 per cent under the North American Free Trade Agreement. It also requires 40 to 45 per cent of parts on a vehicle to be made by workers who make at least US$16 (C$21.21) per hour.

The deal was designed by the three countries to level the playing field after automakers under NAFTA opened numerous assembly plants in Mexico due to its cheaper labour costs. Suppliers in Canada have expressed optimism that regional content requirements would increase business for them. The Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association has estimated the USMCA would bring in up to C$8 billion in additional annual parts orders in Canada.

Walker said the USMCA makes the North American region as a whole more competitive with the rest of the world, particularly China.

In launching trade discussions in North America, the United States’ “real objective [was] to level the playing field with China,” he said. “I think it was probably 10 years too late, and they’d probably admit that. But China is going to roll over [North America] if we don’t get a stronger position and better negotiation with them. They’re a scary competitor.”

Walker cautioned that the transition from NAFTA to the USMCA’s rules could be too quick to allow the industry to properly understand and adjust to new regulations. Under the terms of the deal, the USMCA will go into effect 90 days after the final country ratifies the deal. Canada has yet to ratify the bill, while the United States and Mexico have.

Walker said he said he wrote a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer urging them to push that back to the start of 2021.

“We’re going to have to make sure all the OEMs approach it the same way, but there’s no way we’re going to get it done,” he said. “The fact is regional value content is going up. That should mean there’s going to be more local sourcing, unless it gets so complicated where they can’t meet the target, in which case somebody may say, ‘I’m going to make the vehicle outside of NAFTA, pay the duty and ship it in.’”

Walker also warned that if wages rise too quickly in Mexico as a result of the new trade pact, supply work could go overseas where it might still be cheaper.

"Be careful what you wish for," he said. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, now in a minority, requires votes from one of the opposition parties in Parliament in order for Canada to ratify the agreement. Walker urged the House of Commons to move quickly to ratify the USMCA.

“I hope there’s not going to be a lot of political debate for the sake of political debate,” he said. “I think it will get passed. You can’t really change it at this point.”

 

Pensions are a promise

Respect the Locked-Out Refinery Workers

By Melissa Keith  
February 14, 2020

Four workers walking the picket line at the Regina Co-op Refinery were arrested on February 4, charged with public mischief. While they were subsequently released from police custody, the bizarre nature of the incident stands out for Unifor Local 594 president Kevin Bittman. “It’s a little hard for people, in two aspects: the company isn’t even trying to get a deal, and they’re trying to hurt us and using the police to do it.”

With video cameras at every gate of the 85-year-old diesel and gas processing facility, workers are under surveillance as they draw attention to the dishonest dealings and unfair demands of their employer, Federated Co-operatives Limited (FCL). On February 5 — day 61 of the Regina Co-op Refinery lockout — Bittman said the conflict showed no signs of ending.

He has spent 23 years working at the Saskatchewan refinery, where he is a process operator overseeing all the processing units that create diesel fuel and gasoline. More than 1,000 workers are employed throughout the complex. “We’ve had quite a bit of turnover,” Bittman notes of the job, in which expansions typically create waves of new employees. “We have over 400 members under the age of 35.” Now, the Unifor Local 594 members of all ages find themselves on the literal front lines of the Canadian labour movement in the fight for defined benefit pension plans.

“It all started three years ago, when the company wanted concessions on pensions,” he explains. “The company wanted more this time. The company was adamant that we had to go backwards on our pension.” Contrary to the view promoted by the business owners, the unionized refinery workers originally agreed to concessions around pensions. “Three years ago, we agreed that all new hires would no longer be on the defined benefits plan. This contract is now attacking the ability [of veteran members] to stay on the defined benefits pension,” adds Bittman.

 The Company Wants Us to Go Backwards

Defined benefit pension plans differ significantly from defined contribution plans, and the latter is what Regina Co-op Refinery management is trying to force on the employees. “We offered six per cent, when we were paying nothing before; six per cent of each individual's income would go into the defined benefit plan. Right now, the company is contributing all of it,” the Local 594 president tells Our Times.

Moving to a defined contribution plan places employees in a risk-bearing situation similar to when someone makes RRSP investments for their retirement: Unlike defined benefit plans, defined contribution plans do not provide a guaranteed monthly income that is protected from market fluctuations and their effect on personal investments. In the case of defined contribution plans, the employer is not expected to ensure that the monthly pension amount keeps up with inflation and cost of living increases. Bittman says he will have to work an extra six years because of pension changes.

Bargaining with FCL has proved elusive and disheartening. “They never officially gave us an offer,” says the process operator. “They never gave us anything to vote on.” Instead, the $3-million-a-day-in-profits company has spent freely on helicopter transportation and camp accommodations for 120 management workers and 400 “replacement workers,” while also buying ads asserting that locked-out Unifor members are acting contrary to “Prairie values.”

 Bittman says that support from other unions and even federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has encouraged the Regina Co-op Refinery employees, who are surviving on strike pay as the dismal situation drags on. “The labour movement is onside,” he says. At the time of this interview, there was a Western Canadian boycott of FCL-owned businesses, and the picket line had kept fuel from leaving the Regina plant for 15 days.

But there is a battle for public perception underway, and the Local 594 president fears that FCL is successfully deploying anti-union stereotypes to fuel community resentment against the locked-out workers. “What power do we have?” he asks, frustrated. “The labour movement has understood it, but you’re in this Conservative province where a lot of people just hate unions. They say, ‘These greedy union people  They should just get back to work ’ But we can't get back to work — we're locked out.”

 Workers Fight for Safety, Too

Back on December 4, Local 594 members delivered an unmistakable 97.3 per cent strike vote to their leadership. Since then, Bittman says that despite $20-million in savings offered to the company, FCL has rejected the union’s offer and instead “gutted” the pension plan. But there’s even more at risk. Bittman notes that safety measures ensuring that adequate numbers of properly trained workers handle specific duties are being altered in dangerous ways by the company’s proposed changes to the collective bargaining agreement’s “letters.”

“The ‘letters’ refer to maintenance duties that are defined in the collective bargaining agreement and the company wants to remove them, and then remove language that prevents workers doing work that is someone else’s job in the bargaining unit,” says Bittman. “This would allow anyone to do anything. The other change would be removing a minimum maintenance-complement number. Without this number, the company could reduce the maintenance department to zero [employees]. They also want to add language to have the ability to change workers’ hours of work whenever they want.” 

FCL has used the positive associations people have with the co-op's image and its history to evoke hostility against the very refinery that generates the bulk of the Western Canadian Co-op brand’s revenue. “If it wasn't for the refinery, those little [Co-op] stores would close,” Bittman observes. “It's really fractured Regina. Our members alone put $50 million into the community.”

The man who is in the next-highest job to supervisor in his workplace notes that the 36 highest-paying positions in his bargaining unit are under threat, with no resolution on the immediate horizon. Federal legislation cannot bring a ready conclusion to the lockout, which falls under provincial jurisdiction, so Bittman says a provincially appointed mediator is likely the next step in resolving the ugly impasse with FCL. “We are hoping that they give that mediator some power,” he adds.

Shobna Radons is president of the Regina and District Labour Council. She says that in the early days of the refinery lockout, “it was all peaceful.” FCL’s subsequent refusal to bargain in good faith with Unifor members changed the tone, and the company has taken a more aggressive stance by invoking police contact. “Now they are awarding tickets to everyone parked on the shoulder [of the road] or in the ditch, knowing that they are the workers on the picket line,” she says with disgust.

Radons believes that the workers have more public support than they may realize. “These guys are our neighbours, our family members, our friends. They’re in the community,” she stresses. “FCL has billboards posted up, saying ‘Why is Unifor striking?’ They’re blaming them, but they [FCL] have dug their heels in and are the ones that are perpetuating the division.”

She says that Scott Banda, the CEO of FCL, is responsible for the lockout at the Regina Co-op Refinery; his recent media releases suggest that he wants to work out a fair deal with the workers, and that he has been speaking with employees at Western Canadian Co-op retail stores who want the impasse to end. But the FCL has not dealt with Unifor Local 594 members in good faith, leading Radons to one conclusion: “Don’t blame the union. Blame the CEO for damaging the legacy of the Co-op.”

In a February 3 FCL media release on the company website, a quote from Banda paints the Regina Co-op Refinery workers as lawless and self-interested. “Unifor said this labour dispute can only be resolved at the bargaining table, and on that we agree. But the bargaining table doesn’t look like setting up blockades, breaking the law and defying court orders. You can’t have meaningful bargaining when your business is being held hostage.”

 Union blockades were erected at the Regina refinery, as well as the FCL Carseland Fuel Terminal, and Weyburn and Regina Co-op locations. The Weyburn Crossroads Co-op blockade ended January 13, and on Sunday, February 9, the Carseland Fuel Terminal blockade was dismantled to comply with a February 6 court order. On February 10, 20 Unifor members set up a new blockade at a Co-op bulk fuel depot in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. FCL has repeatedly sought court injunctions to remove the locked-out workers' main line of protest for their pensions and rights.

Radons says that Saskatchewan’s Conservative premier would expect union members to make even more concessions than those already offered, in order to end the ongoing labour dispute. “Scott Moe would only appoint a special mediator if the union agrees to take the barricades down,” for starters, thus abiding with a Queen's bench court injunction.

 The barricades are both symbolic and actual shows of strength by the locked-out members of Unifor Local 594. Bus driver Balkar Sandhu says that members of his union local responded when Unifor’s national office put out the call for all locals across Canada to support the Regina Co-op Refinery workers. Sandhu notes that six different transit garages operate out of the Lower Mainland in Vancouver, where he and his bus-driving fiancé, Tracy Milne, are based. The 3,800 bus drivers there are members of Unifor Local 111, while an additional 1,200 mechanics belong to Unifor Local 2200.

Local 2200 president Mike Smith was one of the first people arrested during protests at the Regina refinery. Sandhu and Milne were among the 30-plus Unifor members to leave Vancouver to join the locked-out Co-op Refinery workers in Saskatchewan in January. Since then, hundreds of members from different unions across the country have shown up in support of the locked-out refinery workers. “Eight hours a day, we picketed with our brothers and sisters of Local 594,” Sandhu tells Our Times. “Sometimes we would get an email saying ‘Something is going down,’ and we’d jump back in our cars and go back up there [to the refinery].”

Sandhu describes the scene of the protest as inspiring, despite the ongoing lockout. “There were a couple of mobile homes there, people were bringing food, coffee was always available, and there was a proper DJ booth, to keep warm and show the faith ” he recalls. “The amount of different unions there was mind-blowing: longshoremen, CUPE, nurses. . . .” Cold temperatures and long hours did not detract from the workers’ message, echoed by Sandhu. “This is a show of force for the rights of Canadians and what is right for blue-collar workers, busting their butts for the right to retire,” he stresses. “Some of these guys now have to work another 10 or 15 years.”

The lockout is having a serious impact on FCL’s bottom line and day-to-day operations, as Sandhu points out. “I just got an email [. . .] saying the Winnipeg stations just ran out of gas” on February 8; Co-op and Shell stations selling FCL Refinery gas products were both reportedly affected. He notes that some 300 truckloads per day were being held back by 30 truck drivers who are part of the protest.

The effects of the lockout go beyond the gas stations, directly to the heart of public safety. “Here’s the scary part, which the public needs to now,” explains the Local 111 member. “The Master Operator, who has run the plant in Regina for 20 years, [is locked out]. […] These scab workers are so unqualified to work with propane and diesel that it’s dangerous. There’s only one guy there who’s qualified, and everyone else is Facetiming him saying, ‘Is this right? Is this right?’”

That alarming scenario is only worsened by the lack of pipe inspections within the refinery, he adds. As of February 8, it had been 67 days without pipe inspections by the qualified veteran employee who normally handles this essential safety measure. “A six-millimetre crack in a pipe resulted in an explosion several years ago,” advises Sandhu. “Why isn’t the premier involved yesterday, bringing in the mediator?”

 That question remains, as workers await the reopening of negotiations. “What it comes down to is the rights of hard-working Canadians paying taxes,” argues Sandhu. “They need to get back to the table and call on a mediator, for a fair contract that benefits both sides.” He recounts how Unifor Local 111 was on the brink of a strike last March, when the transit drivers’ contract was up for renewal; employer TransLink returned to the bargaining table to help hammer out what Sandhu terms “what a collective agreement should be, and the best contract we’ve had in the time I’ve been there.”

As law enforcement is called upon to intervene in what is fundamentally a labour dispute, Sandhu wonders how police officers feel about arresting locked-out workers and those who stand with them in solidarity: “Getting the police doing things that they probably really don’t want to do, because they are actually in a union,” as he phrases it.

“This is not just about Unifor or Local 594,” argues Sandhu. “This is about all Canadians who work for a living.”

Supporters of the Regina Co-op Refinery workers can check out the calls to action on two websites: boycottcoop.ca and unifor594.com.

 

Ford recalls over 240K vehicles
to fix suspension problem

The Associated Press
Feb 13, 2020

Dearborn – Ford is recalling over 240,000 SUVs and cars worldwide because a suspension part can fracture and increase the risk of a crash.

The recall covers the Ford Flex, Taurus police car, Taurus SHO and Lincoln MKT from the 2013 through 2018 model years. Most of the recalled vehicles are in North America.

Ford says if the suspension moves a lot on the vehicles, the rear toe links can fracture. Toe links help keep the rear suspension stable and the tires on the pavement.

The company says it’s not aware of any crashes or injuries caused by the problem in this batch of recalled vehicles.

Dealers will replace toe links on both sides with new ones that are stronger.

Owners will be notified starting March 2.


 

Coronavirus expected to hit
automakers' bottom lines

Kalea Hall and Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
Feb 12, 2020

Detroit — As some automakers restart production in China this week and others extend downtime amid the coronavirus crisis, industry experts predict their bottom lines will take a hit.

All three Detroit automakers extended a production shutdown in China because of the outbreak following the week-long Lunar New Year holiday. But General Motors Co. has now extended its downtime for its 15 Chinese assembly plants to at least Saturday.

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. on Monday began staggering resumption of production at its nine Chinese plants to get assembly lines moving again, a process that's expected to take several days. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV also reopened its two Chinese assembly plants to start production in the coming days, and Tesla Inc.'s Shanghai factory returned to action Monday after the company said last week that Model 3 sedan deliveries would be delayed.

As a result of the outbreak, the world's largest auto market will lose production of 1.2 million vehicles for the first quarter and see a 50%-80% decrease in sales in February, analysts forecast. The coronavirus scare is an added complication as automakers there face declining demand, trade tensions and stricter emissions regulations.

It is too early to tell by how much the virus will affect business, the automakers said. Even before the first person was diagnosed, GM's sales had declined there 15% in 2019, while profits were cut nearly in half to $1.1 billion. Ford's sales fell 26% in China, though it cut its losses there in half amid a turnaround plan and the introduction of new models. Fiat Chrysler, which has less than 1% of the Chinese market, saw sales drop 41% to 73,000 vehicles, according to Hong Kong-based consulting firm ZoZo Go LLC.

“There probably will be starts and stops,” said Jeff Schuster, LMC Automotive’s president of global vehicle forecasting. “You may see some factories back up and then shut down again, whether it’s because of an actual case of the virus or a shortage of something. Even if something gets up and running, we expect some interruption further into this week, next week and into March.”

LMC forecasts that automakers will be unable to make up two-thirds of the 1.2 million in lost production. The outbreak could cause a net decrease of nearly 800,000 new vehicles, a decline to 23.5 million from the originally projected 24.3 million vehicles for the year.

China's Automobile Dealers Association predicts sales will fall as much as 80% in February as consumers avoid going out to shop. China sells about 2 million vehicles a month.

Automakers are relying heavily on digital advertising to encourage consumers to place orders, said Michael Dunne, CEO of ZoZo Go.

"Everyone is on edge because ... this thing is still not defined," Dunne said. "No one wants to go out to a crowded showroom to pick up a new car. It's not a priority right now."

Volkswagen AG has the largest risk for exposure because it produces roughly 40% of its vehicles in China, more than any other foreign automaker there, said Patrick Anderson, CEO of East Lansing's Anderson Economic Group consulting firm.

Honda Motor Co. is also vulnerable because it assembles vehicles in the province around Wuhan, the disease’s epicenter in central China.

So does GM, whose largest market is China. “They’re essentially an American-Chinese company,” Anderson said. “Undoubtedly, the public health crisis has a serious and negative effect on General Motors in China.”

Production startup at GM plants will vary by plant depending on the safety of employees, parts availability and available vehicles on dealer lots, the automaker said.

GM expects the virus will dent sales, but GM China President Matt Tsien told investors during the automaker's Capital Markets Day event in New York last week that he expects to see pent-up demand after the coronavirus crisis subsides. Tsien said it was too early to predict how the virus will affect GM's earnings.

Production at Honda Motor Co.'s Wuhan plant will remain down through Thursday, though two other plants several hours south of Wuhan in Guangzhou are operating again. Toyota Motor Corp. said it was preparing to resume China production this week.

Nissan Motor Co. is expected to restart production Feb. 17 at its Huadu and Dalian plants, with other factories ramping up at other times. A parts shortage also has strained Nissan's production in southwest Japan, where it is making temporary adjustments at its plant in Kyushu.

Likewise, Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Co. had suspended production in South Korea. Hyundai planned to restart some assembly lines starting Tuesday.

Fiat Chrysler has identified a manufacturing facility in Europe that is at risk of closing because of a parts shortage in the next two to four weeks if the outbreak continues to worsen. The automaker has not specified which plant that is.

Any impact on North American production should be minimal, ZoZo Go's Dunne said, because most parts used here are made here. The availability of parts in the aftermarket are more exposed.

Automakers say they are monitoring their supply chains and have developed contingency plans. It's standard to have alternate supply sources for situations like this, Dunne said.

But for electric vehicles, there is a limited global supply of batteries and their components — many of which come from China, Anderson said. That exposes companies like Tesla to disruption.

“Tesla is critically dependent on battery-electric assembly, notably battery assembly,” Anderson said. “By far the largest share that goes into these lithium-ion batteries are made in China. They made a huge bet on battery-electric and are an innovator to their great credit, but they are also very vulnerable to any disruption in supply.”

Battery assembly is the single biggest risk for a parts shortage in North America, Anderson said, though such vehicles still only account for a small portion of the market. Although the Buick Envision and a Volvo model are built in China, access to such vehicles in the United States likely won’t be affected.

“There are very few vehicles that are assembled in China and brought over here,” Anderson said. “We haven’t identified any models that would be difficult to find in the United States.”

The largest source of anxiety for automakers right now is not knowing how long the spread of the virus will continue and when consumers will return to dealerships. It likely won't be this week, especially in hard-hit areas, LMC's Schuster said.

"I’d be surprised if normal operations resume in any areas before the end of the month," he said. "Wuhan will be impacted at least through part of March."

 

Ford shakeup signals pressure
to perform in present, future

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
Feb 11, 2020

When former Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields was trying desperately to keep his job nearly three years ago, he floated a plan with the automaker’s directors that proposed organizing his one-time rival, Joe Hinrichs, out of a job.

The board pushed back amid a “strategic review” of Fields’ tenure that instead got the CEO got fired in May 2017. Hinrichs survived, appeared to flourish during Ford's years-long "redesign" and became president of the Blue Oval’s global automotive operations, thought a springboard to the top job.

Until Friday. Until a high-level mandate to integrate the traditional auto business and next-generation autonomy and electrification under a single executive — and to atone for a disastrous Explorer launch that tanked last year's financial performance — left Hinrichs, 53, on the outside looking in. Under-delivering financial expectations, especially in another good year for auto sales, can do that.

The restructuring atop the Glass House is a bid by Ford to achieve one interrelated goal: drive toward realizing the future of personal transportation while delivering the present profitably, on schedule and with quality. In nearly three years as CEO, Fields struggled to maintain that balance; so did Hinrichs, judging by Ford’s lagging financial performance in regions where it operates.

Now Jim Farley, promoted to chief operating officer, is heir apparent to CEO Jim Hackett. Theoretically, anyway. The move is less a “coronation” to anoint Farley as Ford’s chief executive in waiting, as one source close to the situation described it, and more a prolonged audition.

It should be. Farley’s management style can be mercurial, to put it kindly, his manner quirky and sometimes brusque. He has a reputation for decisiveness, candor and taking calculated risks like pushing for the Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle — traits Ford needs to juice its competitive metabolism and complement Hackett's professorial bent with employees, investors and the media.

A former Toyota Motor Corp. executive with familial ties to the Blue Oval, Farley is said to understand the vital role of technology in many aspects of the industry's future. Now's his chance to prove it, and quickly, because rival GM is garnering positive investor attention for its all-in on EVs strategy coupled with the coming launch of its suite of full-size pickups and SUVs, rolling licenses to print money.

Ford's new executive structure should enable directors to see Farley, 57, operate at a global level, to balance the traditional auto business that generates virtually all of the company's revenue and profit with the technology-driven spaces of what's widely called "Auto 2.0."

Senior leadership increasingly concluded such a construct — Auto 1.0 and Auto 2.0 — to be an artificial creation that failed to recognize just how closely linked each side is with the other. Namely, that world-class trucks and SUVs are platforms for new technology, and that the artificial intelligence expected to one day guide Ford's self-driving vehicles has applications for assembly lines, plant management, parts logistics.

More, the directors led by Executive Chairman Bill Ford are hedging their bets. In addition to elevating Farley, the automaker said its chief product development officer, Hau Thai-Tang, would shoulder more responsibility — a signal that Farley's ascendance to the top job is not preordained, and neither is a perceived bias to promote an insider to replace Hackett.

This shakeup was inevitable. Ford's turnaround is proving slow-in-coming. And the botched launch of its all-important Explorer SUV last week slammed fourth-quarter earnings and contributed to modest guidance for this year, pounding Ford shares that had been rising much of the year.

Investors are voicing growing frustration, underscoring their concern by trading Ford shares generally lower. Meanwhile, rivals General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are delivering fatter North American margins, faster cash generation and, in GM's case, what's considered a more cohesive electrification strategy.

In a note Monday outlining Ford's headwinds, Morgan Stanley cited lower North American margins, "substantial continued losses" in China, costs associated with emissions compliance in Europe, continued investments in new hybrids instead of a "straight-to-EV' chosen by such rivals as GM, and lower cash-flow projections for this year compared to GM and FCA.

"Ford is currently lagging peers in operating performance in N. America, China and S. America at the same time," Morgan Stanley wrote. "Friday's management changes are, at some level, acknowledgment of the need for change from the company."

The irony is that Hinrichs said as much in a letter he wrote to his team touting accomplishments his critics would tend to overlook in favor of the challenges apparently he, alone, was expected to overcome. It doesn't work that way.

"We used to talk about Profitable Growth for All," he wrote, channeling a mantra repeated continually by superstar CEO Alan Mulally before retiring six years ago. "The plans over the last three years, combined with the dramatic collapse of our sales in China after we had built such a strong business, have delivered significant losses in global volume and market share."

In other words, Ford's core business has not been delivering when competitors have — and that's a big problem in Dearborn that can no longer be ignored.

 

Ford completes 400 layoffs
at Oakville plant

John Irwin 
Canadian Automotive News
Feb 10, 2020

About 400 workers were laid off this week at Ford Motor Co.’s Oakville, Ont., assembly plant, shortly after the automaker ended production of the Ford Flex there.

The layoffs, which took effect Monday, were announced late last year, and come ahead of negotiations between Unifor and the Detroit 3 automakers later this year. Job security and product commitments figure to be major priorities for the union, while the automakers attempt to navigate slowing sales in a declining North American new-vehicle market.

“Our plant is in desperate need of new product,” said Mark Sciberras, president of Unifor Local 707, which represents the 4,200 hourly workers at the plant. “Hopefully new product brings those people back.”

In an email to Automotive News Canada, Ford spokeswoman Lauren More said the move to end Flex production, alongside the discontinued Lincoln MKT, would allow the automaker to “strengthen [its] focus on products in the heart of the fastest growing segments to meet shifting consumer demands.”

This week’s layoffs were the second at the Oakville plant since 2019. Ford said in July that it would cut around 200 jobs at the plant while slowing production there amid slowing sales. It followed that up in October with an announcement that it would end Flex production and would lay off workers as a result.

Flex and MKT production ended in 2019 amid slow demand for both vehicles in North America. The Flex debuted in 2008, and annual volume peaked the following year in the United States at 38,717 units sold. Ford in the U.S. sold 24,484 Flex units in 2019, according to the Automotive News Data Center in Detroit, making it the lowest-selling light-truck in the Ford brand’s lineup. It sold 2,470 units in Canada.

The MKT, meanwhile, was replaced in Lincoln’s lineup by the Aviator crossover, which is assembled at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant.

Oakville continues to assemble the Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus crossovers, which accounted for the bulk of the plant’s production in 2019. The Oakville plant assembled 247,615 vehicles in 2019, up about 4.3 per cent from a year earlier, according to the Data Center. The Flex and MKT accounted for about 11 per cent of all vehicles produced there.

 

Ford’s Hinrichs to retire,
Farley becomes COO

Michael Martinez
Canadian Automotive
News
Feb 9, 2020

DETROIT  Ford Motor Co.’s Joe Hinrichs, 53, is retiring as president of the company's global automotive operations, and Jim Farley, 57, president of new business technology and strategy, will become COO, Ford said.

The management shakeup, effective March 1, comes three days after Ford posted disappointing fourth-quarter earnings and profit guidance, with Wall Street analysts pressing company leaders for more details about a transformation plan that has yet to produce positive financial results amid a period of profound disruption across the industry.

Hinrichs had been at Ford for 19 years. He was CEO of Ford of Canada for about 10 months in 2005. Speaking at the 2019 Automotive News Canada Congress in Toronto, he reflected on his tenure there and on the strength of the Canadian auto industry, which has dealt with the threat of plant closures and layoffs in recent years.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett on Friday stressed the need to move with more urgency as the company attempts to implement elements of his self-described “fitness” plan.

Hackett is targeting 8 percent operating margins on the company's global automotive business, and 10 percent margins in North America, or roughly double what the company has achieved in recent quarters, and well below recent margins at rivals General Motors and Fiat Chrysler.

“Ford has struggled with execution -- potentially explaining this move,” Dan Levy, an analyst for Credit Suisse who cut his rating on the company's shares to the equivalent of a hold earlier Friday, said in a note to clients. “Farley’s promotion to COO positions him as a successor to the CEO role.”

Ford, which is preparing to launch a redesigned F-series pickup, the all-new Mustang Mach-E and a revived Bronco SUV, is targeting adjusted free cash flow of $2.4 billion to $3.4 billion ($3.2 billion to $4.5 billion Canadian) to this year and adjusted earnings of $5.6 billion to $6.6 billion, below analysts’ expectations.

In addition to steep investments in electrification and autonomous vehicles, Ford and other automakers face a U.S. new-vehicle market that is expected to fall below 17 million units for the first time since 2014, even as rising transaction prices help pad revenues and profits.

Farley, who joined Ford in 2007 from Toyota, is expected to retain his role as head of Ford Smart Mobility, the company's  autonomous vehicle unit, and its partnership with Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based autonomous technology firm.

"Jim Farley is the right person to take on this important new role," Hackett said in a statement. "Jim's passion for great vehicles and his intense drive for results are well known. He also has developed into a transformational leader with the imagination and foresight to help lead Ford into the future.

In addition, Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer, will take on an expanded role and will report to Farley, Ford said. He will add responsibility for the company’s Enterprise Product Line Management and connectivity arms.

“Hau will be the primary architect as we bring together the vehicle architecture and software stack to create products, services and experiences our customers will love,” Hackett said. “ We are moving forward with an integrated approach to vehicles and connected services, all anchored in an obsession for the customer, great design and a commitment to strong returns.”

Hinrichs has been steering Ford's automotive operations since May and is well-respected in Ford’s factories and among dealers, and was seen by many as a likely successor to Hackett. He had broad authority over Ford’s automotive operations, including product development, and recently helped the automaker come to terms on a new four-year labor contract with the UAW.

Hackett called him a “really good friend and accomplished global leader” who was “instrumental” in helping Ford survive the Great Recession and also played vital roles on issues ranging from labor to manufacturing to trade.

“To a person, he was beloved,” Hackett said. “Joe’s going to have a wonderful career. But everybody believes the momentum that we’re talking about building here is the right thing to do.”

Ford’s disappointing earnings were due in part to the botched launch of the redesigned Explorer crossover, one of the company's most profitable nameplates, but Hackett on Friday said Hinrichs' decision to retire was “not tied to that at all.”

Hinrichs also holds Ford’s seat on the board of directors at startup Rivian. A Ford spokesman said Friday that no decision has been made on replacing Hinrichs with another executive. Ford invested $500 million last year in the Plymouth, Mich., EV maker and said recently that an upcoming Lincoln EV will be based on Rivian technology.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the latest management changes at Ford.

In May 2017, former Ford CEO Mark Fields attempted to force Hinrichs out as president of Ford's Americas unit, a post Hinrichs had held since December 2012.

With Hinrichs in the key role, the company earned about $38 billion in North America, or 92 percent of the automaker's total pretax profits during the period. He also oversaw the successful redesign of Ford's best-selling and most profitable vehicle, the F-series pickup.

Still, days before his ouster as Ford CEO in May 2017, Fields moved to fire Hinrichs in part to relieve some of the pressure Fields was facing from a skeptical board of directors, Automotive News reported at the time.

Fields intended to get approval from company directors for his decision to fire Hinrichs during the week of May 14, sources told Automotive News.

Fields' plan backfired, however, when directors decided instead to part ways with him, along with communications chief Ray Day, following a May 19 board meeting.

Instead of a pink slip, Hinrichs was given a promotion to a newly created post -- president of Ford's worldwide automotive business, including global product development; manufacturing and labor affairs, among other things.

 

Ford shakes up leadership after
missing 2019 earnings targets

Breana Noble,
Detroit News
Feb 8, 2020

The elevation of Ford Motor Co. strategy chief Jim Farley to chief operating officer signals growing impatience with the speed of the automaker’s restructuring, experts say, and implicitly makes him the top contender to succeed CEO Jim Hackett.

The major leadership shakeup, which includes the retirement of Joe Hinrichs, president of automotive, comes as the Dearborn automaker blamed the botched launch of its top-selling Explorer SUV for missing 2019 earnings expectations and forecasted a disappointing 2020 — signs the company is under pressure to show results from its ongoing $11 billion global restructuring plan.

"It would seem logical for Farley to be a possible replacement unless there's another Alan Mulally out there," David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said in reference to the former Ford CEO who came from Boeing Co. "This is just typical of the chaos of the industry today."

Farley, 57, and Hinrichs, 53, had been considered potential successors to Hackett when the former CEO of Grand Rapids-based furniture maker Steelcase Inc. came to the automaker in 2017. His appointment was perceived as a short-term move to develop a vision for an Auto 2.0 future of autonomous, connected and electrified vehicles.

"I think there's pressure on Hackett and everybody else at Ford," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Cox Automotive Inc.'s Autotrader. "They announced a restructuring plan, (and) everybody's been waiting for those results. It's been a while. And there's extra pressure because we're at a point where sales are not growing."

But Hackett used a conference call Friday to reiterate he has no plans on leaving Ford soon: "I plan on staying in this job and working with Jim tightly to now realize the value that we’ve been promising."

In addition to overseeing Ford's global markets, Farley will continue to lead Ford's mobility and autonomous-vehicle ventures as he has since April. The transition, which Hackett said has been in the works for more than a year, is meant to combine under one executive the traditional auto business with the new Auto 2.0 sectors and manage them as a single business.

"It is my judgment the time is to move with urgency now to fully integrate and accelerate Ford's transformation into this higher-growth and higher-margin business, and leverage the smart, connected vehicles," Hackett said during a conference call. Farley is charged with nearly doubling global margins to 8%, the company said.

Hinrichs, a manufacturing expert, leaves as Ford expects to replace 40% of its portfolio this year. Hackett, however, said the company "won't miss a beat" as it rolls out a small off-road vehicle; the all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV; and the redesigned F-150 pickup, including a plug-in hybrid version. Ford also will introduce region-specific vehicles in places like China.

Farley is "more of a sales and marketing guy where the other guy (Hinrichs) is basically the engineer, manufacturing guy," Cole said. "My bet would have been (Hinrichs) would be the next CEO."

A former Toyota Motor Corp. executive, Farley joined Ford in 2007 as its global head of marketing and sales. He was a key member of Mulally's team to return Ford to profitability and launched the "Drive One" advertising campaign that lasted several years after Ford was frequently switching strategies. Farley went on to lead the Lincoln luxury unit, the South American division and then the European business, which he helped turn around at least for a short period.

"We have all the foundation elements of this transformation Jim talked about," Farley said on the conference call. "Now it's go-time, execution. I'm really excited to lead the team to bring this mission toward visions to life."

The Explorer is Ford's best-selling SUV, but sales declined more than 26% last year as production problems led to vehicles coming off the line with buggy software, loose wiring and faulty seats. Ford shipped many of the vehicles 268 miles from Chicago to Flat Rock to be repaired, causing months-long delays.

"There are only three programs you don’t screw up at Ford: F-150, Mustang and Explorer," Marcus Hudson, executive director of Calderone Advisory Group in Birmingham, said in a statement. "The Explorer launch was Hinrich’s audition for the top post; his leaving speaks directly to the internal view of how well manufacturing is doing at Ford. The Explorer launch obviously didn’t go well; couple that with ongoing warranty issues which imply a drop in quality, which has a direct correlation with customer loyalty, then someone’s head had to roll.”

Hackett denied the Explorer's problem had to do with Hinrichs' departure: "The launch of the Explorer is a company issue that involved a lot of aspects, including Joe's role and others. We share that with others. This, in fact, is not tied to that at all. I want to make that really clear that we're all accountable for that performance."

Ford shares continued to fall by 1.5% Friday afternoon — more than equity indexes — after hitting a 52-week low earlier in the day before the news. The automaker's stock was about $8.12 per share, down from $9.21 prior to Ford reporting earnings Tuesday after the market closed.

Tuesday's results had led Adam Jonas, managing director of research at Morgan Stanley, to blast the Dearborn automaker a day later during an investor presentation held by General Motors Co. that highlighted its future plans.

“I noticed that you were videotaping today’s investor day; it’d be great if someone could send that tape to Ford in Dearborn," he said. "I’m serious. I’ll hand-deliver it myself to them if you don’t send it to them. Your team is really airtight. You should be very proud of this presentation you gave. ... You are executing.

Hackett praised Hinrichs' contributions to Ford in helping it to survive the Great Recession without bankruptcy or bailouts; leading the launch of Ford in China; playing an influential role in negotiations with the United Auto Workers; and representing the automotive industry's interests in trade deals such as the newly signed United States-Mexico-Canada agreement.

Additionally, Hau Thai-Tang, chief product development and purchasing officer, will take over oversight of connectivity and enterprise product-line management in addition to his current roles. Thai-Tang, 53, will report to Farley.

The leadership changes will take effect March 1.

 

Ford's profits fall nearly 99%
for year, due to Explorer woes

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
Feb 6, 2020

Dearborn — The botched introduction of the new Explorer SUV caused what CEO Jim Hackett said would be Ford Motor Co.'s "year of execution" to fall flat, with the Dearborn automaker posting a net income of just $47 million last year — a 99% decline from 2018.

Hackett had hailed 2019 to be a turning point "toward a really bright future" as Ford undergoes an $11 billion global restructuring, which included cutting costs and layoffs. But the 117-year-old company's flubbed launch of its best-selling SUV plagued the latter half of the year and sent SUV sales down 5%.

"We fell short of our financial expectations and yours in 2019," Hackett said on an earnings conference call Tuesday. "What is particularly disappointing is the primary reason for that shortfall was our operational execution. This is an area where we typically are effective.

"Our leadership is determined to return to world-class levels of operational execution. We will do that without losing any momentum in creating a Ford Motor Company that will drive and generate long-term value in these fast-changing times."

Ford's $6.379 billion in earnings before interest and taxes missed the lowered guidance the automaker set last quarter of between $6.5 billion and $7 billion. Its expectations for 2020 are even lower: between $5.6 billion and $6.6 billion — and that doesn't include potential losses related to the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The company's shares in post-market trading slid more than 9%, losing gains made over the past year as major indexes closed higher. The sell-off, coming as rivals General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are set to detail their results this week, signals growing concern about the pace of Ford's turnaround, its European restructuring, efforts to repair its business in China and its troubled Explorer launch.

"Given the economy Ford was handed in 2019, the operational miscues resulted in missed opportunities to the bottom line," David Kudla, chief investment strategist of Grand Blanc-based Mainstay Capital Management LLC, said in a statement ahead of the earnings results.

The Explorer was the most complicated launch for Ford since the aluminum F-150 pickup in 2015, said Tim Stone, chief financial officer. The rush to production led to months-long delays and SUVs coming off the lines with such major problems as faulty seats, loose wiring harnesses and digital displays with buggy software. It delivered 26% fewer Explorers in 2019.

Ford will have the chance to prove it corrected its mistake in 2020 with launches of a new off-road SUV and the all-electric Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV. It also is investing $700 million in Dearborn for the next-generation, F-150 pickup, including a plug-in hybrid version, and $750 million to Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne for the returned Bronco SUV in 2021 and the Ranger pickup. By the end of the year, Ford is expected to have replaced 75% of its product line since 2017 and decrease its average age by two years to 3.3 years old.

The Dearborn automaker reported it made 1 cent per share on $155.9 billion in revenue for the year, a 3% decrease. Ford lost $1.672 billion in the last three months of 2019, which was 13 times the company's loss for the same period last year. A $2.2 billion charge on pensions largely drove the fourth-quarter loss.

"From an execution standpoint, clearly 2019 was below our expectations attributable to the operational challenges we had with the Explorer, for example, higher warranty costs," Stone said. "Fundamentally what we are seeing in our results are the benefits of fitness and the redesign through 2024."

Stone pointed to decreased structural costs in 2019 compared to flat structural costs in 2018 as an example of this, but Ford did not disclose further details on them. Operating costs fell 1% to $155 billion.

The automaker made $6.612 billion before interest and taxes in North America, a decrease of 13%. Ford will give eligible hourly full-time United Auto Workers employees up to $6,600 profit-sharing checks this year, down $1,000 from a year ago.

The automaker's North American business was operating at a 6.7% margin in 2019, down from 7.9% in 2018. The teams are targeting 10% margins. In 2019, Ford lost before interest and taxes $704 million in South America, $47 million in Europe, $23 million in Asia Pacific and $142 million in the Middle East and Africa. The company also lost $771 million in China.

Although the Chinese market contracted, Ford's earnings rose 50% year-over-year as it introduces newer models such as the Ford Territory crossover, remodeled Ford Focus car and Lincoln Aviator SUV. The new Ford Escape SUV and Lincoln Corsair will launch this year there.

The coronavirus outbreak, however, has the company extending the Chinese New Year holiday factory shutdown a week to Feb. 9 under the government's recommendation. It is not yet clear how much it will affect business, Stone said. Ford also is halfway through its planned 12,000 layoffs in Europe, where it closed six manufacturing facilities last year.

The company lost $1.186 billion in the "mobility segment" in 2019 and plans to increase its spending on the development of future technology in 2020. Ford Credit made $2.998 billion with Ford projecting earnings would decrease again this year because of auction values and higher taxes.

Ford had just under $1 billion more cash on hand at the end of 2019 with $17.7 billion. The company's operating income was $574 million.

Since the start of 2019, Ford has announced partnerships with Volkswagen AG and India's Mahindra Group to boost performance outside the U.S. Ford also announced plans to develop an electric vehicle for Lincoln with Plymouth-based Rivian Automotive LLC and expand autonomous vehicle testing with Argo AI.

 

Ford to pay UAW members
$6,600 in profit-sharing

Breana Noble,
The Detroit News
Feb 5, 2020

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. will pay 53,000 eligible hourly United Auto Workers employees profit-sharing checks of up to $6,600 this year.

The Dearborn automaker, which made $47 million last year, announced profit-sharing as part of its full-year 2019 earnings report Tuesday. Its pre-tax profits in North America — the figure profit-sharing is based on — totaled $6.612 billion.

Workers should see the payments in March, according to the company.

Last year, Ford paid about $7,600 to eligible hourly full-time UAW members on a $7.6 billion North American profit.

“UAW Ford members negotiate profit-sharing in their contracts so that they can share in the success of the company and its profits," Gerald Kariem, UAW vice president and Ford Department director, said in a statement. "Today’s announcement is a testament to UAW Ford members' hard work and the great products that they make.”

General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will announce their profit-sharing amounts when they report full-year earnings on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

 

Trump signs new USMCA
trade deal, clearing way
for Commons debate

The Canadian Press
Feb 3, 2020

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump finally signed NAFTA's death warrant Wednesday, his distinctive Sharpie scrawl on the American road map for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement heralding the start of a new era of managed continental trade and what could be an acrimonious debate in the House of Commons.

Trump signed the implementation bill — approved by Congress after extensive negotiations with Democrats in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Trade Representative's office — during an hour-long ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House that featured Vice-President Mike Pence, trade ambassador Robert Lighthizer and a long roster of Republican lawmakers.

"This is something we really put our heart into — it's probably the number 1 reason I decided to lead this crazy life I'm leading right now, as opposed to that beautiful, simple life of luxury that I led before this happened," Trump said to laughter, standing before a working-class backdrop of American manufacturing and oilpatch workers in coveralls and hard hats.

"I love doing it, and the reason I love doing it is that nobody in a period of three years has done so much, as all of us have — nobody."

The signing leaves Canada as the only member of the trilateral deal still to ratify the agreement, a process that began almost on cue Wednesday as MPs voted on a motion to begin the process of debating a Canadian version of the bill in the Commons.

The motion carried, but without the support of the Bloc Quebecois.

"Various industries, various groups have questions and concerns," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said before his weekly Liberal caucus meeting.

"There will be a certain amount of pressure on Canada from both Mexico and the United States, who want to see this move forward, but we have questions and we have a process for ratification. I just look forward to getting through it responsibly and rapidly, because it's so important to Canadians."

The 13 months of negotiations, which began in 2017, put pressure on Canada's relationship with its largest trading partner. Trump, an outspoken critic of NAFTA, mentioned Trudeau only once Wednesday, acknowledging his "close partnership and co-operation" while in the same breath hailing an "incredible friendship and relationship" with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

"Canada's opening up," he said, promising substantially higher exports of U.S. poultry, eggs and wheat to Canada.

"Where is the Canadian folks, where are they?" he asked, peering in the crowd. "You guys did a good job on us before this deal, I'll tell you. Canada was very tough. But they're good. They're our friends, so we appreciate it."

The USMCA — christened in Canada as CUSMA but known more widely simply as "the new NAFTA" — is expected to feature prominently in Trump's re-election efforts, which is why House Democrats were also clamouring to take a share of credit.

"We rescued the final NAFTA 2.0," said Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenhauer, touting Democrat efforts to negotiate more stringent labour and environmental enforcement mechanisms. "We now have an agreement that will be worth the paper it is printed on."

USMCA "can't undo the damage" wrought by the 26-year-old NAFTA, but the changes negotiated by Democrats earned her support, added Rep. Debbie Dingell, who blames free trade for hollowing out the auto sector in her home state of Michigan.

"Our work is just beginning to strengthen U.S. manufacturing ... it sets a floor from which we will fight."

Even once Canada passes the needed legislation, it will still take several months before the new rules are fully in place. All three parties need the time to develop so-called "uniform regulations" used to interpret the terms of the deal.

Once that happens, a welcome measure of predictability and confidence will return to the continental trade corridor, said Kirsten Hillman, Canada's acting ambassador to the U.S., who was on hand for Wednesday's ceremony.

"Trade agreements as public policy tools do two things: they open markets and liberalize trade between parties so as to incentivize mutual benefits — supply chains, investment, business partnerships — and they create predictable rules that Canadians can count on in deciding to make business choices," Hillman said in an interview.

"One of the challenges over the past couple of years has been that this instrument that underlines and underpins a $2-billion-a-day trading relationship we have with the United States has been under negotiation, creating a certain sense of instability within our trading community."

The Democrat changes commit Mexico to a suite of changes that include protections that would allow workers to organize, form and join the union of their choice, among other measures.

"In my view, the labour reforms being undertaken in Mexico are the largest labour reforms ever undertaken in North America, including the New Deal in the U.S.," said Dan Ujczo, an international trade lawyer and U.S.-Canada expert with Dickinson Wright in Columbus, Ohio.

"It is a huge undertaking, and so every Canadian and U.S. company that has operations in Mexico had better get ready for a significant adjustment period on labour and employment issues in Mexico."

Hillman said a Canadian delegation, part of a working group to support the implementation of those reforms, is in Mexico this week to determine precisely how Canada can help.

"I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but I think these obligations are very much something that are very consistent with the policies and objectives of the Mexican government."

 

Celebration of Life
for Frank Marek



Sunday February 16, 2020

1 pm to 4 pm


Memoriam Funeral Services.

633419 Hwy 10,
Unit B1 
Mono, ON
L9W 6Z1
Tel: 1-519-415-4687

Mono Plaza, Hwy 10 - 2 miles north of Orangeville.
It is on the northernmost end of the plaza around the back.

https://www.imfunerals.com/obituary/Frank-Marek

https://www.imfunerals.com/directions

Frank Marek fighting for Retiree Pension Cost of Living - Video
Recorded at the ratification meeting held Sept 23, 2012


FRANK MAREK
PASSES AWAY

Retired October 1, 2003
38.3 Years of Service

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of a great
friend and Union activist Frank Marek. Frank passed away Feb 1, 2020.

Frank was Local 584's Chairperson from 1967 to 1998. For 25 years
and 9 sets of negotiations he was instrumental in bringing
most of the benefits, wages and pensions that we enjoy today.

Frank has always been a fighter for worker rights and a strong voice for retirees especially in our fight to regain our pension cost of living.
Frank also served as Vice-Chair of local 584 Retirees
executive for many years.

Frank will not only be remembered as a fighter but also for being a very generous man with a great sense of humour, a kind person and a real gentleman. Franks biggest passion was fishing.  

He will be sadly missed by all who had the pleasure and
honour to know him.

Our sincerest condolences go out to his entire family
for their loss of a true icon.

*************************************

Celebration of Life
for Frank Marek


Sunday February 16, 2020

1 pm to 4 pm


Memoriam Funeral Services.

633419 Hwy 10,
Unit B1 
Mono, ON
L9W 6Z1
Tel: 1-519-415-4687

Mono Plaza, Hwy 10 - 2 miles north of Orangeville.
It is on the northernmost end of the plaza around the back.

https://www.imfunerals.com/obituary/Frank-Marek

https://www.imfunerals.com/directions

Obituary

Marek, Frank

May 14, 1942 ~ February 1, 2020 (age 77)

Departed to ride The Great Fishing Boat in the Sky on Saturday, Feb 1, 2020 at the ripe old age of 77 after complications due to heart surgery. Joining his beloved wife Eileen, who has been calling him since her earthly departure in 2014 to finally get home and help her redecorate their heavenly living room and dining room.

Eternal fishing guide to his sons Paul and Kevin (Dana), and beloved tall-tale storyteller to his grandchildren Vann and Ty. Frank also joins his dearly missed sister Vilma (Rick) and beloved brother Stevie (Diane) at The Great Dinner Table with their angelic parents Steve and Rita. Leaving some pickerel and lake trout for his much-loved brothers Jimmy (Joan), Joseph (Elaine), David (Irene) and Johnny (Linda) to catch. Frank's tales were also deeply cherished by sister/brother in-laws Janet (Mark), Lorraine and Dennis, as well as being a dearly-loved patriarchal uncle by over a dozen nieces and nephews, as well as many children of friends that called him "Uncle Frank".

Frank very much enjoyed letting his closest friends Chris, Peter, Pete and Dan actually catch the fish, while he'd fib about it to his dearest friends George & Ann and Donna who've been awaiting his heavenly arrival with wife Eileen. While not fishing, Frank touched many lives in the labour movement as the longest-standing Local Union Chairman in CAW (UNIFOR) history, at Ford's Brampton Local 584.

Frank will be fondly remembered by his many union brothers and sisters for being instrumental in bringing vacation time to union workers across Canada. A private cremation service was held, but Paul and Kevin would like to extend a warm invite to all family, friends and neighbours whom Frank's loving and humorous energy touched, to join them in sharing great food, beer & wine, stories and lots of laughs in loving memory of this wonderful fisherman (or so he thought).

Please bring your favourite funny story to share - help us put the "fun" in funeral. The memorial party will be from 1pm to 4pm on Sunday February 16th, at the In Memoriam Life Celebration Center, Mono Plaza, 633419 Hwy 10, Unit B1, Mono. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Headwaters Hospital Palliative Care Unit.

Online condolences and donations may be made at www.imfunerals.com

In Memoriam Funeral Services Inc. has been given the honour to serve the Marek Family.

To send flowers to Frank's family, please visit our floral section.

 

 


 

 

GM wants to see documents UAW
gave to federal government
in corruption probe

Breana Noble and Robert Snell,
The Detroit News
Feb 1, 2020

General Motors Co. is demanding to see the 1.9 million documents the United Auto Workers has supplied to federal investigators amid a years-long corruption probe, along with internal communications involving collective bargaining, as the Detroit automaker pursues a racketeering case against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

The details come as the UAW on Thursday joined Fiat Chrysler in requesting a judge delay a subpoena demanding a "staggering" amount of documents concerning GM's allegations that a bribery conspiracy between the Italian American automaker and UAW officials corrupted three rounds of labor bargaining. GM says Fiat Chrysler attempted to harm the Detroit automaker so it could be taken over by Fiat Chrysler.

Fiat Chrysler has denied the claims and on Friday called for the suit to be dismissed.

Abigail Carter, the UAW's attorney, wrote that complying with the subpoena while motions to dismiss are pending would pose an undue burden for the union. "Compliance with the Subpoena will consume a substantial amount of UAW resources," she wrote, "while, at the same time, exposing elements of its confidential bargaining strategy to General Motors (and, potentially, its competitors)."

GM provided a list of 36 demands to the union, which is not a party in the case. In addition to the documents the UAW has supplied to the U.S. attorney, and documents and communications concerning negotiations with Fiat Chrysler and GM in 2009, 2011 and 2015, the subpoena requests all communications between the UAW and Fiat Chrysler's late CEO Sergio Marchionne and the three executives who have been convicted in the federal probe.

It also requested all documents and communications concerning any meetings between UAW leadership and GM CEO Mary Barra and former GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens in 2015. Marchionne made advances that year to merge Fiat Chrysler with GM.

"The UAW is one of several non-parties to the litigation that possess directly relevant evidence about FCA’s conspiracy to corrupt the collective bargaining process," GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement. "Given that the conspiracy covered over a decade, we believe it is imperative to begin the discovery process now in order to obtain evidence before it is lost or destroyed. We disagree with UAW’s motion on multiple grounds, and will respond in Court."

Most of the UAW's motion is spent defending itself against GM's claims that evidence could be in jeopardy following a July 2019 fire at the union's Solidarity House headquarters.

"The fire has had a negligible effect on the UAW's ability to fully respond and to continue producing documents in the ongoing government investigation," wrote Jeffrey Sodko, the UAW's deputy general counsel.

Pat McNulty, the Detroit Fire Department chief in charge of arson, on Friday said the department is still waiting for lab results to come back. Investigators sent computer batteries to a lab in Connecticut for a CT scan shortly after the fire, but haven’t heard back. The official cause remains undetermined and is still under investigation.

In October, fire officials had determined that the blaze started in a storage area with unused electronics and was not suspicious. The federal government has scrutinized the fire, as well, subpoenaing the union for security camera footage and visitor logs from that day, The Detroit News reported in December.

Sodko said the union in June 2018 implemented a "litigation hold," which instructed employees not to delete permanently any emails from the server, to preserve all hard-copy documents and not to modify or overwrite existing electronic documents. Email and electronic files have been stored in cloud-based servers for more than two years and are maintained off-site by a third-party vendor. Hard-copy documents, however, are stored at Solidarity House along with other satellite locations.

Approximately 13,000 boxes of paper records were transported off-site for cleaning following the fire, Sodko wrote. Roughly 80% have returned to the UAW as cleaning continues.

"If anything, UAW's ongoing cooperation with the U.S. Attorney's investigation, and its efforts to preserve documents following the fire that occurred on July 13, 2019, stand as strong evidence that the UAW will cooperate fully with its discovery obligations, if and when the case proceeds," Carter wrote.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider in November said he did not think reform efforts in the UAW demonstrated that the union was cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department.

GM also has served Fiat Chrysler with 55 document and four interrogation requests covering the interested bargaining agreement, communications between Fiat Chrysler's chairman and various UAW employees, communications concerning a potential merger with GM and communications between the Italian American automaker and French automaker Groupe PSA, with which FCA is looking to merge now.

In addition to the UAW, GM has sent subpoenas to eight people and organizations that are not parties in the case, including the UAW retirees' health care trust, former President Dennis Williams and former Vice President Norwood Jewell.

Jewell last week reported to a minimum-security prison to serve his 15-month sentence. He is one of eight UAW officials along with three Fiat Chrysler executives who have been convicted in the federal probe. Thirteen in total have been charged and Williams and his predecessor, former UAW President Gary Jones, have been implicated in the corruption.

 

Unifor to pay $36,000 of
Nemak's legal costs associated
with wildcat strike

Automotive News
Jan 31, 2020

Unifor must pay part of Nemak’s legal costs the auto supplier incurred during a court battle over the union’s blockade and wildcat strike at a factory in Windsor, Ont., last year.

A judge has ordered the union pay Nemak $36,000 in legal costs and other expenses. The company was seeking more than $59,000, but a judge ruled the smaller amount was fair and just.

About 200 workers walked off the job on Labour Day in 2018, saying that Nemak’s decision to close the plant in early 2020 — ahead of the end of the collective bargaining agreement — breached the terms of that contract.

Union members staged a blockade at the plant for two weeks. The Ontario Labour Relations Board ordered the blockade to end, a judge ruled it illegal yet Unifor stood its ground and the two sides ended up in court, where Unifor was found in contempt of court and fined.

Unifor, the Local 200 chapter and four local union members were fined a total of $89,000. Unifor paid $75,000. The judge deemed that fair enough.

Nemak employees build engine blocks for a Cadillac vehicle assembled in China, the I-6 engine blocks for the Chevrolet Silverado assembled in Flint, Mich., and the Corvette engine block and bedplate.

Nemak announced the pending closure in July 2019. It said the decision came on the back of “the expected withdrawal from an export program by a client in China,” which would lead the plant to use less than 10 per cent of its installed capacity by 2020. Nemak previously said the Windsor plant is now too small and too inefficient to remain open as the company expands elsewhere in the world. The company says it recently purchased larger businesses outside of Canada that came with existing plants and capacity.

As a result of under-utilization in Windsor, that work is being moved to Mexico.

Arbitrator Norm Jesin concluded the union “has not established that the Employer violated the collective agreement, and that the grievance of Unifor regarding the closure of the Nemak Windsor Aluminum Plant must be dismissed.”

The binding arbitration came after Unifor staged a 13-day blockade at the Windsor plant, defied an Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) order to remove the blockade and ignored Superior Court Justice Terry Patterson’s ruling to end the standoff.

The union is appealing the arbitration. In what might be Unifor’s last chance to make its case, a judicial review is set for Friday, Feb. 7 in Toronto.

 

Lincoln's first-ever electric vehicle
will be built with Rivian

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Jan 30, 2020

Ford Motor Co. plans to partner with Plymouth-based electric-vehicle startup Rivian Automotive LLC to develop the first-ever fully electric Lincoln.

The SUV would be the product of a $500 million Ford investment in Rivian that was announced less than a year ago. Ford is expected to partner with Rivian on a Ford-branded product, too. The companies have not given a timeline for any products born out of the partnership, but Rivian expects to have its plant in Normal, Illinois running by the end of 2020.

"Working with Rivian marks a pivotal point for Lincoln as we move toward a future that includes fully electric vehicles," Joy Falotico, Lincoln president, said in a statement. "This vehicle will take Quiet Flight to a new place – zero emissions, effortless performance and connected and intuitive technology. It’s going to be stunning."

Lincoln in recent years has pivoted to an SUV-heavy lineup. The brand saw sales increase more than 8% in 2019 despite a continued transition away from sedans. Of the seven vehicles in Lincoln's lineup, five are either an SUV or a crossover. The automaker plans to end production of the MKZ sedan later this year.

The Lincoln-Rivian vehicle would use Rivian's "skateboard" architecture as the base for the SUV. It would carry Lincoln badging. An all-electric SUV is vital to Lincoln as the brand continues a push to be a flagship brand in the increasingly competitive Chinese market.

The Chinese government backs electric vehicles. Lincoln has found a market hungry for plush SUVs there, too. The automaker currently offers hybrid variants of two of its SUV models.

“Our vehicle development partnership with Ford is an exciting opportunity to pair our technology with Lincoln’s vision for innovation and refinement," RJ Scaringe, Rivian CEO, said in a statement.

Meantime, Rivian closed 2019 with a $1.3 billion investment from a Baltimore investment firm. The company — which has yet to build or sell a vehicle — received  nearly $3 billion in investments last year. Amazon.com, Inc. invested $700 million in Rivian earlier this year. Ford later invested $500 million. In September, Cox Automotive said it would invest $350 million.

Amazon and Rivian in September said Rivian would build 100,000 electric vans for the e-commerce giant. The first batch of vans is expected to hit U.S. roadways by 2021, with 10,000 on the road by late 2022. All 100,000 are to be operating in Amazon's fleet by 2030.

Those vans would be built alongside Rivian's planned R1T pickup and R1S SUV. The company says its R1T pickup and R1S SUV will have a 400-mile-plus range, and offer off-road capability. Its base $69,000 model has "frunk" storage behind the grille and a 105-kWh battery. An upscale, $100,000-plus model would increase that to 180 kWh.

Rivian officials have said the vehicles it builds are aimed at off-road and adventure enthusiasts.

Experts have said Rivian needs partnerships and orders from companies like Amazon to fill capacity at the old Mitsubishi plant it's converting in Illinois.

 

Ford reaches new settlement over
Focus, Fiesta transmissions

Michael Martinez
Automotive News
Jan 28, 2020

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. has agreed to an updated settlement affecting nearly 2 million customers in a years-old class-action lawsuit over faulty Focus and Fiesta transmissions.

The automaker has agreed to a minimum $30 million in cash reimbursement and has simplified the compensation and vehicle-buyback process, according to a filing with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Ford has spent more than $47 million buying back vehicles from thousands of customers.

The amount each customer would receive depends on how many claims are submitted. The new deal includes $20 payments to customers who say a dealership refused to repair their car's transmission when they reported issues with it.

The automaker in 2017 initially proposed a settlement that, in part, would have awarded $35 million in cash reimbursement, but it was challenged on the grounds that not enough owners would be compensated.

The proposed settlement is up for final approval Feb. 28 by a district judge.

"Ford believes the settlement is fair and reasonable, and we anticipate it will be approved by the court following the hearing next month," Ford spokesman T.R. Reid said in a statement.

The Detroit Free Press first reported the revised settlement.

The DPS6 transmission used in the Focus and Fiesta has haunted Ford for years, with customers complaining the gearboxes would shudder, jerk and hesitate. No deaths or injuries have been attributed to the problem, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it found "no evidence of an unreasonable risk to safety," after reviewing complaints.

Ford in August extended the warranty on certain 2014-16 model year Focus and Fiesta cars with dual-clutch transmissions by two years and 40,000 miles. The company also said it would offer a software update for customers who continue to have issues with the problematic gearboxes.

In 2012, the Los Angeles-based law firm Capstone Partners APC filed the first of multiple lawsuits on behalf of owners who claimed their vehicles suffered repeated breakdowns.

 

REGINA CO-OP REFINERY
PICKET LINE
Week of January 20, 2020

alt_text


Lisa Gergenti, Debbie Kent and Sandy Knight
brave the cold while picketing in Regina


Local 584 President Sandy Knight with Local 707 Retirees Chair Arnie De Vaan

 

The original Bullitt Mustang --
The incredible story behind
the car that few people know

Greg Laurie | Fox News
Jan 27, 2020

In case you haven’t heard, the original Bullitt Mustang, from the film “Bullitt,” just sold for a staggering $3.74 million.

An anonymous bidder walked away with a piece of Hollywood history on wheels.

The car’s name comes from the classic 1968 film “Bullitt.” In the movie, Det. Frank Bullitt, played by the iconic actor Steve McQueen, drove the Mustang as he solves a murder mystery.

Described as a “Mona Lisa” car because it had long been thought of as lost to history, the Bullitt had sat hidden in a garage for four decades. It’s recent rediscovery made headlines and thrilled car enthusiasts.

McKeel Hagerty, CEO of the largest classic car insurer in the world and founder of the Historic Vehicle Association, said, “The Bullitt Mustang has it all – a great chase scene, the McQueen connection, and a fantastic backstory. The fact that it had disappeared for decades, only to reemerge as an unrestored, movie-car time capsule is something we’ll likely never see again in our lifetimes.”

Therein lies what to me is the real appeal of the car: the McQueen connection.

The movie icon chose the car himself for the film, figuring that is what a detective like Frank Bullitt with his pay-grade would have driven. What amazes audiences to this day is the Bullitt chase scene, which still is regarded by many as the greatest car chase scene in cinematic history. Steve McQueen did some of the driving himself, which makes it all the more impressive.

A few years after the film was completed, McQueen tried to purchase the Mustang but without luck.

I have a replica of the Bullitt car, a 1968 Highland green Ford Mustang 390 GT. I pull it out of the garage every now and then. Younger people tend to ignore it, but those who watched “Bullitt” in theaters get very excited when they see my car.

Believe it or not, I am often asked, “Is that the Bullitt car from the movie?”

The original car that just sold has the patina that comes with age, and if we are honest, there isn’t much that is extraordinary about it. It’s basically a stock 1967 Ford Mustang with some modifications which include aftermarket wheels and a blacked out grille minus the Mustang Pony emblem.

What makes the car appealing is who drove it.

Steve McQueen still captures the imagination of the public, and you still see his image pop up on ads for TAG HEUER watches and Persol sunglasses.

Coming from a broken family — his father abandoned him, and his mother was an alcoholic — Steve spent time bouncing from his mom, to his uncle, his maternal grandparents and ultimately to a reform school.

He served a three-year stint in the Marines and decided to try his hand at acting. As they say, the rest is history.

After the huge success of his TV show, “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” McQueen starred in the classic Western, “The Magnificent Seven.” It was followed by his breakout role in “The Great Escape” and, of course, the legendary “Bullitt,” which established him as the #1 actor in the world.

The No. 1 actor in the world became a follower of Jesus Christ.

Steve McQueen was the whole package: global superstar, motorcycle rider, fashion icon, race car driver and more. But there was a hole in his life left by an absent father who Steve tried to find in his adult life. Steve descended into heavy drinking, drugs and womanizing on an epic scale.

Fed up with the misery of it all, he eventually left Hollywood and moved to Santa Paula, California, an agricultural community where he purchased a hanger for his ever-growing collection of classic cars and motorcycles. Though he was offered many of the prime roles of hugely successful movies of that era – “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Superman” and “Apocalypse Now” to name a few – Steve simply lost interest. He charged $50,000 to even read a script.

One thing Steve always wanted to do was to learn to fly.

He purchased a PT Stearman biplane for $35,000 but needed lessons. The only man who was qualified to teach him was a no-nonsense former test and acrobatic pilot named Sammy Mason, who was also a civilian trainer during World War II. Mason, a committed Christian, lived his faith in a way that intrigued Steve. They had many conversations during their flying lessons, and Steve actually asked Mason if he could attend church with him. Their relationship resulted in Steve becoming a Christian himself.

I became so fascinated by this story that I wrote a book with McQueen biographer Marshall Terrill, titled, “Steve McQueen: The Salvation of An American Icon.” It was followed by a documentary film, “Steve McQueen: American Icon.” The film includes exclusive interviews with those that knew Steve best, including his widow, Barbara Minty McQueen, who personally told me the story of Steve’s conversion. The film also contains never heard before audio recordings of McQueen talking about his faith on his deathbed.

What Steve was looking for was not to be found on the soundstage of a Hollywood movie but rather on the balcony of a church in Ventura, California.

Steve was eager to learn the Bible and was there every Sunday with family and friends in tow. He even asked the pastor if he could serve as an usher in church.

Tragically, McQueen found out he had cancer about six months after his conversion and eventually died in a clinic in Juarez, Mexico after doctors in the U.S. gave him no hope for survival. But Steve McQueen died with faith in God and a Bible given to him by evangelist Billy Graham tightly clutched in his hand.

The lost boy finally found the father he was looking for — in God.

Toward the end of his life, Steve McQueen said, “My only regret in life is that I was not able to tell people about what Christ did for me.”

I’m glad that almost 40 years after his death — around the same time his Bullitt sat hidden in a garage — Steve McQueen was finally able to tell people what Christ did for him.

 

Ford proposes $30M-plus
settlement in transmission suit

Sarah Rahal,
The Detroit News
Jan. 26, 2020

Detroit — Ford Motor Co. has proposed a $30 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit regarding faulty transmissions Focus and Fiesta vehicles it no longer sells in the U.S.

Multiple lawsuits, including a class-action suit that began in April 2017, have been filed on behalf of car owners unhappy with the transmissions, known internally as the DPS6.

Dual-clutch gearboxes like the DPS6 typically shift rougher than other automatic gearboxes to which North American drivers are accustomed. The Ford transmissions also needed frequent repairs for quality issues the developed over time with the clutch and clutch seals, among other things.

Ford spokesman T.R. Reid said the company believes the settlement is “fair and reasonable” and expects it to be approved at the hearing on Feb. 28.

"It's an amendment to a 2017 lawsuit that has been proposed to the court and we anticipate it'll be approved at the hearing next month," he said. "There has been a variety of back and forth since then and we believe the amount is fair."

The lawsuit represents nearly 2 million people who own or formerly owned a 2011-2016 Ford Fiesta or 2012-2016 Ford Focus. In addition to the $30 million in cash reimbursement, there will be an easier process for people to get compensated and a buyback program for defective vehicles, according to the Associated Press.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found no evidence that the transmissions are a safety risk. Lawsuits allege Ford knew the transmissions were faulty before the vehicles went to market, but no judge or jury has ruled that to be true.

Dual-clutch gearboxes like the DPS6 typically shift rougher than other automatic gearboxes to which North American drivers are accustomed. The Ford transmissions also needed frequent repairs for quality issues the developed over time with the clutch and clutch seals, among other things.

In December, Ford was ordered to pay $23,000 to the owners of a 2014 Ford Focus for violating consumer protection laws. Plaintiffs, Salvador and Yvonne Quintero, told a federal court of the Central District of California that their Focus, which was leased through 2017, had problems with the dual-clutch PowerShift Transmission that "caused them to feel unsafe." It was the same transmission Ford extended warranties in August on 560,000 vehicles to cover.

Judge Andre Birotte Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, threw out the fraud claims against Ford in the Quintero case.

The automaker has previously pushed back against allegations in lawsuits that it knew the transmissions were faulty, or that they ever made those Ford vehicles dangerous to drive. Ford has said repeatedly that the transmission works, and the vehicles are safe to drive. The transmission hasn't been tied to any injury or death. Owners mostly report the transmission "slipping" or "stuttering."

The automaker settled a $35 million class-action lawsuit in the U.S. that would have it pay current or former owners or lessees of a 2011-16 Ford Fiesta or 2012-16 Ford Focus vehicles up to $2,325 to cover repair costs or up to $4,650 for the purchase of a new vehicle. The automaker paid out millions in Thailand and Australia for consumer issues tied to the transmission.

In February 2018, an appeal filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit argued that that the $35 million settlement was too lenient, and called for the settlement to be vacated.

 

Fiat Chrysler says GM's
racketeering suit fatally flawed

Breana Noble and Robert Snell,
The Detroit News
Jan 25, 2020

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV asked a judge Friday to dismiss General Motors Co.'s multibillion-dollar racketeering lawsuit, saying its claims express "fatal flaws" and make "hyperbolic assertions."

In an unprecedented move in November, GM sued Fiat Chrysler under federal laws typically used to prosecute organized crime. GM alleged the Italian American automaker's late former CEO, Sergio Marchionne, orchestrated a multimillion-dollar conspiracy that corrupted three rounds of bargaining with the United Auto Workers to harm GM in an attempt to engineer a takeover. GM says the scheme cost it "billions."

In court filings, Fiat Chrysler argues General Motors' allegations do not meet the requirements of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act as it was not directly harmed by the alleged wrongdoing. FCA also denies that it exhibited the control over the union that GM says it did and that its claims make "no sense as a matter of basic economics." The UAW chose Fiat Chrysler as the first company with which it would negotiate contracts in 2015, forcing GM to follow its lead.

"It is ridiculous for GM to contend that FCA made large concessions to the UAW that harmed FCA itself without any corresponding benefit," FCA US LLC attorney Steven Holley wrote. "Even if FCA assumed those concessions would also harm GM, nothing in the Complaint explains why increased labor costs would make GM more amenable to merging with FCA, or why FCA would want to saddle both FCA and GM with unfavorable long term (contracts) if it hoped to run the merged company."

The racketeering battle comes amid the continuing federal investigation into UAW corruption that has charged 13 union and FCA officials, convicted 11, implicated Marchionne and two former UAW presidents. Payoffs from Fiat Chrysler executives to UAW officials, according to federal prosecutors, began within days of Chrysler Group LLC emerging in 2009 from bankruptcy with $12.5 billion in taxpayer money under the control of a foreign company, Italy's Fiat SpA.

The findings in a years-long corruption probe into the union have tarnished the company's revival and the reputation of Marchionne, who has been held as a giant in the industry, as well as undermined the once-clean union's credibility and exposed it to federal takeover. GM's success in the feud would be another injury for FCA, though experts say the allegations will be difficult to prove.

"Today’s motion is no surprise," GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement. "It is a predictable tactic taken by the defendants, and we look forward to responding in court. We are confident in the legal and factual underpinnings of our case, which have already been documented in part through the guilty pleas and admissions of FCA executives made in connection with the government's ongoing criminal investigation."

Fiat Chrysler wants a judge to postpone further investigation into GM's claims until its request for dismissal is reviewed, saying the request for evidence is "massive" and expensive. And the federal investigation into union remains open, it notes, arguing "there is no reason to take the risk that discovery in this case will interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation."

Fiat Chrysler denies it had control of the UAW to further its intentions to merge with General Motors. And even if it had, based on GM’s argument, the direct victims would be FCA hourly workers who were paid, on average, lower hourly wages, and the U.S. government, which was defrauded by former UAW officials concealing illegal benefits and omitting them from tax forms, according to the filing Friday.

"The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act authorizes civil actions only by '[t]he direct victim of th[e] [alleged]conduct' — meaning that persons who claim to have incurred harm 'beyond the first step' in the causal chain cannot assert a RICO claim," Holley wrote. "... At best, GM was third in line."

GM’s alleged damages are speculative and would be difficult to quantify, FCA’s lawyer wrote: “GM cannot simply point to the ‘labor cost disparity’ between FCA and GM, and then contend that the entire difference represents damages to GM."

Additionally, FCA takes issue with GM's timing. It argues that GM waited too long beyond the four-year statute of limitations, and that the Detroit automaker would have known its labor costs were greater than Fiat Chrysler's before Nov. 20, 2015 — the date when UAW members employed by GM ratified their contract with the automaker. Meanwhile, GM filed the lawsuit weeks after Fiat Chrysler said it intended to merge with French automaker Groupe PSA.

“Even if one could believe that GM’s intention was not to disrupt that transaction, its strategic delay is inexcusable,” Holley wrote.

GM says Marchionne schemed with UAW officials in an attempt to take over and merge with the Detroit automaker. The lawsuit portrays Williams, president of the UAW until last year and a longtime friend of Marchionne, as a willing participant in the conspiracy.

FCA's attempted takeover dates to 2009, GM says, when Fiat acquired the diminished Chrysler Group at the behest of the Obama administration's auto task force during the Great Recession. The attempts intensified, according to the lawsuit, in fall 2014 when Fiat and Chrysler merged into FCA, leaving Marchionne in control of the combined entity.

GM alleges FCA "corrupted the implementation" of UAW collective bargaining agreements in 2009 while exiting their federally induced bankruptcy. GM also says FCA under Marchionne "corrupted the negotiation, implementation, and administration of the 2011 and 2015 agreements."

The alleged end goal: to inflict high, unanticipated labor costs on GM and force the company to merge. Before the UAW selected FCA to lead 2015 negotiations, the union presented demands that cost under $1 billion on the 2015 contract. But it ultimately cost GM more than double that, according to the lawsuit.

Federal prosecutors have made reference to Marchionne's involvement in the bribery scheme. In August 2018, The Detroit News identified him as "FCA-1" in government filings. Sources revealed to The News that Marchionne gave an expensive Italian watch to UAW Vice President General Holiefield and failed to disclose the gift while being questioned by federal investigators. Marchionne was not charged before he died July 25, 2018, in a Zurich hospital at the age of 66.

GM has not said how much it is seeking in damages, which could be tripled under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Some analysts have estimated if GM is successful, payouts could be as high as $15 billion.

The threat has not had an effect on the Fiat Chrysler's intentions to combine with PSA. PSA CEO Carlos Tavares, who would lead the combined entity, has said he supports FCA's statement that the claims are meritless.

 

NDP caucus will discuss whether
to support new NAFTA

The Canadian Press
Jan 23, 2020

OTTAWA — New Democrat MPs will gather in Ottawa today for a two-day planning session to prepare the re-opening of the House of Commons next week.

Party whip Rachel Blaney says the party to discuss how to operate within the current minority Parliament.

Despite some interest in collaboration, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is signalling the Trudeau government won't get an easy pass from his party on Canada's new free-trade pact with the U.S. and Mexico.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that steps to ratify the new NAFTA, including legislation, will be among the first orders of business when Parliament resumes and that passing them will be a priority.

But Singh says the deal was negotiated in a "behind-closed-doors, take-it-or-leave-it way" and that his caucus will discuss whether to support it.

"How can Canadians trust the Liberals to get this right when they spent months saying they had the perfect deal and mocked us for saying it needed to be changed? Now they're trying to take credit for changes they said were impossible," he said in a statement Tuesday.

"Canadian workers shouldn't have to rely on American politicians to protect Canadian jobs. They can count on us to look carefully at this agreement. We're going to discuss it in caucus and in the debate in the House and see if it actually delivers for Canadians."

The NDP is also aiming to get the Liberals to deliver NDP priorities like pharmacare and publicly funded dental care.

"What I'm looking for is increased collaboration, more negotiating between the parties on key issues that matter," Blaney said.

"I think a lot of Canadians are going to be looking to see what the Liberals are doing in their government and who they're playing nicely with. There are three opposition parties at play ... but at the end of the day when you look at some of the key issues that many Canadians brought forward about affordability, about the climate — the NDP is a great place for them to work with."

Blaney says the caucus meetings will also include discussions on the downing of Ukraine Internatonal Airlines Flight PS752 and how MPs can support families of the 57 Canadian victims to get the transparency and answers they are looking for.

Singh delivers opening remarks this morning before the caucus hunkers down for its internal conversations.

 

Unifor President Jerry Dias
Arrested Amid Union Protest
Against Regina Oil Refinery

Premila D'Sa
HuffPost
Jan 22, 2020

REGINA — A union representing more than 700 workers in a contract dispute at the Co-op oil refinery tried to shut down the Regina facility Monday as police made arrests.

Unifor posted a video on Twitter late in the afternoon showing officers taking the union’s national president, Jerry Dias, and western regional director, Gavin McGarrigle, into custody.

Dias said earlier in the day that managers and replacement workers were being allowed to leave the refinery, but the union was going to stop fuel from being transported out of the complex.

“We’re not allowing any trucks in,” Dias said. “We’re going to shut (the refinery) down until they come back to the bargaining table.”

Workers on the picket line successfully blocked a bus filled with replacement staff and managers from entering the refinery, Dias said, and allowed six trucks to leave.

“Those six trucks are never going back in until this dispute is settled,” he said.

Co-op said the union is violating a court injunction if it blocks entrance points and called the move a bullying tactic.

It said it was “exploring all legal options.”

Throughout the day, police asked drivers to avoid the area. They said it’s up to both sides to avoid an escalation.

“Police involvement should be a last resort,” read a statement posted to the police service’s Twitter account.

“Unifor members have a right to picket; Co-op has a right to conduct business.”

Last month, a judge ruled the union could stop vehicles trying to get in and out of the refinery for a maximum of 10 minutes, so as to provide information on the dispute or until a driver declines the information.

Dias said the blockades don’t violate the court order.

“The court injunction was against Unifor Local 594 ... this is being done by the national union and the bodies that we have parachuted into the province.”

Unifor said hundreds of members from across Canada have come to the site to support the refinery workers.

Workers at the refinery were locked out in early December after the union voted in favour of a strike and issued a notice. The union has launched a national boycott of the facility’s owner, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., and picketed at Co-op retailers in Western Canada.

One of the main issues in the labour dispute is pensions.

The workers’ last contract expired in February. The union declared an impasse in contract negotiations in September, which led to the appointment of a mediator.

 

USMCA ratification a top priority
for MPs when Parliament returns

The Canadian Press
Jan 21, 2020

WINNIPEG — Ratifying the new North American Free trade deal will be a top priority for the Trudeau government when Parliament resumes next week.

When MPs return to work it will mark the first extended sitting of Parliament since the Oct. 21 election reduced Justin Trudeau's Liberals to a minority.

The prime minister may flesh out the agenda more today when he wraps up a three-day cabinet retreat aimed at setting the government's priorities and figuring out how to achieve them when the Liberals no longer hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

Every measure will require support from at least one major opposition party to pass; a defeat on matters of confidence, such as the coming budget, would topple the government.

The Liberals can probably rely on the support of the Conservatives to win ratification of the new United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement, despite the fact that the Tories have accused Trudeau of caving in to concessions demanded by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The NDP and the Bloc are likely to oppose USMCA, which replaces the old North American Free Trade Agreement.

On Monday, government House leader Pablo Rodriguez said ratification of the new NAFTA is "an absolute priority" — a view echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was the lead minister throughout the tortuous negotiations to renew the continental trade pact and who remains responsible for seeing it across the finish line.

"The new NAFTA was ratified last week by the U.S. Senate, it was ratified before Christmas by Mexico. Now it's Canada's turn," Freeland said.

"I think that is very important for certainty in the Canadian economy, very important for millions of Canadian workers, of Canadian businesses, of Canada families."

Rodriguez called upon opposition parties to ratify the deal "as quickly as possible."

"I think we should send a strong message that we are united in the ratification of this very, very important agreement," he said.

The government did introduce a ratification bill last year, but did not forge ahead with it, preferring not to get ahead of the ratification process in the United States. The bill died when the election was called.

 

Ford preps dealers for its first-ever
battery-electric Mustang SUV

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Jan 20, 2020

Ford Motor Co.’s push to peddle the Mustang Mach-E later this year starts by getting more than two-thirds of its 3,000 U.S. dealerships ready to sell a battery-electric SUV company officials say represents an important part of the Blue Oval's future.

The automaker is in the midst of training sales staff and shop technicians at some 2,100 participating dealerships on the intricacies of the all-new EV due to launch in the fall. Ford requires any dealership that wants to sell the Mach-E to undergo training and buy new equipment to service and charge the vehicles — which could prove that the Mach-E isnt just another fad, experts say, if Ford gets a majority of its U.S. dealers on the same page.

“This is the first time that we're building a ground-up, all-new battery-electric vehicle,” said Jason Mase, Ford’s head of electrification marketing strategy. “We’ve got a lot of dealers that might not have sold high-voltage batteries. When you have a battery-electric versus a full gas or full diesel engine, you're going to have different types of repairs.”

Ford’s been here before. Much like when it launched its first aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup in 2014, the company is educating salespeople on the tech-packed Mach-E as dealerships pay to install new charging stations and tools to work on the high-voltage battery packs that will power the newest addition to the Mustang stable.

Ford officials also are training technicians in the dealerships’ shops on how to work with battery-powered vehicles and how to charge them. The automaker won't say how much dealerships must invest to become EV Certified by Ford, but one dealer said the cost would be made up by selling a few Mach-Es.

The ongoing process is voluntary and involves a series of webcasts and digital training for salespeople. Ford representatives also are visiting dealerships to assess what's needed to certify them to sell the Mach-E. Typically, dealerships need a handful of chargers installed to ensure they can "fill up" the vehicles when they're in for service. Mase said technical training to service battery-powered vehicles is also a priority.

The upcoming Mustang Mach-E is so different from its existing vehicles, that Ford is giving special training to salespeople and repair technicians at dealerships. (Photo: Ford)

That includes equipping dealer service shops with the necessary tools and equipment to pull the SUV’s battery out of the vehicle for maintenance and repairs, when needed. Mase’s team also answers directly with Mach-E questions from the dealer body.

The national initiative isn't unprecedented: GM offered something similar when it first introduced the Bolt EV. Educating the sales and service staffs on the Mach-E is vital for an automaker pinning its future to the vehicle's success. Automakers routinely educate dealerships on new vehicles — though the Mach-E has a number of new things packed into it.

“Our dealers are used to new products coming into the showroom,” Mase said. “They're very adaptable. The investment to get the service tools and chargers is fairly minimal.”

Not every Ford dealership is starting from scratch. The automaker for years has sold various hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles that dealers could get certified to sell and service. Tim Hovik, owner and general manager of San Tan Ford outside of Phoenix, said he's adding several chargers to the four he already has installed at his dealership because a top priority is getting the sales staff fully versed on the new vehicle.

“The reality is product knowledge has never been more important,” said Hovik, who operates one of Ford's top dealerships in the United States. “These vehicles anymore are like computers with four wheels. They do so many things that I think knowledge that the salespeople have is going to continue to be more and more important.”

It’s also important for automakers and their dealers to remember that a majority of Americans have yet to even sit in an electric vehicle. Most people will need answers to even the most basic questions about electric vehicles — such as how to charge it — until the vehicles become more mainstream, according to Jessica Caldwell, analyst with Edmunds.com.

“Technology is changing so fast, it's definitely hard to keep up,” she said. “You almost have to explain to people how to turn the car on. Those are things that can't be overlooked.”

Another big task, added Caldwell, is getting thousands of dealerships “on the same song sheet.” It will be tough for all automakers to get their diverse groups of dealerships to get behind the same vehicle, especially those who operate in areas of the country where electric vehicles aren't expected to be popular — even as Ford pickups and SUVs continue to be.

“This is an important product for Ford,” Caldwell said. “Not just from an image standpoint. It's also their first proof-point of the new Ford they've been talking about for years. To get this right is so important.”

 

FCA trims output at 4
plants, including Windsor,
Ont., after backlog

FCA invested $350 million in the Belvidere plant to produce the Cherokee starting in 2017. The vehicle had a 97-day supply Jan. 1.

Automotive News
Vince Bond Jr.
Jan 16, 2020

A year ago, the Jeep Cherokee was riding high, becoming the brand's biggest seller behind the Wrangler after a midcycle update gave it fresher styling and more cargo capacity.

But a 20 per cent plunge in Cherokee sales in the United States for 2019, including a 30 per cent drop in the fourth quarter, has prompted FCA US to idle its Belvidere Assembly Plant west of Chicago for the next two weeks. Cherokee sales were down 34 per cent in Canada last year.

The automaker is working to pare inventory of the Cherokee and other vehicles after winding up with a backlog of unordered vehicles that it attempted to unload on U.S. dealers with the help of incentives that rose to as much as $3,000 (all figures USD) by late December.

FCA also is temporarily shutting its minivan plant in Windsor, Ontario, for two weeks after sales slid 17 per cent for the Chrysler Pacifica and 19 per cent for the Dodge Grand Caravan last year. Canadian Pacifica sales were down 38 per cent to 3,731 in 2019. Grand Caravan sales in Canada were down 15 per cent to 27,362 last year.

Two assembly plants in Mexico — Saltillo Truck, which builds the Ram 1500 Classic and Heavy Duty pickups, and Toluca, which makes the Dodge Journey and Jeep Compass — will have scattered downtime this month as well.

All of the shutdowns were scheduled to ensure production is aligned with demand for the vehicles, a spokeswoman said.

The idlings follow FCA's implementation of a predictive analytics system tasked with anticipating what vehicles dealers would need to order, as Bloomberg reported in November.

"They start you out with a $300 marketing allowance," said one U.S. dealer, who spoke to Automotive News last week on condition of anonymity. "Then they bump you to $1,500 two weeks later, and then the day after that, two days after that, they give you double coupons worth $3,000.

"How can you possibly say that that is a good consumer experience?" said the dealer, who provided copies of emails from FCA representatives corroborating the incentives. "I'm on a couple of committees here, and my phone is lighting up with other dealers saying, "What are we doing?' "

The incentive fluctuations, the dealer said, could lead to consumers thinking they overpaid when a sweeter offer becomes available soon after their purchase.

FCA had 53,000 Cherokees in inventory on Jan. 1, a 97-day supply, the Automotive News Data Center estimated, up from a 91-day supply a month earlier.

Normal output at the Belvidere and Windsor factories will resume the week of Jan. 27, the company said.

FCA invested $350 million in the Belvidere plant to produce the Cherokee starting in mid-2017, when production was moved from Toledo, Ohio.

But last year, about 1,400 people were laid off when output was reduced to two shifts from three. The plant now employs around 3,700 workers. It also briefly shut down in August to match production with demand, according to the Rockford Register Star.

The contract with FCA that UAW members ratified in December calls for a $55 million investment in Belvidere. Cherokee production is slated to continue, with next-generation safety features added in 2020, according to the labor pact.

In Canada, the automaker has already announced it will end one shift of minivan production in Windsor at the end of March. Contract talks between FCA and Unifor are set to begin later this year.

Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions, said it's good to see FCA halting output for a few weeks to get inventory in line, but that won't solve the Cherokee's ills. Fiorani said the automaker also needs to increase sales of "what is already an old product two years before the next generation comes along."

Getting sales up will be a challenge with the Cherokee facing so much stiff competition, Fiorani said.

"Everybody's coming out with a really attractive product to compete against them — between new Hyundais and new Kias and new Toyotas and everybody else entering the space," Fiorani said. "It's a lot to deal with, and the Cherokee's just getting a little old right now."

 

U.S. Senate Republicans expect
USMCA vote Thursday

The new North American free-trade deal requires that 40 to 45 per cent of cars eventually be made in countries that pay autoworkers at least $16 an hour — that is, in the United States and Canada and not in Mexico.

The Canadian Press
January 15, 2020

WASHINGTON — Canada's hard-won continental trade deal with the United States and Mexico could be up for a vote in the U.S. Senate before the end of the week, thanks to the emerging timelines for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Republicans controlling the Senate say they expect the implementation bill for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to be voted on as early as Thursday as they clear the decks of legislative business before next week's impeachment trial gets underway.

And they anticipate sweeping bipartisan support in replacing the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump and many lawmakers have long blamed for shipping U.S. manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced the vote at his weekly news conference Tuesday.

"We are, it looks like, going to be able to process the USMCA here in the Senate this week," McConnell said. "That will be good news for the Senate and for the country. And something I think we have broad bipartisan agreement on."

The Senate vote would follow a sweeping vote in the Democratic-controlled House last month and would send the legislation to Trump for his signature. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi played a central role in modifying the pact further to assuage allies in organized labour, such as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

A final vote in the Senate would also clear the way for the federal Liberal government in Ottawa, which has long insisted it would wait for U.S. approval before proceeding, to introduce implementation legislation of its own.

The agreement is projected to have only a modest impact on the U.S. economy. But it gives lawmakers from both parties the chance to support an agreement sought by farmers, ranchers and business owners anxious to move past the months of trade tensions that have complicated spending and hiring decisions.

Trump made tearing up NAFTA a hallmark of his presidential run in 2016 as he tried to win over working-class voters in states such as Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The new pact contains provisions designed to nudge manufacturing back to the United States. For example, it requires that 40 to 45 per cent of cars eventually be made in countries that pay autoworkers at least $16 an hour — that is, in the United States and Canada and not in Mexico.

 

Ford, GM see sales in China fall
with another tough year ahead

Ford Motor Co. reported Monday that sales in China fell 26% in 2019 as the company pushed to freshen an aging lineup with new vehicles catered toward Chinese buyers. (Photo: Ng Han Guan, AP)

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Jan 14, 2020

Detroit two largest automakers say things might get worse before they improve in China, now the world's largest and potentially most-lucrative automotive market.

Ford Motor Co. reported Monday that sales in China fell 26% in 2019 as the company pushed to freshen an aging lineup with new vehicles catered toward Chinese buyers. Last week, General Motors Co. reported its sales dropped 15% in China.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV has yet to report full-year China results for 2019, but it has a tiny share of the Chinese vehicle market — less than 1%. Its sales and earnings were down in Asian markets through the third quarter of the year due largely to its struggles in China.

Industry-wide vehicle sales in China are expected to have dropped around 8% in 2019, which comes amid an ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China, a slowing Chinese economy, and growing demand for models the U.S. brands are just now launching, according to LMC Automotive.

"The market is going through a bit of a transition," said Jeff Schuster, industry analyst with LMC. "The economy was moving at an unsustainable pace. China is maturing. We've stopped labeling China as an emerging market for that reason. It's still growing, it's just not what it was previously. The future looks brighter than 2019 did."

While GM sold five times as many vehicles as Ford in China last year — 3.1 million vehicles to Ford's 568,000 — executives from both automakers have said the industry will continue to battle "downward trends" due to a slowing economy and global trade tensions there in 2020. But experts say the market is too important for automakers to give up, and new strategies from both could pay off as the market corrects.

The general slowdown in China’s economy, caused in part by the U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, has affected U.S. automakers selling there, said Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor for Kelley Blue Book.

“Most of the downturn has been felt in the mass market,” he said. “The luxury market is least affected by it.”

GM's luxury brand Cadillac, for example, still saw a 3.9% sales increase for the year of 2019.The Chinese market provides “some additional sales that could be the difference of making money or going broke,” he said.

Michael Dunne, CEO of Chinese automotive adviser ZoZo Go, said Ford and GM might have to sacrifice sales volume in order to succeed with their luxury models in China. It's no longer good enough to build a bunch of unremarkable sedans to drive profit in China.

"You can thrive and grow and be highly profitable provided that you're differentiated on the high end," Dunne said. "The premium segment was up last year. It's almost a market in itself."

Said Dunne: "There is pressure on automakers, the likes of which no one has seen in China. They've really got to work hard at differentiating themselves."

The answer to growth, Ford and GM hope, lies in a fresh product lineup that can offer the luxury sought by some of China's most affluent buyers, and other more approachable models for the growing middle class.

Although 2020 is expected to be another tough year, Anning Chen, president and CEO of Ford Greater China, said the company will work to strengthen its lineup "with more customer-centric products and customer experiences to mitigate the external pressure and improve dealers’ profitability."

Said Matt Tsien, president of GM China, in a statement: "During the downturn, we are focused on bolstering our product lineup and improving cost efficiency to position our company for strong performance in China over the long term. We expect the market downturn to continue in 2020, and anticipate ongoing headwinds in our China business."

Other automakers are experiencing the same tightening market conditions in China as the Detroit Three, experts have said, but not all are hurting quite as much. Toyota Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. had sales increases last year.

GM and Ford face different circumstances in the market, Schuster said. GM started selling vehicles in China years before Ford, and has a more established business there as a result. Since CEO Jim Hackett became Ford CEO in 2017, it has been overhauling what was a newer business there. GM has also seen success for its Buick and Cadillac brands that Ford hasn't seen for Lincoln until the last quarter of 2019.

GM introduced 20 new or refreshed models in China last year. The automaker plans to continue launching new SUVs, vans and electric vehicles that target the popular Chinese segments and adhere to government emissions and alternative fuel mandates, the automaker has said.

Ford, meantime, is pruning old sedans in favor of new SUVs and other utility vehicles. The automaker is also leaning on Lincoln. The automaker sales surge for some models last year, like the Lincoln Navigator, or the MKC and Nautilus.

The Chinese market has given a much-needed shot in the arm to GM's Buick brand as well as Ford's Lincoln brand, DeLorenzo said. Schuster said more targeted lineups that cater to Chinese customers could set up the automakers best in a market where they must succeed.

"It's the largest market in the world," Schuster said. "It's an extremely important market with a growing consumer base. You have a growing middle class and growing consumer as they come up through the economy. In China, a vehicle and vehicle ownership is a considerable status symbol. As that continues, you want to take part in that."

 

GM says Fiat Chrysler not
cooperating in racketeering suit

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Jan 13, 2019

Detroit — General Motors Co. filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court asking a judge to make Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV hand over evidence related to a racketeering case against the Italian American automaker.

GM argues in the court filing that Fiat Chrysler has refused to participate in the discovery phase of the federal civil racketeering lawsuit filed by GM. The filing essentially demands documents related to the case.

The motion is "standard practice," according to Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.

"This isn't full-scale discovery yet," Henning said. "That will come probably after Fiat Chrysler files a motion to dismiss. This is the next step in the case. This is pretty standard. It's nothing outlandish."

The delay could allow third-parties to dispose of evidence, GM argues.

"FCA’s refusal to engage in any discovery until its motion to dismiss is ruled upon raises the real risk that important evidence about the RICO enterprise they led and the specific instances of bribery, fraud and other wrongdoing that FCA executives have already admitted may be lost," GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement. "Proceeding with discovery now is necessary to help ensure the preservation and production of irrefutably relevant evidence."

Fiat Chrysler officials did not immediately respond to Detroit News request for comment.

GM in November filed the lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler, alleging its late CEO, Sergio Marchionne, had orchestrated a multimillion-dollar racketeering conspiracy that corrupted three rounds of bargaining with the United Auto Workers union and harmed GM.

GM says it suffered "massive monetary damage" as a result of the conspiracy that it says included bribing UAW officials to provide its rival sweeter labor agreements such as hiring more lower-paid employees.

Fiat Chrysler has called the allegations "meritless" and has yet to file a response to the lawsuit. The company's deadline to respond is Jan. 24.

The lawsuit seeks to put a price tag on damage related to crimes committed by Fiat Chrysler executives who have been convicted in federal court during an approximately five-year-long corruption crackdown in federal court.

The probe has secured 11 convictions, produced charges against 13 and implicated Marchionne, former UAW President Gary Jones and Dennis Williams, Jones' predecessor atop the union.

The racketeering charges require GM to prove it has been financially harmed by the bribery scheme — a feat experts have said will be a challenge.

Henning said GM's Friday filing would likely be followed by a motion to dismiss the case by Fiat Chrysler.

 

Retiree Guenther Gahs
Passes Away Jan 12, 2020

Retired: Mar 1, 1995
29.3 yrs of service

February 9th, 1933 - January 12th, 2020

Our sincerest Condolences go out to his family.
We were only informed of his passing on Feb 7, 2020

Obituary

Guenther passed away peacefully on Sunday, January 12, 2020 at Joseph Brant Hospital, Burlington, with his family by his side. He was predeceased by his loving wife Jean (Brown) Gahs. He will be profoundly missed by his children Lorraine LaHay (Don) and David Gahs. Guenther was a proud Opa to Traci, Craig, Mitchell and Heather and Great Grandpa to Aislynn. He will be fondly remembered by his siblings Elsbeth (Franz Joseph) and Siegfried Gahs and their families, extended family, Nan and Michael Browne, Gordon and Kathy Brown and his nieces and nephews, Lesley, Louise (Larry), Ian, Linda, Gary, Craig and Patricia.

Many thanks to the staff of Joseph Brant Hospital Palliative Team for their care and compassion during this difficult time.

https://www.smithsfh.com/memorials/guenther-gahs/4073485/

 

 

Bullitt' Mustang fetches a
cool $3.74 million at auction

Francis X. Donnelly,
The Detroit News
Jan 12, 2020

The first two times the Mustang from the movie “Bullitt” was sold, it fetched $3,500.

On Friday, it garnered a bit more — $3.74 million, the most ever for a Mustang.

Then again, this was no ordinary car.

A 1968 Ford Mustang from the movie "Bullitt" sold for $3.74 million Friday. (Photo: Patrick Connolly, AP)

It starred in one of the most celebrated chase scenes in Hollywood history, throttling the hills of San Francisco in the 1968 movie. It didn’t hurt that it was driven by Steve McQueen.

The 1968 Mustang GT's charisma was evident as soon as Mecum Auctions staffers rolled it onto the showroom of an arena in Kissimmee, Fla., according to a video of the event.

Several hundred people stood, with many holding up phones to take photos.

“Holy smokes, look at all you,” Mustang owner Sean Kiernan said from the auction stage.

He asked that the auction start at $3,500 because that’s how much it had sold for the other two times it had been sold.

The first buyer was a police detective from New Jersey in 1970, and the second was Kiernan’s father, Robert, who had bought it in 1974. And that’s where the car remained until Robert’s death in 2014, when Sean took ownership.

It had disappeared for many years until Ford announced in 2018 that it had found it.

At the auction, the opening bid immediately jumped to $1 million and, a few seconds later, to $3 million.

Organizers kept urging the crowd to sit in their seats so the auctioneer could see bidders.

The name of the winning bidder wasn’t immediately available.

While the owner is unknown, the car certainly isn’t.

It’s a faded Highland Green with a blacked-out grille and rusted and dented panels. It has a rebuilt 390-cubic-inch V-8 and four-speed manual.

It was modified for the movie with additional horsepower, a beefed-up suspension and mounts to support the movie cameras.

The previous record-setter for a Mustang at auction was $2.2 million for a 1967 Shelby GT500 Super Snake sold in 2019, according to Hagerty, the classic-car insurance company.

Only one other muscle car has brought more at auction, according to Hagerty: A 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda convertible  — one of just two delivered with a 426/425-horse V-8 and 4-speed manual transmission — changed hands for $3.78 million in 2014.

All of those fell well short of the most expensive American car ever auctioned – a 1935 Duesenberg SSJ that went for $22 million.

 

UAW President Rory Gamble
under federal investigation

Robert Snell and Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
Jan 9, 2019

Detroit — Federal agents investigating a kickback and bribery scandal within the United Auto Workers are probing financial ties between President Rory Gamble, retired Vice President Jimmy Settles and one of the union's highest-paid vendors, sources told The Detroit News.

The agents are investigating whether UAW leaders received cash kickbacks or bribes in exchange for awarding lucrative contracts to Huntington Woods businessman Jason Gordon to supply union-branded merchandise, according to two sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Agents are investigating a tip that secret cash payments were delivered to UAW officials at a Detroit strip club, which The News has been told is the Bouzouki Greektown.

Federal documents, interviews and public records shed light on Gordon, one of the union's highest-paid contractors. And they provide new details about Gamble, the new UAW president with a long trail of financial problems who last month was put in charge of a union with more than $1 billion in assets.

“I would not have accepted the role of president if I couldn’t withstand the scrutiny," Gamble, 64, said in a statement to The News. "Our union has suffered enough as a result of corrupt leaders. On my watch, we cannot and will not allow financial improprieties to rob our members of their hard-earned dollars. My sole focus as president is to strengthen the union’s financial controls, oversight and accounting system — and most importantly, to restore the trust of our union members.”

The probe is ongoing and the team of investigators has not proven the allegation. Gordon, 48, has not been charged with wrongdoing and his lawyer, Christopher Andreoff, said: “My client vehemently denies all of the allegations as being untrue.”

Gamble, appointed in November to complete the unexpired term of former President Gary Jones, is the third consecutive UAW president linked to the broad, years-long investigation into union corruption that has led to charges against 13 people, convictions of 11 and exposed the union to possible government oversight.

Prosecutors have accused Jones and past President Dennis Williams of participating in a racketeering enterprise that embezzled more than $1.5 million in union funds, but they have not been charged with wrongdoing. Jones resigned amid last fall's national contract talks with Detroit's automakers.

“This is a disaster for the union,” said Erik Gordon, a University of Michigan business professor, who is not related to Jason Gordon. “The union needs a president who is beyond reproach. Somebody cleaner than Mr. Clean. They don’t need somebody who is just cleaner than the prior guy.”

In a statement, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said Gamble "can say he never took one red cent personally from Mr. Gordon or directly solicited anything from Mr. Gordon. And President Gamble has never been to that establishment with Mr. Gordon. It simply is not true and never happened."

Settles, meanwhile, was the union's top negotiator with Ford until retiring in 2018 and being appointed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to a $155,000 job as head of the city's Department of Neighborhoods. Settles, 69, has hired prominent Detroit criminal defense attorney Steve Fishman in recent months, The News has learned. Fishman declined comment Wednesday.

The focus on UAW officials who oversaw labor negotiations with Ford Motor Co. — Gamble last year and Settles before him — marks a significant expansion of a years-long federal corruption investigation that largely has centered on labor leaders assigned to the union's General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV departments.

It is unclear what prompted the investigation. But sources close to the investigation say the probe has intensified in recent weeks since three UAW officials — former UAW Vice President Joe Ashton and aides Mike Grimes and Jeff Pietrzyk — pleaded guilty for their roles in the bribery and kickback scandal involving union contractors.

Their criminal wrongdoing involved contracts for promotional union items totaling nearly $16 million. In return, Grimes admitted receiving at least $1.5 million in bribes and kickbacks.

“Assuming these allegations have merit, that puts the UAW in a very difficult situation. It raises fundamental questions about whether it is capable of governing itself,” said Marick Masters, a business professor at Wayne State University. “This brings us to a far different level of implications for the UAW going forward. This would substantially increase the likelihood that the federal government would want to come in and take over."

The ongoing investigation involves recurring characters and settings. Last year, The News reported that Jason Gordon had been subpoenaed to produce documents sought by a federal grand jury as part of an investigation into whether UAW leaders received kickbacks from promotions company executives in exchange for awarding contracts to produce union-branded clothes and trinkets.

Gordon is president of several companies, including Custom Promotions, Idea Consultants, and Organization Services of Michigan. He is a recurring focus of the investigation led by agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Labor Department.

Gordon's firms are part of the so-called "trinkets and trash" industry, a collection of companies vying for a piece of the more than $29 million spent in the last six years on promotion, advertising and UAW-branded items distributed at union rallies, conventions and factories. The items include shirts and lanyards, Frisbees and flash drives, pencils and ponchos, Kangol hats and key chains, as well as novelty items like bowling ball buffers.

Trinkets and trash companies vie for contracts awarded by the UAW — from training centers jointly operated with and funded by GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, from the union's political action committee, and from union Community Action Program (CAP) councils.

The joint-training centers, in the process of being disbanded in the wake of last fall's national contract talks, historically were funded by the automakers. The councils, however, are financed with a "per-capita" tax payment withheld from UAW worker paychecks.

Gordon's companies have been paid from several of those pots of money, according to Labor Department filings reviewed by The News. Custom Promotions also donated $12,285 worth of T-shirts to the UAW Region 1A CAP council in 2011, a Labor Department filing shows.

His companies have supplied UAW-branded jackets, bags, hats and towels in recent years and been paid approximately $3 million by the UAW, its political action committee and CAP councils since 2013, according to Labor Department filings. That total includes nearly $54,000 from a CAP council in UAW Region 1A, the region headed by Gamble from 2006 until he became vice president of the UAW-Ford Department in 2018.

It is unclear how much — if anything — Gordon's companies have been paid from the training centers. As vice presidents, Settles and Gamble oversaw the UAW-Ford training center.

Rothenberg, the UAW spokesman, wrote in an e-mail that Gamble "instituted a strict three-bid process for any purchases above $5,000 when he became vice president. If Mr. Gordon got any business ... during that time it would have been because he won a bid."

Custom Promotions, however, has donated more than $191,000 worth of backpacks, shirts and a handicap ramp to the UAW-Ford training center from 2016-17, according to tax filings. During that time, Settles served as co-chair and co-president of the training center, which had $31.9 million in net assets.

The subpoenas sent to Gordon and other UAW contractors are part of a broader investigation into whether UAW officials also received money or things of value directly or through their tax-exempt nonprofit charities.

The News reported in August that agents were investigating Jones, the former president, for a range of potential crimes, including financial dealings involving his nonprofit charity.

Gamble also had a nonprofit. After being appointed regional director in 2006, he became president of the charity GIVES — an acronym for Giving is Very Extra Special. The charity held annual golf events to raise money for various organizations, including Gleaners, Muscular Dystrophy Association, labor organizations, community groups and churches, according to annual tax filings.

The nonprofit also contributed money for funeral costs, low-income retirees and needy families. The nonprofit received $540,544 from 2008-14, according to the filings, which do not disclose donors. It spent $534,717 in that same period and had $28,812 remaining at the end of 2014.

"As Region 1A Director, President Gamble's CAP program did purchase items from Mr. Gordon as they did from other union vendors as well," Rothenberg wrote in an e-mail. "But President Gamble never personally solicited any money directly for the GIVES charity from Mr. Gordon or any other vendor, and we can say with certainty every proceed from that charity went to programs for the homeless and to provide lunches for underprivileged children. The charity has been shut down, but helped many children and many homeless in Detroit when it was operating."

Settles, meanwhile, is listed in tax filings as president of JUST, a Detroit-based nonprofit that has received almost $1.3 million in recent years. Donors are not identified in the filings.

In November, Gamble announced a package of reforms that includes banning all charitable contributions from joint-training centers, vendors or employers to charities run or controlled by UAW officials — direct reactions to the mounting legal troubles weighing on individuals and the joint-training centers.

The investigation is part of a broader probe entangling Ford. The News reported in October that agents were investigating whether Ford and other Detroit automakers indirectly paid for a lakefront retirement home for Williams, the retired union president, at the union's northern Michigan resort.

Investigators are focused on Gamble's tenure as director of UAW Region 1A, a geographic area that covers most of Wayne County, Monroe and Washtenaw counties and extends to the Ohio border. Gamble headed the region for 12 years before replacing Settles as vice president in 2018.

Gamble, meanwhile, experienced financial problems during his tenure heading Region 1A, according to public records. Since 2006, Gamble has lost two homes to foreclosure, including one on Eldorado Place in Lathrup Village, and owed approximately $18,000 in delinquent property and state income taxes despite receiving a six-figure salary.

"Like many in Detroit and across the nation, the property President Gamble had on Eldorado suffered in the economic collapse as the real estate market shifted downward," Rothenberg said. "As such, it was a short-sale that covered the cost of the property. Any filings were part of the short-sale process as was the income tax, which was part of the short-sale process."

Despite the tax problems, in 2009 Gamble paid $130,000 for a 3,480-square-foot home in a gated cul-de-sac in the Marina District of Detroit.

Rothenberg attributed Gamble's past housing problems to the Great Recession and a divorce. The back taxes have been paid.

"If you were looking to corrupt somebody, somebody who has money problems is a good target," Erik Gordon told The News. "And if the money problems are not gigantic, they’re a better target. You can solve their problems without a lot of cash."

Settles, who preceded Gamble as vice president of the UAW-Ford Department, also has had financial problems. He also lives on Gamble's cul-de-sac, a few doors away.

The state and his neighborhood association have filed liens against Settles and his wife for $3,889 in unpaid income taxes and assessments since 2007, according to Wayne County property records. The tax liens — which have been released — were filed when Settles was paid $158,964 a year by the UAW.

That same month he retired in 2018, Settles and his wife bought a $462,500 home near Orlando, Fla. They obtained a $370,000 mortgage for the 4,061-square-foot, five-bedroom, five-bathroom home, according to public records.

 

 

Ford sales were off 3% last year,
but industry-wide totals
still hit 17.1 million


Jan 8, 2019
Ian Thibodeau
Detroit News

Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales fell 3% in 2019, the automaker said Monday. The 2.4 million vehicles delivered by the automaker pushed industry-wide sales to 17.1 million in 2019.

That industry-wide figure marks a 1.6% decrease in the U.S. compared to a year prior, according to Edmunds, but keeps sales above the 17-million unit mark and near record levels.

Ford was the final automaker to report sales; others released theirs Friday. The automaker's annual sales fell by larger percentages than rivals General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. GM sales were off 2.3% in 2019; Fiat Chrysler's sales were off 1%.

More than half of the vehicles sold by Ford last year were trucks. The automaker aims in 2020 to add more SUVs to the mix to change that.

"We want to expand our SUV business over time," said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of marketing, sales and service. "I wouldn't say we're targeting specific mix, but we definitely want to expand our SUV business. We like good organic growth of our truck business as well."

Ford's results come as the automaker continues to transition its lineup to more profit-rich vehicles, pruning out sedans and compact cars in favor of more trucks, SUVs and crossovers. The Mustang Mach-E electric crossover, a new F-150 and the return of Bronco SUV are in the automaker's product pipeline.

Ford's passenger-car sales were off nearly 30% as it cuts those models from its lineup, while the truck segment was up 9%. Its SUV sales slid 5% for the year due largely to a rougher-than-expected launch of