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NEWS ARTICLE
INDEX

Is the
Canada
Pension
Plan fair?
Hardly

________

Ford to
shift Focus
production to
China in 2019

_______

2018 Ford
Mustang GT's
powerful secret
revealed?

________

GM bringing
600 jobs
to Texas
from abroad

________

New Expedition
is tough,
lean and mean

________

Big month
ahead for
Canada-U.S.
trade as
countries
prepare for
multi-front
challenge

______

How should
drivers deal
with the
road rage
of others?

_______

Potential 2019
Ford Ranger
Raptor spied

________

Rare 4x4
Ford Mustang
surfaces in The
Netherlands

_______

Profit-rich
Ford facing
tough, new
road ahead

_____

15K salaried
Ford workers
offered
buyouts

________

After
confusion,
Ford parking
ban lifted
in Windsor

________

Why a $15
minimum
wage is
good for
business

_______

Heads-up:
Driving is
about to be
revolutionized

_______

Bill Ford:
Self-driving
crash rules
will be
up to feds

______

2018 Ford
F-150 gets
slight price
increase,
hidden
discounts

_______

The final Ford
Focus RS was
developed in a
very sneaky way

_______

New Ford
CEO wants
more than fads
in autos future

________

GM, FCA
sales down
in May, Ford
sales up 2.2%

________

Ontario to
raise minimum
wage to $15 an
hour by 2019

_______

Hot seat has
scorched many
top Ford execs

_______

2017 Ford
GT test drive

_______

Ford continues
management
shuffle under
new CEO

________

New Ford
CEO could get
as much as
$13.4M in ’17

_______

Shelby offers
souped-up
F-150;
wide-body
Mustang later

______

Ford stock
up 2.1%
on news of
new CEO

________

Harbaugh says
Ford’s Hackett
‘makes great’
calls

_______

Ford ousts
CEO Fields in
management
shake-up

_______

Ford to build
new auto parts
warehouse and
distribution
centre south
of Edmonton

_______

New evidence
of UAW vote-
rigging in
2015 Ford
contract

_______

Cyber
'clampware'
could strand
cars and force
owners to pay
to move them

_______

Ford
considers
cost cuts
reducing
workforce

_______

Lincoln
expands new
chauffeur
service
to Calif

_______

The Ford
GT was
almost a
Mustang

________

A case
study in
overcrowding
at Ontario’s 
hospitals

_______

GM truck
work for
Oshawa
could add
500 jobs

_______

Ford
preparing
big boost in
California
footprint

_______

Darth Vader
inspired the
2018 Mustang,
Ford designer
says

________

Intel sees new
opportunities in
auto industry

________

Canada
seniors
outnumber
children
for the
first time

_______

Slowing
auto sales
reveals
Detroit
weakness

________

New Ford
Mustang GT500
successor puts
a lot of rubber
on the road

________

April auto
sales slip
from record
highs

_______

In-car
connectivity
in Canada
lags far
behind U.S.

_______

Lost appeal
could cost
GM billions

_______

GM posts
record 1Q
results,
and stock
market
shrugs

_______

Your new F-150
might have been
built by Mark
Zuckerberg

_______

Ford profits
fall 35% in
first quarter

_______

Wall Street
expects First
quarter dip
for Ford

_______

Is Ford
Bringing this
People
Carrier to
the US?

_______

Trump
goes after
Canada on
energy,
dairy, lumber

_______

GM says
Venezuela
has seized
its car plant

_______

Trump to
crack down on
exemptions to
‘Buy American’
policies

______

Car Insurnace
In Ontario is
More Expensive

________

Condolences
go out to
Retirees
Bill Ewles &
Brian O'Dell

______

Ford Says
Happy
Mustang Day
Announces
2018 Shelby

_______

Senate blocks
Liberals’ plan
to repeal ‘anti-
union’ law

______

Ford China
sales slide
in March,
GM’s grow

_______

Lincoln debuts
first all-new
Navigator in
a decade

________

Lincoln
focused on
‘experience’
as brand
sales grow

______

Ford reveals
updated
Explorer
for 2018
model year

______

Pursuit-rated
Ford hybrid
police cars
debut

_______

Ford plans
to push
pickups
in China

_______

Ford to
expand EV
offerings
in China

_______

U.S. reviews
Ford recall
of cars
prone to
overheating

_______

Ford says self-
driving cars on
track for 2021

_______

Auto industry
sales slip
1.6%, third
drop this year

_______

Canada in
for rougher
NAFTA talks
than Trump
suggested,
trade
experts say

_______

Ford recalling 53,000 trucks
that can
roll away
while parked

______

Ford CEO
Fields'
compensation
rose 19%
last year

_________

Ford to invest
$1.2-billion in
Canada, create
Ottawa R&D
centre

_______

Ford to
announce
Ontario engine
program in
boost to
Canada
automaking

_______

Trump’s call
for new auto
plants collides
with reality

_______

Ford ups
investment
in Michigan
plants by
$350 Million

_______

Ontario auto
sector
concerned
about trade
with U.S.,
Wynne says

_______

Chrysler to
cut transport
operations
in Windsor

_______

Ford Edge
door ajar
lights no
cause for
recall

______

Behind Blue
Oval profits,
Ford wrestles
future

_______

Do the math:
Older used
cars in short
supply

_______

Ford tech
creates water
out of thin air

_______

Ford and Magna
team up on
prototype carbon
fiber subframe

_______

Ford Mustang
found in
Mexican
junkyard is
from 'Bullitt,'
expert confirms

_______

Bob Kinnear
resigns as
head of the
TTC union

_______

Ford invests
$644M in
German plant
that will
make Focus

_______

2018 Ford
F-150,
Mustang
getting
next-gen
pedestrian-
avoidance tech

_________

Trump:
Build new
Plants in
Michigan

_______

Trump will
offer boost
for carmakers
today

________

Ford Raptor
for 2017 is
rough, ready
and cushy

________

Ford’s Dearborn
transformation
takes 1st step
at mall

_______

VW pleads
guilty to
Dieselgate
felonies

_______

Foreign-car
dealers urge
Congress to
reject
border tax

_______

Fun in the
snow with the
Ford Focus RS

_______

What to
expect when
you cross the
Canada-U.S.
border

_______

Why Ford
stands by
its 'One Ford'
philosophy

_______

2018 Ford
Mustang
performance,
specs, rumours,
and news

_______

Mexico official:
NAFTA must be
win-win-win

______

Ford recalls 3
vehicles on
Takata airbag
safety concern

_______

News comes on
heels of Unifor
winning pension
battle with company

_______

GM Feb. sales
up 4.2%, Ford
down 4%, FCA
down 10.1%

_______

Fiat Chrysler’s
Marchionne paid
nearly $11.5M
in 2016

_______

CPP
enhancements:
Understand
what’s not
changing

_______

Big changes
considered
for Ontario
workplaces
________

Can U.S.
customs
officers legally
search your
phone when
driving across
the border?

_______

Maxed out?
What to do
when retirement
funds run out
_______

Ford wants
your new
car to pick
a song – or
tell a joke

_______

Former
Canadian
Union Leader
Bob White
Dies

_______

Dingell offers
NAFTA
replacement
‘blueprint’ for
Trump

_______

Beware the
bogeyman who
raids pension
plans

_______

UAW considering
‘Buy American’
ad campaign

________

Ford F-250
Super Duty
is huuuge

________

Ford to build
$200M testing
complex in
Allen Park

_______

When you
don’t get the
CPP survivor
benefit you
expect

________

High Ontario
electricity
rates concern
car makers

________

Ford invests
$1B into Argo
AI for virtual
driver system

_________

Tesla workers
reportedly want
to form labor
union

_______

Retiree
Norm Collins
Passes Away
Feb 8, 2017

________

Ford debuts
aluminum-body
Expedition

_______

GM to pay
UAW members
$12K in record
profit sharing

_______

1st major
German
customer sues
VW over diesel
emissions

_______

Ford begins
exporting
Raptor
to China

________

Frail seniors
& their money
it’s still
their money

_______

Ford’s
vehicles not
sole focus of
Super Bowl ad

________

Ford’s top
executives
slam Trump
travel ban

_______

Ford to power
older cars with
Wi-Fi through
SmartLink

_______

Ford to pay
$9,000 in profit
sharing to
UAW workers

_______

Ford projects
good year
despite
2016 drop

________

GM axing up
to 600 jobs at
Ontario plant,
shifting some
production to
Mexico

_______

Ford to launch
Omnicraft parts
brand for all
vehicles

________

Retiree Jim
Thorhill Passes
Jan 12, 2017

_________

Trump tries
hitting ‘reset’
with Detroit
automakers

_______

Trump takes
wheel in
talks with
Detroit autos

_______

Obama’s fraught
bet on Detroit
autos vindicated

_______

Ford takes
wraps off
2018 Mustang
convertible

_______

Ford expects
$2B net income
drop due to
pension assets

_______

News readers
name Ford GT
Best of Show

_______

Newfoundland
fishers consider
disaffiliating
from Unifor

_______

Ford premieres
refreshed
2018 Mustang

________

GM to invest
additional $1-
billion in U.S.,
move some
output from
Mexico
________

Takata to pay
$1B over faulty
air bags

________

Canada could
also face auto
border tax,
Trump
spokesman
suggests

________

EPA accuses
Fiat Chrysler
of emissions
cheating

_______

Ford reaffirms
target of $10.2B
2016 pre-tax
profit

_______

Trump tweets
won’t change
Ford's Canadian
plans, company’s
President of the
Americas says

________

Ford brings
back Ranger
Bronco

________

Ford takes
wraps off
updated
F-150

________

Mexican Ford
workers lament
Trump

_______

Play the Trump
cards right,
and Canada's
auto sector
will benefit

______

Auto sales
set record
in ’16 at
17.55M

_______

Ford to scrap
Mexico plant,
invest in
Michigan; CEO
cites Trump
policies

_______

Trump
threatens
GM with ‘big
border tax

_______

Nimpha Ilagan
Passes Away
Dec 31, 2016

_______

Union
prepares for
legal battle
ahead of
pension cuts

_________

Nortel’s
disabled
workers still
fighting
for better
deal after
bankruptcy

________

December 2016
Articles

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News

Is the Canada Pension
Plan fair? Hardly

FREDERICK VETTESE
The Globe and Mail
Jun. 22, 2017

The Canada Pension Plan may be the backbone of Canada’s retirement income system but it is far from perfect.

The CPP contains some quirky rules that can be detrimental to your financial security, or that of your spouse if he or she survives you. The federal government can and probably should do something to fix them. If you haven’t heard about them before, it is because some of these rules are rather obscure.

I will focus on two rules in particular. The first is the contributory period. Between ages 18 and 65, you are required to contribute to the CPP as long as you have employment earnings. If you had worked since 18, you would have had to contribute for the entire 47 years. And if you defer the start of your CPP pension until the age of 70, you could be contributing into the plan for as long as 52 years.

To earn the maximum CPP pension, however, you have to contribute the maximum annual amount for only 39 years (less if you stayed home to raise children). Some years of low earnings or no earnings can be dropped out for calculation purposes.

So consider two long-term contributors, Al and Jeff, who both reach 65 in 2017. Al got his first job at the age of 18 and worked diligently right up until 65 – a period of 47 years. Jeff started working at 26 and retired at 65 – hence, 39 years. If they both contributed the maximum each year, they both get the same $1,114 a month from the CPP. Al, however, would have contributed about $18,000 more in today’s dollars ($36,000 more if he was self-employed).

While I’m curious to know the government’s rationale for why Al has to pay in so much more than Jeff, it may be instructive to learn what rules apply to the federal government employees who drafted the CPP rules.

Those government employees participate in a plan called the Public Service Superannuation Plan (PSSP for short). This is a monolithic arrangement that covers nearly 500,000 public-sector employees, retirees and other beneficiaries. To get the maximum pension payable under the PSSP, a federal civil servant has to contribute for just 35 years. After they have completed 35 years of pensionable service, they are not allowed (much less required) to continue contributing, other than a trifling 1 per cent of pay to cover a fraction of the cost of future inflation protection. So the “Al problem” does not arise under the PSSP.

Another anomaly is the way the surviving-spouse benefit works under the CPP. A surviving spouse who is 65 or older gets a survivor benefit of 60 per cent of the deceased contributor’s CPP pension. Or at least that is the basic rule but there are complications. In particular, the survivor benefit is subject to a cap that can be quite punitive. The survivor benefit plus the survivor’s CPP pension based on her own contribution history cannot exceed the maximum CPP pension payable to an individual. If the survivor was already receiving the maximum CPP pension, for example, she gets no survivor benefit at all.

On the other hand, if the survivor had never worked and earned no CPP pension, the maximum survivor benefit in 2017 is $668 a month. This benefit has a present value of over $160,000, which is a lot to give up. Once again, we can debate the fairness of not paying the survivor benefit to a survivor who has earned a CPP pension of her own or we can look to the rules under the PSSP for another perspective on what is appropriate.

Under the PSSP, the survivor benefit payable to the spouse of a career civil servant with average earnings would be approximately $26,000 a year. That has a present value of over half a million dollars.

It’s not the present value we should focus on but whether or not the surviving spouse in this case still gets her PSSP survivor benefit if she happens to have a PSSP pension of her own. The answer is that she does; unlike the CPP benefit, that PSSP survivor benefit is not capped.

I’m open to hearing an official explanation why this difference in rules between the CPP and PSSP makes sense. The logic escapes me.

 

 

Ford to shift Focus
production to China in 2019

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
June 21, 2017

Ford Motor Co. will build the next-generation Focus in China, marking the first time the company imports Chinese-made vehicles to the U.S., and scrapping the company’s plans to make that car in Mexico.

The Dearborn-based automaker announced Tuesday it will start production in the second half of 2019 on the new model at existing Chinese plants. The North American model is currently manufactured at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, where it will stay until mid-2018.

It’s the latest change as Ford works to find a place it can make the small car as sales of the vehicle continue to slip and profit margins narrow.

Ford in January under former CEO Mark Fields cancelled plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico to build the next-generation Focus. The company said then that it would instead build the car in an existing plant in Hermosillo, Mexico.

The plant cancellation, coupled with an investment announced for a Michigan facility, garnered praise from then President-elect Donald Trump, though Ford had no plans to keep Focus production in the U.S. at the time.

While Ford and its Chinese joint-ventures produce vehicles in China, this will mark the first time a Chinese-made Ford vehicle is imported to the U.S. from those operations. Ford has increased U.S. exports from both the Ford brand and its Lincoln luxury brand to China in recent years while the company works to grow its footprint in the country.

The company announced in March plans to build an all-new Lincoln SUV in China to be sold exclusively in that country.

The automaker has been exporting to China for a few years. It began exporting the all-new Lincoln Continental to China in late 2016. In February, Ford started shipping its 2017 F-150 Raptor to China, marking the first time the automaker exported a U.S.-built F-Series truck to the country.

Moving Focus production to China will save Ford $1 billion compared to the original plan to build that new facility in San Luis Potosi, according to Ford. The company saved $500 million by axing plans to build the plant, and the move to China will save another $500 million, the company said in a statement.

“Finding a more cost-effective way to deliver the next Focus program in North America is a better plan, allowing us to redeploy the money we save into areas of growth for the company – especially sport utilities, commercial vehicles, performance vehicles as well as mobility, autonomous vehicles and electrified vehicles,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford executive vice president and president, Global Operations, in a statement.

The company said moving production of the Focus to China will not result in any job cuts for U.S. hourly employees at the Wayne facility. Michigan Assembly will be converted to make the new Ranger pickup starting in late 2018, and the new Bronco SUV in 2020 once Focus production is moved.

“Additional variants” of the next-generation Focus will also come from Europe following the shift, with most of the new North American Models initially coming from China, according to a statement from Ford.

Ford said the new Focus will be more spacious and “packed with technology.”

Ford joins the likes of General Motors Co. and Volvo Cars, which are building cars in China and importing them to the United States. GM became the first of the Detroit Three automakers to import from China. It sells the Chinese-made Buick Envision SUV and the Cadillac CT6 plug-in hybrid in the U.S.

On Tuesday, Ford also announced it would increase a planned investment its Kentucky Truck Plant by $300 million to build the all-new Expedition and Lincoln Navigator there. Ford negotiated as part of the 2015 United Auto Workers contract $600 million in investment for that plant.

The $900 million total investment will help Ford retain 1,000 existing jobs at the facility that employs close to 7,600 full-time hourly workers, the company said.

“Large SUVs are attracting a new generation around the world – and we’re finding new ways to deliver the capability, versatility and technology that customers around the world really want with our all-new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator,” said Hinrichs in a statement. “At the same time, we also have looked at how we can be more successful in the small car segment and deliver even more choices for customers in a way that makes business sense.”

 

2018 Ford Mustang GT's
powerful secret revealed?

2018 Mustang

June 19, 2017
Fox News

The 2018 Ford Mustang GT looks like it’s going to be one fast filly. At least its engine does.

While Ford has yet to announce how powerful the updated GT’s 5.0-liter V8 will be, the company has confirmed that it will produce more horsepower than the current 435 hp engine does, thanks in parts to a new port and direct fuel injection system and an intake system based on the one used on the Shelby GT350’s 5.2-liter V8.

The Shelby’s motor is an absolute screamer that runs to a very exotic and un-muscle car-like redline of 8,200 rpm and is rated at 526 hp, while the 2017 GT's engine calls it a day at 7,000 rpm.

But a rendering of the 2018 Mustang's available digital instrument cluster revealed with the car in January showed a tachometer with its redline marked at 7,500 rpm with the powertrain set to its highest performing Sport+ mode, which could indicate a significant bump in output, if accurate.

Mustang 2018

Well, now there’s corroborating evidence that it is. A contributor to the Mustang6g.com forums spotted a group of 2018 Mustangs at a photo shoot in Austin, Tex., and grabbed a few photos of his own. One of them highlighted in a feature on CJPonyParts.com shows the dashboard of a GT with an analog tachometer that’s clearly marked with a 7,500 rpm redline, just like the digital version.

CLICK HERE FOR IMAGES FROM THE PHOTO SHOOT

While the GT’s engine is unlikely to feature at flat-plane crankshaft like the Shelby’s, which also contributes to its sky-high redline, the extra revs could help it top its Camaro SS rival’s 455 hp when it goes on sale this fall with an optional 10-speed automatic transmission to harness the power.



 

GM bringing 600 jobs
to Texas from abroad

An employee attaches brake components on a chassis at the GM Plant in Arlington, Texas, on May 1, 2015.

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
June 18, 2017

General Motors Co. plans to open a new supplier park in Arlington, Texas, a move expected create 850 new jobs in the U.S., some of which will replace positions in foreign GM facilities.

The supplier park will have two industrial manufacturing and warehouse buildings. Covering over 1.2 million square feet, GM said the operation will have 1,250 total employees; roughly 600 of the new positions created will replace work currently done outside of the U.S., according to a statement.

“Through strong supplier and community relations, we’re able create new supplier parks to generate significant benefits to our manufacturing operations and the communities in which we operate,” Steve Kiefer, GM senior vice president of global purchasing and supply chain, said in a statement. “This new supplier park will create improved logistics efficiency and coordination, while also bringing significant employment opportunities to Arlington.”

GM’s Arlington Assembly plant builds the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban SUVs as well as the GMC Yukon, Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade. GM said placing supplier parts near plants save money by reducing transportation costs and boosting communications.

“General Motors has been a part of the American Dream in Arlington from the beginning,” said Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams in a statement. “In fact, the opening of the assembly plant in Arlington in 1954 was one of the key igniters of our city’s incredible population and economic growth. And now, more than 60 years later, GM continues to be a critical foundation of Arlington’s economy.”

 

New Expedition is tough,
lean and mean

The Ford F-150 King Ranch series, left, and 2018 Ford Expedition XLT are on display for the media at Ford Field Park in Dearborn, Mich. on Thursday, June 15, 2017 (Photo: Jose Juarez / Special to Detroit News)

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
June 17, 2017

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co.’s all-new aluminum-body 2018 Expedition is bigger, lighter — and with the newly announced FX4 off-road trim, it’s also meaner.

When Ford debuted the loaded Expedition in February, the automaker said despite the nearly 300 pounds shaved off the SUV’s total weight thanks to the redesign, the full-size, eight-passenger family hauler would maintain off-road capabilities.

The FX4 package, offered for the first time since 2003, adds more hardware to the new model hitting showrooms this fall. Off-road tuned shocks, skid plates, beefy all-terrain tires and an electronic limited-slip rear differential system developed to boost performance in low-traction environments are part of the off-road trim Ford calls the “most off-road capable” Expedition ever.

The grille of the F-150 King Ranch series. (Photo: Jose Juarez / Special to Detroit News)

The FX4 uses the same terrain-management system that will be available on the standard model, but adds a few drive modes for low-traction situations including a mud setting. Tweaks to the exterior give the off-road trim a mean, sporty look that counters the sleek new XLT, Limited and Platinum trims for the 2018 model. The FX4 is lifted slightly for more ground clearance. Ford uses darker colors on the grille and other accent points on the exterior, and puts chrome running boards on the sides.

The interior of the F-150 King Ranch series. (Photo: Jose Juarez / Special to Detroit News)

“We’re delivering something customers were asking for,” said Ryan Gillenwater, Expedition marketing manager. “They’re looking to do a lot.” He says that includes taking the SUV through rougher terrain.

The FX4 isn’t meant to compete with the monster F-150 Raptor, which can climb rock gardens. The off-road Expedition targets the roughly 20 percent of current Expedition owners who told Ford they use their SUV for some off-road “adventure.”

The 2018 Ford Expedition XLT, right, and F-150 King Ranch series are on display for the media at Ford Field Park in Dearborn, Mich. on Thursday, June 15, 2017 (Photo: Jose Juarez / Special to Detroit News)

“This is for people who want to take the Expedition into the woods or on sand and gravel,” Gillenwater said. “There’s demand.”

The 2018 Expeditions come standard with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that drives the 2017 models. But Ford has coaxed more power from the engine for 2018: XL, XLT and Limited editions of the new Expedition get a 10-horse boost to 375 horsepower; torque is increased 50 pound-feet to 470. The Platinum edition gets a 35-horse boost to 400 horsepower; torque is increased 60 pound-feet to 480.

Interior of the Ford Expedition XLT. (Photo: Jose Juarez / Special to Detroit News)

With a new 10-speed transmission — and with the lighter body — Ford says the 2018 Expedition should be more thrifty at the gas pump, although it has not released expected fuel economy. The 2017 Expedition gets an EPA-estimated 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.

Meanwhile, the 2018 Expedition has more than 40 new features and driver-assist technologies, including park-assist, lane-keeping, adaptive cruise-control and a collision-avoidance system that helps drivers avoid other vehicles or pedestrians.

Updates aimed at boosting utility include a wireless charging pad, an in-vehicle WiFi hotspot, six USB charging ports, four 12-volt power points, 15 cup holders, Ford’s latest Sync3 technology and retooled cargo space behind the third row.

Ford employee Don Mattern demonstrates how to use the Pro Trailer Backup Assist knob, inside the Ford Expedition Platinum. (Photo: Jose Juarez / Special to Detroit News)

Interior changes were aimed at making the Expedition cabin more spacious and easier to enter and exit for second- and third-row passengers.

Ford will introduce sliding second-row seats in the new Expedition, which allow passengers in the second and third rows more legroom and easier entry and exit. The second-row seats have a “tip-and-slide” function, which allows access to the third row without the need to remove a car seat because the second row doesn’t need to fold to be moved. The third row also reclines.

The 2018 Expedition goes on sale this fall. It will be built at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

The front grille of the Ford Expedition XLT. (Photo: Jose Juarez / Special to Detroit News)

Pricing has not been released. The 2017 Expedition starts at $47,125.

In addition to specifics on the Expedition engine, Ford also announced the all-new 3.3-liter V-6 engine available on the 2018 Ford F-150 will put out eight more horsepower and 12 more pound-feet of torque than the previous 3.5-liter V-6 at 290-horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque.

Through May of 2017, Ford has sold 351,965 F-Series trucks for the year, an 8.5 percent increase compared to the same period a year ago; the company has also sold 26,316 Expeditions this year, a 29.9 percent increase. To compare, Ford sold nearly 20,000 more F-Series trucks in May than the entire number of Ford-brand cars moved in the same time period.

 

Big month ahead for Canada-U.S.
trade as countries prepare
for multi-front challenge

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump talk as they attend the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7 on May 26. A lot is happening this month in Canada-U.S. trade with at least four actions on the punitive front that Canada will be watching in June.  (PHILIPPE WOJAZER / AFP / GETTY IMAGES) 

The Canadian government is preparing for a multi-front
challenge with the U.S. regarding Boeing’s complaint on
Bombardier, softwood lumber, steel and aluminum and NAFTA

By Alexander Panetta
The Canadian Press
June 15, 2017

WASHINGTON—The multiple ways in which Donald Trump could threaten Canada-U.S. trade will be on full display this month, with a series of looming decisions and public events that hold the potential to escalate disputes.

One expert counts three pathways to pain: NAFTA negotiations, punitive actions, and pressure on CEOs to shift operations to the U.S.

Gary Hufbauer says this flurry of individual actions will allow the president to point to immediate results in his “America First” agenda, giving him something to show voters in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections if NAFTA talks languish into the following year.

“I think the NAFTA negotiations are going to be long, and tedious, and difficult, and not yield much fruit between now and the (midterms) in 2018,” said Hufbauer, a prominent trade analyst at Washington’s Peterson Institute.

“So... these other parts of the agenda will be what Trump emphasizes when we come down to the congressional and senatorial races.”

A lot is happening this month.

There are at least four actions on the punitive front that Canada will be watching in June: a report on Bombardier by the Commerce Department around June 12, which could lead to duties; a decision on additional softwood-lumber duties June 23; and investigations into the national-security implications of importing steel and aluminum, which Trump says will be released in June.

There’s also a big hearing on NAFTA on June 27. The U.S. government will collect public input on what it should demand in negotiations later this year, and foreigners are invited to share submissions for the Washington event.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan came within a whisker of threatening the U.S. company that launched the complaint against Bombardier. Ottawa has said it is reviewing plans to spend at least $5 billion on Boeing Super Hornet fighter jets. Sajjan said in a speech: “(This) is not the behaviour of a trusted partner.”

On softwood lumber, Ottawa is threatening two other trade actions. It says it might ban exports of U.S. coal from B.C., and is also studying whether the state of Oregon’s business subsidies constitute grounds for punitive action.

On steel and aluminum, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed Trump during a chat in Sicily for a Canada exemption from any punitive action. The countries have relatively balanced trade in steel. In fact, Canada is by far the largest importer of U.S. steel — it took in 51 per cent of U.S. exports last year, Mexico took 39 per cent, and the next four countries took a mere one per cent each.

The American cabinet official responsible for many of these trade actions is aware of this.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told a congressional hearing last week: “We actually have steel surplus with Canada and Mexico, so that puts them in a little different position, as well as the fact that they are participants in NAFTA.”

The Canadian government will keep taking its message on the road.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau will be in Pennsylvania steel country Friday as the latest cabinet minister to travel throughout the U.S., spreading the message about $858 billion a year in bilateral trade of goods and services, the nine million U.S. jobs related to Canadian trade, and the $1.62 million of trade occurring every minute of the day.

Garneau alone has been in Washington, D.C., Washington State, and Florida recently as the Canadian cabinet scours the continental United States is search of potential allies as these disputes arise.

“It’s just making our American neighbours aware of just how much is at stake,” Garneau said in an interview.

He’ll be meeting in Pittsburgh with two Republican congressman and with the head of the United Steelworkers union — Leo Gerard, who is Canadian. Gerard happened to be inside the Oval Office for the public event where Trump blasted Canadian trade in dairy, lumber, and energy.

But Garneau warns against getting too exercised by this daily noise.

He says he’s looking farther ahead, past June, at another big date: Aug. 16. That’s when the U.S. will have finished its NAFTA consultations and will be ready to present its demands to Canada and Mexico for the renegotiation.

“The vast majority of what we’re looking at will be under NAFTA,” Garneau said in an interview. “There’s a certain amount of stuff that gets out there in the media that may not necessarily be what the United States’ final position is.

“We know the art of negotiation. The real serious negotiations will be based on what is put on the table in front of us, three months from now. That’s what we will be focused on... That’s when the rubber hits the road.”

Buy American is another issue on the transport minister’s mind. Domestic procurement could be a key sticking point in the NAFTA talks, and also surface as an issue in an eventual U.S. infrastructure bill.

The last time it was a major irritant some Canadian companies responded by opening U.S. facilities.

That’s the third kind of pressure Hufbauer expects to see, beyond sector-by-sector penalties and NAFTA harball bargaining. He says Trump already has pressed CEOs of major companies, especially in the auto sector but in others as well, with one purpose: “Threatening them to locate in the United States.”

 

How should drivers deal with
the road rage of others?

OlafSpeier/Getty Images/iStockphoto

JASON TCHIR                        
The Globe and Mail
Jun. 14, 2017

I still don’t know what I did, but I had a big SUV tailgate my car and flash his brights, then pull alongside and push into my lane. I was in the right lane and there was a concrete guardrail on my side. When we got to a red light, he got out and ran to my car and started cursing and banging on the window, telling me to get out of my car. I started filming him with my phone and he finally left, after shouting out a few more slurs about my ethnic heritage. Was there anything else I should have done? When I told this story at work, everybody had a similar story. I don’t remember it ever being this bad before. – Simon, Toronto

Is road rage getting worse?

It’s tough to say, but anecdotally, it seems that the incidents of angry aggression are piling up as our roads get more congested.

“Cops don’t track it,” said Steve Albrecht, who writes about violence for Psychology Today. “It’s part of overly aggressive driving, but in studies, people admit to it and it seems to be part of the human condition.”

So what should you do when targeted by an aggressive driver?

Experts say: Keep your cool, try to get out of the way and report the incident to police as soon as it is safe.

“If you find yourself in that situation, call 911 – if your vehicle is blocked, stay in the vehicle and lock your doors,” said superintendent Alison Jevons, director of operations and support with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) highway safety division. “Some of these incidents really escalate to an unbelievable level.”

In March, an Edmonton woman had her arms broken by a crowbar in a road-rage attack. She had honked at a car stopped on the road and it followed her until she stopped and got out of her car.

“We say it’s best to not engage when you get two people at the side of the road because things can escalate,” Jevons said. “If you feel somebody is following you, don’t drive home, drive to a police station or to a busy public place.”

Should you call the police while you’re driving?

“There is no exemption under the legislation in Ontario for drivers to use a cell phone in emergent circumstances,” Jevons said. “I would never want to recommend that someone does that, as it could have unintended consequences – the best advice is to call 911 as soon as is safe. The severity of the situation will dictate how urgently the call should be made.”

There’s no specific charge for road rage, but the OPP does track Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA) violations when officers think they’re related to aggressive driving, including speeding and unsafe lane changes, Jevons said.

From 2015 to 2016, those incidents went up 70 per cent – from 118 to 200 per cent.

But road-rage incidents can escalate beyond the HTA and into the Criminal Code, Jevons said.

“Banging on a car could be criminal mischief,” Jevons said. “There could be charges of assault, threatening [or] dangerous driving.”

A 2016 report on road rage in the United States by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that two out of three drivers said aggressive driving is a bigger problem today than three years ago.

In a 2016 Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) poll, nearly nine out of 10 drivers say aggressive driving is a threat to their personal safety.

After Albrecht wrote a blog about road rage in 2013, he was flooded with interview requests from journalists on the “new phenomenon of road rage.” He still gets them.

“I get a lot of interest from Canadian media. I think that’s because your culture tends to be more supportive and nicer than ours,” Albrecht said. “In the States, it’s getting way worse – as the population grows, there’s not enough space.”

When you’re in your car, you feel anonymous, Abrecht said.

Combine that with anger and a sense of territoriality – the other driver has infringed on your turf – and it’s a recipe for road rage.

“At the time, they’re not thinking that the cops will get your licence plate number from the people you threaten or that cell phones will capture what’s going on and your face will get plastered all over social media,” Albrecht said. “Anger is a natural human condition, but you have to consider the consequences. I tell parents that if your kids see you cursing at another driver or cutting someone off, they may think that’s an acceptable reaction.”

If another driver becomes aggressive, don’t retaliate and risk getting into a crash, Albrecht said.

“Don’t get into situations where you’re using passive-aggressive behaviours – just do your thing, listen to the radio and just focus on your driving,” Albrecht said. “Get ahead of them if you can. I think you have to be careful not to let them get behind you and follow you for miles and miles.”

The best defence, according to the CAA?

“Be extra Canadian. If another driver is aggressive towards you, don't take it personally,” Kristine D’Arbelles, CAA spokewoman, said in an e-mail. “Be polite, even if the other driver is not. If another driver challenges you, take a deep breath and move out of the way.”

 

Potential 2019 Ford
Ranger Raptor spied

Standard Ford Ranger prototype undergoing testing  (SpiedBild)

By Viknesh Vijayenthiran
Published June 13, 2017

A new generation of the Ford Ranger returns to the United States as a 2019 model, and it may just offer a high-performance variant bearing the Raptor name.

Prototypes for the new Ranger are being tested in Australia where the local Ford division has been tasked with development of the vehicle's T6 platform. The T6 platform is also the basis of the current Ranger on sale outside the United States.

CarAdvice has managed to spot one of the prototypes sporting some upgrades that suggest it’s for a version of the Ranger very much like the F-150 Raptor. Unique elements not seen on previous prototypes include flared wheel arches, increased ride height, off-road tires, and a shorter front bumper (to improve the approach angle).

 The prototype’s photographer said the vehicle sounded like it was powered by one of Ford’s twin-turbocharged V-6 gasoline engines. The Ranger currently on sale overseas is offered with a pair of diesels: a 2.2-liter inline-4 with 158 horsepower and 284 pound-feet of torque and a 3.2-liter inline-6 with 197 hp and 346 lb-ft.

There’s also good reason to believe the vehicle will be called a Ranger Raptor. It was discovered in 2015 that Ford had registered the “Ranger FX4” and “Ranger Raptor” trademarks in Australia. We’ve already seen a Ranger FX4 launched Down Under. That leaves the Ranger Raptor name for this latest truck.

Interestingly, a new Bronco is being developed alongside the new Ranger, and any mechanical package offered in the pickup could potentially end up in the SUV.

 

Rare 4x4 Ford Mustang
surfaces in The Netherlands

June 12, 2017
Fox News

As odd as a 4x4 pony car sounds, a barn seems like a good place to find one.

A very unique convertible 1970 Ford Mustang is for sale in The Netherlands.

According to the sellers, the red drop-top is equipped with a Ferguson Research four-wheel-drive system. They say they’ve owned it for 27 years, and just don’t have the time to restore it.

It’s known that Ford commissioned the British company to build at least two prototype 4x4 Mustang coupes in 1964 for evaluation, but the cost of the system was deemed too high and the feature never made it into production. Ferguson stuck with the technology, however, and it was later offered in the Jensen Interceptor, starting in 1967.

But it apparently never gave up on the idea of an all-weather Mustang. BarnFinds.com reports that the Dutch Mustang was “factory equipped” with the system, presumably by Ferguson, and the car literally stored in a Dutch barn.

Even without the four-wheel-drivetrain, the car is a rarity. Assuming its engine is stock, it’s one of only 379 convertible Mustangs built that year with a 351 V8 and automatic transmission, according to “Mustang by the Numbers.”

From the photos in the listing, it’s clear that there’s plenty of corrosion, but the car remains licensed for road use and it has just 32,641 kilometers on the odometer.

As far as the price is concerned, there’s no estimate to how much it is worth, but all offers are being entertained.

More Info

 

Profit-rich Ford facing
tough, new road ahead

Daniel Howes ,
The Detroit News
June 11, 2017

In a note to clients, a leading Wall Street analyst warned Wednesday that Ford Motor Co.’s earnings outlook “may need to be reset as much as 50 percent lower over the next 18 to 24 months.”

Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas cited a model lineup in need of refreshing, the need for increased investment in the emerging mobility and autonomy space, and the growing expectation that moderating U.S. sales will begin to deliver fewer dollars to the bottom line.

This after Ford’s record earnings last year, capping a blistering run of profitability stretching back to the end of the Great Recession. And folks wonder why the Blue Oval’s directors quickly moved to oust former CEO Mark Fields, replace him with mobility guru Jim Hackett and engineer a broad shakeup of global senior leadership?

Maybe it’s because the people charged with representing the financial interests of shareholders — and those of the controlling Ford family — saw this rude awakening coming because they’re in a position to do so. And they’re obligated to act.

Maybe it’s because Fields’ forward movement looked more like slow motion in comparison to General Motors Co. under CEO Mary Barra and her team. They’re reshaping the automaker’s global operational footprint and exiting under-performing markets to maximize near- and mid-term earnings while making more aggressive bets in the mobility space.

Maybe it’s because GM already has a purpose-built, sub-$30,000 electric vehicle — the Chevrolet Bolt — in showrooms. It’s well ahead of Ford and the Model 3 from Silicon Valley’s Tesla Inc., vying with GM to be America’s most valued automaker. And Ford? A distant third in a U.S. industry its founder, Henry Ford, revolutionized with the moving assembly line and his Model T for the masses.

Maybe it’s why Ford used the change at the top to execute a sweeping reorganization of senior leadership. It’s unlike anything CEO Alan Mulally ever attempted during his eight-year rescue of the Blue Oval, his elimination of six of eight brands and a singular focus on creating One Ford around the world.

In addition to segmenting the world into its traditional geographic pieces — the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, Asia-Pacific — Ford is splitting the business into “markets” under former Europe boss Jim Farley and “operations” under former Americas chief Joe Hinrichs.

In simple terms, Hinrichs leads the functions that develop, design, engineer and build the products; Farley leads the business units charged with marketing, selling and delivering results to the bottom line. It’s a meaningful change designed to flatten the senior executive structure, speed decision-making — and it’s a departure from what Mulally bequeathed to Fields.

Which means the results, whatever they actually turn out to be, will be blamed for departing from Mulally’s disciplined approach. Or they’ll be credited to senior management and directors who understood the necessity to adapt to challenges that did not materially exist when their superstar CEO arrived from Boeing Co. in 2006.

The automotive world is changing, undeniably. Mulally’s industrial prescription for the traditional car and truck business, effective and popular as it was, was necessary. It delivered sequentially better results quarter after quarter; it focused top management on similar processes and common results; and it suppressed legendary infighting among top execs.

But it is not proving sufficient to navigate quickly and persuasively the new technology-driven rivalries with a muscular GM and some of the biggest (and richest) players Silicon Valley can muster. The two-dimensional outline of Ford’s profitability, grounded most in its F-Series pickups, suggests the Mulally Method didn’t anticipate the coming revolution.

And Ford is saying as much in a carefully worded, if introspective, response to Jonas: “We have not changed our guidance. We are now more focused than ever on speeding decision making, investing capital where we can create value and moving decisively to address areas of the business that are under-performing or destroying capital.”

Telling choices of words, those, emphasizing speed and acknowledging Detroit’s legendary reputation for “destroying capital” instead of leveraging it into bigger profits, faster growth and new market segments. That’s why Fields is no longer CEO. And this:

“At this time, the vast majority of Ford’s vehicles in operation are completely unconnected, do not collect data, have a rudimentary sensor suites, minimal computing power and extremely limited ability to conduct over-the-air (OTA) updates of firmware,” Jonas wrote.

Moving Ford to OTA capability — which GM and Tesla already do, regularly — “would send a powerful signal to investors and strategic partners that Ford truly embraces the areas in which it can add value in Auto 2.0.”

GM has 12 million connected vehicles, the company says, almost as many as all other automakers combined. Using OnStar, GM has been delivering OTAs since 2009. And its current generation of hardware on model years 2014 and newer can pull 6.7 billion points of data per day.

Tells you everything you need to know about the challenges ahead for Dearborn.

 

15K salaried Ford
workers offered buyouts

Jim Lynch,
The Detroit News
June 10, 2017

Ford Motor Co. has begun issuing buyout offers to 15,000 salaried employees in an effort to cut 1,400 positions from its corporate staffing in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Asia/Pacific region.

The automaker started making the offers via email Wednesday for voluntary retirement. Ford employs about 201,000 people worldwide.

A Ford spokesman said each employee’s offer would vary based on current salary and benefits, as well as years of service. It will range between three months to 18 months of pay.

“We expect we’re going to reach the 1,400 voluntary reductions,” said Mike Moran, Ford’s global news manager. “They would depart from the company by Sept. 30.”

The targeted cuts center on administrative positions and steer clear of Ford’s work on new technologies and manufacturing operations, the automaker said when it announced the upcoming personnel reduction in May.

Departments seeing buyout offers include corporate finance, sales, service, government affairs, legal purchasing and communications. The company is not seeking cuts in the areas of product development, Ford Credit, information technology and global data.

The offers go out just as Ford completed a reorganization at the top of its leadership structure. Former President and CEO Mark Fields was shown the door in May and replaced by Jim Hackett, the leader of Ford’s Smart Mobility unit. Other top executives were reassigned to different positions.

Despite record earnings last year, the automaker faces plateauing sales and stagnant valuation of its stock price.

 

After confusion, Ford parking
ban lifted in Windsor

A sign restricting Ford and non-Ford vehicle parking is posted at the automaker's Windsor Engine Plant on Henry Ford Centre Drive in Windsor on June 5, 2017. Jason Kryk / Windsor Star

Doug Schmidt,
Windsor Star
June 9, 2017

Ford of Canada’s corporate headquarters moved rapidly Monday to kill a proposed new policy that would have required Windsor employees who don’t drive Ford vehicles to park in segregated areas only.

But for Ford workers in Windsor who prefer a Kia Sorrento, BMW 328i or even a Windsor-built Dodge Grand Caravan, it’s once again OK to park anywhere they want on company parking lots.

“FORD VEHICLES ONLY Beyond This Point” read the signs in the employee parking area closest to the workplace entrances at the company’s Windsor Engine facility. Blue and white “NON-FORD VEHICLE PARKING” signs were posted in an area furthest from the plant for workers who don’t drive a Ford.

One employee said discussion in social media and on the plant floor heated up late last week after word of the new parking segregation policy began getting out. Workers said they were advised the new policy would be implemented July 1, with possible sanctions including the towing away of non-Ford vehicles for repeated non-compliance.

“I believe you should drive a Ford if you work for Ford,” said Ford Fusion driver John D’Agnolo, who is also president of Unifor Local 200.

D’Agnolo, whose local represents about 1,400 local Ford workers, said Windsor was simply catching up to Ford facilities elsewhere where “preferred parking” is offered to those who arrive for work in a Ford.

Late Monday afternoon, Ford of Canada communications manager Michelle Lee-Gracey, responding to a query by the Star, said in an email that “the company has not announced a new parking policy.”

But D’Agnolo told the Star earlier in the day that the parking initiative was “company-driven — they came to us.” A worker told the Star the new parking rules were announced at last Thursday’s midnight shift, and the signs were going up.

“Any signs will be removed,” Lee-Gracey stated in a followup email Monday night.

Local Ford workers said the proposed policy would have seen up to three warning letters posted on the windshields of non-Ford vehicles parked in Ford-only parking areas. After that, offending vehicles would either get “booted” or towed away.

“It’s been quite the conversation around here — some are in favour of it, some are totally against it,” said Jeff, a Ford worker in Windsor who asked that his last name not be used.

“I think it’s just ridiculous,” he said.

As a coach with kids in hockey and football, and with a wife who works at FCA Canada’s Windsor Assembly Plant, Jeff drives a locally built Chrysler minivan. He said his wife drives the family’s Ford Escape.

“If you don’t drive a Ford, they’re putting you out at the fence,” he said.

Contacted Monday evening after the nixing of the apparent new parking policy, Jeff said he was “absolutely” glad. “We’ve got bigger things to worry about — I don’t think we need this division in the plant.”

He pointed out that one employee on Monday had parked his Cadillac right under one of the “Ford Vehicles Only” signs.

It was just over a decade ago, at a time when Ford announced it was closing down plants and shedding thousands of jobs in response to big quarterly losses, that the Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan decided it did not want non-Ford vehicles where they could be seen in employee parking lots. Ford of Canada’s Oakville assembly plant also discussed the possibility.

But the latest attempt at segregated parking came after Ford, the nation’s top-selling vehicle company, announced its best Canadian sales month since 1989, with 34,486 units sold in May.

Ford employees driving a car or truck built by a competitor were “still going to park in the parking lot — they’re going to park in a section where the non-Ford vehicles are,” said Unifor’s D’Agnolo.

While Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has “some facilities” with preferred parking for employees who drive company name brands, FCA Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin told the Star that, in Windsor, “it’s first-come, first-serve” regardless of a vehicle’s origin.

“It’s fair to say if you drive by our lots, there’s a disproportionate number of Chrysler products,” said Gosselin. “Our employees have pride in the products that are providing for their families.”

The same holds true at Windsor Engine, where Ford vehicles dominated the parking lot Monday.

“I believe you should drive a Ford if you work at Ford,” said D’Agnolo.

 

Why a $15 minimum
wage is good for business

Boost the minimum wage and you boost the economy from the bottom up, writes economist Armine Yalnizyan. That means more demand for what businesses have to sell.

Macleans.ca
Armine Yalnizyan
June 8, 2018

Last week the Ontario government introduced plans for truly sweeping labour reforms. Perhaps none is more important—and controversial—than the proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by Jan. 2, 2019.

There’s an argument to be made that going so far so fast could kill the goose that lays the golden egg, destroying jobs at a time when more are desperately needed, particularly for the young.  The counterargument is that this would add another gold-egg-laying goose to the mix, and spur the demand that creates jobs in the first place.

Unsqueeze the driver of growth

Domestic consumption drives the economy, in Canada and around the world.

Household purchases account for 57 per cent of Canadian GDP, a rising share of economic activity since the Great Recession of 2008 because business-to-business purchases, business investment and exports haven’t found their mojo since.

Housing costs have been rising in the biggest cities where most of the population lives. That is eating up even more disposable income, constraining how much of the monthly budget is left to make purchases from domestic and international producers.

When higher income households see wage gains, some of it goes to savings. Additional consumption also often flows to vacations and luxury goods, often imported. In other words a non-trivial part leaks out of the local economy.

When lower income households see a sustained rise in incomes, they spend virtually all of it. Most goes to food (more nutritious food or eating out), better health care and more education. Sometimes it also goes to rent (moving to a better neighbourhood). Almost all of this spending stays in the local economy.

So boost the minimum wage and you boost the economy from the bottom up.

Spur productivity

You may be surprised to learn nearly 30 percent of Ontario’s labour market earned less than $15 an hour in 2016. The nation’s biggest labour market has more people working at low wages than any other big economic engine of Canada (Quebec, B.C., Alberta)

While some workers may lose their job after the minimum wage increase (more on that in a minute), a very large number of workers will see an important pay hike, and that will loop back into the economy. Increased consumer spending will grow the top line of businesses, and increase the need for more workers to meet the higher demand for goods and services…and earning better pay.

Rising costs will also raise productivity, something virtually every business and economist says we want and need.

That’s harder to do if you’re doing things the way you’ve always done them.

Canada has been running a low-wage economy for decades, relatively speaking, according to Statistics Canada.  In fact, at last count Canada outpaced the U.S. in the reliance on low-wage work. Within Canada, Ontario has the highest reliance on low-wage work.

Boosting wages may knock out some jobs and some marginal businesses. The remaining enterprises that rely on low-wage work will see improved productivity, less absenteeism and turnover, reducing recruitment and training costs.

We shouldn’t rue the loss of a few poorly paid jobs, particularly when rising minimum wages also help meet the twin challenges of the early 21st century: constrained revenue growth and higher service needs due to population aging.

We’ve got to spur change, and a substantially higher minimum wage will surely spur change.

Job loss and (teen) angst

Economic theory offers a perfectly reasonable assumption: a higher minimum wage leads to job loss. Theory has not been borne out by evidence, with one possible exception: teenagers.

Let’s take this in two steps: research on job loss, and teen troubles.

A 2016 study examining 78 years of federal minimum wage hikes in the U.S. (between 1938 and 2009) showed no correlation between those increases and job losses, even in sectors most affected by such policies.

Between 2013 and 2014, 13 states increased the minimum wage. The majority of these states saw above-average job growth.

A review of studies suggests even where the impact of minimum wage increases is not “benign,” job loss evidence has to be weighed against what happens to the purchasing power of the remaining workers.

The point is, even where there are job losses, other opportunities open up, and there is more purchasing power to spur demand.

Furthermore, higher minimum wages improve not just the top line, but the bottom line of business. Exhibit A: Walmart, which last summer reported higher than expected profits, partly due—according to the company—to paying its workers higher wages.

But what about the kids?  A paper written for the Ontario government in 2007, and widely cited of late, says a “10 per cent increase in the minimum wage is likely to reduce the employment of teens by three per cent to six percent.”

This is a serious issue. Though their unemployment rate has been very slowly falling, young Canadians (15 to 24) are the only demographic group who have seen their employment rate remain far below pre-crisis levels. This means there are more young people simply out of the labour force. A growing group of idle young men has never produced a happy turn of events.

But minimum wage policies are not the only worry young workers face. Their unemployment rates go up even when the inflation-adjusted value of minimum wage declines, because macroeconomics swamps all. Any reduction in demand will mean last hired is first fired. That means young people and newcomers always have higher unemployment rates, no matter the level of the minimum wage.

The new normal?

A more nagging problem is that “failure to launch” has led to more people in their prime earning years working minimum wage jobs.

In Canada, the proportion of people aged 20 to 24 working a minimum wage job doubled since pre-recession, as did the proportion of people aged 25 to 54. The proportion of older workers (55+) working minimum wage jobs grew much more slowly…but it’s the fastest growing age cohort of workers.

The fact is, a higher proportion of teenagers work at a minimum wage job in most provinces across Canada today than a decade ago (49 per cent across Canada, 70 per cent in Ontario in 2016), but a growing proportion of adults have been doing so as well.

In 2016, 64 per cent of minimum wage workers across Canada were not teenagers, up from 52 per cent in 2006. In Ontario, the proportion of minimum wage workers who are not teenagers has risen from 45 per cent to 61 per cent in a decade.

When do we start to be concerned about the macroeconomic effects of so many workers having to wait for a law to change before they get a pay hike? Have you ever tried to change a law?

In the 1950s and 1960s, the manufacturing sector provided a growing share of middle class job opportunities, thanks to strong unions. In the 1970s and 1980s, growth of the public sector (and its organization) accomplished the same.

It’s unclear where the next middle class will come from, but until we figure that out, it should be clear why people are raising the roof about raising the wage floor.  It may only be one tool to help low-wage earners—others include reforms introduced this week by the Province of Ontario, more affordable housing and  child care, and more ways to pursue collective action—but it’s a big one.

Why is $15 the magic number?

Most people agree that today’s $11.40 an hour minimum wage in Ontario is too low to make ends meet, unless you can depend on others’ incomes.

But why is $15 an hour the “right” amount for a minimum wage in Ontario?  Why not $30 or $100 an hour?

There is no articulated policy reason for the $15 minimum wage, but there could and should be.

Some say it should be enough to lift someone out of poverty if they work full time and full year. Historically, however, minimum wage wasn’t about poverty reduction. It was about acknowledging the inter-relationship of all work, and making sure no one got left too far behind as wages grew.

In many European countries public policy sets the minimum wage in relation to other workers’ wages, at between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of the average wage.

Today the average hourly wage in Ontario is $26.43.

Half of the average is $13.22; 60 per cent is $15.86

The government’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by January 2019 will bring it to roughly 55 per cent of the average wage, if wage growth keep pace with inflation in the intervening period.

Once you have reached the target level, annual inflation adjustments should take care of increases; but the level should be reviewed every five years, in case things are getting out of whack.

This makes the process rooted in logic, and predictable, both of which rightfully improve business buy-in.

By the way, there is no legislated minimum wage in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and Italy.

The reason? Collective bargaining covers all workers, and minimum pay in these agreements is most commonly between 60 and 70 per cent of average wage rates.

Still think $15 is too rich?  The negotiated minimum in Denmark is the equivalent of C$22.50. The legislated minimum in Australia is C$17.70.

Both countries pay their lowest-skilled workers much more than we do, but have unemployment rates similar to Ontario’s, around six per cent.

The elephant in the room: big business

Raising the minimum wage raises costs for business, there is no denying; and the affected businesses are not just small business.

Businesses large and small have been making the case that they can’t afford paying more for labour going back to when laws were first proposed to curb the use of seven year-olds in coal mines or put an end to 16-hour workdays.

Of course, there will be some job losses, and some smaller businesses that go under. There are always some marginal businesses for whom any higher cost—electricity or any other input, a legal dispute—will mean The End. That is genuinely heart-breaking for that business.

But small business isn’t the only beneficiary of minimum wage laws.

Low wages help maximize profits. Period.

Did you know at least half of all minimum wage workers in Ontario work for employers with over 500 employees?  That’s a growing trend. The same is true in most other provinces.

It’s unclear why governments need to protect corporations, but not the workers they hire.

And it’s also unclear why businesses (and many economists) bemoan the increase in minimum wage but are mum about ballooning compensation of employees at the top, from senior management to the CEO.  After all, these are also rising input costs. That should also trigger concerns about prices, employment levels and solvency, n’est-ce pas?

Businesses will understandably worry that uncertainty from south of the border may make all of this more challenging to implement. Let’s pause on the fact that Ontario’s economy is expected to enjoy the fastest growth in Canada in 2017.

But it’s true. The future is uncertain.

What’s not uncertain: the slow drip of unresponsive labour market regulations and mostly unenforced rules over the past quarter century has shifted bargaining power towards employers, against workers.

That was just challenged in Ontario.  And not a moment too soon.

 

Heads-up: Driving is about
to be revolutionized

A new automotive frontier called augmented reality will display details – from speed to maps to e-mail – on the windshield

Peter Nowak
The Globe and Mail
June 7, 2017

Navigation arrows, pedestrians outlined in red, magnified road signs, “ghost” cars that show you where to go – they’re all on-screen features found in many PlayStation and Xbox racing games.

But the line between playing a video game and driving an actual car is about to get blurry as augmented reality (AR) begins to migrate into vehicle windshields.

Toyota last year patented an AR windshield – a slab of glass that can display computerized text and graphics, just like a smartphone screen. And in December, car systems designer Harman took a stake in Navdy, a San Francisco-based startup that makes AR display units that sit above a vehicle’s steering wheel, with an eye to full windshield integration.

Industry observers say the wide-scale rollout of AR in cars is still a few years away, but it is coming – and they’re bullish on the technology making driving safer and more fun.

Navdy’s display units sit above a vehicle’s steering wheel. Industry observers say augmented reality in vehicles could see a wide-scale rollout in a few years.

“Having some sort of augmented display to draw a dotted line [to my destination], I think that would be a great benefit,” said Tuong Nguyen, principal research analyst at technology research firm Gartner Inc. “It would be an improvement over what we have now.”

AR has been around for a while, but its first real worldwide hit came last year courtesy of Pokémon Go. The smartphone game, which superimposes cartoon monsters on the real world using the phone’s camera, generated more than $1-billion (U.S.) for creator Niantic Inc. in just six months.

That smash success kicked off a gold rush, with companies of all sizes now racing to add AR to their products. Microsoft is selling its $3,000 HoloLens, a wearable holographic computer, while Apple is expected to make the technology a key feature of its 10th-anniversary iPhone this fall.

Other, smaller companies are also finding novel uses for the technology. Toronto-based ModiFace Inc., for example, makes AR software for so-called smart mirrors, which let users test new makeup combinations virtually.

Gartner expects AR and its cousin, virtual reality, to generate $72-billion in device revenue alone over the next decade.

Auto makers are taking notice, as AR’s potential in-car benefits are obvious. Displaying important information such as speed and directions directly on the windshield, for example, would keep drivers from taking their eyes off the road.

Some manufacturers have already taken steps in this direction. Several Toyota models, including the Prius, can project such basic information onto the windshield. Jaguar Land Rover is also experimenting with AR.

More advanced implementations would allow for the addition of game-like capabilities. Toyota’s patent, for example, suggests AR could be used to show drivers exactly how much of a highway lane their car is taking up.

“Toyota recognizes the various benefits of heads-up display, including that a driver can see important information about roads, speeds … with less eye movement from the primary line of sight,” said Toyota Canada spokesman Michael Bouliane. “Toyota will continue to work to make this technology even more user-friendly.”

In the meantime, a number of third-party companies are betting drivers will want aftermarket units that deliver similar benefits.

Navdy’s device projects maps, caller IDs, messages, e-mails and music information so that they appear to be about a metre and a half in front of the driver’s point of view. The $499 device plugs into the car’s on-board diagnostics port and connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth, so it pulls information from both the vehicle and the Internet.

While there’s an obvious benefit to keeping drivers’ eyes on the road, auto makers will have to prove that the technology delivers safety benefits and isn’t just another distraction.

Drivers can navigate through information using a steering wheel-mounted thumb dial or gesture sensors.

Navdy is now working with car makers through its partnership with Harman to build its technology into vehicles, which could happen in the next two or three years.

“There are people who would like this solution sooner rather than later, but we are working directly with auto manufacturers on that integration,” Navdy chief revenue officer Dan Currie said.

One of the challenges in adding AR to cars, he added, is the extra cost of effectively transforming windshields into transparent TV screens. Outfitting dashboards with three-dimensional projectors that beam images onto the windshield is a cheaper and more viable option.

“I’m not sure if the windscreen [route] is a long-term solution – unless there’s a dramatic reduction in cost,” Mr. Currie said.

AR is also likely to face regulatory concerns, since it may give drivers more visual information to digest. Auto makers will have to prove that the technology delivers safety benefits and isn’t just another distraction.

“Whenever you put something in front of someone’s face when they’re trying to navigate a car or motorcycle, there are a number of legislative and regulatory issues you have to get past to allow that to happen,” Mr. Nguyen said.

 

Bill Ford: Self-driving crash
rules will be up to feds

Keith Laing,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
June 6, 2017

Washington — Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford told a Washington, D.C., audience on Monday that the federal and state governments will have to grapple with thorny issues about the ethics of self-driving cars before they can be rolled out for mass consumption on U.S. roadways.

Ford said developing the hardware and software that will be used to power self-driving cars, which his company has promised to do by 2021, is going to be easy compared to deciding what autonomous vehicles should do in the event of a life-or-death crash.

“The difficult piece is going to be all the enabling things around it. Things like ethics, things like regulations,” Ford said during an appearance at The Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C.

“Ethics in the vehicle itself, i.e. does the vehicle make the decision to save you, the occupant, or to save 10 pedestrians if the right thing might be to hurt you the occupant,” he continued. “Those all have to be thought through and no one manufacturer is going to be able to program in one ethical equation that is different than the others. I mean, that would be chaos. And imagine the fun the trial lawyers would have with that too.”

Ford has said that it plans to build fully autonomous cars — without a steering wheel or brake or accelerator pedals — for use in ride-hailing or ride-sharing services by 2021.

Ford said governments will also have to address potential job losses for industries such as truck and cab drivers.

“While it might be a great benefit to society as a whole, there will be issues ... and how does society confront those issues?” he said. “For instance, there are three-and-a-half million truck drivers, if you have autonomous trucks ... how about all the Uber drivers, the Lyfts, deliveries on FedEx and UPS? I suppose it’s no different than a conversation around artificial intelligence, but it’s all coming. It’s really hard to find a place or a forum or an institution that seems to be thinking through all these ramifications in a way that’s coherent and provides some answers.”

Ford added: “If retraining has to be done, we need to start thinking about that now. And again that’s not something that I think any one individual company can do alone. This is something that I think governments need to be thinking about and decide what, if anything, they want to do about it.”

Ford said his company will look very different in the next five to 10 years if it meets it deadline to put self-driving cars on the road by 2021.

“We should be less capital intensive, less cyclical, much closer to the customer, and help cities sort out their issues,” he said. “We will be making vehicles. It’s something we do and we do well. But into those vehicles ... will be going lots of software, looks of connectivity. ... I think we’ll always be making vehicles. But how they behave, how they interact and who is in them may all be different.”

 

2018 Ford F-150 gets slight
price increase, hidden discounts

2018 Ford F-150

AutoBlog
John Beltz Snyder
June 5, 2017

Base price goes up $270, but there are deals to be found.

If you delayed getting a Ford F-150 until you could snag the 2018 model with its refreshed looks, the option of seven different grilles, and updated powertrains, you'll be paying a price premium for all that newness. The good news is that for all the updates, the price difference is a bit of a bargain, as Ford is adding a mere $270 to the MSRP when the 2018 F-150 goes on sale this fall.

That's according to Cars Direct, which offers insights gleaned from an order guide. That includes pricing for the new 3.3-liter V6, which will come standard on the XL and XLT models. Base price with the 3.3-liter is $28,675 in the XL Regular Cab, which is $270 more than the outgoing model with its 3.5-liter V6. The SuperCab starts at $32,760 with the SuperCrew's starting MSRP at $35,215.

Unfortunately, we still have no exact output figures for the 3.3-liter V6. Ford tells us it will be about as potent as the motor it replaces, which made 282 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. If you're wondering about the new 3.0-liter diesel Ford will offer in the F-150 next summer, you're going to have to wait on that also, as details still aren't available.

The 2018 F-150 will offer adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, plus a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection. This tech comes as standard on the F-150 Limited, and will be part of a $1,250 option on the Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum versions when paired with a Luxury Equipment Group. If that sounds like it'll get expensive, Cars Direct lists a number of available "hidden" equipment discounts when adding certain packages to certain models. Configure your new F-150 correctly, and you could save up to $2,500.

 

The final Ford Focus RS was
developed in a very sneaky way

Fox News
June 4, 2017

Don’t freak out, car enthusiasts, but Ford’s been spying on you.

The automaker has come clean and revealed that it’s been monitoring your conversations on internet forums and social media.

But it did it for your own good!

You see, Ford says it used the intel it gathered to create a limited edition version of the high performance Focus RS based on a collective wish list of features.

The curated car will only be offered in Nitrous Blue or Race Red, and features a black roof, black spoiler black mirror caps and a set of 19-inch forged alloy wheels that are also painted black, of course.

There are new carbon fiber wraps on the door handles, handbrake lever and boost gauge binnacle, plus heated Recaro front buckets upholstered in leather and suede microfiber.

But the most interesting change is the addition of a Quaife front limited-slip differential that Ford says will help make the most of the all-wheel-drive Focus RS’ 350 hp in curves by sending more of it to the wheel with the most traction.

Ford will only make 1,000 of the limited edition Focus RSs for the U.S. market, and they will be the last models before the current generation of the car goes out of production next year.

 

New Ford CEO wants more
than fads in autos future

Jim Hacket, named CEO on May 22, 2017. The former Steelcase Inc. CEO and former interim athletic director for the University of Michigan spent the last year chairing the automaker’s Ford Smart Mobility subsidiary. Among his tasks: restoring the culture of teamwork that Alan Mulally implemented.  Ford Motor Co.

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
June 2, 2017

Novi — New Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Jim Hackett believes advancements in technology won’t mean much if automakers lose touch with customers.

“As you make things better, materially, technically or efficiently, we’re losing track of human use,” Hackett said Wednesday at the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation’s executive connection summit. “Remember that the bigger issue for us is that you’re managing this gap, because that ensures human adoption.”

Hackett spoke at his first big public appearance as head of the Dearborn-based automaker. The former Steelcase Inc. CEO, former chair of Ford’s subsidiary Ford Smart Mobility and former University of Michigan athletic director spoke for 45 minutes about the necessity for any technological advancements made at Ford to “augment” the human experience. The comments come just over a week after Hackett was appointed to better communicate Ford’s plans for the future, among other reasons.

He said that he’s pushing Ford employees to think about products in “ways we only imagined,” that will bring about true, extended use – not just fads that come and go. If new products or systems like the autonomous vehicles Ford intends to have on the road by 2021 – or the “connected” cars, electric vehicles and ride-sharing services – don’t do that, they’ll fail, Hackett said.

“(Technology) has made human life and human experience augmented in ways that we never expected,” he said. “Technology is designed by humans for use by humans, and therefore it unlocks the power of humanity.

“You aren’t going to get people to adopt a new tech or a new idea unless it’s actually augmenting.”

It was a refreshed line of speaking from the new head of the Blue Oval, who was put in place, according to comments made by Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr., in order to modernize the nearly 114-year-old automaker by developing new business.

Bill Ford wants Hackett, the tech-talking “change agent,” to “re-energize” the company by moving faster than his predecessor, Mark Fields, in realigning the business to maximize growth amid expansion into new markets such as self-driving vehicles, electrification and mobility — sectors in which profits eluded Fields.

The man with his name on the vehicles wants a clear way forward for the automaker as it transitions into an auto-and-mobility company.

And Hackett is already signaling a change. Speaking Wednesday, he drew anecdotes from late Apple Inc. Founder Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley giants to illustrate his points. A week into the job, Hackett communicated how Ford can succeed, and the way in which the automaker is studying innovations and new technology on its current and future vehicles.

Ford will make the right decisions, Hackett said while fielding questions from his newly appointed President of Mobility Marcy Klevorn.

And, he said, the company won’t trip over itself trying to be first out of the gate with new technology.

Klevorn and Hackett also touched on the importance of diversity in the workplace. Hackett said a company with a better mix of men and women — and different cultures — across all positions has “more sense” and a competitive advantage.

“There’s just nothing more important” than diversity,” he said.

The comments come as Ford invests what’s estimated to be over $1 billion to renovate its Dearborn campuses to attract younger, tech-minded engineers and technicians and compete with Silicon Valley competitors like Apple and Google, Intel and Qualcomm.

But for most of the talk, the new CEO spoke elegantly about how technology impacts human lives, and how Ford needs to hone in on the human aspect to create the life-changing technology in the mobility sphere that Bill Ford has been pushing for since his 2011 “A Future Beyond Gridlock” TED Talk.

Bill Ford said then that the current model for transportation beloved in the U.S. will not work across the world. Things need to change.

The auto industry “is now in flux, and it’s been in flux,” Hackett said Wednesday. “From a human perspective, we need to be mobile, and yet the design historically will not work.”

 

GM, FCA sales down in
May, Ford sales up 2.2%

Melissa Burden and Jim Lynch,
 The Detroit News
June 1, 2017

General Motors Co. said Thursday its May sales fell 1.3 percent to 237,364 vehicles compared to the same month a year ago, while Ford Motor Co. said it sold 241,126 vehicles in May, up 2.2 percent. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported a 0.9 percent drop in May over last year with sales of 193,040 vehicles.

For the month, Ford outsold GM — a rare occurrence.

GM said its Buick brand sales rose 28.5 percent; Cadillac sales jumped 9.2 percent. But Chevrolet brand sales dropped 3.8 percent and GMC sales slid 5.2 percent from May 2016. GM said retail sales jumped slightly in the month as crossover sales to retail customers grew 19 percent.

Ford said its truck sales rose 9.4 percent in the month, while SUV sales increased 4.3 percent and car sales slid 10 percent. F-Series truck sales totaled 76,027 last month, up 12.8 percent from May 2016. It marked the best May results in 13 years.

“May marked a standout month for Ford brand SUVs, with a May record 74,910 SUVs sold,” Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a statement. “Plus, we continued to see strong F-Series performance, with sales and share rising this year, along with average transaction pricing. In May, overall F-Series sales were up double digits and transaction prices grew $3,300 per truck.”

Ford brand sales rose 2.1 percent and Lincoln Motor Co. sales were up 4.9 percent in May.

FCA saw mixed results across its lineup. Jeep sales dropped 14.7 percent, while Ram Trucks jumped 18.2 percent. The Chrysler brand sales dropped 1.8 percent, while Dodge rose 8.4 percent. Fiat sales dipped 15.8 percent.

Some analysts had predicted GM to post a sales gain in the month and for Ford to post a drop.

Forecasts ahead of Thursday called for automakers to see little change over their May sales results from 2016, despite seeing growth from last month. It’s likely another indication of plateauing sales. The auto industry enjoyed record sales in 2016 and has seen consistent growth the previous seven years.

“We could see a positive month for the industry for the first time this year in May, but Kelley Blue Book expects totals to finish about even year-over-year, despite one extra selling day in 2017,” stated Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book, in a statement . “Retail numbers for May are expected to finish strong, however they continue to be supported by considerable incentives and lease subvention. In recent months, leasing appears to be reaching its peak, which is expected, given declining residual values and which is contributing to this year’s slowing sales.”

Analysts expect automakers will sell more than 1.5 million vehicles in May.

A year ago, new cars were selling for about $850 dollars less than they are now — a factor that may have contributed to this month’s performance.

“While demand for new vehicles is still relatively strong, it’s a bit of smoke and mirrors,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis for Edmunds, in a statement. “Dealers and OEMs really pushed the deals over the holiday weekend to prop up their May numbers. Incentives were up sharply, and it seems automakers are putting more cash on the hood to nudge car shoppers to buy versus lease. Finance incentives were up 33 percent year over year in May, compared to a 28 percent rise in lease incentives and an 18 percent lift in cash incentives.”

 

Ontario to raise minimum
wage to $15 an hour by 2019

Justin Giovannetti
The Globe and Mail
May 31, 2017

Sweeping changes to Ontario’s labour legislation have workers and lower-income families cheering over a huge boost to minimum wage and benefits, but the province’s business community warns that the moves will make the province less competitive and drastically raise costs in ways that would be passed on to all Ontarians.

After two years of independent review, the government unveiled proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act Tuesday, including a rise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019.

Part-time, contract and temporary workers would also make the same wage as full-time workers for equal work; vacation and personal-leave benefits would be increased across the board; and scheduling rules would become more rigid, ensuring workers get paid for at least three hours if a shift is cancelled.

The proposed legislation – which should be introduced this week to be made law by 2018 – is a victory for low- and moderate-income families, whom Premier Kathleen Wynne said Tuesday should have a fairer share of Ontario’s prosperity.

Voices from across Ontario industry warn, however, that the changes would threaten not just individual businesses but the very prosperity the government wants to spread around – forcing companies into the awkward position of slashing jobs, raising prices or shutting down altogether.

After two years of consultation and analysis, the province introduced its Changing Workplaces Review report last week. Authored by labour-law experts C. Michael Mitchell and John Murray, it suggested neither a minimum-wage hike nor outright shift-scheduling regulations, insisting the latter be addressed by sector-specific committees – a divergence from expectations that’s left business advocates frustrated.

Despite being involved for the full two-year process, Ryan Mallough, policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said that “at no time did they ask us or consult on minimum wage…. So I think the initial reaction here is we’re feeling pretty blindsided.”

He said in an interview that the proposed legislation, when combined with other additional costs – such as rising employment-insurance premiums and cap-and-trade programs – will make it “very difficult for a business owner in Ontario to manage all these cost pressures.”

Citing Ms. Wynne’s own 2014 minimum-wage advisory panel as an example – which found that a 10-per-cent increase in the minimum would lead to a 1-to-3-per-cent reduction in teenagers’ employment – Ontario Chamber of Commerce vice-president Karl Baldauf said he hoped the government spends the summer examining evidence-based impacts of its proposals to help transition both employers and workers into the new labour ecosystem.

“Employers understand more needs to be done, but if that needs to take place, you have to help them transition,” Mr. Baldauf said.

The increase to the minimum wage will be phased in over the next 18 months, rising to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018. Workers who have held a job for five years will now be entitled to three weeks of paid vacation. They will also have the right to 10 emergency days annually, two of which must be paid; reasons for leave will be expanded, meanwhile, to include the experience or threat of domestic or sexual violence.

The proposals are “a step in the right direction,” said Chris Buckley, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, which plans to push for further rights improvements for workers. Kemba Robinson, spokeswoman for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, an advocacy group for low- and moderate-income families, called the wage-boost crucial.

“People on low income will be rejoicing,” she said. “There are families that have to choose between buying food and paying rent, and we don’t think that is a fair choice. This is a significant improvement in their quality of life.”

Employers will now be required to pay an employee three hours’ wages if their shift is cancelled with less than 48 hours’ notice – including if they’re on call and not called into work. “Workers deserve a degree of certainty, especially when you need these shifts in order to make it through the month,” Ms. Wynne said Tuesday.

Service-focused businesses, however, say they will have to make tough decisions over the ensuing cost increases. “It’s going to have the opposite effect of what [the Ontario government is] hoping to have,” says Mike Ziola, partner and general manager with Biagio’s Italian Kitchen in Ottawa. He and other restaurateurs regularly have to make staffing changes to accommodate cancelled reservations or weather changes, making the proposed scheduling regulations prohibitively costly.

Mr. Ziola says his staff will suffer. “It’s going to cost hostesses, cost dishwashers.” Tony Elenis, chief executive of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, said the changes “seem totally out of touch with the practices of running an operation.”

Job-loss rhetoric, however, does tend to come up whenever minimum wages rise; Miana Plesca, an associate professor studying labour economics at the University of Guelph, says it can be overblown. “It’s not as big as business owners would like us to think,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact.”

Carleton University economics professor Frances Woolley said that customers of some businesses – particularly those that hire more vulnerable populations but service the more affluent – should be prepared to embrace higher costs. “If I pay more for my brunch so somebody gets a decent wage, I’m not convinced that’s a bad thing at all,” she said.

The plan didn’t go as far as some of the government’s advisers would have liked, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn acknowledged on Tuesday. There was broad advice to remove a lower wage for young workers and liquor servers, as well as to require seven days of paid leave, he said. The government chose to go with more modest changes. “These are a new set of minimums but we already know that most Ontario businesses already exceed these minimums and treat their employees well,” he told reporters.

Students and liquor servers will still have separate, lower minimum wages than the standard under the proposed legislation, but they’ll both still rise: to $14.10 and $13.05, respectively, in 2019.

The plan also changes union rules, making it easier for temporary workers, building-services workers as well as home and community-care workers, to unionize.

The plan will allow unions to access employee lists and contact information if they’ve proved that 20 per cent already support organizing. This has Jocelyn Williams Bamford, founder of Ontario’s Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers, and vice-president of Toronto’s Automatic Coating Ltd., worried about invasion of privacy on top of all the additional costs the proposed legislation would bring.

She said the increased costs to Ontario’s small and medium businesses are putting significant pressure on them to move operations elsewhere, or potentially even shut down. “We’re going to see the loss of family businesses, because they’re just on unfair footing now,” Ms. Williams Bamford said. Combined with rising future energy costs and cap-and-trade legislation, “it’s death by 1,000 cuts.… While we’re getting less competitive in terms of our legislation, the U.S. is getting more competitive to draw and attract business.”

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown wouldn’t say whether he would cancel the increase in the minimum wage to $15 if he defeats Ms. Wynne’s Liberals next year. The opposition leader was muted in his criticism and said he needed to see the government’s cost-benefit analysis of the increased costs first.

“We’re going to make sure that where there are aspects that are worthy of support, like emergency leave, that we will voice that. Where there are concerns, where there is not substantial analysis to back up the government’s assertions, we will point that out,” he said at Queen’s Park.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath dismissed the plan as a last-minute ploy by the Liberals to convince labour-minded voters a year before the next general election that Ms. Wynne is a friend of workers. “For 14 years they’ve done nothing to address the erosion of people’s standard of living,” she said, referring to the length of the Liberals’ time in power.

 

 

Hot seat has scorched
many top Ford execs

Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally, left, announces his plan to retire on May 1, 2014, joined by his successor Mark Fields and executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. Mulally was considered a rock star; Fields, like other CEOs in Ford's history, lasted only a few years at the top. Here's a look at Ford's leaders since 1970.  David Coates, The Detroit News

Ian Thibodeau ,
The Detroit News
May 30, 2017

Mark Fields is the latest Ford Motor Co. chief executive ousted from a company where big decisions still are very much influenced by its founding family.

Lee Iacocca, Ford president, 1970-78. Seen here with chairman Henry Ford II, right, Iacocca would never be the company's CEO. Henry Ford II didn’t like him, and said so publicly.  The Detroit News archives

Henry Ford II didn’t like Lee Iacocca, and said so publicly. Don Petersen ran afoul of Hank the Deuce and tried to sideline the next generation of the family. Jac Nasser angered dealers and employees, important constituencies to the family. And Fields, named to the top job less than three years ago, was judged to be the wrong guy at the wrong time, despite presiding over two years of record profits.

Iacocca, the man behind the birth of the Mustang, the Lincoln Continental Mark II and the Pinto, was fired in 1978, despite the fact that the company earned a $2 billion profit that year

“We had a board meeting (last) Friday, and following that, Mark and I got together and we decided that it was the right time for him to resign,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said when Fields’ departure — and the appointment of Jim Hackett as president and CEO — was announced May 22. “So really only at that point did we activate (Hackett) as the new CEO.”

The automaker is in a hurry. Amid plateauing vehicle sales and lagging quality, Ford is trying to cement its place in a rapidly changing industry with newcomers Tesla Inc., Waymo, Apple Inc. and others from Silicon Valley.

Hackett, a management veteran with a reputation for teamwork and attention-grabbing moves in his time as head of Steelcase Inc., follows Fields as a “change agent” who Bill Ford Jr. hopes will dismantle the management hierarchy and better deliver the message that the automaker is a future-looking company.

Henry Ford II resigns from Ford Motor Company on March 13, 1980. With him are CEO Phillip Caldwell, who succeeded Ford as chairman of the board, and at right, Don Petersen, a future Ford CEO.  The Detroit News archives

“With Mark, it was kind of a retrenchment to some of that Ford history,” said David Cole, chairman emeritus at the Center for Automotive Research. “That, plus the decline in the value, put a lot of pressure on all the shareholders, which included the Ford family… I think they perceived Mark Fields as business as usual. And that turned out to be the kiss of death.

“That would have scared the liver out of anybody.”

Ford CEOs have always had tough jobs for a multitude of reasons. Few could have filled Alan Mulally’s shoes, according to Cole.

“One of the toughest jobs in the world is to replace somebody who was viewed as an icon,” Cole said. “That was a horrifying job that Mark had.”

History of clashes

Since Henry Ford II fired automotive legend Lee Iacocca in 1978, Ford CEOs and presidents have stayed with the company for an average of four years — not including Bill Ford Jr.’s tenure in the 2000s. Fields was fired two years and 11 months after his appointment to succeed Mulally, whose tenure ran for nearly eight years.

The family with its name on the cars of the 114-year-old automaker remains a guiding and stabilizing force within the company. Bill Ford Jr. and his cousin Edsel Ford II sit on the 16-member board. As chairman since 1999, Bill Ford Jr. is the voice of the Ford family.

Record profits and sales under Fields were marred by an unclear vision for the future. His retirement came as the board grew less confident in Fields and more involved in pushing for a clear path forward for the company.

A board vote ousted Fields, not a shareholder vote. In recent months, Ford’s outside directors began to delve more deeply into Fields’ strategy for the future and grew increasingly troubled with the company’s direction and Fields’ ability to lead it, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The Ford family’s 70.9 million shares make up less than 2 percent of the company shares, yet the stake gives the family 40 percent of the voting power within the company, according to a February regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Under a structure established when the automaker went public in 1956, a single Class B share is equivalent to 16 common shares, and can be owned only by family members.

The weighted shares have been challenged by recurring proposals at annual meetings, but those challenges have been routinely voted down. Dissident shareholders like John Chevedden have called the super-votes unfair because they give the Ford family so much control.

“The super-voting shares effectively give them veto power over any decisions,” said Bryce Hoffman, author of “American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company” and a former Detroit News auto writer. “But the company still has to satisfy the public markets. Nobody can force the family to do something they don’t want to do. That doesn’t make it immune to the market.”

Ford CEOs have historically clashed with the family even during periods of growth. But that doesn’t appear to be the case with the dismissal of Fields, as pressure came from outside directors.

Phillip Caldwell, 1979-1985. Having taken over the presidency from Iacocca in 1978, Caldwell succeeded Henry Ford II as chairman and CEO in 1981. He's seen here meeting with President Ronald Reagan at a White House meeting with auto executives. He retired in 1985.  Dennis Cook, Associated Press

Iacocca, whose eight-year run as Ford’s president began in 1970, infamously butted heads with then-Chairman and CEO Henry Ford II. Even bringing the wildly popular Ford Mustang to the market in 1964 and running the Blue Oval during Detroit’s Golden Age didn’t keep Iacocca in good standing with Hank the Deuce.

“It’s personal, and I can’t tell you any more. It’s just one of those things,” the grandson of the company’s founder told Iacocca when firing him, according to “Iacocca: An Autobiography.” When Iacocca pressed, Hank the Deuce replied: “Well, sometimes you just don’t like somebody.”

Donald Petersen, 1985-1990. Petersen was shown the door not long after he told Fortune magazine that Edsel Ford II and Bill Ford Jr. did not have a "leg up" on ascending to top management.   Detroit News Photo Archive

Phil Caldwell, a loyal lieutenant of Hank the Deuce, took over the presidency from Iacocca. In 1981, he became the first company CEO whose last name was not Ford. In the four years before his retirement, Caldwell led the company through some of its most difficult years, including competition from Japanese carmakers.

Bill Ford Jr. and his cousin Edsel Ford II worked their ways into the company’s highest ranks in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Donald Petersen, Ford’s CEO from 1985-89, was known to quote Edsel Ford in saying there were no crown princes at the Blue Oval.

“I’m not a caretaker for anybody,” Petersen told Fortune magazine in 1989. “I admire the fact that (Edsel and Bill) are trying very hard to go as far as they can. But being a Ford does not give them a leg up. The principle we must operate on is that selection to top management is based solely on merit.”

Harold "Red" Poling, 1990-1993. Poling, seen at right with William Clay Ford in 1993, steered the company through a recession. When he retired at age 68, Ford had a 25 percent market share, and five of the ten best-selling vehicles in the U.S.  The Detroit News archives

Amid disagreements with the board and the Ford family, Petersen was forced out.

Then as now, the company’s leadership cannot be separated from the family. Bill Ford Jr. told The New York Times in 1993, “When people joined this company, they knew we held this unique position. So if it makes other people uncomfortable, I guess I’m sorry. But it’s a fact of life they’re going to have to live with.”

Harold “Red” Poling, who followed Petersen as CEO from 1990 to 1992, appeared to have few disputes with the family and retired from the company at age 68. But when Bill Ford Jr. became chairman in 1998 — a position that was held by then-CEO and President Alex Trotman — Trotman spat, “So now you have your monarchy back, Prince William,” Fortune reported in 2000.

Alex Trotman, 1993-1999. Like his predecessors, Trotman held the titles of chairman and CEO. But Bill Ford Jr. was named chairman in 1998. Trotman reportedly said, “So now you have your monarchy back, Prince William.”  Ford Motor Co.

The family oversight has often proved beneficial, according to Hoffman. He said they were instrumental in pushing out CEO Jac Nasser in 2001 after less than two years on the job amid conflicts with dealers and employees – and the Firestone rollover crisis. That crisis linked faulty tires used on the Ford Explorer and other vehicles to 200 deaths and 800 injuries, leading to a recall and replacement of 20 million tires.

Bill Ford Jr. replaced Nasser as CEO, the first Ford family member in more than two decades to run the company. He recruited Alan Mulally from Boeing Co. in 2006 to lead a sweeping industrial restructuring as the automaker slipped into crisis and then the Great Recession, which pushed two Detroit rivals into bankruptcy.

Jacques Nasser, 1999-2001. Nassar, seen here with Bill Ford Jr., lasted less than two years as CEO, amid conflicts with dealers and employees and the Firestone rollover crisis that led to a recall of 20 million tires.  Jeff Kowalsky, AFP/Getty Images

Mulally was credited with changing the culture at Ford by fostering teamwork under his “One Ford” mantra. During his tenure, Mulally cut six of Ford’s eight brands and mortgaged the company’s assets — including the Blue Ovals on the sides of World Headquarters — to carry it through the Great Recession. Mulally was well-regarded within the company.

In 2014, Mulally left the company on his own terms. And with board approval, he backed Fields to succeed him.

Feeling the pressure

Shares fell 40 percent under Fields, vehicle quality slipped and strategic decisions were delayed or slow to come to market. The company was void of short-term achievements despite long-term aspirations, analysts say, and Fields engaged in rhetorical battles with President Donald Trump. This pressured the board and frustrated shareholders, despite record sales and profits.

Bill Ford Jr., 2001-2006. Ford assumed the CEO duties in addition to chairman, but eventually concluded he wasn't the right man for the job. He remains executive chairman of the board.  Charles V. Tines, The Detroit News

Fields’ pay packages, determined solely by a compensation committee of outside directors, signaled more dissatisfaction with his leadership. Last year, Ford’s top five executives missed out on hundreds of thousands in bonus pay because the company failed to meet quality standards.

While Fields still made a $2.7 million incentive bonus for meeting company goals last year, he missed out on additional bonuses as CEO that were awarded to other executives to “recognize and reward exceptional performance.” During his time as CEO he was never awarded one of those incremental bonuses, according to Ford proxy statements.

Alan Mulally, 2006-2014. Bill Ford Jr. recruited Alan Mulally from Boeing Co. to lead a sweeping restructuring. Well-regarded within the company, Mulally carried Ford through the Great Recession that pushed GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy. He voluntarily left the company in 2014.  Andrew Burton, Getty Images

“We’re as frustrated as you are by the stock price,” Bill Ford Jr. said during the company’s annual shareholders meeting May 11. “Most of (the Ford family’s) net worth is tied up in the company, and stock price matters a lot to us.”

Cole said the lagging stock price amplified other troubling factors under Fields.

“They want (their shares) to be profitable,” he said. “Unless the world thinks Ford is a good investment, it’s not good for the family. In (Fields’) case, both the family and the external shareholders (were asking) what’s wrong with this picture.”

The re-emerging “Old Ford” culture of hierarchy – and a lack of clarity about where the company was going – caused concern in the company, according to comments Bill Ford Jr. made after Fields’ departure. The board feared the company would fail to compete in an industry headed toward automation and areas like ride-sharing.

Mark Fields, 2014-2017. A long time Ford executive who was endorsed by Mulally, Fields led Ford to record sales and profits, but the share price fell 40 percent during his tenure. A regression to an "Old Ford" management system and a lack of clarity about the plan for the future also contributed to his ouster.  Drew Angerer, Getty Images

“There was a lot of talk from Mark and not a lot of action,” said Hoffman. He said Fields failed to follow “this amazing management system” Mulally left, which is part of the reason he didn’t last.

Bill Ford Jr. said as much in an interview with The Detroit News last week: “I didn’t feel the ‘Old Ford’ so much as I felt the stress. When Alan was here, he engendered such a sense of can-do and optimism. And maybe we lost a little of that.”

The key for Hackett will be delivering quick results, according to Hoffman and Cole.

Jim Hacket, named CEO on May 22, 2017. The former Steelcase Inc. CEO and former interim athletic director for the University of Michigan spent the last year chairing the automaker’s Ford Smart Mobility subsidiary. Among his tasks: restoring the culture of teamwork that Alan Mulally implemented.  Ford Motor Co.

“Hackett got on the radar screen (and) obviously, Bill was very enamored with his performance,” said Cole, adding that the 62-year-old CEO will have to implement a culture of change in a short amount of time. The company, he said, “can’t go back.”

 

 

2017 Ford GT test drive

By Gary Gastelu
May 29, 20117
Fox News

The Ford GT is the most clutch car ever made, even though it has an automatic transmission.

It was built for one reason: to win the top production class at the last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans and mark the 50th anniversary of the company’s legendary victory over Ferrari with another.

We’re talking about the most grueling and competitive sports car race in the world, and Ford hadn’t even been to the track since 1969. Ferrari, Porsche and arch-rival Chevrolet, meanwhile, practically live there. No pressure.

Ford thought about going for it with a Mustang, but realized that it was practically a pickup compared to the sleek 488s, 911s and Corvettes it would have had to compete with. So it decided to gamble untold millions to design an all-new mid-engine supercar for the task at hand. There would be no second chance.

It didn’t need one.

The GT took first, third and fourth places, with a Ferrari sandwiched between them for good measure. You can still hear the sighs of relief coming from Dearborn — and the meatballs hitting the wall in Maranello.

At the launch event for the street version of the GT that Ford is selling to amortize the feat, I asked the Ford Performance division’s marketing boss, Henry Ford III (yeah, he’s related), if he thought people would have been willing to pay the $450,000 Ford is charging for it if it hadn’t won, especially if it had been beaten by a dang Chevy. He said yes, but of course he did. If nothing else, his job is much easier than it might’ve been.

Ford is building a scant 250 GTs annually, and the first three years of production are already spoken for. Henry’s team got to choose the people it deemed to be the worthiest stewards for the car from a list of over 6,000 qualified applicants.

Ford will sell it only to people that it’s confident will actually use it, and hopefully share their glorious experiences with millions of social media followers. If you have that many, and an equal amount of liquid assets, the order books for the last batch will open next year.

If you think this all sounds a little hifalutin for a Ford, you’re not alone. When I heard the price, I was disappointed — not because I’m a label snob, but because I felt anyone could build a fast car for that kind of cash. The last time Ford made a supercar, the 2005 GT, it was world class and a relative bargain at $139,995.

But it’s hard to argue with success. Along with notching the all-important Le Mans win, plus another at this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona, Ford has built one of the best sports cars in the world.

It isn’t charging a lot of money for it just because it can. The GT is unlike anything the company has ever made. It was developed in secret by a small team in a forgotten basement studio that was being used for storage. There were nondisclosure agreements, code words and an old-fashioned padlock on the studio door for cover. Real skunkworks stuff.

Ford didn’t go it alone, though. It partnered with Canadian engineering firm and race car builder Multimatic, who is handling final assembly of the GT, which features a lightweight carbon fiber passenger cell with a built-in steel roll cage that needs only minor modifications for competition.

The suspension is race-bred, too, with pushrod-activated springs mounted to a keel in the center of the car up front (picture an F1 car covered in full carbon fiber bodywork) and similarly remote spool valve-type dampers, buried near the footwell, that Multimatic originally developed for Indy cars.

This layout clears spaces that allow air to flow past a wing-like surface under the nose that generates downforce in concert with a giant wing that pops up from the rear of the car. Every vent and surface shape on the very striking GT is designed to efficiently coax the atmosphere around its teardrop-shaped cabin, including the tendon-like buttresses that connect it to the pod-style fenders.

Between them is the rear-wheel-drive GT’s most controversial feature: an EcoBoost V6. It’s bad enough that the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter is two to 10 cylinders short of what most people expect from a supercar, but it also shares more than half of its parts with the one in the Ford F-150.

This was primarily a marketing play. Ford needed something for the racing program to sell, and EcoBoost is a bigger deal for the brand these days than V8s, even if its 14-mpg combined fuel economy rating isn’t going to impress anyone at the EPA. Then again, jamming a pickup engine into a supercar is about as American as you can get, regardless of how many pistons it has.

It’s not a straight swap, though. The GT gets a unique intake system that breathes through vents in the side pods. The air is then compressed by larger turbos, intercooled, fed through ducts hidden in the buttresses and mixed with port and direct fuel-injected gasoline. This produces 647 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful V6 in the world.

You get yourself in front of it by entering the GT butt-first through supercar-appropriate butterfly doors. The opening is tight and so is the cabin, which is about as narrow as a canoe. To keep the roof low and sleek, the seats are bolted to the floor, so you have to adjust the pedal box and steering wheel instead. But there’s more than enough travel to accommodate folks a couple of inches over 6 feet tall with a helmet on.

The standard interior isn’t as lavishly appointed as a Ferrari’s or a Porsche’s, but Ford is happy to work with you on that, because no one is buying a GT off the lot. I think it looks best done up in black Alcantara, but the orange leather dash trim that’s offered is oddly appealing.

As far as amenities are concerned, there are two cupholders that switchblade out of the center console near the passenger’s right left knee. You’ll have to keep your gloves on, though, because there isn’t a compartment to store them in. The infotainment screen is equipped with a pared-down version of Ford’s Sync 3 system, but it’s small and slow and doesn’t have satellite radio.

You won’t care once you start the engine. Separated from your ears by only a pane of glass, it fills the cabin with a distinctive mix of mechanical sounds and induction noises that seems louder than what you hear outside the car. The turbo-choked exhaust makes more of a muted jet fighter whoosh than a banshee scream as it flies by envious onlookers whose tongues are hanging out.

Furthering what I said earlier, the GT has two clutches in its transmission for quick shifts, but they’re controlled electronically, so it’s strictly a two-pedal car. If you want to change gears yourself, use the paddles on the back of the steering wheel, which has more buttons on the front than a Continental Army uniform. If you need to activate the turn signal or windshield wipers, it’s all thumbs.

A knob on the left spoke adjusts the GT’s drive modes, which include Wet, Normal, Sport, Track and V-Max. The last two are the most entertaining, even in the driveway. When you engage them, the GT quickly drops two inches, like a race car coming off its air jacks in the pit lane. It does this by hydraulically compressing springs in the suspension, which also stiffens the ride. In V-Max, vents in the front bumper close and the rear wing stays in its stowed position to streamline the car and unlock its top speed of 216 mph. Track opens things up and deploys the rear wing to help it stick in the curves.

Neither is meant for public roads, but the GT loves them in Sport mode. The ride is more compliant than you’d ever expect by looking at its ride height and steamroller tires, and the car feels light, nimble and compact in the twisties. Piggybacking off the pump used for the suspension and aero bits, the steering is hydraulically assisted and provides a much more natural feel than even the best electric assist systems can.

The GT could easily live up to its abbreviation and take you on a grand tour, but pack lightly. If you had to describe the size of the .4 cubic foot trunk tucked in behind the engine during a game of 20 questions, the answer to “is it bigger than a breadbox?” would be “ha ha ha!” On the bright side, Ford’s 3-month-old-size test dummy doesn’t fit, so you don’t have to worry about your kids getting stuck inside.

Although many GTs will spend their lives as show ponies, they’re thoroughbreds that deserve to stretch their legs on the track. I got to do that with one on Utah Motorsports Campus’ west course, a windy little 2.2-mile circuit that doesn’t let you get anywhere near the GT’s top speed, but perfectly highlights its handling. And its brakes, which have fade-free carbon ceramic discs and are so effective that you need to recalibrate your brain, lest you end up stopping in the middle of the track several zip codes before the turn that you were slowing down for.

Accelerating to the next one is a CliffsNotes in time travel. Ford says the rear-wheel-drive GT is good for a 0 to 60 mph sprint in less than three seconds, and it’s even quicker when you’re already on the move. The engine has an anti-lag system that keeps pumping air into the big turbos as you take your foot off the pedal, so they’re ready to go when you put it back to the metal.

Redline comes up quickly at a relatively low 7,000 rpm, indicated by a sequential row of lights on the steering wheel. They’re there so you don’t need to look down at the digital instrument panel, which has a hockey stick tachometer and clearly displays what gear you’re in. Instead, keep your eyes up and focused on the next corner, because that’s where things really get good.

Under 75 mph or so, the GT is all about mechanical grip, and the specially engineered Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires provide plenty of it and release it progressively. There’s a sweeping, triple apex section on the track labeled Demon, Devil and Diablo that tempts you to take it faster than you should. I succumbed a couple of times and feared the rear was heading for the abyss on the side of the road, but a light lift off the throttle and a little countersteer were all it took to bring it back in line as easily as you could in a go-kart. The engine wears its accessories at the rear, so the block is tucked up tightly against the firewall, balancing the GT more like a top than a pendulum. If the stability control played any role, it was seamless and uncredited, because I didn’t feel the computer gods intervene.

In the track’s fast left-hand kink named Scream, you will do that with joy. Here, the aerodynamics really come into play to press the GT into the surface like a kid playing with a Hot Wheels car, and it’s exactly as thrilling as you imagined it would be when you were doing that in second grade. The long right-hander called Dreamboat truly is one, if you clear your mind and trust the physics of fooling with the wind.

To prove the GT’s worth in more skilled hands than mine, Ford took it to Calabogie Motorsports Park in Canada and pitted it against the two cars it bought to benchmark it against during development: The Ferrari 458 Speciale and McLaren 675LT. You won't be surprised to hear that it beat both, because Ford wouldn't have mentioned it if it hadn't. The GT’s lead engineer, Derek Bier, says Ford is satisfied with that and will leave it up to the owners and magazines to set times at other tracks.

Between that and the race wins, Ford has built an instant heritage that should protect the value of the GT for the fortunate few that get to buy one. But what does all this mean for the rest of us?

Bier says the lessons Ford learned working with carbon fiber will eventually trickle down to its mainstream vehicles. He points to that last GT, Ford’s first aluminum-bodied car, and the effect that had on the current F-150, which lent its engine to the new GT.

The strange cycle of life continues.

As excellent as the GT is as an engineering exercise, race car and performance car, however, it’s not magnitudes better than its peers, and that price leaves one heck of an opportunity for someone to outdo it for less. (Say, $139,995?)

Even Ford has a lot of room in its lineup between the GT and the Mustang. It should think about filling it one of these days.

Here’s hoping that it doesn’t wait until 2066 before it does.

----------

2017 Ford GT

Base price: $450,000

Type: 2-passenger, 2-door rear-wheel-drive coupe

Engine: 3.5-liter turbocharged V6

Power: 647 hp/550 lb-ft of torque

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

MPG: 11 city/18 hwy

 

 

Ford continues management
shuffle under new CEO

Ian Thibodeau ,
The Detroit News
May 28, 2017

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. announced Thursday a second round of executive reorganizations, which includes moving former head of product development Raj Nair to executive vice president and president of North America, and naming a new vice president to oversee autonomous vehicles and electrification.

The assignments support new President and CEO Jim Hackett’s vision for the company, including changes to the company’s product development team. Ford leadership is focused on sharpening operations, modernizing business practices and transforming the automaker to compete in the future.

“The leadership changes we are announcing today across our global business are important as we foster even greater teamwork, accountability and nimble decision-making,” Hackett said in a statement. “I am excited to work together with (Executive Chairman) Bill Ford and such a talented and diverse group of leaders to create a more vibrant Ford that delivers value for all of our stakeholders.”

Raj Nair, previously executive vice president of product development and chief technical officer, will succeed Joe Hinrichs as executive vice president and president of North America. Hinrichs formerly was executive vice president and president of global operations.

Nair will report to Jim Farley, who Ford announced earlier this week will head global markets for the company. Farley had been head of Ford Europe, Middle East and Africa since January 2015.

Filling Nair’s old position is Hau Thai-Tang. That’s a promotion for the executive who will report to Hinrichs under global operations as executive vice president of product development and purchasing. The role expands Thai-Tang’s work.

Sherif Marakby will return to Ford to fill a newly created position as vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification. Marakby had been with Ford for 25 years in leadership positions in product development around the world, before he left to work as vice president of global vehicle programs for Uber Technolgies Inc. He reports to Farley.

Also reporting to Farley under the global markets area:

■Peter Fleet, formerly vice president of marketing, sales and service in Ford’s Asia Pacific operations, will replace Dave Schoch, who is retiring as group vice president and president of Asia Pacific. Fleet will lead all Ford’s operations in China, including Lincoln and Ford’s Chinese joint ventures.

■Mark Ovenden will fill Fleet’s vacated position in Asia Pacific.

■Former Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Ford of Europe Steven Armstrong will replace Farley as group vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Under Marcy Klevorn, the new executive vice president and president of mobility operations, new appointments include:

■Neil Schloss, vice president and chief financial officer of mobility. He previously was vice president and treasurer for Ford, and CFO of Ford Smart Mobility LLC, which Hackett helmed prior to being named CEO.

■Jeff Lemmer, new vice president and chief operating officer of information technology.

Ford awarded Nair, Farley, Klevorn and Thai-Tang one-time bonuses on May 15. The bonuses in the form of long-term stock options for Nair and Farley were each worth nearly $5 million at market close on May 15. Klevorn’s award was worth nearly $2 million; Thai-Tang’s award was worth nearly $4 million. Hinrichs on Tuesday was awarded a time-based restricted stock unit grant worth $5 million.

Ford has also appointed Bradley Gayton to group vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel. He’ll lead litigation, tax, corporate and intellectual property dealings. He’s also responsible for the company’s real estate arm, Ford Land, and corporate services. He reports to Hackett.

Ken Washington, formerly vice president of research and advanced engineering, has been appointed vice president of research and advanced engineering and chief technology officer.

And Kenneth R. Kent will succeed Schloss as vice president and treasurer.

Ford on Monday announced a management shake-up, which included the ousting of former CEO Mark Fields. In his place, Hackett will work with Bill Ford to re-energize the business and drive the company’s innovations and expansions forward more aggressively than Fields did.

Hackett will receive an annual salary of $1.8 million and an accession bonus of $1 million, the Dearborn automaker said in a Wednesday regulatory filing. And with other incentive- and performance-based pay and stock, Hackett could receive as much as $13.4 million in 2017 as CEO, though it’s possible the compensation could actually be higher based on any other stock awards he received earlier this year.

 

New Ford CEO could get
as much as $13.4M in ’17

Detroit News
Melissa Burden,
May 27, 2017

Ford Motor Co.’s newly named CEO Jim Hackett is getting a raise from his former position at the company.

Hackett will receive an annual salary of $1.8 million and an accession bonus of $1 million, the Dearborn automaker said in a Wednesday regulatory filing. And with other incentive- and performance-based pay and stock, Hackett could receive as much as $13.4 million in 2017 as CEO, though it’s possible the compensation could actually be higher based on any other stock awards he received earlier this year.

Hackett, 62, was named Ford’s new CEO on Monday, replacing Mark Fields after nearly three years. Hackett, who had been chairman of Ford Smart Mobility, also will receive a performance-based, restricted stock grant valued at $5.25 million; a time-restricted stock grant worth $1.75 million that will vest in thirds starting May 22, 2018 through May 22, 2020; and an annual incentive compensation plan target this year at 200 percent of his base salary — or up to $3.6 million. Hackett earned $716,000 in salary in his previous position at Ford.

Fields, 56, was paid more than $22 million in total compensation last year, up by more than $3 million from what he received in 2015. Fields’ 2016 compensation included a base salary of $1,787,500.

While Fields’ 2017 salary as CEO has not been disclosed, it’s likely to be about the same as what Hackett is receiving based on past annual increases.

Hackett also was elected to the Ford board of directors, effective May 19. Fields will retire from the company effective Aug. 1 and resigned from the board, effective immediately.

Fields has worked for the automaker for 28 years. He and Ford have entered into a separation agreement that includes eligibility for an annual incentive bonus pro-rated from Jan. 1 through Aug. 1; retention of 2017 long-term incentive plan grants including time-based stock and performance-based stock over a three-year performance period; participation in Ford’s 2017 select retirement program and “reasonable use” of company aircraft until Aug. 1.

Personal use of company aircraft is a perk for both the Ford CEO and Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. For security reasons, the company does not permit either to fly commercially. In 2016, Fields’ personal use of aircraft totaled $288,965, up from $240,726 the year before. Ford’s personal use of aircraft totaled $189,489 last year and it was $291,151 in 2015.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing did not provide any estimate of how much Fields could receive as part of the final separation agreement, and the figure likely won’t be available until Ford’s proxy statement comes out next year.

Joe Hinrichs, who this week was named executive vice president and president of global operations, will receive a $5 million, time-based restricted stock grant, according to the filing. Hinrichs has served as president of the Americas for Ford and last year received compensation totaling $6.72 million.

 

Shelby offers souped-up F-150;
wide-body Mustang later

With the rear track widened by 4 inches and the front by 21/2, wider fenders were needed for the Mustang Super Snake concept.

Larry Edsall,
The Detroit News
May 26, 2017

We’ll start with the one you can get now, but it’s the one may have to wait for that may be the most exciting.

“Lightning strikes again …” is how the headline began on the recent news release as Shelby American unveiled its Ford F-150 Super Snake, which will be built and sold through Shelby-affiliated Ford dealerships.

Shelby American, offspring of the late Carroll Shelby and his Le Mans-winning automotive dream team, produced an F-150 based Super Snake pickup in 2009. More recently it produced an off-road special-edition F-150.

“The ‘Shelby Super Snake’ badge carries tremendous prestige because every vehicle that wears it represents the pinnacle of performance. Our new Shelby F-150 Super Snake is certainly worthy of the name,” said Gary Patterson, Shelby American president. “From the sharp handling suspension to the thundering 750 horses and pure American styling, it’s a remarkable vehicle.”

Shelby-badged vehicles — especially Cobras and Mustangs — are popular at collector car auctions. Not only does the new F-150 Super Snake launch with a whopping 750 supercharged horsepower, but only 150 of the trucks will be produced, enhancing their future value as collectibles.

For just shy of $100,000, you get a new Ford F-150, with your choice of two- or four-wheel drive, tweaked by Shelby American with a supercharged 5-liter V-8. It has an enhanced suspension, Borla exhaust and a Shelby-designed body kit that includes hood, rockers, spoilers, grilles, rear bumper and tonneau cover — and the legendary Shelby racing stripes. The interior has special seats, dash and flooring, as well as its own serial number documented in the Shelby Registry.

The souped-up F-150 gets its Super Snake nomenclature from a special drag-racing version of the original Shelby Cobra. Earlier this year, Shelby American rolled out a Mustang-based 50th-anniversary Shelby Super Snake offering as much as 750 horsepower and sub-11-second drag race sprints on street-legal tires.

For the first time in more than a decade, Shelby American has produced a concept rather than a production vehicle, the 2017 Shelby Super Snake wide body.

“Instead of being optimized for straight-line performance, the Super Snake wide body concept provides more grip on all four corners. It was designed to give drivers a serious competitive edge on the road course,” Patterson said.

The wide-body concept features Shelby fully adjustable, coil-over “spec-track” suspension, massive 16-inch Brembo brakes and wider wheels and tires so wide that a special body kit is needed with new rear and front vented fenders and rocker panels to cover those fat Michelins.

Both were showcased at the recent Carroll Shelby Tribute and Car Show in Southern California. The truck is available, and there is reason to believe that demand will lead to the wide-body kit going from concept into production.

 

Ford stock up 2.1%
on news of new CEO

Melissa Burden ,
The Detroit News
May 24, 2017

Ford Motor Co. stock was up modestly Monday on news that company CEO Mark Fields has been ousted and Jim Hackett, chairman of the company’s Ford Smart Mobility subsidiary, will take over.

Shares closed up 2.1 percent Monday to $11.10, on a day when major stock indexes were up about a half-percent. Ford’s stock closed Friday at $10.87 a share. Shareholders have been frustrated by the sagging stock price, which under Fields’ watch as CEO for nearly three years has fallen about 40 percent.

Analysts are mixed on whether the news of a new CEO alone will do much for the stock, however.

Citi research analyst Itay Michaeli, in a Monday note to investors, said appointing Hackett as CEO likely suggests “a greater emphasis to accelerate Ford’s mobility services development and strategy.”

Michaeli said Citi has questions on this such as whether Ford will boost its focus from “dynamic” shuttles to personal transportation and car-sharing and if that could mean more mergers, acquisitions or partnerships with companies such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. Citi also has questions about whether Ford will accelerate or change its approach to self-driving vehicle development.

Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst in a note to investors Monday, said it expects market reaction to be neutral.

“While Ford’s relative earnings performance has underwhelmed investors of late, Hackett is less well-known among auto investors than other members of Ford’s management team,” Ellinghorst said in the note.

“Meanwhile, should Hackett be appointed, given his present role as Chairman of Ford Smart Mobility, investors will question whether this means Ford is looking to expedite and increase its investments in future technologies? Though fears around industry disruption persist, it is not clear to us that this is what investors are looking for at this point in the cycle.”

George Galliers, another analyst with Evercore ISI said Hackett must “quickly articulate his plans for investors to gain greater confidence in the company and its story.” Galliers said Hackett must address with stockholders how he plans to reverse Ford’s recent earnings slide and detail his strategy in electrification and mobility.

Consumer Edge Research LLC senior analyst James J. Albertine, in a note to investors Monday, said replacing Fields with Hackett shows the board “agrees in principle with the view that investors need to hear more about monetization strategies around connectivity and mobility solutions, and perhaps this is the type of change needed to send that message and to emphasize tangible opportunities and simplify the discussion around investments in this arena.”

 

Harbaugh says Ford’s
Hackett ‘makes great’ calls

Daniel Howes ,
The Detroit News
May 23, 2017

Ask Jim Harbaugh about the guy who wooed him back to Michigan Stadium and stand back.

He’s got nothing but good things to say about Jim Hackett, the longtime CEO of Steelcase Inc. and the former University of Michigan interim athletic director named today as Ford Motor Co.’s new president and CEO.

“He loves being part of a team,” Harbaugh told The Detroit News in an interview Monday. “He’s humble. He’s hungry to make the team better. Very smart. He makes great decisions.

“He’s got a humility and he listens. Tough? Tough as a two-dollar steak. He’s like your lead blocker. He’s got great ideas. Very much an innovator — and an improver, too. It doesn’t matter whose idea it is. It’s getting to the best idea.”

Ford could use some of that Michigan mojo atop the Glass House, Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. acknowledged in announcing Hackett’s appointment to replace the ousted Mark Fields: speed of decision-making, teamwork and innovation as the Blue Oval prepares to find its way in the autos-and-mobility world.

After a three-year stint on Ford’s board of directors, Hackett stepped away to run the new Ford Smart Mobility LLC, an autonomy-and-mobility startup within the automaker that will now be elevated as part of an upper-level restructuring.

Hackett was the “one and only person” Harbaugh talked to when he was mulling returning to his alma mater as head football coach, an arrival widely heralded on Dec. 30, 2014, by the Michigan faithful.

The new Ford CEO, 62, reminds Harbaugh of two other influential people in his life — Bill Walsh, the Stanford University athletic director who recruited him to coach the Cardinal, and his father, Jack Harbaugh: “They don’t tell you what to do. They ask a question.”

And they teach, through example, offering valuable lessons even to one of the most coveted — and routinely successful — football coaches in the United States, college or pro. Hackett was no different. What did Harbaugh learn?

“You’ve got to have allies,” he said, describing Hackett’s style and “very high” intellect. “You’ve got to be able to work with many people involved in an organization” like, say, the sprawling University of Michigan. “When you do those people make it better. That teamwork is necessary.

“There are layers that have to be involved. Using everybody, everybody involved. That’s the Jim Hackett way.”

 

Ford ousts CEO Fields in
management shake-up

Daniel Howes  
The Detroit News
May 22, 2017

In a broad management shake-up, Ford Motor Co. is ousting CEO Mark Fields and reassigning three senior executives to create a new structure intended to speed decision-making in the rapidly changing auto-and-mobility sector, according to sources close to the situation.

Jim Hackett, a former CEO of Steelcase Inc. and one-time Ford director who now serves as president of Ford Smart Mobility LLC, will become president and CEO of the Dearborn-based automaker.

The uncharacteristically swift move for Ford comes as large Wall Street investors and small shareholders raise increasing pressure on the automaker. Ford shares have slipped roughly 40 percent since Fields replaced superstar CEO Alan Mulally in July 2014. Ten percent of that slide came in the first five months of this year as the blistering U.S. market shows signs of cooling, weakening Ford’s financial results and raising doubts about its management direction.

Evidence continues to mount, Ford executives have said privately in recent weeks, that the automaker under Fields failed to move quickly enough to realign its business to maximize growth, to boost return on invested capital and to reassure investors that Ford is effectively managing its transition from a century-old automaker to what it calls an “auto-and-mobility company.”

As rival General Motors Co. under CEO Mary Barra aggressively moves to reshape its global market and manufacturing footprint — leaving Russia and India, ending production in Australia and Indonesia, selling its European operations to PSA Groupe SA of France — sources said Ford’s directors found Fields moving too slowly on such things as the Blue Oval presence in India and whether it should withdraw from the small-car segment in the United States, among other things

The new senior management structure is designed to emphasize quicker decision-making and crisper execution, the sources say. Jim Farley, head of Ford Europe, Middle East and Africa since January 2015, is expected to oversee Ford’s regions, global marketing and sales, and Lincoln Motor Co.

Joe Hinrichs, head of the Americas since December 2012, will manage global product development, manufacturing and labor affairs, purchasing, and environmental and safety engineering.

Marcy Klevorn, vice president of information technology and chief technical officer since January, will oversee Hackett’s Ford Smart Mobility unit.

And Mark Truby, head of communications for Ford Europe and, more recently, in the Asia Pacific region, returns to Dearborn to become vice president of communications. A former auto writer and business editor for The Detroit News, he replaces Ray Day, who will retire at year’s end.

The decision to oust Fields as CEO and replace him with Hackett was finalized in a board meeting Friday, the sources said, after which Bill Ford told the incumbent CEO he would be replaced by the former Steelcase CEO. He also served as the interim athletic director of the University of Michigan, credited with wooing Jim Harbaugh back to the sidelines at Michigan Stadium.

Ford’s move against Fields, in the job less than three years, betrays a sense of urgency the company historically has taken longer to muster. But time is racing ahead in the global auto industry, and Ford cannot afford not to address a leadership problem unlikely to get better with time.

A whole new set of Silicon Valley competitors with names like Apple and Google, Intel and Qualcomm is vying for leadership in the next-generation industry that threatens to change fundamentally the auto industry as Detroit knows it. It’s unfamiliar territory for all automakers, not just Ford.

Mulally, a former Boeing Co. executive wooed to Ford in 2006 to rescue the struggling Blue Oval, engineered the rebuild of Ford’s core car and truck business, producing what turned out to be an earnings machine at the top of the auto cycle. Job One: Save the company.

Fields, a Ford veteran, was charged with maintaining that momentum amid a downshifting market cycle while simultaneously pushing the automaker into unknown territory labeled autonomy, electrification and mobility. That turned out to be easier said than done, especially when a hot U.S. truck market, an inept communications strategy and bad timing further muddied the company strategy with key interest groups.

Executive back-biting and corporate intrigue, enduring staples of an Old Ford that Bill Ford once likened to czarist Russia, re-emerged as the gulf between expectations and financial results widened. Speculation of who might be in, or out, generally failed to capture the sweeping changes Ford’s directors were determined to take from a position of relative strength, not the weakness of 2006.

And, amid expectations that the automaker is on track to book some $9 billion in profits this year, Ford announced plans to offer 1,400 buyouts to salaried employees in North America and Asia — euphemistically described in a company statement as “people efficiencies” — even as it confirmed retention bonuses for four executives.

 

Ford to build new auto parts
warehouse and distribution
centre south of Edmonton

By Phil Heidenreich
 Global News
May 19, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally said the new Ford facility would bring 200 jobs to Leduc based on information the City of Leduc provided in a news release. Ford said the number is incorrect and the move will not create any jobs but rather just see employees work in Leduc instead of Edmonton. This article also originally said the facility’s opening is planned for the fall of 2018 based on information from the City of Leduc. Ford said it actually plans to open in the spring of 2018. The story has been updated to reflect the new information from Ford.

One of the world’s auto-manufacturing giants is planning to build a new automotive parts warehouse and distribution centre south of Edmonton.

The Ford Motor Company told Global News it plans to move from its current facility in Edmonton in order to open the new 400,000 square-foot facility in the Leduc Business Park in the spring of 2018.

“We are elated with this announcement, as it speaks to the work and dedication of city administration in working with our local developer over the last 18 months to bring this vision to reality,” Leduc Mayor Greg Krischke said in a statement on Tuesday. “This brings a much-needed boost to our local and regional economy from groundbreaking to when they open their doors.”

Ford’s plan for the Leduc facility isn’t the company’s only recent Canadian investment.

Last fall, the company said it would inject $700 million into its Canadian operations as part of a labour deal reached with Unifor, which represents about 6,700 workers at the company’s facilities in Ontario.

 

New evidence of
UAW vote-rigging in
2015 Ford contract

By Eric London
WSWS.ORG
18 May 2017

On March 6, the United Auto Workers Public Review Board (PRB) rejected a Ford worker’s request for an investigation of fraud and ballot stuffing during the 2015 Ford-UAW contract ratification at UAW Local 600, which includes Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant (DTP) in suburban Detroit, Michigan.

The rejection came after the Ford worker presented evidence supporting what many workers already suspected: that rank-and-file workers were about to decisively defeat the sellout agreement until the UAW conspired on behalf of Ford to push it through.

The UAW reported a final DTP vote total with 1,681 more “yes” votes than “no” votes, barely more than the 1,500 margin that an unnamed source told the Detroit Free Press immediately before the vote would be required to secure a ratification of the vote at Ford’s facilities across the US. After the Dearborn vote, the UAW claimed the contract had passed by 51.4 percent nationally, or roughly 1,230 votes.

The Ford worker contacted the World Socialist Web Site and said the UAW threw out his demand for an investigation even though he meticulously followed the UAW’s appeal procedure and presented indisputable evidence that the union had violated its own statutes. The UAW rejected his requests eight times and dragged the proceedings on for over a year-and-a-half.

“The outcome of this contract vote was not legitimate,” the worker told the World Socialist Web Site. “This is not the first time such things have happened at Local 600, and it doesn’t just affect Ford workers. All GM, FCA and Ford workers have the same issue with the UAW conducting the vote in a manner that is not correct.”

Just weeks before the vote by 53,000 Ford workers, their counterparts at Fiat Chrysler (FCA) rejected the UAW’s first proposed contract by a two-to-one margin, throwing the UAW and the companies into crisis and providing headwind for opposition among workers at GM and Ford. The four-year agreement pushed through by the UAW had enabled the Detroit automakers to rake in record profits by eliminating the cap on the number of lower-paid second-tier workers, increasing the number of temporary and part-time workers and giving the auto bosses a free hand to eliminate shifts and lay off workers as sales declined. After the deal was “passed” at Ford, CEO Mark Fields boasted to Wall Street investors that the automaker's “all-in” labor costs would rise by less than 1.5 percent annually—below the rate of inflation.

Expecting a strong “no” vote at Ford, the UAW kept voting open at Local 600 for two weeks so that the local would vote last, allowing the UAW to calculate exactly how many votes would be needed to rig the outcome. UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles rose through UAW leadership from Local 600, where he was on staff beginning in 1992. Settles has particularly close connections to the local union bureaucracy and was well-positioned to influence the leadership in orchestrating the vote.

The overwhelming mood of workers was for a “no” vote. By the time Local 600 voted, 52.5 percent of Ford workers had voted “no.” Just days before the vote at Local 600, 67 percent of Ford Chicago Assembly workers rejected the deal. Overwhelming rejections had also just taken place at two Ford plants in Louisville and one in Kansas City. In other words, opposition was gaining momentum and the contract was headed for defeat.

That’s when the UAW stepped in.

The pro-company Detroit Free Press wrote an article on November 19 titled “Fate of Ford-UAW deal in the hands of Dearborn Workers.” The Free Pressquoted Art Schwartz, an ex-GM labor negotiator, as saying, “They are going to have to vote yes by a pretty strong margin if this is going to pass.” Workers at “UAW local 600 would need to overcome a deficit of 1,500 votes, according to an unofficial tally of the vote provided to the Free Press.”

Then, UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles gave an extraordinary mid-vote press conference at Local 600 where he threatened that Ford would shut down factories and carry out mass layoffs if the deal were rejected. The UAW physically prevented WSWS reporters from attending the event and seized a cell phone used to video the incident. 

While stonewalling the Ford worker’s efforts to expose vote-rigging, UAW made several damning admissions. During a March 2016 hearing before the Local 600 General Council, local union president Bernie Ricke said, “some of the plant-wide units had to go around with buckets” to collect the vote. Local 600 M&C (Maintenance & Construction) President Tom Shultz tacitly acknowledged that this policy was suspicious when he said, “I hate sending guys out with buckets; I don’t like it; I am not happy about it, but with 8 buildings and 6 different schedules, guys walk around with buckets, this time we had almost 600 votes, we quadrupled the number of votes” in the M&C Unit.

But the UAW’s official vote total showed 897 votes cast by the M&C Unit, at least 300 more than the “almost 600” Shultz claimed. This would indicate that 300 “yes” votes were simply added to the total. And if the “almost 600” figure was itself “quadrupled” from 150 before the UAW sent officials to collect votes with buckets, that would indicate that another 450 votes were gathered under suspicious circumstances.

In addition, when the UAW published its results of the vote at DTP, the results showed exactly 500 more votes for the national agreement than for the local agreement, even though the members were given both Local and National ballots at the same time. It is highly unusual that workers would vote on the national agreement and abstain on a plant-level agreement, which covers such critical issues as work rules, health and safety, scheduling and transfer rights.

The UAW’s Public Review Board (PRB) decision tellingly admits that “it was later discovered that 500 ballots were not accounted for.” These are the discrepancies from just two of DTP’s nine units. The review board did not order an audit of the remaining seven units.

The Ford worker also cited testimony from autoworkers who saw large stacks of ballots folded together in bunches—clear evidence of potential ballot stuffing. Election Committee Chairperson Kenneth Grigsby admitted this key fact in testimony. The review board decision noted, “Grigsby addressed the fact that many of the ballots appeared bundled together.” Citing an internal UAW report compiled by the office of UAW President Dennis Williams, the decision reads: “Grigsby stated that as a result of the massive number of ballots deposited in the ballot boxes, he had to force the ballots down with a yardstick in order to maximize the space in the ballot canister and that caused ballots to clump together.”

Does the UAW really expect autoworkers to believe that ballots were folded perfectly together with a crease down the middle because union officials poked the bins with yardsticks?

In addition, the worker pointed to the fact that the overwhelming “yes” vote at DTP was out-of-line with the votes at other large plants, which with the exception of Michigan Assembly—which the company threatened to close on the eve of contract talks—either voted the deal down overwhelmingly or passed it by the narrowest of margins. It is also unexplainable why DTP workers rejected the local agreement by a 2-to-1 margin but supposedly passed the national contract by the same margin.

On March 8, with a one-sentence decision, the UAW Public Review Board (PRB) affirmed its December decision denying the request by a member of UAW Local 600 in Dearborn, Michigan for an audit and revote of the 2015 Ford contract ratification.

This was the eighth time the UAW rejected the Ford worker’s requests for an investigation into his charges that the UAW violated its own statutes and committed vote fraud. The UAW first heard the worker’s request for an investigation in November 2015, shortly after the vote took place. They told the worker he “lacked standing” to bring the issue before the International Executive Board. The worker then requested and was denied a copy of the ratification procedure from many UAW officials at Local 600 and Region 1-A. A Local 600 officer told him, “The document you are asking for doesn’t exist.” UAW Regional Director Rory Gamble never indicated denial or approval of the voting procedure that was used.

After taking the matter before the UAW PRB, the worker requested an oral argument in accordance with standard procedure. On November 14, 2016 the UAW PRB denied the worker the right to testify in his own case. The denial notice said: “The panel concluded that this appeal presented no issues of fact or constitutional interpretation concerning which the PRB’s understanding would be enhanced by oral argument from the parties.”

The UAW-Ford National Programs Center in Detroit

The Ford worker wrote in his rebuttal before the UAW PRB, “The ballots used in the ratification vote were not only unnumbered, they were made with a copier and no one had any idea how many were printed.... The elections committee should have challenged the ballots found clumped together rather than trying to explain this phenomenon with talk about a yardstick.

“The presence of one questionable ballot might be acceptable, but the failure to account for 500 ballots at the DTP [Dearborn Truck Plant] and another 300 in the M&C Unit [Maintenance & Construction] indicates corruption and dishonest behavior. If nothing deceptive were taking place, why did the local union fail to honor my original request for a recount of the ballots? Why didn’t the local union put the membership lists and ballots into the record?”

The UAW failed to disprove these connections. Instead, they dragged out the worker’s request for nearly two years, leading him through an administrative Alice in Wonderland.

In rejecting the worker’s appeal for an investigation of this evidence of fraud, the UAW PRB wrote:

“We will not retroactively reverse ratification of a negotiated contract that has been accepted by a majority of the covered employees based on procedural objections raised by a local union member or group of members. Such an order would disenfranchise the members who voted to ratify the agreement and thereby violate the very democratic practices we are charged with preserving.”

What hypocrisy! The PRB has the nerve to accuse him of disenfranchising his fellow workers by demanding a revote on a contract, which he demonstrated only passed because the UAW manipulated the vote.

The ruling continues:

“If the ratification procedures put in place to obtain the membership’s approval of a negotiated contract are deficient in any respect, the membership can reject the contract … Article 19 of the Constitution gives employees the means to reject their bargaining representatives’ framework for ratification by voting to reject the contract presented in the context of that framework. A vote to accept the contract, however, is a vote to accept the process.”

This is what is known as a circular argument. If workers “ratify” a contract because the UAW rigged the vote, they are giving their stamp of approval to the rigged process. This begs the question: How is it possible for workers to reject a contract—and the process as a whole—if the UAW can ignore the actual vote and say it was ratified?

The review board also claimed the worker’s request for a fair election “is a misreading of the Constitution” because Article 38’s requirement that elections be “fair and democratic” does not apply to contract ratifications but only to the election of union officers.

The PRB claimed the UAW is not required to have any transparent procedures for ratification votes if the regional director follows some set procedure. “The UAW Constitution allows a local union broad discretion to adopt ratification procedures for negotiated contracts, subject only to the approval of the Regional Director.” However, the UAW failed to provide evidence that the regional director approved any of the shadowy procedures used during the vote at Local 600.

The fact that the review board resorted to such rotten arguments is proof it had no intention of seriously examining the worker’s evidence of UAW fraud. If the UAW had nothing to hide, the PRB would have had no problems refuting the worker with facts, transparency, and honest analysis.

The Public Review Board was constituted by the UAW in 1957 “for the purpose of insuring a continuation of the high moral and ethical standards” in the operation of the UAW. Its ostensible goal was to hear autoworkers’ claims regarding UAW constitution violations by the leadership. Its present four members are law professors with ties to the trade union bureaucracy.

The review board has a long history as a rubber stamp for the anti-democratic, anti-worker operations of the UAW leadership. It repeatedly rules against workers on phony technicalities. It is the place where workers’ grievances with the UAW go to die. In a July 2016 edition of Solidarity Magazine the UAW boasted, “The board heard 64 appeals in the last four years and in no instance has the union been found to have committed a serious ethical lapse.”

The review board’s decisions denying the worker’s appeal and request for reconsideration were unsigned. This raises questions as to whether the decision was actually written by the three law professors whose names appear on the decision’s letterhead, or whether the decision was simply written by Dennis Williams’ office.

Ford Sterling Axle workers denounce sellout contract during 2015 vote

The UAW’s efforts to shut up autoworkers and prevent them from challenging the fraudulent 2015 contract is aimed at protecting the profits of the corporations and ensuring the “right” of the companies to exploit the working class however it chooses.

Under the fraudulent contract, Ford has subjected thousands of workers to temporary layoffs and “secret” terms not previously disclosed to workers. Third tier workers currently make $9 an hour at some Ford plants, for example, and speed-ups and dictatorial shop floor conditions dominate. If the vote was passed through fraud, that means the contract is not legally binding and the workers have been cheated out of thousands of dollars over the course of the life of the contract.

Their handling of the Ford worker’s appeal proves—for the thousandth time—that the UAW cannot be reformed. This worker followed all the UAW’s procedures at each step in the review process and his efforts were stonewalled and rejected. At subsequent contract votes at John Deere in 2016 and Caterpillar in 2017, many workers raised similar questions surrounding the legitimacy of vote outcomes.

The UAW is not a “workers’ organization” subject to the will of its dues-paying members, but a tool of the corporations. In exchange for imposing the dictates of big business, Williams, Settles and other top union executives are rewarded with seats on corporate boards, direct cash transfers from the auto bosses to UAW-controlled “training centers” and other business opportunities.

The degeneration of the UAW is the product not simply of the corruption of its top executives. It is rooted in the failure of its pro-capitalist and nationalist program and long-standing political alliance with the corporate-controlled Democratic Party.

In the face of the globalization of production, unions throughout the world were transformed from organizations that pressured the corporations for concessions into organizations that pressured workers to give up everything to make their “own” corporations more competitive and profitable.

To defend their interests, workers must build new, fighting organizations, democratically controlled by the workers themselves. Rank-and-file committees should be elected in every factory. These committees should bar UAW officials from their meetings and social media pages so they can have a free discussion without the interference of company agents and spies.

Rank-and-file factory committees will create the basis for a genuine unification of workers. They will establish lines of communication across all industries and workplaces to bring together all workers, black, white and immigrant, in the United States and internationally, in a common struggle to assert their social rights against the insatiable appetites of the super-rich.

 

Cyber 'clampware' could
strand cars and force
owners to pay to move them

May 17, 2017
The Sun

Drivers could be stopped in their tracks and forced to pay to move by hackers using ‘clampware’ attacks, experts have warned.

Cyber criminals would target software defects in radios, ECUs and on-board WiFi to immobilise cars and hold motorists to ransom at the roadside.

Drivers would then have a choice whether to pay up to release their car or be left stranded, waiting for assistance.

The warning comes in the wake of the WannaCry cyberattack which took out the entire NHS system and experts believe it’s only a matter of time before car software is targeted on a wider scale.

Controlled demonstrations have already been displayed in the US while several recent cases showed how cars were stolen from driveways in the UK by hacking into keyless systems.

The advent of driverless cars, vehicles connected to city infrastructure and cloud-based infotainment systems all offer criminals more ways than ever to take over motors.

Professor Martyn Thomas, IT professor at Gresham College, London said: “What is going to happen when ransomware becomes ‘clampware’, attacking automobile software through the vehicle’s radios, phones and other networks?

“Who will be responsible for rescuing stranded motorists and how long will it take?  Or will we all just have to pay what the criminals demand to release the car, lorry or ambulance?”

Software engineers often rely on a “test-and-fix” approach to cyber security but that would be even more dangerous in a car than a regular laptop.

Prof Thomas added: “A modern car contains tens of millions of lines of software – which with current software industry standards means many thousands of software defects.

“We need a radically different national cyber security strategy – one that maps out a route towards a world where software products are certifiably secure and where software manufacturers provide enforceable guarantees.”

The car industry is taking a proactive approach to hacking threats with security experts Thatcham Research working with Government and other specialists to draw up a basic framework and safety standard for manufacturers to adhere to.

One solution could be to introduce computer-style anti-virus systems within the car’s coding to lock out cyber criminals before they’re able to take control.

Andrew Miller, chief technology officer at Thatcham Research, said: “As cars become more connected, they also become more vulnerable to cyber attack.

“We are working with key members of the automotive industry to develop a cyber-security standard, much like the Euro NCAP star safety rating system.

“This will give drivers assurance that connected autonomous vehicles have been designed and tested to meet exacting cyber security standards.”

 

Ford considers cost cuts,
reducing workforce

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
May 16, 2017

Ford Motor Co. is looking at cost cuts, including personnel cuts high as 10 percent to its global operations, according to one report, amid plateauing U.S. auto sales and slipping profits.

The company is taking a “hard look” at global costs, a ranking source told The Detroit News. No official decision regarding the cuts has been made, the source said. That source spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were speaking about as-yet unannounced company business.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday night those cuts could target salaried employees, and reduce the automaker’s global workforce by 10 percent. But the source told The News that number seemed high.

Ford has about 201,000 employees, so a 10 percent reduction would mean a possible loss of 20,000 employees.

Ford in a statement Monday night said “We remain focused on the three strategic priorities that will create value and drive profitable growth, which include fortifying the profit pillars in our core business, transforming traditionally underperforming areas of our core business and investing aggressively, but prudently, in emerging opportunities.

“Reducing costs and becoming as lean and efficient as possible also remain part of that work,” the emailed statement said. “We have not announced any new people efficiency actions, nor do we comment on speculation.”

Talk of cuts come as investors grow skeptical that CEO Mark Fields and his strategy will pay off. The company is investing heavily in the areas of electrification, autonomy and mobility while trying to fortify the company’s “profit pillars” in SUVs and trucks, and transforming its luxury and small-car business

Last week, Ford’s directors held a “strategy session” to review the company’s priorities, and stockholders were critical of the company at its annual shareholders meeting.

Despite several years of revenue growth and profits, Fields’ vision for Ford’s future has failed to generate much excitement on Wall Street. Shares in the nation’s No. 2 automaker were comparatively unmoved by two years of record profitability in 2015 and 2016. On July 1, 2014, when Fields assumed the Helm, Ford shares closed at $17.41; stock prices have declined roughly 40 percent since then. Ford stock closed Monday at $10.94 a share, up 2 cents.

Ford has poured money and time into those more future-focused expansions, which aren’t currently generating much revenue. As auto sales slow following record years, tension grows between those investments and the Dearborn automaker’s traditional business.

Roughly half of Ford’s employees are based in North America. It was unclear Monday night whether any potential cuts would affect any of the company’s hourly workforce.

 

Lincoln expands new chauffeur
service to Calif.

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
May 15, 2017

Amid a rebranding that amplifies customer service, Lincoln Motor Co. announced Friday it is expanding a new chauffeur service to the West Coast.

Launched in Miami earlier this year, the Lincoln Chauffeur service provides a trained driver to escort customers to appointments, run errands, and refuel and wash the vehicle while the client isn’t using it. That service will now be offered to Lincoln customers in San Diego.

“This service is generating a lot of interest among Lincoln owners,” Eric Cin, Lincoln client services manager, said in a statement. “They’re using it for dinner dates, for doctor appointments; they’re recognizing just how convenient it is to have this option available.”

The service is a pilot program for Ford Motor Co.’s luxury brand. The services costs $30 per hour, though customers participating in the pilot get $250 in complimentary service, which amounts to about eight hours of free service.

Ultimately, it’s part of a multifaceted approach from Kumar Galhotra, president of Lincoln, as the company begins to focus on saving Lincoln customers’ time. “We noticed that the greatest luxury is time,” Galhotra has said.

Other services in the same vein include the company’s at-home test drives, which allow potential customers in Houston and Dallas to have vehicles brought to their homes for testing.

These programs follow the extension of Lincoln’s pick-up and delivery service to all 2017 and future vehicles. Previously, those who purchased Lincoln’s optional Black Label experience package, which adds around $6,000 to the sticker price, had the pick-up service in addition to custom vehicle interiors and membership perks like VIP-style meals and free car washes.

 

The Ford GT was
almost a Mustang

Ford GT

Henry Payne ,
The Detroit News
May 14, 2017

Salt Lake City, Utah

Whether winning LeMans or wowing the automotive press at 130 mph on the Utah Motorsport Campus race track, the 2017 Ford GT has realized its lofty dreams.

Built to return Ford to glory 50 years after its fabled drubbing of Ferrari, the GT race car beat all production-based competitors last year at the world’s premier endurance race. This month, the production version debuted to members of the automotive media who came here from across the globe to sample the supercar’s twin-turbo thrust, active aerodynamics and sizzling track performance.

So it’s hard to imagine that the Ford GT might never have happened. Indeed, it was conceived as a Mustang.

When Ford’s Performance Team first plotted in early 2013 how to commemorate the GT40’s historic 1966 LeMans win, Ford’s pony car – no slouch in the performance department – seemed the perfect instrument. The LeMans 50th dovetailed with Mustang’s 50th birthday and Ford’s plans to take the iconic Yankee coupe global.

In the end, however, the GT would not be denied as Ford decided it was not only the best race car for the 24 Hours of LeMans, but also a chance to test Ford’s automotive know-how against the world.

 “You can’t tell the story of the Ford GT without telling the story of Project Silver,” Ford Performance chief engineer Jamal Hameedi said trackside in Utah. “It (started as) a Mustang. It was called Project Silver after the Lone Ranger’s horse.

“Everyone felt the need to celebrate that win in a very special manner. So we began thinking. Could we align these two anniversaries and use the Mustang to go back to LeMans?”

But as captivating the idea of the Mustang conquering Europe’s greatest race sounded, it soon ran into logistical hurdles.

A race car based on a $30,000 muscle car was a vastly inferior species to Ferrari’s exotic 488-based entry (like 50 years before, Ford eyed the prancing horse as its chief rival) with a much less aerodynamic shape than the low, wide, mid-engine Italian. Production-based cars compete in LeMans GTE-class, which includes Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari, and others.

“We would have been at a significant disadvantage with the Ferrari,” Hameedi said. “We would have needed a few favors from the FIA [Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, the LeMans organizing body] to be an aerodynamically competitive car.”

In the basement of Ford’s Dearborn development facility, Mustang models were sketched and run through powerful computer-aided design programs. Modifying a front-engine coupe to compete in the brutally competitive GT class is not unheard of. BMW, for example, is campaigning its big M6 this year – but it is barely recognizable in race trim with enormous fenders and a steroid-fed drivetrain.

Similarly, Project Silver’s Mustang was becoming unrecognizable.

“Little by little it was morphing into a car that didn’t look so much like a Mustang,” Hameedi said. “It was like fitting a square peg in a round hole. We went all the way up to [Ford CEO] Mark Fields and the project was canceled.”

The 50th anniversary of LeMans loomed and Ford didn’t have a car. Project Silver had burned a lot of time.

“We were were back to square one,” recalled Hameedi. Inevitably, the conversation turned to a mid-engine, GT40 successor. At least his team had an engine to build the car around: the ferocious, 3.5-liter Ecoboost that Ford’s competition partner, Chip Ganassi Racing, had been testing in another race series.

“Every year you get a question and a rumor about the next GT. That was always in the back of our minds,” Hameedi said. “Certainly GT and LeMans are a natural.”

A GT heritage car had been made once before – as a $150,000, 2005 model to commemorate the company’s 100th anniversary. That car’s collector status – it is the only one of its peer group (Ferrari 360, Lamborghini Gallardo and McLaren SLR) that has appreciated in price – appealed to top Ford brass.

But a new GT would require a different level of effort. The 2005 car, powerful though it was, was not designed as a racer to beat thoroughbreds like Porsche and Ferrari. A new GT would have to meet that standard.

“There was some trepidation,” Hameedi said, as his team began GT feasibility studies. “This is such an icon in the company that there is also a fear of not going back. Anything less than a dominant victory would be seen as a failure.”

In December 2013 – just 30 months before the running of 2016’s 24 Hours of LeMans – Hameedi’s team got the green light.

“The timeline was the quickest for a production car that I have worked on,” veteran GT design manager Garen Nicoghosian said. “Even more remarkable when you factor in the co-development of the racer. I have been involved in quick programs, but they were pure race cars like the NASCAR Fusion.”

The result is breathtaking – the most technically advanced, most expensive car a Detroit company has ever made.

Unlike even the Ferrari 488, the $450,000 GT was conceived as a race car first and a production car second. That means it is inherently superior to every other production-based car in LeMans GT class.

It sports a unique “nose and keel” aerodynamic design that forces air through channels under the car. Working in tandem with a sculpted rear deck and wing, the GT’s aerodynamics literally suck it to the ground, generating an astonishing 400 pounds of downforce.

“The FIA had to really penalize the race car just to make the race fair,” Ford race jockey Ryan Briscoe says of the weight and power restrictions imposed on the GT.

Dancing around Utah Motorsport’s writhing, 2.5-mile track just 75 millimeters off the ground, the carbon-fiber 647-horsepower GT is brilliant, yet also surprisingly organic.

Where other supercar cyborgs are equipped with computer-assisted, rear-wheel-steer, all-wheel drive systems that are banned in pro racing, the GT’s rear-drive system was designed with FIA rules in mind.

After driving the race car for two years, Utah was Briscoe’s first taste of the production model.

“It has very similar tendencies (to the race car),” Briscoe says after a series of torrid laps. “(They) really reward smooth driving.”

Building a carbon car of this capability advances Ford engineering, just as the 2005 GT gave the company a headstart on aluminum construction that ultimately informed the aluminum-skin F-150 pickup a decade later.

“The GT creates an organic tech-bookshelf,” Hameedi said of the GT’s state-of-the-art engineering. “We didn’t keep anything out of this car for cost reason. One day someone at Ford will have a problem and say, ‘Didn’t they do something like that on the GT?’”

 

‘Discharge him at all costs’:
A case study in overcrowding
at Ontario’s hospitals

Ilias Spanidis, 88, is shown in his room at Markham Stouffville Hospital. Mr. Spanidis has been at the hospital for a month, and the hospital is trying to get him discharged, but his son Tom Spanidis, doesn’t believe he’s ready.

A Toronto-area hospital’s efforts to get Ilias Spanidis, 88, discharged included threats to send him to a homeless shelter and charge him $1,100 a day to stay, his son says. Health reporter Kelly Grant looks at his case and Ontario’s wider challenges finding room for patients

May 11, 2017
Kelly Grant
The Globe and Mail

A Toronto-area hospital’s efforts to get Ilias Spanidis, 88, discharged included threats to send him to a homeless shelter and charge him $1,100 a day to stay, his son says. Health reporter Kelly Grant looks at his case and Ontario’s wider challenges finding room for patients

Ilias Spanidis had been in a hospital north of Toronto for nearly a month when a doctor decided the 88-year-old widower had recovered enough from an old spinal fracture and his spells of vertigo to be discharged.

Mr. Spanidis’s son, Tom, who visited the Markham Stouffville Hospital daily to bathe his father and feed him homemade Greek fare, disagreed vehemently, insisting his father still needed round-the-clock care that he and his wife weren’t equipped to provide.

When the younger Mr. Spanidis refused on May 1 to take his father home, hospital officials levelled an escalating series of threats that the 53-year-old says culminated in this warning: If you won’t let your father into the home you share, an ambulance will drop him off at a homeless shelter.

The hospital even put the elderly patient, who speaks no English, on the phone with a Greek interpreter on Tuesday evening to inform him that he was bound for a shelter, according to his son.

“Their emphasis,” he said, “was to discharge him at all costs.”

By May 3, the Markham Stouffville Hospital – which declined to comment on the specifics of this case for privacy reasons – relented and agreed to move the octogenarian to a transitional care unit for now.

But the Spanidis family’s experience is not an isolated one, according to a lawyer for the elderly whose Toronto-based clinic fielded about 500 calls last year on hospital-discharge issues, twice as many as it received in 2012.

Overcrowded hospitals in Ontario and across the country are desperate to free up beds occupied by frail seniors who no longer need acute care but have no place else to go, a problem that will grow worse as the greying of Canada’s population accelerates.

An aging Canada

The greying of Canada’s population is accelerating, as the latest census numbers show seniors outnumber children for the first time in the survey’s history, Tavia Grant explains.

Some hospitals are resorting to extremes to persuade the elderly to leave, mindful that if such patients stay, they run the risk of declining physically and mentally or catching a hospital-borne infection. Hospital administrators are also keenly aware that beds clogged by patients who are technically discharged contribute to overcrowding on other units, forcing the newly ill to languish in the emergency department or receive medical care in hallways, cafeterias, TV rooms and other “unconventional spaces.”

After years of bed cuts and funding restraint, Ontario’s hospitals are already bursting at the seams. More than half of the province’s acute-care hospitals – 90 in total – have been operating for the past five years at an average occupancy rate that exceeds the frequently cited ideal of 85 per cent, according to figures obtained under freedom-of-information laws and analyzed by The Globe and Mail.

Seven Ontario hospitals averaged occupancy rates above 100 per cent between 2012 and the end of last year, but many others experienced periods that exceeded the 100-per-cent threshold, including Markham Stouffville Hospital, which saw its occupancy rate peak at 112.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015-16.

“At our hospital, most of our patient-care units run close to 100-per-cent capacity all the time,” said Lisa Joyce, a spokeswoman for Markham Stouffville Hospital. “This presents challenges in admitting new patients on a daily basis. To ensure that we are acting responsibly, we must make sure that we are able to support patients who need in-patient, specialized care … we would never discharge a patient who was not medically stable or who still required hospitalization.”

Jane Meadus, a staff lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, said concerns about how frail seniors are discharged from hospitals are “by far and away” the top reason people contact her community legal clinic.

“It’s been increasing over the last few years. We have a crisis in the sector,” Ms. Meadus said. “Every few months we will hear from someone where the family comes and says the hospital is threatening to send someone to a homeless shelter, or to just dump somebody in your driveway … We know there’s a huge pressure on doctors just to discharge people.”

Ontario’s Liberal government, which froze hospital operating budgets in four of the past five years, provided some relief to hospitals in its recent budget, with a 3.1-per-cent increase in base funding and a promise to spend an additional $9-billion over the next decade building new hospitals and redeveloping old ones. The government is also continuing to hike funding for home and community care.

However, the budget did not commit to adding any new nursing-home beds. As of the end of last June, there were 28,317 people in the queue for a long-term care bed in Ontario, up from 20,055 four years earlier, but the ministry says the median wait time for a bed actually dropped by 15 per cent during that period.

Mr. Spanidis is now in the line for two long-term care homes, both of which have waiting lists at least one year long.

“Our intent is not to keep him here because we are fully aware of the downfalls and the disadvantages of having a person in the hospital,” Tom Spanidis said. “But it’s worse for him to come home [right now].”

The elder Mr. Spanidis has been at Markham Stouffville Hospital since the early hours of April 6, when he awoke at home complaining of dizziness and excruciating pain in his head and neck, two days after he was last released from the same hospital.

Mr. Spanidis, who has congestive heart failure, had been taking medication that made him dizzy; he was also diagnosed with vertigo in March.

He suffered serious falls several times this year, leading his son, a former aircraft mechanic who stopped working full-time to care for his father, to worry that he and his wife, Eleni, could no longer keep the 88-year-old safe at home.

When the elder Mr. Spanidis returned to the hospital on April 6, a CT scan revealed he had an old, previously undiscovered fracture in the vertebrae at the top of his spine. A brace was placed on the elderly man’s neck and the family was told the fracture would take at least six weeks to heal.

But a doctor deemed him well enough to go home earlier. His son believes his father needs to heal fully and start physiotherapy before being released.

When the younger Mr. Spanidis dug in his heels, hospital officials told him they would begin charging his father $1,100 a day to stay. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care confirmed that hospitals are not permitted to charge patients who are on the waiting list for long-term care more than $58.99 a day, the co-pay for a basic room at a nursing home.

Hospital staff also threatened to send his father home in an ambulance, the son said. On May 2, just after 5 p.m., the hospital summoned York Regional Police to speak to the family about the discharge plan, a scene that unfolded in front of the panicked 88-year-old patient, who couldn’t follow the conversation in English.

“[The officer] started in on me with what our responsibilities in life are and how we should all care for our parents,” Mr. Spanidis said. “I said to him, ‘You have no idea what this case involves and how long I’ve been caring for my father.’” (A spokesman for York Regional Police confirmed that three officers were dispatched to Mr. Spanidis’s room, essentially to “referee” the discussion. No charges were laid.)

It was toward the end of that meeting that Tom Spanidis said he was told his father would be dropped at a homeless shelter.

Asked to comment on Mr. Spanidis’s case, Health Minister Eric Hoskins said by e-mail that he expects all patients and families be treated with dignity and respect and that he has “been working hard to ensure people leaving hospital have a full range of options to receive appropriate care when and where it’s needed.”

 

GM truck work for Oshawa
could add 500 jobs

Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
May 10, 2017

General Motors Co. is planning to use the Oshawa Assembly Plant in Ontario for additional production of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, a move which the Unifor Local 222 union believes will lead to hiring about 500 workers.

The Unifor Local 222 Canadian auto union, on its website, said truck work is coming to the plant early next year. It marks a return of truck production to Oshawa after nearly a decade.

GM would not comment directly on the truck work or the possible jobs addition at the Oshawa plant. “Work is well underway at Oshawa Assembly on investments taking place in the plant to support exciting new model and product changes,” the automaker said in a statement Tuesday.

The new work is part of a four-year agreement reached last fall between Unifor and GM. GM is expected to spend about CA$400 million to upgrade the flex line inside the Oshawa plant.

Last fall, Unifor President Jerry Dias said the Oshawa plant would be the first in North America capable of building both cars and trucks. Some GM pickup volume is expected to move from its Fort Wayne Assembly Plant in Roanoke, Indiana, as vehicle bodies will be sent from Indiana to Oshawa for final assembly, according to a source familiar with the company’s planning who asked not to be identified because the details have not been made public.

The Oshawa plant currently builds the Chevrolet Equinox on its consolidated line, which is expected to end production this summer. About 600 employees now work on that line and some may be temporarily laid off, according to the union. A flex line builds the Buick Regal, Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala. The Regal is expected to end production at the plant in the fall.

Unifor Local 222 is asking Oshawa hourly workers if they would elect to retire between Aug. 1 and Jan. 1; to work in the truck area but go on layoff after the consolidated plant ceases production until November or December; or to work on the flex line, depending on seniority. The truck production is expected to begin in January, according to Unifor.

“We are confident no full-time members will be affected following the results of the retirement canvass, plus the fact we presently have open jobs in both plants...,” Unifor Local 222 said in a posting on the website. “The second shift in truck will be launched in the second quarter of 2018 by the shutdown period. At this time it is forecast that another 500 jobs will be added to truck.”

The Oshawa plant has about 2,400 employees, down significantly from the more than 10,000 the facility employed a decade ago. GM shuttered the Oshawa Truck plant in 2009 due to slowing truck sales amid high gasoline prices and because of the financial crisis and economic downturn.

GM also builds Silverados and Sierras at its Flint Assembly Plant and in Silao, Mexico. The carmaker has billions of dollars of investments planned for its Fort Wayne and Flint plants, likely to ready them for GM’s next-generation pickup trucks which are expected to include more use of aluminum.

The automaker is taking several weeks of downtime this year to begin preparing for next-generation pickup. Some analysts expect to see the redesigned models on the road late next year as 2019 models.

U.S. sales of the Silverado through April totaled 168,621, down 5.8 percent and Sierra sales totaled 67,210, down 6.2 percent.

GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told reporters in Detroit last month that the company remains bullish on the U.S. pickup market.

GM’s full-size SUV plant and three truck plants are running three shifts to meet demand, he said. GM sees growth for profitable trucks as there is replacement demand given the average age of pickups on the road in the U.S. is about 14 years vs. the about 11.5 years for all vehicles, Stevens said. Expected low gas prices continuing and likely U.S. economic growth also will aid growth, he said.

“If we do see the kind of economic growth infrastructure spending that has been put forth by the Trump administration, that will lead to construction, which leads to further demand for trucks,” Stevens told reporters. “So we’re quite optimistic that the truck market’s going to continue to be strong.”

 

Ford preparing big boost
in California footprint

“This new research center shows Ford’s commitment to be part of the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem — anticipating customers’ wants and needs, especially on connectivity, mobility and autonomous vehicles,” Ford CEO Mark Fields said. “We are working to make these new technologies accessible to everyone, not just luxury customers.”

Jim Lynch,
The Detroit News
May 9, 2017

Palo Alto, Calif. — Ford Motor Co.’s current Silicon Valley digs, nestled among the business parks in this cool California town, may prove symbolic down the road.

The Blue Oval is a small presence here now, occupying most of an unremarkable two-story office building. But on the horizon — or just across the street, actually — lies the promise of much more.

By the end of this year, the nation’s No. 2 automaker will inhabit a massive new workspace, and double its workforce to 300, in this hotbed of technology — a place where autonomous driving is being propelled forward. In the race for leadership in driverless/connected/electric vehicles, it’s a potentially powerful statement about what the company feels its chances may be.

The expansion comes on the heels of Ford’s boldest move yet in the autonomous car universe. In February, the company that appropriated the “Smart Mobility” tag for its mobility-and-autonomy unit said it would invest $1 billion in Argo AI to help develop the brains of self-driving cars.

Ford opened its office here on the Stanford University campus in 2015, three years after first establishing a San Francisco Bay presence. Roughly 150 employees operate out of the current building which has many of the earmarks of a tech start-up — a laid-back atmosphere with plenty of open space, workstations with multiple monitors and the clicking of constant coding underway.

An American industrial icon looking to upgrade its techy bona fides could do worse than having a next-door neighbor like Skype, the online messaging and communication service.

“This new research center shows Ford’s commitment to be part of the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem — anticipating customers’ wants and needs, especially on connectivity, mobility and autonomous vehicles,” Ford CEO Mark Fields said. “We are working to make these new technologies accessible to everyone, not just luxury customers.”

Ford spokesman Colin Smith said the workforce will “at least double” by the end of the year, and many of those here will be moved across the street to the new facility. And many of those employees will rotate between Palo Alto and Ford headquarters in Dearborn.

Right now, that facility is a work in progress — a previously vacant office building being transformed into 150,000 square feet of research and testing space.

“It will contain additional facilities for the research center, design studios, engineering labs, software engineering stations and an auditorium,” Smith said. It is unclear at this point if Argo AI, based in Pittsburgh, will occupy space in the new building which sits near other such large-scale operations as Lockheed Martin and Hewlett Packard.

Ford’s approach in California is mirrored by rival General Motors. It acquired Cruise Automation last year, following up last month with plans to invest $14 million in a San Francisco facility for the start-up.

Bettering the Blue Oval’s chances for success in mobility services and self-driving vehicles means not only establishing a physical presence in Silicon Valley. It means utilizing the other players located here to Ford’s best advantage — something Ford officials recognized when they first arrived here.

“Our Palo Alto research team will build on existing relationships with universities and technology companies, and forge new ones to help us create and apply the appropriate technology working together,” Raj Nair, Ford’s executive vice president of product development, said in 2015.

Intel Corp.’s Kathy Winter expressed similar concerns about locating among autonomy’s biggest players when discussing the chipmaker’s Innovation Center location in San Jose. The vice president and general Manger of Intel’s Automated Driving Group described the center as a place where “we can be close to potential partners, potential start-ups (and) close to OEM partners that have a presence out here.”

Stanford is the main university player in the region. Chris Gerdes, a professor of mechanical engineering who runs the university’s automotive innovation facility, says being nearby is key for automakers.

“I think it creates a very different mindset,” he said in an interview. “There is sort of a sense out here in Silicon Valley that anything is possible. There is a lot of stuff happening, and I think it’s important that companies tap into that in some way. ... It’s easy to just only look in your backyard and say everything must be like this.

“But also there’s a lot of talent here. There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm. And to be able to tap into that is really important.”

 

Darth Vader inspired the 2018
Mustang, Ford designer says

AutoBlog
By Joel Stocksdale
May 8, 2017

Have you ever looked at the front of the new Mustang and thought, "You know, I probably shouldn't give that car bad news like 'The rebels escaped.' " Well, if so, you're not crazy (at least not completely), because apparently the nose of the 2018 Mustang was inspired by the Galactic Rebellion's arch nemesis, Darth Vader. This is according to Ford's design manager, Melvin Betancourt, who said:

 "When we were designing the new 2018 Mustang, the team wanted to make the new model look more aggressive, and one place where we found inspiration was one of the most famous screenplay villains of all time. The angled nostrils and contours of Darth Vader's mask became the inspiration for the Mustang's new fog lamp scoops and front-end shape”.

For comparison, Ford provided us with images of both a design drawing of the car, as well as that of the infamous Sith lord. You can make your own decision whether Ford was actually successful in emulating Vader, but regardless, it's a fun little fact about the development of the Mustang. We would say that this would be a good excuse for, say, Chevrolet to take inspiration from a Star Wars hero for the next Camaro's design, but we're not sure Mark Hamill's face would translate well to a car.

 

Intel sees new opportunities
in auto industry

The Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, California.

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News
May 7, 2017

San Jose, Calif. — The numbers didn’t add up for Intel Corp. to stay heavily involved in the auto industry in the 1990s. But nearly two decades later, billions in potential revenues add up just fine and have the chipmaking giant back in the auto game in a big way.

Driving the company’s return in recent years is the lure of Big Data — the information that connected vehicles can sense, collect, sort, package and send to the Cloud, and eventually sell to all kinds of customers. One estimate puts the value of data collected by cars at $750 billion by 2030.

That’s too much money for any tech company to ignore. And it’s why the leading seller of computer chips over the past 20 years, once a supplier of micro-controllers in selected cars and trucks, has aligned itself with several partners to offer a turnkey driverless car system, capable of harnessing the data and monetizing it.

“Hopefully at the end of the day, you’ll believe... in this partner and collaboration strategy,” said Kathy Winter, vice president of Intel’s Automated Driving Group, welcoming press to the company’s new San Jose Innovation Center this week.

“And that you’ll believe that Intel is well-positioned to build on not only the in-car compute, but also this connectivity and network experience, and then finally thinking about the data center... when you put all of that together into a single solution.”

The highlight so far of Intel’s bid to get into the autonomous game was its March announcement the company would shell out $15.3 billion for Israel-based Mobileye NV, maker of on-board cameras and sensors for autonomous driving.

“At 4 terabytes of data per day, the average autonomous car will put out the data equivalent of approximately 3,000 people,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich wrote employees in an e-mail explaining the acquisition. “Put just 1 million autonomous vehicles on the road and you have the data equivalent of half the world’s population.”

That move has been bolstered by partnerships with others like Delphi Automotive PLC, BMW AG and Ericsson AB, each emerging as key players in the push to help automakers develop cars that drive themselves and on-board tools that capture data.

“The only way we’re going to solve this problem across the industry is not by ourselves but through working and picking the right players and partners,” Winter said.

Even Intel’s Innovation Center, based here in San Jose, was planned with an eye toward luring in more collaborators. Winter described it as “a place where “we can be close to potential partners, potential start-ups (and) close to OEM partners that have a presence out here in (Silicon Valley).”

In the 1990s, Intel officials were less optimistic about their place in the industry. For a company on the cutting edge of computer chip technology, it was all about new developments and constantly increasing processing speeds. Automakers, however, needed technology that would be in their vehicles for a decade or more.

Intel was faced with having to continue providing outdated technology over the lifetime of those vehicles and, ultimately, decided that was not going to be profitable.

Today, the prospect of improving vehicle technology is far simpler with the development of over-the-air software updating. And Intel isn’t the only chipmaker to notice.

Samsung, which is now challenging Intel as the global leader in chip sales, received approval this week to begin testing its own self-driving car in South Korea. Nvidia’s technology is currently being utilized by the likes of Tesla Inc. and Volvo Cars Ltd. And Qualcomm, already working with Volkswagen AG and Panasonic, awaits finalization of its $47 billion acquisition of semiconductor maker NXP.

“That acquisition is still in progress, but we expect to close in the second half of this year, likely in the fourth quarter of this year,” said Nakul Duggal, Qualcomm’s vice president of product management. “NXP is the number one automotive semiconductor (manufacturer).”

A March headline at Forbes.com had Intel “playing catchup with Nvidia and Qualcomm...” But it’s hardly playtime for the chip industry these days. Two years of declining global PC sales have companies looking for new revenue streams. And the urge to wind up on top of the autonomous-and-connected vehicle game has forced many tech and auto companies to crack open their wallets.

A year ago, General Motors Co. ponied up $1 billion for San Francisco-based Cruise Automation. And last month the automaker announced it would invest another $14 million in the start-up’s operations there.

Not to be outdone, Ford Motor Co. announced in February it would invest $1 billion in Argo AI over the next half-decade. The Pittsburgh company will help develop the brains of Ford’s self-driving cars.

Richard Wallace, director of the transportation systems analysis group at Ann Arbor’s Center for Automotive Research, described the positioning among companies as “interesting to watch.”

“Certainly, Intel paying 60 times earnings for Mobileye just strikes some as ridiculous,” he said. “And a billion dollars for Cruise Automation — a company that had no customers yet?

“We can’t even judge which one is worth it or not yet. The market is not even responding to objective fact. It’s responding to these gut instincts in some ways and peoples’ feelings about technology versus their feelings about more tangible items, about brakes and steering wheels.”

 

 


Bob White Memorial

Bob White Celebration of Life May 5 2017

Bob White Celebration of Life May 5 2017

Bob White Celebration of Life May 5 2017

It was standing room only at a memorial for former CLC President Bob White at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Friday. More than 600 union and community activists and leaders joined his family to celebrate his life.

CLC President Hassan Yussuff thanked White’s family for sharing him with the labour movement.

“Bob was unique, tough as nails, articulate, loved by the media, compassionate, loving and was a visionary. His mark on our movement and our country will be felt for a long time,” he said.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias said that, for Bob, the rank and file meant everything.

“He knew you couldn't have success unless the members were engaged. The grassroots had to be involved and had to lead,” he said. “He was smart, tough, articulate, challenging and determined. He always called it the way he saw it. He was a pioneer.”

“We are a better nation because of you. Thank you brother,” he added.

CLC Secretary-Treasurer Barb Byers emceed the memorial. “He didn’t feel that he was diminished if someone else was better at something. He wasn’t afraid to lead and he wasn't afraid to learn,” she said. “He was not afraid of challenge or change.”

Bob’s son Shawn White talked about life as the labour leader’s son. His father was away during the week, “but when the weekends came, it was Dad 2.0.”

“He strongly believed that if you can help someone, you should,” he said.

Basil “Buzz” Hargrove, former president of the CAW, talked about how Bob embraced life and all of the challenges he faced in both his union and personal life.

“He loved the camaraderie and working with local unions. He had the greatest respect for people who stood for union office, especially in the smaller shops. He loved working with coalitions. He was one of the greatest trade unionists in the world,” said Hargrove.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, sent a message to the memorial by video. She remembered White as an extraordinary man who had devoted himself to improving the lives of all working people.  

“Your spirit, your teachings, your challenges will live on in our hearts and in the work we all do to build social justice every day,” said Burrow.

White’s daughter, Robyn, talked about how lucky she had been to be her dad’s daughter, and about all the ways he had been such a caring and devoted father.

“He was supportive and encouraging every step of the way. All of the charisma and charm that he exuded as a labour leader was there for his family as well,” she said.

The memorial ended with a band called “the SPECIAL INTEREST group” playing White’s favourite song: Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World.



 

Canada seniors outnumber
children for the first time

AFP Relax News
May 5, 2017

Canada counted for the first time more seniors than children due to longer life expectancies and persistently low fertility rates, according to census data released Wednesday.

The number of seniors jumped 20 percent in the last five years while the number of children rose by only 4.1 percent, according to Statistics Canada -- a demographic trend that a number of developed countries are facing.

"As a result of the rapid increase in the number of people 65 years of age and older since 2011, 2016 marked the first time that the census enumerated more seniors (5.9 million) than children 14 years of age and younger (5.8 million)," the government statistical agency said.

The increase in the number of elderly Canadians during the period was the "largest observed since 1871 -- a clear sign that Canada's population is aging at a faster pace," it said.

Seniors accounted for 16.9 percent of Canada's 35 million people, while the share of children was 16.6 percent.

The 2016 census enumerated 23.4 million people aged 15 to 64, or 66.5 percent of the total population, down from 68.5 percent in 2011.

Centenarians were the fastest-growing group, up 41.3 percent from 2011 to 2016, to 8,230.

Despite the recent spike in seniors, Canada continues to have the lowest proportion of seniors of any other G7 country except the United States.

If the current trend continues, however, the proportion of seniors in Canada could eventually equal the level now seen in Japan, where one in four is over the age of 65

 

Slowing auto sales
reveals Detroit weakness

Daniel Howe
The Detroit News
May 4, 2017

If Detroit’s automakers want a chance to show investors they’re not the same old thing, balky consumers may soon give them the chance.

The fourth straight month of declining auto sales is battering auto stocks and fueling increasingly definitive speculation the party begun in 2009 is over — a potentially perceptible shift for this town, for its economic aspirations and for autoworkers accustomed to fat profit-sharing checks.

Get used to it: every year can’t be a record, folks. Selling more than 17 million cars and trucks a year for longer than a couple is an automotive high-wire act that would defy cycles of history. And economic variables like interest rates, gas prices and consumer confidence.

So long as buyers keep preferring high-margin trucks and SUVs over lower-margin cars, and so long as this town’s industry leaders are willing to cut production, corral incentives and idle assembly lines instead of pushing metal at cut-rate prices, bottom lines will stay comparatively fat even if sales moderate.

That’s the good news. The bad news is not really knowing the extent to which cheap money, cheap fuel and rising stock markets are pulling demand forward: consumers who buy or lease now aren’t likely to be repeating the exercise 12 or 24 months from now.

The bigger message in the market hand-wringing is that investors aren’t ready to buy the proposition that Detroit’s push into mobility services and autonomous-vehicle development is likely to fundamentally change the value proposition anytime soon.

Nor are they necessarily prepared to reward the likes of General Motors Co. for fielding a Chevrolet Bolt said to travel 238 miles on a single charge because the Michigan-made model accounts for just a tiny fraction of the automaker’s sales. For now, it’s more a game-changer in theory than in fact.

Understandable, that reticence, considering the inconvenient truth: highly touted mobility and self-driving car efforts are far bigger consumers of capital and executive time than producers of revenue — and likely to stay that way for some time to come. No wonder the wonders of mobility are tough sells with Detroit Three investors.

For all the hype, they’re smart enough to know that boring ol’ pickups, SUVs and the steadily declining percentage of cars still account for virtually all of the revenue and profits at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, among others. And when sales show recurring signs of downshifting, investors slam on the brakes.

Doesn’t much matter if they’re overreacting. Or if national news organizations are warning of the impending doom of temporarily idled assembly lines, prolonged summer shutdowns, smaller profit-sharing payouts and lighter salaried bonuses.

Perception still is reality, and the perception is that Detroit’s Great Expansion —in sales, anyway — is coming to an end. But that doesn’t mean we’re looking at 2008 all over again, much as the Wags of Schadenfreude (yes, they’re still slinking around out there) think that’s just around the corner.

“We continue to believe that 2016 likely represented the peak in new car sales this cycle,” JP Morgan analyst Avi Steiner wrote in a note. “Declining used car prices as off-lease supply increases ... modestly higher rates, and stretched lending metrics in certain parts of the market are reasons for pause.

“Nevertheless, we do not see an accelerating decline in auto sales materializing in the near term given the relative health of the underlying economy (including consumer confidence), relative age of the car park, and still-reasonable prices at the pump” — which favors disproportionately large sales of profit-rich pickups and SUVs.

For what feels like years now, the new generation of Detroit leaders has been making the case that they’ve learned from the mistakes of the past. They say their lower break-even points, smarter product development, rationalized product lines make consistent profitability easier to sustain.

They claim to be uniquely positioned, because of their scale manufacturing scale and engineering capability, to capitalize on the move into self-driving vehicles. Why? Because they can build lots of them profitably, which is more than Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk could say in Wednesday’s first-quarter earnings call.

Yeah, Detroit says they’re different. The chance to prove it is coming, and it’s coming quickly.

 

New Ford Mustang GT500
successor puts a lot
of rubber on the road

Mustang GT500

Fox News
Gary Gastelu
May 03, 2017 

Now this is what you call a “boss” Mustang.

A camouflaged prototype of a new high performance Mustang variant has been caught cruising the streets outside Ford’s Dearborn Development Center with what appears to be the director of the Ford Performance division, Dave Pericak behind the wheel. If it weren’t an important car, he wouldn’t be driving it.

Bulky black padding and a dazzling wrap hide most of the car’s secrets, but the revealing part is where the rubber meets the road.

The coupe is wearing a set of Michelin front tires that are 305 mm wide. That's the same width as the rear tires on the current Mustang Shelby GT350 and matches the fronts on the Chevy Camaro ZL1's, which are the widest in the land. This suggests that the new Mustang isn’t destined to be just a straight-line special, but is being developed with handling in mind.

The wheels that those tires are wrapped around and the brakes inside of them are completely covered on the test car, but recent photos of what was purported to be a development vehicle for this model revealed what looked like carbon fiber wheels and carbon ceramic brakes, similar to those offered on the new $450,000 Ford GT.

If the Mustang is indeed a new GT500, Boss or Mach 1, it will likely be powered by a twin-turbocharged or supercharged version of either the Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter V8 or Shelby GT350’s 5.2-liter V8 with something approaching 700 hp. That'll let it compete with the 650 hp Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and 707 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, if not the upcoming 840 hp Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, which will be the front tire king at 315 mm. (It's a big, heavy car. It needs them.)

The last GT500 had a 662 hp supercharged V8, so don’t expect the new one to bring less than that to today’s escalating muscle car war when it is officially unveiled later this year.

 

April auto sales slip
from record highs

Detroit News
Ian Thibodeau, and
Melissa Burden
May 2, 2017

Prospects are dimming for another year of record auto sales. For the fourth straight month, U.S. car and truck sales fell more than expected in April, further evidence the lucrative American market is plateauing after two record years.

Sales slid last month for the Detroit Three automakers — and much of the industry — as consumers’ love affair with SUVs failed to offset the continuing nosedive in car sales. Overall sales fell 4.7 percent to nearly 1.43 million vehicles, according to Autodata Corp., including an 11.1 percent decline in car sales from April 2016.

Investors were not pleased. Shares of Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV fell Tuesday, with each closing down between 3 and 5 percent as signs grow that the longest uninterrupted auto sales boom since the 1960s is coming to an end after eight years.

“I think we need to take a breath … and put this in perspective: still around that 17 million (annual sales) mark, that’s a very high level,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst with Autotrader. “Since 1980, we’ve only had four years that we’ve been over the 17-million mark,” including last year’s all-time record of 17.55 million vehicles sold.

Automakers saw stronger SUV sales compared to a year ago, continuing a trend as consumers shun passenger cars for small utes and crossovers. Light truck sales, which include SUV sales, represented nearly 61 percent of the industry last month, down 0.1 percent from a year ago.

Toyota’s best-selling Camry sedan was usurped last month by its crossover cousin, the Rav4. As Camry sales fell 7.7 percent to 31,428, Rav4 totaled sales of 31,757, up 5.3 percent. Truck sales were mixed: Ford and GM posted declines while Fiat Chrysler’s Ram pickups sales rose 7.6 percent from a year ago.

Even as industry sales slow, Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book, said they remain at historically high and strong levels.

“(There’s) still positive sentiment in terms of consumer confidence, (the) stock market’s still doing extraordinary well, the unemployment rate remains below 5 percent, fuel prices are still very affordable,” he said in a call Tuesday.

Fiat Chrysler said April sales fell 6.8 percent to 176,176 vehicles, excluding Maserati. GM said sales totaled 244,200 last month, down 5.9 percent from the same month a year ago. The Detroit automaker attributed the decline partly to this April having one fewer selling day than last April.

Ford sales fell 7.1 percent. The Blue Oval sold 213,436 vehicles in April, with SUV sales seeing the only increase for any of Ford’s segments. Ford car sales dropped 23.7 percent, continuing an industry-wide trend of rapidly declining car sales for the year.

Despite a dip in overall truck sales in April, Ford sold 70,657 F-Series trucks. That’s more than the combined number of Focuses and Fiestas it has sold in the first quarter of 2017, as well as the 67,483 Fusions sold in that same four-month period.

“We have to let the year play out,” Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a call with investors. “In a plateauing industry, you’re going to have some months that are up and some that are down ... I’m not discouraged by (April).”

GM’s Chevrolet brand sales fell 10.4 percent, and GMC sales dipped 0.3 percent. GM reported sharp declines in its pickup truck sales for the month, overall down 14.4 percent from a year ago.

Confirming the industry trend away from cars, GM said crossover sales to retail customers are growing. Each of its brands is seeing double digit percentage growth in the segment from a year ago.

“We see crossovers becoming an even bigger part of the industry and GM sales over the next five years,” Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement. “Just five years ago, about one in four GM sales were crossovers. Today, they account for almost one-third of our deliveries and we see more growth ahead.”

Fiat Chrysler said Chrysler brand sales dropped 3.3 percent, due largely to the elimination of the Chrysler 200 sedan. Jeep brand sales dropped 16.5 percent, while Ram brand sales rose 5.3 percent, as Ram pickup sales jumped 7.6 percent to 43,321.

Fiat brand sales dropped 18 percent in April. Luxury makes Alfa Romeo and Maserati were bright spots for Fiat Chrysler, increasing 1,047 percent and 18.7 percent, respectively from a year ago.

Declining sales aren’t just impacting Detroit metal. Nissan North America Inc. and Toyota Motor North America also posted year-over-year April sales declines of 1.5 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. American Honda Motor Co. said it sold 138,386 vehicles in April, down 7 percent from a year ago due to a drop in Honda division car sales, and a 26.3 percent decline in Acura truck sales. Kia Motors America also posted a sales dip of 5.6 percent in April.

Volkswagen AG and Hyundai Motor America bucked the downward trend. Volkswagen posted a 1.6 percent increase in April, as its sales totaled 27,557, while Hyundai, aided by Tucson sales posted an increase of 1.3 percent to 63,050.

American Honda Motor Co. said it sold 138,386 vehicles in April, down 7 percent from a year ago due to a drop in Honda division car sales, and a 26.3 percent decline in Acura truck sales.

California-based Tesla Inc. reports quarterly deliveries, though Autodata estimates Tesla’s April sales likely were about 3,850, which would be up about a third from the same month in 2016. For the first quarter, Tesla said it delivered just more than 25,000 vehicles to U.S. customers, a quarterly record and up 69 percent from the first three months in 2016.

Tesla is scheduled to post first quarter results Wednesday. The electric-car maker said it delivered about 13,450 Model S and 11,550 Model X during the quarter.

 

Congratulations to Local 584's Newest Retirees
Craig McComb
April 1, 2017
Sean Sands
May 1, 2017
Mike Authier
May 1, 2017

 

In-car connectivity in Canada
lags far behind U.S.

Peter Nowak
The Globe and Mail
May 1, 2017

Drivers in the United States are seeing a new technological trend creeping into their vehicles: unlimited cellular connectivity and usage. Canadian drivers aren’t so lucky, at least for now.

General Motors and Jaguar Land Rover last month became the first two auto makers to offer drivers in-vehicle 4G LTE wireless with no monthly usage caps, both at $20 (U.S.) a month. The built-in services, which effectively turns cars into moving WiFi hotspots, are being delivered through AT&T, the second-largest wireless network provider in the United States.

While GM’s unlimited OnStar usage costs the equivalent of $27 (Canadian) in the United States, Canadian drivers are limited to choosing between one gigabyte for $15, 4 GB for $35 or 10 GB for $70. Jaguar Land Rover’s Canadian division confirms that no major carriers are offering unlimited data usage for vehicles, and the company doesn’t anticipate the situation changing any time soon.

“In the American market, it makes sense, but it’s unlikely we’d see anything like that here,” says Brahm Eiley, president of Victoria-based Convergence Research Group. “The wireless market in the United States is and always has been completely different than Canada’s.”

Both manufacturers said built-in connectivity is increasingly being used for a number of in-car applications and is rapidly becoming a key factor in new-vehicle purchasing decisions. Chevrolet, for one, said its customers streamed more than 17.5 million hours of video in their vehicles last year. Over all, data usage via OnStar 4G LTE tripled over 2015.

“We have contractors bidding [for] jobs in their Silverados, families streaming movies in their Suburbans and Malibus, and everyone tapping into the cloud for music,” said Alan Batey, global head of Chevrolet, in a statement.

The unlimited in-car options mirror what’s happening in the broader U.S. wireless market. AT&T and its three main competitors, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have, in recent months, been engaged in a game of one-upmanship when it comes to data offers.

All four are trying to lure customers with offers featuring unlimited usage. Verizon is the largest U.S. provider, with approximately 142 million customers, followed by AT&T with 131 million, T-Mobile at 67 million and Sprint with 58 million, according to Jackdaw Research.

Canada, in comparison, has about 30 million total wireless subscribers, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Bell, Rogers and Telus control more than 90 per cent of the market, with each having roughly an equal share of customers.

Numerous studies have found Canada to have among the highest wireless prices in the world. A study by research firm Nordicity last year, for example, found Canadians paid, on average, $41.08 for an entry-level cellphone plan, or considerably more than the $17.15 subscribers paid in Germany.

Canada’s big carriers typically don’t offer unlimited data-usage plans. Rogers’s biggest offering for smartphones in Ontario, for example, is 60 GB at $375 a month.

The U.S. market is more competitive, Eiley says, because T-Mobile and Sprint are considerably smaller than Verizon and AT&T and are, therefore, more likely to rock the boat with consumer-friendly deals.

In-car connectivity, also known as telematics, looks to be lagging in Canada as a result. About two-thirds of vehicles in Canada this year will have embedded telematics, compared with about three-quarters in the United States, according to IHS Markit.

“There is a bit of resistance there,” says Colin Bird, senior auto-tech analyst for IHS Markit. “It’s not as robust.”

In the long term, analysts expect car manufacturers to effectively override wireless prices – regardless of market – in order to add features that consumers are seeking. Many drivers are demanding over-the-air updates of entertainment systems to keep them current; this requires connectivity.

Safety regulators are also increasingly requiring connectivity. The European Parliament, for example, passed the eCall mandate in 2015. As of 2018, all new cars sold in the European Union will have a module that will automatically dial a dedicated phone number and transmit its location to emergency services.

Car makers may eventually swallow the cost of wireless service themselves or pass it on to consumers in the form of higher sticker prices.

Either way, IHS Markit expects the differences in telematics installations between countries to level out over time. The firm sees 95 per cent of new cars in Canada having connectivity by 2022, compared with 98 per cent in the United States.

Frost and Sullivan is more conservative with its forecasts, expecting global installations of about 70 per cent by 2022. But the research firm also expects ubiquitous vehicle connectivity over time.

“It’s almost a given that most cars will be connected,” principal analyst Ronald Gruia says

 

Retiree's Coucil - Ingersoll May 2017
Doug Berry & Chris Wilski attend the Retirees Council May 2, 2017 - Ingersoll

 

Lost appeal could cost GM billions

Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
April 30, 2017

General Motors Co. could be exposed to billions of dollars in additional claims related to its defective ignition switches after the U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal from the company seeking to block hundreds of lawsuits from proceeding.

The justices left in place a lower court ruling that said the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy did not shield it from liability in cases involving death and injuries, or for economic loss because the value of the cars plunged. The court did not comment on its reasoning for rejecting to hear the case.

That could open up the company to expensive and costly damages, which plaintiffs’ lawyers have estimated could be as much as $10 billion. GM has already paid $2.5 billion in legal costs and settlements related to the ignition switch defect, including a $900 million fine to the Justice Department and about $600 million as part of a compensation program to families of victims killed or those injured in accidents related to the faulty ignition switches. Those who settled in the compensation program can’t file another suit against GM.

The ignition switch defect, which allowed the key to inadvertently move to the “off” position and disable air bags, ultimately was tied to 124 deaths and hundreds of injuries. It led to a 2014 recall of nearly 2.59 million older cars.

A federal appeals court ruled last year that GM remains responsible for ignition-switch injuries and deaths that occurred pre-bankruptcy because the company knew about the problem for more than a decade, but kept it secret from the bankruptcy court.

The company said well-established bankruptcy law allowed the newly reorganized GM to obtain the old company’s assets “free and clear” of liabilities.

“The Supreme Court’s decision was not a decision on the merits, and it’s likely that the issues we raised will have to be addressed in the future in other venues because the Second Circuit’s decision departed substantially from well-settled bankruptcy law,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement. “As a practical matter, this doesn’t change the landscape much in terms of the GM litigation. The plaintiffs must still establish their right to assert successor liability claims. From there, they still have to prove those claims have merit.”

When it emerged as a new company in 2009 after bankruptcy, GM agreed to certain liabilities but as a new company was protected from some liabilities of the old company. That is known as its bankruptcy shield.

The new GM agreed to be liable for claims related to accidents occurring after — but not before — it emerged as a new company, even though the vehicles were built previous to that.

A number of injury, wrongful death and economic loss lawsuits have been filed against GM because of the defective switches. The automaker admitted it knew of the defect for years but did not recall the cars for more than a decade. It also paid fines to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled that claims against GM could continue, including pre-bankruptcy death and injury cases and pre-bankruptcy economic loss claims related to the ignition switch. GM does not know how many valid personal injury and death cases it may face.

Bob Hilliard, lead counsel representing many families of victims killed and those injured by GM’s defective ignition switches, said in a Monday statement that he hopes justice will now prevail for many.

“Even when GM told the world it was owning up to its mistakes and doing right by those they killed and injured, they were still ordering their lawyers to spare no expense or legal maneuver to try and stop these victims from having their day in court,” Hilliard said in a statement. “Now, GM can hide no more.”

At the end of January, GM said it knew of 100 class-action economic harm cases pending against the company in the U.S. and 21 in Canada related to the ignition switch. It also knew of 284 cases pending in federal and state courts in the U.S. and 14 in Canada alleging injury or death due to the defect.

GM has said it is unable to estimate its potential liability for those cases.

Some “bellwether” trials are slated for later this year and in 2018 in a group of consolidated lawsuits that allege injury or death. The outcomes of the bellwether cases could be used as a pattern for settlements in remaining cases against the automaker. In a series of earlier cases, juries for two cases ruled in favor of GM; the court dismissed one case; plaintiffs dismissed two cases before trial and three cases were settled.

Aside from the lawsuits, GM also faces an investigation by 49 state attorneys general and separate investigations by the Arizona attorney general and the Orange County, California, district attorney.

 

GM posts record 1Q results,
and stock market shrugs

Melissa Burden ,
The Detroit News
April 29, 2017

General Motors Co.’s net income in the first quarter soared nearly 34 percent to $2.61 billion, a new record for the three-month period. But the stock market largely shrugged off the results Friday.

While GM announced Friday six first-quarter records and another all-time record since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009 as a new company, the lackluster response from Wall Street will do little to ease pressure from a large shareholder that wants the automaker to create two classes of GM stock and bring on a slate of new board members in an effort the shareholder says would unlock value.

New York hedge fund Greenlight Capital Inc., which owns 52 million shares of GM, and its president, David Einhorn, want to create one class of stock to receive dividends and another to participate in earnings, cash flow and future growth. GM opposes the plan and is urging investors to vote the proposal down — as well as the three candidates nominated by Greenlight — at the company’s annual shareholders meeting June 6 in Detroit. A proxy from Greenlight explaining its position on the proposed changes was published Friday.

GM shares traded up 1.5 percent before markets opened Friday morning on news of the financial results driven by record first-quarter revenue aided by sales of profitable trucks and SUVs, strong performance in China and growth for its finance arm GM Financial. The automaker reaffirmed that earnings per share in 2017 will be at least as good as its record performance in 2016. But by day’s end, the stock price was up just 0.29 percent to $34.64 a share. That’s just slightly higher than the company’s 2010 initial public offering price of $33.

Barclays Capital Inc. analyst Brian A. Johnson, in a note to investors Friday, questioned whether the strong earnings report would change the financial market’s view of GM. He said investors appear focused on the “long-in-the-tooth U.S. auto cycle” that makes auto and automotive company stocks unattractive for some.

“We believe GM deserves to be better rewarded for overall strong results and execution,” he said. “But, unfortunately, sometimes the prevailing market sentiment can be overly difficult to fight.”

Investors had a much different response after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported Wednesday its net profit was up 34 percent: Its shares soared 10.5 percent. Ford Motor Co. said Thursday its net income fell 35 percent, and its stock closed down 1.1 percent.

GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens said the company’s performance set it up for another strong year in 2017. “(It was) another record quarter,” GM he told reporters Friday. “We’re executing our plan and it’s delivering results.”

The automaker set several first-quarter records since emerging as a new company following its 2009 bankruptcy: revenue at $41.2 billion, up 10.6 percent from a year ago; adjusted pre-tax earnings of $3.4 billion, up 27.9 percent from first-quarter 2016; adjusted pre-tax profit margin of 8.2 percent, up 1.1 percentage points from a year ago; and North America pre-tax adjusted earnings of $3.4 billion, up a whopping 48.8 percent.

Earnings per share were $1.70, well ahead of analyst calls for $1.48 a share. The company earned $1.26 a share in the quarter a year ago.

Research firm Evercore ISI analyst George Galliers, in a note to investors early Friday, correctly predicted GM stock would open higher, but fall during the day as it has on earnings days in recent quarters.

“Given the inventory build in North America, together with the fact that losses increased in other automotive segments, those who harbor concerns around H2 (second half of the year) are unlikely to be reassured by Q1’s result,” Galliers wrote.

The automaker has said it is building inventory ahead of plant downtime coming in the second half of the year as the company retools truck plants for its next-generation pickup. The company at the of end of March had 98 days worth of vehicles on dealer lots, higher than the 60-70 days supply analysts typically say is a healthy. Stevens on Friday said GM expects inventory to be at 70 days supply by the end of the year, consistent with levels at the end of 2016.

Much of the company’s profit was driven again by North America, where GM had record first-quarter revenue of $29.3 billion, an increase of 10.7 percent. Stevens said results were aided by $400 million in higher vehicle pricing and $500 million in cost trimming. Sales volume was up and GM built up inventory ahead of 10 weeks of combined plant downtime in the third quarter, Stevens said.

GM’s U.S. sales through March are up 0.9 percent to 689,521 vehicles, with crossover sales jumping 16 percent and trucks 3 percent in the quarter compared to 2016. Sales of large family-haulers are up, with Chevy Suburban sales jumping 25.9 percent and GMC Yukon sales rising 11.1 percent in the first quarter.

The company earned $504 million from its joint venture in China, down slightly from $518 million a year ago. Sales in China, GM’s largest sales region — 913,442 in total — are down 5.2 percent through the first three months of the year due to an earlier Chinese holiday and reduction in a tax incentive there. The company’s earnings for its International Operations, which includes China, totaled $319 million pre-tax for the quarter, down from $379 million.

In the rest of the world, results dropped from a year ago.

GM Europe posted a pre-tax loss of $201 million, significantly higher than the $6 million loss in the quarter a year ago. The company blamed the drop on negative foreign exchange related to Brexit, the United Kingdom’s vote last year to withdraw from the European Union. In March, GM announced it will sell its money-losing Opel and Vauxhall European brands and its GM Financial European operations to French automaker PSA Group, a deal that’s expected to close by year’s end.

GM South America posted a pre-tax loss of $115 million, up from a loss of $67 million a year earlier. GM blamed the drop mostly on challenging economic conditions. Earlier this month, GM opted to immediately cease operations in Venezuela after government authorities seized its lone factory there. The factory employed about 2,700. No vehicles had been built for more than a year.

Stevens said Friday the company is working through the legal system to gain access to its assets in the country.

“We haven’t been operating in a normal fashion there for 12-18 months,” Stevens said. “We don’t necessarily want to exit the country, but certainly it’s not an environment that you can invest in or run a normal business at this point.”

 

Your new F-150 might have been
built by Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg helps on the Ford assembly line where an F-150 is being produced.

Ian Thibodeau ,
 The Detroit News
April 28, 2017

Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg built part of a few Ford F-150s Thursday.

And then, of course, he shared the experience on Facebook.

The 32-year-old billionaire social media mogul said in a post that he stopped by Ford’s River Rouge Complex in Dearborn on Thursday. While there, he “played a very small part in assembling some new Ford F-150s on the line.”

Zuckerberg said he added antennas and bed cleats, set screws and signed an inspection sticker for one of the vehicles. He also said he sat down and spoke with some of the line workers, and wrote of his appreciation for their work.

 “Working on the line at an assembly plant is physically hard, and the people I met talked about how tiring it is and how worn down you get,” Zuckerberg wrote. “You have to be perfect, but the biggest challenge is having the focus to do the same thing over and over again.”

Zuckerberg met with Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr., toured multiple facilities, worked the assembly line and took a ride in one of Ford's autonomous Fusion Hybrid vehicles, a Ford spokeswoman said.

Zuckerberg was in Michigan as part of a personal "Year of Travel Challenge." He wanted to meet with Ford employees to learn about their work and how they are incorporating new technology and innovation into their business, the automaker said.

Thursday’s trip was Zuckerberg’s first time in Michigan. As of 4:30 p.m., Zuckerberg’s post had over 600 shares and 18,000 likes. The F-150 is Ford’s best-selling vehicle.

“Working at Ford is a long term thing,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Most of the workers I met had been at the plant for at least a decade, and a lot of them have kids and friends who work there, too. Someone told me that when you spend 11 hours a day, four days a week together, you end up becoming family and friends outside of work, too.”

 

Ford profits fall 35%
in first quarter

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
April 27, 2017

Ford Motor Co.’s profits fell 35 percent during the first quarter to $1.6 billion. The automaker attributed the drop to increased investment in trucks and SUVs and recall costs.

Its first-quarter pre-tax profit of $2.2 billion was down $1.6 billion from the same period a year ago when the Dearborn-based automaker had its best financial quarter in company history. The first-quarter slip will likely be the largest year-over-year slip for 2017, as the company expects to make $9 billion pre-tax profit in 2017, down from $10.4 billion last year, Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said Thursday. Results for the remaining quarters should have the company on track to meet projections.

The company posted earnings per share of 40 cents, and first-quarter revenue of $36.5 billion, beating Wall Street forecasts.

“The first quarter was an investment in Ford’s future,” said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields in a statement. “From announcing exciting vehicles... to initiatives such as our investment in Argo AI, we are fortifying our core business, while also investing in emerging opportunities that will deliver profitable growth.”

The lower first-quarter results, which beat analysts’ forecasts, are a result of increased costs from the company’s investment in trucks and utility vehicles. The first-quarter financials were also affected by the company spending $295 million on recalls, and adverse exchange rates abroad.

David Kudla, CEO and chief investment strategist with Mainstay Capital Management, said plateauing sales will begin to fall in 2017, which would hurt companies’ bottom lines, but regulatory changes from the Trump administration and strong truck and SUV sales could help companies remain healthy.

“Key commodity prices and spending on advanced technologies are up from a year ago,” Kudla said in a statement. “Brexit costs will also play a role. These will ripple throughout the auto industry this earnings season. Plus (first quarter 2016) was a phenomenal quarter across the board for the industry in the U.S. and will be an almost unfair comparison."

In a March regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Ford projected its first-quarter earnings per share to come in between 30 cents and 35 cents. Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said then that the company is still a good investment.

“We’re a strong global enterprise, we’ve weathered and we have thrived over the last seven years,” he said. “In 2017, we expect results again to be solid. ... We do expect the business to improve in 2018. That will be driven by improvements in core business.”

Kudla said Ford is reporting “solid” results, but said much remains to be seen this year.

“Their product line-up is very strong,” he said. “However, caution is warranted given industry headwinds.”

On Wednesday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported a first-quarter net profit of 641 million euros ($698 million), a 34 percent increase from the same quarter in 2016, when the company made 478 million euros ($520 million). Earnings per share were 0.41 euros, or 45 cents, in line with analysts’ expectations. That compares to 0.31 euros, or 35 cents, over the same period last year. General Motors Co. is set to report its first quarter results on Friday.

Mark Fields First Quarter Financial Results

Today, we are reporting our first quarter 2017 financial results.

Ford's results for the first quarter were solid and in line with our outlook for the full year. Total company revenue was up 4 percent year-over-year, while net income and adjusted pre-tax profit were both lower due mainly to higher cost and investment in new products and emerging opportunities, along with lower volume and adverse exchange effects.

We are reconfirming our guidance for 2017 adjusted pre-tax profit of about $9 billion and stronger results in 2018.

To achieve these commitments, we need to remain fully focused on our strategic priorities:

  • Fortifying our core strengths, including trucks, vans, utilities, performance vehicles, Ford Credit and FSCD;
  • Transforming traditionally underperforming parts of our core business, including Lincoln, small vehicles and emerging markets; and
  • Investing aggressively, but prudently, in emerging opportunities, including leading in electrification, autonomy and mobility.

Importantly, we also need to build on the progress we have made in cost reductions and efficiencies throughout the business. The reality is that, while we'll spend appropriately this year to fuel our future growth, our business is being hit by much higher commodity costs due to the external environment.

We will need to work together, as we have done before, to drive greater cost efficiencies across all parts of the business to mitigate these added costs and to further improve the fitness and competitiveness of our business.

You can view our news release here with details on our first quarter performance and outlook for the remainder of the year.

On behalf of the entire leadership team, thank you for all you are doing to help Ford Go Further.

Mark

 

 

Wall Street expects first
quarter dip for Ford

Ian Thibodeau ,
The Detroit News
April 26, 2017

Ford Motor Co. is expected to post first-quarter earnings on Thursday that are down from the same period a year ago, when the Dearborn-based automaker had its best financial quarter since it was founded more than a century ago.

Analysts’ forecasts follow predictions from Ford, which has said investments in autonomous vehicle technology, mobility services and other areas will cause profits to slip in 2017. Ford has said it expects to make an adjusted pre-tax profit of $9 billion this year, which is down from $10.4 billion in 2016.

Ford is expected to post earnings per share of about 36 cents, down from 68 cents per share a year ago, according to estimates from 14 analysts. The company is expected to post first-quarter revenue of $34.7 billion, down from $35.2 billion a year ago.

David Kudla, CEO and chief investment strategist with Mainstay Capital Management, said plateauing sales will begin to fall in 2017, which would hurt companies’ bottom lines, but regulatory changes from the Trump administration and strong truck and SUV sales could help companies remain healthy.

“Key commodity prices and spending on advanced technologies are up from a year ago,” Kudla said in a statement. “Brexit costs will also play a role. These will ripple throughout the auto industry this earnings season. Plus (first quarter 2016) was a phenomenal quarter across the board for the industry in the U.S. and will be an almost unfair comparison."

Other analysts issued stronger earnings forecasts for Ford based on solid production in North America and China, but still had the company coming in under its first-quarter 2016 numbers.

Ford also had a March recall of 230,000 vehicles in North America for a “lack of coolant circulation” that could cause engine fires, which could dampen profits. Combined with a recall for a door latch issue, Ford expected to spend $295 million on recalls, according to a regulatory filing.

In a March regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Ford projected its first-quarter earnings per share to come in between 30 cents and 35 cents. Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said then that the company is still a good investment.

“We’re a strong global enterprise, we’ve weathered and we have thrived over the last seven years,” he said. “In 2017, we expect results again to be solid. ... We do expect the business to improve in 2018. That will be driven by improvements in core business.”

Kudla said Ford is reporting “solid” results, but said much remains to be seen this year.

“Their product line-up is very strong,” he said. “However, caution is warranted given industry headwinds.”

On Wednesday, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported a first-quarter net profit of 641 million euros ($698 million), a 34 percent increase from the same quarter in 2016, when the company made 478 million euros ($520 million). Earnings per share were 0.41 euros, or 45 cents, in line with analysts’ expectations. That compares to 0.31 euros, or 35 cents, over the same period last year. General Motors Co. is set to report its first quarter results on Friday.

 

Ford Galaxy Spotted
in Detroit: Is Ford
Bringing this People
Carrier to the US?


April 24, 2017
Michael Curtis
TFLcar

For anyone interested in the automotive world, Detroit can be a great place to see some unique vehicles. It is not uncommon to see cars covered in plastic cladding and camouflage driving down the street. What some people don’t know, is that it is also somewhat common to see cars that are sold in different markets around the world. TFL reader Steve Hassell found one such vehicle in this Ford Galaxy that he caught cruising the streets of Woodhaven, MI.

There is a lot of speculation that can come with seeing a foreign market car driving around near Detroit. It could be a good indicator that Ford is thinking of bringing this vehicle to the US market. Or, it could mean nothing at all. We really don’t know why this vehicle is here, as Ford have not announced its arrival to the US market. However, it was not too long ago that we started seeing the Ford EcoSport pop up around Detroit and now Ford is bringing that vehicle to our market. Could the Ford Galaxy see the same fate?

To provide a little context for this vehicle, the Ford Galaxy is a 7-seater people carrier that is sold in most of Europe. Pictured Below:

There are some rumors that the Ford Flex, one of Ford’s current 7-seater options, could be discontinued by 2020. Is this the vehicle that will take over the Flex’s position?

Until we see it in an auto show, we really won’t know what Ford is doing with this vehicle in Detroit.

 

Trump goes after
Canada on energy,
dairy, lumber

Alexander Panetta
WASHINGTON 
 The Canadian Press
April 21, 2017

Ever since Donald Trump was elected last fall, Canada’s government has been clinging to a strategy of low-drama, under-the-radar conversations about trade that keep investors calm in the choppy waters of a NAFTA renegotiation.

The U.S. president has stopped co-operating.
Trump delivered his strongest-ever broadside at America’s northern neighbour Thursday, piling atop his complaints earlier in the week about Canadian dairy and adding fresh gripes for good measure – this time about energy and lumber.

“We can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers,” Trump said in the Oval Office.

“Included in there is lumber, timber and energy. We’re going to have to get to the negotiating table with Canada very, very quickly.”

This is the same president who recently played down irritants with Canada – he said he just wanted to do a little trade tweaking. Suddenly, he’s tweaking Canada’s nose – twice in a week, with his second twist even more forceful than the first.

Canadians will soon learn whether it’s just pre-negotiation bluster or a harbinger of hardball: Trump promised more details within a couple of weeks about his government’s plans for the North American Free Trade Agreement, with discussions likely to start later this year.

He provided no rationale for his complaints.
On energy, Canada provides the U.S. more than one-third of its oil imports – and does so under a stable, locked-in ratio guaranteed in NAFTA. On lumber, cheaper Canadian wood has reduced the cost of U.S. homes but also caused recurring legal spats with the U.S. industry that alleges product-dumping.

On dairy, he offered a scintilla of detail.

Trump made it obvious his complaints from earlier this week in Wisconsin were specifically about recent rule changes on milk classification, not on the longer-term issue of Canada’s supply-management system.
“Canada, what they’ve done to our dairy farm workers, is a disgrace. It’s a disgrace,” he said. “Rules, regulations, different things have changed – and our farmers in Wisconsin and New York state are being put out of business.”

It was a far cry from the tune Trump was singing in February.

After meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he lauded the bilateral trade relationship, saying it required only tweaking. He told people he was pleased with the meeting, and even gave Trudeau a friendly shout-out in his prime-time speech to Congress.

In an interview Thursday with Bloomberg, the prime minister sounded resigned to a future filled with presidential mood swings.

Asked about Trump’s remarks earlier in the week about dairy, Trudeau acknowledged the likelihood that the message from the White House might occasionally switch from one day to the next.
Indeed, he actually cast the topsy-turvy messaging as a positive thing. He called it an opportunity – a sign the president listens to the people he speaks with, and keeps an open mind to changing his views.

“(Trump is) a little bit unlike many politicians,” the prime minister said, acknowledging the magnitude of his understatement amid laughter from the crowd.
“As politicians we’re very much trained to say something and stick with it. Whereas he has shown if he says one thing and then actually hears good counter-arguments or good reasons why he should shift his position, he will take a different position if it’s a better one, if the arguments win him over.

“I think there’s a challenge in that for electors, but there’s also an opportunity in that for people who engage with him.”

Canada has ample reasons to engage.

U.S. policy-makers have decisions to make that will affect the northern neighbour on multiple fronts including: NAFTA, softwood lumber, the possibility of a U.S. import tax, and Buy American rules.

Already the uncertainty has caused some businesses to pause investments in Canada, according to the Bank of Canada.

In an effort to soothe those concerns, the Canadian government repeatedly portrays NAFTA negotiations as no big deal, just another adjustment to an agreement adjusted several times already.

While Trump’s “America First” attitude has yet to show up in any successful legislation, it has appeared in numerous executive actions, including the order he was signing in his office Thursday as he complained about Canada.

That order sets a timeline for his administration to study possible tariffs on foreign steel. Ironically, one of Trump’s guests in his office for the signing ceremony was the head of the United Steelworkers union – Leo Gerard, a Canadian, born in Sudbury, Ont.

Trump’s gripes about Canada came at the end of his remarks about steel. He prefaced them by saying, “I wasn’t going to do this,” then launched into complaints about Canadian dairy, wood, and energy and its impact on the U.S.

The Canadian government responded with a statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

On dairy, Freeland said, Canada buys five times more than it sells to the U.S.; on lumber, Canadian producers have always prevailed in past court cases, and a protracted dispute would only drive up U.S. housing costs.

And as for oil, she described the stable supply from Canada as a job-creating lifeblood of the U.S. economy.

“Our government will always defend Canada’s interests,” she said.

“Any increase of trade barriers between our countries would significantly impact jobs in the United States, as well as in Canada.”

 

GM says Venezuela
has seized its car plant

CNN
by Alanna Petroff

April 20, 2017

General Motors says it will immediately halt operations in Venezuela after its plant in the country was unexpectedly seized by authorities.

GM (GM) described the takeover as an "illegal judicial seizure of its assets."

The automaker said the seizure showed a "total disregard" of its legal rights. It said that authorities had removed assets including cars from company facilities.

"[GM] strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights," it said in a statement.

Authorities in Venezuela, which is mired in a severe economic crisis, did not respond to requests for comment.

It was not immediately clear why authorities seized the GM plant. Huge swaths of Venezuela's economy have been nationalized in the years since former President Hugo Chavez rose to power. Under Chavez, who took office in 1999, the state took control of private oil, telecommunications, energy and cement businesses.

President Nicolas Maduro has continued the tradition, while blaming the United States and its companies for Venezuela's economic and political problems.

"Government decision making is increasingly incoherent. It's difficult to understand the rationale," said Nicolas Watson, head of Latin American research at Teneo Intelligence.

Automakers in the country have struggled because they've been unable to access U.S. dollars to import parts, said Watson.
The GM plant in Valencia employs nearly 2,700 workers, but stopped producing cars in 2015 and has only been selling spare parts since then, a company spokesperson said.

GM said it would make "separation payments" to its workers.

Venezuela is in crisis mode: The country's economy shrank by 18% in 2016 -- its third consecutive year of recession. Unemployment is set to surpass 25%, and its people have suffered from widespread shortages of food and medicine.

Hyperinflation has wiped out the value of its currency, the bolivar. The price of consumer goods has skyrocketed.
Large-scale protests erupted in recent weeks after Maduro's administration barred opposition leader Henrique Capriles from holding political office for the next 15 years. At least nine people have been killed in the protests.

Maduro has been accused by the opposition of behaving like a dictator.

In late March, the loyalist-backed Supreme Court tried to strip the opposition-led National Assembly of its powers, but quickly reversed course after a severe public outcry. The Supreme Court also blocked all reforms from opposition lawmakers.

A slew of global firms have pulled out of the country or been forced to halt operations as a result of government interference or moves to put key sectors of the economy under state control.

ExxonMobil (XOM) pulled the plug on its operations in Venezuela in 2007 after former President Hugo Chavez attempted to nationalize one of its projects. The oil producer then took the government to court.

In 2016, Kleenex maker Kimberly-Clark (KMB) suspended its operations in Venezuela, citing the country's "rapidly escalating inflation" and the "continued deterioration of economic and business conditions."

The government called the closure illegal. It took over operations at the facility days later, according to state-run media.

Coca-Cola (KO) was also forced to halt production of Coke and other sugar-sweetened beverages last year due to a sugar shortage.

 

Trump to crack down
on exemptions to
‘Buy American’ policies

Despite NAFTA protections, the move might hurt Canadian companies.

By Daniel Dale
Washington Bureau
Toronto Star

April 19, 2017

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump is planning to sign an executive order on Tuesday that will crack down on exemptions to federal “Buy American” policies, a move that could hurt Canadian companies.

The administration’s new policy is to “minimize the granting of waivers,” an official who insisted on anonymity said in a briefing on Monday.

“The message here is clear: Buy American is the Trump administration’s highest priority,” the official said. “When it comes to spending taxpayer dollars, agencies have their clear marching orders, and they will be held strictly accountable for any failure to fulfil the Buy American vision.”

Buy American provisions require the government to use American firms rather than foreign firms.

The North American Free Trade Agreement is supposed to protect Canadian firms from Buy American on significant purchases. For example, Canadian firms are allowed to compete for goods contracts of more than $25,000 U.S. and construction contracts of more than $10.1 million.

But an expert on Canada-U.S. trade, Dan Ujczo, said the order will likely do immediate harm to Canadian businesses anyway, sending a clear message to U.S. government officials that they should not favour bids that involve foreign firms and materials.

“It sends a chilling effect down to all the agency heads, where they’re not going to even consider bids that have foreign components from Canadian suppliers,” said Ujczo, an Ohio lawyer with Dickinson Wright. “It’s going to send that chill all the way through agencies and departments that are otherwise inclined to favour the most efficient and cost-effective bid.”

The chill might extend further. The order, Ujczo said, will likely prompt some U.S. companies to use domestic suppliers rather than better-value Canadians. And state governments might now choose to avoid foreign firms in projects funded in part by Trump’s federal government, he said.

The usual caveats apply. Canada was not mentioned during the briefing. As with most of Trump’s executive orders, it was not clear how much it was intended merely to serve as political rhetoric rather than make actual change.

But the order signals that Canadian officials have a Buy American fight on their hands as they head into a possible renegotiation of NAFTA. Among other things, the order will instruct the U.S. “to take a very hard look at how waivers of Buy American in our free trade agreements may be a poster child of unfair and non-reciprocal trade,” an official said.

Canadian officials have lobbied against Buy American for years, with varying success. They managed to secure a partial exemption for Canada from the economic-stimulus law signed by Barack Obama in 2009.

Big Canadian companies with U.S. operations and top lawyers will likely manage to manoeuvre around Trump’s crackdown, but smaller firms will be hit harder, Ujczo said.

 

Condolences
go out to Bill Ewles
and Brian O'Dell

Our deepest condolences go out to the Families of Retiree
Bill Ewles and Brian O'Dell on the loss of their spouses


Jacqueline "Jackie" Anne O'Dell
January 4, 1938 - April 10, 2017

O'Dell, Jacqueline 'Jackie' (nee Gardner)

It is with great sadness that the family announces the peaceful passing of Jackie at the Guelph General Hospital on April 10, 2017 at the age of 79. Beloved wife of Brian for 42 years. Loving mother of Jeffrey. Cherished grandmother of Katrina (Rob) and Joshua. She will also be missed by extended family and many friends. As per Jackie's wishes, cremation has taken place. A graveside service will be held at Glen Morris Cemetery, 458 East River Road, Glenn Morris, Brant on Friday, April 21, 2017 at 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family wishes that donations be made in honour of Jackie to a charity of your choice.

Link

 


Ewles, Virginia "Ginny"
Virginia Ewles
1940 - April 13, 2017

Virginia Ewles

Ewles, Virginia "Ginny" - Peacefully on Thursday April 13th, 2017 at Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville. Virginia Belle (nee Barber) in her 77th year. Beloved wife of Bill for 53 years. Loving mother of Brian and his wife Jennifer. Proud grandma of Tori and Cole. Dear sister of Joy Montgomery. Proud aunt of Julie, Jennifer and Terri. Ginny will be sadly missed by her longtime friends Don, Dorrie, Donald and Melanie. Friends will be received at the J.S. Jones & Son Funeral Home 11582 Trafalgar Rd., north of Maple Ave., on Monday from 7-9 p.m. and Tuesday from 2-4 & 7-9 p.m. Funeral service will be held in the chapel on Wednesday April 19th, at 11:00 a.m. Interment Dixon Union Cemetery, Brampton. In memory contributions to the Canadian Cancer Society would be appreciated. To send expressions of sympathy visit jsjonesandsonfuneralhome

Link


 

Car Insurnace In Ontario
is More Expensive

April 18, 2017

Car insurance in Ontario is unquestionably more expensive than any other jurisdiction in Canada. But the reasons to justify those costly premiums are not so clear.

Contrary to popular belief, Ontario has the lowest per capita rate of car accidents causing death or significant injury in all of Canada. Accidents that do cause injury are typically minor in nature, causing slight sprains and cases of whiplash. In these instances, car insurance companies cover the cost of medical care and rehabilitative therapy without much question.

However, the amount of injury claims in Ontario throughout 2014 exceeded $143,000, according to the General Insurance Statistical Agency. In contrast, the amount of accident claims in Alberta, the province with the second highest average quotes under private insurance systems, totaled less than $13,000.

One of the reasons for the higher volume of injury claims in Ontario is private medical clinics. Many of these clinics steer drivers towards the most expensive medical care for bodily injuries, including minor sprains, to fuel accelerated profits.

When insurance claims are submitted for these treatments, the amounts cited in the claims are typically more expensive than the driver actually requires. Insurers pay out those ramped up claims, but recoup the costs of those payouts by raising car insurance rates. These rate increases are passed onto all drivers in Ontario, regardless of their records and driving habits.

The Ontario government and the IBC suspect that many private clinics fuel rampant car insurance fraud that exists in the province. Fraud around the Greater Toronto Area has been repeatedly cited by insurance experts as one of the primary reasons that Ontario drivers are punished with higher rates.

The model of passing the cost of fraudulent insurance claims onto all drivers is fueling interest in usage based car insurance. UBI utilizes a small telematics device installed inside a vehicle to monitor the unique habits of that particular driver. The data is shared with insurance companies, who then reward positive driving habits with lower car insurance rates.

If car insurance is becoming too expensive for you, whether in Ontario or elsewhere, take some time to review other options. There are ways to acquire cheaper premiums without sacrificing quality coverage, and some of those ways are doable with only a few clicks online.

 

Ford Says Happy Mustang Day,
Announces 2018 Shelby
GT350 and GT350R

Couldn’t get a 2017? It’s time to celebrate

Automobile
Ed Tahaney
April 17, 2017

April 17 happens to be National Mustang Day, and in observance of this pony car celebration Ford confirms that production of the high-performance Shelby GT350 and GT350R variants continues into the 2018 model year. They go on sale this fall, and there’s no word about any changes in price yet.

Don’t expect the cost of the GT350 and GT350R to change too much because there are only alterations to the color palette for the 2018 model year. Customers will now be able to order the muscle cars in Kona Blue, Lead Food Gray, and Orange Fury. 

If you missed your chance on buying a 2017 Shelby GT350 or GT350R Mustang, Ford has announced that it has extended the availability to its 2018 models. The news seems like a no brainer to us, especially since today is also National Mustang Day.

The extra-fast Mustang is powered 5.2-liter V-8 engine that offers 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. It also features engine oil, transmission, and differential coolers to keep the car properly cooled for racing on the track. It probably doesn’t hurt for traffic jams on the freeway either.

Other standard goodies on the 2018 Mustang include front brakes with vented 15.5-inch two-piece front rotors and six-piston Brembo calipers. There’s also a MagneRide damping system to keep the drive smooth.

2018 buyers get three new paint shades to choose from – Orange Fury, Kona Blue, and Lead Foot Gray.

Ford also released a “Bringing Art to Life” video that features the Shelby GT350 and GT350R. Ehab Kaoud, Ford chief designer and artist, narrates the short.

Kaoud has drawn, sketched, and painted Mustangs for years, plus he gets to test drive them too. You can see some of his recent work in the photo gallery below.

If you can’t afford a new Mustang, Ford offers free downloadable ring tones of the exhaust note in track mode here. The audio plays the sound of the exhaust in track mode as the Mustang races up to 155 mph.

More Ford Ringtones

“We created this system to provide customers with a sound experience that best complements the exhilaration of driving the Mustang,” said Carl Widmann, Mustang chief engineer in a release.

“The total excitement is something you don’t just feel, you hear.”

Maybe FoMoCo can add the new sound effects to the EcoSport to help with sales? Just saying.


In March, a group of Shelby owners filed a class-action lawsuit claiming some of Ford’s 2016 Shelby GT350 Mustangs aren’t as powerful as the automaker has advertised.

Four plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial to determine whether damages are owed, or if Ford used deceptive marketing for the hot rod, according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Shelby owners by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and attorneys at Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen.


 

Senate blocks Liberals’ plan
to repeal ‘anti-union’ law

OTTAWA
Bill Curry
The Globe and Mail

Apr. 15, 2017

In one of its first acts after winning the 2015 federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government moved to reverse two Conservative laws that Canada’s labour leaders viewed as an attack on unions.

When the House of Commons passed the legislation last fall, Mr. Trudeau boasted of this accomplishment to a large and appreciative gathering of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Now that pledge is suddenly in jeopardy after the Senate voted to keep one of those two laws in place.

The Senate has amended the government’s Bill C-4 in a way that reverses part of its original intent, meaning the House of Commons must now vote on whether to accept or reject the Senate’s changes. The government is already signalling it will oppose the Senate amendments, setting the stage for a standoff between the two Houses of Parliament.

The back story of this long-running parliamentary drama dates back to the later years of the Harper Conservative government, when two private members’ bills from backbench Conservative MPs – C-377 and C-525 – managed to become law.

C-377, which received royal assent in 2015, required labour organizations to make a series of public financial disclosures, including all transactions of more than $5,000. C-525, which passed in 2014 and came into effect in 2015, forces a secret-ballot vote for any decision to certify or decertify a union.

That replaced the previous practice – known as the card-check system – in which workers could unionize by collecting union membership signatures from a majority of workers. Union leaders said the Conservative change makes it much harder to form a union, because secret-ballot votes tend to be held on the premises of a workplace and the campaigns can lead to intimidation from management.

Critics of the card-check system – including the Fraser Institute – argue a secret ballot protects workers from intimidation from pro-union organizers.

The Trudeau government introduced Bill C-4 in January, 2016. The bill’s original intent was to repeal both C-377 and C-525. The House approved the bill in October and sent it to the Senate.

But in a 43 to 34 vote, the Senate voted on Tuesday to amend the Liberal government’s Bill C-4 in a way that keeps C-525 and its secret-ballot voting requirements intact. The change was mostly supported by Conservative senators, with the support of some Liberals and independents.

“The Senate and senators have the duty and responsibility to correct this bill, which was written by the government for the sole purpose of benefiting the powerful union groups that helped it get elected in 2015 in exchange for the measures contained in Bill C-4,” Conservative Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais told the Senate in advocating for the amendments.

A spokesperson for federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu signalled that the government would be voting to reverse the Senate changes.

Senators would then have another chance to vote on the bill when it is returned to them by the House of Commons. Traditionally, the Senate would defer to the will of the elected House, but the Red Chamber has become increasingly unpredictable since Mr. Trudeau began appointed senators who sit as independents.

Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, said he has received assurances from the government that the Senate changes would be rejected.

“For the 60 years that the [card-check] system has been in place, nobody has ever shown any evidence that there were problems with the system that required change,” he said. “It prevents employers from intimidating and interfering. … Every time there is a vote, employers do interfere. They express their opinion. They threaten to close the workplace.”

 

Ford China sales slide
in March, GM’s grow

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
April 15, 2017

General Motors Co.’s said its March sales in China were the largest spike upward in months, while crosstown rival Ford Motor Co. saw overall sales decrease compared to the same month a year ago in the world’s largest auto market.

Ford and its joint ventures sold 90,457 vehicles in March, a 21 percent drop from the previous period. Ford attributed the sales nosedive in China to a “weaker retail industry” after a cut to Chinese tax incentives for certain vehicles. Ford sold 255,261 vehicles in the first quarter of 2017, down 19 percent compared to the same time a year ago.

Meanwhile, GM and its joint ventures sold a record 345,448 vehicles in March, a 16 percent increase from March 2016. GM said the sales increase was the largest increase since last August.

“SUVs, MPVs and luxury vehicles will help us further tap into the market’s growth potential,” GM Executive Vice President and GM China President Matt Tsien said in a statement. “We will continue to expand and upgrade our offerings across segments. Many of our new models will be on display at this month’s Auto Shanghai 2017.”

The Detroit automaker said its Buick, Cadillac and Baojun brand sales all hit new sales records in March, with SUVs carrying the brand in the country.

Buick sales increased by 21 percent to a record 88,519 vehicles sold; Cadillac sales jumped 63 percent to 12,369 vehicles sold; and GM’s Baojun brand spiked 81 percent to 81,353 vehicles sold.

Ford said the company said its is still seeing demand for its larger vehicles in China. Despite the overall sales slip for March and the first quarter, sales of the Dearborn automaker’s Everest, Edge and Taurus all increased in the first quarter of the year compared to last year. Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand sales doubled to 12,000 vehicles sold compared the the first quarter 2016.

“We continue to see strong demand from Chinese customers for our premium Taurus large sedan, Edge and Everest SUVs and performance vehicles in the first quarter,” Peter Fleet, vice president of Ford’s Asia Pacific marketing, sales and service, said in a statement. “We are pleased with the momentum that Lincoln continues to make in China, as evidenced by its outstanding performance in the first quarter ”

Ford also released March sales results for the European market, where the company saw a 14 percent increase in sales over last year, moving 199,900 vehicles. The company’s SUVs and commercial vehicles boost the brand there.

 

Lincoln debuts first all-new
Navigator in a decade

Ford Navigator

Melissa Burden
& Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
April 13, 2017

New York — The Lincoln Motor Co. on Wednesday will unveil its 2018 Lincoln Navigator flagship SUV, a stylish three-row family-hauler.

The first all-new Navigator in a decade is also Lincoln’s fifth new vehicle introduced since the company started a rebirth campaign in 2012. The full-size SUV will catch a wave of growing SUV and truck sales in the U.S., bringing to market a hauler packed full of new technology, interior space, storage and tweaks aimed at making the ride smoother, quieter and more attuned to driver and passenger needs.

The new SUV’s exterior is elegant, with Lincoln’s new metal honeycomb grille that debuted on the 2017 Continental. The automaker used some aluminum body parts for the Navigator, and utilized it extensively elsewhere. The new Navigator is nearly 200 pounds lighter than the outgoing model even though it’s longer.

Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific, said Lincoln did its homework. He said the Navigator should increase sales with the new generation and poses real competition for the Cadillac Escalade.

“It checks all the right boxes ... big, bold, unique, powerful, and luxurious. It’s not a warmed-over Expedition either,” Sullivan said. “This new Navigator could restore it to the glory it once had 20 years ago in 1997. It owned the market then. This is the best shot the Navigator has in picking up share before the redesigned Escalade hits the market in a few years.”

Lincoln pretty much invented the large luxury SUV when it introduced the original Navigator in 1997. It led the market segment and was selling more than 30,000 Navigators per year in the early 2000s, peaking at nearly 39,000 in 2003, according to Kelley Blue Book. It eventually lost its edge to competitors including the Escalade, and an aging design due in part to Ford Motor Co.’s near-bankruptcy during the economic downturn. Last year, Lincoln sold only 10,421 Navigators despite the SUV boom.

Similar to Lincoln’s flagship Continental, which relaunched late last year, much of the Navigator’s charm is in the interior. Soft, warm and premium materials are used. There’s plenty of storage throughout, with a place for purses on the console.

The driver and front passenger seats offer massage, heating and cooling functions, as well as Lincoln’s 30-way adjustable option that debuted on the Continental. A personal profile can set seating, steering wheel, climate control, favorite radio stations and even navigation, for up to three drivers, Kumar Galhotra, Lincoln president, said at a sneak peek Tuesday ahead of the Navigator’s official reveal at the New York International Auto Show.

Second-row passengers have climate control, and the third-row seats have power recline capability, too, so no one gets squished in the back row. The second row seats on the 2018 model move forward with a quick slide, allowing easy access to the third row.

David Woodhouse, Lincoln design director, calls the interior “massively different” from the current-generation Navigator, last refreshed in 2015. He calls it a move away from a cockpit feel to a more calm environment. Ambient lights illuminate the interior at night, and during the day a panoramic sunroof allows natural light into the vehicle.

“Interior space is very important,” Galhotra said. “Generally they have kids, kids are very active. The families themselves are very, very active. So we wanted to design the vehicle not just for the driver, but for the entire family because the entire family experiences the vehicle together.”

When drivers approach the Navigator with a key fob, the LED lights on the lower front of the SUV and the tailamps light up very softly. “We call it the Lincoln embrace,” Galhotra said. “We literally want to create that feeling that the vehicle is welcoming you.”

The new Navigator comes standard with a twin-turbo V-6 engine that cranks out 450 horsepower and is paired to a 10-speed transmission. Fuel economy information was not yet available. The 2017 Navigator averages 15 miles per gallon city and 21 mpg highway.

The new Lincoln has optional trailer backup assist, 360-degree camera and enhanced park-assist and adaptive cruise control. There are three Lincoln Black Label options, which alter interior design themes and materials, in addition to other membership benefits.

The Navigator is built in Kentucky. Pricing information has not been released. A 2017 Navigator starts at $63,515.

 

Lincoln focused on ‘experience’
as brand sales grow

Ian Thibodeau ,
The Detroit News
April 12, 2017

Changes at Lincoln Motor Co. look to be more than skin deep.

The automaker is fresh off a year that saw Lincoln sales grow by 10 percent in the United States and triple in China. There are buzz-worthy commercials with Matthew McConaughey, and a print campaign shot by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz featuring young musicians, artists and actors lounging in the sleek new Continental sedan. And Lincoln is expected to debut an all-new Navigator this week at the New York Auto Show, bolstering the SUV lineup of Ford’s luxury brand.

That rebranding — and the addition of the Continental late in 2016 — has overall Lincoln sales up 8.7 percent through March. Sedan sales for the luxury brand are up 17 percent at a time when American consumers favor SUVs and trucks.

“The Continental is the first Lincoln in a very long time that doesn’t look like the Ford interior designer was loaned out to the Lincoln team,” said Dave Sullivan, product analyst with AutoPacific. “This is the most welcomed thing I’ve seen from the brand. The Continental has a unique feel and appearance, from the seats to the switches.”

As Lincoln ups it game against high-end luxury automakers like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi — while sparring with hometown rival Cadillac — an amplified focus on customer experiences is helping draw buyers to the once-lackluster brand.

“Lincoln is going after a customer that even Lexus has left behind,” said Sullivan. “They have really tried to embrace the overall experience and not just the car.”

The addition of a president to the Lincoln brand in 2014 also signified that Ford was making Lincoln a “key element” in its strategy, which is driven by changing the company’s image, according to industry analysts. That approach has helped the brand recalibrate, said Kumar Galhotra, president of Lincoln.

“Our thought process is extremely consumer-centric,” said Galhotra. “We’re starting with the consumer first, getting a very visceral understanding of what role cars play in their life.”

That required Lincoln to spend time researching not only where it could save its customers time, but how customers physically interact with a vehicle.

Galhotra said the Continental is engineered to “bring the car to life very softly” when the vehicle detects the key fob from roughly 18 feet away. The headlights turn on and running lights illuminate; a glow in the interior creates a warm welcome that doesn’t shock the senses, Galhotra said. Lincoln used customer input to redesign door handles for a more ergonomic design; seats, which have a 30-way adjustable option with presets, can be memorized for multiple drivers.

Continental customers also spurred some tweaks to Lincoln’s customer service, such as complimentary pick-up and delivery for vehicle servicing on all 2017 and future models. Previously, those who purchased Lincoln’s optional Black Label experience package, which adds around $6,000 to the sticker price, had the pick-up service in addition to custom vehicle interiors and membership perks like VIP-style meals and free car washes.

That added brand-wide perk caters to Lincoln customers by focusing on what Lincoln determined what a customer’s most valued asset: time.

“We noticed that the greatest luxury is time,” Galhotra said. With that service, “the customer’s life is not interrupted at all.”

Lincoln has not declared its most recent rebranding a victory, but the the company has seen sales grow at a faster pace than other luxury brands, and customers seem overall more happy with the Lincoln brand, said Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst with IHS Automotive.

With a 0.7 percent market share through March (up 0.1 point from the same period a year ago), Lincoln has the smallest piece of the market when compared to Mercedes-Benz (2.1 percent market share through the end of March, up 0.1 point); BMW (1.8 percent share, up 0.1 point); Audi (1.1 percent share, up 0.1 point); and Cadillac (0.8 percent share, down 0.1 point).

The new pieces Lincoln has in play could help Lincoln separate itself from other brands, Brinley said. Lincoln might not trump BMW, but she said Lincoln’s customer service could pull in luxury buyers from other automakers.

While Lincoln sales were up, sales of Ford-branded cars were down 4.9 percent through March. Why the discrepancy?

“Part of it is a good product mix,” Brinley said. “... They’re constantly improving, offering these cars and this customer service that is a little bit different.”

While the customer service perks take a while to develop and catch on, Brinley said Lincoln’s SUVs could keep the brand from struggling where sedan-heavy luxury brands, like Cadillac, might suffer as the market moves to favor utility vehicles.

For Carrie Way, executive manager of the Crest Lincoln dealership in Sterling Heights, the customer service carries sales more than any new technology or feature in a Lincoln vehicle.

“The product speaks for itself,” she said. “The customer service we offer here has influenced the decision people make when they change from driving” a different brand.

On the sales side, Way has seen a culture change. She makes an effort to sell Lincoln’s service in addition to the vehicle.

“Clients have done a lot of research already,” she said. “They’re choosing who they want to do business with ... we’re on show.”

The company is also buoyed by a growing demand for luxury vehicles in China, which spurred Lincoln to plan an all-new SUV exclusive to China by the end of 2019.

With the release of the new Lincoln Navigator SUV on the horizon, Galhotra said Lincoln focused on meeting customer needs with a luxury experience.

“We’ve got really excellent coverage,” said Galhotra. “We’re very, very focused on the experience... the object still has to be beautiful, but it has to offer an emotional and a functional experience that makes you feel good.”

 

Ford reveals updated Explorer
for 2018 model year

2018 Ford Explorer

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News
April 11, 2017

New York — Ford Motor Co. introduced a refreshed 2018 Ford Explorer featuring new front and rear styling and enhanced technology during a media reveal Monday.

The latest Explorer will have an available 4G-embedded modem including a Wi-Fi hotspot, along with new safety packages, four new exterior colors and five new wheel designs. Sync Connect allows owners to remotely connect with their SUVs using FordPass.

Ford revealed the updated SUV ahead of press days for the New York International Auto Show.

The Dearborn automaker launched the SUV in 1991 and it has become one the company’s sales leaders. It was last refreshed for the 2016 model year and then received a new engine and a platinum trim-level.

The 2018 Explorer will be available this fall. It will be built at the company’s Chicago Assembly Plant.

Explorer sales through the first three months of the year totaled 54,671, down 2.2 percent from the same months in 2016. Sales in 2016 totaled 216,294, down 3.6 percent from 2015 figures.

Ford predicts SUV growth to continue, growing from 40 percent of non-premium U.S. retail sales to up to 50 percent in the next five to seven years.

Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said the average sales price of Ford SUVs have grown by about $4,000 in the past few years as consumers select higher trim lines.

“If we respond to consumer demand, we’ll continue to innovate, keep improving fuel economy, keep adding technology, keep proliferating series mix and the number of entries,” LaNeve said. “That’s what fuels the growth.”

Analysts expect to see an all-new Explorer in the next two to three years. The company plans to launch five new SUVs in North America by 2020 including the EcoSport, a new electric SUV and the Bronco

 

Pursuit-rated Ford hybrid
police cars debut

Ford’s Police Responder Hybrid sedan

Jim Lynch and Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
April 10, 2017

The continued evolution of hybrid engines has allowed their use in an expanding variety of cars and trucks. And now, Ford Motor Co. has announced the first pursuit-rated hybrid police cruiser.

Ford’s Police Responder Hybrid sedan will premiere first with law enforcement agencies in New York and Los Angeles, offering officers a new toy based on the company’s Fusion model. Under the hood of the four-door vehicles will be Atkinson-cycle 2-liter engines paired with an electric motor powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries.

A key selling point for these new police cars is the money municipalities could save through greater fuel efficiency. Responder sedans will get an estimated 38 mpg — more than double what traditional Ford Police Interceptors get with their 3.6-liter V-6 engines.

Ford officials estimate each Responder could save $3,877 per year, with a gas price of $2.50 per gallon.

Responders will spend most of their time, when running below 60 mph, in battery-only mode. When higher speeds are needed, the vehicle’s regular engine works in conjunction with the battery motor.

“Our mission to create safe and healthy communities in Los Angeles is achieved through sustainable approaches in community policing, and that includes embracing new technologies,” said Charlie Beck, Los Angeles Police Department chief. “Patrol vehicles are a police officer’s office, and we expect them to not only be economically and environmentally efficient but also an effective tool for fighting crime in major metropolitan areas.”

Following their debut in Los Angeles and New York, the Responder Hybrid Sedan can be ordered by other departments this spring for delivery next year.

 

Ford plans to push
pickups in China

Ford Motor Co announced Friday another expansion planned in the Chinese market The company will sell the Ranger pickup there starting in 2018

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
April 9, 2017

Ford Motor Co. announced Friday another expansion planned in the Chinese market: The company will sell the Ranger pickup there starting in 2018.

The move capitalizes on growing Chinese interest in pickups. Ford said the introduction of the Ranger to the market will also help introduce the “Built Ford Tough” marketing campaign in China this year. The announcement marks a slew of recent Ford moves in the Chinese market, and comes as the Chinese government has begun easing restrictions on pickup usage in the country’s city centers.

“We see an opportunity to satisfy unmet need in China — for world-class, stylish and refined pickups — and also to be a pioneer in this emerging segment,” said Dave Schoch, president of Ford Asia Pacific and CEO of Ford China, in a news release. “Built Ford Tough is a proven brand, dating back to 1976 and we believe it has the opportunity to resonate powerfully with Chinese consumers.”

The Ranger will be the second Ford pickup to enter the Chinese market.

In February, Ford started shipping the 2017 F-150 Raptor to China, marking the first time the Dearborn-based automaker had exported a U.S.-built F-Series to China. On Thursday, Ford announced plans to introduce two electric vehicles in that market, and the Lincoln brand will launch an all-new SUV exclusive to China in coming years.

“We’re very excited to bring Built Ford Tough, one of the world’s best loved and most successful brands, to customers in the world’s largest auto market,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, in a news release. “We see a significant white-space opportunity with Chinese buyers increasingly looking for more capable, more refined and more stylish pickups.”

Ford and its joint ventures in 2016 sold a record 1.27 million vehicles in China, though the company’s imported vehicle volume for 2016 was down overall from 2015.

The company sells the Ranger in various markets around the world. The company announced in January that it would build and sell an all-new Ranger in the U.S. by 2019.

 

Ford to expand EV
offerings in China

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
April 7, 2017

Ford Motor Co. plans to introduce two electric vehicles in China, with the first coming to market next year.

The automaker announced Thursday it plans to introduce the Mondeo Energi plug-in hybrid sedan in early 2018. It will be built in China through the Changan Ford joint venture.

In addition, Ford will launch an all-electric small SUV in China, North America and Europe within five years. That unnamed vehicle is slated to be built at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

 “The time is right for Ford to expand our EV lineup and investments in China,” Mark Fields, Ford’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We are prioritizing our electrification efforts on China to reflect its importance as a global electrified vehicle market and to make lives better, simpler and more cost-effective for Chinese consumers.”

The Mondeo Energi will have an electric drive range of up to 31 miles, allowing battery use for city driving and gas for longer trips. Ford said the fully electric SUV will have an estimated drive range of 280 miles.

Ford China in 2016 launched the Mondeo Hybrid version of the sedan.

The announcement comes less than a month after Ford announced its Lincoln brand would partner with Changan to produce an all-new Lincoln SUV in China by 2019. Ford and other U.S. automakers have seen sales grow in China over the past year.

Ford and its joint ventures in 2016 sold a record 1.27 million vehicles in China, though the company’s imported vehicle volume for 2016 was down overall from 2015. Ford recently began exporting the 2017 F-150 Raptor to China, too.

Along with the announcement of two new electric vehicles in China, Ford said it will “offer a comprehensive range of electrified solutions by 2025,” which include hybrids, plug-ins and fully battery-powered vehicles. Ford said by 2025, 70 percent of its nameplates will have electrified powertrain options, which includes those vehicles made through the joint venture.

By 2020, Ford will be manufacturing electrified powertrains in China as well. Thursday’s announcements further Ford’s $4.5 billion, five-year commitment made in 2015 to introduce 13 new global electric vehicles by 2020, seven of which will launch within that time frame.

 

U.S. reviews Ford recall of
cars prone to overheating

Tom Krisher,
Associated Press
April 6, 2017

Detroit — The U.S. government’s auto safety agency is reviewing a Ford Motor Co. recall of thousands of cars, SUVs and vans that can run low on coolant and potentially overheat and catch fire after the company proposed a remedy that doesn’t fix the coolant problem.

Ford notified the agency about the recall, which has caused 29 engine fires, in paperwork dated last week. The automaker said it would install a sensor that warns owners when coolant is low in the 1.6-Liter turbocharged engines. The sensor does not solve the underlying problem of vanishing coolant.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Tuesday it is reviewing the recall. “The agency will take appropriate action as necessary,” a NHTSA spokeswoman said in a statement. She would not provide further details. The agency confirmed the review after The Associated Press raised questions about Ford’s remedy.

NHTSA could determine that the fix solves the fire problem, or it could open an investigation to see if more repairs are needed.

Experts say coolant shouldn’t become depleted in newer cars, and that Ford may be cutting costs by shifting responsibility for the problem to owners. Coolant could be leaking from a number of places, or the engine could be burning it, both of which could cause significant engine trouble down the road — especially if owners don’t religiously watch coolant levels and act immediately if they get low.

“All you’re doing is monitoring a symptom, not solving a problem,” said John Nielsen, managing director of automotive engineering for AAA. “A healthy engine doesn’t leak coolant at all. Ever.”

The recall includes about 230,000 vehicles in North America. Ford said engines can overheat if coolant gets low, causing the cylinder head to crack and spew oil that can catch fire. No injuries have been reported in any of the fires.

Parts won’t be available to install the coolant-level sensor until later this year. In the meantime, Ford will send letters to owners telling them how to check coolant and add some if it gets low.

Elizabeth Weigandt, a company spokeswoman, said the sensor solves the safety problem. “You would stay informed as to how much coolant you have in the engine,” she said. “That would address the unique risk of the cylinder head cracking.”

The new sensor would turn on a dashboard warning light, she said.

In North America the recall includes Escape SUVs from the 2014 model year, plus the 2014 and 2015 compact Fiesta ST, the 2013 and 2014 Fusion midsize car and the 2013 through 2015 Transit Connect small van. In Europe, the recall covers the 2010 through 2015 C-Max hybrid and Focus small car, and the 2013 through 2015 Transit Connect.

Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies Inc., a Massachusetts firm that does auto testing for plaintiffs’ lawyers and other clients, said Ford likely is trying to avoid costly engine repairs that would cure the coolant leaks. “It sounds like they have a bigger issue. More likely than not they don’t want to repair that issue,” he said.

 

Ford says self-driving
cars on track for 2021

Jim Lynch,
The Detroit News
April 5, 2017

Ford’s vice president of research and advanced engineering sees a “fully autonomous vehicle” as a ride-service option on public roads by 2021. Private owners will get their hands on them five to 10 years later, Ken Washington believes.

“At Ford, we are working very aggressively to make this a reality by 2021 by bringing many of the technologies we’ve spoken about, like advanced sensors and the ability to think in computer space like we think as humans to identify objects and make complex decisions ... to a level-four ride service ... ,” he told automotive engineers at the annual SAE International World Congress on Tuesday.

A true level-four vehicle is one that takes the driver fully out of the piloting process. The SAE has issued classifications for vehicles based on the level of control. Cars at level zero are completely controlled by human drivers. Those at level five feature “full-time performance by an automated driving system of all aspects of the dynamic driving task under all roadway and environmental conditions.”

Washington pointed out that the “autonomous” vehicles that are being tested in various locations around the country including Southeast Michigan are at the lower end of the self-driving spectrum.

“The vehicles that are on the road today are vehicles that have driver-assist technologies... that are at levels one, maybe two or two-plus,” he said in a presentation at Cobo Center. “That’s different than technologies that will allow you to full replace the driver — that will autonomously take you from one point to another. There are no fully level-four vehicles on the road today.”

Fords executives said in August the company will have a fully driverless car without a steering wheel or pedals for braking and acceleration in 2021. By doing so, they would leapfrog semi-autonomous drive-assist systems like GM’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot that require drivers to take control at a moment’s notice. Going straight to a car that doesn’t need a driver, steering wheel or pedals offers bigger benefits to passengers and is more profitable, the automaker said.

When asked Tuesday to assess the trials underway by technology companies such as Google and Uber, Washington demurred. A questioner at the event said: “It seems like they’re coming to market, ready or not.”

Both have pilot programs underway testing vehicles with autonomous technology, and both have reported minor accidents.

“What I can tell you is that our approach at Ford is to develop the level-four technology to the point of maturity before we put it on public roads with the customer,” Washington said. “We test on public roads with our own safety drivers.

“There is still a lot to learn... a lot of development that needs to be done. A lot of policy that needs to be set.”

What some have seen as an adversarial relationship between the tech companies and traditional automakers may be changing somewhat as the realities of bringing cutting-edge features to the public become a reality, Washington said.

“...They’re realizing that it’s harder than it looks,” he said of tech companies’ foray into the car industry, “and that an automaker’s partnership is pretty important to bring it home.”

 

Auto industry sales slip
1.6%, third drop this year

Ian Thibodeau and Jim Lynch,
 The Detroit News
April 4, 2017

Sales of trucks and SUVs continued their upward run last month in the U.S., but that didn’t make up for the continuing slump for sedans. Overall sales fell 1.6 percent in March compared to a year ago, marking the third straight month of slipping sales as automakers come off a record 2016.

Analysts incorrectly forecast that March sales results would show a slight uptick as a result of aggressive sales incentives offered by carmakers. Instead, they sold 1,555,859 cars and trucks, compared to the 1,581,764 sold in March 2016, according to Autodata Corp. Year-to-date sales are down 1.5 percent compared to the first quarter of 2017.

Industry experts on Monday described the latest numbers as an indication that rising sales figures enjoyed by automakers in recent years may have peaked.

“We’ve been saying for some time that U.S. sales have plateaued at a very high level,” said Michelle Krebs, an executive analyst for Autotrader. “March seems to prove that out. Sales are coming in strong, but softening as we anticipated. But, again, it’s still at a very high level.”

Stephanie Brinley, senior automotive analyst, IHS Markit, says the introduction of new SUVs throughout the year should keep sales strong: “These vehicles will continue to drive the story of increasing popularity of utility vehicles and maintain pressure on car sales.”

Sales of trucks and SUV sales did drive overall increases for some automakers in March, including General Motors Co., which had a 1.5 percent overall boost in March.

GM sales totaled 256,007 vehicles in March, coming in under forecast. But that figure was still higher than the same month a year ago, and an increase over February 2017.

GM’s Buick sales jumped 15.1 percent compared to a year ago, with 20,957 sold. Chevrolet brand sales slipped 2.3 percent, with Impala and Malibu sales off by 23 percent and 36 percent, respectively. GMC sales grew by 12 percent, and Cadillac sales dropped 1.5 percent compared to a year ago.

Ford Motor Co., sold 234,895 vehicles, a 7.2 percent dip compared to March a year ago. It moved 81,330 F-Series pickups off lots in March, a 10 percent leap over last year, and nearly 28,000 more than all Ford-brand cars combined last month. Overall, Ford’s car sales slid 24.2 percent.

Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a call with analysts and reporters Monday that sliding car sales are happening industry wide, but it might not be bad for Ford’s revenue.

“You could argue (it is) structural,” he said. “We’ve been seeing it for six years... It’s a very favourable phenomenon ... SUVs and trucks transact at a much higher average transaction price, so that’s really good for the top line revenue number.”

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV reported it sold 190,254 vehicles in March, a 4.6 percent drop for the month.

Overall, the Dodge brand sales increased 9.7 percent, while the Ram truck brand was up 6 percent. Jeep’s overall sales for the month were down 11 percent from the previous year. Chrysler sales dropped by 33.1 percent, while Fiat sales were down 5.3 percent.

Despite a spate of negative headlines this year regarding emissions, Volkswagen Group of America reported a 2.6 percent sales increase for March over 2016.

Toyota Motor North America Inc. and American Honda Motor Co. saw truck sales increase while overall sales slid due to sluggish car sales.

Light truck and SUV sales were a bright spot for Toyota in a month where overall numbers were down from the previous year. The company’s overall sales for March dipped 2.1 percent from 2016. A breakdown of the numbers show Toyota sales down 1.2 percent and Lexus sale down 7.5 percent.

Honda’s overall sales slipped .7 percent from the same month in 2016. Trucks and SUVs gained more than 12.6 percent from the previous year with 61,975 vehicles moving during the month — a record for March.

Nissan North America Inc. saw a 3.2 percent increase in sales. The company was largely boosted by a 25.6 percent jump in trucks and SUVs. Sales of the Nissan Rogue jumped 42.6 percent, with the automaker selling 39,512 of the compact SUVs.

Autotrader’s Krebs said March sales prove the sales plateau analysts had been predicting is real.

“We just don’t see an end in sight as consumers leave sedans for SUVs,” she said in a statement. “With inventories building and incentives rising, it is taking more effort and money to move vehicles, particularly cars. Going forward, automakers likely will look to cut production to manage both inventories and incentives.”

 

Canada in for rougher NAFTA
talks than Trump suggested,
trade experts say

The president’s actions last week indicate that his
administration wants substantial changes to the U.S. trade
relationship with Canada, according to U.S. trade lawyers.

Toronto Star
By Daniel Dale
Washington Bureau
April 3, 2017

WASHINGTON—If Donald Trump’s vague words had convinced any Canadian that he would largely ignore Canada when looking to revise America’s trade agreements, his administration is now offering a sobering reality check.

Trump included Canada in a Friday executive order in which he launched a pointed study of how 16 countries might be committing so-called trade abuses against the United States. More importantly, in a draft letter to Congress, the president’s acting trade representative made clear that the Trump team will be seeking substantial changes to the U.S. trade relationship with Canada.

Trump declared at the White House in February that the trade relationship was “very outstanding” and needed only “tweaking,” sending Prime Minister Justin Trudeau home pleased. The draft letter, though, suggested Canada might be in for a real battle.

Read the latest news on U.S. President Donald Trump

“It’s certainly more than tweaking,” said Dan Ujczo, an Ohio-based trade lawyer specializing in Canada-U.S. matters. “I think we’re getting a clear vision from the administration that they have (a) broad initiative that they want to take that will be much more than a quick fix under NAFTA.”

“Certainly, for those people who were thinking, ‘Oh, it’s going to be minor tweaks, I can count on this basically passing me over,’ there’s some cause for alarm that Canada will be under some pressure to give up big things,” said Christopher Sands, director Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University. “And it’s not just going to be a negotiation about kicking Mexico out of certain aspects of the American economy, it’ll be much more contentious.”

Taken together, the executive order and the draft letter again call into question the extent to which Trump’s own statements can be taken as reflective of his true intentions. On issues of all kinds, his cabinet secretaries have taken actions that do not square with the president’s words.

“Trump has a habit of telling people what he thinks they want to hear face-to-face, so I don’t put much stock in anything he said to Trudeau,” said Judah Ariel, a trade lawyer in Washington. “Trump also doesn’t get involved in policy specifics, so it’s not clear that he’d even know what Canada, or Mexico, would consider tweaks, as opposed to non-starter demands.”

 

Mickey Kantor, a lawyer who served as Secretary of Commerce and trade representative under Bill Clinton, said in an interview that there should be no “panic on the part of the Canadian government or Canadian citizens.” The letter was far from “radical or outrageous,” Kantor said, and “within the realm of where most of us have been for years.”

And it included some language that may be read as encouraging to Canada. The acting trade representative, for example, said the administration’s goal is to make manufacturing more profitable “within the trading bloc,” at least temporarily treating Canada and Mexico as U.S. teammates rather than competitors.

But there were also hints, albeit unspecific hints, of looming clashes with Canada.

Among other things, the letter said the U.S. wants to “level the playing field on tax treatment,” reduce non-tariff barriers to American agricultural exports (one of which is supply management), pursue better “rules of origin” (Trump says his guiding principle is “Buy American”), get commitments to open up the telecommunications sector to Americans (Canada’s industry is tightly regulated), and get rid of a NAFTA chapter that has helped Canada in the long-running softwood lumber dispute.

It is not yet clear how important any of these matters is to Trump’s administration. Regardless, Canada’s road will likely get even harder from here.

The U.S. Congress now gets to express its own wishes. In a mid-March confirmation hearing for Trump’s pick for permanent trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, a bipartisan group of senators asked him to get tough on Canada on everything from softwood lumber to dairy supply-management to counterfeit goods crossing the border.

“I think the White House will be the lesser of two evils here,” Ujczo said.

And the author of the letter, acting trade representative Stephen Vaughn, has more conventional views than other Trump officials who will play a major role in NAFTA negotiations. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and National Trade Council chief Peter Navarro are both trade skeptics. Ariel said there are multiple administration “power centres” on trade.

“The question is what happens when the Secretary of Commerce and Mr. Navarro attempt to weigh in,” said Kantor. “I’m not sure where they are.”

The Friday order Trump lumped Canada in with his chief trade villains, Mexico and China, as well as other key allies. Its stated purpose is to assess the underlying causes of the U.S. trade deficit, specifically whether trading partners are imposing “unequal burdens, or unfairly discriminating in fact against, the commerce of the United States.”

“Under my administration, the theft of American prosperity will end,” Trump said.

Canada, though, has only a small trade surplus with the U.S. — $11 billion in 2016, 32 times smaller than the deficit in China. Trade experts said the review was largely about symbolism, since the government already studies such matters, and could actually be good for Canada, helping to ensure the talks are based in common facts rather than Trump’s hyperbolic musings.

“They regularly assess what their partners are doing and what goes on in the trade relationship. That is something that we are certainly happy with,” Trudeau said Friday.

Kantor said the study amounts to little more than political point-making. But he took issue with Canada’s inclusion in an order phrased with such suspicion.

“I don’t understand why we are criticizing countries and markets that are so vital to us,” he said.

 

Ford recalling 53,000 trucks that
can roll away while parked

Canadian Press
April 2, 2017

NEW YORK - Ford is recalling 53,000 2017 F-250 trucks because they can roll away even when they are parked due to a manufacturing error.

Ford says drivers should use the parking brake to make sure that parked cars don't move.

Dealers will also replace the defective part for free, but Ford doesn't have the replacement parts yet. It will notify owners when the parts are available.

The recalled trucks have 6.2-litre engines. They were built at a Kentucky plant from October 2015 through Thursday and sold in North America.

The company says it is not aware of accidents or injuries due to this defect.

 

Ford recalls 440K vehicles
for fire risk, door latch trouble

Canadian Press
Tom Krisher
April 2, 2017

DETROIT - Ford is recalling more than 570,000 vehicles in North America and Europe to fix separate problems that can cause engine fires and doors to fly open unexpectedly.

The recalls will hit the company's bottom line in the first quarter of this year. Ford said in a Wednesday filing with securities regulators that the recalls will cut pretax earnings by $295 million.

The engine fire recall covers over 360,000 vehicles in North America and Europe. In North America it includes Escape SUVs from the 2014 model year, plus the 2014 and 2015 compact Fiesta ST, the 2013 and 2014 Fusion midsize car and the 2013 through 2015 Transit Connect small van. In Europe, the recall covers the 2010 through 2015 C-Max hybrid and Focus small car, and the 2013 through 2015 Transit Connect van. All the vehicles have 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engines.

A lack of coolant circulation could cause the engine to overheat, causing a crack in the cylinder head, according to Ford. If that happens, pressurized oil can leak through the crack, and if it hits a hot surface, could cause and engine fire. The company says it has 29 reports of fires in the U.S. and Canada, but no injuries.

Owners can continue to drive the vehicles safely and park them in garages or other structures, spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt said. The company will mail customers instructions from the owner's manual on how to check and refill coolant. Dealers also will check coolant levels for owners. If vehicles leak coolant or overheat, they should be taken to a dealer, Weigandt said.

If parts are available, dealers will install a coolant level sensor and a warning light on the dashboard telling owners if the coolant level is low, Weigandt said. She did not know if the company will fix coolant leaks, but said she would check.

The company also is adding 211,000 vehicles to a 2015 recall to replace faulty door latches. That recall covers the 2014 Fiesta and the 2013 and 2014 Fusion and Lincoln MKZ. The expansion brings the total from the 2015 recall to nearly 757,000.

Door latches have been a major problem for Ford vehicles during the past three years, resulting in investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and recalls of over 3 million vehicles.

The company recalled more than 2.3 million vehicles last fall because their door latches weren't working properly. That recall included the 2012-2015 Ford Focus and the 2013-2015 Ford Escape and C-Max.

In May 2014, Ford recalled 692,700 Escape SUVs from the 2013-2014 model years because their doors didn't latch properly.

In the latest recall a pawl in the door latch can break, either stopping the doors from closing or causing them to open while the cars are being driven. The company says it's unaware of any crashes or injuries involving the vehicles added to the 2015 recall.

Last year door latch recalls cost the company $640 million.

The cost of the latest recall is included in Ford's most recent earnings guidance, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

Ford CEO Fields'
compensation rose
19% last year

Percentage of quality goals reached dropped to 52% from 118%

Automotive News
Michael Martinez
April 1, 2017

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields’ total compensation jumped 19 percent last year, a regulatory filing by the automaker showed.

His total compensation was $22.1 million, up from the $18.6 million he made in 2015, according to the company's annual shareholder proxy statement, released Friday.

That includes a $1,787,500 base salary, a $2,736,000 million cash bonus and $14,298,356 worth of long-term stock and performance-based equity awards, making the value of the compensation awarded to Fields during the year -- excluding changes in pension value and other costs -- $18.8 million, up 8.4 percent from the prior year.

Part of the raise included a leap in pension values from $858,157 last year to $2.8 million this year. Pension values vary year to year and change based on factors Ford does not control.

Ford last year also spent $288,965 on Fields’ use of a private airplane.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford’s total compensation rose 7.8 percent to $13.9 million last year, from $12.9 million in 2015. That included a $1,625,000 base salary, $760,000 in bonuses and $8.7 million in long-term stock options. The automaker spent $189,489 on Ford’s use of a personal aircraft and $898,066 on security for him.

Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas, made $6.7 million in total compensation, up slightly from the $6.4 million he earned in 2015. His awarded compensation, including a base salary of $1,053,500, came to $5.8 million, down 4.7 percent from $6.1 million a year earlier.

Jim Farley, president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, received total compensation of $6.6 million, up 14 percent from $5.8 million in 2015. That included a $918,750 base salary, $949,050 in bonuses and $3,597,900 in long-term stock awards.

CFO Bob Shanks’ total compensation rose 13 percent to $6.3 million from $5.6 million a year earlier. That included a base salary of $858,000, $656,640 in bonuses and $3,793,207 in long-term stock options.

Last year, Ford Motor hit on 76 percent of its targets for executive bonuses, compared to 113 percent in 2015, the company said.

Much of that drop is due to a decrease in its quality targets. Ford hit 52 percent of its quality goals in 2016, down from 118 percent in 2015.

Ford measures quality in three phases: things gone wrong at three months of ownership; customer satisfaction at three months of ownership; and warranty spending per business unit. Ford would not break down each segment’s performance, but said its North American performance on things gone wrong was similar in 2015 and 2016, but the company had set more stringent targets for itself last year.

Shareholders’ meeting

Ford’s annual shareholder’s meeting will be May 11, but this year it will be virtual. Normally the meeting has been held in Delaware, where the automaker is incorporated.

“We take very seriously the trust that our shareholders place in our leadership team,” Bill Ford said in a statement. “The annual meeting is an important opportunity for us to hear directly from our shareholders, and the virtual nature of this year’s meeting will enable us to increase shareholder accessibility, while improving efficiency and reducing costs.”

Shareholders will be able to listen, vote and submit questions from their homes or any remote location with internet connectivity.

On the agenda again is a shareholder proposal to end Ford’s two-tier class stock system, which allows family members to maintain control of the company.

Ford earned a $10.4 billion pretax profit last year. It expects to make about $9 billion this year.

 

Ford to invest
$1.2-billion in Canada, create Ottawa R&D centre

Ford will create a new research centre in Ottawa and will hire 295 engineers, who will work on developing autonomous and connected vehicles.

Greg Keenan
The Globe and Mail
March 31, 2017

Ford Motor Co. will establish a research and development centre in Ottawa as part of a $1.2-billion investment it will make in its Canadian operations over the next four years.

The auto maker made the announcement Thursday in Windsor, Ont., where its Essex Engine Plant will begin building a new V8 engine, preserving 500 jobs.

The new research centre in Ottawa will hire 295 engineers, who will work on developing autonomous and connected vehicles. Ford will establish satellite engineering centres in Waterloo, Ont., and Oakville, Ont., site of a Ford assembly plant and Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. headquarters.

The Ontario and federal governments will contribute $102.4-million each to help finance the projects.

“This is in a sense where our traditional auto sector meets our new economy auto sector in a really sweet spot for where you can see Ontario’s auto sector heading,” said Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development.

“Ford is preserving its traditional manufacturing base here [in Windsor], which is great news considering it’s a plant that a number of years ago was seen by many as dead and gone,” Mr. Duguid said.

The establishment of the centre in Ottawa is another major boost for automotive research in Ontario, which has traditionally been a location for vehicle and parts production by the Canadian units of the Detroit Three auto makers while research and development for North America was performed almost entirely in Michigan.

The Ford research announcement follows the General Motors of Canada Ltd. plan announced last year to hire about 750 engineeers and open a new research facility in Markham, Ont., that is also focusing on autonomous and connected vehicles.

Many of the engineers will come from BlackBerry Inc., whose QNX system is the operating system for much of the infotainment apparatus in Ford vehicles.

“We were able to leverage the opportunity for a lot of experienced and highly capable BlackBerry employees to come join Ford with all their QNX operating experience,” Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas for Ford, said in a telephone interview from Windsor.

The focus of the research will be on connectivity, Mr. Hinrichs said.

“Having an engineering centre working on connectivity is really one of the prime areas of growth in the auto industry,” he said.

Connectivity also plays a key role in autonomous driving, because vehicles need to be connected to everything around them so the so-called brains behind self-driving systems have the correct data and information, he said.

He said Ford is not confirming what engine will be allocated to Windsor or when, but said the announcement reinforced the commitment Ford made to Unifor during the contract negotiations last fall.

"The investments in Windsor [are] further evidence of the integrated nature of our industry," said Brendan Sweeney, who heads the Automotive Policy Research Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton.

"Things that are good for Michigan tend to be good for Ontario and vice-versa."

Global auto makers and their parts suppliers are spending billions of dollars developing autonomous and connected vehicles – in part to pre-empt potential challenges by tech giants Apple Inc. and the Google division of Alphabet Inc.

Ford agreed during contract negotiations with Unifor last fall to invest $700-million in its Canadian operations, which include two engine plants in Windsor and the assembly plant in Oakville.

The Essex engine plant will assemble Ford’s new 7X engine, a 6.9-litre V8 engine that will eventually replace the 6.8-litre V10 engine that is now offered as an option on Ford’s best-selling vehicles, its full-sized pickup trucks.

 

Ford to announce Ontario
engine program in boost
to Canada automaking

Reuters
March 30, 2017

Ford Motor Co (F.N) will announce on Thursday production of a new engine in the Canadian province of Ontario, two sources familiar with the matter said, in an investment that would boost Canada's auto industry after years of job losses to Mexico and the United States

The sources said the 7X engine, for large pickup trucks, is to be announced with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Ford Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday morning.

It is part of the C$700 million ($525.05 million) in new investments secured during a 2016 agreement between Ford and its 7,000 unionized Canadian workers, the sources said. Investments in Windsor's two engine plants are expected to account for about C$600 million ($450.05 million).

Spokesmen for Ford and Trudeau declined to comment.

Brian Maxim, a vice president at AutoForecast Solutions, said in a telephone interview that the 7.0-litre, V8 engine would have more torque and be more fuel efficient than the 6.8-litre V10 engine now built in Windsor and used in Ford's super- duty trucks, such as its F-250s.

Maxim said he expected Ford to produce about 125,000 units of the new engine per year, starting in 2019.

Ford's F-Series pickup trucks have been the best-selling model in the United States since 1982.

New investment in engine production in Canada was seen as vital because the large V8 and V10 motors now built by Ford in Windsor were expected to end production in four years.

Between 2001 and 2013, some 14,300 jobs were lost in vehicle manufacturing in Canada, according to Hamilton's Automotive Policy Research Center.

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal and Nick Carey in Detroit; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa)

 

Trump’s call for new auto
plants collides with reality

Detroit News
Melissa Burden
Ian Thibodeau
March 30, 2017

President Donald Trump is pressing automakers to build new factories in the U.S., but he may have to settle for plant overhauls and incremental job expansions such as Ford Motor Co.’s planned $1.2 billion investment in three Michigan factories that’s expected to create at least 100 jobs.

Trump pushed automakers during a roundtable in Ypsilanti Township earlier this month for more U.S. plants, and in a speech to autoworkers the same day he said plants “are coming back — other plants that were expected to be built in other countries are not being built.” He’s often taken to Twitter to target automakers such as Ford, Toyota and General Motors for Mexico production. In early January, he tweeted: “Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax.”

Analysts and even automakers say it’s doubtful auto companies will spend the $1 billion or more needed to construct new plants: U.S. auto industry sales appear to be at a peak, and most companies simply don’t need more production capacity. While Trump repeatedly has urged the auto industry to deliver, industry experts are skeptical that automakers will meet the president’s costly demand for modern U.S. manufacturing plants.

“We’re near the top of a market cycle,” said Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry, labor and economics group at the Center for Automotive Research. “Why on Earth would you overcapacitize when you’re fulfilling peak market demand with the capacity you have?”

Chinese-owned Volvo Cars Ltd. may be one of the few exceptions: It’s building a new $500 million assembly plant in Berkeley County, South Carolina. Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors also are considering a new U.S. factory.

Auto analysts say the $1 billion-plus typically required for a new plant wouldn’t come easily for most U.S. automakers. Executives have vivid memories of shedding thousands of jobs and shuttering numerous factories during the recession. GM and Chrysler went through federally induced bankruptcy cleansings to survive.

GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have built no new brick-and-mortar assembly plants in the United State in a decade. And Detroit’s Big Three currently have no plans to build any, company officials have said. Instead, they are choosing to improve and expand on what they’ve already got.

LMC Automotive says U.S. automakers are running at almost full capacity at their U.S. plants. The research firm found Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s capacity utilization was at 95 percent last year; Ford was at 93 percent; GM was at 84 percent.

“The auto industry is one of the only industries in the world when you have a record year and you don’t celebrate,” Dziczek said.

Japanese, Korean and German automakers likely would be the first to look at additional factories in the U.S. if they saw a need, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive. Hyundai and Kia plan to invest $3.1 billion in the U.S. over the next five years and have said they are considering a new factory.

Kia in late 2009 opened its first North American plant in West Point, Georgia; it’s home to more than 3,000 employees who build the Sorento crossover and Optima midsize sedan. Hyundai has a plant in Montgomery, Alabama, that opened in 2005 and builds the Sonata and Elantra sedans and Santa Fe Sport crossover. The Hyundai plant employs about 3,000.

Any new Hyundai-Kia operations likely would be in the South, where labor costs are lower and unionization efforts are less likely.

Automakers including BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Kia, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen/Audi have opted in recent years to build factories in Mexico to take advantage of cheap labor and an advantageous trade environment. Trump has lashed out against some: Ford was slated to build a new factory in Mexico but in January announced it had scrapped those plans.

Incentives from federal or local governments could enhance the likelihood of new U.S. plants being built, Schuster said. But he said automakers have to weigh several factors: policy changes and the threat of a border tax on goods coming from Mexico into the U.S.; the cost and time it takes to build and have a new plant production-ready; and the U.S. sales market, which is plateauing after a record 2016 in which 17.55 million trucks, SUVs and cars were sold. Automakers would look at existing capacity in other plants around the world.

“Until we get clarity around policy, the industry is kind of in a wait-and-see (period),” Schuster said.

Bring them all back?

During an Ypsilanti Township roundtable this month with senior leaders from 11 automakers, three suppliers and the president of the United Auto Workers union, Trump pushed automakers to build new factories and not just expand existing plants. In return, he promised to ease taxes and regulations.

“But you’ve got to work with us on new plants, on new jobs and bringing back our capability to a level that it’s never seen before in terms of automobile production,” Trump told the auto executives in an aircraft hangar at the American Center for Mobility.

Trump said the U.S. had tens of thousands of more autoworkers employed years ago than it has today. “We’re going to bring them all back,” he said.

Michael Sprague, Kia’s chief operating officer, told Trump that more jobs were coming from Kia, but he did not elaborate.

Volvo is building its South Carolina plant to broaden its manufacturing footprint to North America. Volvo sold 82,726 vehicles last year in the U.S., up 18.1 percent from 2015.

“We wanted to make a commitment to the country after being here for 60 years,” Volvo spokesman Jim Nichols said in an email.

Volvo will produce the new S60 sedan and an undetermined second vehicle at its new plant. The first sedans are slated to roll off the line at the end of next year. Production in the first year is expected to be about 60,000 vehicles, though it has capacity for 100,000. Volvo said the plant is expected to employ up to 2,000.

Caution after recession

Ford said Tuesday it will invest $850 million to retool its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne for truck and SUV production; $150 million in its Romeo Engine Plant to expand engine capacity for several vehicles; and $200 million to build a data center at the company’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

Analysts say Ford’s recent announcements might represent the closest automakers come to meeting the president’s demands. Including this week’s news, the company has announced plans to invest close to $2 billion in existing Michigan facilities over the next few years.

Caution is the watch-word after Chrysler’s near-death experience during the Great Recession. As sales of small cars have fallen, Fiat Chrysler has stopped building them entirely.

The automaker ceased production of the Chrysler 200 small car in December at its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant and is pumping nearly $1.5 billion into the facility to produce the next-generation Ram pickup due early next year. It has announced $3.5 billion in investment in U.S. factories since July 2016 that are expected to create 3,700 new jobs.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has said the company is not interested in building new plants in the U.S. Chrysler in 2005 opened its most recent assembly plant, the Toledo Supplier Park, where the Jeep Wrangler is built. Chrysler invested $900 million into the project — its latest new assembly plant built from the ground up.

After Fiat took over Chrysler, it opened the Tipton Transmission Plant in Indiana in 2014. Fiat Chrysler bought an existing building for an undisclosed price and invested $162 million to create an additional assembly site for the nine-speed transmission, creating up to 850 new jobs.

GM in recent months has been plagued by slow car sales and has had to trim shifts from four assembly plants. GM’s newest assembly plant is the Lansing Delta Township facility, a $1.5 billion operation which opened in 2006. The plant builds large SUVs. GM announced a May layoff of more than 1,100 workers there, but said it plans to rehire 500 of them early next year.

GM’s newest manufacturing plant is Brownstown Battery in Brownstown Township. It opened in 2010; workers there assemble lithium-ion batteries.

The automaker has no plans to build any new plants in the U.S., according to a source familiar with the company’s planning. GM since 2009 has announced investments of more than $21 billion in the U.S., including nearly $10 billion in Michigan. In January, the company announced $1 billion in U.S. investments this year.

Barring any major unforeseen policy move from the Trump administration, the Center for Automotive Research’s Dziczek says automakers will err on the side of caution.

“This is an industry that eats capital for breakfast. You build a plant... for the next 40 to 50 years, you need to keep feeding it capital,” Dziczek said. “We’re fulfilling peak market demand with what we’ve got, and it’s not a smart decision to go beyond that unless there’s bigger market demand coming that no one sees.”

 

Ford ups investment in
Michigan plants by $350M

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
March 29, 2017

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. will invest $1.2 billion in three Michigan factories to prepare for production of the all-new Ford Ranger and Bronco, and to support the company’s expansion into mobility.

The investments represent two strategies going forward: a traditional game plan that looks to create new models of high-demand trucks and SUVs; and a more forward-looking investment in the self-driving and connected vehicles that Ford and other companies are betting will drive the future.

The Dearborn-based automaker will invest $850 million to retool its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne for truck and SUV production; $150 million in its Romeo Engine Plant to expand capacity for several vehicles; and $200 million to build a data center at the company’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant that will handle information generated by the robotic cars of the future. Ford announced in January that the Flat Rock facility also would get a $700 million investment.

The total investment announced Tuesday represents an additional $350 million above the investments negotiated as part of the 2015 United Auto Workers contract: Plans for the $200-million data center at Flat Rock are new; the company added $150 million to its budget for Michigan Assembly upgrades. The $150 million for Romeo plant upgrades were previously outlined in the UAW contract. According to the contract, the automaker will invest at least $9 billion in U.S. facilities through 2019.

Ford said the investments are expected to add or retain 130 jobs at the Romeo Engine plant; the Michigan Economic Development Corp. said in a memo that 100 new jobs would be created there. Ford did not offer employment estimates for Michigan Assembly, but the MEDC said 3,600 jobs would be secured at the plant. Ford said in January that the $700 million investment at Flat Rock would create 700 new jobs to support production of electrified and autonomous vehicles; the number of jobs to be created by the new data center was not released Tuesday.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, said the investments show Ford is committed to boosting its truck and SUV lineup and investing in the industry’s future. “We’re making sure we’re well-positioned,” he said. “We’re investing a lot of money to grow... the portfolio will grow.”

The Michigan Strategic Fund board approved $12 million in grants for the Flat Rock and Michigan Assembly plants, and $18.95 million in property tax exemptions for the three sites. The fund is a semi-public state board that’s part of the MEDC.

Tuesday’s announcement came as President Donald Trump has pushed U.S. and foreign automakers to build factories and add jobs in the U.S.

When asked in a Tuesday press briefing if the White House or Trump could take credit for Ford’s announcement, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the investments are a “continued sign” of “regulatory effort and some commitments on the regulatory efforts going forward in the future that I think may have played a role” in Ford’s and other company’s decision to invest in U.S. facilities.

The president tweeted early Tuesday before the news was announced: “Big announcement by Ford today. Major investment to be made in three Michigan plants. Car companies coming back to U.S. JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!”

The company has been planning some of the investments for “quite some time,” Hinrichs said. “It’s a mixed bag here for what’s new.”

The investments are big, Steve Arwood, CEO of the MEDC, told The Detroit News. “That probably nets out to be the biggest day ever in Michigan,” he said. “That’s all good news. There’s not a discouraging word.”

The retooling and expansions in Wayne and Romeo will start next year for 2019 and 2020 model-year vehicles.

Construction on the Flat Rock data center will begin later this year, Hinrichs said. It will be the company’s second data center; the first is under construction near the Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn.

Ford predicts its data storage requirements will expand by more than 15 times the company’s current capacity by 2021 due in part to growth in connected and autonomous vehicles.

Tuesday’s announcement drew praise from the UAW.

“Thanks to collective bargaining, the hard-working men and women at each of these locations will now reap the full fruits of their labor,” UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles in a statement. “We look forward to celebrating more product investment and job growth at each of our UAW represented facilities in the months and years to come.”

Ford stock closed up 1.66 percent at $11.65 Tuesday.

Honda North America announced plans late Monday to invest $85 million at its Honda Manufacturing of Alabama plant in Lincoln. The plant builds the Honda Odyssey, Pilot SUV and Ridgeline pickup and the Acura MDX and employs more than 4,500 people.

 

Ontario auto sector concerned
about trade with U.S., Wynne says

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government
has been working to lobby U.S. politicians on
the importance of cross-border co-operation

Canadian Press
March 28, 2017

U.S. political leaders are showing a better-than-expected understanding of how important trade with Canada is to the health of the American auto sector, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday.

Wynne, who met with several auto industry leaders in Toronto, said her government has been lobbying U.S. politicians to make sure they understand how much American auto sector jobs depend on an unfettered northern border.

That message is getting through, she said.

“There is a deeper understanding of how interconnected we are than we might have expected,” she said.

Ontario Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid echoed her statement, saying he was also a little surprised at U.S. leaders’ level knowledge about trade with Canada — despite “this perception that . . . Americans don’t know as much about Canada as we know about the U.S.”

“They are very aware that Ontario, in particular, and Canada is, for the most part, their number one international customer,” he said. “We’re crucial to their economic vitality and we’re crucial to jobs in the U.S.”

Duguid said nine million U.S. jobs rely on an unfettered border with Canada.

However, Duguid said the provincial government is “very alive to the risks” Ontario’s auto sector is facing from upcoming discussions about renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), “speculation about a border adjustment tax,” and Buy American policies in U.S. states.

Neither Wynne nor Duguid explicitly named U.S. President Donald Trump in their remarks, but spoke of the protectionism associated with him.

“Obviously, there is uncertainty,” said Wynne. “You know that as we all operate in this new reality, with the discussions that are going on south of the border, that we in Ontario need to be having a very robust conversation here with our partners.”

Duguid said he expects that uncertainty to last a year or two.

Despite that, Wynne remarked on the optimism of the Ontario auto sector leaders she spoke to.

“In the past five years Ontario has produced more cars than any other province or state in North America,” she said. “Almost 15 per cent of all car production across the continent happens right here.”

However, Wynne said the province’s economic success depends on a strong business relationships with the U.S.

“In Ontario, more than 100,000 people are dependent on, in one way or another, the auto sector for their livelihood,” she said.

Magna CEO Donald Walker said the discussion was a candid one about important issues.

“From a Canadian perspective, we’ve just got to make sure that we have whatever discussions we need to have with the U.S. to make sure we’re not going to be in an uncompetitive position,” he said.

Walker said he’d like to see Canada maintain a trilateral agreement with U.S. and Mexico, as having access to low-cost labour makes the North American market more competitive.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias said the meeting was productive. He said he welcomes the renegotiation of NAFTA, and said changes to the trade agreement are needed.

“There is no question the fact a Mexican autoworker can’t buy a car that he builds, or she builds, is ridiculous, so there has to be a change in labour standards,” he said. “But there also has to be a stop to the straight exodus of our jobs going to Mexico.”

 

Chrysler to cut transport
operations in Windsor

Sarah Sacheli,
Windsor Star
March 27, 2017

The union representing workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Windsor Assembly Plant says it will fight the company’s plans to outsource its trucking division.

“This is Day 2 of a six-month process,” Dino Chiodo, president of Unifor Local 444, said Friday. “Just because they’ve given us notice doesn’t mean it’s gone.”

The company notified the union Thursday it plans to outsource the work of transporting auto parts, Chiodo said. The union has 30 days to respond, he explained.

The move does not involve haulers of assembled cars.

Almost 300 workers — 288 hourly and seven salaried — work in the transportation division, said LouAnn Gosselin, FAC spokeswoman. Chiodo said most FCA drivers make a little more than $35 per hour while outside contractors pay their drivers as little as $15 per hour with no benefits.

“We think these jobs are worth fighting for,” Chiodo said. He said the loss of good-paying jobs will have an effect on the local economy.

Gosselin said the company hopes to have the work outsourced to other unionized carriers by the end of the year. “We don’t anticipate any job losses,” she said, explaining the company will offer retirement incentive packages throughout the plant. Workers from the transportation division who don’t take a package will be offered jobs inside the plant.

The union ratified a new collective agreement in October. Since then, 158 employees have or are set to retire. Some of those workers may have elected to take a package had they known it would become available, Chiodo said.

Chiodo said FCA might decide managing outside contractors is more trouble than it’s worth. Some may only bid on local drives, some may only want routes that require highway driving.

The logistics may prove too daunting, Chiodo said. “What if they can’t provide you the product in time to keep the line operating?”

Chiodo said the company has raised the spectre of outsourcing in the past. “They’ve been talking about transportation for 20 years,” he said. The company has never followed through, he figures, because of “outstanding concerns.”

Chiodo said the company should have raised the spectre of the outsourcing during the contract negotiations last year. He said 158 workers have since retired and may now be angry to learn incentive packages are being offered.

Under the collective agreement, the company can contract out union jobs, Chiodo explained. But it must give the union six months’ notice and consider any suggestions the union has to mitigate the outsourcing.

“Potentially, this is what they’re doing. It’s not for sure.”

Chiodo conceded that FCA is an outlier in the auto industry. Neither Ford, General Motors nor Toyota have their own trucks or drivers.

 

Ford Edge door ajar
lights no cause for recall

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
March 26, 2017

After investigating complaints that door ajar warning lights wouldn’t turn off in thousands of Ford Motor Co.’s Edge SUVs, U.S. safety regulators opted not to issue a recall.

The investigation opened last September looked into complaints that the door ajar was always illuminated, making it hard to occupants to tell if the doors were properly latched. According to a investigation summary, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified 1,983 complaints for 2011-13 model year Edge vehicles.

Fourteen of those complaints indicated that a door opened while driving. Only two of those 14 incidents were a result of the driver being unaware the door wasn’t latched.

According to the report, only one complaint reported an injury: a driver who sustained a shoulder injury while slamming the door repeatedly in an attempt to get the door ajar light to turn off.

The regulators found that the problem was caused by “contamination of the electrical contacts on the switch located within each door latch that tells the vehicle if the door is open or closed.”

The doors do still latch properly. Contamination on the contact points for the light switch just causes the door ajar lights to activate.

The agency found there is not a safety risk, and there were no crashes or crash-related injuries reported.

 

Behind Blue Oval profits,
Ford wrestles future

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
March 25, 2017

Nobody said this mobility thing would be easy or cheap.

Ford Motor Co. predicted Thursday that its earnings this year will trail those posted last year, in part because the Dearborn automaker is placing big bets on new lines of business in the continually morphing autonomous-vehicle space — bets that have yet to generate revenue or profit.

The Blue Oval said profits will be $1.4 billion lower this year because of “planned investments and emerging opportunities.” But it expects a rebound in 2018, thanks to the strength of its core car and, especially, truck business.

That’s a bracing reminder of a few realities weighing on the industry’s top players in general and Ford in particular. First, those aspiring to next-generation leadership need to play aggressively in both traditional core vehicles and the future mobility spaces at the same time.

Second, for all its talk of “smart mobility” and investment in electrification, Ford is a trucks-first company that is growing more so. According to data presented to investors, Ford is more heavily weighted toward trucks and SUVs than the industry average and more lightly weighted toward cars.

It also boasts lower inventories than the industry average, lower profit-killing incentives and higher average transaction prices. Added together they’re part of a recipe for higher profits that can be used to finance ambitious investments in mobility services, self-driving vehicles and the technology that animates it all.

In theory, anyway. In theory, Ford’s multi-billion spending to develop mobility services and autonomous driving would yield sharply higher margins and returns on capital investments, two critical metrics separating the auto industry from its high-tech rivals.

Behind the Blue Oval facade is a company wrestling at the highest levels with the shape of its future. Former CEO Alan Mulally led a remarkable turnaround of the core business, from the United States to Europe and Asia, that was necessary for Ford’s survival.

But it’s not sufficient to be seen as a truck company when Wall Street expects more. It shows in the earnings multiple investors assign to Blue Oval shares, in the price of the shares themselves, in the dismaying fact that despite the huge profits Ford has booked since the Great Recession, Wall Street keeps yawning.

A simple formula holds that stock price is driven by expectations for growth, assessment of risk-taking and evidence of returns. Ford is demonstrating an ability to deliver steady profits in a truck-heavy market fueled by cheap gas, but it’s not at all clear it has adequately diversified its earnings power — or is willing to take bigger risks.

Put another way: Does the company whose founding Model T put America on wheels need to be all things to all people in the Age of Mobility? Does it need to build small cars for a U.S. market that increasingly doesn’t want them? Are the “One Ford” products built for Europe the right ones for poorer regions of China and India?

Answering no to any of those three questions (and more) takes more courage than Ford’s leadership historically has been willing to muster. But the high capital demands of an industry bifurcated between traditional vehicles and mobility likely will require Ford to decide where it needs to play and how it can win.

Adding to the pressure is cross-town rival General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra and her leadership team are making the kind of tough (and risky) calls their predecessors mostly wouldn’t even consider, much less do. They’re selling their Opel and Vauxhall business to PSA Groupe SA of France. They’ve exited Russia, ended production in Australia, restructured in Thailand.

Most of all, they’re changing the narrative of what it means to be a Detroit automaker. For generations, this town’s Big Three were synonymous with being all things to almost all people — or, in the words of legendary GM CEO Alfred P. Sloan, “a car for every purse and purpose.”

Not anymore. The new generation leading Detroit’s automakers is showing a willingness to make tough calls in good times, whatever backward-looking pressure may come from the Trump White House in its demands to create more U.S. jobs and investment.

It’s a new automotive world, transformed by technology and pressure from Silicon Valley heavies. If Ford doesn’t grab its share, you can bet someone else will.

 

Do the math: Older used cars
in short supply

Joe Taschler,
Milwaukee Sentinel
March 24, 2017

The Great Recession’s ghost is suddenly appearing at used car lots across the United States and Canada.

The situation amounts to a collision between timing and math: When the auto industry imploded in 2009, the number of vehicles it produced fell sharply, with the decline lasting more than two years. Fast forward to 2017 and there are fewer cars from those recession model years available to budget-minded buyers in the used car market.

“There’s a big-time shortage because of that lack of new car sales,” that began in 2009, said Ivan Drury, senior analyst for automotive consulting firm Edmunds.

Meanwhile, explosive growth in the leasing of new cars has sent even more upheaval into the market, as a flood of 1-, 2- and 3-year-old cars come back off lease and end up on dealership lots.

“If you’re looking for a 2009 or a 2010 model, your odds are not all that good because we simply didn’t sell that many,” Drury said. “If you roll that together now with this explosion of leasing in 2012 and 2013 and even higher for 2014, and we have this kind of lumpy, bizarre supply line that I really can’t think of that we’ve seen ever.”

That supply situation plays right into the wheelhouse of Jordan Paszek, a 24-year-old who is in his first job post-college at an actuarial firm in Illinois.

Paszek is ready to buy a car to replace his 1999 model that has about 175,000 miles on it. The car has served him well, but it’s time for an upgrade.

“It’s been a goal that I’ve had for a handful of months,” said Paszek. “I’ve probably been aware of it for over a year, that I would need to upgrade my car at some point.”

However, Paszek also is carefully budgeting to deal with student loan debt after four years at Dominican College in New York and a year of post-graduate work at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

“I was not even considering buying anything new,” he said. A newer model used car is “what I’ve been targeting the last month or two,” he said.

A newer car that was part of a fleet or is coming back off lease is “the sweet spot in terms of absolute value — what you are paying for what you are getting,” said Jim Tolkan, president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Mega Milwaukee and a former GM dealer.

That’s because there are so many of those vehicles that are coming in off leases.

Look for that trend to continue. “There was a significant increase in 2016 over 2015 in late model used cars coming into the market, and I think it peaks between 2017 and 2018,” Tolkan said. “There will be a peak because of so many lease deals.”

The flood of newer model used cars coming off lease and entering the marketplace is putting downward price pressure on some of those models, even as the average price of used cars rises because of the fleet’s age: Younger cars cost more.

So your older trade-in is likely worth more than it was at the same time last year, and the newer used car you might be considering might be a bit less expensive than it might have been last year.

“That’s what I’m hoping,” Paszek said.

But what if you are looking for something older in the $8,000 to $10,000 range?

“It’s going to take a little bit more internet research and expanding your radius,” to find it, Drury said.

Besides fewer sales of new cars during the recession, the federal government’s Cash for Clunkers program pulled nearly 700,000 cars out of the nation’s fleet in late 2009. The program required that the cars be destroyed and scrapped.

Dealers in southern Wisconsin say they are doing their best to keep the older model vehicles in stock.

“When you start looking at the price range of $8,000 to $10,000 retail, there’s not much around,” said Jim Griffin, president of the Griffin Automotive Group of dealerships in metro Milwaukee. “They are hard to find.”

 

 

Ford tech creates water
out of thin air

By Gary Gastelu
Fox News
March 23, 2017

Ford doesn’t have a car yet that can run on water, but it does have one with running water.

A powertrain engineer working for the automaker has developed a system that uses the condensation from an automobile’s air conditioner to provide drinkable water.

Doug Martin got the idea for On-The-Go H20 when he drove by a billboard in Lima, Peru, fitted with similar technology that was extracting over 25 gallons of water from the air every day. It made him realize that a lot of potentially potable water generated by automobiles was being dumped on the road and wasted, when it could be put toward a good use.

It’s a simple concept optimized for this automotive application with a collector positioned near the air conditioner’s condenser that channels the fluid into a reservoir. From there, it’s filtered and pumped to a faucet located either in the cabin -- as it is in one demonstration vehicle Martin’s team put together – or on the outside of the vehicle.

The current system supplies about 24 ounces of water per hour from the atmosphere, but can also be used to purify dirty water from other sources -- even rain collected in channels on the roof. While the concept features a passive 1.2 micron filtration system, Martin is exploring the incorporation of a distiller powered by other powertrain heat sources, as well as ultraviolet light.

Ford sees it as a boon to dry regions and underdeveloped areas where millions of people don’t have regular access to clean water. It could also be offered as a feature on adventure vehicles, or simply as a convenience for road trips. (While we’re throwing around ideas, it might make a good compliment to a high performance water-injection system, too.)

Although there are no current plans to put it into production, Martin says there’s been great interest in the technology from several of Ford’s centers around the world.

 

Ford and Magna team up on
prototype carbon fiber subframe

Magna

Motor Authority
By Sean Szymkowski
March 22, 2017

Carbon fiber is becoming more commonplace than ever, and in the name of weight savings, the material may be making its way into more and more components in more and more common cars.

One of those components is future Ford subframes.

A collaborative effort between Ford and the German automotive supplier Magna Inernational has yielded a prototype carbon fiber composite subframe, which reduces mass by 34 percent compared to an equivalent steel subframe. And at a time when lightweighting is becoming a key engineering solution, this prototype presents itself as a potentially groundbreaking way to design more efficient vehicles.

Magna and Ford looked at the entire subframe assembly and were able to identify 45 steel parts as places to reduce mass. With this prototype subframe, the 45 parts were replaced with just two molded and four metallic parts, making for an 87 percent reduction in the number of parts used.

The subframe is an integral part of the vehicle, giving the suspension, wheels, and engine a home while also providing the basis of a vehicle’s crash worthiness. And, in that regard, the prototype design has passed all performance requirements based on a computer-aided engineering analysis.

Magna will carry out further testing in which corrosion, chipping, and bolt load retention will be evaluated. Following that phase, the team will develop a design, manufacturing, and assembly process to make the prototype a reality.

Magna has already begun producing the prototype subframes for its own testing and announced Ford will carry out its own component and vehicle-level testing, too.

No final decision has been made that this will indeed be a commonly used Ford component in the near future. We also don't know what vehicles it might be used in or when, but the fact that both companies are moving forward with testing and develop indicates promise.

As carbon fiber becomes less expensive, expect the material to begin showing up in more places as it transitions from the stuff of supercars, to the material of choice for your next commuter car.

 

Ford Mustang found in
Mexican junkyard
is from 'Bullitt,'
expert confirms

Ralph Garcia, Jr. and Kevin Marti  (Kevin Marti)

By Gary Gastelu
March 21, 2017
Fox News

Frank Bullitt couldn’t have done a better job cracking this case.

Nearly 50 years after it was last seen, a 1968 Ford Mustang found in a Mexican junkyard has been confirmed to be one of two known to have been used in the filming of the Steve McQueen movie “Bullitt.”

“I’m 100 percent sure it’s authentic,” classic Ford expert Kevin Marti told Fox News after travelling across the border to Mexicali to inspect the car last week.

The car was discovered last year in Baja California Sur by a man named Hugo Sanchez, its then-white body rotting away and its original drivetrain long gone. Hollywood legend had it that the car, which was the film's primary stunt car, had been sent to the junkyard shortly after filming was complete, but a couple of layers of paint sprayed on top of its iconic Highland Green suggest that it had lived several lives before finally ending up in one.

Sanchez brought it to a Mexicali custom car shop owned by his friend, Ralph Garcia, Jr., to have it turned into a clone of the similarly-famous “Eleanor” Mustang from the film “Gone in 60 Seconds,” but after the pair learned of its amazing history, their plans changed.

Marti Auto Works maintains the production database for every Ford built from 1967-2012. Its Marti Reports are a staple of the classic car world. They can tell you when a car was ordered, the color it was first painted, what options it came from the factory with, and the exact date it rolled off the assembly line. If you want make sure that Shelby Mustang you’re about to pay six figures for didn’t start its life as a straight-six stripper, one of these Marti Reports is the best way to find out.

Garcia was shocked when he got his.

Marti was familiar with the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) for the two Mustangs ordered by Warner Bros. for the making of the film. The other is privately owned today and hasn’t been shown publically in a quarter-century, while the one found in Mexico was long thought lost to history.

 “It’s not the first time one of these old movie cars showed up in a junkyard, but it’s rare,” Marti says.

Marti is certain that the VIN plate is original, and he should know. His company produces replacement data tags and parts for classic Fords, so he can spot a fake as well as anyone. He also cross-checked the dates stamped onto the car’s original body panels, some of which were beyond easy repair and had been removed. A few of the modifications made to the car for filming have been preserved, including strut tower reinforcements and holes drilled into the trunk for auxiliary power cables. The rear axle, however, is from a 1967 Mustang.

Garcia had already started repairing the car, which now wears a fresh coat of green paint and a replica license plate like the one in the film for effect. He and Sanchez, who co-own it, rolled it out to the sound of a mariachi band at the Mexicali Ford dealership before they shipped it to California, where Garcia lives. He tells Fox News that he’s going to start a full restoration with input from experts at Ford at a new shop he’s opening in Paramount, Calif., and has begun sourcing the parts he’ll need to do it.

Unsurprisingly, Garcia says they’ve been contacted with offers to buy the car as-is, but they’re keeping it for now. It’s hard to pin down the car’s value at this early stage, but McQueen-connected vehicles often sell for millions at auction, and a frenzy for all things “Bullitt” should be in full swing by next year, the 50th anniversary of the film’s debut.

Ford is rumored to be working on a new special edition Mustang Bullitt like those it introduced in 2001 and 2008, and there’s also the mystery of the whereabouts of the other movie car, and whether or not it will surface to celebrate. That is assuming there’s only one.

A stuntman who worked on the film’s epic chase scene, Loren Janes, has been quoted as saying that there were actually three identical cars used during production. The 85-year-old could not be reached for this story, but his claim remains undocumented. Marti has scoured his records for another car that might fit the bill, but has come up empty.

That’s not to say one’s not out there sitting in a garage, or a dusty Mexican lot waiting to be rediscovered, but if it is, it’ll probably take a lot of detective work and even more luck to find it.

 

Bob Kinnear resigns as
head of the TTC union

Ben Spurr
Toronto Star
March 20, 2017

The embattled president of the TTC’s largest union has resigned, following a dramatic struggle over the group’s affiliation with its U.S.-based parent organization.

In an emailed statement Friday afternoon, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 announced that Bob Kinnear, who had led the organization since 2003, had stepped aside “effective immediately.”

“With this distraction behind us, we’re now focused on what matters most — representing Toronto’s hardworking transit workers,” Kevin Morton, secretary-treasurer of the local, said in the statement. “More united than ever, we’re moving forward to fight the TTC’s plans for alcohol and drug testing and to prepare for next year’s important collective bargaining.”

Kinnear did not immediately return a request for comment.

A fiery and often controversial figure, Kinnear was known for his confrontational style, which often rankled TTC officials when he showed up to make deputations at the agency’s board meetings.

He joined the TTC in 1988 as a maintenance worker and became a transit driver before becoming union president 14 years ago.

Kinnear presided over two strikes during his tenure. In 2006, TTC workers abruptly walked off the job in a one-day wildcat strike that left stranded commuters fuming. Two years later, TTC workers went on strike again after the membership declined to ratify an agreement the TTC and union executive had reached on a new contract.

Kinnear and the union’s clout has been somewhat diminished since 2011. That’s when the province declared the TTC an essential service and stripped the union of the power to strike legally, following a successful campaign led by then-mayor Rob Ford.

Kinnear’s resignation follows a tumultuous six weeks at Local 113, which represents more than 10,000 workers at the transit agency. In the early hours of Feb. 3, representatives from the local’s U.S.-based parent union, Amalgamated Transit Union International, abruptly locked out Kinnear and the rest of Local 113’s executives from their headquarters on Wilson Ave., removed Kinnear from his post and placed the local under a trusteeship.

ATU International, which is headquartered in Maryland, claimed that Kinnear was attempting to disaffiliate from the U.S. organization without the consent of the local’s membership or executive.

Two days earlier, Kinnear had written to the Canadian Labour Congress to request a process that could have led to the membership taking a vote on whether to leave the union. The local said Friday that the CLC process had been stopped.

On Feb. 7, Kinnear appeared at a press conference with Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, which is Canada’s largest private sector union. Dias and Kinnear argued that ATU International had ignored the interests of the Canadian local and that the membership had the right to vote on whether to leave the parent union and join another labour group.

ATU International officials accused Kinnear of “plotting in secret” to disaffiliate and deliver Local 113’s membership to Unifor.

An Ontario Superior Court judge reinstated Kinnear on Feb. 21, finding that ATU International had “deprive(d) the membership of their duly elected leader.” The judge also placed an injunction against the trusteeship.

The decision was vindication for Kinnear but unrest continued to roil the local, with some members picketing outside the union’s headquarters and calling for him to step down.

A spokesperson for the local said that the injunction remained in place but that he expected it to be rescinded soon. He said there was no date set to elect a new president.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross issued a statement Friday afternoon in which he said the transit agency “wishes Mr. Kinnear well in his future endeavours.”

He added that “internal union matters” wouldn’t affect transit service.

 

Ford invests $644M in German
plant that will make Focus

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
March 19, 2017

Ford Motor Co. will invest 600 million euros ($644 million) in its Saarlouis Vehicle Assembly Operations in Germany, where the company will make its next-generation Focus.

The announcement comes two weeks after General Motors Co. agreed to sell its German brand, Opel, to French automaker PSA Group, a move that got GM out of its money-losing European business.

Ford’s German plant will receive updated production equipment, logistical support and energy-supply projects through the investment. The plant will also get new press systems that allows steel to be processed directly into car body parts, which supports a lightweight build.

The investment will add new energy-supply systems that will reduce the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent, according to Ford.

“This €600 million investment reconfirms Ford’s continuing commitment to Germany, our main centre of operations in Europe,” said Jim Farley, president and CEO, Ford of Europe, Middle East and Africa, in a news release. “Make no mistake, Germany is vital to Ford’s global business, not only today but ... also into the future,”

Ford employs 25,000 people in Germany.


 

2018 Ford F-150, Mustang getting
next-gen pedestrian-avoidance tech

March 17, 2017 
FoxNews.com

The 2018 Ford Mustang will be the first of the Big Three muscle cars offered with a pedestrian-detecting emergency braking feature when it goes on sale later this year.

Ford has revealed that technology is a further development of the system available today in the Ford Fusion sedan, enhanced here with improved nighttime capability.

Using both a radar and camera, it scans the road in front of the car looking pedestrian shapes, alerting the driver to an imminent collision and autonomously engaging  the brakes if action isn’t taken.

The current Mustang has a similar system bundled with its optional adaptive cruise control, but it can only react to vehicles and isn't always fully effective in low-light situations.

The 2018 F-150 pickup will also be upgraded to the same pedestrian-detection capability as the Mustang.

Details on pricing and availability on both vehicles will be released closer to their on sale dates later this year.

Toyota announced earlier this year that the 2018 Tundra pickup will come standard with its version of pedestrian-detection tech.

 

Trump: Build new
Plants in Michigan


Melissa Burden
Ian Thibodeau
Detroit News
March 16, 2017

Ypsilanti Township — President Donald Trump pushed domestic and foreign auto executives for more U.S. jobs and new manufacturing plants here Wednesday, even as auto sales appear to be receding from record levels in 2016.

During a roundtable with industry officials, Trump mentioned General Motors Co.’s Wednesday announcement that it will add or retain 900 jobs in Michigan. “That’s going to be peanuts to the numbers that we’re going to see in the near future,” he said.

Trump repeatedly stressed to the CEOs and senior leaders of 11 automakers, three suppliers and United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams that he wants to see automakers “build new plants in Michigan and other states.” He said that’s going to bring “thousands of jobs.”

He talked with leaders from American, German, Japanese and South Korean automakers, with a backdrop of giant American flag and 10 American-made vehicles in an aircraft hangar. Trump told them he would reopen a review of a fuel economy mandate to achieve the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

"Buy American, hire American," President Donald Trump said in an address at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti Township, where he met with auto company executives March 15, 2017. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

In the about 25-minute roundtable, he said the administration would work with them on reducing regulations and taxes, but he wanted to see new jobs.

“I know you’re competitors, and you’ll always be competitors, but we’re all on the same side on … keeping jobs in America and creating new jobs in the United States,” Trump said at the American Center for Mobility.

He urged new plants, not just expansions, and “modern plants, like you’re building in Mexico.”

“We want to have new plants built in Michigan, and new plants built in Ohio, and new plants in Pennsylvania and North Carolina and so many other locations,” Trump said.

“We’re going to make thousands and thousands and thousands of additional cars. And we’re going to make them in the United States,” he said.

He echoed the push for auto jobs in a speech that ran about 18 minutes to hundreds of autoworkers who were bused from across Metro Detroit. He even teased another auto industry announcement next week but wouldn’t give any specifics.

“We want to be the car capital of the world again,” Trump said. “We will be, and it won’t be long, believe me. ... We’re going to have a very big announcement next week having to do with your industry. Very, very big. Very important.”

At one point in the roundtable, the president turned to Jim Lentz, chief executive of Toyota North America, and said: “You have to build plants here. I know I gave you a hard time but you have to build them here.”

“I understand,” Lentz said. “I understand.”

But Lentz after the speech said Trump’s demand that auto companies add more U.S. manufacturing jobs and factories might be tough for some.

“If you take today as a starting point, that may not be fair to all companies,” he said.

Toyota didn’t lay off a single U.S. factory worker during the recession in 2010, Lentz said. The company has since hired 8,000 people in America and invested $5 billion on American factories. The automaker plans to spend another $10 billion over the next five years to improve those plants, Lentz said.

“Buy American and hire American,” Trump said during his speech at Willow Run Airport, adding that it is a pledge he plans to keep.

The president told a mixed crowd of salaried and hourly workers from General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Ford Motor Co. that he would fight to keep automobile production in the United States, often eliciting cheers.

Automakers requested the review of the gas mileage mandate after Obama officials finalized the rules a year ahead of time in the last days of the Democratic administration.

“The assault on the American auto industry is over,” Trump said. “Believe me, it’s over.”

The president made clear that he thought the Obama administration overstepped by finalizing fuel rules.

“If the standards threatened auto jobs, then common-sense changes could have and should have been made,” Trump said.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters after the event he is glad the midterm review has been reopened and the process will go through as intended. He said the fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions targets can be met, but at a price.

“The question is … the economic impact of the technology,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, the question is, ‘Can a consumer afford to pay for all the technology in the car?’ ”

But during the round table discussion, the UAW’s Williams said he is worried about environmental standards for the automobile industry.

“We all agree with you 100 percent. One hundred percent. We want you to make great cars but if it takes an extra thimble of fuel,” the administration wants the industry to do it, Trump said.

Before the speech, Trump toured a display of 10 cars and trucks with Ford CEO Mark Fields, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, Marchionne, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Barra and Williams sat on the each side of Trump during the roundtable, with Marchionne and Fields close by.

The UAW’s Williams pushed the president, saying more U.S. auto factory workers also should be UAW members.

“We want the workers to rise, too,” he said.

“Some things never change,” said Trump, nodding and smiling.

Prior to the speech, some industry employees said they were looking forward to hearing in person from the president — who has frequently called on U.S. automakers to increase stateside manufacturing.

The Trump supporters included Bruce Sims, an engineer at Fiat Chrysler’s Sterling Stamping Plant who is also the shop chairperson for UAW Local 412 in Warren, He was wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat.

“We want to hear about the free trade, we want to hear about the regulations he’s trying to lift that will help us out,” Sims said.

The federal government needs to shape fuel economy standards that balance the needs of the economy and the environment, he said.

“We want to keep the Earth, but we also want to keep jobs in America,” Sims said.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette was walking through the crowd, talking with other attendees. He said he would meet later with the president.

“The fact he’s going to have a rewrite of these job-crushing, paycheck-crushing emission rules that the Obama administration tried to do at the midnight hour ... that’s a breath of fresh air for jobs and paychecks in Michigan,” Schuette said.

 

Trump will offer boost
for carmakers today

Melissa Burden,
and Melissa Nann
Detroit News
March 15, 2017

President Donald J. Trump will tell autoworkers and car executives in a Wednesday speech outside Detroit that his administration is reopening an automaker-requested review of a strict fuel economy mandate, a senior White House official said.

The Trump official said the administration plans to spend the next year reviewing data and will set gas mileage standards in 2018 that are technically and economically realistic and would allow automakers to continue growing and adding jobs.

The declaration from Trump will pull back the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision in January under the Obama administration to move forward the fuel economy requirement of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The official said the National Highway Safety Administration would be more of a partner in the review than it had been under President Barack Obama. The EPA finalized the mileage rules, which were originally set to be reviewed for their feasibility by April 2018, a week before Trump took office.

The bureaucratic move does not relax the fuel economy standards that exist on the books. But environmentalists and many Democrats want Obama’s finalized mileage standard to stick.

The announcement is expected to be witnessed by hundreds of autoworkers from General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co. near the American Center for Mobility at Willow Run.

GM confirmed it will bus a few hundred hourly UAW and salaried workers from southeast Michigan sites such as its Renaissance Center headquarters, Warren Tech Center and Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant. It also will showcase its 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, a pure electric car, and the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric that is made at Detroit-Hamtramck, in a display of U.S.-made vehicles.

A Ford spokeswoman said Tuesday that it also will bus a large group of hourly and salaried workers to attend the president’s speech. Ford President and CEO Mark Fields will attend the president’s event, and the Dearborn automaker plans to showcase the Ford Mustang and F-150.

A Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday the company will bus hundreds of hourly and salaried employees from 10 Southeast locations including its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills and manufacturing plants. The automaker sought volunteers who will be paid for their time, the spokeswoman said.

The White House confirmed earlier this week that Trump would talk up his priorities of bolstering the manufacturing industry and reducing burdensome regulation.

The president is expected to tour the vehicle display and will meet separately with a group of automaker CEOs and senior executives at Willow Run ahead of his speech, according to two sources familiar with the plans.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Trump will meet with auto executives and workers in Michigan and discuss how his plans for “rolling back federal red tape will lead to more American jobs and higher wages, specifically in the automobile sector.”

“It’s a great opportunity for the president to showcase moves he’s already made toward his ambitious ‘Buy America, Hire America’ agenda, like encouraging investment in workforce training and development, so Americans are ready for the jobs of the future, and removing the roadblocks that prevent American businesses from staying and expanding here in the United States,” Spicer said.

“The president hopes to build on the great optimism that he has built within the business community in anticipation of the renewed opportunities the president’s economic agenda has already created.”

The White House has not confirmed other details of the president’s visit, which is his first to Michigan since he took office in January.

Other top automaker executives are expected to attend the event, including GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra; Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne; Nissan North America Chairman Jose Munoz; and Hyundai Motor America Acting President and CEO Jerry Flannery. Toyota Motor Corp. said a high-level North American executive will attend.

Trump has criticized automakers including Ford and GM for building vehicles in Mexico. He has blamed the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals for manufacturing job losses in the United States.

Gov. Rick Snyder had been scheduled to speak at a cybersecurity conference in Washington, D.C., but will instead stay in Michigan for the president’s visit, according to his office. But the governor’s office did not respond when asked if Snyder would join Trump at the meeting with auto company executives prior to the president’s speech, deferring to the White House on scheduling details.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette are expected at the Trump event as well. A spokesman for Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she does not plan to be there.

Some members of the Michigan delegation turned down an invitation to the event because they had to be in Washington for votes in Congress.

Trump has been working to reverse many Obama-era regulations since taking office, and his EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation are widely expected to reconsider the greenhouse gas emission standards.

Automakers have asked the Trump administration for the mid-term review of fuel economy mandates, but have not sought to rescind or change the underlying fuel-economy rules. They say the technology would add cost to vehicles and that Americans are buying more trucks and SUVs and are less interested in electric vehicles.

In their letter, the automakers also asked the administration to “harmonize” sometimes conflicting federal requirements between the EPA and Transportation Department.

 

 

Ford Raptor for 2017 is
rough, ready and cushy

The Ford Raptor tears up the 50-mile Borrego Desert course with 4-wheel-traction and versatile Fox sports shocks.

Los Angeles Times
Charles Fleming
March 14, 2017

Ford’s F-150 has been America’s bestselling truck for 40 straight years, and its bestselling vehicle for 30. Despite all the Accords and Priuses that dominate the West Coast, this is the country’s most popular mode of transportation.

The Raptor is the high-performance, off-road version of the F-150. It’s not a monster truck, but it’s a truck, and it’s a monster.

Ford introduced the first Raptor in 2010 and has held off the second generation until now. It was worth the wait, and the weight: Using new principles that Ford developed for its entire line, the 2017 F-150 Raptor is quicker, more powerful and 500 pounds lighter than its predecessor.

The new Raptor has shed the old V-8 and is now powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. Smaller in size and heft than the earlier engine, it makes 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque — up from 411 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque.

The more powerful punch increases the truck’s towing capacity by 2,000 pounds and increases the fuel economy by 23 percent, according to Ford. The company says there’s a 22 percent increase in the torque-to-weight ratio, too.

A drive around town reveals some of the Raptor’s talents. Although it sits higher and wider than the traditional F-150, the Raptor Supercab has a shorter wheelbase. It accelerates easily — thank you, torque — and corners well. Equipped with a lot of glass and a very good rearview camera, it’s even easy to parallel park.

The half-doors open to expose a rear seat with fair legroom and headroom or plenty of cargo space. (A Supercrew version features four full doors, and even more cargo space, but also rides 12 inches longer in the wheelbase.)

In the city and on the highway, the Raptor is well-behaved. For a car with such a powerful engine, and strapped with such meaty 17-inch wheels, it’s pleasantly quiet, even at full freeway speed.

Designed more for work than for commuting, it doesn’t have a lot of creature comforts in the cabin. There are only two cupholders, set between the front seats, but there is ample storage space in the doors, the center console and the glove compartment.

These contain a wealth of electronic support, too, including several plug-in spots for small devices, a 12-volt plug-in for larger ones, and even a 110-volt/400-watt AC plug for bigger gear.

That’s not counting the six auxiliary “upfitter” switches above the driver’s head, which can be used to operate after-market add-ons such as external fog lights, tow winches or the sort of roof lights you only see during times of trouble — those used by tow truck companies and law enforcement agencies.

A full appreciation of the Raptor requires dirt. So, doing my due diligence, a friend and I strapped two motorcycles into the 5.5-foot bed and headed off-road.

Ford based the Raptor on its Baja 1000 race vehicle, fitting it with extended travel shocks, 17-inch off-road tires, skid plates, tow hooks and more.

While I did not test the truck at Baja level — 100 miles per hour in deep sand, through rock gardens or airborne over jumps — I did give it a pretty good shakedown cruise.

At 60 miles an hour, on a dirt road, over washboard and ruts left by recent rains, the Raptor was Cadillac-comfy, as quiet and restrained as it had been at the same speed on the highway.

The smooth ride is due in part to the Baja-ready suspension, which offers a stellar 14 inches of travel in the rear and 13 inches up front. That’s about 6 inches front and rear better than a standard F-150 with Ford’s off-road package, and more than enough to manage the humps and bumps we encountered.

Though the drive to our riding spot didn’t involve any climbing, it did include some washouts and one massive mud puddle. Eager to see how the Raptor would manage the sticky stuff, I drove into the deepest section, stayed in two-wheel drive and waited to see who would win.

The mud won. After a slight attack of anxiety, and a bit of inelegant wheel spinning that dug the mudhole a little deeper, I shifted into four-wheel-drive and let the Raptor extricate itself.

It’s good at that sort of thing, and engineered for it. Transmission selections on the steering wheel include Normal, Sport, Weather, Mud/Sand, Rock Crawl and Baja. I played around with several of these, but couldn’t find any terrain that really challenged them.

Customers looking for reasons not to buy a Raptor will find them. The truck comes with only one engine — though presumably it could be fitted with the diesel engine Ford has promised to put in its 2018 F-150s — and only the short bed size.

Also, all that off-road readiness comes at a price, especially for truck shoppers who have seen F-150s advertised from $27,000.

The Raptor is available in a basic version from $49,520. The model I drove was equipped with $12,560 in amenities. The priciest of these were those included in the Raptor Technology Package and Equipment Group 802A, which boosted the suggested retail price by adding heated and ventilated front seats, beefier front and rear axles, a 360-degree camera, trailer control monitoring, remote start, LED lighting in the bed, side mirror spotlights, adaptive cruise control and more.

There are also a few things missing. Even dressed up with all that technology, the Raptor doesn’t offer rain-sensing windshield wipers as standard equipment, though that’s become a fairly common feature in mid-priced cars. (It is available as part of a complex additional package of upgrades.)

I found the driver’s seat difficult to get into a comfortable position, despite the multiple ways in which it can be adjusted.

Also, it has an intrusive automatic start-stop system but still gets the sort of fuel economy that will be very painful when fuel prices rise again.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency set the combined city-highway fuel consumption at 16 miles per gallon, the onboard computer said the best I could do, driving at the speed limit on the highway, carrying a relatively small load, was more than 2 mpg below that. My high number was 13.6 and my average was nearer to 12, even with that stop-start turning the engine off at every stop light.

Ford doesn’t count on selling that many Raptors as part of the more than 800,000 F-150s it will sell this year.

But judging from the many thumbs-up I received driving the Raptor around town for a week, the company won’t have trouble selling the ones it builds.

 

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Vehicle type: Two-door, crew cab pickup

Base price: $49,520

Price as tested: $62,080

Powertrain: 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 gasoline engine

Transmission: Ten-speed automatic

Horsepower: 450

Torque: 510 pound-feet

EPA fuel economy rating: 15 mpg city / 18 mpg highway / 16 mpg combined

 

 

Ford’s Dearborn transformation
takes 1st step at mall

The grand atrium at Ford Motor Co.’s office space for engineers and development employees encourages socializing inside a wing at Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn.

Ian Thibodeau
March 13, 2017
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. is one year into a massive 10-year transformation of its world headquarters that’s intended to make its Dearborn facilities — and the city itself — attractive to young talent and establish it as a center for innovation.

This is Ford’s answer to an increasingly competitive market as it and other American automakers enter the mobility and autonomy fields. They are competing with high-tech companies like Google, Apple and Uber for workers.

Ford’s plan calls for demolitions, renovations and new construction to create a walkable, centralized headquarters that ditches the six-foot cubicles and beige walls that’ve been in some of its buildings since their construction 50 years ago. About 30,000 workers from 70 buildings will be consolidated onto two central campuses – one behind Ford World Headquarters on Michigan Avenue, the other at Ford’s product development center near The Henry Ford. The automaker has not disclosed the overall cost, but estimates have put it at a billion dollars and beyond.

To accommodate nearly 2,000 employees being displaced by the first round of construction, Ford recently completed a remake of the vacant Lord & Taylor wing of Fairlane Town Center Mall into new offices. The automaker retrofitted 240,000 square feet of space inside the former department store and several other storefronts.

The airy new space creates “hubs” in each of the former storefronts. Those surround a central “park” area lit by skylights and decorated with greenery where employees can socialize, take lunch or work. It all is conducive to a more collaborative workspace.

“This is a big culture shift,” said Kelley Vallone, Ford’s Dearborn campus transformation planning manager and director of workplace strategy.

The office areas have low cubicle walls, ergonomically designed workstations, lounge areas, cafes and treadmill desks for employees who want to move while they work. Private rooms and shared spaces spread throughout the hubs make it conducive to a “me-we” environment.

That’s just a first step. By the mid 2020s, the company will have a vastly altered Dearborn footprint, especially in the area around the product campus, which will feature an 812,000-square-foot design center and several new buildings encompassing a central park area to connect them. Early designs call for basketball courts and sports fields that would be accessible to the public at the World Headquarters campus, which will also get a brand new building for Ford Credit, and new data center to support Ford’s expansion into technology and software development.

Ford also plans to create additional offices in a separate $60 million mixed-use development planned for three blocks of Michigan Avenue between Mason and Oakwood Boulevard in the city’s West Downtown District that would help revitalize Dearborn’s main shopping drag.

“We did a lot of benchmarking, and we understood our need,” said Dave Dubensky, chairman and CEO of Ford’s real estate arm, Ford Land.

And that was to revive the company facilities and make Dearborn a better fit for Ford employees.

“We built the house, now you fast-forward 40 or 50 years and it’s in need of renovation and change,” he said.

Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly said Ford’s plan will help property values, boost retail and bring people back to the city.

The Fairlane project is a fresh approach at filling a glut of unused retail space in Dearborn. Ford has a 10-year lease on the space with the option to renew when the time is up.

“We’re going to see more people coming here to work, and we’re also going to see that kind of new image that’s going to be created,” O’Reilly said. “There are no losers in this one... this is the catalyst that is really making all the difference in the world.”

Ford and its home city will also see benefits from an increasingly vibrant scene in downtown Detroit. Detroit’s dining and entertainment options could attract potential Ford employees to Dearborn.

“It’s helpful that Detroit is transforming along with us,” said Julie Lodge-Jarret, Ford’s chief learning officer and global director of learning for development and recruiting.

Ford hopes all of this will spin the company into a future that Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford has repeatedly outlined as mobility-driven. The development aims to help Ford attract new types of employees as it builds to that future.

Natalie Pohlman, a 23-year-old engineer who recently relocated to the Fairlane offices, said she wasn’t aware of Ford’s plans before joining the company, but the new offices are an added early perk. She thought the campus changes would come further down the road.

“I didn’t think it would happen so fast,” said Pohlman, who grew up in the Upper Peninsula. “I’ve met so many more people, and it’s so much more open... I know a lot of my friends love it ... . We’re used to this kind of environment.”

Vallone and Lodge-Jarrett said Ford worked with employees across several generations to develop the framework for the new facility. Lodge-Jarrett said the Fairlane space amplifies that “the whole premise of innovation and collaboration is very much a part of the company going forward.”

She said Ford could not just rely on the company’s heritage to compete with Silicon Valley and the East Coast.

“We have had to shift our approach for sure,” she said. “The reality is that some of these software engineers could write code anywhere.”

 

VW pleads guilty
to Dieselgate felonies

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
March 12, 2017

Volkswagen AG pleaded guilty to three criminal charges on Friday for its 10-year conspiracy to rig hundreds of thousands of diesel cars to cheat U.S. emission standards. But the judge in the case asked for more time to sentence the German automaker.

Attorneys for both the government and Volkswagen asked U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox in Detroit to accept the plea and immediately sentence the company, which under the terms of a plea agreement would pay $2.8 billion in criminal fines and $1.5 billion in civil penalties in the case.

Cox said he would hold off on sentencing -- including the final determination of fines and penalities -- until April 21 because the offense was “very, very serious.”

“It’s incumbent on me to make a considerate decision,” he said, “and ... I just want more time to reflect and study...”

Before issuing a sentence, Cox is expected to consider an objection filed in the case by an attorney for victims in the emissions scandal.

Birmingham attorney Craig Hilborn asked Cox to reject the government’s plea deal for the international automaker because it lacks any court-ordered restitution for victims and does not charge Volkswagen Group of America with a crime. Cox did not rule on the objection Friday.

Manfred Doess, VW’s general counsel, appeared before Cox to plead guilty on behalf of the company to conspiring to defraud the United States by violating the Clean Air Act, obstructing justice during the government’s investigation and a charge of entry of goods by false statement.

The government said Volkswagen conspired to enrich itself by deceiving U.S. regulators to get the necessary certificates to sell VW and Porsche cars in the United States knowing those vehicles did not meet U.S. emission standards.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Neal told Cox that federal guidelines in the case called for a fine between $17 billion and $34 billion, based on the depth of the company’s conspiracy.

“This was a premeditated crime that went to a very high level in the corporate structure,” he said, adding it was a “very calculated and well-thought out offense.”

Neal said VW did not disclose its illegal behavior and it obstructed the government’s investigation of the company by destroying documents and data after learning of the probe.

But because VW did disclose its own obstructive conduct to the government and agreed to a three-year independent monitor, the government believes the criminal penalties should be reduced to $2.8 billion.

Cox asked Doess why the company was pleading guilty. “It is pleading guilty because it is guilty of all criminal counts,” Doess replied.

The automaker has admitted to programming its diesel cars to trick emissions testers into believing the engines released far less pollution into the air than they actually do, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. Regulators have said that in normal driving they emitted up to 40 times more smog-causing nitrogen oxide than the legal limit.

Six current and former VW executives have been indicted in criminal cases.

Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen AG is the parent company of Volkswagen Group of America.

Last month, a former high-ranking Volkswagen AG executive was arraigned on criminal charges in connection with the scandal.

Oliver Schmidt, 48, a German national, is charged in a superseding indictment with conspiracy to defraud the United States; violating the Clean Air Act; and aiding and abetting wire fraud. Schmidt was once responsible for the company’s compliance with U.S. emissions regulations. He faces up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charges.

On Friday, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., issued a joint-statement after the plea, saying the VW executives must be held responsible for their actions.

“VW rightfully pleaded guilty today following a years-long campaign of deception, deceit and pollution. The Department of Justice should continue to vigorously pursue its criminal investigation against VW executives who knowingly and intentionally misled regulators, polluted our air, threatened people’s health and deceived consumers,” the statement said.

The president of Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit consumer advocacy group, issued a statement Friday asking for higher criminal penalities in the case.

“The civil justice system has forced Volkswagen to make amends to consumers, but this intentional, long-running fraud requires tough criminal penalties as well,” President Robert Weissman said.

“Government prosecutors were right to force Volkswagen to plead guilty to multiple felonies... but they should have imposed the fines closer to those called for by the sentencing guidelines, which would have been five to almost 10 times higher.”

 

Foreign-car dealers urge
Congress to reject border tax

Melissa Nann Burke,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
March 11, 2107

Washington — About 250 foreign-car dealers from around the country spread out across Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet with lawmakers and urge them to reject a House Republican plan for a new tax on imports.

Members of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, which represents 9,500 franchises, told members of Congress that the border-adjustment tax would hurt sales.

They point to a study by the Center for Automotive Research that the tax could lead to a 5.6 percent increase in prices in the overall market, or an estimated average of $1,970 per vehicle.

“Two thousand dollars is a lot of money when it’s not related to the value of the car itself,” said Steven Germain of the Ohio-based Germain Auto Group, which has four dealerships in Ann Arbor. “People would buy fewer cars or put off buying a new car.”

Germain met Thursday with Ohio lawmakers including Republican Sen. Rob Portman and Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Democrat, and said he’d be back again to press the case if need be.

“Probably over 90 percent of the vehicles we sold are financed, so everybody is payment-conscious and budget-sensitive,” said David Conant, a dealer from Newport Beach, California, who called the proposal “anti-consumer.”

“If you try to add $2,000 of tax to a vehicle — at no additional value — it changes the vehicle selection that people will make based on payment, and it phases out people who are just squeaking into a new vehicle.”

The association said other dealers met with members of the Michigan delegation or their staff, including Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township; and Reps. Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oak; Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph; and Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden.

Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, the GOP plan would in part lift the tax on exports and impose a 20 percent tax on imported goods. Ryan argues that many other countries border-adjust their taxes.

“We are hurting our manufacturing and jobs. We are putting a bias against making things in America in the tax code,” Ryan said at a news conference last month. “That is why we think this is very important. This is good manufacturing policy.”

Automakers and retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target are not fans, while companies that mostly export goods have been more supportive of this type of tax.

The White House has not indicated whether it supports the border-adjusted tax, although Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the administration is looking at it “seriously.”

Cody L. Lusk, president of the dealers association, began organizing the lobbying day on the Hill about five weeks ago as chatter about the border-adjustment tax picked up among key members of Congress, including Chairman Kevin Brady of the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee.

Lusk said the tax would cause prices to increase on every vehicle sold in the U.S., not just imported vehicles, due to various parts within a vehicle being manufactured or assembled elsewhere and brought into the country.

“No vehicle is 100-percent American, so it’s going to cause price increases for everything, and we wanted to highlight that to members of Congress,” Lusk said, noting the most American-made car is the Toyota Camry at 70 percent. “It’s a global industry in today’s world, with a global supply chain.”

In theory, the GOP tax plan assumes that a stronger dollar will offset hikes to consumer and business costs caused by the border-adjustment tax.

Levin, a senior Democrat on the Ways & Means Committee, said he continues to study what the impact would be on manufacturing and consumers.

“How workable is it when so much of the content of a vehicle goes back and forth between three countries. At the same time, I have a deep concern about continued movement of production to Mexico,” Levin said Thursday at the Capitol. “We’re taking a really hard look at it.”

 

Fun in the snow with
the Ford Focus RS

The Ford Focus RS, dubbed the company’s Euro-market hero, can go from smooth rider to gearhead’s dream.

JEREMY SINEK
Globe & Mail
March 10, 2017

Back in the 1970s, a tobacco giant put together a “best-of” montage featuring footage of the Ford Escort RS1800s it sponsored in the World Rally Championship. The European Escort was a simple rear-wheel-drive machine back then and the fastest way to hustle one along a rally special stage was to keep it permanently off-balance.

Watching those WRC Escorts spew comet-tails of snow from their rear wheels in long, sweeping, perfectly controlled drifts, each graceful arc setting the car up just-so for the next curve … well, that’s my kinda ballet.

Soon after that movie was screened, the production Escort switched to front-wheel-drive and would eventually evolve into the Focus. Both nameplates spawned RS derivatives of their own, including the second-generation Focus RS that won the WRC manufacturer’s title in 2006 and 2007. More recently, Ford anointed the smaller, lighter Fiesta as the basis of its WRC campaign, but the Focus RS remains Ford’s Euro-market hero car for the street.

The latest and greatest evolution of the line launched in 2016. And for the first time ever, the ne plus ultra of Focus performance is sold in Canada.

In a karmic way, the 2017 Focus RS arcs back to those balletic rear-drive Escorts of the seventies. Like most overachiever versions of front-wheel drive cars, the RS adopts all-wheel drive to effectively put its 350 horsepower to pavement. But in a sop to committed gearheads who worship at the church of power oversteer, the RS’s all-wheel drive system has a Drift mode. When selected, up to 70 per cent of power is routed rearward and the stability-control system backs off enough to allow intentional sideways-ness.

At least that’s the theory and we’re here at the Mecaglisse motorsport complex in Quebec to experience the practice. Despite record-warm February weather, there remains sufficient ice to allow the use of studded Nokia tires on the Focus RS test samples.

Going in at the deep end doesn’t get much deeper than this: climb into unfamiliar car, immediately enter slalom, exit slalom and enter white-coated racetrack.

No problem. In Drift mode, the Focus is absurdly easy to pilot provocatively. It’s predictable, controllable, wonderfully communicative. No wonder the pro race drivers riding shotgun with us seem so calm: In Drift mode, the stability control is more lenient but it is still on; it’ll let you get sideways … but not a lot sideways. It’s fun, but not hugely challenging. But that is probably exactly the way Claude Bourbonnais likes it from the passenger seat. And also why he doesn’t mention that, actually, you can turn the ESC completely off. After four laps of the track – about 40 too few – we’re sent out on a street drive. It’s short but intense. Route 347 running north-east from Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci doesn’t just swoop and swerve through the Lanaudière hills, it’s also bumpy as all heck – and much of it dusted with salt and gravel.

On this road the RS’s chassis/drivetrain partnership puts on a master-class display of agility, stability, body control – and even, believe it or not, comfort (at least on the test car’s Michelin winter tires). Quibbles? “Earsthetically” the turbo motor’s sound is gruff and a car this price really ought to have a better range of power seat adjustment. But wow, what an athlete. Back at Mecaglisse, it’s the passengers’ turn to become drivers and treat the journos to hot laps. I get a NASCAR driver who is literally whooping at the fun of it. But wait – did I just see him use the handbrake to help the RS go sideways? Hmmm.

When my ride is over, I get shot after shot of the pro-driven cars splayed at 45 degrees to the intended direction of travel. But something’s missing. Where’s the spray of snow from the back wheels? Why aren’t the front wheels cranked hard over in countersteer?

Then I remember: the RS’s Performance AWD System with Dynamic Torque Vectoring “continuously varies the front/rear and side-to-side torque distribution to suit current driving conditions,” Ford says. With the stability control fully off, we’re told, the AWD is supposed to promote drifting but only up to a point, it seems. In this dance, the car is still the lead.

 

What to expect when you
cross the Canada-U.S. border

(Glenn Russell/The Burlington Free Press via AP)

Maclean's
Aaron Hutchins
March 9, 2017

The unions that represent America’s border control officers and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents want everyone to know their morale is up—way up—thanks to Donald Trump. In a joint press release, they exclaimed that the President’s executive orders “empowered” those working on the border’s front lines, the first line of defence in deciding who gets in and who gets turned away from the Land of the Free.

But morale is not quite so high for many Canadians lining up to enter Trump’s America, wondering just what to expect.

“With these executive orders, it’s not that you’re going to be inadmissible or not qualified for entry, but the the vetting process will be more stringent,” says Mark Belanger, a Vancouver-based lawyer with Border Solutions Law Group. “The chances of being pulled into secondary are greater.”

All of which leaves Canadians wondering what they’ll be asked, how long they might have to wait, and if they’ll be turned away for some dubious reason.

“There’s no restrictions on what an officer can ask you because there’s no telling what will guide an officer to follow a particular line of questioning to determine if that traveller is admissible for not,” says Dave Long, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in Buffalo, N.Y. And while that’s unchanged from long before Trump took office, tales from the border since his inauguration clearly show some officers are taking their unrestricted-question mandate down some odd paths.

Earlier this month, Sardar Ahmad, a Canadian citizen and family doctor in Sarnia, Ont., was held up at the border for five hours to answer questions that included which “tribe” he was part of in his birth country of Afghanistan, and who his tribal chief was. Never mind that Ahmad only wanted to cross the border briefly before his work shift, so he could visit the Nexus office to find out why his border crossing card had suddenly and without explanation been revoked.

It’s not just a one-sided Q&A either. Border officers can ask to see what’s on your phone just as they can ask to see what’s in the trunk of your car. Phone’s locked? They’ll ask for the passcode. Signed out of social media accounts? They can ask for your Facebook password. “If you don’t provide it, they’ll just turn you away,” Belanger says. “And you should assume they’re going to a keep a record of everything on your phone. It’s the U.S. government. There’s nothing more powerful in the world than the U.S. government.”

That’s something Yassine Aber learned the hard way in February. The young Canadian-born track and field athlete studying at University of Sherbrooke was denied entry into the U.S. from Quebec after border security got his phone and combed through his Facebook photos. There, officers found an old group wedding photo where Aber was next to someone who—long after the photo was taken—was suspected of fleeing to Syria to fight with terrorists. That Aber hardly knew him didn’t matter. His track teammates got the green light to continue onwards for the meet in Boston, while Aber was forced to wait at a nearby town until his brother could pick him up.

“A warrant or probable cause, it doesn’t exist at the border,” Belanger explains. “These border guards don’t need that. If you don’t provide it, they’ll just turn you away.”

So, just to be safe, should those going on short trips across the border think about leaving behind their regular phones in favour of a pre-paid cell phone—avoiding the chance of the U.S. government getting access to your baby photos and family contact info? That too, alas, is likely a red flag. “It looks sketchy to me to show up with a burner phone,” Belanger says. “There’s only a few people I know who would carry a burner phone and they’re usually not doing legitimate stuff.”

Worried about privacy? Don’t bring a phone at all. “Not having a cell phone would not be any reason for alarm,” says Dave Long, the CBP spokesperson. “Unless if you were going down to a cell phone convention.” And at his border crossing in Buffalo, they’re not holding many people back to look at electronic devices. “If we stopped everyone and asked to go through all their phones, we’d have a line of people going back to Muskoka,” Long adds.

Suffice to say not every person is being turned away or searched so diligently. Out of 1.2 million people who try to enter the U.S. every day from any of its borders, Long says the CBP will deny entry to somewhere between 300 and 600.

Yet those being turned away at the border in recent weeks seem to have something in common. Last month, Fadwa Alaoui, a Moroccan-born Canadian citizen, told media she spent four hours at the Quebec-Vermont border answering questions about her religion and her opinions about Donald Trump. She was eventually denied entry for what she hoped was a fun day of cross-border shopping with her adult children.

Last weekend, Montreal born-and-raised Manpreet Kooner, who is of Indian decent, was held up for six hours at the border before getting denied entry, and told she needed an immigrant visa if she wanted to ever get in, a rarity for a Canadian-born citizen. Her white friends with whom she was planning hang out for the day with at a Vermont spa had no such trouble.

“Our officers don’t [profile],” insists Long, the CBP spokesperson. “That is absolutely prohibited by CBP policy.”

Belanger thinks otherwise. “Let’s say you’re a dual national Canadian and Iranian, you’re going to get a lot more vetting than if you were just a Canadian citizen,” he counters. “They do profile. Of course they’re going to say they don’t, but they do. We all know that.”

And if you get denied entry—or make a fuss at the border—it’s possible there will be a mark on your permanent record, so to speak. Belanger says three things can happen when someone fails to cross the border. First and most typically, he says, a border agent can turn you away for whatever reason and ask the you to come back with certain documentation, otherwise leaving your file because the concern is not important enough to warn other officers.

But if they consider the issue more serious, Belanger says, they’ll put a so-called “TEC hit” on your file. “It’ll alert officers at the front line that you should be sent to secondary for further investigation. Then in secondary, the officers inside will do a more thorough background check.”

The third possibility—the rarest but also worst-case scenario for a traveller, according to Belanger—is the agent gives you a nine-digit “Alien” number that they physically write in the back your passport: “They’ve literally opened a dossier on you at the point. You have an active file with lots of information and they’re investigating you.”

In January, when Sasha Dyck explained to border officers that his car of passengers was heading Washington D.C. to take part in the Women’s March the day after inauguration, he says they were all immediately sent to secondary. “They took phones, told us to unlock our phones and had us wait while they fingerprinted and photographed us one by one,” says the nurse from Montreal. After two hours of waiting and some of their group being asked if they were planning to sow disruption, “they gave us our phones back and a piece of paper to present at the Canadian border and said: ‘You’re not welcome this weekend.”

It was a disappointing start to the weekend. But Dyck also remembers a time when both he and a U.S. border officer shared a moment of optimism at the Canada-U.S. boundary: eight years prior at Barack Obama’s first inauguration. When Dyck got to the border in 2009 and said he was heading to D.C., “I literally got high-fived by the border guard.”

 

Why Ford stands by its
'One Ford' philosophy

Ford's Joe Bakaj: "An example of a great global product is the Focus RS, which we now sell in the U.S."

Automotive News
Richard Johnson
March 8, 2017

One argument for selling Opel to PSA is that General Motors' global engineering demands suddenly get a lot less complex.

What's more, GM's Detroit bosses say there's far less overlap between Europe and the re‎st of the world these days.

Well, Ford of Europe product development chief Joe Bakaj isn't commenting on GM's retreat from Europe, but he's adamant that Ford sees no reason to step away from its "One Ford" philosophy.

"We're still convinced that our One Ford global engineering‎ structure is working for us," he said. "You can see some of the results on our stand her‎e today.

"The Mustang last year was the No. 1 selling sports car in Europe -- it outsold the Porsche 911 in Germany. How could t‎hat happen without strong One Ford global engineering?"

‎A decade or so ago, the Mustang's manual gearshift was, Bakaj concedes, "a point of contention."

But the current Mustang shifter, developed with Getrag and refined in Europe, has been praised by finicky European car journalists.

"Through One Ford we were able to apply manual transmission expertise in Europe into the global product, and we now have a great-shifting Mustang that has done really well," he said. "That to me is a great example of how global engineering can work for us, taking the best knowledge from each region.

"‎If (Ford product development boss) Raj Nair was here he'd tell you how fortunate he is to have part of his product development team here in Europe. It's a global knowledge base."

A key factor, Bakaj says, is developing mainstream cars that will traverse the Autobahn, Autoroute and Autostrada at breakneck speeds.‎

"It does count," he says. "An example of a great global product is the Focus RS, which we now sell in the U.S."

The Focus RS was set up to go 265 kmh (165 mph) on the Autobahn every day of the week.

"When you develop a vehicle to be safe and controllable at those speeds it forces you to cascade that knowledge right down into the details of every component in the vehicle."

 

2018 Ford Mustang performance, specs, rumours, and news

The 2018 Ford Mustang ditches the V6 but adds
driver-assist tech and a 10-speed gearbox

By Andrew Hard — March 7, 2017

53 years ago, the Ford Mustang burst onto the scene and changed the game forever. It wasn’t the first muscle car ever built, but it did birth the term “pony car,” which went on to describe such classics as the Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, and Plymouth Barracuda. If Ford stopped making the Mustang today, its place in history would be cemented.

Thankfully, the iconic ‘Stang is still going strong. A revamped 2018 model is due out later this year, and even though it’s technically a mid-cycle refresh and not a new generation, there’s plenty to digest. From horsepower to headlights, here’s everything we know about the 2018 Ford Mustang.

Ford debuted the 2018 Mustang and 2018 Mustang Convertible online following the leak of a promotional video on YouTube. Thus far, the design has proved quite polarizing.

The update brings new sheet metal from the A-pillar forward. The headlights are smaller than the current offerings, and they each get three short strips of LED daytime running lights. It’s a modern interpretation of one of the original Mustang’s defining styling cues that cleverly provides the 2018 model with a new lighting signature. A redesigned bumper and horizontal turn signals round out the updates up front, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t say that the current model looks, well, meaner. Maybe it’ll grow on us. Out back, the Mustang gets a redesigned rear fascia with standard quad-tip exhaust. Add three new paint finishes and 12 wheel choices, and you have the sum total of the exterior adjustments.

Inside, the vehicle gets a new dashboard fitted with a digital instrument cluster. The revamped Mustang is actually the first Ford product to get one, but for more on the car’s interior gadgetry, scroll down to this roundup’s Technology section.

Mustang Shelby

Modern Mustangs are more civilized and refined than they’ve ever been, but the vehicle is still a sports car at heart. In fact, the 2016 Shelby Mustang GT350R won the Performance category of our Car Awards last year, beating a Lamborghini Huracan and a Mercedes-AMG GT S on track day to do so. Moving forward, Ford doesn’t seem to be slowing down a bit.

Ford is dropping the V6 entirely for the 2018 model year, leaving buyers with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder and a 5.0-liter V8. The automaker hasn’t divulged specifications for either yet, but the brand says the EcoBoost gets more torque and the V8 has been “thoroughly reworked” to make more power and rev higher. Currently, it makes 435 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of twist, while the four-pot spits out 310 hp and 320 lb-ft.

The car’s six-speed manual has been upgraded for better torque delivery all around, but on the automatic side, there’s a newcomer. The six-speed slushbox is gone for 2018 and in its place slots a new 10-speed for both engines, one that Ford calls the “best automatic Mustang has ever offered.” It’s quicker, more responsive, and more efficient than its predecessor, and the vehicle’s new electronic control system can alter its character with a variety of drive modes. These modes can also tailor the car’s soundtrack, because the refreshed ‘Stang offers active exhaust valves for increased auditory control. To bark or not to bark, that is the question.

In addition to more straight line speed, the revamped Mustang borrows the MagneRide adaptive suspension setup from the GT350R as part of the optional Mustang Performance Package. We were enthralled by the GT350R’s handling prowess on a track, so we can’t wait to see what trickles down to the GT and base model.

There are more niche Mustangs on the market than you can shake a shifter at, and for 2018, that doesn’t appear to be changing. As we reported late last year, a new Shelby GT500 is in the works and it has the 707-hp Dodge Hellcat in its sights.

The rumor is the 2018 GT500 will boast as much as 740 hp from a new 5.0-liter twin-turbo V8, all of which will be channeled to the rear wheels through an unconfirmed transmission. The GT500 is also set to benefit from Ford’s recent investments in lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and aluminum. In addition, Brembo brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires will help drivers make the most of the eight-cylinder’s prodigious amount of power. The car will undoubtedly look like a petrol-fueled demon on four wheels (we mean that in the most respectful way), and hopefully we’ll get to see it during the 2017 auto show season.

That’s not all though, because a brand new Mustang Mach 1 is heavily rumored for 2018 as well. Not seen since 2004, the Mach 1 Mustang is known for over-the-top styling and huge performance gains compared to the GT. The previous generation included variants that brought back classic badges like the Boss 302. What will the new one have in store? We can’t wait to find out.

The Mustang is a performance-first machine, but Ford has packed more high-tech features into the pony car than ever before. That’s a pretty standard automaker line to be honest, but this time, it’s actually true. The 2018 model is the first Mustang ever to feature driver-assist technology like pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, distance alert, a lane-departure warning system, and lane-keeping assist. Owners can also use a dedicated smartphone application called FordPass to start, lock, unlock, and locate their car.

And as we hinted at earlier, the Mustang gets Ford’s first all-digital 12.0-inch instrument cluster in front of the driver. The LCD unit offers three separate themes that are fully configurable, mirroring the normal, sport, and track driving modes. Drivers can also save their favorite suspension and steering preferences, bringing this long-standing muscle car into the 21st century.

Release date and price: Fall 2017

According to Ford, the 2018 Mustang will go on sale in the third quarter on 2017. Pricing information hasn’t been released yet, but for reference, the 2017 EcoBoost Mustang starts at $26,195 while the GT starts at $33,195.

 

Mexico official: NAFTA
must be win-win-win

Charles E. Ramirez, and
Melissa Burden
March 6, 2017

It’s time to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement so that all three countries in it benefit, Mexico’s economy minister said.

“NAFTA is a 23 year-old agreement,” Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy, told the Detroit Economic Club on Friday at the MotorCity Casino Hotel. “When we were negotiating it, we didn’t have cellphones, e-commerce didn’t exist. We need to (improve and modernize it).”

NAFTA was enacted in 1994 to create a free-trade zone between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Guajardo told the crowd of about 260 he hopes to achieve three things in the process of renegotiating the trade deal.

One, he said, is to keep the parts of the agreement that are working.

Two, is to revamp the agreement to account for changes in technology and things Mexico has now that it didn’t when NAFTA was enacted, such as energy and telecommunications sectors open to competition.

Lastly, “the final agreement has to be a win-win-win agreement for the three nations,” he said. “There’s no way I can go back to Mexico with an agreement that does not represent an advancement of Mexican interests as well as U.S. and Canadian interests.”

Guajardo said he hopes he and his team will be able to sit down with his American and Canadian counterparts to begin renegotiating NAFTA in mid-June.

Mexico’s economic chief was in town to speak to the economic club and to meet with auto industry officials. His visit comes after President Donald Trump said he wants to renegotiate or get out of NAFTA. Trump blames it and other trade deals for the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

During his presidential campaign, Trump blasted Ford for its plans to build a plant in Mexico for small cars, which Ford scrapped earlier this year. He also has criticized GM for importing Chevrolet Cruze Hatchbacks from Mexico.

Furthermore, Trump has talked of a 20 percent border tax on imports from Mexico into the U.S. as a way to pay for his planned wall along the southern border with Mexico.

Guajardo said he preferred not to comment on Trump’s statements or proposals on tariffs on products exported to the U.S. from Mexico.

“We’re getting ready to start discussions with the (Trump) administration and it wouldn’t be smart to start reacting to these types of things and it would be bad for the negotiating process,” he said. “What I can tell you is any action creates a reaction and what we have to avoid in this process is to engage in a lose-lose proposition.”

He said an exit by the U.S. from NAFTA is the worst-case scenario.

“But let me make it clear, it wouldn’t be the end of NAFTA,” Guajardo said. “It would be the U.S. denouncing and leaving NAFTA. But Mexico and Canada would still stay.

“Remember, NAFTA isn’t only about trade,” he said. “It also gives clarity and certainty to the rules of how governments should treat foreign investments. The continuing of NAFTA is an asset, even if the U.S. chooses not to remain.”

Before his speech at the economic club, Guajardo was slated to meet with Joe Hinrichs, Ford Motor Co.’s president of the Americas, at Ford world headquarters in Dearborn, a company spokeswoman confirmed. And after his economic club address, he was to meet with General Motors Co.’s Chief Economist Mustafa Mohatarem, a GM spokesman said.

It was not clear if he planned to meet with anyone from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. A Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman declined comment.

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, who sits on a group of business leaders advising Trump on economic policy issue, has said she’s shared information with Trump and his administration about the long-lead time automakers have when investing in plants and the complicated supply chain that is integrated with Mexico.

Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner with more than $583 billion in commerce crossing their borders. There’s also a trade deficit of $49.2 billion between the U.S. and Mexico.

America buys about 80 percent of Mexico’s exports, with automobiles, electrical machinery and fuels topping a long list that also includes agricultural goods such as fruit, vegetables, wine and beer.

Mexico is also Michigan’s second-largest trade partner, with nearly $12 billion worth of goods exported to Mexico each year. Canada is the state’s biggest trade partner, accounting for $23.5 billion in goods exported there.

 

Ford recalls 3 vehicles on
Takata airbag safety concern

Ford Edge 2016

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
March 4, 2017

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. issued a safety recall for three 2016-2017 models to replace potentially faulty Takata Corp. airbags.

The automaker on Thursday said it is recalling approximately 32,000 2016-17 Ford Edge, 2016-17 Lincoln MKX and 2017 Lincoln Continental vehicles to replace the frontal driver airbag.

“Ford was notified by Takata that certain driver frontal airbag cushions installed in these vehicles may not inflate as intended,” the automaker said in a statement. In the event that airbag is deployed, the device might not inflate completely, or the airbag cushion might detach from airbag module, which may increase the risk of driver injury, according to a statement.

Ford said it is not aware of any incidents or injuries related to the issue.

The vehicles affected include:

2016-17 Ford Edge vehicles built at Oakville Assembly Plant, Oct. 8, 2015 to Feb. 15, 2017

2016-17 Lincoln MKX vehicles built at Oakville Assembly Plant, Nov. 11, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2017

2017 Lincoln Continental vehicles built at Flat Rock Assembly Plant, Jan. 13, 2016 to Jan. 18, 2017

Dealers will replace the airbags at no cost to the customer, Ford said. The recall reference number is 17C02.

The safety concern is not related to Takata’s non-desiccated ammonium nitrate airbag inflators that are subject to propellant degradation and potential rupture in a crash, which the Japanese auto parts company has been in U.S. court over. On Monday, the company pleaded guilty to wire fraud and agreed to pay $1 billion in criminal penalties stemming from the company’s fraudulent conduct related to sales of those airbags.

In a separate federal court in Miami on Monday, lawyers for victims and their families suing Takata and five automakers — Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Ford and BMW — allege the car companies knew Takata’s air bags were dangerous, yet continued to use them for years they were inexpensive.

Ford said Monday it would respond to that pending litigation through the “appropriate legal channels.”

 

 

News comes on heels of
Unifor winning pension
battle with company

By Ellwood Shreve,
Chatham Daily News
March 3, 2017

The final chapter in the Navistar truck assembly plant closure saga is drawing near.

Unifor, the union representing former production and office employees with Locals 127 and 35, announced late Tuesday afternoon that the long fight for severance money owed to workers has been won.

This comes on the heels of news last month that the Financial Services Commission of Ontario approved the partial wind-up of the defined benefit pension plans for former eligible employees with Locals 127 and 35, which was also a long, drawn-out battle to get settled.

The national union was known then as the Canadian Auto Workers when it filed a grievance concerning Navistar's denial of severance pay for hundreds of employees when the Richmond Street plant ceased production in June 2009 and closed for good in July of 2011.

Unifor stated the arbitrator has ruled in favour of the union to award all entitled workers their outstanding payments under the Employment Standards Act.

“This is a significant victory for these workers and their families,” said Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, in a written release on Tuesday. “It is simply appalling that a company as large as Navistar could be so heartless as to deny its long-serving and dedicated workers the money they are legally owed.

“Navistar's greed hurt many families for years as this fight continued,” Dias added. “That is inexcusable. The union never gave up on helping its members, and today that dedication has paid off.”

Former Navistar employee Ken Melnyk said, “definitely, we're relieved,” when contacted Tuesday by The Chatham Daily News about the severance victory.

Echoing Dias' comments about the impact of having to wait so long for severance and pension payouts, Melnyk said, “it's unfortunate, because there's quite a few people who lost their houses and lost their families . . . basically.”

He added he was fortunate his wife had a job so they were able to muddle through until he was lucky enough to land a pretty good job at another factory in town.

Les Danielski, 59, said the severance victory is “great news” when contacted by The Daily News.

“I knew it would come sometime, I was just hoping I wouldn't die first,” said the former employee, who had 20 years of service.

Unable to find a job when production ceased, Danielski went back to school.

Since he was last interviewed by The Daily News in early March of 2012, Danielski said he has earned degrees in science and labour studies and social justice, and is one course shy of a sociology degree. He also only five classes from completed a family and social relations degree.

But, he currently owes nearly $140,000 in OSAP debt.

“It's going to be really nice to retire, because school at my age . . . it's not what you want to be doing,” he laughed.

Melnyk, who worked 18 years at the plant, also indicated he is looking forward to seeing how much closer the pension and severance will bring him to retirement.

“I think most people will be happy,” he said. “It'll be nice to close the page on this book.”

Unifor national secretary-treasurer Bob Orr said, in a written release: “There was never any question that Unifor would dedicate the resources needed to bring justice for these workers.

“This was a long fight that required the full support of the national union, and that support never wavered,” he added.

The arbitration ruling states Navistar must follow the requirements under the Employment Standards Act, which provides one week of severance pay based upon regular wages for each year of service, to maximum of 26 weeks, for employees with greater than five years of service.

Unifor indicated this arbitration award is also applicable to the estates of deceased members in both Locals 127 and 35.

“This arbitration shows that even when there are clear laws in place, only a union can ensure that workers' rights are respected,” Dias said.

More details of the arbitration ruling; as well as what former workers need to do is available online at unifor.org/navistar.

 

GM Feb. sales up 4.2%, Ford
down 4%, FCA down 10.1%

Ian Thibodeau and
Melissa Burden
Detroit News
March 2, 2017

General Motors Co., driven by strong sales of pickup trucks and SUVs, said Wednesday its February sales rose 4.2 percent, while Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV each reported year-over-year sales declines.

Automakers report they continue to see consumers shift preferences toward trucks and SUVs, which is cutting into the sales of cars. Ford reported February car sales fell 24 percent from the same month a year ago -- a trend it doesn't expect to see change anytime soon. GM also said car sales slid 22.7 percent, while Nissan North America Inc. said car sales fell 12 percent and Toyota Motor North America, Inc. ​car sales dropped 17.2 percent last month compared to February 2016.

Ford in a call with analysts and reporters Wednesday said it expects car sales for the industry will represent around 35 percent of overall industry sales in February. That's down from 53 percent in 2010, the Dearborn automaker said.

Fiat Chrysler's February sales totaled 168,326 vehicles, down 10.1 percent from a year ago.

The company's Chrysler brand sales fell 28.1 percent, Jeep dropped 14.7 percent and Dodge brand sales dropped 6.6 percent. Ram sales increased by 3.6 percent.

The Fiat brand slipped 19.1 percent. Maserati jumped 49.3 percent. Alfa Romeo was also up 843 percent, as sales of the company's speedy Giulia sedan reached 412 units.

GM's sales of 237,388 in February exceeded analyst expectations.

The Detroit automaker said sales for the Chevrolet brand rose 3.4 percent and GMC sales soared 17.2 percent. Buick sales fell 9.4 percent and Cadillac sales slipped 8.6 percent.

The company said its retail sales, or those to consumers, increased 5 percent in February and its average sales price increased $570 to $34,900, which set a February record.

“Our retail-focused go-to-market strategy is delivering robust results,” Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement. “All of our brands grew their average transaction prices by healthy amounts, and we delivered solid growth in the industry’s fastest-growing and most profitable segments.”

Ford said it sold 208,440 vehicles in February, down 4 percent from the same month a year ago.

Ford brand sales fell 4.5 percent, while Lincoln brand sales increased 8.8 percent.

The company said it set a record February for SUV sales, moving 68,820 units; Ford F-Series sales increased 8.7 percent, with 65,956 pickups sold.

Mark LaNeve, vice president of Ford U.S. marketing, sales and service, said the F-Series had its best February sales performance in 13 years, and the fourth-best February in the truck's history. The company also saw the average transaction price for the F-Series increase by $3,600, he said.

"Our overall incentive spend on F-Series was down," LaNeve said. "So, we're very pleased with our strong full-size truck performance in the face of such escalation from a key competitor."

GM's sales of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup rose 17.1 percent to 50,504, and sales of the GMC Sierra jumped 15.9 percent from February 2016. The Detroit automaker said its incentive spending overall was flat compared to a year ago. But it did advertise deals around $10,000 off for certain pickups during its Truck Month promotion in February.

Overall February U.S. auto sales are expected to dip slightly compared to the number of new cars and trucks sold in February a year ago, analysts say.

Industry analysts from Kelley Blue Book, ALG and Edmunds forecast new vehicle sales will fall between 1 percent and 3 percent from February 2016, with sales last month reaching about 1.3 million. The current year could still be on pace for a record, according to Edmunds analysts, but automakers might have to be more aggressive in moving vehicles.

Nissan North America Inc. said it set a company record with 135,740 vehicles sold in February, up nearly 4 percent from a year ago. Volkswagen of America Inc. also jumped 12.7 percent to 25,145 vehicles compared to February 2016.

American Honda Motor Co. reported a 2.3 percent increase in sales over February last with, with total sales for Honda and the carmaker's Acura luxury brand hitting 121,686 units.

Toyota Motor North America, Inc. meanwhile reported it sold 174,339 vehicles in February, down 7.2 percent from last year.

Kia Motors America said February sales fell 14.2 percent to 42,673.

Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director for industry analysis, said in a statement there are signs that automakers are starting to be more aggressive to move cars off the lot.

“Fleet sales were robust in February, and incentives are continuing to rise,” she said. “While trucks and SUVs don’t need as much help to find interested buyers, inventories of passenger cars have been building.”

Analysts at J.D. Power and LMC Automotive forecast that February sales increased 0.6 percent based on the first 16 selling days of February.

“We expect February to eke out a small increase over last year, despite bad weather giving a slow start to the month,” Deirdre Borrego, senior vice president of automotive data and analytics at J.D. Power, said in a statement.

Kelley Blue Book projects the biggest decrease in year-over-year sales, at 3 percent.

“Retail growth for manufacturers will be tough to achieve in February, as consumer demand remains relatively flat despite increased incentives,” Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said in a statement. “Regardless of the expected dip in overall volume, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of more than 17 million, the sales pace for the industry is healthy, and more importantly, looks to be sustainable as we head into the high volume selling months ahead.”

Analysts at Edmunds and ALG expect an uptick in sales from GM, though Ford and Fiat Chrysler sales are expected to drop.

 

Fiat Chrysler’s Marchionne
paid nearly $11.5M in 2016

Melissa Burden
Detroit News
March 1, 2017

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne was paid more than 10.8 million euros (nearly $11.5 million) in compensation in 2016, about the same cash payout as the year before, but falling well short of 2015 totals when including millions of dollars in stock grants.

Marchionne was paid 3.61 million euros in base salary ($3.82 million) and received a nearly 6.3 million euros bonus (worth about $6.89 million when announced and paid a year ago) in 2016, according to the company’s annual report issued Tuesday and filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He also received 917,670 euros ($970,858) in other compensation, including things such as insurance premiums and tax preparation.

For 2016, Marchionne received no long-term variable pay because no shares vested during the year. He was paid his 2016 bonus last year, which was based on his performance in 2015.

Marchionne for 2015 was paid more than 10 million euros, at the time worth about ($10.9 million), including a 3.6 million euro base salary ($4 million); 6.3 million euro (nearly $6.9 million) bonus related his performance in 2015; and 126,610 euros ($137,796) in other compensation. He also was awarded $62.7 million in equity based on shares that vested and a one-time stock grant in 2015, pushing his total pay package for 2015 to $73.55 million.

General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. have not yet released annual proxy statements and executive compensation for 2016.

Marchionne also is executive chairman of CNH Industrial and chairman and CEO of Ferrari, which was spun off from Fiat Chrysler in January 2016. His pay in 2016 for those positions was not available Tuesday.

In 2017, Marchionne, 64, is set to receive a bonus of nearly 6.14 million euros (nearly $6.5 million) from Fiat Chrysler, based on his 2016 performance.

FCA Chairman John Elkann last year got a base salary of 1.8 million euros ($1.91 million) and other compensation of 635,688 euros ($672,532) for items such as use of transportation and insurance premiums, totaling 2.44 million euros ($2.58 million).

Going forward, Marchionne could see some 6.7 million shares vest by 2019, which is up from 4.32 million because of the Ferrari spin-off and the company selling an ownership stake in RCS MediaGroup S.p.A. The value of those shares depends on many factors such as the company meeting certain objectives in its five-year plan, his performance and the stock price.

GM typically releases its annual proxy in April. GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra earned total compensation of $28.59 million in 2015, up nearly 77 percent from 2014, due mostly to a one-time stock option grant aimed at retaining senior executives. She received $7.3 million in compensation (including salary, a short-term incentive plan payout and stock equity awards that vested) in 2015, up from $4.5 million in 2014.

Ford usually releases its proxy in mid-March. Ford President and CEO Mark Fields earned $18.58 million in total compensation in 2015, down slightly from $18.9 million made in 2014 due largely to a drop in pension value.

Fiat Chrysler’s stock closed Tuesday at $10.97 a share, down 0.9 percent.

 

CPP enhancements:
Understand what’s not changing

Alexandra Macqueen
The Globe and Mail
Feb 28, 2017

Last year, Canada’s ministers of finance announced they had reached an agreement in principle to make changes to the Canada Pension Plan. Under the proposed alterations, the amounts that Canadians pay into the plan (before retirement) and receive from the plan (in retirement) will both gradually rise.

The Government of Canada says the changes are needed because many middle-class Canadians “are worried that they won’t have put away enough money for their retirement, and fewer and fewer Canadians have workplace pensions to fall back on.”

The coming changes address one element of CPP – the amount that you pay in before retirement, and thus the amount of CPP income you get in retirement. They don’t affect any of the other elements of CPP, which include disability and survivor pensions and a death benefit for those who’ve paid into the program.

Because only one element of the CPP program is being changed, some observers believe CPP is becoming increasingly disconnected from its original design and purpose without being realigned to the needs of today’s workers and retirees. We spoke to two experts to get their take.

CPP survivor pensions: From single to dual-income families

“In many ways, CPP was designed for a world that no longer exists,” comments Joe Nunes, president of Actuarial Solutions Inc., a consulting firm based in Windsor, Ont. “That is, one in which a family had a single-income earner, almost invariably male, who worked for 40 years without interruption, and had a lower-income or no-income spouse who received his survivor pension when he died. Many of those conditions are no longer reflected in today’s families, but the CPP program hasn’t caught up to the changes.”

One example of how CPP program design reflects an earlier era is the survivor benefits component of the plan. Here’s how it works: If you have a legal or common-law spouse who dies after having made minimum contributions to the CPP program, you may be entitled to part of their CPP payment after their death, as a “survivor’s pension.”

In practice, however, there’s a limit on how much CPP will pay you each month, because the survivor is entitled to only the maximum of one full benefit – and if you add your CPP pension and a survivor pension together, you may hit that cap.

As a result, if you have significant CPP retirement benefits because of your own employment, you may only get minimal survivor benefits if you have a spouse who predeceases you. When CPP was introduced in 1965, only about two in 10 families had two earners. For the vast majority of families in that era, the survivor pension would allow household income to continue in the event of the death of the main income-earner – and the cap on survivor benefits would have little impact.

This is different from today, when about seven in 10 families have two income earners and survivor pensions may be a much smaller benefit of CPP than when the plan was designed.

Death benefits: Shrinking payout

Another example of how the coming changes bring the program further away from its original design is the death benefit component of CPP. The main benefit of CPP is guaranteed income in retirement, but when eligible CPP contributors die, a one-time, lump-sum, taxable death benefit payment is made to their estate. (This is in addition to the survivor benefit that may be paid to a spouse or common-law partner.)

“In previous decades, the death benefit amount was calculated quite differently,” says Lea Koiv, a chartered professional accountant and Toronto-based specialist in retirement matters, “and it was more generous than it is now.”

Until CPP reforms in 1999, the maximum CPP death benefit was set at 10 per cent of the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE). The YMPE is a figure set each year by the Canadian government as the maximum amount on which to calculate CPP contributions. It’s based on salary and wage growth in Canada and has increased each year since 1967.

When the death benefit was set at 10 per cent of YMPE, contribution levels to CPP were much lower than they are now – keeping in mind that the contribution rate for employees and employers will rise with the coming CPP changes.

In 1998, as part of a package of reforms to the CPP program, the maximum death benefit was “frozen” at $2,500 instead of continuing to be pegged at 10 per cent of the YPME. Had that change not occurred, the maximum death benefit for 2017 would be about $5,500. For 2017, the YMPE is $55,300 – and CPP contributions on behalf of an employee earning the YMPE total $2,564.10. (The actual death benefit paid out is equal to six months of the contributor’s expected CPP monthly payment in retirement, or $2,500, whichever is greater; whether the contributor had reached retirement age or not.)

“With the coming changes in CPP but no changes in the death benefit, what this means is that people will be paying more into CPP but receiving even less over time as a death benefit, as inflation continues to erode its real value,” says Ms. Koiv. “The fact that the death benefit is taxable just adds insult to injury.”

The bottom line: Are CPP changes new wine in old bottles?

The coming changes to CPP will affect the retirement income component only, and result from the view that Canadians need more guaranteed, lifetime income in retirement – the ancillary benefits of CPP are not the focus of changes to the program. But is omitting reform of the additional components of CPP a problem?

 

Big changes considered
for Ontario workplaces

Report could trigger the most sweeping reforms
to employment and labour laws since the 1990s

By Mike Crawley
CBC News
Feb 27, 2017

Premier Kathleen Wynne's government is about to get advice that could lead to a significant shakeup of the laws governing work in Ontario. 

The Changing Workplaces Review is examining just about everything related to labour law in this province, including sick pay, overtime, how workers can join unions and employers' responsibilities to contract workers. 

It could trigger the most significant reforms to the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act since Mike Harris was premier. 

"The world of work that I went into as a young man is not the world of work that young people are going into today," Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said in an interview with CBC News. "We need to make sure that the regulations are protecting the most vulnerable."

The review is focusing on the new realities of the millennial workforce, including the spread of part-time and contract work. Noting that the province's current employment laws were drawn up in the 1990s, Flynn said they "need to be updated for the world of 2017." 

'Once-in-a-generation opportunity'

The review has been in the works for nearly two years, since the government appointed a pair of special advisers to recommend changes to Ontario's workplace laws.

Last July, the advisers laid out more than 200 options for reforms to protect vulnerable workers in precarious jobs. They include such ideas as requiring employers to give workers a minimum number of paid sick days, and to give workers advance notice of their shift schedules. 

Their final recommendations are due to be handed to Flynn in the coming days. 

The scope of the possible changes has the business community worried and the labor movement excited.  

"It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity," said Ontario Federation of Labour president Chris Buckley. 

"When you look at the change in the employment landscape across the province, it's well overdue," Buckley said in an interview with CBC News. "Doing nothing is not an option."

The recommendations "could fundamentally change the relationship between every employer and employee in the province," said Karl Baldauf, vice-president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. "We're challenging whether such sweeping reforms are necessary."  

Flynn promises that any changes will strike a balance.  

"What we need to achieve in this is to make sure that precarious and vulnerable workers have the protections they should have, at the same time ensure that Ontario still has a very competitive economy," Flynn said.  

Here are some of the options that the government's special advisers are considering:  

Sick pay, overtime, vacation pay, minimum wage

Making paid sick days mandatory.  

Boosting the minimum required paid vacation to three weeks per year from the current two weeks. 

Lowering the threshold at which overtime pay must kick in to 40 hours, down from the current 44 hours.  

Abolishing the lower minimum wage for students under 18 and people who serve alcohol.

Requiring employers to pay their part-time workers the same as full-time workers doing similar jobs. 

Casual and contract workers 

Forcing employers to post employees' schedules in advance. 

Compensating workers for last-minute schedule changes.

Limiting the proportion of an employer's workforce that can be from temp agencies.  

Unionizing

Banning or limiting the use of replacement workers during a strike.

Making it easier for the employees of franchises to form unions.   

Allowing domestic workers employed in private homes to form unions.

Employment Standards Act exemptions 

Under Ontario's employment laws, some rules, including those governing overtime, don't apply to certain types of jobs. The advisers are considering whether to lift any of these exemptions that currently apply to managers, janitors, IT professionals and residential care workers. They're also considering whether interns and trainees should be covered by the Employment Standards Act. 

 

Can U.S. customs officers legally
search your phone when
driving across the border?

The Douglas border crossing on the Canada-U.S. border in Surrey, B.C. The Canada Border Service Agency disclosed that it made 18,849 requests to telecoms for customer information in 2012.

JASON TCHIR
The Globe and Mail
Feb 26, 2017

If you don’t hand over your iPhone password at the U.S. border, you’ll likely be sent back home. But keeping mum isn’t supposed to get you banned, lawyers said.

“Based on security measures, yes, they are allowed to look at cellphones, laptops, and tablets, and they can ask for the passwords – but it doesn’t mean the individual has to provide those passwords,” said Fadi Minawi, a Toronto immigration lawyer. “If you’re not co-operating, it’s more than likely that they’ll turn that person away – but a ban cannot be issued just because you didn’t provide a password.”

If they do turn you away for not handing over your password, when can you try again?

You can go back whenever you want,” said Mark Belanger, a Vancouver lawyer who specializes in border issues. “There’s no protocol for what could happen, but I would imagine you would not be getting red carpet treatment.

You can also reach out to “a supervisor or a chief” to “better gauge their reasons for wanting to search your devices,” Minawi said. “There’s also a traveller redress program which has not been very helpful.”

Belanger says there’s no legal basis to ban you for refusing to give a password – but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

“They can do whatever they want on the spot – they’re judge, jury and executioner,” Belanger said. “If it were challenged in court, it wouldn’t hold up – but you’d have to file in federal court and it would cost $100,000 in legal fees.”

Instead, a public interest group would likely have to challenge the ban in court on the behalf of someone who’d been banned, Belanger said.

Why do they search devices at the border?

“Keeping Americans safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully screen all materials – electronic or otherwise – entering the United States,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesman Jason Givens in an e-mail. “Laptops and other electronic devices may be subject to detention for violations of law such as child pornography, narcotics smuggling, ties to terrorism or other criminal activity.”

We asked for the number of searches this year and last year and Givens said the information wasn’t available. But The Associated Press reported 23,877 electronic media searches in 2016, while still under the Obama administration, compared to 4,764 in fiscal year 2015.

While the 2016 number is higher, it’s .0061 per cent of total arrivals into the United States.

At the border, even if you don’t give your password, officers can also temporarily confiscate your device, Minawi said. “They can send it back to their experts to try to crack,” he said. “I’ve never heard of it happening to any clients of mine.”

Belanger argues that device searches on U.S. soil violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, even if you’re Canadian.

“That’s not (CBP’s) position, obviously – they say they’re the defender of the nation and they have unlimited discretion to access you information,” he said.

If you do give them access to your phone, what can they use to ban you? Well, they can ban you for photos showing you in illegal activities – like smoking weed, Belanger said.

But, the agency said it “strictly prohibits profiling on the basis of race or religion.”

After U.S. President Donald Trump issued a 90-day ban – since suspended by court rulings – on travellers from seven predominantly Muslim nations last month, a U.S.-born scientist said he was detained in Houston until he unlocked his NASA-issued work phone.

And, there were news reports of Canadians banned from crossing into the United States because of materials found on devices.

That included a Morrocan-born university student with a Canadian passport who said he was denied entry after border officers found a Facebook photo with another student believed to have left Canada in 2014 to join Islamist fighters in Syria.

“I highly doubt they’d ban someone just for saying, ‘I wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump – that doesn’t make any sense,” Belanger said. “I suspect you’d have to be on some list or have some suspected ties.”

Even if you make it into the United States without getting asked for your password, you could be asked for it by Canada Border Security Agency (CBSA) officers when you try to re-enter Canada.

“CBSA officers have the legal authority under Section 99 of the Customs Act to examine personal baggage, including personal electronic devices, and conveyances and goods upon arrival into and on departure from Canada,” a CBSA spokesman said in an e-mail.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a Canadian citizen – they can still search you.

“Anyone could be subject to such a search,” said Matthew Jeffery, a Toronto immigration lawyer. “To be clear, there is no specific legal authority enabling CBSA to conduct searches of electronic devices, rather they rely on vague sections of the law to support their interpretation that they have such authority.”

So, if you don’t want devices searched, what can you do?

You could just not bring them with you. Or, make sure that you’ve deleted anything – from your device and from your social media account – that you don’t want officers to see.

And when they start asking questions?

“Generally, it’s best to be truthful and answer what’s being asked – don’t say more than what’s needed,” he said. “If there are any questions from the CBP Officer that may cause admissibility issues, it would be best to refuse to answer and to be turned away.”

 

Maxed out? What to do when
retirement funds run out

ANNA SHARRATT
The Globe and Mail
Feb 25, 2017

Rebecca Sudano sees cash-strapped seniors every day. But one client sticks out in her memory.

“A gentleman of 86 came in and threw a pile of credit cards down on the table. When I asked him what the problem was, he said, ‘The problem is I’m still alive.’ ”

Ms. Sudano, a licensed insolvency trustee based in Cobourg, Ont., soon gleaned what had happened.

After being diagnosed with a serious illness, the man decided to spend his last few years living life to the fullest – on credit. “He maxed out his cards. It was thousands of dollars in debt,” says Ms. Sudano, a senior vice-president of BDO, practising in the financial recovery services group.

Retirees are increasingly showing up at insolvency trustees’ offices and credit counselling centres with similar tales, staring down a mountain of debt with little income coming in. Many are in dire straits.

“More and more seniors are going bankrupt,” says Doug Hoyes, co-founder of Hoyes Michalos, a debt management firm based in Kitchener, Ont.

According to his firm’s 2015 report which tracked the debt its clients were carrying, seniors accounted for 10 per cent of all insolvency filings, up from 9 per cent from a previous study and 8 per cent four years ago. The average senior debtor owed $69,031 in unsecured debt, the highest among all age groups.

Retirees also have the highest debt-to-income ratio of all age groups at 260 per cent.

Mr. Hoyes says the reasons are simple. “People are retiring with debt – and that never used to happen before,” he says. Jobs are less secure, there are periods of unemployment in many people’s lives and few have defined benefit pension plans.

“With the sharp decline in DB plans, saving for retirement has been transferred from employer to employee,” says Wanda Morris, COO and vice-president of advocacy with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) in Toronto.

Mr. Hoyes says many people head into retirement with rent or car payments. “But now your income is fixed. And you pile debt payments on that.” He says most seniors come in with $33,000 on their credit cards alone.

Many seniors also support adult children, which compounds the problem. Ms. Sudano says she has seen cases where cash-strapped elderly parents have sold their homes – their last source of income –and have given the money to their children, without mentioning their own desperate financial situation.

Or of seniors co-signing mortgages or loans for adult children, only to be held responsible when the adult child failed to make the payments. “They’re now responsible for all their children’s debt,” she says.

Ms. Sudano says the issue is compounded by pride – many seniors don’t want family members to know about their financial struggles. “Seniors are a group who really do not want to speak about finances,” she says. “They are very concerned that their children will be left with their debt.”

She says a medical crisis often leads to a visit from a son or daughter who discovers a mountain of unpaid bills – and acts as a catalyst for a financial intervention on the part of the family.

Where to turn

That’s when retirees find themselves at a debt management firm or insolvency trustee office looking for answers. Here’s what they can do:

Polish off the résumé

If they’re in good health, returning to work is an option, says Ms. Morris, with some becoming consultants or taking on freelance work. However, seniors who held lower-income jobs when employed may have to take on minimum-wage positions.

Cut back on expenses

Reducing living expenses can help dramatically. “[Retirees] don’t always adjust their lifestyle,” says Ms. Sudano, adding there’s often room to save. Budget counselling can help with this, suggesting what to pay off first and how to save on things such as travel, entertainment or a high-end vehicle.

Downsize – but be careful

Ms. Morris says many homeowners downsize to a condo in their area, thinking they’ll save a lot in the process. But the move may not be sufficient to generate enough retirement income as the costs of food and services don’t change. “People downsize in square feet but not in cost,” she says. “If you’re still in the same neighbourhood, it may not mean huge savings.” She suggests considering a smaller community with a lower cost of living.

Take stock of what can be sold

If the situation is critical, Mr. Hoyes says “the first thing they can do is liquidate assets if they have any.” This includes a home, if one is owned, a car and any RRSPs.

Draft a consumer proposal

The other option is filing a consumer proposal via a licensed insolvency trustee. This is essentially an offer to pay creditors a percentage of what they are owed, or a request to extend the time to pay off the debts, or both. The term of such a proposal cannot exceed five years and the maximum amount of debt is $25,000. RRSPs and pensions cannot be seized by creditors in such an arrangement, says Mr. Hoyes. That can only occur if a person declares bankruptcy.

A consumer proposal can be a good option as it shows a desire to repay debt on the part of the senior – and the creditors get some money rather than no repayment, says Ms. Sudano.

But if a retiree is turned down for a consumer proposal, they can file for bankruptcy. When that happens, creditors can seize all the RRSP contributions the person has made in the previous 12 months, says Mr. Hoyes.

For many seniors, bankruptcy is not how they envisioned retirement. “It’s a last resort,” says Ms. Sudano. But “many seniors do file. It’s hard.”

And more filings are expected, the result of ever-decreasing pensions, increased longevity, higher costs of living and rising interest rates. “The math would indicate these problems will continue,” says Mr. Hoyes. “This will get worse.”

 

Ford wants your new car to
pick a song – or tell a joke

Ian Thibodeau  
The Detroit News
Feb 23, 2017

Ford wants the self-driving cars of the future to be better listeners and observers: It’s aiming to build vehicles that pick up on the smallest changes in drivers’ vocal inflections and facial expressions, and adapt the drive accordingly.

The company is partnering with a German technology university to create advanced in-car microphone and camera systems. Those systems could help vehicles learn what songs a driver likes; adjust the cockpit’s ambient lighting fit the mood or activity — even know when the driver is in need of a good joke.

The team at RWTH Aachen University also will work on systems that follow gestures or eye movements that will allow drivers to answer calls or adjust the air conditioner without speaking or touching a surface, Ford announced Tuesday.

“We’re looking at how to use those pieces of technology to understand the emotions of the person, and primarily to give the driver a more rich interaction with the voice commands of the vehicle,” said Colin Smith, a Ford spokesman.

At the Detroit auto show this year, multiple suppliers displayed new tactile surfaces, biological sensors in seats, augmented-reality screens and advanced alert systems aimed at protecting occupants and making them more comfortable.

It’s part of an industry-wide push to develop enhanced — and ultimately safer — driving experiences in which a vehicle reacts to the driver in the same way a driver might react to the road.

Ford anticipates roughly 90 percent of its new vehicles will offer voice recognition by 2022. Voice-control capabilities will be offered in 75 percent of its vehicles within the same time frame. Ford has said it will have a fully driverless car without a steering wheel or pedals for braking and acceleration in 2021.

“We think that the voice is one of the primary ways to access (the vehicle),” Smith said. “We’re always looking to enhance that experience.”

Ford’s researchers are working toward a time when systems “evolve into personal assistants” that might schedule appointments or order takeout.

Through its Sync 3 system, Ford vehicles already recognize commands like “I’m hungry” and “I need coffee.” The company announced in January it is partnering with Amazon, Samsung and Sygic to more immediately offer features in 2018 model-year vehicles that integrate those companies’ services like Alexa or Samsung Gear smartwatches.

“We’re well on the road to developing the empathetic car which might tell you a joke to cheer you up, offer advice when you need it, remind you of birthdays and keep you alert on a long drive,” said Fatima Vital, senior director of marketing automotive at Nuance Communications, which helped Ford develop voice recognition in its Sync system.

Nuance says that within the next two years, voice-control systems could advance to prompt drivers with suggestions such as “Would you like to order flowers for your mom for Mother’s Day?” “Shall I choose a less congested but slower route home?” or “You’re running low on your favorite chocolate and your favorite store has some in stock. Want to stop by and pick some up?”

Systems like those Ford is researching will become far more vital as auto companies develop autonomous cars, said Bryant Walker Smith, an engineering professor at the University of South Carolina who focuses on the legal aspects of such advanced technology.

“If you’re going to step it up, an almost necessary part of this requires monitoring the human to make sure they’re monitoring the vehicle,” he said.

The new systems could look to occupy the free time that drivers will have in an autonomous vehicle.

“The company wants to be the entity that fills that time,” he said. “Companies are terrified of becoming the boring providers.”

 

Former Canadian union
leader Bob White dies

Bob White, seen here on CBC's The Journal in 1984, led the Canadian split from the U.S.-based United Auto Workers union to form the Canadian Auto Workers. (CBC)

White led Canadian Auto Workers and the Canadian Labour Congress

CBC News
Feb 21, 2017

Bob White, the Canadian union leader who founded the Canadian Auto Workers after splitting off from its American counterpart, has died at the age of 81.

Unifor, the union which now encompasses the Canadian Auto Workers, tweeted that White was "a great union leader."

"We are here thanks to his work and vision," said the tweet.

White was born in Northern Ireland in 1935 and came to Canada in 1949 with his family, settling in Woodstock, Ont. He left school at 15 to work in a wood-working plant, and joined the United Auto Workers union in 1951.

In December 1984, with White at the helm, Canadian UAW members split from their U.S.-based parent union and formed the Canadian Auto Workers.

Later in life, White served as president of the the trade union umbrella group the Canadian Labour Congress.

White became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1990.

White was born in Northern Ireland in 1935 and came to Canada in 1949 with his family, settling in Woodstock, Ont. He left school at 15 to work in a wood-working plant, and joined the United Auto Workers union in 1951.

In December 1984, with White at the helm, Canadian UAW members split from their U.S.-based parent union and formed the Canadian Auto Workers.

Later in life, White served as president of the the trade union umbrella group the Canadian Labour Congress.

White became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1990.

Robert "Bob" White, (April 28, 1935 — February 19, 2017) was a prominent leader in the Canadian trade union and labour movement who was the founding president of the Canadian Auto Workers (now Unifor) after leading its separation from its American parent, the United Auto Workers, and then president of the Canadian Labour Congress. Born in Northern Ireland, he emigrated with his family to Canada at age 13, settling in Woodstock, Ontario.

He worked for Hay and Co in Woodstock, Ont, and by 1959 had become president of the UNITED AUTOMOBILE WORKERS Local 636. He was appointed UAW international representative, and in 1964 coordinator of organizing staff. In 1972 he became assistant to UAW director Dennis MCDERMOTT

Bob was 4th Canadian Director of the UAW from 1978-1985 and then the 1st president of the newly formed CAW from 1985 to 1992.From 1992 to 1999 he served as the 6th President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Bob White was one of the best union leaders who fought hard and was an advocate for not only the UAW/CAW members and retirees but for all workers.

Our condolences go out to his family. He will be truly missed.

http://www.daveylinklaterfuneralhome.com/book-of-memories/2847508/White-Harold-Robert-Bob/index.php

In Memory Of
Harold Robert "Bob"
White
1935 - 2017

Bob White

“Bob was a true maverick in the Canadian labour movement. He will be deeply missed and I extend my condolences to his family on behalf of all of Unifor,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The CAW was born as a result of his determination and leadership, it is thanks to Bob that we have grown into the strong national union that we are today.”

In December 1984, White and the Canadian branch of the United Auto Workers made the historic decision to split from the American organization and establish a new union, renamed the Canadian Auto Workers. White was elected CAW President three times—at the CAW’s founding convention in in 1985, and again in 1988 and 1991.

White’s legacy includes groundbreaking negotiations with the Detroit Three, in addition to being a central leader in the fight against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). During his tenure the CAW expanded in influence and size to include members outside of the auto sector. In 2013, the Canadian Auto Workers merged with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada to create Unifor.

“Bob White's legacy is a stronger and more equitable Canada, and a labour movement that stands up for Canadian workers,” said Dias. “Bob was a trailblazer, who fought not just for the union but also for social justice. He believed in using our collective strength to make both our workplaces and our world better places. His vision lives on and we will continue the fight in his honour.”

More Information Here


Obituary for Harold
Robert "Bob" White

Harold Robert 'Bob' White

Robert (“Bob”) White, O.C. passed away peacefully in Kincardine, Ontario on February 19, 2017. He is survived by his wife Marilyne, his children Todd, Shawn and Robyn (Michael), his sister Rachel, his three grandchildren, Jordan, Taylor and Landon, three nephews David (Karen), Stephen (Trish), Andrew and niece Sharon (Dwayne) and the many friends he made during his full and fascinating life.

Bob was born in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland in 1935, immigrated to Canada with his family at the age of 14 and settled in Woodstock, Ontario. By 15 he had quit school and was working at Hay and Company in Woodstock, a woodworking factory, where his father was employed. When he started working his father advised him not to become involved in the union. Shortly thereafter Bob decided to attend his first union meeting, became a shop steward and then participated in his first strike. From that point he immersed himself in the labour movement, and in particular with the United Auto Workers Union (UAW). Bob fell in love with trade union life. He believed deeply that trade unions could better the lives of working people, and he committed himself to this cause for almost 50 years. He rose to become Canadian Director of the UAW, a position he held from 1978 to 1984, and then became the founding President of the Canadian Autoworkers Union (CAW). Bob was President of the CAW from 1984 to 1992, and then went on to be President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) for seven years. As President of the CLC he was active internationally, becoming the first Canadian President of the Trade Union Advisory Committee of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) where he met and made presentations to many world leaders. In Canada and around the world he led opposition to international trade agreements and laws that failed to protect human and labour rights, and he was passionate about equality rights for women.

As a leader Bob managed to achieve the delicate balance of principled and practical in a way that few others can or ever could. His common sense and authentic approach to difficult problems, and his natural connection with both workers and management allowed him to successfully resolve some of the most challenging workplace issues in Canada over a period of decades. His optimism and refusal to give up were infectious.

Bob took great joy in the simple but beautiful aspects of life. He loved sunsets in Port Elgin, walks along the beach, playing a round of golf, and listening to Hank Williams, Leonard Cohen and Louis Armstrong (or almost any other music with a beat). He thrived on meeting new people yet maintained close friendships with many others that lasted for decades, such as his relationship with his good buddy, Al Seymour and his wife Barb. He loved to dance, sing, whistle, laugh and endlessly watch and read the news. He was always up for almost anything, as long as it didn’t involve standing in line (unless it was for ice cream).

Bob achieved many honours, such as becoming an Officer of the Order of Canada, and five honourary doctorates from Canadian universities (for a man who did not finish high school). He was featured in the Oscar nominated documentary Final Offer, which was produced by the National Film Board. When he turned 64 he insisted on retiring in order to make way for “the next generation”. Despite his many personal achievements Bob always maintained that he had been so very lucky in life and he never failed to appreciate his good fortune.

Bob will be greatly missed by his family and friends. His family would like to thank the staff at Trillium Court in Kincardine, the staff at the Kincardine Hospital, and Dr. David Tang-Wai at The Memory Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital.

As he wished, a celebration of Bob’s life is being planned. Anyone wishing to make a donation in honour of Bob’s life is encouraged to donate to your local women’s shelter or food bank.





 

Dingell offers NAFTA replacement ‘blueprint’ for Trump

Keith Laing
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
Feb 20, 2017

Washington — U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell is partnering with a Democratic colleague on a resolution with a “blueprint for America’s new trade policy” to guide President Donald Trump as he presses for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Dearborn Democrat, along with U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said Thursday that the new resolution will outline “principles that must be included in any replacement of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“Michigan is the heart and soul of the American auto industry, and since NAFTA passed, we’ve seen factories shuttered and jobs lost, we’ve seen real income drop for too many workers, and we’ve seen too many families lose hope,” Dingell said in a statement.

“We now have a real opportunity to renegotiate this failed trade agreement in a way that puts working families first. President Trump said this would be one of his top priorities. This resolution provides a road map to level the playing field for the American worker and bring jobs back to this country.”

A central tenant of Trump’s campaign was a promise to voters to improve economic conditions in the nation by renegotiating NAFTA. The agreement was enacted in 1994 to create a free-trade zone between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Trump seized upon discontent with NAFTA, which eliminated tariffs on most goods produced in North America, during his successful presidential campaign. The controversial trade deal has been blamed for auto companies moving production of smaller cars to Mexico.

Dingell's resolution calls for "adding strong, enforceable protections against currency manipulation and requiring strong rules of origin for cars and auto parts," which she says is "critical for Michigan’s economy and the domestic auto industry."

Dingell's office said NAFTA rules currently require that cars be only 62.5 percent made in North America to qualifying for the trade deal's duty-free treatment. The resolution from Dingell and DeFazio would require 90 percent of autos to be made in North America in order to receive the exemption.

In a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump promised he is going to “tweak” the trade relationship between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, although he offered no specifics.

“We have a very outstanding trade relationship with Canada,” Trump said after meeting with Trudeau at the White House. “We’ll be tweaking it. We’ll be doing certain things that are going to benefit both of our countries.”

Trump added: “It’s a much less severe situation that what’s taking place on the southern border. On the southern border, for many, many years the transaction was not fair to the United States. It was an extremely unfair transaction.”

Canada is Michigan’s biggest trading partner. The state exported $23.5 billion in goods there in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Shipments to Canada accounted for nearly 44 percent of Michigan’s exports.

Mexico, meanwhile, was Michigan’s second-largest trading partner with $11.7 billion in exports in 2015. That accounted for about 22 percent of the state’s exports.

 

 

Beware the bogeyman
who raids pension plans

Thank goodness we have auditors to catch out big bad employers
up to no good. All hail our heroic auditor general, Bonnie Lysyk.

By Martin Regg Cohn
Toronto Star
Feb. 19, 2017

Few crimes are more heinous than a corrupt employer improperly plundering a pension fund. Pocketing the money that rightfully belongs to working people is deeply wrong — and illegal.

So when auditor general Bonnie Lysyk implies the Ontario government is trying to do just that — and casts herself as the last safeguard blocking Liberals from raiding workers’ pensions — one is tempted to hail our hero.

That, at least, is the narrative pushed out by the auditor general’s office.

But that bizarre claim turns out to be a sideshow, designed to cover up her own miscalculations after an outside panel of experts found that the auditor herself had conflated facts and confused figures. Lysyk’s fanciful tale that she single-handedly stopped the government from reaching into the cookie jar boils down to a pile of cookie dough.

Auditors fulfil a critical function in any enterprise, government or private. But as we’ve seen in the private sector, when auditors become conflicted — in this case between fact and fiction — they render their office untrustworthy and irrelevant.

In 2002, a previous auditor agreed with a then-PC government that it could count a pension surplus as a budget asset. Last year, the current auditor had second thoughts, suddenly criticizing the Liberals for booking a $10.7 billion surplus from two jointly-sponsored public service pension plans. The effect was to wipe away $1.5 billion from the current budget just when the Liberals were on the verge of hitting their deficit elimination target.

The government sought a second opinion from outside professionals, in this case a panel of top accounting and pension experts. Their verdict is complicated but also common sense:

You can’t pretend an asset doesn’t exist merely because it isn’t liquid. Experts at OPTrust, one of the joint pension plans with a surplus, reached a similar conclusion as the outside panel earlier this month.

Yet on Thursday, Lysyk continued to insist that a jointly sponsored pension plan is different, because the employees’ union shares control — so the employer requires their written permission to access the money before it can be counted as an asset. Interesting but irrelevant.

In fact, the government would never seek such permission because it wouldn’t and couldn’t withdraw money from any pensions — they are segregated and protected by law. When the outside experts pointed out the internal inconsistency in the auditor’s logic, Lysyk shifted to damage control mode.

Rather than acknowledge her errors, she compounded them: In a statement, Lysyk dismissed the experts as a “hired” panel, but then falsely claimed the government has a “desire to have unfettered access to that money,” adding with ominous overtones: “That money is for the benefit of employees and retirees.”

This is a straw man topped with cookie dough.

Lysyk knows perfectly well that the spectre of raiding is a red herring. When I asked the auditor to explain how, in light of those legal prohibitions, the government could go about raiding a pension, she declined comment.

Headed by Tricia O’Malley — a member of the Canadian Accounting Standards Oversight Council and Canadian Actuarial Standards Oversight Council — the panel is puzzled. How can the auditor suggest that merely counting an asset puts it up for grabs?

“One of the things that continues to disturb me about the dialogue, frankly, is people going on and on about taking assets out of the plan — that is, in fact, not doable,” she told me Thursday.

Her panel concluded that the pension surpluses are absolutely assets because they have a future economic benefit — they allow the employer (and employees) to reduce their contributions in future, offset against that surplus (by the same accounting logic, pension deficits are counted as liabilities, often requiring future contributions to be increased).

Rebalancing isn’t raiding. There are established mechanisms for both sides to reduce contributions because it’s pointless to pile up infinite surpluses.

By insisting that a surplus can’t count as an asset, merely because withdrawals are too complicated, Lysyk conflates an actuarial surplus with actual cash. O’Malley uses the analogy of a joint venture or partnership in the private sector, which can be difficult to dissolve — but doesn’t preclude you from booking your share as an asset. (No, it’s not worth nothing.)

Like it or not, that’s the arcana of accounting — and banking. Just because you don’t have the cash in hand doesn’t mean you don’t count it.

We rely on auditors to provide value for money audits. Not to introduce their own values, making up untested accounting standards as they go along.

 

 

UAW considering
‘Buy American’ ad campaign

UAW President Dennis Williams said Trump administration’s bid to renegotiate NAFTA could help the UAW, but there are other policies the union and Williams can’t stand behind.

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News
Feb 17, 2017

United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams said Thursday the union is looking to seize a growing “Buy American” mentality and is considering launching an advertising campaign aimed at supporting American-made products and manufacturing.

The ad campaign would come as President Donald Trump aims to shake up trade policies and possibly slap a tariff on vehicles built in Mexico and exported to the U.S.

Williams, who met with reporters in Detroit, said the American public could help push the case for more investment and manufacturing in the United States. “We’re seeing a trend in this country that boycott may be coming back,” which could change the way businesses operate, he said.

The union has had no communication with Trump or his administration, he said. But Williams hopes he will be able to sit down with the president and share the union’s position on trade and immigration.

Williams said he has shared with two automakers some of his concerns about trade policy under Trump. He would not name those automakers, and said he does not know if his concerns were passed on.

Williams told reporters in November that the union wanted to work with Trump to renegotiate or end the North American Free Trade Agreement. He said Thursday he was happy with Trump’s decision “to scrap” the proposed trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trump signed a memorandum to leave the TPP soon after taking office. During his campaign and after, he has blamed NAFTA and China for killing U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Trump has met with the chief executives of the Detroit Three. He also has met with leaders from manufacturing companies as well as some unions. GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra sits on a Trump economic policy advisory group.

Williams suggested that Americans need to be better educated on what they buy and where a vehicle is made. A union representing garment workers in the late 1970s ran ads urging buyers to look for a union-made label on clothing.

“First and foremost, I want them to buy union vehicles,” Williams said in response to a question about whether a consumer should buy a Mexican-made Ford Fusion or an American-made Toyota Camry. “Secondary, I’d rather have them buy made in U.S.A.”

The UAW was critical of General Motors Co. and its Buick brand for its recent Super Bowl ad featuring two vehicles made in Europe and China — the Cascada convertible and Envision SUV — that are sold in the United States.

Trump has targeted U.S. automakers for building vehicles in Mexico and shipping them back into the U.S., calling out GM for building its Chevrolet Cruze hatchback in Mexico, for instance.

Williams said he’s torn when it comes to the Trump administration. NAFTA renegotiation could help the UAW, but there are other Trump policies the union and Williams can’t stand behind.

“We are not going to shy away or walk away from core principles we have that we are in conflict with,” Williams said. “It doesn’t mean we can’t work with the administration on things I think (are) very important to the American public and American workers.”

The president needs to rethink his stance on immigration, Williams said.

“It’s very dangerous to single out individual groups based on religion,” he said. “It’s un-American.”

The UAW said 59 percent of its members voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November presidential election; 33 percent went for Trump. Williams said 8 percent of its polled membership did not vote for either.

Separately, Williams confirmed that the union is talking with some Tesla Inc. employees from its Fremont, California, plant about representation. He said the union has hired organizers there.

 

Ford F-250 Super Duty is huuuge

A 2017 Ford F-250 Platinum Super Duty Crew Cab poses for a shot in front of Colorado mountains.  Image courtesy Ford Motor Co.

Henry Payne ,
The Detroit News
Feb 16, 2017

You think politics is partisan these days? You ain’t see nuthin’. Big Three truck owners make the Senate floor sound like an afternoon tea social. Invite three in-laws who own a Ford, Chevy and Ram for dinner and ask them to debate pickups.

You’ll wish you had stuck to Trump vs. Hillary.

There will be broken furniture, gouged eyes and bruised feelings. Call 911, but then be very afraid the ambulance isn’t a Ford, Chevy or Ram, lest the war start all over again.

I don’t know where these loyalties come from. Maybe they start at birth like religion. I was born Presbyterian, will always be a Presbyterian. Once a Ford guy, always a Ford guy. My neighborhood truck expert, Pickup Bob, is a Ford F-series guy. Show him a Silverado or a Ram and he’ll circle it with interest, considering strengths and weaknesses like a New England fan comparing quarterback Brady to Ryan, Rogers and Stafford. But would he trade his for theirs? Dude, are you mad?

Which brings me to this week’s tester, the 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty. The biggest, baddest heavy-duty truck that anyone has ever introduced.

This thing is, to quote The Donald, huuuge. I’m 6-foot-5 and can’t see over it. The truck lists at 6-foot-8 but feels taller. It dwarfed the Cadillac Escalade (which shares its steel frame with the Chevy Silverado pickup) that I was also testing at the time. When Mrs. Payne (who needed a full mountain-climbing harness just to get in) and I headed out to the movies, we chose the Escalade simply because I feared the F-250 might not make it into the theater parking garage (it would have barely cleared the 6-foot-10 entrance).

The F-250, of course, wasn’t built with movie night in mind. Based on the already supersized, all-new-for-2015 F-150 light-duty, the six-inch-taller Super Duty shares little brother’s revolutionary, all-aluminum skin and robust steel frame — but beefs it up to tackle the daily chores apparently expected of a heavy-duty these days. Like mulching The Henry Ford, fording Lake Michigan, towing the space shuttle.

The aluminum body shaves 350 pounds off the last-generation heavy-duty, but that’s well shy of the 700-pound savings in the F-150 due to extensive strengthening of the F-250’s steel skeleton. The fully boxed frame gets nine cross-beams and 95 percent high-strength steel. Sir, need help pulling your tank out of the mud?

When mated to the F-250’s preferred (60 percent of sales) 6.7-liter, V-8 turbodiesel — with a redonculus, class-leading 925 pound-feet of torque — the fortified F-chassis can pull 32,500 pounds in dually, F-350 trim. My single-rear wheel tester was rated at 18,000 pounds. That’ll do.

And like Superman, Super Duty has a handsome face to go with the buff bod. So well received has been F-250’s “double I-beam” grille that the F-150 has adopted it for its mid-cycle, 2017 refresh. Little brother has also adopted the heavy-duty’s letter stamping on its rear end.

Beauty is more than skin deep. My Platinum F-250’s interior won’t be mistaken for Donald Trump’s apartment, but its liberal use of fine materials make it a luxurious office for anyone. There was wood trim, silver accents and so much leather that I half expected a raucous, animal-rights protest. For all the fancy frocks, the interior’s blocky style is male butch with two-by-four arm rests and Lego-block console cut outs. There are no swoopy lines like that Escalade. It looks like Patriot tight end Gronk modeling Dior.

I’m a sports car guy, but I get why truck guys get all sweaty around heavy-duties. Like supercars, modern trucks boast eye-bulging performance numbers, yet are remarkably compliant daily drivers.

After adapting myself to the F-250’s ride height (Hey, I can see in the second floor of that office building!), I found colossus remarkably comfortable. The diesel clatter is a distant roar given extensive sound-proofing, the heated/cooled seats fit like BarcaLoungers — even the leaf-sprung, solid rear axle jounce was contained.

My friend Scott saw the F-250 and sank to his knees. A businessman, avid outdoorsman and Ford partisan, the diesel F-250 is his dream truck. The behemoth is a Brobdingnagian Swiss Army Knife for his every need. It’s a rolling office, family camper, fishing trip vehicle, farm implement. Given the cost of my Platinum F-250 — a cool $77,705 — he could use its palatial confines as a second home.

What has always distinguished Ford for truck guys like Scott is technology, and my F-250 Platinum doesn’t disappoint. Like its car and crossover cousins, Super Duty is available with everything shy of self-park assist (parallel parking still requires a tugboat). There’s adaptive steering, blind-spot assist, SYNC 3 infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone capability, 360-degree camera, trailer-hookup guidance and dual-zone climate control. Innovation doesn’t need a chip, either — the pickup box comes with the F-series’ clever BoxLink Cleat tie-down feature.

What are the F-250’s shortcomings? I’m sure your friends driving competing brands could come up with something (“It rides like a washboard compared to my coil-sprung Ram!”), but flaws aren’t obvious.

I defer to my colleagues at the enthusiast mags who’ve done the towing tests — and they are in awe of F-250. Motor Trend named it their 2017 Truck of the Year. PickupTruck.com calls it “revolutionary (with a capital R).” You get the idea.

As docile a daily driver as the diesel F-250 has become, its super-size girth and price still mark it as an exotic. Most buyers will choose this truck as a business tool — a mechanical ox for tow and work.

There are still individuals who will covet the truck for its diesel chops — but that case is tougher now that the F-150 is offered with a diesel for the first time. Granted, little brother’s 3.0-liter oil burner is a shadow of big brother’s ship engine, but it still brings plenty of torque without Super Duty’s price tag. For those who don’t need the F-250’s extra towing bravado the light duty’s 10,000 pounds-plus of towing will do fine, thank you very much.

That’s a lot for F-series to boast about. But remember, be careful talking politics or pickups in polite company.

2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty

Vehicle type

Front-engine, rear- and four-wheel drive, five-passenger, heavy-duty pickup

Power plant

6.2-liter V-8; 6.7-liter turbodiesel V-8

Transmission

6-speed automatic

Weight

7,898 pounds (diesel as tested)

Price

$33,657 base ($77,705 as tested)

Power

385 horsepower, 430 pound-feet of torque (V-8); 440 horsepower, 925 pound-feet of torque (diesel)

Performance

0-60 mph, 6.9 seconds (diesel, Motor Trend)

Fuel economy

No EPA rating

Report card

Highs

Luxurious interior, super techy

Lows

Size of a pet dinosaur; tech options will cost you

Overall:
★★★★

 

Ford to build $200M testing
complex in Allen Park

Ian Thibodeau ,
The Detroit News
Feb 15, 2017

Ford Motor Co. plans to spend $200 million and roughly two years building a new complex for aerodynamic testing in Allen Park.

The Dearborn automaker will break ground on the project this year, and plans to complete construction on the facility by the end of 2019. The wind tunnel complex will house a “rolling road wind tunnel and state-of-the-art climatic chamber” to help the automaker meet demand for greater fuel efficiency and performance.

“This investment in new world-class test facilities underpins Ford’s ongoing commitment to advance our capabilities to continue to provide our customers with high-quality vehicles,” Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, global product development and chief technical officer, said.

The complex will be built on 13 acres next to Ford’s Driveability Test Facility tucked between Interstate 94 and Southfield Road. Ford representatives did not immediately know if the company would have to hire new employees to staff the facility.

“We will continue to evaluate staffing plans and will know more as we get closer to the facility’s completion,” Ford spokeswoman Deeptie Sethi told The Detroit News.

Ford’s existing wind tunnel facility will still be used when the new one is built. The new complex is part of Ford’s effort to advance vehicle testing, Sethi said.

The new facility is one a few recent sizable local investments by the automaker.

Last year, Ford unveiled a 10-year renovation plan for the company’s design and product facilities in Dearborn. It calls for redeveloping outdated properties to create a walkable, more pleasing work environment aimed at attracting new, young talent to the company.

Ford also plans to invest $60 million in downtown Dearborn to redevelop unused buildings and land across about three blocks on the city’s West Downtown District into new office and retail space.

The company in early January announced plans to invest $700 million at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant and create 700 new jobs in Michigan.

The new Allen Park facility helps Ford advance its testing capabilities to keep up with the evolution of the automobile, the company said in a statement. A five-belt conveyor system can “replicate real-world drag through a rolling road aerodynamic tunnel that enables Ford to bring the road to the vehicle, rather than the vehicle to the road,” the company said.

The belt system allows vehicles to be tested at speeds up to 155 mph. Another testing system can create speeds of up to 200 mph, which will help the company test high-performance vehicles and race cars.

The other new element of the facility, a climatic chamber, can get temperatures down to minus 40 degrees, and up to as high as 140 degrees.

“This new wind tunnel facility will not only allow us to test our performance and racing vehicle line-up but will also enable us to share innovations across all our global Ford products,” said Dave Pericak, Ford Performance global director.

Wednesday’s announcement comes after Ford said late last week it would invest $1 billion in recently formed artificial intelligence company Argo AI to develop the brains for Ford’s self-driving cars.


 

When you don’t get the CPP
survivor benefit you expect

DIANE JERMYN
Globe & Mail
Feb 14, 2017

The rules around the Canada Pension Plan survivor benefit are worth investigating before you find yourself widowed – and in shock about how little you’re likely to collect as a surviving spouse.

You may not get the benefit you expect, even if both of you have contributed to CPP over decades of your working lives.

How much a person can get depends on both the age of the survivor and past contributions, as well as when CPP benefits were started. However the formula Service Canada uses is complicated, even for financial planning experts.

According to the formula, a surviving spouse who is age 65 and not otherwise receiving CPP benefits is entitled to a survivor benefit of 60 per cent of the CPP retirement pension of the deceased spouse, if he or she started receiving CPP at 65.

However, what survivors generally don’t expect is that their CPP benefits will now be combined and subjected to a maximum.

For survivor benefits starting in 2017, the maximum combined survivor and retirement pension that would be paid is $1,114. That means if both partners were getting the maximum CPP retirement pension, there will be no survivor benefits when one dies. None. Under current regulations, the survivor is allowed to get the equivalent of only one maximum CPP retirement benefit.

Another shock is that if the survivor’s CPP is less than the maximum, he or she would be topped up only to the maximum of $1,114.

In reality, most survivor pensions are dramatically less than that amount. According to Lea Koiv, president of Lea Koiv & Associates Inc., a retirement, tax and estate planning consulting firm in Toronto, the average amounts for survivor pensions to be paid in 2016 were anticipated as $411 a month for those less than 65 and $302 for those 65 and older.

A careful read of the Service Canada website reveals that the formulae shown there apply “if the surviving spouse or common-law partner is not receiving other CPP benefits.” Otherwise, the survivor will have to rely on the more complex calculations by Service Canada.

“What many do not realize is that there is a recalculation of the survivor’s pension upon reaching age 65,” Ms. Koiv says. “Many widows or widowers will be really surprised by the fall in their family incomes, including the loss of their spouse’s OAS. If that’s a large part of the family’s income, it can be calamitous to lose that thousand dollars a month plus the partner’s OAS, especially if you are not entitled to GIS [guaranteed income supplement].”

Knowing what’s ahead could impact your decisions around CPP and your retirement planning. Ms. Koiv advises people to be vigilant about monitoring their data – and making sure it’s correct – so they’ll actually know what they’ll be getting in the end.

“I don’t think many people in this country know about these CPP survivor benefit rules,” says Jim Harris, 74, a former head of media relations at the Transportation Safety Board who retired in 2004. “I wasn’t aware of this wrinkle in CPP.”

After retiring, Mr. Harris and his wife, Linda Harris, 66, former staff support at the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, moved to Nanaimo, B.C., where they could enjoy their love of sailing. Each started their CPP immediately at 60, choosing to take a reduced pension for a longer number of years rather than delay for bigger benefits. The couple also have work pensions, plus RRSPs, TFSAs and a RRIF.

Mr. Harris acknowledges he might have done things a bit differently had he been aware of the CPP survivor rules and plans to check on their own situation with CPP.

“We both take CPP but if one of us passes, what happens?” Mr. Harris asks. “I’d like to know where we stand. If you made the contributions, it doesn’t seem fair that your surviving spouse won’t get the benefit. My understanding was that if your income in retirement is above a certain threshold, then that gets clawed back through income tax. But CPP is getting clawed back even before you reach that threshold.”

Ms. Harris expressed concern that a lot of seniors would be counting on getting survivor benefits from their spouse’s CPP pension, particularly since fewer people have good work pensions now.

“You expect that the government support is going to be there and that there’s not some sort of catch that’s going to eliminate it,” Ms. Harris says. “If your financial manager or adviser isn’t aware either, you’re taken by surprise. We’re lucky to live in Canada but you can’t rely on the government for more than just a supplemental amount on your income. You really have to look after yourself.”

Doug Dahmer, chief executive officer of Burlington, Ont.-based Emeritus Financial, says the basis of the CPP survivor benefits goes back a generation to when mom stayed at home and dad went to work. Now, with both spouses typically working full time, both are probably close to the maximum, so the survivor benefit isn’t nearly as critical as before. He suggests that other things, such as the loss of income splitting, will impact the surviving spouse’s financial position more.

“Upon the spouse’s death, the first thing that happens is that you lose income splitting,” Mr. Dahmer says. “The second thing is that all their RRSPs are consolidated and turned into one person’s balance sheet. What happens next is the survivor loses the spouse’s Old Age Security, and if she’s already receiving a significant CPP, she also loses his CPP. Now she’s taking money out of their RRIF and can’t split it, so she’s clawed back on her OAS. So you suddenly have an individual who is bringing in less cash flow and paying more in taxes.”

Another issue that any contributor to CPP should understand is what you see on your statement of contributions, which is the record Service Canada keeps on your earnings and the contributions you’ve made to CPP, is a projection of an individual’s expected CPP income at 65. Ms. Koiv points out this can be totally misleading because those government statements assume ongoing employment.

“I used to deal with a lot of employees who had been with companies that downsized and the employees could commute their pension plan,” Ms. Koiv says. “These individuals might only be 50 to 55 and would look at the CPP statement and say, ‘Wow, I’m getting all that money.’ But they didn’t notice the small font which indicated that employment was assumed until age 65.”

After following recent talks held on amending CPP, Ms. Koiv says she was disappointed that survivor benefits weren’t an issue in any of the discussions.

“I’m a little astonished,” she says. “I think not until somebody who was sitting at that table has a spouse die, and wonders what happened to their spouse’s CPP, will it actually dawn on them that the money’s essentially gone back into the pool to subsidize those left in it. There’s no notion of a commuted value. Some people will have paid a lot in and little will come out. The death benefit is negligible vis-à-vis what has been contributed. ”

 

 

High Ontario electricity
rates concern car makers

Greg Keenan
The Globe and Mail
Monday, Feb. 13,

The soaring price of electricity in Ontario is top of mind for the province’s auto makers, but it should not yet be considered a competitive disadvantage when the province is bidding for new investment by car companies, a new study concludes.

Electricity rates are higher in Ontario than they are in the 10 largest auto-producing U.S. states, a study by the Automotive Policy Research Centre at McMaster University in Hamilton, says.

They rose by 26 per cent between 2010 and 2015 in Ontario, almost double the next worse performing auto making jurisdiction, which was Indiana.

But measured as a percentage of vehicle production in U.S. dollars, electricity rates fell in Ontario in that period, although the decline was not as steep as it was in the top auto-producing states examined by the study.

While rates are higher in Ontario, the cost of electricity is only $6 more per vehicle assembled in the province than it is in Michigan, the state with the next highest costs and just $18 compared with Kentucky, where costs are lowest.

“Our research indicates that even though rates have been described as a major cause of the deteriorating competitiveness of Ontario’s manufacturing industry, the size of the gap is not currently large enough to warrant such characterizations; certainly, not in the context of a $30,000 vehicle,” the centre’s Greig Mordue and Kelly White concluded.

But that led them to ask why it has become such a hot-button issue among auto makers.

They concluded that the doubling of hydro rates in Ontario since 2006 (compared with increases equal to inflation in U.S. jurisdictions) has caught the attention of senior executives and a new pricing scheme in the province has caused those executives to pay much closer attention to their electricity bills.

“Even though Canadian plants compete with U.S. plants for mandates and are assessed or benchmarked against those plants in U.S. dollar terms, these are the realities: The plants are located in Canada; executives in Canada are influenced by Canadian dialogue; electricity bills incurred in Canada are paid in Canadian dollars,” the authors said.

The new pricing scheme, called the Industry Conservation Initiative, enables large power users to reduce their costs by operating during times when electricity use is not at its peak.

That’s difficult for auto plants – some of which in Ontario are running on three shifts a day – because of the nearly impossible task of shifting employee work hours on a daily basis and the intricate industrial ballet involved in supplying such plants with seats, tires, sheet metal and other parts.

Nonetheless the pricing scheme means executives must make operational decisions up to 15 times a year about how and when they will use electricity, the study said.

“Each time this happens, it causes them to analyze and assess electricity costs and each time that process unfolds, a perception is reinforced that Ontario provides an uncompetitive environment in so far as its electricity pricing system is concerned.”

The study noted that costs in Ontario have risen in part because of the phase-out of coal-fired hydro generating plants.

If the new Trump administration follows through on promises to cancel restrictions on the use of coal, electricity could become more of a competitive factor for auto makers in Canada, the study said.

 

Ford invests $1B into Argo
AI for virtual driver system

Melissa Burden,
Feb 12, 2017
The Detroit News

 

Ford Motor Co. said Friday it will invest $1 billion over five years into recently formed artificial intelligence company Argo AI to develop the brains for Ford’s self-driving cars. The move bolsters the automaker’s ambitious goal of having fully autonomous cars in the road within five years.

Argo AI was founded by former executives from the self-driving car teams at Google and Uber. Ford becomes majority shareholder of Argo and the startup will act as a subsidiary of the automaker.

The effort will include roboticists and engineers to develop a software platform for the fully self-driving car that Ford is planning for 2021. The virtual-driver system is the machine-learning software — essentially the brains — of self-driving cars. Ford said the system could be licensed to other companies.

Ford has said its self-driving car will operate without a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator pedal. The vehicle will be rolled out first for ride-sharing or ride-hailing purposes. The company has said it wants to sell 100,000 or more a year.

“To date, Ford has been literally farther behind in the race to develop automated cars,” said Raj Rajkumar, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, and an autonomous driving expert who knows one of Argo’s co-founders. “They may have felt they needed to bring in more firepower to catch up. This is their big move.”

Ford’s executive vice president of global product development and chief technical officer, Raj Nair, said the tie-up will help the automaker meet its 2021 target.

“We have a very good team, but this ability to put that into a startup team environment, put it under the leadership of two pioneers in the autonomous vehicle technology field, (and) have the compensation package that will attract incremental talent, I think all of that is a win-win-win situation,” Nair said.

Automakers increasingly are partnering with suppliers to develop self-driving vehicle technology more quickly. General Motors Co. last year acquired San Francisco autonomous vehicle software company Cruise Automation for $581 million.

Ford said it will combine its team already working on the virtual-driver system with Argo’s people. The automaker said it will continue to head development of autonomous vehicle hardware, system integration, manufacturing and design, and to help manage government regulations.

Ford and Argo officials said Friday in an interview that the exact number of people who will be involved from Ford has not been determined, though a “substantial” number will be part of Argo, Nair said. The companies did not say how many jobs might be filled from the outside. Teams will be integrated within a few months, said Bryan Salesky, Argo CEO and co-founder.

By the end of 2017, Argo, based in Pittsburgh, expects to have more than 200 employees. Those include hires in Southeastern Michigan and the San Francisco area.

Ford CEO and President Mark Fields said in a call with analysts and members of the news media said Argo employees will have ownership in their company and share in financial successes, but would not provide specifics. “There’s a war for talent out there,” Fields said.

Analysts say partnerships with companies versed in computer learning are necessary.

“The competition in this field is intense, though an alliance between Ford and a startup company like Argo AI should accelerate the process for both companies,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book.

The Argo AI board will have five members including Nair; John Casesa, Ford group vice president of global strategy; Salesky; Peter Rander, Argo chief operating officer and co-founder; and an independent director.

Salesky declined to provide figures on the current size of the staff, though he described it as small. The website was copyrighted this year. He also declined to say exactly when Argo was founded, other than sometime last year. “We’ve been talking to Ford since late last year to put this together,” he said in a phone interview.

Ford has said its 2017 adjusted pre-tax profits would be less than 2016 as it invests in electrification, self-driving technology and mobility.

In August 2016, Ford announced four investments and partnerships that it said would help it with its autonomous vehicle development. They included investing $75 million in Silicon Valley-based Velodyne, a LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor company; acquiring SAIPS, an Israel-based computer vision and machine learning company; investing in Berkeley, California-based Civil Maps to further develop 3-D mapping; and inking an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience LLC, a machine vision company.

Ford Smart Mobility’s subsidiary last year also reportedly invested into Zoomcar, an India-based car rental company like Zipcar.

Argo AI’s four top executives worked at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center prior to roles at Google’s Self-Driving Car Project or Uber Inc.

Salesky, a computer engineer, worked at Google from 2011-16 in several roles, including director of hardware development for the tech giant’s autonomous car project.

Rander was an engineering lead at Uber for nearly two years. He helped “launch, grow and lead” teams involved with Uber’s first-generation of self-driving prototypes, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Brett Browning, Argo AI vice president of robotics, was a senior engineering manager for two years at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center alongside Rander. He led the mapping and localization efforts for self-driving cars, according to his profile.

Argo AI Chief Financial Officer Daniel Beaven worked at Uber for about two years until recently.

Ford’s stock closed Friday at $12.51 a share, up about 1 percent

 

Tesla workers reportedly
want to form labor union

Dana Hull,
Bloomberg
Feb. 10, 2017

Tesla Inc. workers at its only auto plant have contacted the United Auto Workers seeking assistance with forming a union, according to a Medium post published Thursday by a man claiming to be a factory employee.

“I think our management team would agree that our plant doesn’t function as well as it could, but until now they’ve underestimated the value of listening to employees,” wrote Jose Moran, who identifies himself as a worker for the past four years at the plant in Fremont, California. “We need better organization in the plant, and I, along with many of my coworkers, believe we can achieve that by coming together and forming a union.”

Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk is preparing Tesla’s electric vehicle factory, which currently makes the Model S and X, to begin producing the more affordable Model 3 sedan around July. The Palo Alto, California-based company has told investors in regulatory filings that its business may be adversely affected by higher costs or work stoppages related to union activities.

“We have a long history of engaging directly with our employees on the issues that matter to them, and we will continue to do so because it’s the right thing to do,” a Tesla spokesperson said in an emailed statement Thursday.

Representatives for the UAW didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the Medium post. Bergen Kenny, a consultant to labor unions with San Francisco-based Storefront Political Media, sent the Medium post to Bloomberg News.

The company delivered about 76,000 cars worldwide last year and aims to produce 500,000 annually by 2018.



Retiree Norm Collins
Passes Away Feb 8, 2017

Norm Collins

Norm Collins
Retired
Nov 1, 1996
26.9 years

It is with great sadness that we inform you that Retiree Norm Collins passed away yesterday. Norm was a great supporter of our Local 584 Retirees Chapter, he attended most meetings and was a past executive member, he also helped out in running our monthly 50-50 draws, he will be sadly missed.

Our sincerest condolences go out to the entire Collins family and to his son Gary Collins who attended many of our retiree luncheons and other union functions with his Dad.

Date of Birth
Tuesday, April 12th, 1932
Date of Death
Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Visitation:
Thursday, February 16th, 2017, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Ward Funeral Home, "Brampton Chapel"
52 Main Street South
Brampton, ON
L6W 2C5

Service:
Friday, February 17th, 2017, 11:00am
Ward Funeral Home, "Brampton Chapel"
52 Main Street South
Brampton, ON
L6W 2C5

Reception Information:
Rangers Supporters Club
185 Advance Blvd.
Brampton, ON

Collins: W. Norm
Passed away peacefully on Wednesday February 8, 2017 as the result of a massive stroke on January 19. Norm Collins beloved husband of the late Elizabeth. Loving father of Gary and his wife Sheila. Dear grandfather of Katrina and Brittnie. Born in Derry, Northern Ireland on April 12, 1932 the youngest son of Steve and Rebecca Collins, predeceased by his siblings Bertie, Gladys, Noel, Stanley and Cecil. Sadly missed be many nieces and nephews and his friends at Ford Motor Co, the Rangers Supporters Club, Royal Canadian Legion Branch #609, and the Flower City Lodge No. 689. Friends will be received at the Ward Funeral Home “Brampton Chapel” 52 Main Street S., Brampton on Thursday February 16, 2017 from 7 – 9pm. A celebration of Norm’s life will be held on Friday February 17, 2017 in the chapel at 11am to be followed by a reception at the Rangers Supporters Club (185 Advance Blvd., Brampton) from 12-3pm. If desired donations made to the William Osler Hospital Foundation would be appreciated by the family. Special thanks to Dr. Garay, Dr. Taher, Dr. Mistry and the staff at the Trillium Health Centre and the Brampton Civic Hospital. Please visit the book of memories at www.wardfuneralhome.com.

More information here

 

 

 

Ford debuts aluminum
body Expedition

The all-new 2018 Ford Expedition is smarter, more capable and more adaptable than ever, the automaker declares. The SUV makes its debut Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, in Dallas, Texas.  Ford Motor Company

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
Feb 9, 2017

Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday debuted the industry’s first aluminum-body SUV with a bigger, lighter and more loaded Expedition.

The all-new 2018 Ford Expedition’s high-strength aluminum-alloy body and redesigned steel frame shave up to 300 pounds off the full-size SUV’s total weight, depending on the trim level, but Ford says it maintains its off-road capability.

The aluminum-body SUV, which will hit showrooms this fall, is the second time Ford has taken the lead in aluminum: The redesigned 2015 F-150 was the first pickup with an aluminum body. Despite some initial concerns about durability, the F-150 has proved to be a rugged best-seller. The Expedition is based on the same platform as the F-Series.

The fourth-generation Expedition made its global premiere at a private event in Dallas ahead of its public unveiling at the Chicago Auto Show later this week.

The eight-passenger family hauler is bigger — four inches longer and an inch wider — and loaded with more features than the current full-size SUV.

All told, the 2018 Expedition has more than 40 new features and driver-assist technologies, officials said, including park-assist, lane-keeping, adaptive cruise-control and a collision-avoidance system that helps drivers avoid other vehicles or pedestrians.

Updates aimed at boosting connectivity, comfort and overall utility include a wireless charging pad, an in-vehicle WiFi hotspot, six USB charging ports, four 12-volt power points, 15 cup holders, updated second- and third-row seating, Ford’s latest Sync3 technology and retooled cargo space behind the third row.

Interior changes were aimed at making the Expedition cabin more spacious and easier to enter and exit for second- and third-row passengers, according to Todd Hoevener, chief program engineer at Ford.

The company redesigned the center console, which has several charging ports and an electronic shifter dial on the console, removing the mechanical shifter.

In another big update, Ford introduced sliding second-row seats in the new Expedition, which allow passengers in the second and third rows more legroom and easier entry and exit. The second-row seats now have a “tip-and-slide” function, which allows access to the third row without the need to remove a car seat because the second row doesn’t need to fold to be moved. The third row also reclines.

“We spent a lot of time on (adaptability),” said Hoevener. “No more fixed (second-row) seat like most of our competitors have.”

Both rows can be folded flat to open a cargo area large enough to hold 4-by-8 sheets of plywood, Hoevener said, which has been an Expedition benchmark for years. With the seats up, the cargo space has shelving and an updated design to prevent cargo from falling out of the vehicle when customers open the liftgate.

The all-new Expedition has some performance-related changes, too.

The vehicle is powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine and comes standard with auto start-stop technology and a 10-speed automatic transmission that debuted last year in F-Series trucks.

Hoevener said the big SUV is expected to maintain best-in-class towing. Ford will offer its Pro Trailer Backup Assist knob.

Taking a cue from the smaller Ford Explorer, the latest Expedition has a Terrain Management System which lets customers choose between multiple drive modes depending on road conditions, ranging from sport, eco or 4x4 mode, to sand, mud, gravel or snow modes.

The new Expedition will be available in XLT, Limited and Platinum series. All three trim levels come in the extended-length edition. Vehicle weight will be released closer to the sale date.

Ford did not release expected fuel economy or pricing for the new SUV. The 2017 Expedition gets an EPA-estimated 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, and starts at $47,125.

Ford has seen SUV sales increase by 80 percent over the last five years. The Expedition reboot caps the “freshest, strongest SUV lineup” Ford has ever had, said Ford’s strategic planning and distribution manager, Michael O’Brien, at a media preview event for the Expedition last week.

The new Expedition is built at Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, where Ford also makes F-Series trucks.

 

GM to pay UAW members
$12K in record profit sharing

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News
February 8, 2017

General Motors Co. said Tuesday nearly 52,000 UAW workers will receive record profit sharing checks of up to $12,000.

Payments could cost the automaker $624 million and are slated to arrive Feb. 24. Last year, GM-UAW members received $11,000 in profit sharing checks.

Profit sharing amounts are based on GM’s North America pre-tax profit, which set a record last year at $12.05 billion. GM-UAW hourly workers receive $1 for every $1 million earned.

UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who heads the GM department for the union, said the workers "deserve every penny" of the bonuses.

“Today’s performance bonus announcement of a maximum of $12,000 each rewards our members' dedication and commitment to building some of the most popular and high-quality vehicles in the world," she said in a statement.

Last month, Ford Motor Co. announced profit sharing of $9,000 for its more than 56,000 UAW members. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said it will pay its about 40,000 UAW workers $5,000 in profit sharing. 

 

 

1st major German customer
sues VW over diesel emissions

Associated Press
Feb 7, 2017

Berlin — A fish wholesaler has become the first major Volkswagen customer in Germany to sue the automaker for selling diesel vehicles rigged to cheat on emissions tests.

Deutsche See GmbH says it filed a lawsuit with a court in Braunschweig on Friday, alleging “malicious deceit” on the part of Volkswagen, after failing to reach an out-of-court settlement.

Deutsche See says it wants Volkswagen to repay about 11.9 million euros ($12.8 million) in leasing fees paid for its fleet of 500 Volkswagen diesel vehicles since 2009.

Volkswagen said Monday that it hadn’t yet received official notification of the lawsuit and therefore couldn’t comment on the case.

Volkswagen has agreed to buy back up to 500,000 cars in the United States under a $15 billion settlement agreed with U.S. authorities and car owners.

 

Ford begins exporting
Raptor to China

Ford Motor Co. has officially started shipping its 2017 F-150 Raptor to China, marking the first time the Dearborn-based automaker has ever exported a U.S.-built F-Series truck to that country.

Ian Thibodeau ,
The Detroit News
Feb 6, 2017

Ford Motor Co. has started shipping its 2017 F-150 Raptor to China, marking the first time the Dearborn-based automaker has ever exported a U.S.-built F-Series truck to that country.

Ford announced last year plans to begin sending limited numbers of its off-road performance pickup overseas. But Chinese truck enthusiasts for years have purchased the truck on the gray market outside of authorized dealers, typically paying as much as four times the U.S. sticker price for the vehicle.

The new Raptor is being built at the Dearborn Truck plant. Ford had previously discontinued the truck in 2014.

“Ford is one of America’s top exporters, and F-150 Raptor’s appeal and unmatched off-road performance has earned the truck a loyal following around the globe,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas, said in a statement. “Export to China enables us to bring a new group of enthusiasts into the Ford family.”

The Raptor is six inches wider than the F-150, and is powered by a 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that gets more than the 411 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque that the previous model’s 6.2-liter V-8 produced.

The beefed-up F-150 also has a Ford Performance-engineered high-strength steel frame with custom Fox Racing shocks with higher ground clearance and full dual-performance exhaust system. The Raptor, like the F-150, is built with aluminum, which saves some weight.

The truck’s Terrain Management System includes six driving modes: normal; street; weather; mud and sand; baja; and rock.

“Raptor’s unique looks and capability have generated amazing buzz at every auto show we’ve brought it to around China,” said David Schoch, Ford group vice president and president, Ford Asia Pacific. “F-150 Raptor is another example of our commitment to offer a wide range of vehicles for customers in China — everything from SUVs to high-performance cars and trucks.”

The Raptor is one of over a dozen new performance vehicles Ford has planned over the next three years. It’s part of the same lineup as the Ford GT, Focus RS, Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT350R.

Ford recently announced at the 2017 North American International Auto Show that the company would be releasing an all new Ford Ranger and Ford Bronco by 2020.

 

Frail seniors and their money
– it’s still their money

SHANNON MONEO
The Globe and Mail
Feb 2, 2017

Russ Dufort was a jazz drummer who played with Oscar Peterson and later led his own orchestra. Today, despite having dementia, the 93-year-old still picks up the sticks at his nursing home in Montreal.

Once an accountant, Russ knew the importance of getting personal financial affairs in order before mental or physical illness set in. In 1992, he prepared a will and gave his son, John, power of attorney. In 2005, at 82, Russ gave John authority over his bank accounts.

“Dad was frugal all his life. He had a pension plan, money in the bank,” John said. Not a huge sum, but Russ had engineered his assets to ensure he wouldn’t end up living in the lowest tier of public care.

But as Russ’s dementia progressed, John suggested a residential facility that was, “like a cruise ship on land. But Dad got belligerent. He didn’t want to move into a care home. He wanted to die in his house.”

So, in 2006, John hired a private caregiver who eventually spent six hours each day with Russ. A family member worried Russ might get swindled by the woman but John kept close tabs.

By 2014, Russ needed substantially more help. Not able to afford 24-hour, in-home care, John chose to move Russ into a private care home in Montreal’s Beaconsfield borough while waiting for a public spot.

“I told him he was going on a holiday,” said John, explaining how he got Russ to leave the modest brick house he’d lived in since the early 1950s.

Last May, Russ settled into a Pointe-Claire, 200-resident home, where the monthly cost is $1,900 versus the $5,000 he paid in the 20-resident Beaconsfield manor.

Also an accountant, John, 71, has grown his father’s income since taking charge. “We sold the house, as is, in 2016 and invested the money. I have an arm’s length relationship with the adviser who approves all investments.”

With about $300,000 in the bank, John is confident there will be enough to cover all of Russ’s care, with some left for the estate. He’s also reassured that he’s acted in the best interests of his father. “Dad has never, ever said he wanted to go home.”

John and Russ tidily fit into a 2016 survey by Fidelity Investments which found that just 9 per cent of Americans, aged 50 through 80, thought they would lose their ability to manage daily finances. Meanwhile, 60 per cent said they’d witnessed it happen to a friend or family member. And 40 per cent helped to manage their own parents’ finances.

Maureen Glenn is well aware of the growing number of similar scenarios involving seniors and their assets. Ms. Glenn is vice-president of tax and estate planning with Richardson GMP Ltd. in Toronto. One aspect of her job is to know her clients well. “You also want to get to know the next generation for intergenerational wealth transfer,” she said.

Communication and proper planning are key. Today, with vast wealth being created via home values in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, inheritance windfalls or large proceeds from a business sale, it’s absolutely critical that the appropriate documents, such as wills and power of attorney, are in place, Ms. Glenn said. “Housing wealth is becoming a real risk.”

One solution may be the alter ego trust for those 65 and older. The senior moves his or her funds into a trust fund where those funds are used for that senior’s benefit alone, Ms. Glenn said. No other person has dibs on the money. If concerns about the senior’s capabilities arise, a trustee, such as a lawyer, can be named.

April Dorey is a financial adviser with Raymond James in Victoria where 85 of her 300 clients are 85 and up. “By that age we make sure we have contact with the families,” she said.

She advises clients to forgo joint accounts with children, after having seen too many disasters. Often a child will pressure the parent to open a joint account and use the money for their own expenses. If the child gets divorced, has a business that fails, becomes disabled or has an addiction, substantial amounts of money can disappear. “People are very trusting or they want to make things simple,” Ms. Dorey cautions.

Ms. Glenn says that intimidation of seniors by family or friends is becoming more prevalent. “You can’t always assume they’re incapacitated. Some are bullied into making decisions.”

Ensuring the elderly client is not isolated is pivotal, she said. “I’ve seen where seniors are capable. We should respect their wishes. The problem is, how much coercion is going on?”

On the other hand, if mental or physical problems begin, the senior may become prey. In both cases, while advisers have a fiduciary responsibility to respect the confidentiality of their clients, there are solutions. They can contact their company’s compliance branch, the police or look for substantiating information such as a power of attorney. “We’ve been educated in what to look out for,” Ms. Glenn said.

While Ms. Dorey has worried that clients could run out of money before their demise, none of her investors has faced that fate. “I hammer it into my clients, you have to think through and be prepared.”

75 or older? Read this

April Dorey has been a financial adviser since 1999 and has witnessed how solid assets can evaporate when older adults haven’t prepared for their less vital years. Three life-and-death documents should be in place.

Power of attorney

Often seniors don’t want their kids meddling in their business. They may give relatives bank authorization, but power of attorney (POA) is “extraordinarily important,” Ms. Dorey said. The document designates a person, or persons, to act for another in legal and financial matters when the assignor is determined (by at least two physicians) to be mentally incapable of making sound financial decisions.

Terms in the POA can be far-reaching, such as dictating when it becomes active, or can be more hands-off. Usually prepared by a lawyer, the POA is to be used for the best interests of the client. When two people have POA it ensures checks and balances on the cheques and balances.

But don’t wait until the 85-year-old is withdrawing $50,000 to buy a Mustang for the grandson, Ms. Dorey said. Taking too long to enact POA means a public guardian could be assigned. (Governments act only in situations where no other suitable person is available, able and willing.)

Not only does the public decision-maker take a fee, they don’t know family circumstances and are time-crunched, dealing with multiple caseloads. “Even two neighbours could be better than a public guardian,” Ms. Dorey says. Alternatively, some choose a lawyer or accountant to have POA but not financial advisers because of conflict of interest.

Health-care directive/living will

This document, recognized by various names in different provinces, helps families/assignees make decisions when the assignor has lost mental or physical abilities. Most often, the document lays out what health care and medical interventions are used to sustain life.

Spouses or children are often named as the decision-makers. Ms. Dorey recommends that one person be designated.

“If there’s more than one, there can be disagreements and that can create an impasse.” Letting the family know who’s chosen, at the start, can mitigate future hurt. If disagreement arises, the document remains valid. “People don’t like to talk about being sick,” Ms. Dorey said. She’s found that she often knows more about the final wishes of her older clients than even family members.

Wills

Get a will, pronto.

And update it regularly if there are changes in circumstances, Ms. Dorey said. That includes being aware of amendments to provincial probate regulations.

Ignore do-it-yourself wills in favour of a lawyer or notary-made will. “People can be so frugal,” Ms. Dorey said, of those who cheap out and use online documents. Problems can quickly appear and she’s seen estates decimated by legal fees over imprecise or faulty wills.

 

Congratulations to Our
Newest Retirees
Feb 1, 2017

Brenda Watters
Dave Willson
Jozef Grzywacz
Brenda Watters
Dave Willson
Jozef Grzywacz
32.7 years
19.6 years
33.0 years

 

 

Ford’s vehicles not sole
focus of Super Bowl ad

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
Feb 1, 2017

For the first time in recent company history, Ford Motor Co.’s Super Bowl commercial does not focus solely on a new vehicle.

The 90-second ad focused on Ford’s development of “long-term mobility solutions” will air before the kickoff of Sunday’s Super Bowl. The spot is a big change for Ford, which typically develops Super Bowl commercials featuring the company’s F-Series or other vehicles.

The company wants to show it is working on transportation and mobility solutions not commonly associated with the Dearborn-based auto company, said Chantel Lenard, Ford’s U.S. marketing director.

The new message coincides with remarks offered by Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford during the Detroit auto show in which he outlined his vision for the future of mobility, a concept that wraps autonomous vehicles, ride-sharing, bike-sharing, connected vehicles and other transit options into one “solution” in Ford’s “City of Tomorrow” concept.

Monday’s announcement coincides with Ford opening its first FordHub in New York City. The FordHub will function as an “interactive brand experience,” according to a news release. It aims to show how the company is expanding to focus on mobility as much as automobiles, and get people to think about the future of transportation.

The ad and new hub respectively allow Ford to reach a mass audience and engage directly with consumers while developing mobility strategies, said Elena Ford, vice president of global dealer and consumer experience.

“We’ll always stay true to our core ... we’re always going to (make automobiles), that’s a very important part of our business, but as the landscape changes ... we want to be a part of that,” she said. “We want to showcase to customers what our ideas are, and we want to gain feedback from them.”

The FordHub has a map tracking the “pulse” of New York City by monitoring traffic information, and a game of sorts in which guests earn points while picking between different mobility options. A team of Ford innovation and vehicle experts, named FordGuides, will assist guests at the New York City hub.

Ford will also take proposals through its Mobilize New York Challenge, which is offering more than $30,000 in cash prizes for new ideas to solve the city’s transportation challenges.

The company plans to open a second FordHub in San Francisco, where Ford’s recently-purchased Chariot shuttle service is based.

“Ford was founded on the promise of providing affordable transportation solutions to millions of customers, and this commitment still drives us today,” said Stephen Odell, Ford executive vice president of global marketing, and sales and service, in a statement. “As we expand our business to be both an auto and mobility company, we’re using new experiences like FordHub and our first Super Bowl ad that talks about the future to explain what we mean when we say ‘We Go Further so you can.’”

Ford has said it will have a fully driverless car without a steering wheel or pedals on the road in 2021. In 2017, the company plans to triple the number of its autonomous test vehicles.

The expansion builds on the addition of 20 second-generation Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Development Vehicles to its original 10-car fleet in 2016. The company will expand the fleet to 90 total vehicles by the end of this year with the addition of 60 more cars.

 

Ford’s top executives slam
Trump travel ban

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
January 31, 2017

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford and President and CEO Mark Fields said President Donald Trump’s travel ban “goes against our values as a company.”

In a joint statement shared with employees Monday, Ford and Fields said the company does not support Trump’s executive order issued Friday, which banned those from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days.

“Respect for all people is a core value of Ford Motor Company, and we are proud of the rich diversity of our company here at home and around the world,” said Ford and Fields. “That is why we do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company. We are not aware, to date, of any Ford employees directly affected by this policy. We will continue working to ensure the well-being of our employees by promoting the values of respect and inclusion in the workplace.”

The statement comes a day after Bloomberg News published a report about automakers remaining silent on the issue.

Trump’s order spurred thousands to protest outside and inside Detroit Metro Airport on Sunday evening. Protests at other airports were held around the country.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and General Motors Co. declined to comment on the travel ban.

When asked by reporters Monday in Detroit, Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, declined to comment directly on the ban and whether GM had been impacted.

“I’m very, very proud of General Motors. We’re a global company,” he said. “I think we have probably a really good representation of people from completely different backgrounds, culture, race, gender. I’m very proud of that.”

United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams said in a statement Monday that the union would not exist if immigrants hadn’t joined non-immigrants in fighting “for the rights we cherish today.”

“We must protect national security while remaining true to the very values that have made us a great nation,” he said. “The UAW opposes discrimination of any kind and denounces any policy that judges people based on their religion or nation of origin.”

Elon Musk, Tesla Motors Inc. founder and CEO, tweeted on Friday that entry bans are not “the best way to address the country’s challenges.”

“Many people negatively affected by this policy are strong supporters of the U.S.,” Musk wrote. “They've done right, not wrong and don't deserve to be rejected.”

Musk is one of over two dozen business leaders advising Trump as part of the president’s manufacturing jobs initiative. He is also a part of Trump’s “strategic and policy forum,” which will give input on job creation and the economy.

The Ford statement comes a week after Fields spent two days in Washington, D.C., meeting with Trump on manufacturing and auto and environmental regulations.

Fields said then that Ford was encouraged by the president and his economic policies, including his order Monday to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“We’ve been very vocal both as an industry and as a company, and we’ve repeatedly said that the mother of all trade barriers is currency manipulation, and TPP failed in meaningfully dealing with that, and we appreciate the president’s courage to walk away from a bad trade deal,” Fields said. “I think as an industry, we’re excited about working together with the president and his administration on tax policies, on regulation and on trade to really create a renaissance in American manufacturing.”

Trump in early January took credit for Ford’s decision to cancel plans for a $1.6-billion plant in Mexico and instead invest $700 million at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan.

Ford said at the 2017 North American International Auto Show that he’d been in touch with Trump before the company announced the plans. He also said Trump did not play a part in the company’s decision.

“We made that decision,” Ford said. “It was the right decision for us. It was a business decision. We’ll always make the right business decision for Ford. But I think it’s important that we inform him of that, it’s important that we understand his policies and where he’s going.”

 

Ford to power older cars with
Wi-Fi through SmartLink

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News
January 30, 2017

Ford Motor Co. will offer customers with older model vehicles the connectivity of a new vehicle that includes 4G Wi-Fi through a small device that plugs into the car.

The Dearborn automaker said Friday that the small Ford SmartLink device plugs into the OBD II port below the steering wheel and will give owners of 2010-2016 Ford, Lincoln and some Mercury vehicles without built-in modems the ability to connect on the road. Millions of customers could possibly take advantage of the device, Ford said.

Ford SmartLink will allow customers to use their smartphones and an app to remotely start a car and lock and unlock its doors; have Wi-Fi capability for up to eight devices in their car; and to access vehicle health and safety alerts and vehicle location services such as geo-fencing a certain area. The technology also will allow customers to schedule appointments with dealers.

“Ford SmartLink will surprise and delight owners of recent model-year vehicles by adding some of today’s most popular connectivity features” Stephen Odell, executive vice president of Ford global marketing, sales and service, said in a statement.

The device will be available beginning this summer at Ford and Lincoln dealerships and also will be available to buy online, said Brett Wheatley, executive director of Ford North America’s customer service division.

Ford did not provide any pricing information but said it would be available closer to the summer.

Wheatley said groups of customers now are testing the devices and will give feedback to help Ford as it develops pricing options that could include an upfront price or monthly options.

He said many Ford customers like connectivity in new vehicles, but they may have an older Ford, too, in the garage.

“We’re basically giving them the option now to upgrade their older vehicle to get the W-Fi, to get the lock, to get the unlock, remote start, some of the features that they really enjoyed in their new vehicle,” he said.

The Dearborn automaker worked for more than two years with Delphi Automotive and Verizon Telematics to develop the product. Delphi offers Delphi Connect with similar features. Verizon Wireless customers, for example, can purchase the device with 4G Wi-Fi capability for $199.99, plus activation on a cellphone plan and a $5 monthly subscription plan to Delphi.

But Ford officials said SmartLink will be Ford’s own product and has gone through extensive testing through the company.

“From security to performance, we’ve conducted extensive testing and made a number of improvements to ensure Ford SmartLink enhances the customer experience for our owners,” Raj Nair, executive vice president of Ford global product development, said in a statement.

 

Ford to pay $9,000 in profit
sharing to UAW workers

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
January 29, 2017

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. said that its more than 56,000 United Auto Workers hourly employees will receive profit sharing of $9,000 on average this year.

The company made the announcement as part of its 2016 earnings. The UAW workers will receive the money March 9, Ford representatives said.

Bob Shanks, Ford’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the results were “very strong” and “something we’re very happy about.”

UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles said in a statement Thursday that the news is “an important indicator that Ford Motor Co. is a healthy, financially secure company which translates to job security for our members.”

Settles noted that profit sharing is not a “benevolent payout” from Ford, but something the UAW deserve and demand.

“Both job security and financial gains for our membership have always been at the top of my priority list and today’s announcement solidifies our efforts,” he said.

Profit sharing is determined by the automaker’s North American profits. Hourly employees earn $1 for every million of the carmaker’s pre-tax North America profit.

Last year, about 52,900 Ford UAW members received a record $9,300. The 2016 profit-sharing results are the second highest to last year’s results, according to Shanks.

About 40,000 United Auto Workers with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV next month will receive average profit-sharing payments of $5,000, that company announced Thursday.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV released its earnings Thursday, while General Motors Co. is scheduled for Feb. 7.

 

Ford projects good year
despite ’16 drop

Melissa Burden and
 Ian Thibodeau
 The Detroit News
January 28, 2017

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. on Thursday reported net income that dropped 38 percent due largely to an accounting change related to pension obligations, but its CEO reiterated the automaker expects a strong 2017, though profits likely will fall slightly as it makes investments in emerging businesses.

Ford’s 2016 net income totaled $4.6 billion, due largely to a $2 billion impact because of an accounting change involving the way the company now measures pension obligations. The Dearborn automaker, however, reported adjusted pre-tax income of $10.4 billion for the year, $200 million higher than its previous guidance, and the second best year since 2000.

“We're making substantial progress on expanding our business, and that’s really going from a strong, healthy automotive company, to one that will be even stronger and bigger as we expand to an auto and a mobility company in the future,” President and CEO Mark Fields told analysts Thursday.

The strong 2016 results in North America means more money in the pockets of some Ford employees. Ford reported Thursday its more than 56,000 United Auto Workers hourly workers would get about $9,000 fromprofit sharing.

Profit sharing is determined by the automaker’s adjusted pre-tax North American profits, which totaled $9 billion in 2016, down $344 million from a year ago.

Ford’s 2017 projections come amid uncertainty just days after Fields spent two days in Washington, D.C., with other business and automotive leaders meeting with President Donald Trump.

Fields was optimistic about Trump’s presidency when speaking Thursday to analysts and reporters on a call.

“I think he’s going to be very focused on driving policies that drive investment and job creation in American manufacturing and in automotive manufacturing. I think that’s going to be a big priority,” Fields said.

General Motors Co. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne and Fields talked with Trump on Tuesday about tax reform and what could help the companies add jobs in the U.S.

Trump asked specifically what things are “inhibitors” in terms of growth for the companies, Fields said.

“We talked about regulations ... we talked about the finalized rule making that was pushed through at the end of the year on the fuel economy, one national standard, which really was a decision that we felt was premature and inconsistent with the promised data driven approach,” he said. “We may see some actions on that, which could be positive for our business, but my impression walking away is that this is a president who's going to be focused on a number of important priorities, and makes sure that he makes progress on them ... ”

For now, the company is waiting to see which parts of Trump’s tax blueprint will be made law, Fields said.

Ford’s fourth-quarter net income was a loss of $783 million, down $2.65 billion from the 2015 quarter, largely due to the pension accounting change and a $200 million special charge related to canceling its planned new Mexico assembly plant that was to be the home of the Ford Focus.

In 2015, Ford posted $7.4 billion in net income, including $1.9 billion in the fourth quarter and a record $10.8 billion pre-tax profit before special items.

The company lost 20 cents a share in the fourth quarter. And when factoring for special charges during the quarter, Ford would have earned 30 cents a share.

During the fourth quarter, Ford also took a $200 million special charge related to canceling its planned new Mexico assembly plant. Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said the charge included returning the land to its “natural state” and paying the government for costs it had spent to put infrastructure in the site.

Revenue for the year totaled $151.8 billion, up $2.2 billion. Fourth-quarter revenue totaled $38.7 billion, down $1.6 billion from the same quarter in 2015.

Ford said its wholesale production volume in the fourth quarter totaled 1.7 million, down 68,000 units from the same months in 2015, because the company a year ago was building inventory for some launches, which comparably had an “unfavorable effect,” according to Shanks.

Shanks said Ford expects to have about 39,000 less wholesale units or inventory in the first quarter of this year in North America compared to the 2016 quarter.

North America revenue for Ford reached $96.2 billion, up $700 million.

The company also had a record year in Europe, posting adjusted pre-tax earnings of $1.2 billion, up by $946 million from 2015. The company’s Asia Pacific region posted a adjusted pre-tax profit of $627 million, down $138 million from 2015, but the second best regional results for the company.

In 2016, Ford had pre-tax losses in South America of $1.1 billion, down $277 million, and losses of $302 million in the Middle East and Africa, down $333 million. Its financial services arm, Ford Credit, earned $1.82 billion in adjusted pre-tax profit for the year, down $208 million as the company saw some decline in used car auction pricing, Shanks said.

In the fourth quarter, Ford North America made $1.96 billion in adjusted pre-tax profit, down $73 million from a year ago. Ford South America lost $293 million adjusted pre-tax in the fourth quarter, with the Middle East and Africa losing $71 million. Europe posted a $166 million pre-tax profit, Asia Pacific, $284 million and Ford Credit earned $384 million.

The company in October lowered 2016 earnings expectations from $10.8 billion pre-tax to $10.2 billion due to a $600 million door latch recall.

The automaker’s stock closed Thursday at $12.38 a share, down 3.2 percent.

 

GM axing up to 600 jobs
at Ontario plant, shifting
some production to Mexico

Federal government 'concerned about the impact
of job losses on workers and their families'

CBC News
Jan 27, 2017

General Motors is cutting up to 600 jobs at its assembly plant near London, Ont., as it shifts some production to Mexico.

Mike Van Boekel, spokesman for Unifor Local 88, says the layoffs will take effect in July at the CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont.

That plant was excluded from negotiations last fall between Unifor and the Big Three automakers, including GM. The CAMI plant is scheduled to have its own negotiations with its roughly 3,000 workers later this year.

"This decision reeks of corporate greed," Unifor's national president Jerry Dias said. "It is not based on sales, it is an another example of how good jobs are being shifted out of Canada for cheaper labour in Mexico, and Unifor will not let it happen without a fight."

Earlier this month, GM announced it would be moving GMC Terrain production to Mexico from the Ingersoll plant, but boosting production of another vehicle, the Chevrolet Equinox, with the newfound capacity at the CAMI plant.

"It was previously announced with employees that the next generation GMC terrain will be produced outside of CAMI," GM spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said. "We have confirmed the production location to be Mexico."

In an interview with CBC News, Unifor Local 88 president Dan Borthwick said when the Terrain news was announced, it was the union's understanding that no jobs would be lost in Canada as a result.

"Our understanding [was] that we had sufficient production in the future and we would not be incurring any layoffs," he said. "Within a week or two weeks we get this horrible news this morning that 600 members would be laid off."

GM disputes that version of events, saying in a statement it "provided Unifor advanced notification of labour impacts related to product changeovers and transition at its CAMI facility."

"We continue to work with our Unifor partners to manage through the adjustment with all measures available to us within the collective agreement," Wright said, adding that the site is expected to remain a three-shift facility "depending on demand for this new generation Equinox."

Ottawa weighs in

Asked for comment, Navdeep Bains, Canada's minister of innovation, science and economic development, said the government is "concerned about the impact of job losses on workers and their families and our thoughts go out to those affected."

"We remain optimistic about the strength and future of Canada's automotive industry," Bains said.

The move comes against the backdrop of a new administration in the U.S. that has threatened to tear up NAFTA and slap a punitive tariff on companies that make cars outside the U.S. in places like Mexico, which makes about two million cars a year bound for the U.S. market.

The non-partisan think-tank Center for Automotive Research recently estimated that tearing up NAFTA would directly cost 31,000 U.S. auto manufacturing jobs.

 

 

Ford to launch Omnicraft
parts brand for all vehicles

Omnicraft parts are reportedly to start arriving at Ford’s 3,200 Ford and Lincoln dealerships in the U.S. later this month.(Photo: Ford Motor Co.)

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News
Jan 26, 2017

Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it is launching a new Omnicraft parts brand that will allow its dealers to provide parts and service to vehicles made by other automakers.

The first new Ford Customer Service Division brand in 50 years, Omnicraft aims to help Ford and Lincoln dealers grow sales, Ford says. The Dearborn automaker said it will give owners of other makes to buy competitively priced and quality parts and have their vehicles serviced at Ford dealerships.

Other automakers also offer their own brands of parts to sell for vehicles that are not their own, such as General Motors Co.’s ACDelco brand.

Ford initially is offering about 1,500 Omnicraft parts such as oil filters, brake pads and rotors, struts, starters and alternators. That figure will grow to 10,000 globally within three years, said Frederiek Toney, president of Global Ford Customer Service Division.

Omnicraft parts will start arriving at Ford’s 3,200 Ford and Lincoln dealerships in the U.S. later this month, Toney said. Omnicraft joins Ford’s long-established Motorcraft brand of replacement parts for Ford vehicles.

“We want to be a bigger player in the overall industry,” Toney said. “We recognize that there’s a tremendous opportunity for us to do two things: one is grow our business, but more importantly retain our customers longer and also increase the touch points that we have (with) automobile owners ... that ultimately make decisions to buy new cars.”

Toney said Ford wants to grow its parts business 30 percent to 40 percent over the next five years. He declined to disclose how much money Ford makes now from its parts business.

Ford won’t build the Omnicraft parts themselves. Instead, it will work with suppliers to produce the parts for the automaker, Toney said.

Omnicraft parts and labor of those parts at Ford dealerships will include a 24-month warranty, the same warranty that is offered by Ford’s Motorcraft brand, Toney said

 

Trump tries hitting ‘reset’
with Detroit automakers

President Donald Trump greets Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields, with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Sergio Marchionne, right, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner during a meeting with auto industry leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Jan. 24, 2017

Keith Laing and
 Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Jan 25, 2017

President Donald Trump attempted to reset relationships with Detroit automakers Tuesday by telling company CEOs that he wants to ease regulations to help them grow operations in the United States.

The attempt came against a backdrop of threats of “border taxes” for automakers who build cars in Mexico, and Twitter demands by the president that single out production plans that were in place months before the election.

Being summoned to the White House in the first days of the new administration puts automakers in the delicate position of having to satisfy a president who made campaign promises of bringing production home to the U.S. — and still meet the financial demands of stockholders. Some economists say the president’s promise to renegotiate North American Free Trade Agreement could have the unintended consequence of making Detroit automakers less competitive.

Trump said Tuesday he wants to create a regulatory climate that “makes the process simpler for the auto industry.” That includes streamlining the process for getting environmental approval for building new manufacturing plants in the U.S.

“We’re bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. big league,” Trump said at the meeting that included Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Mark Fields, General Motors Co. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne, as well as other executives from Detroit’s Big Three.

“We’re reducing taxes very substantially and we’re reducing unnecessary regulations,” he added, without specifying how much or how. “We want regulations, but real regulations that mean something.”

The Tuesday meeting was the first time publicly that all three of the current Big Three chiefs have met in one room. It was a sharp contrast to the last time the heads of the Detroit automakers were called to Washington, when two of the three sought a bailout that saved the domestic car industry.

This time, the U.S. market has marked two years of record sales in the U.S., and Detroit carmakers have posted profits in the billions. Instead of skeptical lawmakers, this time they encountered a new president staking the early days of his term to a commitment to rebuild the nation’s manufacturing base.

“There’s a huge opportunity working together as an industry with government that we can do and improve the environment, improve safety and improve the jobs creation and the competitiveness of manufacturing,” Barra told reporters outside the White House.

Fields said Ford was encouraged by the president and his economic policies, including his order Monday to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“We’ve been very vocal both as an industry and as a company, and we’ve repeatedly said that the mother of all trade barriers is currency manipulation, and TPP failed in meaningfully dealing with that, and we appreciate the president’s courage to walk away from a bad trade deal,” Fields said. “I think as an industry, we’re excited about working together with the president and his administration on tax policies, on regulation and on trade to really create a renaissance in American manufacturing.”

Marchionne, who flew from Italy for the meeting, did not speak after the meeting. He did shake his head “no” when asked if he had concerns about Trump’s tweets or demands.

Later, through a statement released by Fiat Chrysler, Marchionne said the company looks “forward to working with President Trump and members of Congress to strengthen American manufacturing.”

Stocks react well

Investors reacted favorably to Tuesday’s events, with stock prices rising for all the automakers. Fiat Chrysler — which has the largest proportion of trucks and SUVs, and would benefit most from a relaxation of fuel economy rules — was the biggest gainer. Its stock closed up 5.8 percent to $10.88. Ford ended the day up 2.4 percent to $12.61, and GM was up 1 percent to $37.

Focusing on jobs and plants in America were frequent campaign promises for Trump. He promised Tuesday to streamline the process for getting environmental approval for building new plants in the U.S. Permits for factories are usually left to local governments and states, but there are certain federal environmental rules that must be met.

“I think you’re going to find this to be from very inhospitable to extremely hospitable,” he said. “I think we’ll go down as one of the most friendly countries, and right now it’s not. I have friends that want to build in the United States, they go many, many years and they can’t get their environmental permit over something that nobody ever heard of before.

“I am to a large extent an environmentalist. I believe in it, but it’s out of control,” Trump continued. “We’re going to make a very short process and we’re going to either give you your permits or we’re not going to give your permits, but you’re going to know very quickly. And generally speaking we’re going to be giving you your permits, so we’re going to be very friendly.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump “wanted to sit down with the auto industry in particular because he thinks they are vital to manufacturing.”

Meddling with NAFTA comes with risks

Kristin Dziczek, Center for Automotive Research director of the Industry, Labor & Economics Group, said meeting with industry officials to gauge concerns and interests isn’t unprecedented. But she’s not convinced that renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement or rolling back environmental regulations would be in the best interest of the auto industry.

“The auto industry likes certainty,” she said. “They want to diminish risk, and anything that this administration undoes can be redone in the next administration, be it four or eight years from now.”

During his campaign and since then, Trump has singled out carmakers for building cars in Mexico. Ford in particular has been a frequent target for Trump, who criticized the Dearborn company on multiple occasions for its decision to shift small-car production to Mexico.

Ford announced Jan. 3 it is canceling plans to build a $1.6 billion plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and will invest $700 million at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant, creating 700 new jobs there. It had planned to ship production of the Focus from the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne to the Mexico plant.

Five days later, Fiat Chrysler said it would add 2,000 new jobs and invest $1 billion in plants in Michigan and Ohio to produce all-new Jeep models. The company said the investment would give the Warren Truck Assembly Plant the flexibility to produce the Ram heavy-duty truck, which is currently produced in Mexico — but it didn’t guarantee the truck would be built here.

And after Trump called out GM on Twitter for building Chevrolet Cruze Hatchbacks in Mexico, the company announced three days before the inauguration it would add or retain 7,000 U.S. jobs in the next few years, including more than 5,000 new salaried jobs, a significant portion of which will be in southeast Michigan.

Trump said Sunday he would begin talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada to renegotiate NAFTA, which was enacted in 1994 to create a free-trade zone between the U.S., Mexico and Canada that eliminated tariffs on most goods produced in North America. The president followed up on Monday by signing an executive order that withdraws the U.S. from further negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other nations that’s intended to lower tariffs in the Pacific, Asia and the Americas.

Alan Deardorff, professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, believes renegotiation of NAFTA will have the effect of reducing trade. He expects any changes to focus on two points that would affect auto companies: He expects Trump to try to tighten rules of origin, which require Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to tax non-members’ goods at a higher rate than goods originating from NAFTA countries. Tightening those rules might require foreign automakers to source a larger percentage of car parts from the U.S. in order to avoid a higher tariff, he said. But Deardorff said the border tax Trump has frequently mentioned would hurt the U.S. auto industry.

“That would just kind of take a chainsaw to the value chains that all these companies have developed in North America,” he said. Value chains are the process by which a company adds value to an article, including production, marketing and service.

Linda Lim, professor of strategy at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said NAFTA not only allows the U.S. to build small cars for lower costs in Mexico, but gives the U.S. access to sell the vehicles to other markets with which Mexico has trade agreements.

Drastic rewriting of NAFTA could make U.S. automakers uncompetitive with the rest of the world, she said. “Moving to Mexico actually makes (U.S. automakers) more competitive and preserves and enhances jobs in the U.S.,” Lim said.

The current agreement has Detroit carmakers sending U.S.-made parts to Mexico, where companies take advantage of lower wages to assemble cars. As a result, those cars cost less, and automakers sell more of them – and thus sell more parts made by higher-wage U.S. workers, Lim said. Americans who buy those cheaper cars also have more money in their pockets.

“We focus only on a particular industry and not on all the spillover effects… It’s really going to be much more costly to manufacture in the U.S.,” she said. “NAFTA has been a job preserver, not a job killer.”

 

Retiree Jim Thornhill
Passes January 12, 2017

James Thornhill

Retired Jan 1, 2000
30.6 Years’ Service

Our condolences go out to the entire Thornhill Family
Jim passed away suddenly while in Florida

Arrangements:

Royal Canadian Legion Acton
15 Wright Ave.
Acton, ON. L7J 2J7

Saturday February 4, 2017
Visitation: 11:00 – 1:00 pm
Celebration: 1:00 pm with refreshments to follow


 

Trump takes wheel in
talks with Detroit autos

President Donald Trump delivers opening remarks during a meeting with (L-R) Wendell Weeks of Corning, Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson, Michael Dell of Dell Technologies and other business leaders and administraiton staff in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Monday.(Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Daniel Howes
The Detroit News
January 24, 2017

The CEOs of Detroit’s automakers are accustomed to sitting in the driver’s seat.

They won’t be Tuesday when they meet President Donald Trump for breakfast at the White House. He wants to know “how we can work together to bring more jobs back to the industry,” his spokesman, Sean Spicer, said.

It’s not that easy, even if the likes of General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV made it look that way with the separate jobs-creating announcements each unspooled between Election Day and the president’s inauguration last week.

GM’s Mary Barra, Ford’s Mark Fields and FCA’s Sergio Marchionne will arrive knowing the president already has used Twitter to bash their investments in Mexico before claiming credit for their recent U.S. jobs announcements. Those had been years — not three weeks — in the making.

They know that the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor estimates the industry could lose 31,000 jobs in the United States if the Trump administration moves ahead with plans to scuttle, or substantially renegotiate, the North American Free Trade Agreement blamed for killing thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

That trade pact, signed into law by President Clinton, shaped a generation of auto investment, Wall Street expectations and labor-management relations. Unwinding it would have major implications for many suppliers and all automakers operating in the region, not just GM, Ford and FCA.

The auto CEOs also know that repatriating jobs and redirecting future investment to the United States from Mexico or Canada likely would increase costs that would need to be offset elsewhere, be it through corporate tax cuts, regulatory reform or eased federal fuel economy rules.

But money is fungible. That’s one reason Dow Chemical Co. CEO Andrew Liveris, following Trump’s Monday meeting with business leaders, predicted the president’s efforts to bolster manufacturing job growth would not undercut the sector’s global competitiveness: savings, in theory, would come from elsewhere.

We’ll see whether that actually turns out to be true. Or whether industry is playing upbeat because its leaders already have concluded there’s no upside to challenging a president willing to use social media for public shaming. He’s president, and automakers have to “adjust,” as several CEOs said at the Detroit auto show.

The politics practiced by Trump are the new reality, a Democratic-leaning trade skepticism counterbalanced by Republican-minded business-friendliness toward hard financial truths. They combine his “America First” bias and a willingness to project it (see his Twitter feed) with a longtime CEO’s understanding that there is more than one way to achieve competitiveness in a global industry.

The Detroit CEOs are well aware the new president is keenly interested in re-energizing American manufacturing in America for Americans. They also know publicly confirmed talks with Trump can reap them their own political reward, should commitments to add U.S. jobs be exchanged for presidential commitments to cut corporate tax rates and reduce costly regulations.

Make no mistake: adding jobs and pumping new capital into American sites pay political dividends for automakers and the executives who lead them — even if investors will want evidence the moves will not undercut the new level of competitiveness forged from the industry’s near-collapse eight years ago.

In the end, it all comes down to dollars and cents. Details of any revisions to NAFTA, or efforts “to bring more jobs back,” could have profound effects on the costs, profit margins and employment levels at all three automakers — and not all of it good.

A ranking industry executive called the talks “extremely positive,” especially the fact that a new president is focusing his attention on policy changes to bolster U.S. manufacturing. The challenge comes in the details and how much the big picture impacts the status quo.

The trick is ensuring it doesn’t. Not with investors and customers, employees and the United Auto Workers. The political byproduct of Trump’s attention to manufacturing is the disproportionate benefit it delivers to the industrial Midwest, long considered a “Blue Wall” that historically backed Democrats.

Until last November, that is, when Michigan and Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, delivered Trump an Electoral College win few predicted. In theory, presidential attention to bedrock manufacturing concerns could be an economic win with political upside for the president, his party and the heartland.

Few states have a greater interest in those efforts than Michigan. The hub of the North American auto industry and a cornerstone of the industrial Midwest has dramatically improved its competitiveness since the end of the Great Recession.

Undermining that position would be foolish for a new president. He owes his job to many of the same people whose hometown industry is getting loads of White House attention because it really matters, still.

 

Obama’s fraught bet on
Detroit autos vindicated

President Obama visited the Chrysler Jefferson North plant in 2010.

Daniel Howes
The Detroit News
January 23, 2017

At 12:01 p.m. last Friday, the president rightly credited with saving Detroit’s auto industry left office.

Barack Obama took his own oath eight years ago knowing one of his first big decisions would be whether to extend his predecessor’s financial lifeline to the likes of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC — or allow one or both of them to collapse.

The potential consequences, political as much as economic, persuaded the new president to commit some $80 billion in taxpayer dollars to rescue the industry from itself. And that decision has made all the difference for the automakers and American manufacturing, for the recovery of Detroit and Michigan, for the United Auto Workers and auto communities across the industrial heartland.

The alternative — an uncontrolled collapse that would ensnare the industry’s sprawling supply base and endanger other automakers, including Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. — was deemed worse than the ideological blowback aimed at the new president then and now.

He made the right call, and so would a Republican faced with similar circumstances. The reasons are simple: Despite epic shrinkage in its workforce and footprint, the Detroit-based auto industry remains foundational to the U.S. economy, and the people drawing paychecks or pensions from it remain critical players in the electoral imperative known as the industrial Midwest.

Just ask President-elect Donald Trump and the woman he beat to win the White House. He’ll be taking the oath of office Friday instead of Hillary Clinton largely because his economic message on trade, immigration and America-first manufacturing resonated with voters in auto-producing states.

“President Obama saved this industry ... and he did it at a time that was not popular,” says U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, the Dearborn Democrat and retired GM executive who warned the Clinton camp of Trump’s appeal in states like Michigan. “Democrats weren’t even happy about it. What President Obama did was help create a competitive industry.”

She’s got a point, however strongly the departing president’s many critics likely would disagree. The arc of history is delivering inconvenient truths, too, none of which invalidate Obama’s initial decision to bail out a cornerstone of American industry. But they do give it much-needed context.

The bailout’s comparative success, tallied in terms of record North American profits, stable U.S. market share and critical acclaim for Detroit’s metal, is validation enough — even if the lagging share prices of GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV may not be.

Viewed with the hindsight of two terms, Obama’s automotive legacy is mixed. It is a contradictory pastiche of actions and policies that followed the industry’s historic rescue with a misguided bias for small, hybridized products that don’t sell well, as well as misjudged assumptions about the long-term direction of oil prices.

On those two points, Team Obama couldn’t have called it much worse. Instead, the revival of American energy production, coupled with more fuel-efficient engines in popular pickups and SUVs, are moderating consumption and restraining prices.

The results are gas prices closer to $2-a-gallon in some states than $4-a-gallon; myriad manufacturers fielding a growing array of alternative-powertrain vehicles that account for less than 3 percent of the market; and an explosion in demand for pickups and SUVs at the expense of traditional car segments that at least one automaker, FCA, considers close to permanent.

The aggressive Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards Washington foisted on the industry in the very early days of its recovery — and moved to cement last week in a last-minute rule-making by the Environmental Protection Agency — are forcing automakers to make compromises on engines, alternative powertrains and lightweight materials their customers don’t necessarily want.

“In terms of cost impact, the CAFE effect is a really big deal,” David Cole, chairman emeritus of Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, says of the Obama legacy for the industry.

The irony is that the president credited with “saving” the Detroit auto industry in 2009 is the same one whose EPA recently fast-tracked the so-called “mid-cycle review” of its tough fuel-economy rules. The move, coming amid strong demand for larger trucks and SUVs, puts enormous cost pressure on all automakers.

Another irony: Obama and his surrogates lambasted Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 for a New York Times op-ed headlined “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” But he’s the president who essentially ordered two of Detroit’s automakers into bankruptcy three years earlier because the U.S. Treasury was the lender of last resort.

Still, the Obama presidency helped deliver profound change to a Detroit auto industry that spent a lot of years, in the words of former Ford CEO Alan Mulally, “going out of business.” The discipline of the bailouts, and Ford’s parallel restructuring financed with private capital, fundamentally changed the industry’s trajectory.

The president’s auto task force used the existential crisis to show how the bankruptcy code could be used dramatically and quickly, could exorcise the demons of bad habits and bad deals, and could do it all without sacrificing vital connections to current and would-be customers.

GM eliminated half of its North American brands, rationalized its dealer and manufacturing networks. Italy’s Fiat SpA essentially absorbed Chrysler, and both Detroit automakers — with the help of the feds — used the process to the advantage of the UAW and the disadvantage of allegedly secured bondholders.

The auto task force also used GM’s exit from bankruptcy to shaft salaried retirees of the former Delphi Corp., the one-time GM supplier unit whose exit from a 2005 bankruptcy was deemed critical to getting GM out of Chapter 11. The price: huge pension cuts for Delphi’s salaried retirees, many of whom are still battling the government in federal court.

That’s a part of the president’s auto legacy, too. So is a muscular regulatory posture that has cranked fines for corporate misbehavior into the billions, criminalized the most egregious behavior and signaled that deliberate violation of U.S. emissions standards would draw expensive penalties. Exhibit No. 1 is Volkswagen AG.

Detroit and the nation will never know what would have befallen the hometown industry had Obama (and President George Bush before him) decided against throwing the automakers that financial lifeline. What is knowable is the state of the industry today, and it’s stronger now than any time since the 1960s.

That didn’t happen by accident, without the hard work of thousands or a decision by the president to give Detroit one more shot.

 

Ford takes wraps off 2018
Mustang convertible

Ford on Friday released photos the first images of its refreshed 2018 Ford Mustang convertible. The topless pony car features the same styling changes and enhancements as its coupe sibling that debuted earlier this week at the Detroit auto show.

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News
January 22, 2017

The 2018 Ford Mustang convertible will go on sale in the fall alongside its hardtop sibling, according to Ford Motor Co.

The Dearborn-based automaker on Friday released images of the topless two-door pony car — three days after the coupe version debuted during public days of the Detroit auto show.

The convertible features the same exterior styling changes and upgrades as the hardtop. They include standard LED lights, refreshed hood and new front and rear fascias. Inside, the Mustangs add a 12-inch digital instrument display that can be customized to the driver’s preference.

The 2018 Mustang convertible, which will be produced alongside the coupe about 20-25 miles southeast of Detroit at Flat Rock Assembly, is debuting Friday to the public at auto shows in South Carolina and Kentucky, before traveling to more than 50 other regional auto shows across the country. It is not on display for the North American International Auto Show.

A Ford spokesman, when asked about the decision to not bring the convertible to Detroit, said the debut of the coupe and F-150 were “reserved” for NAIAS, adding the company only has “a limited number of pre-production convertibles available for auto shows.”

Ford on Friday released photos the first images of its refreshed 2018 Ford Mustang convertible. The topless pony car features the same styling changes and enhancements as its coupe sibling that debuted earlier this week at the Detroit auto show. (Photo: Ford)

 

Ford expects $2B net income
drop due to pension assets

Associated Press
Jan. 21, 2017

Dearborn — Ford says that a change in the way it values pension assets will cut its 2016 net income by $2 billion.

According to a regulatory filing, Ford changed the way it measures pension gains and losses so they’re counted in the year they occur.

Ford will record a pretax pension charge of about $3 billion for the year. It says the loss is a special item so it won’t affect adjusted pretax profit. Ford still expects to meet guidance of about $10.2 billion in adjusted pretax profit for last year.

The company says its pension plan was underfunded by $8.9 billion in 2016, compared with $8.2 billion a year earlier.

Ford Motor Co. reports fourth-quarter and full-year earnings on Thursday.

 

News readers name Ford
GT Best of Show

Ford GT

Ian Thibodeau
Detroit News
Jan 20, 2017

Ford Motor Co.’s Ford GT supercar earned top honors in The Detroit News annual Readers’ Choice Awards.

One hundred judges selected from the public voted the sleek supercar as Best of Show and Best Dream Machine at the Detroit auto show.

The $450,000-plus car previously was voted Best of Show in 2015, when it was unveiled at the auto show that year. The GT is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine, the same engine that debuted in Ford’s Taurus SHO and is under the hood of the 2015 F-150 pickup — but the GT engine kicks it up several notches with custom pistons, rods, turbos and cams that help it get more than 600 horsepower.

“The Readers’ Choice honors are the only auto show awards selected by the people who will be actually buying and driving the vehicles on display,” said Jonathan Wolman, editor and publisher of The Detroit News. “Our readers give an excellent perspective on the models most likely to have an impact on the market in the coming year.”

Ford also nabbed honors for Baddest Off Road Vehicle with the Raptor, and Coolest Technology with the swanky Lincoln Continental, which was 2016’s Readers’ Choice Best of Show.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler brand won two awards: Best Road-Trip Ride and Best Family Fun Finder for the Pacifica minivan. The Pacifica won the Best Family Fun Finder award last year.

General Motors Co. won two awards: Best Future Concept for its Cadillac Escala, and Most Eco-Friendly for the Chevy Bolt.

Toyota picked up the Most for your Money award for the Camry, and Fisker Karma won the Most Amazing Mobility award for the Karma Revero.

The announcements were made at a Detroit Economic Club annual luncheon.

 

Retiree
Armand Laforet
Passes Away
January 18, 2017

Armond Laforet

1921 - 2017
Retired October 1, 1986
43 Years Service

It is with great sadness that we inform you of
the passing of Retiree Armand Laforet

Our condolences go out to the entire family

Visitation:
Sunday, January 22nd, 2017
2:00pm - 4:00pm
6:00pm - 8:00pm
Ward Funeral Home, "Brampton Chapel"
52 Main Street South
Brampton, ON
L6W 2C5

Service:
Monday, January 23rd, 2017, 3:00pm
Ward Funeral Home, "Brampton Chapel"
52 Main Street South
Brampton, ON

 

Laforet, Armand Ernest - Obituary

Passed away peacefully at Brampton Civic Hospital on Wednesday January 18th, 2017 with his family by his side In his 96th year. Armand served in the Second World War. After his service he worked at Ford for 43 years. Predeceased by his loving wife Rita Bonnar. Beloved father of Wayne(Helen), Judy(Daniel), Gary,(Deb) . Grandpa of Lisa (Jason), Cheryl(Rob), Andrew( Rhonda) and John. Great-grandmother of Keira, Aidan, Aaron, Riley and Mason. The family would like to thank all the staff at Woodhall Park Nursing Home for their amazing care over the past twelve years.

Family and Friends will be received at the Ward Funeral Home “Brampton Chapel”, 52 Main Street South (Hwy 10), Brampton on Sunday January 22nd, 2016 from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m.A Funeral Service will be held on Monday January 23rd at 3:00 p.m.in the Funeral Home Chapel. Cremation. As expressions of sympathy, donations to Woodhall Park Care Community would be appreciated.

For more information

 

Newfoundland fishers consider
disaffiliating from Unifor

By Carl Bronski
19 January 2017

Representatives of the upstart Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) applied to the provincial Labour Relations Board on Dec. 30 to certify a breakaway union for the province’s inshore fish harvesters. Currently, the fishers are organized by the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW), which is an affiliate of Unifor, Canada’s largest industrial union.

A subsequent January 9 press release from FISH-NL claimed that 2,372 fish harvesters have signed cards supporting the new union. As inshore fishing is a seasonal activity, FISH-NL leaders cited official unemployment insurance claims to argue that they have the support of more than half of the active inshore fishers currently organized by the FFAW-Unifor.

FISH-NL has hotly contested FFAW’s claims to represent 10,800 inshore fish harvesters. It has accused the Unifor affiliate of refusing to provide the dissidents with a membership list and inflating its figures by including retirees and workers no longer active in the industry.

In order to force a union representation vote, the new union must produce signed membership cards from at least 40 percent of the active FFAW inshore membership.

As opposed to the offshore “factory ship” fleets, which are owned and operated by large corporations, inshore fishers are often family enterprises, with boats restricted to no more than 65 feet in length. Crews generally number less than five people per boat. The vessels are owner-operated, although many boat owners are at least partly financed by onshore fish processors.

FISH-NL’s bid to form a breakaway union has been fueled by a growing revolt by thousands of FFAW members against their own union leadership, which they charge has come to resemble a “salt water mafia.” At more than 40 meetings across the province over the past three months, inshore fish-boat owners and crew members denounced FFAW-Unifor for gouging the membership with exorbitant dues, fees and levies, misappropriating funds, colluding with the federal government and riding roughshod over basic democratic principles in order to further the business interests of the union bureaucracy. A You Tube posting of angry fishermen confronting a Unifor official in Clarenville shows the depth of the bitterness amongst the membership.

Similar accusations can, of course, be leveled against the ossified, pro-capitalist union apparatuses around the world. In Canada, one simply needs to harken back a few months to the blatant sellout the well-heeled Unifor bureaucracy engineered of 23,000 autoworkers in Ontario in contract negotiations with the Detroit Three. In the face of unprecedented rank-and-file opposition, the union surrendered defined benefit pensions for new hires, agreed after a decade-long wage freeze to a further cut in real (inflation-adjusted) wages, and further entrenched the hated two-tier wage system, under which it takes new workers more than a decade to earn the regular wage.

Fishers have cited many examples of the FFAW apparatus feathering its own nest at the expense of the workers it purports to represent. In a particularly telling case, the Newfoundland Supreme Court recently upheld a complaint by dissident FFAW members, finding that the union had “failed in its responsibilities to fishermen” by secretly negotiating a deal with provincial energy conglomerate Nalcor.

The court heard that to compensate fishers for the loss of scallop grounds due to a new undersea power cable, Nalcor agreed with union officials to set aside $2.6 million. Only then did the union approach fishers for permission to “negotiate” even though the deal had already been struck behind the backs of the membership. The union subsequently announced that compensation would be paid out over a 30-year span (even though no such withholding provision had been stipulated) and that therefore the union would need to take for itself some $400,000 in fees to administer the fund. The court ordered the union to fully pay the affected members within 30 days. Using members’ dues to pay for its legal costs, the FFAW bureaucracy is now appealing that decision.

A significant portion of the union’s income comes from its control of the Fish Harvesters’ Resource Centre, a not-for-profit company created in 1993 to verify fish landings. Fees from fishers are levied to directly fund the company. But over a ten year period, some $5.7 million was then paid by the company directly to the FFAW for “research fees.” Fees and levies on fishers are a particularly sore topic. Last year the FFAW secretly proposed an additional 5 cent per pound levy on lobster harvesters to cover the union’s “management” of the fishery.

In another case cited by angry FFAW members, the union, alongside seafood processing companies, but without any input from fishers, agreed with the federal government on a new Northern Cod Management Plan with far-reaching implications for quotas, licenses, prices and sustainable fish stocks. Despite numerous requests, the union refused to release a copy of the plan to its members. Said FISH-NL leader Ryan Cleary, “The FFAW is a disgrace, choosing to consult with fish processors while ignoring its own membership. The union is more concerned with creating markets for processors to obtain record profits while harvesters continue to receive pennies on the pound.”

The drive to disaffiliate from the FFAW has met with hysterical resistance from the official labour movement. Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff denounced the FISH-NL initiative as an unwarranted “raid” instigated by the personal ambition of its leader, Ryan Cleary. Newfoundland Federation of Labour President Mary Shortall, who herself has served on the Board of the Fish Harvesters Resource Centre, has backed the FFAW. Lana Payne, Atlantic Director of Unifor, called Cleary a “narcissist and liar.” After a heated fishers meeting, where a member denounced the union and said the bureaucrats should be “placed in front of a firing squad” for their treasonous behavior, FFAW officials called in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The grievances of the inshore fishers of Newfoundland are real. Unifor-FFAW does in fact operate as a business in a naked conflict of interest with its own membership. But the mere creation of another union will not redress the plight of fish workers in the province.

Aside from the general demand for transparency, a central plank of FISH-NL is to open up the seafood market to buyers from outside the province. Currently, Newfoundland inshore fishers, forced to sell only to local processors, receive some of the lowest prices for their catches on the continent. A free trade in fish products will almost certainly result in increased layoffs of the already impoverished onshore fish plant workers in Newfoundland and, in step with the dictates of the capitalist market, lower the incomes of fish harvesters outside the province as a result of the increase in supply.

The organizing drive of FISH-NL excludes fish plant workers and the workers employed on the larger corporate-owned trawlers and factory ships that take an outsized proportion of the fish stock.

The total decimation of Newfoundland’s world renowned cod fishery in the latter part of the 20th century, which led to a region-wide moratorium after 1992 and the impoverishment of tens of thousands of fish harvesters and plant workers, shows that sectional and regionalist tactics cannot begin to address the broader questions that assail the livelihoods of those who labour in the seafood industry.

Such tactics can only lead to a fratricidal struggle amongst seafood workers that will do nothing to defend jobs and improve the livelihoods of fish industry workers, much less preserve stocks.

Rather, what is required is a genuinely socialist and internationalist strategy to forge the fighting unity of fish industry workers in Canada and around the world against the corporate giants and big business governments. Only by placing the industry under public ownership will it be possible to develop the fisheries, using scientific planning, as a public resource, providing food for people around the world and a secure job long-term for those whose livelihoods depend on fishing, while safeguarding the natural environment.

FISH-NL President Cleary does not see it that way. As late as 2008, Cleary floated the idea of Newfoundland separating from the Canadian state—a tactic that would only serve to further pit workers in the province against their class brothers and sisters abroad. But Cleary soon abandoned that perspective in favour of a broader nationalism epitomized in the policies of the trade union-supported New Democratic Party (NDP). Elected in 2011 to the federal parliament as an NDP member, Cleary subsequently lost his seat to the Liberals in 2015 and within weeks flipped to the province’s big business Conservative Party, standing unsuccessfully in that year’s provincial election. In countering the current organizing drive, the Unifor bureaucrats have used Cleary’s careerism and right-wing politics as a means to attack the legitimate grievances of FFAW members.

In 1987, seafood workers in Newfoundland broke away from their former union–the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)–to form the FFAW. Today, on the Unifor-FFAW website, the union cynically heralds their own raid on the UFCW membership as follows: “The UFCW treated their members as chattels, waging a campaign of vilification against the leadership of the union in Newfoundland and frustrating the democratic wishes of the membership through endless litigation.” History now repeats itself. But it is not a question of bad personal leadership or a swap of one union for another.

While the unions have always accepted the inviolability of capitalism and sought to restrict the working class within the narrow confines of collective bargaining and parliamentary reformism, they were in an earlier period often associated with significant social struggles and did to some degree defend the daily needs of workers.

However, in the last two decades of the 20th century the unions ceased to function even as defensive organizations of the working class. They rejected—as attested by the virtual cessation of strikes—any connection to the class struggle, embraced economic nationalism, and adopted a policy of collaborating with the corporations and government in cutting the wages and benefits of their members. The same process has unfolded among trade unions in every part of the world. The basic cause of this transformation was not the subjective characteristics of union leaders, but profound changes in world economy—above all, the globalization of capitalist production.

Whether as members of a new union or continuing within the FFAW, fishers must build their own independent rank-and-file committees and base their struggle on the essential understanding that their struggle, like that of all workers, is a political one. The battle by workers to defend their livelihoods must be combined with the fight to build a mass political movement of the working class, independent of the capitalist parties and the subservient union bureaucracies, and committed to the fight for socialism and real equality.

 

Ford premieres refreshed
2018 Mustang

Photo: Clarence Tabb Jr., The Detroit News)

Henry Payne
 The Detroit News
January 18, 2017

Detroit - In a three-city simulcast anchored by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ford introduced an updated 2018 Mustang on Tuesday that gains performance and more advanced technology – but loses the option for a V-6 engine.

The pony car gets standard LED lights and new front and rear fascias, accentuating its aggressive looks with a lower, vented hood. Inside, the Mustang adds a gorgeous 12-inch digital instrument display that can be customized to the driver’s preference.

The Mustang was unveiled on Ford’s stand in the middle of public days at the Detroit Auto Show – and in New York City’s Hudson Mercantile and the Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles. The three press conferences simulcast a pre-recorded video featuring Johnson who surprised Purple Heart recipient Marlene Rodriguez with a 2018 Mustang and tickets to the premiere of his new “Baywatch” movie. Rodriguez, an Iraq War veteran and Johnson fan, was visibly overwhelmed.

Like the 2018 Ford F-150 pickup unveiled during the media preview at the North American International Auto Show last week, the Mustang’s engine lineup will now be mated to a quick-shifting, 10-speed automatic transmission. A 6-speed manual with twin-disc clutch is also available. For the first time since the 1994 model year, the coupe will not be offered with a V-6 engine option.

“I think a few people will miss the V-6,” says Mustang Engineering Manager Tom Barnes. “But the Ecoboost made the car quicker with better fuel economy, so there weren’t many advantages left in the V-6.”

The 310-horsepower, turbocharged Ecoboost 2.3-liter inline-4 — introduced in 2015 — now makes up 40 percent of Mustang’s global sales and will replace the outgoing 3.7-liter V-6 as the base engine. Ford says the V-6 has been the choice of 15-20 percent of customers. To help wean V-6 fans, the turbo-4’s sound will be electronically enhanced. The muscle car’s signature 5.0-liter V-8 will also be offered, its prehistoric growl enhanced by an active exhaust option.

Ford took the wraps off its refreshed Mustang with the help of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The former wrestling star turned actor posted a YouTube video of himself surprising a veteran with the a 5.0-liter V-8 model of the popular pony car.

Mustang invented the pony car segment in 1965 and underwent major design and drivetrain upgrades to celebrate its 50th anniversary three years ago. The 2015 edition got an independent rear suspension, turbocharged engine option and underwent extreme plastic surgery to bring it in line with the Ford family’s car design theme.

The new pony flew out of showrooms, outselling its muscle-car rivals — Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger — by wide margins the last two years. With the 2018 car, Ford hopes to sustain the momentum.

“People loved the new car, but they wanted it louder. So we amped it up,” says Barnes. “They would say we want it to be more modern, more connected. So that’s where we did the digital cluster. We’re in the muscle-car segment but our customers are still changing.”

The 2018 model also gets digital novelties like auto high beams, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, and pre-collision assist. While the base Mustang still features the traditional 4.2-inch analog instrument gauge, the available 12-inch digital cluster (shared with the Lincoln Continental) can be configured in NORMAL, SPORT or TRACK modes.

The high-tech cluster is part of a flurry of appearance upgrades that include smokier chrome finishes in the cockpit, new carbon-fiber trims, 10 new wheel choices and three new skin colors.

The 2018 Mustang gets a new front end and lower hood — complete with air intakes. (Photo: Ford Motor Co.)

“Design is the No. 1 reason our customers purchase Mustang,” says exterior designer Melvin Betancourt.

But the oily bits get plenty of attention, too. The 10-speed transmission, co-developed with GM and capable of Porsche 911-like 300-millisecond shifts, will enhance performance as well as fuel economy.

Mating it to the 435-horse V-8 required updated half shafts in the rear. The big V-8 also pairs port fuel injection with direct injection for better efficiency. And the beast can ride on optional magnetic shocks for a smoother gallop.

“We always aim for a daily driver with the right balance,” says Barnes. “The looks have got to be great, the sounds have got to be great, the go has got to be great. It has to attainable, but it’s not one-dimensional.”

Mustang now carries the Ford flag to 146 countries with 40 percent of its buyers millennials. Ford says the turbo-4 has helped reach a new, younger generation of buyers — but the muscle-car attraction is the same as previous years.

“We’ve done a lot of market research in China, Austria and Europe. In essence, we see the common themes everywhere,” says Barnes. “Our customers want to have an emotional reaction when they are driving. A lot of people like the Ecoboost — it’s a fast car but it’s not a gas pig. They can have their cake and eat it, too.”

In addition to exterior changes, the 2018 Ford Mustang gets an all-new, 12-inch instrument display that is customizable three ways. Chrome finishes have also been upgraded with a smokier trim. (Photo: Ford Motor Co.)

With sultry styling and drivetrain capabilities found in BMW and Audi coupes priced thousands of dollars higher, Ford has positioned the Mustang as an international athlete.

“The new Mustang is one of the iconic sports car in America, and now the world,” says Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas. The 2018 will go on sale this fall.

 

GM to invest additional
$1-billion in U.S., move
some output from Mexico

David Shepardson
Toronto Star
January 17, 2017

General Motors Co said on Tuesday it would invest an additional $1-billion in its U.S. factories, moving some production from Mexico.

The investments are in addition to the $2.9-billion the auto maker announced last year, GM said.

GM and other auto makers have been criticized by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump for building vehicles in Mexico that are imported into the United States.

On Jan. 3 Trump threatened to impose a “big border tax” on GM for making some of its Chevrolet Cruze compacts in Mexico.

 

Takata to pay $1B
over faulty air bags

Jennifer Chambers
and
Keith Laing
The Detroit News
January 16, 2017

Detroit — For the second time in less than three days, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade made clear misbehavior by international auto companies or their executives will not be tolerated in Detroit.

On Friday, McQuade announced Takata Corp. has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and pay $1 billion in criminal penalties stemming from the company’s fraudulent conduct related to sales of defective air bag inflators.

“Automotive suppliers who sell products that are supposed to protect consumers from injury or death must put safety ahead of profits,” McQuade said. “If they choose instead to engage in fraud, we will hold accountable the individuals and business entities who are responsible.”

Federal prosecutors in Detroit reached a settlement with Takata — one of the world’s largest suppliers of automotive safety equipment — after a 25-month international investigation into the Tokyo-based company’s faulty air bags that have been linked to at least 17 deaths.

On Wednesday, McQuade was part of a broader justice department announcement that Oliver Schmidt, a veteran Volkswagen AG engineer, was arrested by the U.S. government for his alleged role in the company’s scheme to cheat federal emission standards for its diesel cars.

The developments cast a shadow over the auto industry while the North American International Auto Show is held at Cobo Center and days before a new presidential administration takes control of the Justice Department.

“This case is an ongoing investigation that will go into the next administration,” McQuade said of the Takata case.

Asked whether she could give any assurances to automakers under investigation their executives won’t be arrested if they come to Detroit’s auto show, McQuade responded with one word: “No.”

Also on Friday, McQuade announced the indictment of three former Takata executives on wire fraud charges. Shinichi Tanaka, 59; Hideo Nakajima, 65; and Tsuneo Chikaraishi, 61, all Japanese citizens, were indicted by a grand jury on Dec. 7 in the U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Tanaka, executive vice president of inflator global operations; Nakajima, director of engineering at Automotive Systems Laboratory; and Chikaraishi, chief of Japan/Asia airbag inflator operations, were all suspended from Takata in 2015, McQuade said.

‘A key milestone’

Asked to describe what Takata did from a consumer’s point of view, McQuade put the cases into personal terms.

“They falsified and manipulated data to make profits on their air bags knowing they were creating a risk for the end user, which is soccer moms like me, who drives around in my Ford Edge with my kids, who could at any moment could get involved in a fender-bender and send a metal projectile into my face, which could potentially kill me. The risk they allowed to happen is really reprehensible.”

The indictments are part of a criminal resolution between U.S. regulators and the Japanese air bag make, the Justice Department said Friday.

Closure with the Justice Department wraps up the criminal portion of Takata’s auto safety recall, which was the largest in history, and allows it to proceed with its hunt for a buyer.

Takata has agreed to implement rigorous internal controls, retain a compliance monitor for a term of three years and cooperate fully with the department’s ongoing investigation, including its investigation of individuals.

Flying shrapnel from exploding Takata air bag inflators have led to a recall of nearly 70 million inflators.

“Reaching this agreement is a major step towards resolving the airbag inflator issue and a key milestone in the ongoing process to secure investment in Takata,” said Shigehisa Takada, chairman and CEO of Takata.

“Takata deeply regrets the circumstances that have led to this situation and remains fully committed to being part of the solution. We have taken aggressive actions to address past reporting lapses and will continue to work closely with regulators and our automotive customers to address the ongoing recalls and implement new technologies that advance vehicle safety, prevent injuries and save lives.”

Under the terms of the agreement, $125 million of the fine will be used for injured individuals who haven’t reached separate settlements while $850 million will be made available to automakers for air bag recall and replacement costs. The remaining $25 million is a fine in the case.

A court-appointed special master will oversee administration of the $975 million in restitution funds, federal officials said. Both sides agreed to recommend Ken Feinberg to serve as special master. That appointment will need judicial approval.

Volkswagen has hired Feinberg to figure out a way to compensate owners of diesel-powered cars that the company rigged to cheat on emissions tests. Feinberg is among the nation’s top compensation experts and has been praised for handling victims’ compensation programs in the General Motors Co.’s ignition switch scandal, the BP Gulf oil spill, and the Boston Marathon bombing among other cases.

Long process

According to prosecutors, from around 2000, Takata knew its inflators weren’t performing to specifications required by automakers. It knew certain inflators had sustained failures, including ruptures during testing.

Takata still encouraged customers to purchase air bag systems by submitting false and fraudulent reports that concealed the true condition of its inflators, prosecutors said.

This fraudulent data made the performance of the company’s air bag inflators appear better than it actually was, including by omitting that, in some instances, inflators ruptured during testing, McQuade said.

Takata employees, including a number of key executives, routinely discussed the false test reports being provided to Takata’s customers in email and in verbal communications, she said.

Even after the inflators began to experience repeated problems in the field — including ruptures causing injuries and deaths — Takata executives continued to withhold the accurate inflator test information and data from their customers, McQuade said.

Takata took no disciplinary actions against those involved in the falsification of test data until 2015, despite the fact that senior executives had been made aware of the fraudulent conduct years earlier, prosecutors said.

McQuade said the United States has an extradition treaty with Japan, but it’s no guarantee the Takata employees will be extradited soon. McQuade acknowledged the process could take months or years.

“We want them to face trial in the United States,” she said.

Recall in phases

In the case against the corporation, McQuade said she expects a plea to be entered and sentencing to be set in the next 30 days in Detroit. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.

On Friday, a plea agreement was entered into the court record and signed by Takada.

Takata is required to pay $125 million of the fine immediately and another $25 million in 30 days. The remainder of the restitution will be paid over one year, she said, or if the company is sold, McQuade said.

Takata’s recall is being conducted in phases that target the most vulnerable cars that are located in humid climates. Approximately 46 million Takata air bags in 29 million cars were already subject to recall as of December 2016, with another 20 to 25 million additional air bags set to be recalled within the next couple of years.

Takata has been ordered to recall all of the faulty air bags by the end of 2019. The recall is being implemented in a phased approach that prioritizes cars that were sold in states with high temperature and humidity. Michigan is among the lowest-priority states in the recall.

Takata has publicly apologized for the faulty air bags amid congressional inquiries into its handling of the defective parts. It reached a $70 million settlement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the recalls.

The Justice Department started investigating Takata after propellant in its air bag inflators were found to degrade over time and sometimes explode with such force that they threw shrapnel at vehicle occupants. The manufacturer also has been accused by government transportation regulators and Honda Motor Co. of manipulating test data and playing down the gravity of the problem after the first victim was reported in 2008.

A settlement would help Takata proceed with its search for a buyer because it would give bidders more clarity about the company’s legal challenges. Takata has been negotiating with several bidders for months, but the process has been hampered because buyers are trying to gauge exposure to legal risk and costly civil lawsuits.

Takata and its financial adviser, Lazard Ltd., have asked prospective buyers to complete their due diligence around February, with a successful bidder targeted to be announced in the quarter ending in March, people familiar with the matter said last month.

Takata faces a cascade of recall costs, compensation and penalties after regulators ordered recalls scheduled through at least 2019 that could eventually exceed 100 million air bags used by more than a dozen automakers, including Honda, Volkswagen and General Motors. The recalls would phase out the use of ammonium nitrate as a propellant, a chemical that other inflator makers don’t use.

The recall costs alone could amount to more than 1 trillion yen, or $8.8 billion, according to Takaki Nakanishi, an analyst at Jefferies Group LLC. Takata, the third-biggest air bag maker in the world, started its search for a buyer last year.

Critics of Takata praised prosecutors and regulators for enacting tough penalties against the auto part manufacturer.

“Companies have a responsibility to ensure the products they make are safe for consumers,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, in a statement. “These indictments send a strong message that if company executives knowingly put deadly products on the market, they will held accountable for their actions.”

 

Canada could also face auto border
tax, Trump spokesman suggests

Trump has taken shots at GM, Toyota over plans to
build cars in Mexico for U.S. market

CBC News
January 15, 2017

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has threatened automakers with a border tax on vehicles built in Mexico and brought into the United States — and it now appears Canada may not be immune from a possible tariff.

Asked Friday during a conference call if an auto border tax could hit Canada, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said: "When a company that's in the U.S. moves to a place, whether it's Canada or Mexico, or any other country seeking to put U.S. workers at a disadvantage," then the incoming U.S. president "is going to do everything he can to deter that."

"It's not so much a target at one particular country or one particular industry," Spicer said, according to a Bloomberg report.

In the weeks since Trump's election, many Canadian politicians and executives have sought to stress how integrated the Canada-U.S. auto sector is, with parts going back and forth across the border. Some have also pointed out that a tariff on vehicles could increase the prices U.S. consumers would have to pay.

During recent contract negotiations with the Unifor union, the Detroit Big 3 automakers — GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler — all committed to investments in their Canadian operations. Adding in plans by Honda announced this week for almost $500 million in investment at its Alliston, Ont., production facilities, automakers have said over the past four months that they will invest about $2 billion to Canada.

Ahead of his inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, Trump has taken to Twitter to threaten both General Motors and Toyota over plans to build small cars in Mexico.

The Toyota Corolla production going to Mexico is actually being shifted south from a plant in Cambridge, Ont.

Conversely, Trump has applauded Ford for scrubbing plans to build a plant in Mexico and announcing expansion of a Michigan plant. Fiat Chrysler also recently said it plans to create 2,000 jobs in the U.S. as it invests in two plants in the Midwest.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne also said the company might end Mexican production if tariffs imposed on vehicles made in Mexico for the U.S. market are too high.

 

EPA accuses Fiat Chrysler
of emissions cheating

Keith Laing and
Michael Wayland ,
The Detroit News
January 13, 2017

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and U.S. government officials are at odds over the company’s compliance with federal fuel emissions regulations on about 104,000 diesel-powered pickups and SUVs.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday issued a “notice of violation” accusing the automaker of failing to disclose software that it says could be similar to the so-called “defeat devices” Volkswagen AG used to cheat emissions testing on millions of its diesel cars.

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne on Thursday adamantly denied that the company’s diesel engines have any kind of illegal software or defeat devices. He said drawing comparisons between Fiat Chrysler’s software and the Volkswagen software that purposely deceives testing equipment is “absolute nonsense.”

“There is nothing in common between the VW reality and what we are describing here,” he told reporters during a conference call shortly after the EPA’s announcement. “The dispute that is going on now between the EPA and the FCA is whether the calibration that was filed (during testing to certify emission requirements) was a calibration that met all regulations.”

At the heart of the dispute appears to be the company’s use of auxiliary emission control devices (AECDs), which automakers can legally use to deactivate a vehicle’s emission control system in certain conditions. The company contends the vehicles are fully in compliance with regulations; however, Marchionne did not completely dispute some software may not have been disclosed.

“Anything which is undisclosed by definition is a defeat device, and if I use that standard, that would encompass our case and a gazillion other cases where so-called undisclosed AECDs have been established,” he said. “There are defeat devices that are designed to defeat the test cycle. Those are two different things. And this software doesn’t look for anything. It just runs. All the time.”

The EPA contends that the automaker did not disclose at least eight AECDs on the Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 pickups from the 2014-16 model years with 3-liter diesel engines that are in question. Regulators require the disclosures when companies apply for certificates that are required to sell cars in the U.S.

“Some of the devices appeared to cause the vehicles to perform differently when being tested than in normal operations and use,” Giles said. She said the agency was still investigating their nature and impact, but said “there is no doubt that they are contributing to illegal pollution.”

Giles said the EPA wants Fiat Chrysler to clearly demonstrate why “the hidden software” is not a defeat device. She said meetings to date “have not produced a viable explanation of how the AECDs conform with the law.”

He said the company has been in talks with the EPA about the testing for more than a year. He called it “strange and unfortunate” that federal officials decided to file the notice of violation — particularly “in the last few days” of the Obama administration.

Giles said Thursday they are holding Fiat Chrysler to the same standards to which other automakers are held when it comes to U.S. pollution rules.

“This is a clear and serious violation of the Clean Air Act,” she said. “The undisclosed software results in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides from the vehicles, threatening public health by polluting the air that we breathe.”

FCA may be liable for civil penalties and injunctive relief, the EPA said in a statement.

Stock nosedives

The vehicles in question remain safe and legal to drive, federal officials said. The company has no plans to put a stop-sale on any of the vehicles. However, vehicles with the EcoDiesel engines in question have not been produced since at least September, Marchionne confirmed, because the EPA has not certified the engines for the 2017 model year.

Trading was halted on Fiat Chrysler’s stock for a short period Thursday after shares plunged more than 15 percent on the EPA’s announcement. They closed at $9.95 per share, down 10.3 percent.

Marchionne on Monday declined to comment on class-action lawsuits about its diesel vehicles. But he did say the company stands behind its products. “We wouldn’t have sold them otherwise,” he told members of the automotive press Monday during the Detroit auto show.

The automaker faces class-action lawsuits for both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles with diesel engines.

One suit accuses Fiat Chrysler of installing software made by Robert Bosch GmbH that masked excess exhaust emissions in 140,000 Ram 1500s and 9,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees. Defending the company in the suit is Robert Giuffra Jr., a lead attorney involved in Volkswagen AG’s diesel emissions-cheating scandal.

At least two other lawsuits allege that diesel-powered heavy-duty pickups made by the automaker used defeat devices intended to cheat emissions testing. The latest lawsuit names FCA US, the company’s North American-based operations, as well as engine supplier Cummins Inc. It accuses the companies of using software designed to conceal its vehicles’ emissions in more than 450,000 heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 Dodge and Ram pickups with 6.7-liter diesel engines from the 2007-12 model years.

VW differences

Fiat Chrysler is the second major automaker to face accusations of installing defeat devices on its diesel engines to cheat federal emission standards.

The U.S. government announced Wednesday it is indicting six present and former Volkswagen AG executives and charging the company with three criminal felony counts for what regulators called a “10-year conspiracy” to rig hundreds of thousands of diesel cars to cheat U.S. emission standards. Volkswagen is also being forced to pay $2.8 billion in criminal fines and $1.5 billion in civil penalties related to the fraud. That’s in addition to a $14.7 billion settlement the company reached earlier this year with the EPA that calls for Volkswagen to spend $10 billion to either buy back or repair about 475,000 2-liter diesel cars sold between 2009 and 2015; the company also must contribute $4.7 billion to federal efforts to reduce pollution.

Rebecca Lindland, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, noted there are differences between Volkswagen’s emission scandal and Fiat Chrysler’s situation.

“It’s important to note that this is not exactly the same issue as VW faced, but any mention of a recall related to diesel engines and emissions casts a pall on a company celebrating recent industry accolades for its Chrysler Pacifica and a high-profile investment in U.S. manufacturing,” she said in a statement. “We’ll have to wait and see what comes of it, but at this point it’s only an investigation into NOx emissions, not an accusation of deliberate cheating by FCA.”

Environmentalists praised regulators for investigating FCA’s diesels.

“No profit margin is worth poisoning our neighborhoods with toxic smog,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in a statement, noting recent accusations against Volkswagen, Mercedes and Mitsubishi in Japan, and Chevrolet in Europe.

“This deceit is as dangerous as the sickening smog these vehicles leave behind,” he continued. “Consumers deserve corporate accountability and clean cars that don’t make our families sick.”

Fiat Chrysler started selling the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel in 2014 to achieve better fuel economy. The vehicles, which are touted as achieving a segment-leading 29 mpg, were met with high praise from media and consumers.

In September 2014, the company said it planned to increase production of the diesel pickup from 10 percent to 20 percent of its light-duty pickup mix.

 

Ford reaffirms target of
$10.2B 2016 pre-tax profit

Melissa Burden,  
The Detroit News  
January 12, 2017

Ford Motor Co. reaffirmed Tuesday earlier guidance of 2016 pre-tax profit of about $10.2 billion and said it expects more strong results in 2017, though adjusted pre-tax profits this year will be less than 2016 as it invests in electrification, self-driving technology and mobility.

The Dearborn company made the announcement as part of the Deutsche Bank global automotive conference in Detroit, held in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show.

“We’re confident that we’ll achieve our second best company pre-tax profits since 2000, and that’s going to include a record profit in Europe,” Ford President and CEO Mark Fields said during the conference.

Ford will release official results for 2016 and the fourth quarter last year on Jan. 26.

“We delivered on 2016, which was our 7th consecutive year of strong performance as a company and as a team,” Fields said. “We expect 2017 to be another good year of results and in line with the expectations we set back in September.”

Ford said its automotive segment revenue is predicted to be flat in 2017. Financial results also are forecast to drop because Ford Credit profits are expected to fall; profits will be down in Ford’s Smart Mobility area as the company invests in big data.

The automaker said results are expected to improve in Russia, South America, the Middle East and Africa in 2017. Results are expected to dip in Europe and North America, with North America declining mainly because of volume and mix of vehicles sold and because of costs for emerging market investments.

Ford plans to launch 11 vehicles globally in 2017, including a refreshed F-150, EcoSport small SUV in the U.S. and a Focus Electric. It plans to add 13 electrified vehicles in the next five years and plans to have a high-volume, self-driving vehicle on the road in 2021 for ride-sharing purposes.

Ford said shareholders will receive a first quarter dividend of 15 cents a share and a $200 million supplemental cash dividend, which is equal to 5 cents a share. The dividends will be paid March 1 to shareholders who own stock as of Jan. 20.

Ford stock closed Tuesday at $12.85 a share, up 1.7 percent.

 

Trump tweets won’t change Ford's
Canadian plans, company’s
President of the Americas says

Shane McNeil
BNN.ca Staff
Jan 11, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump should not have any effect on Ford’s Canadian plans, according to the company’s President of the Americas.

Speaking to BNN from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday, Joe Hinrichs said he didn’t foresee a change to Canada’s auto manufacturing industry, despite a spate of recent Twitter attacks the president-elect launched on carmakers doing business outside American borders.

“Our investment in Canada continues,” he said. “Our plans continue as they are and I don’t see any changes happening to that anytime soon.”

“We have an investment in a new engine (plant) in Windsor, we’re very excited about. We worked very hard with UNIFOR and we’re working with the governments in Ontario and up in Ottawa to make that happen. Of course, we’re continuing to invest in Oakville where we produce a number of products that are very important to us, not only in North America, but we sell other places in the world.”

Hinrichs’ comments come five days after Ford announced plans to scrap a proposed new US$1.6-billion plant in Mexico and the same day rival Fiat Chrysler admitted it may have to withdraw from Mexican production. Last week targeted Ford, GM and Toyota in critical tweets and threatened to impose a border tax on cars produced in Mexico.

Hinrichs believes Ford will be able to strike a balance between a “Made in America” approach and the continuing integration of North America’s automotive and manufacturing industries. “At the end of the day we have to stay competitive with our competitors around the world in this market in the U.S. and, of course, up in Canada as well. We watch that very carefully.”

Last week Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa told BNN that targeting the Canadian auto sector could cost “hundreds of thousands” of jobs and would ultimately backfire and hurt the U.S. sector.

 

Ford brings back Ranger, Bronco

Executive Chairman Bill Ford and President Mark Fields pose next to the new F-150 Monday at the Detroit auto show.

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
January 10, 2017

Ford discontinued the Ranger, a small truck, in 2011, but newer versions are sold in 180 markets around the world. They currently are built in Argentina, South Africa, Thailand and Nigeria.

The Bronco, which drew national attention as the getaway vehicle for O.J. Simpson, was discontinued in 1996 after being built for 30 years at Ford’s plant in Wayne. Its successor, the Expedition, was also built in Wayne before moving to Kentucky Truck. Ford showed a Bronco concept at the 2004 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Ford said he's not concerned one of the new models will steal sales from the other.

"I think the best thing is when you cannibalize yourself," he said. "I'd rather do it than have someone else do it."

Ford, Hinrichs and Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, spent a majority of Monday's press event highlighting Ford's work in mobility, autonomy and electric vehicles.

Ford said the market for electric vehicles is continuing to grow around the world.

"You don't know the conditions into which these vehicles are going to be launched into the marketplace," he said. "You have to take the long view in terms of where the world is going."

Fields and Ford envisioned a city in which their products work with infrastructure in different cities to make life easier for commuters.

"Think of it as a transportation operating system that’s controlled by the city – but that we can bring assets to," Fields said.

Ahead of its Monday auto show reveal, the automaker announced Sunday a refreshed F-150 that it will bring to market.

The new pickup ditches the three-bar grille that has been Ford’s signature design for over a decade, and brings a diesel engine to the light-duty truck lineup (previously offered only in heavy duty) for the first time in its nearly 70-year history.

Ford crested the 800,000 sales bar for the first time since 2005, leading truck market sales with the F-150 and its new for 2016 F-250 Super Duty brother. The Ford beat out its biggest competitor — the Chevy Silverado by over 250,000 units sold, and it beat General Motors’ Silverado/GMC Sierra twins by about 24,000.

The 2018 F-150 is due in showrooms in the fall 2017, but the diesel version won’t be available until the summer 2018. Built in England by Ford, the diesel will deliver impressive towing ability and is the same oil-burner found in Land Rover’s SUVs.

The F-150 will be the first light-duty truck to get pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection as well as adaptive cruise control which can come to a complete stop – then accelerate again. The 2018 model will also have an available Wi-Fi hot spot that can accommodate up to 10 devices. The F-150 will come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility.

In addition to the seven new grille choices, the 2018 F-150 will sport six new wheel options (from 17- to-22 inch) and more interior color and material choices. All these options across five model trims – XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum – make for hundreds of potential pick configurations.

While 2018 F-150 pricing won’t be released until later this year, it won’t differ much from the current model which starts at $28,025 for a base XL and tops out at over $64,000 in Platinum trim with all the goodies. The F-150 is built in Dearborn, Louisville, Kentucky, and Kansas City, Missouri.

For complete coverage of the Detroit auto show go to detroitnews.com/autos/auto-show

 

Ford takes wraps
off updated F-150

The 2018 Ford F-150 arrives with new front and rear styling, advanced technologies – including available Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection – and improved engines.

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
Jan 9, 2017

How do you celebrate 40 years of Ford F-series dominance with an enviable 820,000 pickups sold in 2016 alone? Roll out a new F-150.

To kick off the Detroit auto show this morning, Ford announced the first update to its ground-breaking, aluminum-body truck since it wowed the auto show as a 2015 model in 2014. With the 2018 pickup, the headlines just keep coming.

The new truck ditches the three-bar grille that has been Ford’s signature design for over a decade, and brings a diesel engine to the light-duty truck lineup (previously offered only in heavy duty) for the first time in its nearly 70-year history. Ford, the official truck of the NFL, will preview the F-150 on the Fox NFL Wildcard Pregame Show at 4 p.m. Sunday, and then unveil it at Ford’s news conference at the North American International Auto Show on Monday morning.

Ford crested the 800,000 sales bar for the first time since 2005, leading truck market sales with the F-150 and its new for 2016 F-250 Super Duty brother. The Ford beat out its biggest competitor — the Chevy Silverado by over 250,000 units sold, and it beat General Motors’ Silverado/GMC Sierra twins by about 24,000.

“It’s the best-selling truck since disco,” said Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager.

The 2017 Super Duty broke from the F-150 with a fresh, two-bar grille — dubbed “double I-beam” by Ford. Embraced by buyers, the F-250 grille style — with seven variations — is migrating to the F-150 along with a new bumper and headlamps. Changes to the rear fascia include new taillights and the letters “F150” tattooed on the tailgate.

The three-bar retires after a 14-year run that began with the Ford 427 Concept sedan that was rolled out at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show. The 427 inspired a “bolder, more American” design style that first graced the 2006 Ford Fusion sedan and was the echoed throughout the lineup from the Ford Focus compact to the Ford Edge. The F-150 fascia went three-bar in 2009.

“We took the grille and really stretched it to give it more width,” said Gordon Platto, F-series designer. “The Super Duty was liked so well with the double I-beam, we felt an obligation to create harmony between big brother and little brother.”

The 3.0-liter turbo-diesel leads a revamped engine lineup that includes a turbocharged Ecoboost 2.7-liter engine; twin-turbo V-6. 5.0-liter V-8; and a new base-model 3.3-liter V-6. Innovative port and direct fuel-injection systems increase fuel efficiency and durability.

“Direction injection engines have improved fuel efficiency, but the problem is they have come with carbon buildup,” says Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for research firm AutoPacific. “Adding port injection will solve that problem and increase engine longevity. Other manufacturers like Toyota are also moving toward this solution.”

The 2018 F-150 is due in showrooms in the fall 2017, but the diesel version won’t be available until the summer 2018. Built in England by Ford, the diesel will deliver impressive towing ability and is the same oil-burner found in Land Rover’s SUVs.

All engines but the 3.3-liter will be mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission — co-developed with GM — that was first introduced on the 2017 Ford Raptor muscle pickup. The 3.3-liter V-6 (downsized from the current 3.5-liter) will be married to a 6-speed automatic. The F-150 will come standard with stop-start technology, which turns off the engine at stoplights to save fuel.

The F-150 will be the first light-duty truck to get pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection as well as adaptive cruise control which can come to a complete stop – then accelerate again. The 2018 model will also have an available Wi-Fi hot spot that can accommodate up to 10 devices. The F-150 will come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility.

In addition to the seven new grille choices, the 2018 F-150 will sport six new wheel options (from 17- to-22 inch) and more interior color and material choices. All these options across five model trims – XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum – make for hundreds of potential pick configurations.

“We like to offer our customers as much customization as possible,” says Platto.

While 2018 F-150 pricing won’t be released until later this year, it won’t differ much from the current model which starts at $28,025 for a base XL and tops out at over $64,000 in Platinum trim with all the goodies. The F-150 is built in Dearborn, Louisville, Kentucky, and Kansas City, Missouri.

 

Mexican Ford workers
lament Trump

Christopher Sherman,
Associated Press
January 8, 2017

Villa de Reyes, Mexico – — Word spread quickly through cellphone messages and shouts between co-workers that Ford Motor Co. had canceled its new $1.6 billion car plant at its sprawling 700-acre high desert site in north-central Mexico.

“When I saw it on the phone, (I thought), ‘Well, no, it can’t be,’ ” said Higinio Salazar, a security guard who spent the past five months logging traffic into and out of the site and hoped to have steady work for months to come. “It was on orders of Mr. Trump,” he said bitterly.

That was not the case, Ford insists, but the perception here in Mexico’s burgeoning auto assembly region was largely that President-elect Donald Trump, who had promised for months to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. while at the same time disparaging Mexicans, had made good before even settling into the White House. Trump took a shot at Toyota on Thursday over its move to make Corollas in this region, though the Japanese company defended its plan.

Ford’s announcement sent shockwaves across Mexico, which has become tightly meshed with the U.S. economy since the advent of the North American Free Trade Agreement, sending 80 percent of its $532 billion in exports across the border in 2015. The U.S. government says $100 billion of that was in vehicles and parts, making Mexico the biggest exporter of automotive products to the United States. Mexico’s auto plants now account for 20 percent of all light vehicles built in North America, industry figures say.

The San Luis Potosi plant was well past the theoretical stage and there were high hopes the state would see further economic growth from the opening of its third auto plant — General Motors Corp. has been producing the small Aveo and Trax vehicles up the road since 2008 and a BMW plant nearby is scheduled to begin production in early 2019.

On Wednesday, Fernando Rosales Ortuno, who deals in hydraulic hoses for Parker Hannifin Corp. was pacing the site’s perimeter with cellphone pressed to his ear trying to arrange for a trailer to get hauled away. It’s essentially a portable store that had been set up to service the big machines preparing the site.

He had hoped that once Ford was up and running, the plant might become a long-term client.

“It hit us like a bucket of cold water,” Rosales said. “Everyone here was hoping for a lot of growth in the state and this region, too.”

Four clustered states in central Mexico — San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Aguascalientes and Guanajuato — have seven auto assembly plants that are operating or will be within the next two years. Around them are nearly 800 auto parts suppliers, Puente said.

In San Luis Potosi alone, between 50,000 and 60,000 jobs depend on the auto industry. An average worker in Mexico costs automakers $8 an hour, including wages and benefits, compared to the $60 an hour that Ford said it was spending on an auto worker in the U.S. at the end of 2015.

In Villa de Reyes’ town square, residents said the younger generation would be hurt most by the cancellation.

Retiree Ignacio Segura Rocha said fewer people from town are migrating to the U.S. now because the crossing has gotten harder than when he went in 1977 and 1978. He said the auto industry offers good alternatives for kids growing up on the region’s isolated ranches.

“They were already dreaming of going there (to Ford), and at the last minute there’s nothing,” he said.

Construction worker J. Refugio Waldo Contreras feels Trump is putting Mexicans in an impossible situation.

“This Trump, he doesn’t want people there, so where is he going to send them?” Contreras asked. “And he doesn’t want work to open here? So then he’s going to close the doors.”

Trump also sent tweets this week threatening to impose heavy tariffs on General Motors and Toyota cars produced in Mexico for the U.S. market. GM said it exports only a small number of Cruze hatchbacks it makes in Mexico. Toyota stood by its plan to produce Corollas in Guanajuato, while stressing that its production and employment in the U.S. will not be affected.

There were some notes of optimism among Mexicans. As security guard Juan Gonzalez watched contractors haul away giant earth movers on flatbed trailers, he said he didn’t expect the site to stay vacant for long.

“If it’s not the United States it could be Japan, China,” he said. “This is going to continue.”

Jorge Alvarez, who spent five months at the site working on perimeter roads, said his company had already told him his next project will be at the airport, so work would continue for him at least.

Another option could be that Mexico turns inward and focuses more on developing its internal market, said Roy Campos, president of the Mexico City-based Mitofsky consulting group.

“Sooner or later, because of the nearness and the border, the personal relationships, the human relationships, the Mexico-United States relationship is going to return to what it was or even better than before,” Campos said.

Billboards welcoming Ford had been sprinkled around San Luis Potosi for months. But only a day after the company’s announcement, the welcome sign across the highway from the plant was already down.

 

Play the Trump cards right, and
Canada's auto sector will benefit

JIM STANFORD
Special to The Globe and Mail
Jan. 06, 2017

Jim Stanford worked as economist for the Canadian Auto Workers, and then Unifor, for more than 20 years. He is now Harold Innis Industry Professor of Economics at McMaster University, and lives in Sydney, Australia.

He hasn’t even taken office yet, but Donald Trump is already changing the rules of globalization. This week’s remarkable announcement by Ford Motor Co. is the most dramatic sign yet of a coming reboot of world trade policy. Ford cancelled a brand-new, $1.6-billion (U.S.) car assembly factory it was planning for Mexico, and instead will allocate $700-million to a Michigan plant, adding more than 700 jobs there.

The company was responding to Mr. Trump’s threats to impose new barriers against imports (especially from Mexico and China). Ford’s new factory – like the eight other auto plants built in Mexico since 2009 – was predicated on exporting finished product back to the U.S. (with smaller volumes headed for Canada, Europe, and elsewhere). Suddenly, that entire business case looks precarious. Ford’s action both reduces its exposure if Mr. Trump follows through on promised tariffs, and cultivates political goodwill with a president-elect who clearly won’t hesitate to meddle in the decisions of private companies.

The repercussions of Ford’s decision, and Mr. Trump’s continuing hostility to the North American free-trade agreement, will be enormous. The southward rush of capital to Mexico, exploiting cheap production costs, will now screech to a sudden halt. No new assembly plants will be announced in Mexico so long as Mr. Trump is president. And Mr. Trump is already taking aim at other auto makers: for example, lambasting GM’s car imports from Mexico. While Mr. Trump focused on the wrong vehicle in his Twitter tirade against GM (the Cruze that Mr. Trump highlighted is mostly made in the U.S.), his general complaint that auto makers use Mexico solely as a low-wage export platform for the U.S. market is entirely valid.

All this sparks an obvious and important concern for Canada’s auto industry. Might the soon-to-be President Trump also turn his guns northward, once his protectionist bandwagon gets rolling? Automotive products are Canada’s most important export, and our industry depends crucially on the U.S. market – which takes 85 per cent of our vehicle output and around two-thirds of parts production. Any significant disruption in U.S.-bound trade would have enormous repercussions for Canadian production, investment, and jobs.

Given Mr. Trump’s shoot-first-ask-later approach to policy making, of course, anything can happen. And it’s clear his policies will be driven by symbolism more than hard facts. But there are huge and fundamental differences between Canada and Mexico, and their respective trade relationships with the U.S. These make it unlikely that Mr. Trump’s anti-Mexico strategy will be mirrored in similar hostility to Canadian products. Here are the hard numbers that should help defend Canada’s position as Mr. Trump takes office:

U.S. auto trade with Canada is balanced, unlike Mexico. Two-way auto trade between Canada and the U.S. is huge: around $135-billion last year. We sell more vehicles to the U.S. than we import from them, but we buy a lot more parts from the U.S. The resulting imbalance (in Canada’s favour) is small, relative to a very large two-way flow. If we include Canadian purchases of auto-related services (such as engineering, marketing, and management payments to U.S. parent firms), and repatriation of profits on Canadian operations, it’s a wash. This is one case where trade is actually balanced and mutually beneficial (like the economics textbooks say it should be). This is thanks to the Canada-U.S. Auto Pact, implemented in 1965, which required auto trade to go both ways.

With Mexico, on the other hand, auto trade (under NAFTA’s laissez faire rules) is precariously unbalanced. The U.S. imports more than 10 times as many vehicles from Mexico (2.3 million units in 2015) as it sells there. After all, despite 20 years of free trade, Mexican workers are still impoverished, and few can afford U.S. – or Canadian-made – products. Including parts, the U.S. incurs a $70-billion annual auto deficit with Mexico.

Similarly, Canada is far-and-away the largest U.S. automotive export market. Around one million U.S.-made vehicles were sold in Canada last year – likely a new record. That’s four times more than U.S. exports to Mexico (which have been falling). And thanks to our large parts purchases from the U.S., each Canadian-made vehicle contains 50 per cent more U.S.-made components than do Mexican-made vehicles. Any disruption in cross-border auto trade with Canada would hurt the U.S. as much as us.

By stopping the migration of industrial capital toward Mexico, Mr. Trump will actually help Canada’s auto industry – and other manufacturing sectors equally damaged by NAFTA. To be sure, we must be careful not to get caught in his protectionist crossfire. But the evidence is clear that the U.S. benefits as much from trade with Canada, as we do. And instead of trying to defend a flawed deal that has hurt working people in all three countries, Canada should enthusiastically endorse the principle that trade must go both ways – and take advantage of this opportunity to imagine a different way of managing globalization.

 

Auto sales set record
in ’16 at 17.55M

Melissa Burden
Detroit News
January 5, 2017

U.S. auto sales set a new record in 2016. Carmakers sold 17.55 million vehicles last year, as sales continued at a hot pace in December and topped analysts’ forecasts.

Automakers eclipsed the record year of 2015 by some 70,000 vehicles or 0.4 percent, according to Autodata Corp., as consumers continued to buy more trucks and SUVs than cars. Light truck sales totaled 59.5 percent of all sales last year, with cars representing 40.5 percent, Autodata said. A year ago those percentages were 55.8 percent to 44.2 percent and each were about 50 percent just a few years ago.

Several automakers posted record sales in 2016 including Nissan Group of North America, American Honda Motor Co. Inc., Hyundai Motor America, Kia Motors America, Mercedes-Benz USA and Subaru. Ford Motor Co. sales rose 0.1 percent to 2.61 million vehicles — its best annual results in a decade.

With five shopping weekends in the month, December sales were up 3.1 percent from the same month a year ago.

General Motors Co.’s December sales surged 10 percent and sales for 2016 surpassed 3 million vehicles, down 1.3 percent for the year. GM said its sales to consumers grew by nearly 2 percent, while fleet sales fell by about 74,000 vehicles last year.

Confident consumers flocked to dealerships last year, encouraged by low interest rates, unemployment and gas prices, automakers and analysts say.

Carmakers remain optimistic on strong sales continuing for 2017, though some believe the pace will decline slightly.

GM had the largest sales gain for December of the Detroit Three, posting a 10 percent increase to 319,108 vehicles, while Ford managed a 0.3 percent increase to 239,854 vehicles. Fiat Chrysler sold 192,519 vehicles last month.

Fiat Chrysler’s overall 2016 sales of 2.24 million were flat compared to 2015 sales of 2.25 million.

Ford said its December sales for the Ford brand were down 0.6 percent , while Lincoln luxury brand sales rose 17.8 percent. For the year, Ford sales were down 0.4 percent and Lincoln sales increased 10.4 percent.

“November and December were both stronger I believe than where everybody was calling it,” Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a call with analysts and reporters. “Our business was somewhat stronger than our internal forecast, which we think is a really good indicator.”

For December, Fiat Chrysler said its fleet sales were down 34 percent year-over-year, retail sales fell 2 percent and Ram Truck sales rose 10 percent. For all of 2016, the Ram Truck and Jeep brands posted sales increases vs. 2015.

GM said all of its brands posted sales increases from December 2015. Buick sales rose 2.8 percent, Chevrolet sales were up 12.8 percent, Cadillac sales increased 3.2 percent and GMC sales rose 5.8 percent. The 10 percent gain beat analysts’ estimates.

“We finished 2016 with a strong December, reflecting the continued strength of GM’s U.S. retail and commercial businesses,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of GM’s U.S. sales operations, said in a statement. “We begin 2017 well-positioned to continue growing our U.S. retail business, driven by all-new products like the Chevrolet Equinox and Traverse being launched into key, growing U.S. market segments.”

Nissan Group of North America said its December sales hit a record for the month of December at 152,743, up 9.7 percent from December 2015. The Japanese automaker reported it sold an all-time high of 1.56 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, up 5.4 percent, as both its Nissan and Infiniti luxury brand had record sales years.

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. says its 2016 sales of nearly 1.64 million set an all-time record for the company and were up 3.2 percent from its previous record set in 2015. December sales for the company were up 6.4 percent to 160,477 vehicles.

Kia Motors America also set a yearly sales record at 647,598 vehicles, up 3.5 percent over 2015. The Korean company said December sales also were the highest for any December at 54,353, up 112 vehicles from December 2015.

Volkswagen of America, Inc. said its December sales of 37,229 increased 20.3 percent from December 2015, though its sales for 2016 fell short of 2015. The German automaker said it sold 322,948 vehicles in the U.S. in 2016, down 7.6 percent from 2015 totals.

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. said its December sales of 243,229 rose 2 percent from the same month in 2015. For the year, Toyota sales totaled nearly 2.45 million vehicles, down 2 percent from 2015.

Hyundai said its 2016 sales hit 775,005 vehicles, up 1.75 percent from 2015, though December sales fell 1.9 percent year-over-year.

December 2016 had 27 sales days compared to 28 in December 2015.

Analysts and economists predict U.S. auto sales will remain strong and healthy in 2017, but may slip a bit because of higher incentives and some choosing to increase fleet sales to in 2016.

LMC Automotive expects 2017 auto sales will fall by about 25,000 vehicles and Kelley Blue Book expects 2017 sales will range between 16.8 million and 17.3 million, which would be down 1 percent to 3 percent from 2016 sales.

“An increasing supply of used cars, especially off-lease units, is already putting pressure on residual values, which could impact the sustainability of today’s high levels of leasing,” Tim Fleming, Kelley Blue Book analyst, said in a statement. “We are looking for manufacturers to cut production in the new year to better match slowing consumer demand and alleviate the need for elevated incentives.”

 

Ford to scrap Mexico plant,
invest in Michigan;
CEO cites Trump policies

FoxNews.com
January 4, 2016

Before he's even taken office, President-elect Donald Trump has proven to be quite the job creator.

Ford Motor Company announced Tuesday it will cancel a $1.6 billion plant planned for Mexico and will instead invest $700 million in a Michigan assembly plant, directly tying the decision to “pro-growth policies” championed by President-elect Donald Trump.

Trump had previously been critical of Ford’s plans to build in Mexico. After the announcement, Trump tweeted a link to a story about the Ford decision and then added in a subsequent message: "Instead of driving jobs and wealth away, AMERICA will become the world's great magnet for INNOVATION & JOB CREATION."

“We’re doing this decision based on what’s right for our business,” Ford CEO Mark Fields told Neil Cavuto on Fox Business Network. “As we think about the investments here in Michigan, as you can imagine, Neil, we look at a lot of factors as we make those. One of the factors that we’re looking at is a more positive U.S. manufacturing business environment under President-elect Trump and some of the pro-growth policies he said he’s going to pursue. And so this is a vote of confidence.”

Fields said Ford would have gone ahead with the decision whether or not Trump was elected president, however, he did say that he alerted both Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence ahead of the announcement on Tuesday.

The Ford news was the latest in a string of pre-inauguration successes for Trump in the manufacturing sector.

In early December, air conditioner and furnace maker Carrier agreed to stay in Indiana after weeks of negotiations headed by Pence. The decision reportedly saved about 700 jobs that would have been shifted to Mexico.

Later in the month, wireless provider Sprint and Internet company OneWeb announced they would be adding thousands of jobs in the U.S. Both companies are controlled by SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, who had previously met with Trump.

Earlier Tuesday morning, Trump took aim at another auto giant: General Motors.

"General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!" Trump tweeted.

GM, however, quickly pushed back on Trump's assertions.

"GM builds the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback for global markets in Mexico, with a small number sold in the U.S." a statement said.

The investment in the Flat Rock Assembly Plant is set to create 700 jobs, according to Fields. The money, which was taken from the $1.6 billion earmarked for the Mexico plant, will be used to open a new factory that will build high-tech autonomous and electric vehicles as well as the Mustang and Lincoln Continental, the company said in a press release.

"I am thrilled that we have been able to secure additional UAW-Ford jobs for American workers," UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles said in the release. "The men and women of Flat Rock Assembly have shown a great commitment to manufacturing quality products, and we look forward to their continued success with a new generation of high-tech vehicles."

 

Trump threatens GM
with ‘big border tax’

Jonathan Oosting and
Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
Jan 3, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened General Motors Co. with a “big border tax” on Chevy Cruze cars built in Mexico and imported for sale in the United States.

The Republican businessman has proposed a 35 percent import tariff on Mexican-made vehicles and often targeted Ford Motor Co. during his hard-fought campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton. He turned his focus on General Motors in a Tuesday morning tweet.

“General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border,” he wrote. “Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!”

GM builds the compact Cruze sedan at its Lordstown Assembly Plant in northeast Ohio, and builds the Cruze Hatchback in Mexico. The Cruze hatch for the U.S. market went on sale late last year.

“All Chevrolet Cruze sedans sold in the U.S. are built in GM’s assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio,” GM said in a statement Tuesday. “GM builds the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback for global markets in Mexico, with a small number sold in the U.S.”

GM announced in 2015 that it would begin Cruze production in Mexico, promising a $350 million investment in a manufacturing plant in Ramos Arizpe.

Trump told The Detroit News in September that his proposed tariff on Mexican-built vehicles and parts could serve as “retribution” against U.S. automakers that move production south of the border. His comments at the time largely focused on Ford, which is shifting small-car production to Mexico.

“Right now, there’s no consequence. They take their factory, they leave, they fire everybody in Michigan … and after they fire everybody, they build cars in a different country and they just sell them to us and there’s no retribution, there’s no consequence that will stop them from leaving,” Trump told The News.

Ford said it was not planning to cut any Michigan jobs and would instead ramp up new vehicle production at its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. Ford is shifting production of the compact Ford Focus to Mexico.

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra was named in December to a Trump Strategic and Policy Forum that frequently will advise him on economic issues and jobs growth. The group, set to meet during the first week of February at the White House, will share views on how government policy impacts economic development, job growth and productivity.

Barra, in a statement then, said she was pleased to join the group because it “offers us a seat at an important table where we can contribute to a constructive and open dialogue about key policy issues.”

Trump also has proposed renegotiating various international trade deals that affect the auto industry, including the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has expressed concern there could be consequences if Trump is too aggressive with some of the state and country’s largest trade partners.

“The negative consequence is at what point does it shift from being some real improvements that do make sense to switching to a trade war that would be devastating for our country (and) also other places around the world,” Snyder told The News last month in a year-end interview.

 



Nimpha Ilagan

Nimpha
1/5/1963 - 12/31/2016

It is with deep sorrow that we inform you
of the passing of Niampha Ilagan On December 31, 2016

Nimpha has been an active member of Local 584
for the past 20 years and worked in the Ford Bramalea Warehouse.

She will be sadly missed by all.

Our Deepest condolences go out to her family.

Funeral Arrangements Click here

 

Union prepares for legal battle ahead of pension cuts

Christopher Curtis,
Montreal Gazette
Jan 2, 2017

A union leader representing 17,000 retired municipal workers said Wednesday he’s prepared to take the city of Montreal to court over pension cuts set to begin on Jan. 1.

As of next year, thousands of retirees will no longer see an annual one per cent cost-of-living increase in their pensions. Though the employees and city had previously signed a deal that guaranteed the increases, a controversial provincial law allows cities to back out of that obligation.

The mayors of Montreal and dozens of other major cities will use a clause in the Bill 15 pension reform law starting next week.

“We say to the mayors, don’t move forward with this because if you do we’ll come after you,” said Marc Ranger, the Quebec director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. “This is immoral, illegal and if this goes before the courts, we’ll defeat you.”

The city says it’s expected to save $39 million in its 2017 budget alone by enacting the clause. Montreal’s estimates place the overall pension deficit at about $1.85 billion, making it one of the city’s largest annual expenditures.

Longer life expectancies and smaller-than-needed pension contributions are major factors in the ballooning deficits, according to the city.

But Ranger says the city can’t simply “change the rules of the game” at the expense of retirees. He was part of the negotiating team that secured the cost-of-living increases and says seniors depend on those to keep up with their bills.

“The cost of living rises by about two per cent each year, so really that one per cent increase is just making sure a person won’t fall too far behind,” Ranger said. “People plan their retirement around this because it’s a pact, it’s a promise that was made to them by their employer. The signal the mayors are sending is that no one is safe anymore.”

The union represents retirees from a variety of fields — 5,391 blue-collar workers, 433 supervisors, 5,579 white-collar workers, 2,508 firefighters and 700 professionals. The majority of these workers will be affected by the cuts.

Ranger says CUPE’s legal team is ready to file suit in Superior Court and he’s confident that, if the case makes it to the Supreme Court of Canada, his side will prevail. He cited the court’s November decision in favour of a British Columbia teacher’s union as one of the many precedents that could spell victory for CUPE.

The decision — which took the Supreme Court just 20 minutes to render — abolished a provincial law that stripped the union’s right to negotiate class sizes. But the journey to the Supreme Court took 14 years and cost a small fortune in legal fees.

“If the mayors go forward with this plan, there’s no scenario where we win,” said Ranger. “Even if we win in court, we lose.”

The Montreal Gazette could not reach the city of Montreal for comment.

 

 

Nortel’s disabled workers
still fighting for better
deal after bankruptcy

“For us to get so little, it’s a real tragedy.”

By Alex BallingallNews
Toronto Star
January 1, 2017

Greg McAvoy was already exhausted when his worsening multiple sclerosis forced him onto disability leave from Nortel in 2001. Imagine how he feels now, seven years after the company went bankrupt, scraping by without a paycheque at a Calgary care facility and still fighting for what he feels is his fair shake of what’s left of the fallen company.

McAvoy, 62, is among a group of roughly 40 disabled or sick former Nortel workers who insist they have been shortchanged as various creditors, bondholders, pensioners and their lawyers scrabble over the carcass of the once-mighty tech giant. They argue the decision this fall to divvy up the $7.3 billion (U.S.) that Nortel left behind — as well as a prior settlement relating to the company’s Health and Welfare Trust — is grossly unfair to former employees who were on long-term disability leave when the business went bankrupt in 2009.

In a last-ditch Hail Mary before the deal is finalized, the group is trying to pressure the federal innovation minister to change Canada’s bankruptcy laws to give disabled people preferred status when a defunct company’s assets are divided amongst its creditors — something at least some Liberals supported while they were the Opposition.

“For us to get so little, it’s a real tragedy,” McAvoy said in a recent phone interview.

“People are having a very difficult time just managing. It’s been six years since we’ve got any money from Nortel, so we’ve been living on fumes.”

At every turn of the drawn-out Nortel bankruptcy proceedings, the group referred to in court as the “dissenting” long-term disability beneficiaries has fought for a better deal. First it was over the dispersal of Nortel’s Health and Welfare Trust, then over the wider settlement involving the company’s $7.3-billion “lockbox” of remaining assets.

According to Mark Zigler, a lawyer with the firm assigned to represent Nortel pensioners and long-term disabled employees in 2009, people on disability leave from the company — roughly 360 employees, according to court documents — were supposed to get two-thirds of their salary each year until age 65. Then the company went bankrupt and payments were cut off at the end of 2010.

Their first chunk of the bankruptcy money was approved that year as part of a settlement that dealt with the Health and Welfare Trust, an account Nortel set up for the payment of life insurance, health and dental benefits and disability payments for its workers. But because of an acknowledged $37-million shortfall in the trust, the settlement only provided each disabled former worker with a lump sum of 38 per cent of what each they would have received until age 65 had the company stayed afloat, according to Zigler and financial expert Diane Urquhart.

After the recent “lockbox” settlement, which could be confirmed in late January, Zigler said the disabled former workers will get another chunk of money to bring their total haul up to almost 70 per cent of what they would have received over time, had the company survived.

Urquhart said the dissenting group has been “cheated” out of a good deal. For the “lockbox” settlement, disabled former workers are slated to get 45 to 49 cents of each dollar they would have received, she said. That pales in comparison to American bondholders, for instance, some of whom are set to get more than 90 cents on the dollar, she said. From a pot of billions of dollars, Urquhart argues there should be room to support former employees who can’t work because of their illnesses or disabilities.

“This group is getting the worst treatment,” she said. “They cannot work . . . They’re left in poverty as a result of this decision.”

In McAvoy’s case, as a former manager at Nortel who was in his mid-50s when the company went bankrupt, he received roughly $150,000 in the first payout in 2010, and expects another $110,000 or so if the new settlement gets final approval.

“His (trust) settlement was used up quickly to pay for his basic housing, food, clothing and medical expenses,” Urquhart said of McAvoy, who is now getting by on disability benefits of $14,000 per year.

“(The new) settlement capital will also be used up within a couple of years to pay for Greg’s accumulated debt during the six-year delay,” she added.

Zigler, the lawyer with the Koskie Minsky firm representing the disabled workers, countered that the group got the best deal that was realistically possible. American bondholders got a better share because there were fewer creditors and more money involved in the bankruptcy case south of the border, he said. “Unfortunately, insolvency is a zero sum game. There’s only so much in the pie and you have to divide it fairly.”

According to court documents on the case, Nortel set up its Health and Welfare Trust in 1980, largely for tax reasons. The trust held $80 million by the time the company went bankrupt in 2009, court documents show. However, there was also $37 million missing from the trust. As outlined in a judge’s decision on the trust settlement, the company drew from the trust to pay for certain worker benefits, but for several years before the bankruptcy, Nortel did not refill the money drawn from the trust. The missing money was essentially a $37-million I.O.U. to the trust that would never be repaid, according to the decision.

In 2010, Urquhart filed an affidavit alleging funds had been misappropriated from the trust, and a group of 40 former workers broke off to join her from the wider group represented by Koskie Minsky. The Superior Court Justice ruling on the case recognized “inadequate contributions to the fund,” but dismissed Urquhart’s allegations as “questionable” at best and “at worst, reckless.” The settlement was granted and all former disabled employees, including those dissenting the decision, were paid 38 per cent of their trust entitlements.

The dissenting group tried to appeal the decision to Ontario’s top court and the case was dismissed as ineligible in January 2011. Then they took it to the Supreme Court of Canada, which also declined to hear the case.

Meanwhile, another member of the dissenting group, Jennifer Holley, tried to start a class-action lawsuit against the companies that ran the trust: the Northern Trust Company and Royal Trust. She said she worked at Nortel for five years before she was forced to go on disability leave because of Crohn’s disease. In her lawsuit, she alleged the trust companies committed fraud over missing trust money.

In February 2014, a judge dismissed her suit because, though there may have been a case for the lesser charge of “constructive fraud,” the 2010 settlement barred Holley from suing over such an allegation.

In an interview, the 52-year-old from the Ottawa area said the experience has shaken her faith in the justice system. Her only income at the moment is from government disability benefits, which she said amounts to about $860 per month. Her husband is now retired, and the couple’s savings — including the $60,000 she has received from the Nortel settlements so far — are dwindling, Holley said.

“We’re already down to the bare bones,” she said. “The way we’ve been treated in the bankruptcy court and the courts in general has been absolutely horrible.”

Urquhart agreed, and has been pushing the federal government to change corporate bankruptcy laws to ensure people like McAvoy and Holley get better settlements. She has appealed repeatedly to Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, to change the law before those with a remaining interest in Nortel’s assets vote on the final settlement in January.

Philip Proulx, Bains’s press secretary, declined to discuss the matter because the Nortel bankruptcy case is still before the courts. In an emailed statement, he said the government is aware and recognizes the challenges of the disabled former workers, and that ministry staff have met with them and discussed their concerns. “They remain committed to continuing the dialogue and have indicated that they are open to further meetings,” Proulx said.

In a letter to Urquhart, McAvoy and Holley on Nov. 10, the assistant deputy minister of innovation wrote that the proposals to change legislation would have significant policy implications and economic consequences, though he did not specify what those would be. Any reform should be considered in such context, the assistant deputy wrote.

The dissenting group feels the Liberals will not help them, and are now looking to mount a Charter of Rights challenge of the Nortel settlement.

Zigler, the lawyer for the group from Koskie Minsky, acknowledged the “unfortunate” situation for the group. But as it stands, he said there’s no law to give them the preferred status over other creditors and bondholders to ensure a better deal in the event of a bankruptcy.

“Unfortunately, when there’s an insolvency like this, there’s no monopoly on misery,” he said.

 

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