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NEWS ARTICLE
INDEX

GM, Ford
introduce
new ways
to deal with
chip crunch
_________

Ford Ranger
unveiled for
rest of world,
looks great
________

Crossing The
Canada-US
Border For
Shopping &
Visiting
Family Is
About To Get
So Much
Cheaper
_________

How Canada
could retaliate
if tariff-like
U.S. electric
car policy
goes ahead
________

Trudeau U.S.
visit delivers
wake-up call
about new
North
American
reality
_________

Ford, Hyundai,
startups lead
diverse 2022
Car of Year
finalists
_______

Financial
Secretary-
Treasurer of
UAW Local 412
Charged With
Embezzling
Over $2
Million in
Union Funds
________

UAW President
Curry under
investigation
for possible
ethical
misconduct
_______

GM Oshawa
plant starts
pumping out
trucks again
_______

How some
Canadian
travellers are
getting free
COVID-19
tests in the
U.S. to
return home
_______

Ford debuts
green bonds
amid shift to
electric
vehicles
_________

Ford attracts
younger and
more female
buyers with
new $20,000
Maverick
pickup
_______

Ford to cut
debt costs
in half by
retiring
COVID
bonds
_______

Ford October
sales fall but
new models,
inventory gains
boost results
_______

Detroit
automakers
to require
vaccination
for employees
in Canada
________

It's been
nearly 20
years since
inflation
has been
this high
in Canada
________

Ford 3Q profit
down 25%
from
2020 on
continuing
chips woes
________

A new 'Buy
American' plan
is alarming the
auto sector —
and the
federal
government
________

Ford Mustang
GT tops
Made in
America
index
________

The Ford
Tourneo
Connect is
ready to
house all
your dogs
_______

The 2021
Ford Mustang
Mach 1 Can’t
Replace
the GT350
_______

UAW members
advocate for
against direct
elections in
virtual forum
_______

Ford's third-
quarter sales
fall 27% amid
industrywide
drop-off
_________

Peel Memorial
Centre in
Brampton
being
upgraded to
full hospital
_______

Ford will pay
you to buy
an in-stock
car rather
than wait for
your order
_______

Canadian
snowbirds
question why
land border is
still closed
______

Microchip
shortage
continues to
hit auto
sector hard,
with double-
digit unemployment
in Windsor
________

Green energy
takes hold in
unlikely places
with Ford
project
________

Unifor Local
200 President
Hopes New
Ford Plant
owner Creates
a Lot of Jobs
_______

Ford CEO
Farley calls
for making
EVs more
affordable
________

Ford to
introduce
high-
performance
Raptor edition
of Bronco
in 2022
________

Ontarians
now required
to show proof
of vaccination
to access
certain venues
________

Ford
increasing
production
for F-150
Lightning
electric
truck
_______

Where
The Major
Parties
Stand On
Fighting
Poverty
Among
Seniors
________

Inflation
Jumps to
4.1% in
Canada,
Jolting
Trudeau
Campaign
_______

Former UAW
presidents
Jones and
Williams
report to
prison for
embezzling
millions in
workers’
dues money
________

Ford to cease
manufacturing
operations
in India
_______

Ontario to
require
residents
to renew
expired
driver's
licences,
health cards
_______

Chip shortage
prompts new
F-150, SUV
production
cuts by Ford
________

Canadians
demand to
know why
they can
fly — but
still not
drive — to
the U.S.
________

Ford pauses
online
reservations
for the
Bronco amid
production
delays
________

Tesla on
autopilot
slams into
Florida state
police car
_______

Too cold?
Ford debuts
1990s-style
Ice White
Mustangs
Video
________

Stellantis
Brampton
now at a
crossroads
_______

Ford debuts
cool-colored
Mustang
Coupe and
Mach-E
_______

Ford's small
Maverick
pickup
generates big
reservation
numbers
________

FCA sentenced
for paying
more than
$3.5M in
bribes to
UAW leaders
_______

Lincoln
debuts
redesigned
Navigator
luxury SUV
with bolder
design,
enhanced
________

Parts makers
warn of more
supply issues
to come in
semiconductor
shortage
________

Bronco bug:
Ford will
replace all
hardtop roofs
to fix
quality
issue
_______

U.S. probes
whether Ford
was slow to
fix backup
cameras
________

Canadian
border agents
threaten
strike that
could delay
travelers,
trade
_______

Ford posts
32% July
sales slump
as new-
vehicle
inventories
dwindle
_______

Detroit Three,
UAW in talks
with White
House to set
EV sales goals
________

Ford slated
to spend more
on EVs than
on internal
combustion
engine
vehicles
in 2023
________

Unifor reaches
tentative
deal with
Bombardier
but strike
continues
with De
Havilland
________

Ford cruises
by chip
shortage,
boosts
outlook
________

Bombardier,
De Havilland
workers go
on strike in
Toronto
_______

Unifor
launches
strike at
Downsview
facility
as talks
continue with
De Havilland,
Bombardier
_______

Why Ford's
high-level
hiring
spree is
no accident
_______

GM, Cruise
sue Ford
over use of
BlueCruise
name
________

Ford, Argo AI
team with
Lyft to launch
self-driving
robotaxi
service in
Miami, Austin
________

Ford's Europe
sales up
43.7% in
the second
quarter
________

Ford may ship
unfinished
vehicles to
dealers due
to chip
shortage
________

Manufacturing
beating pre-
pandemic
output, with
Ont. to
strengthen on
EVs: report
________

Ford recalls
774,696
Explorer SUVs
for possible
steering
control issue
________

Why the
Stellantis
plant in
Brampton,
Ontario will
be out of
product
in 2024
________

Ford amends
bylaws
to adopt
gender-neutral
language
________

Many Caesars
Windsor
employees
heading back
to work
_______

Striking UAW
workers at
Volvo truck
plant reject
third
tentative
deal
_______

Ford China
sales up 24%
year-over-
year for the
first half
of 2021
_______

EU fines 4
German car
makers
$1B over
emission
collusion
______

OAS One Time
$500 Payment
& increase of
$100 next year
________

Ex-UAW official
Vance Pearson
sentenced to
1 year in
federal prison
________

Ford confirms
further
downtime
at N. America
plants due to
chip shortage
________

Ford sales fall
27% in June
amid lingering
chip shortage
tightening
inventories
_______

Prosecutors
recommend
14-month
sentence for
former UAW
official Vance
Pearson
________

UAW President Rory Gamble
announces
he will retire
June 30
________

Electric
vehicles will
top global
sales by 2033
_______

Boost to
seniors
benefit this
summer and
beyond could
cost $10.7
billion
________

Oshkosh to
build new
U.S. Postal
delivery
vehicles
in S.C.;
Ford to
supply
components
________

Ford built
an F-Series
'Lightning'
pickup
in 1953
_______

Ford says
second quarter
earnings will
'surpass its
expectations,
' but profits
to dip
________

Lincoln to
introduce
four new
battery-
electric
vehicles
starting
next year
________

G7 eyes
ambitious
shift to
electric
cars & away
from oil
_______

Disgraced ex-
UAW president
Jones
sentenced
to 28 months
for corruption
scandal
_______

Ford posts
4.1% sales
gain in
May amid
tightening
inventory
_______

Ford's Mach-E
output
exceeds gas-
powered
Mustang so
far in 2021
_______

Ford
unleashes
compact
Maverick
pickup
_______

Ford confirms
it will launch
all-new
compact
pickup truck
called Maverick
_______

Ex-UAW
leader Gary
Jones
deserves
more than
two years
in prison,
feds say
_______

Trudeau’s EV
ambitions
need strategic
shift, says
CEO of nickel
company
_______

Even in the
face of surging
grocery prices
retail beef &
pork prices
cause sticker
shock
_______

Electric Ford
'Bronco' and
'Ranger' in
the works
_______

Ford follows
GM, VW with
two new
dedicated EV
platforms by
2025, report
says
________

Ford recalls
Transit
Connect
vans for
shifter issue
_______

GM now says
it will
support
union at
new battery
factories
_______

Ford
introduces
F-150
Lightning
Pro for
commercial
customers
_______

F-150
Lightning has
nearly 45,000
reservations
_______

20 signs a
phone call
is really a
dangerous
scam
_______

Province reveals
3-step plan
to gradually reopen
this summer;
Golf & tennis
to resume
this weekend
_______

Ford Motor, SK Innovation to announce EV battery joint venture
_______

Ford expands
in-vehicle
Alexa
capability
as it begins
over-the-air
updates
_______

2021 Ford Bronco
Revealed
________

Chip shortage
to cost auto
industry
$110 billion
_______

Ford launches
'Power-Up'
wireless
software
updates, offers
upgraded
Amazon Alexa
_______

Ex-UAW
President
Williams
sentenced to
21 months
in union
corruption
probe
_______

Ford to reveal
F-150
Lightning EV
on May 19
________

Ford recalls
661,000
Explorer
SUVs over roof
rail concerns
_______

Ford, BMW lead
US$130 million
investing round
in solid-state
battery startup
_______

Ford expands
off-road
offerings
with new
2021 Explorer
Timberline
________

Ford posts
big April
sales gain
amid
rebound from
pandemic
_______

Ford posts
$3.3 billion
quarterly
profit, but
warns worst
of chip
shortage still
to come
_______

Ford slumps
10% after
being hit by
chip shortage,
drags down
rival GM,
suppliers
_______

Ford, GM stock
rallies hang in
the balance
as earnings
kick off
_______

Auto
companies
among those
stepping up
in absence of
mandated
paid sick days
________

Ford launches
on-site
vaccinations
for employees
in southeast
Michigan,
Ohio, Missouri
________

Ford to end
production of
the Lincoln
Continental
_________

Ford sales
up 7.7% in
Europe in
first quarter
of 2021
_______

Ford to see
widespread
production
impact on U.S.
plants this
month due to
chip shortage
________

Feds pick UAW
monitor
to oversee
corruption
reforms
_______

Why Amazon
workers in
Alabama voted
against union
_______

Ford reports
73.3%
growth
in China
sales
in first
quarter
of 2021
_______

Manufacturing
workers in
Ontario COVID
19 hot spots to
get vaccinated
______

Why does
COVID-19
cause
brain
fog?
_______

Ford CEO
Jim Farley
received
$11.8
million in
compensation
in 2020
________

Ford adds
short-term
emissions
targets en
route to
2050 carbon
neutrality
goal
________

Ford sets
new shorter-
term goals
to reduce
emissions
by 2035
_______

Despite
corruption
scandal and
pandemic, UAW
membership
steady
_______

Ford receives
125K Bronco
orders, but
some customers
may be waiting
longer than
expected
________

Ford to build
some F-150
trucks without
certain parts due to global
chip shortage
_______

Ford touts
commitment
to U.S.
production
and workers
_______

Ford looks to
its electric
future, sees
even more
Mach-E-like
crossovers
_______

Ford, GM and
Volkswagen
shares are
hot thanks to
electric-vehicle
mania
_______

Ford asks
Congress
for tax
incentives
to support
electric
vehicle
development
________

Union seeks
vote of 87
workers at
Nissan
Tennessee
plant
________

Ford recalling
275,000
vehicles in
Canada over
airbag
deficiencies
and tires
_______

Traffic deaths
spike even
as pandemic
cuts miles
traveled
______

Ford delays
4,500 Mustang
Mach-E
deliveries
_______

Republicans
invoke UAW
scandal in
opposing pro-
union
legislation
______

Ford Begins
Building
Mysterious
New Pickup,
The Maverick
_______

Ford begins
early
production
of not-
yet-announced
small pickup
truck
________

Most
Canadians
could get
1st dose of
COVID-19
vaccine by
end of June
________

Ontario won't
administer
AstraZeneca
COVID-19
vaccine to
seniors, final
plan still in
the works
_______

FCA guilty
in labor
corruption
scandal as
auto industry
marks new
low
________

Ford of
Canada names
Bev Goodman
as new
president
and CEO
______

Ford, GM face
big earnings
drop from chip
shortfall
_______

Ford
announces
recall of
thousands
of 2021
F-150s
over defect
______

Ford loses
track of
dangerous
air bags,
forcing 2
recalls
_______

Retiree
Konrad
Wilski
Celebrates
his 97th
Birthday
Feb 1, 2020
_______

Flying back
to Canada?
Here’s what
you can
expect at
the new
COVID-19
quarantine
hotels
______

Why proper
home care
should be a
cornerstone
of how our
health system
looks after
seniors
_______

Ford bets $1
billion on
electric
future,
new EV manufacturing facility in
Germany
_______

Winter
storm
halts production
at Ford,
GM plants
across
country
_______

Ford sells
stake in
lidar maker
Velodyne
______

How Canada
can capitalize
on U.S. auto
sector's
abrupt pivot
to electric
vehicles
______

Autoworkers
face dimmer
future in
a new era of
electric cars
_______

2021 Ford
F-150
Raptor pickup
revealed with
new suspension
and tech
______

GM hourly
workers
expected to
get $9,000
profit-sharing
checks for
pandemic-
marred 2020
_______

UAW Ford
workers
can expect
profit-
sharing
payouts
down 45%
_______

"A call to
arms"
Canada
Stuggles
to get
COVID
Vaccines
________

Ford beats
Q4 earnings
estimates,
announces
$29 billion
electric and
autonomous
car plan
_______

Ford to sell
Mustang
Mach-E
in China
_______

Canada’s
new travel
restrictions
‘a death blow’
to airlines,
UNIFOR
president
says
______

Is it time to
end ‘for-profit
long-term care
in Ontario?
_______

Canada
announces
mandatory
hotel
quarantine for
international
passengers,
suspends
travel to
Caribbean
_______

Biden's 'Buy
American'
order likely
to have little
impact on
Canadian firms
______

FCA reaches
$30M deal to
settle federal
corruption
probe
________

Biden
signs order
strengthening
Buy American
rules
_______

US probes
complaints
that Ford
tailgate
recall
didn't work
_______

Air bag
recall to cost
$610 million,
Ford Motor
Company says
_______

Corrupt UAW
boss wore
wire while
playing golf
with union
brothers
_______

Lincoln
Corsair EV
coming in
2026, report
says
_______

Canadian GM
workers ratify
contract for
commercial
electric van
production
______

Ford, despite
pandemic
disruptions,
boosted China
sales in 2020
_______

Windsor
Assembly
barricade
dispute
reignites
________

Wearing wires
put convicted
UAW official
'at risk,'
lawyer says
_______

Province
confirms
who can
receive
COVID-19
vaccine
as part of
Phase 2, mass
delivery
expected by
April
_______

Ford ending
manufacturing
in Brazil, but
will continue
South America
operations
______

Ford
dominates
Car of Year
Awards with
F-150 and
Mustang
Mach-E
________

North American
auto industry
feels effects
of global
microchip
shortage
_______

Ford Maverick
compact pickup
truck leaks
in new photo
______

GM, Ford convert hundreds of temps to permanent employees
_______

In latest
management
shakeup, Ford announces new
U.S., Canada
sales lead
______

Canada’s top
paid CEOs
will earn the average
yearly income
by noon on
January 4th
_______

Daimler fines
for slow
recalls
could reach
$30 million
________

Americans to
#FinishStrong
during critical
pandemic
period
______

2020
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News

GM, Ford introduce new ways
to deal with chip crunch

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News
Nov 26, 2021

Detroit automakers General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. on Thursday revealed new ways they are working to prevent the current semiconductor shortage they've both battled over the last year. 

GM President Mark Reuss during the virtual Barclays Global Automotive and Mobility Tech Conference revealed a new strategy to "reduce the number of unique microcontroller units, or MCUs, required by 95%." The automaker is working with a list of semiconductor companies on co-development, sourcing and manufacturing, helping to drive predictability in the supply chain. 

Ford on Thursday said it signed a non-binding agreement to collaborate on production and technology advancements with semiconductor supplier GlobalFoundries Inc.

The chip supply issue affecting all automakers has been ongoing since the start of the year and its effects are expected to last into 2022. The shortage will cost $210 billion in lost revenues this year, according to the most recent estimates from global forecaster AlixPartners LLP. The firm expects the industry to lose production of 7.7 million vehicles this year. 

While automakers try to figure out how to prevent the current semiconductor supply crunch from happening again in the future since more chips will be needed for advanced vehicles, politicians are also working on ways to increase supply. 

Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of moderate members of the U.S. House, on Thursday pushed their colleagues to pass $52 billion in proposed funding for domestic semiconductor chips manufacturing.

They argued the funding is crucial to get the economy back on track and fortify U.S. supply chains. The vast majority of semiconductor chips are produced in Taiwan, and the instability of global supply chains has been put on display by shortages caused by the pandemic.

"Economic security is national security,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D- Holly, a caucus press conference Thursday. “After what we've gone through as a nation on COVID, people have really gotten religion on that idea."

The funding includes $2 billion set aside for “legacy” chips used in auto manufacturing, a provision pushed for by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.

It is part of a larger bill aimed at increasing U.S. competitiveness with China, which passed the U.S. Senate earlier this year but has not yet been taken up in the House.

Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, said that auto manufacturers were quick to answer calls to innovate amid the pandemic.

“We owe this to them,” she said. “The reality is in Michigan we have cars sitting in lots that are literally almost produced except they're missing their chips."

GM's new strategy 

As vehicles continue to have advanced technology, GM sees "semiconductor requirements more than doubling over the next several years," Reuss said at the Barclays conference. 

For this strategy, GM is working with a list of semiconductor companies, Reuss noted: Qualcomm Technologies Inc., STMicroelectronics, TSMC, Renesas Electronics Corp., onsemi, NXP Semiconductors and Infineon Technologies AG. 

“That's quite a list and this will drive our margins higher, as we've discussed in our Investor Day," Reuss said. "But this this is a very unique and very integrated approach ... we've got a pretty broad platform of companies that will help us execute that strategy, so that's a big deal for us.”

Ford's collaboration

Ford said in a release the "strategic collaboration," it has formed with GlobalFoundries, which does not include cross-ownership between the companies, will "advance semiconductor manufacturing and technology development within the United States, aiming to boost chip supplies for Ford and the U.S. automotive industry." 

GlobalFoundries, or GF, is based in Malta, New York, and has 14 locations on three continents, according to its website. The company says it is "one of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturers."

A  non-binding agreement between Ford and GF would enable further semiconductor supply for Ford’s current vehicle lineup and joint research and development on chips that apply certain features in a vehicle, like in-vehicle networking, the automaker said.

The two companies would also look at expanding semiconductor manufacturing. 

 

 

Ford Ranger unveiled for rest
of world, looks great

Kyle Hyatt  
November 25, 2021

We've only had the Ranger back in America for a few years, but the rest of the world has been enjoying this midsize truck for ages -- and now, there's about to be a new one. On Wednesday, Ford announced its next-generation 2022 global Ranger, and we're already jealous of the truck that'll soon be available to folks abroad. (Ford officials tell Roadshow that a new North American-spec Ranger is coming, but it can't say when.)

The most noticeable difference between our current Ranger -- a dated truck -- and this new one is the exterior styling. The new model borrows from the Maverick and a little from the Bronco , which makes for a boxier, more solid-looking midsize truck. It's not wildly different from the current Ranger, but it's more modern and different enough to make an impression.

We're very limited on our Ranger powertrain options in the US, but elsewhere in the world, they have all kinds of gasoline and diesel engine options, including a beefy V6 turbodiesel. Additionally, global consumers now get the 10-speed automatic transmission that we know from many current Ford products. As you'll see in the press photos, many worldwide markets also get the option of a manual transmission, which makes us pretty jealous.

Inside, things look good, with the main focal point of the interior being the 10.1-inch or optional 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system that's running Sync 4. Like the Mustang Mach-E , which also uses Sync 4, the Ranger has a ton of vehicle settings and mode selections going through the screen, rather than with physical controls. We don't love this approach from a functional standpoint, but it does clean up the look of the interior, and frankly, today's North American Ranger has fallen behind in terms of interior tech and cabin finishes.

The new global 2022 Ford Ranger looks plenty tough in Wildtrak trim.

Other super cool global Ranger features include a new integrated rear side-step behind the rear wheels which should make bed access a lot easier. Like today's full-size F-150, there's also a neat zone lighting system that can be controlled either through the vehicle screen or through the My Ford Pass app, which should prove a boon for people who camp out of their truck.

 The Ranger has been a big seller for Ford around the world for a long time.

Ford's global Ranger is debuting in two flavors: XLT and Wildtrak, with the latter being geared towards off-roading and other outdoor activities. Not long after the Ranger launches, Ford will have approximately 600 accessories available for the truck, including a new line of off-road accessories developed in concert with legendary equipment brand ARB.

This new 2022 Ranger for the rest of the world will be produced at Ford's facilities in Thailand and South Africa, with more precise launch dates expected to come soon. Likewise, Ford is keeping mum about pricing at this time, too. Us? We're just hoping the next North American Ranger bows soon, because it's fallen behind the rest of Ford's truck lineup in terms of tech and refinement -- and that's true even when compared to the far cheaper unibody Maverick.

 

Crossing The Canada-US
Border For Shopping &
Visiting Family Is About
To Get So Much Cheaper

Helena Hanson
November 23, 2021

Crossing the Canada-U.S. border for short trips like shopping or visiting relatives is about to get a whole lot cheaper, thanks to an update to Canada's travel restrictions.

On Friday, November 19, federal officials confirmed that COVID-19 testing requirements will be dropped for eligible travellers who are leaving Canada for 72 hours or less.

From Tuesday, November 30, fully vaccinated people with right of entry to Canada will be able to skip the pre-entry molecular test, meaning they'll be able to return home without forking out hundreds for a PCR test.

This applies to people travelling via land or air, as long as they're able to demonstrate that they've been out of the country for three days or under.

As the COVID-19 tests approved to enter the country can cost at least $100, this update means taking short trips just got much cheaper.

It also means those driving across the Canada-U.S. border will no longer be required to spend any money on COVID-19 testing, as the American land border does not require fully vaccinated travellers to take a COVID-19 test prior to entry.

It's worth noting that people flying into the United States will still be required to take a test before arriving, although rapid antigen tests are accepted.

Unfortunately for people dreaming of lengthy vacations, the rules will not change for people leaving Canada for over 72 hours. In this case, passengers will still be expected to take a pre-entry molecular test before arriving. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted.

If you do still need to take a molecular test, Rexall Pharmacy sells a take-home test starting at $200, while Costco sells do-it-yourself PCR tests for $120. Air Canada has its own version priced from $149.

Some U.S. pharmacies do offer free PCR testing, although there are some risks to be aware of.

 

How Canada could retaliate if
tariff-like U.S. electric car
policy goes ahead

Some warn battling U.S. climate policy with trade reprisals could be 'politically toxic'

Don Pittis 
CBC News
Nov 22, 2021

A new U.S. government policy that offers tax credits for electric vehicles and batteries made by unionized labour in the United States puts Canada in a difficult position, according to both Canadian environmentalists and trade experts.

Part of the "Build Back Better" plan passed by Congress at the end of last week, it gets a thumbs up from many battling climate change on both sides of the border.

Offering an effective $12,500 US subsidy if American residents buy an electric vehicle rather than one with a traditional engine, the move is considered a positive step toward coaxing gas-powered vehicles — and their emissions — out of the market.

But there are cries from Canadian economic nationalists that if the subsidy only goes to American-made cars, as planned, it could simultaneously squeeze Canada out of the business of making EVs, resulting in an unfavourable effect on well-paying Canadian jobs.

It could also fracture North America's deeply integrated automotive supply chain, with repercussions in the U.S. as well.

"Any cars made in Canada would not get the subsidy and would be a lot more expensive. In a way, it would be like imposing a high tariff," explained Patrick Leblond, who teaches public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa.

It means that if U.S. residents — who make up the vast majority of North American vehicle buyers — were to buy an identical or similar car made in Canada, it would cost them thousands of dollars more.

When U.S. President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel, Canada retaliated, because it was 'unilateral action contrary to the rules.' But experts say there may be better ways this time. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Existing Canadian plants making internal combustion vehicles might not be affected, but that would change as automakers plan new factories. And the Buy American policy could influence those plans now.

"Obviously, the big carmakers would build their plants in the U.S. instead of in Canada," said Leblond.

And just like when Donald Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian steel, aluminum and forest products, some say Canada must examine how it can make some sort of counter-threat, perhaps even offering up a list of products made in the U.S.,  but not in Canada, that would face tariffs here if the tax credit goes ahead.

"Sometimes, at least, the threat is a way to say, 'Hey, let's get our friends in the U.S. that depend on the Canadian economy to put pressure on Congress or the administration to make this thing go away,'" said Leblond.

As several of those I spoke to pointed out, offering a similar tax advantage for Canadian-made cars would not have the same effect, due to our unequal market clout. And putting tariffs on American-built EVs would simultaneously be bad for both climate change and Canadian auto-parts producers.

But one place Canada could take action would be on the production of key minerals needed to make EV batteries; Canadian mines, while currently undeveloped, could be a reliable and nearby non-Chinese source for the U.S. as demand for electrified transport ramps up. 

Dan Ciuriak, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont., compares the battery-mineral situation to the time when Trump banned the export of masks to Canada — before realizing the fine pulp to make those masks actually came from Canada. That was the reason Trump backed off, he said.

But Ciuriak and others said there are also disadvantages to that kind of response. It could be "politically toxic," Ciuriak said, for a bilateral relationship that is currently largely amicable.

Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft says President Biden's proposed tax credit for electric cars made in America jeopardizes the new USMCA trade agreement. 13:05

Overcoming a protectionist agenda isn't a problem easily solved.

"It is a big deal," said Valerie Hughes, a Canadian lawyer with years of trade experience, including a decade at the World Trade Organization (WTO). While it depends on the final wording of the legislation, she said the EV tax credit is probably illegal under WTO rules and the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

Hughes said she opposes the harsh trade retaliation that was seen in the Trump era.

"We did it once … because that was really the world we were living in," said Hughes. "There was unilateral action that was contrary to the rules. The U.S. was doing it — and we just didn't see a way out of it."

But this time, said Hughes, there are much friendlier options, including vested Canadian parties reaching out to their U.S. counterparts at all levels — whether in government, industry or labour — to remind them that deeply integrated North American automobile production creates jobs and wealth on both sides of the border.

 

A Ford Edge comes off the assembly line in Oakville, Ont. But in the EV era, will U.S. automakers build plants here if most of their customers would have to pay thousand of dollars more for Canadian-made cars? (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

If necessary, Canada can always use the appeal mechanisms of CUSMA, she said, calling them quite effective compared to the previous NAFTA dispute-settling mechanism.

Mark Warner, a well-known Canadian trade lawyer who has run for the federal Conservatives, is skeptical of Ottawa's proposition that Canada is being cheated by the plan. While that mentality may get people riled up, he said, the best way to work with the U.S. is calm negotiation.

Warner points out that the EV legislation is all about U.S. politics — an attempt to show that green investment will help create good American jobs. And he said there is still time to negotiate, since the bill has yet to pass through the Senate and it will be five years before the Buy American portions of the law go into effect.

On the other hand, even a law coming in five years can affect business planning now. And once in effect, it will be harder to change.

In addition to convincing labour and business interests in the U.S. that continuing to work with Canada is in their own best interest, there is another potential set of allies, said Dale Beugin, with the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

U.S. climate scientists and activists, he said, know that greenhouse gases do not respect national boundaries.

"Climate change requires co-operation across countries, across borders — and you want to be enabling a low-carbon transition, not just in the U.S., but elsewhere as well," said Beugin.

Squabbles over trade will just slow down the process.

 

Trudeau U.S. visit delivers
wake-up call about new
North American reality

Americans see trouble ahead. And see protectionism as a solution

Alexander Panetta
 CBC News
Nov 19, 2021

The helicopter buzzing overhead was just one symbolic example during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's trip to Washington of a tough new reality Canadians face.

Trudeau's failure to persuade Americans to ease up on Canada in a landmark electric-vehicle plan capped a visit that served a long, loud wake-up call to this new reality. 

Former U.S. president Donald Trump's protectionist impulses were no aberration: This era is vastly different era from the one that produced the 1965 Auto Pact and spurred decades of Canada-U.S. economic integration. 

Our challenge now involves living beside a worried superpower that's distracted by generational challenges in which Canada is at best a bit player.

The point was driven home at a swanky hotel overlooking the White House, where Trudeau had just delivered a speech about the precious bond between our two countries.

A green and white helicopter soon appeared on the horizon, and drifted slowly onto the south lawn of the presidential abode. Out from Marine One popped Joe Biden.

While Trudeau touted those ties, the U.S. president was swooping back from his own speaking event where he doubled down on his auto-sector plan despite Canadian objections.

At a GM plant in Detroit, Biden clearly articulated the goal of his tax-credit plan for electric vehicles: "To buy American-made, union-made, clean vehicles."

It's now China, China, China

But the president said something else in that speech that reveals an aspect of the American psyche that pervades everything else at this particular moment.

Biden called this an inflection point in history, comparing the globe to a chessboard where all the old pieces are moving around; he predicted future generations will ask a question about our time: Did the United States compete with China?

That fear of losing pervades nearly everything in Washington — lost economic power, lost manufacturing capacity, lost military supremacy.

Even in a week where the United States hosted its two closest neighbours and biggest customers for a so-called Three Amigos summit, North America was the second-biggest international story here.

On the eve of a North American Leaders’ Summit, U.S. President Joe Biden’s big tax incentive for U.S.-produced electric vehicles is creating tension, with some saying it’s a job killer for the Canadian auto industry. 1:56

A virtual call between Biden and China's Xi Jinping not only drew far more media coverage, but infinitely more curiosity from the American public.

Check out the Google search stats: Searches for Biden and Xi vastly dominated those for Biden and Trudeau.

When American reporters got a chance to ask Biden a question in the Oval Office during his meeting with Trudeau, they asked about China: Would he consider a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics? 

Biden said he might.

At the same time as Trudeau's visit, Congress came closer to passing a China competition bill, which funds high-tech industries and demands reports on how U.S. allies, like Canada, are working on China issues.

Closer to home, Mexico is the priority

The U.S. has other concerns closer to home, too.

When American politicians talk about this continent or their borders, it's usually about concerns involving Mexico. 

Their worries involve migration coming from the south, and manufacturing jobs going to the south.

In fact, those fears are one reason Americans are so hesitant to tinker with Biden's vehicle plan: One goal of this tax credit is to steer assembly plants back from Mexico — and it's hard to exempt one U.S. neighbour, but not the other.

Canada even ranked as an afterthought at the White House media briefing Wednesday on the Trudeau trip. There were no questions about the vehicle issue. And that's because no Canadian media outlets got a question in. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with his U.S. and Mexican counterparts at the first North American Leaders' Summit in five years, where climate change and issues around trade, including a proposed U.S. electric vehicle tax incentive that could hurt Canada’s auto sector. 2:03

The questions were focused on Mexico, dominated by migration, the border, Central America and Mexico's move toward renationalizing energy markets.

The White House did not schedule a trilateral news conference after the North American leaders' summit.

During one of his appearances, Trudeau hinted at an awareness of how Canada gets overlooked by the only country it borders.

"You've got so much going on at home. It's easy for you not to be looking around the world," Trudeau said at a think-tank event. 

"Canada has the advantage of being small enough that we're always looking — across the border at what you guys are doing and around the world as well."

What could Canada do differently?

Trudeau's own domestic critics might contend that some of our lost clout is self-inflicted. That Canada talks more than it contributes in world affairs, in terms of peacekeeping, foreign aid, or continental defence

Or that Canada could, as Stephen Harper has suggested, have used the NAFTA renegotiation to shift toward a one-on-one relationship with the U.S. 

Or that Canada has frustrated the U.S. by not articulating a clear China policy or taking a stand on letting Huawei into the 5G network.

We can't test those counterfactuals now.

What we can do is take stock of where things currently stand compared to the world to which we are accustomed.

Back in the dawn of North American economic integration, when America was still a young superpower, Canada and the U.S. signed the Auto Pact deal that presaged the continental free-trade agreement.

Canada didn't get that deal by being polite: It threatened tariffs. The New York Times credited the northern neighbour's aggressive trade actions for forcing Washington's hand.

America now vs. the America of the Auto Pact

In January 1965, both leaders put aside their differences and spoke of the growing confidence between the two countries as they signed the pact.

The pact had an immediate effect. On the very day it was sent to Congress, Chrysler said it would build 80,000 cars in Canada for export, while at the same time, U.S. exports to Canada of parts and cars also swiftly increased. A textbook win-win. 

Over time, however, the U.S. lost its manufacturing dominance — not only over the global auto market but also over its own domestic market. Within a few years, the U.S. went from importing four per cent of its cars to nearly 25 per cent. That trendline continued, as the country lost millions of manufacturing jobs to Mexico, China and automation.

Now a new trade philosophy is sweeping Washington — one that's been articulated at length by Trump's former trade czar. 

That view: That manufacturing isn't just any other industry. That it's tied to a thriving middle class, healthier communities and high-tech research that ensures future wealth.

So getting manufacturing plants back is often cast as a tonic for reversing some bleak trends — in a country that once had 40 per cent of the global GDP and now has just over 20 per cent; spent more than half the world total on defence (it's now 40 per cent); dominated everyone in research spending (it's now almost tied with China); and went from a skyrocketing life expectancy to small declines driven by so-called deaths of despair.

Where does this leave Canada?

It's not impossible that the vehicle-tax credit might change. It's poised to pass the House of Representatives at any moment, but it could be adjusted in the Senate. Or perhaps the official who interprets Senate rules might determine it out of order for a budget bill.

Yet Canada is dependent on the U.S. as ever 

But some originators of the 1965 Auto Pact were worried about a moment like this. 

Concerns about that agreement extended beyond the U.S. Even within the Canadian cabinet, there were fears it might make our country forever dependent on our southern neighbour, vulnerable to its whims.

Nowadays Canadian cabinet ministers like to come to Washington and remind everyone who'll listen that we're their No. 1 customer and we help create millions of American jobs.

It happens to be true; about 20 per cent of U.S. exports went to Canada in 1965 and today, it's still about 18 per cent.

But there's a corollary that Canadians are less fond of raising in public. 

It's that we are four times more reliant on them as customers — even more so than in 1965. The U.S. was buying less than 70 per cent of Canada's exports in the late 1960s, and it's now 75 per cent.

Canada's mission now involves navigating a world where Americans design policies with China and Mexico in mind; where we're the collateral damage; and Washington either doesn't notice or is too tied up to care. 

Biden shared his warm feelings for Canada as he kicked off his meeting with Trudeau. 

"This is one of the easiest relationships that we have," he said, sitting next to Trudeau in the Oval Office. "One of the best."

 

 

Ford, Hyundai, startups lead
diverse 2022 Car of Year finalists

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
Nov 18, 2021

Los Angeles — And then there were nine.

Ford and Hyundai led a diverse group of finalists announced Wednesday at the Los Angeles for the 2022 North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year awards, with two nominees each. Hyundai’s luxury Genesis brand also grabbed a nomination. The prestigious awards — judged by 50 independent journalists across North America — led off the show with finalists in three categories.

In addition to the legacy automakers, two startup electric vehicles, the Lucid Air and Rivian R1T pickup, nabbed nominations, reflecting how Tesla's success has emboldened a new era of auto entrepreneurs.

“These nine vehicles represent an unusually excellent and diverse group of finalists,” said NACTOY president Gary Witzenburg. “From new automakers to vehicles that have created fresh segments in their categories, these vehicles showcase the industry’s current diversification. This year’s finalists also illustrate how many more EVs are available to customers.”

Ford’s wildly popular Bronco will be the favorite to win SUV of the year. The Jeep Wrangler rival can be stripped of its doors and roof to offer rugged, open-air fun. Its modern technology also aims to make off-road tools more accessible to drivers, including a rotary mode selector and electronic sway-bar disconnect.

Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 EV boasts a sleek design and simple interior as Hyundai tries to follow the Tesla Model Y’s success in the compact EV SUV segment. The Genesis GV70 is a stylish SUV of the familiar gas-fired variety. After years of copycat designs, Genesis has forged its own path with distinctive exterior and interior looks.

Ford also flexes its truck brand muscles with the affordable Maverick pickup. The entry-level unibody truck will be the favorite to win with its $20k starting price tag and creative interior. Hyundai's eye-catching Santa Cruz is also a unibody-based pickup truck and features clever features like a lockable, slide-able tonneau cover.

Startup Rivian created a big splash in LA in 2018 when it debuted the first electric pickup. Founder RJ Scaringe has followed through on the concept's promise by bringing the R1T to market ahead of the Tesla Cybertruck and EV offerings from Ford and GM.  

Sedan sales have suffered from the SUV revolution but the eighth-generation Honda Civic is still going strong and is the favorite for yet another Car of the Year trophy. In addition to its trademark nimble handling, the Civic shows off interior tech and handling to shame some luxury sedans.

Another perennial favorite, the VW Golf GTI (together with all-wheel-drive cousin Golf R) is back to give Honda a run for its money. The GTI pioneered the hot hatch segment and still offers manual-transmission fun.

Startup Lucid offers the priciest entry with the $160,000 Air. The sleek battery-electric sedan was developed by ex-Tesla Model S engineer Peter Rawlinson and aims to best the Tesla in range and design.  

Founded in 1994, the NACTOY awards are the longest-running new vehicle awards not associated with a single publication. Jurors — including the author of this story — narrow the model year’s new cars to a list of semifinalists that are evaluated at an annual test event in Ann Arbor. Finalists are chosen from there.

“The diverse opinions of our jurors bring together a combination of expertise and individual testing regimens to select these nine outstanding finalists,” said NACTOY vice president Jack Nerad.

NACTOY winners will be announced in early January. 

 

Financial Secretary-Treasurer
of UAW Local 412 Charged
With Embezzling Over
$2 Million in Union Funds

Nov 17, 2021

DETROIT - Timothy Edmunds, the Financial Secretary-Treasurer of Local 412 of the United Auto Workers union, has been charged in a Criminal Complaint with embezzling over $2 million in union funds announced Acting U.S. Attorney Saima S. Mohsin.   

Joining in the announcement were Irene Lindow, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General, Timothy Waters, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit, Michigan office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Sarah Kull, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit, Michigan office of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, and Thomas Murray, District Director, U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Timothy Edmunds, 53, of South Lyon, Michigan, is charged in the Criminal Complaint, that was unsealed today, with embezzling union funds, money laundering, failing to maintain union records, and filing false reports with the Department of Labor between 2015 and 2021.  

According to court records, between 2011 and 2021, Edmunds has served as the Financial Secretary-Treasurer of union Local 412 of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Workers of America (“UAW”).  UAW Local 412 is headquartered in Warren, Michigan, and it represents approximately 2,600 members employed by the automaker FCA US LLC, which is owned by Stellantis N.V.  The local union’s members include many of those employed at the following Stellantis facilities located within in the Detroit area:  Sterling Stamping Plant, Mack Engine Plant, Warren Truck Assembly Plant, Warren Stamping Plant, and Jefferson Assembly Plant.     

As an elected officer of UAW Local 412, Edmunds was responsible to hold its money and property solely for the benefit of the organization and its members and to manage, invest, and expend the funds in accordance with the UAW constitution and Local 412 bylaws.   Instead, Edmunds systematically drained the Local 412 accounts of about $2 million by (1) using Local 412 debit cards for over $142,000 in personal purchases, (2) cashing Local 412 checks worth $170,000 into accounts he personally controlled, and (3) transferring $1.5 million from bone fide Local 412 accounts into accounts that he personally controlled.  Once Edmunds converted the funds to his own personal use, he used the money to gamble, purchase luxury clothing, high-end automobiles, and firearms.  To conceal his theft from other UAW officers and the Local 412 members, Edmunds created false bank statements and caused false LM reports to be filed with the U.S. DOL.  Edmunds supplied the fake bank statements to international UAW auditors in an effort to conceal his embezzlement.  Auditors from the UAW international union, who recently conducted an audit of Local 412, provided federal agents with information detailing the diversion of approximately $2 million in Local 412 funds by Edmunds.       

Evidence indicates that Edmunds has used portions of the proceeds of his embezzlement to gamble extensively, to purchase firearms, and to purchase various high-end vehicles.  For example, between 2018 and 2020, Edmunds used the UAW Local 412 debit card to make over $30,000 in unauthorized withdrawals at the Greektown Casino.  While gambling at the Greektown Casino, records indicate that Edmunds had cash buy-ins of over $1 million, and he put over $16 million in play while betting while being rated at the casino.  Between 2020 and the present, Edmunds registered at least 10 firearms, which ranged in price between $500 and $2,000 per firearm.  In February 2016, Edmunds purchased a 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT for $74,365.  In July 2020, Edmunds purchased a 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, for $96,419.  Subsequently, in July 2021, Edmunds purchased a 2021 Dodge Durango for $76,491.  Edmunds also leased two 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited in December 2020.

Based on the charge of embezzling union funds, Edmunds faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.  Based on the charge of money laundering, Edmunds faces a maximum of twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.  On the charges of filing false reports with the Department of Labor, failing to maintain union records, and making false entries in union records, Edmunds faces a maximum of one year in prison and fine of $10,000.

A Criminal Complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. 

Edmunds is the seventeenth defendant charged in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation into corruption within the UAW or relating to illegal payoffs to UAW officials by FCA executives.  The following other individuals have already pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme and have been sentenced:  former UAW President Gary Jones (28 months in prison); former FCA Vice President for Employee Relations Alphons Iacobelli (66 months in prison), former FCA Financial Analyst Jerome Durden (15 months in prison), former Director of FCA’s Employee Relations Department Michael Brown (12 months in prison), former senior UAW officials Virdell King (60 days in prison), Keith Mickens (12 months in prison), Nancy A. Johnson (12 months in prison), Monica Morgan, the widow of UAW Vice President General Holiefield (18 months in prison), former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell (15 months in prison), former senior UAW official Michael Grimes (28 moths), former UAW Midwest CAP President Edward “Nick” Robinson (12 months in prison), former UAW Vice President Joseph Ashton (30 months), former UAW President Dennis Williams (21 months) and former UAW Region 5 Director UAW Board member Vance Pearson (12 months in prison).  The company, FCA US LLC, now known as Stellantis, pleaded guilty in January 2021 to conspiring to violate the Taft-Hartley Act, and was ordered to pay a fine of $30 million and be subject to an outside Monitor for three years.  Former senior UAW official Jeffrey “Paycheck” Pietrzyk passed away before being sentenced.

In December 2020, the United States filed a civil lawsuit against the International UAW under the Anti-Fraud Injunction Act based on the criminal investigation of the UAW, FCA US LLC, and FCA’s executives.  Subsequently, the United States and the International UAW entered into a Consent Decree to settle the lawsuit that was approved by the U.S. District Court.  The Court has appointed attorney Neil Barofsky to serve as the Independent Monitor of the UAW for the next six years.  The Monitor is tasked with providing federal oversight of the UAW concerning fraud, corruption, and misconduct within the UAW.  In addition, the Monitor is conducting a referendum of all UAW members to determine if the membership wants to adopt a direct election, also known as “one member, one vote,” method of electing the members of the UAW’s International Executive Board.        

Acting U.S. Attorney Mohsin commended the outstanding work of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Labor-Management Standards and Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in conducting a comprehensive criminal investigation into labor corruption activities involving a vital sector of the local and national economy.

“The members of the UAW deserve a union free of corrupt and crooked leadership,” said Acting United States Attorney Saima Mohsin.  “We will continue to root out and prosecute those corrupt leaders who seek to use UAW funds as their own personal piggybank.” 

"An important mission of the Office of Inspector General is to investigate allegations of fraud involving labor unions. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate these types of allegations,” stated Irene Lindow, Special Agent-in-Charge, Chicago Region, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.

“Mr. Edmunds held a position of trust within the UAW and his alleged theft of nearly $2 million from UAW accounts is a betrayal to every UAW worker,” said Timothy Waters, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit Division. “The FBI and its law enforcement partners will use all available resources to hold criminals accountable and seek justice for those victimized.”

“This complaint leaves no question as to the Department of Labor’s commitment to seek justice for unions and their members when union officers or employees put their personal financial gain ahead of the best interests of the union and the members they represent,” said Thomas Murray, District Director, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. “Today’s complaint alleges an outrageous abuse of power and misuse of Mr. Edmunds’s position of trust. Mr. Edmunds allegedly embezzled over $2 million from the members of UAW Local 412, took extreme measures to conceal his actions from the union, and used embezzled funds to live a lavish lifestyle. While almost all union officials and employees pursue the best interests of the union and the members they represent, a very small amount do not. When a union official or employee endangers the financial integrity of their union, OLMS will seek justice for the union and its members.”

“Today’s allegation is yet another example of corrupt leadership and abuse of fiduciary duties of a trusted UAW official,” said Special Agent in Charge Sarah Kull, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, Detroit Field Office.  “IRS – Criminal Investigation is committed to investigating corrupt union officials who steal from their membership to enrich themselves.”

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David A. Gardey and Steven Cares.

 

UAW President Curry under
investigation for possible
ethical misconduct

Breana Noble
Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Nov 16, 2021

Detroit — United Auto Workers President Ray Curry is under investigation by the UAW's ethics officer for possible ethical misconduct for accepting almost $2,000 worth of tickets from a union vendor to watch the University of Alabama play in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game.

The investigation was disclosed Thursday by New York lawyer Neil Barofsky, a court-appointed watchdog in charge of reforming the UAW following a years-long corruption scandal that led to the conviction of 11 labor officials — including two former presidents — and pushed the union to the brink of federal takeover.

Barofsky filed a 188-page report chronicling work conducted by his team of investigators since spring. The report reveals Barofsky has 15 open investigations into misconduct and has concluded one involving Curry, who is the fourth consecutive UAW president to be investigated. Two predecessors, Gary Jones and Dennis Williams, are serving federal prison sentences for wrongdoing during their tenure. His immediate predecessor, Rory Gamble, was cleared of wrongdoing following an investigation.

Unlike the cases of Jones and Williams, the probe involving Curry is not criminal in nature but could result in “corrective action” by the union.

On May 17, Curry, prior to becoming the UAW president in July after Gamble retired, paid back the $1,900 face value of the four tickets to the UAW, according to the report. In a letter Thursday to UAW members, Curry said he did so "voluntarily and without any request or demand," resulting in the International Executive Board deciding there was no violation of existing union policy.

Barofsky determined that because of the age of the conduct, its lack of "relative materiality" and the ambiguity regarding the UAW's policies on such matters, the situation didn't warrant further consideration. Further details weren't shared at the request of the UAW's ethics officer, Wilma Liebman, former National Labor Relations Board chairman, who is further investigating the matter.

"I want my brothers and sisters to know that I have been fully transparent with the International Union and the Monitor and have cooperated with the monitor’s inquiry into the matter," Curry wrote. "Despite this ruling, I am personally pained that any question whatsoever was raised as a result of any action on my part."

At the recommendation of the monitor, the union has instituted a new policy that the UAW will no longer enter into any contracts with vendors that include any sporting, concert or entertainment ticket as part of the contract, Curry added.

Barofsky also raised concerns about lingering problems, including an "unhealthy culture" and faulted UAW leaders for failing to promptly cooperate with requests for documents or address 140 reforms recommended by a consultant in spring 2020.

The UAW is committed to ensuring misconduct exposed by federal investigators is not repeated, union lawyer Terence Campbell wrote in a separate court filing Thursday. He cited several reforms, including a new code of conduct for leaders, that were enacted by the union's governing board Oct. 28 — just ahead of what was widely expected to be Barofsky's critical report to U.S. District Judge David Lawson.

“At some point, union members have to wonder whether they wouldn’t have been better off if the government had just taken over the UAW,” Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross Business School, told The Detroit News.

The report also argues the UAW initially wasn't transparent with the monitor on the union's audits and investigations into local unions. Investigators found an absence of a formal, consistent disciplinary process within the union, as well.

The filing may add fuel to the fire for greater reforms in the UAW, including implementing direct elections of the UAW International Executive Board — a proposal on which the nearly 1 million active members and retirees are now voting. This referendum is a part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department announced almost a year ago that required an independent monitor to oversee the union and investigate ethical complaints for at least six years. The consent decree combined with other internal financial reforms the union made had led former president Gamble and Curry to declare the UAW as a "clean union" with "a culture of transparency, reforms and checks and balances."

As director of UAW Region 8, Curry signed contracts on behalf of the union with marketing vendors to purchase advertising that promoted the union at sporting events and that those contracts offered a "ticket allowance" for the union or "merchandising points" to acquire tickets, according to the report. Curry signed six contracts with values ranging $8,500 to $50,000.

"Although he usually forwarded the tickets that the union received to someone else for distribution to other members, Curry used tickets from one of these agreements on one occasion to attend the national college football championship game nearly five years ago," Barofsky wrote.

Alabama lost the 2017 championship game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

“Curry explained that, on the day of the game, he was already in the area where the game was located working on a contract negotiation with three other UAW staff members,” the watchdog wrote.

Curry, who headed a UAW region spanning Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and several other southern states, attended with three staffers. They used tickets from a UAW marketing vendor.

For some UAW members, however, it sounds like more of what they have been hearing in recent years: "It looks like to me that this guy was doing what they were all doing or what was accepted, but not what was expected,” said Jonathon Mason, 45, of Detroit, a production floor associate at Ford Motor Co.’s Dearborn Truck Plant. “I’m glad that this hopefully will be the end of that era and the beginning of a more transparent era.”

Dajuan Hampton, 31, of Detroit, who works in materials at Stellantis NV’s Warren Truck Assembly Plant, added: “I’ve been here 22 years, it isn’t a new story to me. It’s almost becoming the way of the land. At this point, I’m not surprised.”

In early September, the monitor received nearly 700,000 documents from the Justice Department's closed investigations into union corruption to investigate historical acts of misconduct among union officials who haven't been charged in a criminal case. 

The U.S. government proposed Gil Soffer, a Chicago attorney, in September as the union's adjudications officer to hear misconduct cases and determine if and what punishment is needed, including possible expulsion from the union or termination of employment.

Barofsky said his work "was slowed in getting off the ground by the Union's pace in making relevant documents and information available," echoing previous statements from former U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. Barofsky says the union wasn't initially transparent about its investigations into misconduct at local union. He is "hopeful the issues that were impeding its progress have been resolved."

Barofsky also investigated the union's "unhealthy culture" in which staff members were unwilling to disagree with superiors about problems or issues for fear of losing their position, citing a May 2020 draft report from outside consultant and ethics ombudsman Exiger LLC. Conditions improved when Gamble took the top office in November 2019, according to the report, but fear of retaliation remains. Additionally, it found an absence of consistent and fair discipline.

"Members of the IEB, the president, regional directors and other senior leaders in positions of authority are not constrained by any written disciplinary policies and instead 'have wide latitude on disciplinary measures,'" Barofsky wrote.

He said the union must do more to make UAW employees feel that it encourages ethical behavior and protects those who make it a priority. The union has largely accepted suggested reforms, he wrote, including creating a dedicated compliance department, adding compliance and ethics a standing item on executive board and staff meetings and providing regular compliance updates.

But some UAW members say election reforms are needed to bring greater accountability and transparency to leadership and represent non-automotive sectors in particular. Under the current system, locals elect delegates to represent them at conventions to vote on the union's 13-member board consisting of a president, a secretary-treasurer, three vice presidents leading departments for each of the Detroit automakers and eight regional directors.

For 70 years, the delegates nearly always have elected the slate of candidates endorsed by the Reuther or Administrative Caucus. UAW members at the end of October were mailed ballots to vote on whether to maintain the delegate system or institute direct elections. They must be returned — not postmarked — by Nov. 29.

“The people who work on the floor, who actually build these trucks, will feel like they have a voice and feel like they have a choice, not getting a choice forced on us,” Mason said. “We send delegates, and the delegates don’t necessarily take what’s best from the floor to the international level.

"Some people just lose sight of that. One member, one vote will bring some type of dignity to the UAW for folks that are working on the floor, men and women who are turning out the best product we can for Ford Motor Company and the other American automakers.”

Meanwhile, 15 people and automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV have been convicted as a part of the federal government's criminal probe into union corruption.

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday charged a 16th person, Tim Edmunds, the former Local 412 financial secretary/treasurer, with embezzling more than $2 million in union funds, money laundering and spending the funds on gambling, guns, cars and child-support payments. UAW auditors identified the improper expenditures this summer, leading the union to champion its internal reforms as a "deterrent" to malfeasance.

The union has hired outside experts, installed an independently staffed ethics hotline for misconduct reports, created an internal audit function and begun the process of establishing a robust controls environment.

 

GM Oshawa plant starts
pumping out trucks again

Detroit News
Kalea Hall
Novemeber 11. 2021

Truck production is back after nearly two years down at General Motors Co.'s Oshawa Assembly plant in Ontario. 

The first Chevrolet Silverado pickup rolled off the line Wednesday at the plant, which lost its truck production in December 2019 after GM pulled the product there. The plant, which is only making Silverado trucks, will supplement the North American market with much-needed product amid the global semiconductor shortage that has squeezed inventories.

The return of truck production to Oshawa creates 1,800 new jobs for two shifts of production.

 Oshawa will begin shipping trucks to dealers in December 2021.

 

 

How some Canadian travellers
are getting free COVID-19 tests
in the U.S. to return home

CBC News interviewed 6 Canadians who got free tests at a U.S. pharmacy or clinic

Sophia Harris · CBC News : Nov 10, 2021

Andrew D'Amours, the co-founder of the travel information website, Flytrippers, took a free, self-administered COVID-19 test at a U.S. Walgreens drive-thru site this past Sunday. (Submitted by Andrew D’Amours)

When Ian Hutcheon inquired about getting a COVID-19 test last month at a Walgreens pharmacy in Gold Canyon, Ariz., before his flight home to Calgary, he got a pleasant surprise.

"I happened to ask to speak to the pharmacist, who said, 'Oh, we can test you for free,'" said Hutcheon. "I was a little incredulous, but he insisted."

Travellers entering Canada must provide proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their entry. And those molecular tests — such as the popular PCR test — can cost hundreds of dollars.

As a result, Canada's testing requirement has sparked protests from politicians and tourism groups on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, who complain the tests can be cost-prohibitive.

But CBC News interviewed six Canadians who recently travelled to the U.S., and got a free molecular test at a pharmacy or a clinic before their return to Canada. 

"It's mind-blowing to think that people are paying $200 for those tests," said Andrew D'Amours, who is the co-founder of the travel information website, Flytrippers. 

D'Amours, of Trois-Rivières, Que., has taken three free tests in the U.S. and written about the topic for his site. 

"It's so easy to get it for free," he said. 

Ian Hutcheon and Colleen McMechan, of Calgary, each got free COVID-19 tests at a Walgreens location in Arizona last month before returning to Canada. (Submitted by Ian Hutcheon)

However, there are caveats: Travellers may not be guaranteed to get their test results in time, and may not find free tests at their U.S. destination.

But the stars aligned for Hutcheon and his wife, Colleen McMechan. At Walgreens, they each took a self-administered free Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) test, which is listed as an accepted test by the Canadian government. 

The couple had booked their tests online one day in advance, listing their hotel when asked to provide a U.S. address. Hutcheon said they faced no issues when they drove their rental car to Walgreens the following day to take the test at the pharmacy's drive-thru testing site.

"They took the swab and about two hours later, the results appeared in my email inbox," he said. "We printed them and took them with us to the airport and it was all smooth sailing."

Why are the tests free?

The tests that Hutcheon and other Canadian travellers have received aren't actually free, but instead funded by the U.S. government. It has put measures in place to make low or no-cost COVID-19 tests available to everyone in the U.S., including those who don't have U.S. medical insurance. 

"They want people to get tested," said Jeremy Gelbart, co-founder of BeeperMD, a COVID-19 testing company that comes to people's homes — or hotel rooms — to provide free PCR tests. (Individuals who book a same-day test for one person, however, must pay a booking fee.) 

The border between Canada and the U.S. reopened today and some Albertans are eager to travel, even if that means waiting two to three hours at the Coutts-Sweet Grass crossing. 1:15

BeeperMD services customers in New York City and most regions in Florida. The company has already provided free tests to thousands of Canadian travellers, including snowbirds, Gelbart said.

BeeperMD typically provides test results within 36 hours and will do everything it can to ensure travellers get their results within Canada's required 72-hour window, he said. But he cautions there are no guarantees for non-paying customers.

As a precaution, Gelbart advises travellers to book their free tests a couple of days in advance. 

"If people are prepared, they'll be fine," he said. "We try to be as accommodating as possible."

Quick NAAT tests

Four of the Canadians interviewed used a Walgreens drive-thru site to take a free, self-administered NAAT test, which the pharmacy chain calls an ID NOW test. Each traveller said they pre-booked their test online at least one day in advance and got their results within three hours of testing. 

D'Amours has twice taken a NAAT test at Walgreens: once in May in Newark, N.J., and the second time on Sunday in Baton Rouge, La. He said the NAAT tests are the best option for Canadians, because they provide quick results.

"I would say it's a game changer."

Several Canadians told CBC News they got free, self-administered COVID-19 tests via a Walgreens drive-thru location. (Submitted by Andrew D’Amours)

Walgreens did not respond to requests for comment. However, the pharmacy chain's website states that it offers no-cost COVID-19 testing at select locations. 

It also says that PCR test results are typically provided within 48 hours, but without a guarantee. However, its NAAT test is performed on-site, and results are available within 24 hours.

Walgreens also states that customers need to provide a valid state ID or driver's licence and insurance card.

None of the people interviewed by CBC said they were denied for having a Canadian driver's licence and no U.S.-based medical insurance.

"We just [showed] our Canadian driver's licence IDs and that worked perfectly fine," said Haris Naeem Nini, of Milton, Ont. He and his wife, Mariam Haris, each got free NAAT tests at a Walgreens drive-thru in the Buffalo area in May.

Haris Naeem and Mariam Haris Nini, of Milton, Ont., each got free NAAT tests at a Walgreens in the Buffalo area in May, just before returning to Canada. (Submitted by Haris Naeem Nini )

Walgreens states that customers can only get tested by car via a drive-thru. Nini said the couple didn't have a vehicle, so they went through the drive-thru in an Uber. 

"The experience was a breeze and obviously didn't cost us anything — except for the Uber ride."

In September, Delores Davidson also received a free test, but she went to a CVS pharmacy drive-thru in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and got a PCR test. She said she had to pre-book her appointment online and it took about 24 hours to get the results. 

"It was quick and easy," said Davidson, who lives in Calgary. "We never paid. We were never charged."

CVS also did not respond to requests for comment. 

Free test warnings

D'Amours warns that the NAAT/ID NOW tests aren't available at all Walgreen locations, so Canadians should check online before making U.S. travel plans. Travellers may also need to book their free test several days in advance to secure an appointment, he said. 

D'Amours further advises travellers to stay informed during their travels — in case the U.S. suddenly changes its no-cost test policy. "You never know, with the U.S. [land] border reopening, will they get too many Canadians and decide to scrap it?"

 

 

Ford debuts 'green bonds'
amid shift to electric vehicles

David Caleb Mutua
Bloomberg
Nov 9, 2021

Ford Motor Co. for the first time is selling bonds aimed at benefiting the environment, part of the automaker’s transition to electric vehicles.

The Dearborn-based company is marketing "green bonds" expected to mature in 10 years, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Early pricing discussions anticipate a yield in the 3.625% area and net proceeds will be used exclusively for clean transportation projects and for the design, development and manufacturing of its battery electric-vehicle portfolio, the person said.

Ford said last week that it plans to cut its borrowing costs by more than half as it repurchases $5 billion in junk-rated debt and seeks to set a path to return to an investment-grade credit rating. At the time, the company said it expects to raise at least $1 billion in this new green bond offering, a move that’s part of a new sustainable financing strategy based on environmental and social goals.

“This lowers the cost of our debt substantially,” John Lawler, chief financial officer, said in an interview. “It provides us additional financial flexibility, not only from the standpoint of lower interest expense, but also it’s strengthening the balance sheet, which is good as we work to return to investment grade.”

 

 

Ford attracts younger and
more female buyers with new
$20,000 Maverick pickup

NOV 8, 2021

Michael Wayland
Shane Phillips

Rebecca and Shane Phillips are accustomed to getting looks when driving around California in their 1985 Mercury Colony Park or 1978 Lincoln Continental with longhorns on the front. But the newest head turner in their collection has been somewhat unexpected.

“The looks we’re getting are pretty neat. Everybody I’ve run into they’re like, ‘I’ve never seen something like this,’” said Rebecca, 31. “It’s always fun to drive by and somebody gets surprised about what it actually is and what it looks like.”

It’s not a classic vehicle, sports car or electric vehicle. It’s the new 2022 Ford Maverick, a small pickup truck that recently went on sale as the automaker’s least expensive vehicle in its entire lineup of cars and trucks at about $20,000.

While the vehicle has only been on sale for slightly over a month, Ford Motor says the compact truck – about the length of a Toyota full-size sedan but priced at far less than that and many other smaller cars – is already succeeding in attracting new, younger and more cost-conscious buyers like the Phillips’.

“We really are seeing a new customer coming into Ford. And that was really our ambition. We fabric was to appeal to a younger, more diverse customer. And we’re certainly seeing that,” Todd Eckert, Ford truck marketing manager, told CNBC.

Ford sold more than 4,100 Mavericks during the vehicle’s first full month of sales in October. Eckert said the company will continue to ramp-up production of the truck at the automaker’s Hermosillo plant in Mexico.

Non-truck people

The importance of Maverick isn’t just about sales, but in attracting new customers to Ford. It may act as a gateway vehicle for customers to step into larger, pricier Ford pickups such as the midsize Ranger and full-size F-150.

Early Maverick buyers are skewing younger and more female than the traditionally male-dominated truck market, according to Ford.

Ford said a quarter of the Maverick’s buyers are women compared with 84% for full-size pickups, according to J.D. Power. The company reports more than a quarter of buyers also are between 18 and 35 years old – double the industry average for that age group. The average age of a new vehicle buyer is 48, according to J.D. Power.

The Phillips’ said they aren’t “big truck people” or even new car people but they were attracted to the Maverick because of its price, features and fuel economy.

It’s a similar story for Christopher Molloy II, who purchased the Maverick as his first new vehicle in early October. He traded in a compact Chevy Cruze sedan for the pickup.

“I wasn’t first looking for a Maverick. I didn’t know it existed,” said the 23-year-old Oregonian. “I was looking for more SUV-type. I wasn’t really expecting to get a new truck because they’re so expensive until I saw the Maverick was coming out.”

Ford surprised many with the Maverick’s low price as well as its standard 2.5-liter hybrid engine that can achieve more than 40 mpg during city driving. A Maverick with an optional 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that gets a combined 26 mpg combined, including 30 mpg highway and 23 mpg city, starts at about $21,000.

The top vehicles Maverick buyers also look at are other small pickups such as the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger as well as small crossovers and even the Honda Civic sedan, according to auto research firm Edmunds.

‘Hit the target’

The lower pricing is a welcomed change for consumers, as vehicle prices reach record highs of roughly $44,000, including a rapidly rising offering of pricey pickup trucks that can top more than $100,000.

“In 25 years of being in this business, I don’t know that I’ve seen a manufacturer bring a product out that hit the target this well,” said Derek Lee, general manager of Long McArthur Ford in Kansas. “What we are seeing in buyers is a younger buyer. We’re seeing first-time car buyers. We are having import car buyers.”

The early average price customers are paying for the Maverick is $29,749, according to Cox Automotive. That includes dealers and customers selecting higher priced trims and options on the truck.

Lee said the dealership has more than 400 Mavericks on order. He said initial demand is the highest he’s seen for the store, which specializes in larger Super Duty pickups.

Keeping prices low

The Phillips’ and Molloy said dealers didn’t mark up the price on their Mavericks, even though it’s a new vehicle and inventory levels at near-record lows due to an ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips.

Some dealers, who can legally sell a car for whatever price they choose above the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, have been exploiting the low inventory levels and marking up vehicles thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, according to reports and dealer websites.

The Maverick hasn’t been completely free of markups. Lee said his dealership will not mark up a Maverick if it’s ordered by a customer, but if someone cancels their order and it goes on the dealer lot, they have been pricing them about $2,500 over MSRP.

“If a vehicle gets here and somebody turns it down, yes, we look at what the market is. We still work to be the lowest price in the market,” Lee said. “I know there’s some out there at $5,000 over, I know there’s some out there at $10,000 over. We felt like $2,500 over was a very, very fair price.”

Eckert said the company can’t control how dealers price their vehicles, but they’ve communicated to dealers the importance of pricing for this vehicle and its target customers.

“We’ve talked about the overall proposition and who these cars servers are and how we want to attract them,” he said. “They control markup or no markup, but you we feel like affordability was one of the keys.”

 

Ford to cut debt costs in half
by retiring 'COVID bonds'

Keith Naughton and Paula Seligson
Bloomberg
Nov 5, 2021

Ford is aiming to cut its borrowing costs by more than half as it repurchases $5 billion in junk-rated debt and seeks to set a path to return to an investment-grade credit rating.

The automaker said in a Thursday statement that it's initiating a $5 billion cash tender offer to repurchase a significant chunk of the $8 billion in junk bonds it issued to bolster its balance sheet as it shut down factories at the onset of the pandemic in April 2020. As auto sales collapsed, Ford issued what it calls "COVID bonds" a month after becoming the largest fallen angel when its debt was cut to non-investment grade by S&P Global Ratings.

Now with its fortunes reversing thanks to new models like the electric Mustang Mach-E and the revived Bronco SUV, Ford is flexing new financial muscle to lower its borrowing costs and strengthen its balance sheet as it spends $30 billion to develop and build electric vehicles.

Ford said it expects its interest rate to drop to about 3.5% to 4% going forward, compared to coupons ranging from 8.5% to 9.625% the company is paying on its COVID bonds. The automaker plans to fund the tender offer with cash on the balance sheet and will also target some other high-interest legacy debt.

Ford expects to incur a charge of between $1 billion to $1.2 billion to fulfill the tender, depending on which bonds are repurchased, mostly from pulling ahead interest obligations, according to a news release. The final deadline for the tender is Dec. 3, and an early deadline, with more favorable terms for investors, is at 5 p.m. in New York time on Nov. 18.

Ford’s shares rose 4.2% to $19.42. The stock has risen about 112% this year.

Ford said it also plans to later issue a so-called green bond of at least $1 billion with a 10-year maturity, with proceeds earmarked to help with a push toward electrification and new battery electric vehicles. The move is part of a new sustainable financing strategy based on environmental and social goals also announced on Thursday.

"This lowers the cost of our debt substantially," John Lawler, chief financial officer, said in an interview. "It provides us additional financial flexibility, not only from the standpoint of lower interest expense, but also it's strengthening the balance sheet, which is good as we work to return to investment grade."

The debt refinancing comes after Ford restored its dividend that it cut in early 2020 and as its stock soars to its highest level since January 2011.

"It's the time to aggressively restructure the balance sheet, lower our interest costs, and really clear the decks for 2022 and beyond," Dave Webb, Ford's treasurer, said in a call with reporters.

As it prepares to roll out an electric version of its top-selling F-150 pickup next year, Ford said it is the first U.S. automaker to commit to a sustainable financing strategy for both its auto and lending unit, Ford Credit. The plan involves committing to zero-emission vehicles built in clean factories, as well as providing economic access, like car loans, to underserved populations and investing in disadvantaged communities, such as restoring the crumbling, century-old Michigan Central Depot in Detroit.

Other environmental, social and governance investing strategies have been criticized for not having enough teeth or not making enough impact. Ford contends it is proving its commitment by the billions it's spending to produce 1 million electric vehicles a year by mid-decade.

Ford in September linked its revolving credit facilities to metrics such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing renewable electricity used at manufacturing plants and committed to cut CO2 emissions from its vehicles in Europe. Ford will receive a pricing break or increase in the cost of its loan depending on whether it meets or fails these goals.

"We're putting our money where our mouth is by directing our capital to not only what's good for people, good for the planet, but what's good for Ford," Lawler said.

The company is rated two steps into junk by Moody's Investors Service, and one step by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings. Ford sold a $2 billion 0% convertible bond in March, with proceeds set for general corporate purposes, including repaying debt.

"We don't control what the ratings agencies will do," Lawler said. "But we believe if we continue to improve the business and strengthen our balance sheet that they'll come around and increase our ratings."

 

Ford October sales fall
but new models, inventory
gains boost results

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Nov 4, 2021

Though Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales slid in October compared to year-ago levels, the results released Wednesday signal that the Dearborn automaker is making progress on overcoming nagging supply-chain issues even as it sees higher-than-expected demand for some of the buzzed-about new vehicles in its lineup.

Ford sold 175,918 vehicles in its largest market last month, down 4% from October 2020. Truck sales were off 7%, but the automaker posted strong results from the first full month of sales for its new Maverick compact pickup truck. And SUV sales were up 12.8%, with those under the Ford brand hitting their best retail sales month in 21 years, driven by demand for the new Bronco Sport, Bronco and Mustang Mach-E.

The results underscore a dynamic that presents both challenges and opportunities for the automaker: customers are lining up to buy Ford's new products, but a semiconductor chip shortage and other supply-chain constraints are making it that much harder to keep up with demand. Still, Ford — which was hit harder early on than many of its competitors by the global chip shortage — reported Wednesday that it was able to boost inventory levels in October. At the end of the month, the automaker had gross stock of 243,000 vehicles, up by 7,000 from September.

"Continuous improvement in inventories and new products made Ford the best-selling automaker in America for the second month in a row, which was last accomplished 23 years ago," Andrew Frick, Ford's vice president of sales for the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement. "F-Series, strong SUV sales driven by Bronco, Bronco Sport, Mustang Mach-E, and the first full month of Maverick sales really fueled our performance.”

In-demand products

October marked the Maverick's first full month on the market. It notched 4,140 sales, which Ford officials said exceeded expectations.

Among those early buyers was Tristan Guevara, 19, of Grosse Pointe. The truck — which starts at just under $20,000 before destination fees — is the Indiana University sophomore's first new-vehicle purchase after sharing a Ford Escape with his sisters.

Over the summer, Guevara started looking for a vehicle that he could use to make the five-hour-plus drive back and forth between college and home, but found that many options, new and used alike, were outside his price range. 

"It was really surprising how cheap it (the Maverick) was, comparatively," he said. He ended up buying a Lariat AWD Maverick in carbonized gray and equipped with an Ecoboost engine. (The hybrid version of the truck is slated to begin shipping to dealers in December, with deliveries starting in January.)

Two weeks in, "I'm loving it," said Guevara. He's been wowed by the gas mileage, how the truck drives and the ease of navigating it around campus, and looks forward to driving it up to northern Michigan for outdoor activities such as jet skiing and fishing. "I think it's perfect for the student or anybody who wants a smaller truck."

Guevara represents the type of customer Ford is targeting with Maverick: a young, first-time new-vehicle and truck buyer who was looking for an affordable ride.

Maverick's early sales results have exceeded Ford's internal targets, "but the bigger news is around the customer we're seeing in the early days," marketing manager Trevor Scott told The Detroit News.

For example: More than 25% of Maverick buyers are between ages 18 and 35. Industrywide, people in that age range only account for about 12% of new vehicle buyers, according to Ford.

"Between fuel efficiency, cargo space, the versatility, the affordable price," said Scott, "I think the overall proposition is just so appealing that it's bringing in a lot of customers that previously hadn't even considered a truck."

The age of early Maverick buyers is significant, he said, because it signals Ford is attracting new customers. Ford doesn't see Maverick as a substitute to, say, F-150, but rather an entry-level option that will bring in new buyers to the brand. The compact truck also is filling a void in Ford's lineup for smaller, more affordable vehicles after the company discontinued selling sedans in North America.

“It’s really a no-compromise vehicle, and I think that’s why it has such a broad appeal," said Scott. "That’s why it allows us to replace what used to be that smaller sedan as the entry-level product in the showroom. Maverick now fits that need, but I think has a broader appeal to a much larger universe of customers. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing play out here in the early days of launch and what we’re seeing in the market.”

Carolyn Dorian, vice president and owner of Dorian Ford, said that despite not having many in stock, the Mavericks her dealership has gotten have flown off the lots.

The Clinton Township dealership has sold more than 20 Mavericks so far, mostly through retail orders placed by customers in advance of delivery. The dealership is seeing the pickup attracting buyers who have never considered a truck before, people who have never owned a new car and a more diverse group than for some of Ford's other products. Dorian estimates that about half of Maverick buyers so far have been first-time new-vehicle buyers who traded in older, used cars.

"They talk about Maverick being the perfect vehicle solution for them," she said. They love the room inside, the front and the second row. They love the bed because they think it's really functional and it fits into their lifestyle."

"It's a cool truck that's affordable," she said. "Everybody says that. They're like, 'Wow, this is only $22,000.'"

Retail orders, EV sales grow

Meanwhile, Ford said it had 77,000 retail orders last month, up by 25,000 from September. Thirty-two percent of retail sales in October came from orders customers placed in advance, a system Ford executives have said the company is trying to move toward for a greater share of sales. October marked the third straight month in which more than 30% of retail sales came from orders, compared with 6% a year ago.

The automaker also reported record sales of its burgeoning electrified vehicle lineup. Sales of hybrid and battery-electric vehicles totaled 14,062, up 195% year-over-year. The automaker reported that its forthcoming E-Transit commercial van is sold out ahead of its launch in the coming weeks and said it now has more than 160,000 reservations for the all-electric F-150 Lightning, which launches next year.

The company said that in-transit inventory of the Bronco SUV was up 11.7% over September, as the company works through an issue with hardtop roofs that caused some deliveries of the hotly-anticipated vehicle to be delayed. Bronco had 7,364 sales in October. Sales of the smaller Bronco Sport totaled 9,201.

Lincoln brand sales were down 17% in October. Mustang car sales were off 30.1%. EcoSport, Escape, Edge, Explorer and Expedition sales were all down for the month. And Ford's flagship F-Series saw sales decline 4.7% year-over-year.

Year-to-date, Ford's sales are down 6.6%.

Many automakers only report sales results on a quarterly basis, but among those who report monthly, Ford was not alone in seeing a year-over-year decline. American Honda reported a sales slide of 23.5%. Hyundai Motor America saw year-over-year sales fall about 1%. Toyota Motor North America posted a nearly 29% sales decline.

Still, the results beat expectations. Cox Automotive on Wednesday updated its forecast for October sales, estimating a seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales of 13 million, up from its initial forecast of 11.8 million. Overall, sales volume was down about 21% in October, better than the 30% decline Cox had forecast. The auto information site attributed the better-than-expected results to inventory stabilizing and even improving for some brands.

"Ford delivered stronger than expected results," Cox said in an update. "Toyota, Subaru and General Motors continue to struggle with low inventory and saw large drops."

Cox analysts expect demand to remain strong "for the foreseeable future" but cautioned that production will remain constrained through early next year.

 

Detroit automakers to
require vaccination for
employees in Canada

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Nov 1, 2021

Detroit's three automakers said Thursday they will require Canadian employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The mandates do not affect U.S. operations. General Motors Co.'s requirement includes visitors to its facilities in Canada starting Dec. 12. Stellantis NV's requirement affects employees, contractors, service provider workers and visitors to its Canadian sites. That goes into effect Dec. 17.

Ford Motor Co. also will require salaried and hourly workers in Canada to get the vaccine, spokeswoman Laura More said in a statement, noting that "vaccination plays a critical role in combating the virus." An effective date was not immediately available.

Exemptions and accommodations will be rare and will be evaluated on an individual basis, GM said in a news release. Proof of vaccination will be submitted through a confidential reporting tool.

"We are joining many other companies, from multiple sectors, supporting public-health initiatives to increase vaccination rates and further reduce the impact of COVID-19 across Canada," GM said in the news release. "Vaccination has been shown to be effective in reducing the transmission of the virus as well as reducing the health impacts if a vaccinated person does contract the virus."

Stellantis employees may seek medical or religious exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Proof of vaccination will be required to enter its sites in accordance to recommendations from the Ministry of Health. The action is "in the best interest of employee health and safety," according to a news release.

"Since vaccines have become available, Stellantis has continued to strongly advocate for our employees to get vaccinated as the best way to protect against the transmission and reduce the severity of the illnesses associated with COVID-19," the company added.

Employees who don't comply could face "severe" consequences, including but not limited to termination of employment, spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin said in an email.

Canadian autoworkers union Unifor is requiring its 425 employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 4. Unifor President Jerry Dias told The Detroit News the union was made aware of the automakers' unilateral decisions.

"They didn't ask for our input," he said. "We’re not sitting down with employers to create a joint strategy. The bottom line is it is up to individual employers to make their decisions, and we will react accordingly."

In this case, Dias said Unifor will be upfront with its members: "Our lawyers said to us, 'If employers implement a mandatory vaccination policy, it’s expected that if people are terminated, and it goes to arbitration, the company’s position will be upheld. You'd better be careful what you say. You don’t want to create this false impression everything will be fine.'"

Unifor's policy is in contrast to the United Auto Workers union, which has advocated that the shot and the disclosure of vaccination status remain voluntary for its members, though it has encouraged members to get vaccinated. The Detroit-based union also is a part of joint task forces with the automakers to discuss health and safety protocols.

The automakers have not implemented vaccine mandates in the United States. GM and Ford have requested that U.S. salaried employees disclose their status. A question regarding vaccination status is included in Stellantis' questionnaire for people entering its sites.

President Joe Biden last month ordered the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write up an emergency rule that is estimated to require about 100 million federal employees, health-care workers and private-sector employees at companies employing more than 100 people to get the vaccine. The private-sector employees also would have the option to get tested weekly. OSHA on Tuesday sent the initial text of the rules to the White House for approval.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is expected to lift travel restrictions for vaccinated, nonessential travelers from Canada and Mexico starting next month. Canada lifted its travel ban on vaccinated Americans in August.

 

 

It's been nearly 20 years since
inflation has been this high
in Canada

Food prices a major contributor to increase

Pete Evans 
CBC News 
Oct 29, 2021

Canada's inflation rate rose to a new 18-year high of 4.4 per cent in September, with higher prices for transportation, shelter and food contributing the most to the jump in the cost of living.

Statistics Canada said Wednesday that the transportation index, which includes gasoline, rose by more than nine per cent.

Gasoline prices have risen by almost 33 per cent in the past year, the data agency said. In addition to the cost of a fill-up, a major factor in the cost of transportation is the price of a car, which is also going up at a swift pace. The data agency calculates that prices for new cars rose by 7.2 per cent in the past year.

"The global semiconductor chip shortage, leading to limited supply, contributed to higher prices in September," Statistics Canada said.

Shelter costs have gone up by 4.8 per cent in the past year, while food prices are up by 3.9 per cent.

Prices for just about every type of food went up sharply, especially meat, which rose at an annual pace of 9.5 per cent. That's the fastest pace of increase in meat prices since 2015.

Shopping for food at a grocery store in Toronto on Tuesday, Martin Rolin said price increases have pushed meat beyond his budget.

"I stopped buying beef a few years ago because it's just too expensive," he told CBC News in an interview. "I usually try to get [groceries] during sales but they're getting reduced less and less."

Chicken prices are up 10 per cent in the past year, while beef is up by more than 13. Pork is up by more than nine per cent, Statistics Canada says.

The only part of the grocery basket that's giving shoppers relief right now is fresh veggies, which have gotten 3.2 per cent cheaper in the past year.

High prices may linger

While economists had been expecting the rate to come in high, the numbers were even higher than what they were expecting. Prices for just about everything are headed higher all over the world, largely due to the pandemic, which threw supply and demand balances out of whack.

Policymakers have downplayed the threat of rising prices as being "transitory," which is economist-speak for something that is only temporary due to short-term factors. But the longer high inflation sticks around, the harder it is to dismiss as being temporary.

"Back at the onset of this, we were thinking that it could last maybe a few months or so, but now it's looking like it could linger on for some time," said Sri Thanabalasingam, an economist with TD Bank, in an interview with CBC News. "Maybe until the second half of 2022. But it's very, very uncertain right now."

The continued increase in food prices is a major contributor to Canada’s inflation rate reaching an 18-year high and some economists say the rising costs could last longer than initially thought. 2:30

If it does persist, Canada's central bank may be forced to react by raising its lending rate to cool things down. Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem hinted at the bank's rethink on inflation in a speech last week, noting that supply disruptions "are proving to be more complicated and they could last a little longer than we previously thought."

Economist Doug Porter with Bank of Montreal is among those who's starting to think high inflation may be sticking around for a while.

"The big picture is that inflation continues to march higher, with pressures broadening out," Porter said of the numbers. "Suffice it to say, that strains the definition of transitory."

 

Ford 3Q profit down 25% from
2020 on continuing chips woes

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Oct 28, 2021

Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday reported third-quarter profit of $1.8 billion, a 25% decline from the same period last year.

The Dearborn automaker generated $1.8 billion of net income on revenue of $35.7 billion, a roughly 5% drop from revenue of $37.5 billion in the third quarter last year. The company's profit margin for the quarter was 5.1%.

Meanwhile, adjusted earnings before interest and taxes came in at $3 billion for the quarter, down from $3.7 billion in the third quarter of 2020.

Despite results coming in below the year-ago period, Ford executives highlighted improvements from the second quarter of this year. Revenue, net income, adjusted earnings before interest and taxes, cash flow from operations and adjusted free cashflow were "sharply higher" from the second quarter, the company said in a news release, "driven by significant increases in semiconductor availability and wholesale vehicle shipments from Q2."

Though the availability of computer chips "remains a challenge," the supply situation has "markedly improved from the second quarter, propelling sequential increases in wholesale shipments and revenue of 32% and 33%, respectively," the company said.

In North America, the automaker generated $2.4 billion in adjusted earnings and hit an EBIT margin of 10.1%. The improvement in chip supplies in Ford's largest market helped boost product shipments 67% from Q2 to Q3.

The automaker posted EBIT losses in Europe and China.

“This is the most exciting Ford lineup I’ve seen, but what matters is that customers love our new products and services and we’re just getting started,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement. “The trajectory of our business gives us huge confidence in Ford+, and we’re obsessively turning the plan’s promise into reality."

Meanwhile, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said the company expects to invest between $40 billion and $45 billion in strategic capital expenditures between 2020 and 2025, including half of the $30 billion it plans to spend exclusively on battery electric vehicles during that period.

Lawler also increased guidance on the company's full-year 2021 adjusted EBIT to between $10.5 billion and $11.5 billion. 

Meanwhile, Ford’s board of directors voted to reinstate a regular quarterly dividend starting in the fourth quarter.

 

A new 'Buy American' plan
is alarming the auto sector &
the federal government

Freeland said she's 'very aware' of a proposal that could hurt Canadian auto production

Alexander Panetta
 CBC News
Oct 17, 2021

For months now, a legislative proposal inching its way through the U.S. Congress has been stoking consternation across the border.

Canadian policy-makers and businesses have been warily eyeing Buy American proposals designed to shift auto production to the U.S.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said during a trip this week to Washington that she raised some of those concerns with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

"It's a focus. It's a priority," Freeland told a news conference Thursday after she attended global financial meetings. "I am very aware of the proposals being discussed here in the United States."

At issue are two massive trillion-dollar bills currently before Congress that form the heart of President Joe Biden's domestic agenda. The next few weeks could decide whether they pass.

The CBC's Alex Panetta asks Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland for an update on Buy America provisions and how her government is responding. 2:42

One is a bipartisan infrastructure bill that's already passed the Senate. It's loaded with Buy American provisions.

The other bill has more specific implications for the auto sector.

It's the sprawling budget legislation intended to advance numerous Biden priorities on climate change, health care, daycare, parental leave and possibly immigration.

In that bill, Democrats plan to offer $12,500 US in tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles. Parts of those credits would be reserved for cars assembled in the U.S.

'A critical period' for auto investment

The timing has some Canadians particularly unnerved. Auto companies are on the cusp of making long-term choices about where to build and assemble their electric vehicles.

Auto-industry analyst Kristin Dziczek said the budget legislation could create an incentive to build new plants in the U.S.

She said Canada has actually gotten off to a strong start in electric vehicle investment, with Detroit's Big Three all making major commitments there in recent months. Battery production is also growing in Canada.

But she added it's still early days in the electrification race. 

Most of the important investments will be made in the next few years, said Dziczek, vice-president of the Center For Automotive Research.

"It could be problematic [for Canada]," she told CBC News.

"We're really in the early stages. The investments made between now and 2026 are going to chart the course of the industry for decades to come. We are in the critical period."

She said the plan as currently drafted would block foreign-assembled cars from some credits immediately and from the entire $12,500 after 2026.

There are actually two versions of the legislation — one in the House of Representatives and the other in the Senate — and they differ slightly.

Dziczek said the House version is slightly stricter but both plans offer credits for cars built by union workers, cars assembled in the U.S., and batteries made in the U.S.

The plan is to boost Michigan plants

It's intended to make Michigan's big unionized factories more competitive against non-union manufacturers, including those based in the southern U.S.  

Canadian officials have been pushing for exemptions for Canada. 

They argue that the plans as currently designed would hurt North American competitiveness — and also hurt union workers in Canada.

They've argued that the idea of penalizing electric vehicle production in Canada even runs counter to the stated goals of the U.S. administration.

Biden's poll numbers have sunk and he wants a legislative win. His White House is urging lawmakers to pass his spending bills within weeks. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The Biden administration has promised to work with Canada to develop electric vehicles, and to lean on Canada for more extraction of the minerals needed to make them.

Similar appeals for a Canadian exemption, however, fell flat in the infrastructure bill: it passed the Senate recently with no specific carve-out.

"We're watching this very closely," said Brian Kingston, CEO of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association. "It's problematic." 

Plan compared to a 33 per cent tariff

Another auto industry official compared the plan to a 33 per cent tariff. 

That's because, after 2026, the whole $12,500 credit would be subject to Buy American rules — meaning a price advantage for U.S. electric cars worth one-third their average value — said Flavio Volpe.

"We're all kind of anxious," said Volpe, head of Canada's Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association.

"It's an investment-chiller, potentially … It is concerning."

Insiders watching this file say the people most likely to scupper the provisions are Democrats in the southern U.S., whose non-union plants would be put at a disadvantage.

The tax plan has been championed primarily by two Democrats, both from the northern industrial belt in Michigan: Dan Kildee in the House and Debbie Stabenow in the Senate.

In May, when her proposal advanced through a Senate committee, Stabenow cast it as a matter of competing with China on next-generation technology.

"China has hundreds of companies making electric cars, and they have help — over $100 billion of help so far from the Chinese government," she said.

"Our automakers and workers are the best in the world. They are making the private sector investments needed to electrify the industry, but they can't do it alone."

Ottawa polled Americans on 'Buy American'

The fact that Biden-era Democrats back Buy American politics is no surprise. It was clear well before they took power.

And it's a reason the Canadian government sought a better understanding of U.S. attitudes on Buy American issues in the lead-up to Biden's inauguration.

Ottawa commissioned a poll last winter for $129,853.54 that asked Americans and Canadians questions about continental issues, including trade.

It found U.S. respondents supported Buy American policies by a huge margin — but they supported a "Buy North American" policy by an even larger margin, with 79 per cent in favour and 17 per cent opposed.

Plan B — lawsuits

So what happens if Canada's arguments don't sway Washington lawmakers? 

The next step could be lawsuits. Volpe said that if the plan advances, he would expect to see a trade-discrimination case filed either before the World Trade Organization or through the dispute panels of the new North American trade agreement.

She said U.S. companies get about $1 billion a year in business from Canada's federal government.

And she said this year's federal budget, which included historic spending, also included a provision promising that Canada would take a reciprocal approach with countries on procurement.

"What Canada is saying to our partners is, 'Our procurement opportunities will be open to your companies just as much as your procurement opportunities are open to ours,'" Freeland said Thursday.

She said she discussed that with Yellen as well.

 

 

Ford Mustang GT tops Made
in America index

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Oct 15, 2021

For the second consecutive year, a Ford Motor Co. vehicle has topped an index that ranks how much U.S. content cars contain.

The Ford Mustang 5.0-liter GT was ranked first on the 2021 Kogod Made in America Auto Index, a list now in its ninth year that was created by Frank DuBois, an associate professor and global supply chain expert at American University's Kogod School of Business. The index, according to a news release, is intended to serve as a tool for consumers "interested in learning the amount of U.S. content in their cars and the extent to which their purchase decisions impact the economy."

Overall, the index contains 98 vehicles from model year 2021. Twenty-one vehicles rank in the top 10 in terms of most U.S. content, due to several ties and the inclusion of multiple versions of the same model.

The 2021 Mustang GT equipped with a manual transmission and 5.0-liter engine features 88.5% domestic content, according to the index. It replaces the Ford Ranger, a midsize truck, which ranked No. 1 in 2020 but dropped to No. 16 this year due to a reduction in U.S. and Canadian content.  

In second place is General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, with 86% domestic content.

Tesla, Inc.'s Model 3 ranked No. 3 on the list with 82.5% domestic content. Ford's new Bronco SUV came in fourth with 80.6%. And tying for fifth place, with 80% domestic content, were the Ford Expedition, the gas engine-equipped Chevy Colorado, the gas engine-equipped GMC Canyon, and Tesla's Model S and Y. Diesel engine-equipped versions of the Canyon and Colorado were ranked No. 22 because they contain a foreign-sourced engine.

The Jeep Cherokee ranked sixth, while the automatic transmission version of the Chevy Camaro came in at No. 7.

Sharing the No. 8 spot were the Ford F-150 and the Tesla Model X. Honda's Ridgeline, Odyssey, Pilot and Passport models tied for the No. 9 spot. And the Ram 1500 came in at 10th, along with two more Mustangs: the automatic 5.0-liter and 2.3-liter EcoBoost versions.

Looking at the average total domestic content for cars assembled in the U.S., Tesla has an average of about 81%, while GM and Ford average about 70%, according to the research. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Toyota average between 65% and 70%. At the lower end, BMW and Volvo average about 35% and 30%, respectively.

The index notes that although the total domestic content for cars assembled in the U.S. has been relatively consistent over time, Daimler and Subaru saw "significant" drops in their average U.S. content, which the study suggests could be the results of pandemic-related supply chain issues.

The full index is available at https://kogod.american.edu/autoindex/2021

 

The Ford Tourneo Connect is
ready to house all your dogs

Ford's smallest Transit van morphs into a seven-seat MPV ready for adventure. Or a trip to Dogs Trust

Stephen Dobie
Oct 13, 2021

It appears the people carrier is enjoying a wonderful renaissance. It’s a party Ford’s never truly left, mind, with the Galaxy and S-Max both stalwarts of the genre. And now it has a new offering: the rejigged Tourneo Connect.

It’s a windowed version of one of the wee-er Transit vans, in essence, but it’s a bit more sophisticated than that when you pore over the details. Pore over them too much and you'll realise it's very similar to its Volkswagen Caddy cousin, too...

There are two wheelbase options, both of which cram in seven seats. The rearmost five of those seats – split into rows of three and two – can be folded or removed entirely to fit in bikes, wakeboards or whatever other active gear Ford wants you to use this car for. We want to use it for a ‘how many Goldens can you fit in a fairly small MPV’ record we’re desperate to get off the ground…

The answer is probably ‘many and numerous’, especially given a trio slot nicely into the boot of a BMW 1 Series. There’s over three cubed metres of volume here, as well as a heap of towing ability, with a trailer assist system to lend a hand.

That’s one of 19 active safety systems available on the Connect, while Ford’s more rugged ‘Active’ exterior trim is on offer too. The Tourneo's natively front-driven, with 112bhp 1.5-litre petrol and 100/122bhp 2.0-litre diesel options, the latter getting an optional automatic gearbox and all-wheel-drive transmission. Fuel economy checks in at around 40mpg for the petrol, 50 for the diesel.

The AWD doesn’t impede dog – sorry, luggage – space, and you can option some underbody protection if you plan on yumping your Tourneo across some actual off-road surfaces. So yeah, the people carrier is cool again, though not without a little whiff of the SUV world. But hey, Ford's tie-up with VW on commercial vehicles mean we might also get a camper version, where such rough'n'tumble might be worthwhile...

 

 

The 2021 Ford Mustang
Mach 1 Can’t Replace
the GT350

Mack Hogan 
October 12, 2021

It’s hard to take this car as anything other than a disappointment. Sure, it’s brilliant, growling and mean, smart and raucous. It’s among the most charming things you can get for less than $60,000, behind the Mazda Miata and a cabin in the woods. But the Mustang Mach 1 walks in the shadow of a giant, because it’s supposed to replace the irreplaceable Shelby GT350.

The sheer lunacy of the high-revving Shelby GT350 always meant it'd be a tough act to follow. The Mach 1 doesn't quite reach that car's heights, but it's a more reasonable package.© Mack Hogan The sheer lunacy of the high-revving Shelby GT350 always meant it'd be a tough act to follow. The Mach 1 doesn't quite reach that car's heights, but it's a more reasonable package.

And that is a blank check car, an angry, angular, affirmative answer to the question of whether a Mustang could be motivated by rage itself. That flat-plane crank Voodoo heart shakes your chest until all there is to think about is the road and the 8250-rpm redline and the sledgehammer shifter that restarts that rush. Muscle car brutality with sports car precision, an exhaust equal parts supercar shriek and Shelby staccato. The GT350 is an event.

The Mustang Mach 1 that has to follow it is, in many ways, a better product. Cooling and other componentry from the GT350 and GT500 parts bin make it nigh-invulnerable to all racetrack assaults, and the formidable Coyota V-8 provides smooth, effortless power. There’s more going on down low here than there ever was in the Shelby, more charm in the town center. It’s a more proven formula, too. The GT350’s Voodoo engine suffered early reliability problems as the automaker worked out the kinks on its new flat-plane crank design. No such tinkering has been necessary for the Coyote. For all of its problems launching cars these days, Ford knows with certainty how to build a proper naturally aspirated cross-plane crank V-8 with variable camshaft timing and direct injection.

The end result is a 480-hp bruiser with 420 lb-ft of torque. You’ll have to stretch your ‘stang to 7000 rpm to access peak power, with max torque kicking in as you crest 4600 rpm. In today’s world of everything-everywhere turbocharged power, these numbers are incentives to actually push the Mustang into a full-press sprint. When you do, you get a bellow that’ll bounce off canyon walls for ages, a frequency so low and powerful we should use it to talk to humpbacks. It may be unable to compete with the village-waking thunder of the GT350, but the Mach 1’s exhaust is, in any other company, exceptional.

Cornering speeds remain as shocking as they were when the GT350 first hit the scene. Yes, many will argue that the sixth-gen Camaro has the Mustang beat in the bends, but in the absence of any considerable effort by Chevy to upgrade, market, or tweak the Camaro, we must be grateful for Ford’s consistent improvement. The Mach 1 is engaging, confidence-inspiring, and friendly, easily coaxed into casual slides and easily adjustable on throttle. And unlike so many self-proclaimed sports cars in the over-$50,000 range, it maintains serious pace without ever feeling serious, moves quickly but with theater. Even without the $3750 Handling Package, our $59,390 Mach 1 tester is among the most engaging new vehicles we’ve tried this year.

That’s despite fighting with one hand tied behind its back. As the painful price suggests, the Mach 1 I tried was fitted with the optional $1,595 ten-speed automatic transmission. I’d rather use the money as kindling; at least it’d serve a purpose. Sure, the automatic is good. Great, even, as torque-converter automatics go. Shifts are unspeakably snappy on the way up and suitably prompt on the way down, with special care added to make sure they still feel momentous in sport and track mode.

Yet if any new car currently on sale demands a manual, it’s the Mustang Mach 1. This is no luxury car, its interior ripped straight from the Hertz lot premium section. It is not subtle, not interested in conceding serious performance to make it feel particularly relaxed. You can use it every day, even take it on long trips, but the whole time it will feel like a special thing built for something better. It’s stiff and a bit loud and already filled with annoying usability quirks, like a driver’s seat that auto-slides backward for egress even if there’s a pair of human legs behind it. This car is stupid, in part because it’s supposed to be stupid. They haven’t thought out every detail of practicality, because that’s not what this car is for. And going for an automatic here simply lessens the impact especially when the manual option is the brilliant Tremec yanked right from the GT350, an authoritative and substantial shifter all too good at making you feel like the action-movie hero the Mustang is built for. There’s no amount of traffic that would make me want to lose that. That’s why the GT350 never offered an auto.

This is where the pining of enthusiasts and journalists comes into contact with the reality of automotive product planning. The automatic version was not some afterthought, its existence in the press fleet a mistake on the order form. The real story is that the Mach 1 primarily exists because of this automatic. As a source in Ford PR told me at the launch, the company needed a special-edition top-end Mustang they could sell in international markets. The GT500 was too expensive and thirsty, and nearly everything else special the company had built thus far had come with a manual. Enthusiast worship of the manual transmission in the U.S. makes that work here, but for various reasons related to emissions, social issues, and mere convenience, the folks spending their equivalent of $60,000 on a Mustang in foreign markets don’t want to shift their own gears.

That’s a crying shame, because in opting for an automatic you lose something. You also lose something when you take off the Shelby badge, and with it, all that it has come to mean: a one-word answer that’ll make any American instantly understand why your car is special. And you lose a lot when you switch from a once-in-a-generation 8250-rpm screamer to the brilliant yet familiar Coyote V-8.

So the Mach 1 is good. Great, even. But I’ve felt the GT350, sat dumbstruck as it rattled my bones, assaulted my ears, awakened my senses. It just doesn’t matter what the Mach 1 is. We’ve already seen what it could be.

 

UAW members advocate for,
against direct elections
in virtual forum

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
October 8, 2021

Amendments to the United Auto Workers union's constitution will be crafted if members vote to implement a direct election of leaders, UAW monitor Neil Barofsky said Thursday.

UAW members had the chance to advocate for or against the proposal during a virtual forum hosted by the monitor ahead of ballots being sent out starting Oct. 19 for the referendum on whether to maintain the current delegate-based system or institute "one-member, one-vote" elections.

Members in favor of the implementation of direct elections called for accountability and change, while others expressed concerns about the potential for corruption from campaign contributions.

"Does the current delegate system need reform? It absolutely needs reform," said Craig Leavitt, a retiree of Local 659 in Flint. "My biggest fear is that the same dark money that today plagues our U.S. body politic will be influencing our union body politic and the International Executive Board will be bought and paid for by dark money."

The language of the referendum has not yet been shared publicly. An amendment to the constitution would be crafted with the UAW only if the referendum passes, said Barofsky, a New York attorney. They would consider feedback from members and look to best practices from other unions with similar election structures.

Any amendments would require approval by delegates at the constitutional convention next year. It's not clear, based on the consent decree reached between the UAW and the Justice Department, what would happen if the delegates turned down the amendments.

"We can't tell you what it's going to look like yet, because that process doesn't begin unless and until direct voting is passed in this referendum," Barofsky said.

Barofsky also clarified that the interim rules that ban the use of UAW resources to advocate for or against the referendum do not prevent members from "neutral" advocacy such as informing members about the referendum or what to do if they do not receive a ballot, which must be returned — not postmarked — by Nov. 29.

Some members expressed concerns that they don't know what they are voting for: "I don't know how we can vote on this until we have the rules laid out on how a one-person, one-vote is going to be paid for," said Glenn Woods, a retiree from Local 31 in Kansas City.

The referendum is a requirement of the consent decree following a years-long federal investigation into union corruption resulting in the convictions of 15 people, including two former UAW presidents.

A majority of the speakers during the forum were proponents of adopting the new system, saying it would make leadership accountable to the members.

"We can negotiate wages, we can negotiate healthcare, we can negotiate retirement and many other things, but we cannot negotiate, integrity, and a strong moral compass," said Jamonty Washington, an alternate delegate from Local 7 in Detroit.

Under the current delegate-based system, locals elect delegates to represent them at constitutional conventions where the members of the governing International Executive Board are elected. For more than 70 years, nearly all of those leaders have been elected from the Reuther Administrative Caucus.

"Only 13 people decide who will occupy the seats on the high end in a union of 1 million members," said Michael Cannon, a former Region 5 international representative. "The convention only acts as a rubber stamp to the decision made by the 13 members of the administration, which is always the foregone conclusion."

Non-auto worker members said they don't feel like their voice is heard under the current delegate system.

"Academic workers make up about 20% of active membership, but we have no representation on the IEB and very little voice at conventions," said Sheila Kulkarni, a member of Local 2865 representing student workers at the University of California. "Because we're mostly on the east and west coasts, the cost of traveling and accommodations at conventions are prohibitive."

At the last constitutional convention in 2018, about 225 locals did not send any delegates to represent their members.

"Most of those are small locals with limited resources, small or large, they didn't want to waste resources on a convention that they knew the outcome was predetermined," said Scott Houldieson, chair of the Unite All Workers for Democracy, an opposing caucus to the Reuther Administrative Caucus that supports "one member, one vote."

Other speakers said they have been silenced or have seen delegates be threatened to vote a certain way at conventions.

"These undemocratic tactics crushed the rank-and-file movement and has changed the culture of the UAW," said Alan Benchich, former president of Local 909 in Warren. "This system of rewards and pressure allowed for corruption and leadership, which has led to this referendum. Let me conclude by saying that one-party systems are the hallmark of dictatorships, not democracies."

 

Ford's third-quarter sales
fall 27% amid
industrywide drop-off

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Oct 7, 2021

Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales fell more than 27% in the third quarter amid an industrywide drop-off due to a global semiconductor shortage that has severely depleted new-vehicle inventories and depressed full-year sales forecasts.

For the July through September period, Ford's sales of roughly 400,000 vehicles were down more than 27% from the third quarter of 2020, when the automaker reported 551,796 sales. In Q3 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic and related supply-chain issues hit auto production and sales, the Blue Oval had U.S. sales of more than 580,000 vehicles.

Last week, Ford's crosstown rivals General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV reported their third-quarter sales, respectively, were down 33% and 19% year-over-year. Ford came in No. 3 of the bunch for the quarter, behind GM's sales of 446,997 vehicles and Stellantis' 410,917.

In September, according to results released Monday, Ford sold 156,614 vehicles in the U.S., a 17.7% drop from September 2020 but an improvement over July's 120,053 sales and August's 124,176.

The Detroit automakers' challenges producing enough new vehicles to meet consumer need gave Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. an edge in Q3, surpassing perennial leader GM as the No. 1 seller in the U.S. for an unprecedented second time so far this year. Toyota's quarterly sales of 566,005 were up 1% year-over-year. 

Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor America posted a 4% sales increase. Honda Motor Co. reported an 11% sales decline. And Volkswagen of America saw an 8% decline for the quarter. 

Ford's results

In September, Ford's retail sales fell 20.8% year-over-year, truck sales of 83,554 were down 22.6%, while SUV sales of 70,260 were up 3.4%.

But despite broad sales declines, there were a few bright spots for the Dearborn automaker.

"While Ford was down in September, it wasn’t down as much as the industry and as much as some of its key competitors and performed better than we forecasted," Michelle Krebs, an analyst at Cox Automotive, said in an email. "From our data, it appears Ford inventory has been improving somewhat in recent weeks. Ford got hit early (by the chip shortage), now some of its competitors are getting hit. Everyone seems to have a turn, just at different times."

Ford reported Monday that it has 21,000 more vehicles in inventory going into October than it did going into September, meaning sales this month could be bolstered by dealers having more product available. Overall, the automaker has 236,000 vehicles in gross stock.

"Going into the fourth quarter, Ford is in a bit better supply situation than it was earlier this year," Krebs added. "That should help with sales. The companies with the best supply and/or the most efficient distribution network win the sales."

Meanwhile, Ford highlighted some month-to-month improvements in production and deliveries. Retail sales rose 34.3% from August to September, for example, and the number of full-size Broncos in transit to dealers increased 200%. Deliveries of the highly anticipated SUV had been delayed due to quality issues with hard-top roofs.

Ford recorded 3,396 Bronco sales and 11,686 sales of the new Bronco Sport — Bronco's smaller sibling — in September.

And Ford says vehicles are moving from dealer lots to customers at the fastest pace of the year so far.

In recent months as it has navigated the pandemic and associated supply-chain shocks, Ford has put a greater emphasis on an order bank system in which customers go online to reserve and configure a vehicle, rather than strolling dealer lots to select what they want. Executives have said leaning more heavily on customer orders allows for greater efficiencies.

Last month, the automaker recorded 52,000 new retail orders, 11,000 more than in August. Thirty-one percent of retail sales last month were from previously-placed orders.

Meanwhile, September marked another new record for Ford's electrified vehicle sales amid the automaker's launch of its first wave of battery-electric vehicles and continued sales of hybrid vehicles. Electrified vehicle sales reached 9,150 in September, up 91.6% over last year.

Mustang Mach-E sales of 1,578 were up from 1,448 the previous month. Through September, the all-electric SUV — sales of which began in December 2020 — has 18,855 sales, which Ford says puts it second in fully-electric SUV sales behind Tesla's Model Y.

On the truck side, Ford said September was the best month for sales of its flagship F-Series franchise since the semiconductor shortage began, with 63,164 sales. Still, F-Series sales were down 17.7% from September 2020 and are down 9.2% year-to-date.

September was the first month where sales of Ford's new Maverick truck were recorded. The compact pickup notched 506 sales.

On the SUV side, sales were down year-over-year for every product that also was sold in 2020. Escape sales, for example, were down 31.8%, while Explorer sales were down 5.3%.

Lincoln brand sales were down 20.9% in September.

Through the first nine months of the year, Ford has sold nearly 1.4 million new vehicles in the U.S., down about 7% from the same period in 2020.

Q4 expectations

Kicking off the fourth quarter, typically one of the busiest sales periods, experts expect new-vehicle inventory shortages to persist. While automakers' bottom lines had benefited from the low-supply, high-demand environment earlier in the year as rising prices padded profits, the dearth of new vehicles is showing up in automakers' results as dealers have little to sell and research suggests many consumers are willing to hold off on car shopping for the time being.

Analysts project 2021 will close with approximately 15.5 million U.S. sales, better than last year's 14.5 million and far better than the 2009 sales of 10.4 million amid the Great Recession, but still not back to pre-pandemic levels of about 17 million units. Meanwhile, the chip shortage is expected to persist well into 2022.

Consulting firm AlixPartners projects the industry will take a $210 billion revenue hit globally, roughly double its earlier estimate. The firm now forecasts the industry will lose some 7.7 million vehicles it had planned to produce this year. 

 

Peel Memorial Centre in Brampton
being upgraded to full hospital

By Matt Dionne

October 6, 2021

Brampton is getting another hospital.

During Monday’s (October 4) Speech from the Throne, Ontario Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, announced the Province would be transforming Peel Memorial Centre from a day clinic into a full hospital.

“These historic investments will also bring a new hospital to Peel Region in Brampton, as your government addresses years of neglect by transforming Peel Memorial Centre from a day clinic into a state-of-the-art, 24-hour facility,” she said.

According to the latest available data, as of 2020, the city of Brampton has a population of 713,463, yet residents only have access to one full hospital—Brampton Civic Hospital.

As a result, based on current provincial guidelines, Brampton residents are getting roughly half the provincial average of hospital care for patients.

Construction is planned to begin in 2023. However, there is currently no estimation for when this project will be complete.

Historically, new hospitals can take up to 10 years to be completed while the planning and funding process takes place. Although, because this project will involve updating an existing facility, rather than building one from scratch, it will likely expedite the process.

 

Ford will pay you to buy an in-stock
car rather than wait for your order

Sean Szymkowski
Oct 5, 2021  

In an era of record-high new car prices, you should try to take advantage of any deals and rebates you can score. At Ford, the automaker's ready to give you $2,000, but only if you give up your order and buy a car currently in stock. According to a report from Cars Direct on Monday, the automaker's new offer is meant to encourage buyers to stick with the Blue Oval, rather than scout cars from rivals.

The report doesn't detail whether buyers have to stick with the exact trim they placed an order for, but if not, you may be able to cash the offer in on a better-equipped vehicle. Or perhaps you'll be able to score something cheaper. Ford didn't immediately return a request for comment on the incentive program. What is certain is the incentive only applies to people who placed a valid retail order for a 2021 vehicle. If you haven't, the $2,000 is off the table. As mentioned, this is really about making sure buyers don't call it quits and give up on Ford to go shop with Chevy or something like that.

Also, it's no dice when it comes to the BroncoMaverickF-150 Lightning or E-Transit. Ford's not ready to place any sort of discount on the vehicles. That said, it should be eligible for the Mustang Mach-E, however.

The chip shortage remains the prime cause of backed-up order books at numerous automakers, including Ford. It remains a balacing act to ensure suitable inventory at dealers for buyers kicking the tires on a new Ford, but also making sure the company fulfills direct orders in a timely manner.

 

Canadian snowbirds question
why land border is still closed
as they prepare to fly to
U.S., ship their RVs

Christinne Muschi
Reuters 
October 4, 2021

The U.S. has kept its land border with Canada closed since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Snowbirds are questioning why they can fly but not drive to the U.S., and planning costly workarounds if the land border doesn't open.

As the United States land border closure to non-essential travel drags on, patience is wearing thin for some fully vaccinated Canadian snowbirds who live in their RVs year-round.

That's because if the U.S. side of the border remains closed next month, the snowbirds will be shelling out big bucks to fly to the U.S. and transport their RVs by land. 

"It's ridiculous," said Laura Fordham who lives in an RV full-time with her husband, Fred. "It just does not make sense why they would let people fly, but not let people drive."

The couple's current home-base, an RV park in Puslinch, Ont., near Guelph, closes at the end of the month. 

The U.S has extended its land border closure until at least Oct. 21. If that date is extended into November, Fordham said the couple will pay a commercial driver around $700 to transport their RV across the Michigan land border. Although Canadian travellers currently can't cross by land, there are no restrictions on them importing vehicles to the U.S. 

Fordham said she and her husband will also have to pay hundreds of dollars each to fly from Toronto to Flint, Mich., so they can pick up their RV and drive it to Texas.

"It hurts the pocketbook," she said about the potential added costs. "We're only on a government pension; we don't have any extra money."

Like other snowbirds CBC News has spoken to, Fordham questions the logic behind the current U.S. travel rules where Canadian travellers can fly to the U.S., but not drive. She argues travelling in an RV is a safer way to cross the border than flying during a pandemic. 

"If we have our motor home, we're just the two of us," she said. "You're not in crowds."

Some travel restrictions eased

At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the U.S. and Canada agreed to close their shared land border to non-essential travel. For reasons that have never been explained, the U.S. still allowed Canadian leisure travellers to fly to the country. 

In August, Canada reopened its land and air borders to fully vaccinated American travellers.

In September, the U.S. announced it too will loosen some travel restrictions.

Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. has barred air passengers from dozens of countries, including most nations in Europe. Last week, the U.S. government said it will lift that ban in early November and require foreign arrivals by air to be fully vaccinated. 

But on the topic of the land border, the government only said that it remains closed due to the pandemic and that as of yet, there's no set reopening date. 

"We don't have any updates or predictions at this point in time,"White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week. 

According to the Canadian Snowbird Association, in a typical year, more than one million snowbirds make the trek down south, and most travel in their vehicles. 

If the land border closure continues, a number of snowbirds will likely stay home. But that option poses challenges for those who would have to spend the Canadian winter in their RV or secure a temporary home.

"They should open the land border to Canadians that are fully vaccinated," said Bernard Loiselle.

He and his wife, Sylvie Charbonneau, are currently living in an RV park in Marieville, Que., just outside Montreal, which closes near the end of the month. 

The couple has already signed up with a Quebec company that will fly them on a chartered plane to Plattsburgh, N.Y., on Nov. 1. The company will also transport their RV across the land border, so Loiselle and Charbonneau can pick it up in Plattsburgh and drive to Florida. 

If the U.S. land border reopens on Oct. 22, the couple will cancel their plans. If not, the total price tag just to cross the border will be more than $2,000. 

"We have to do what we have to do to spend the winter in the sun," said Loiselle.

What's the rationale?

Priscilla Crowther of Hammonds Plains, N.S., near Halifax, is poised to book a similar transport service should the U.S. border closure extend into November. Crowther and her husband, Gary not only live in their RV year-round, but also pay about $800 Cdn a month to secure a spot for their home at an RV park in Florida. 

Crowther said she would like to hear an explanation from the U.S. government why the couple pose a danger if they drive to the U.S. instead of fly.

"It's a question that we've been asking ourselves, shaking our heads about," she said. "I would love to know what the rationale behind it is."

CBC News has repeatedly asked the U.S. government why Canadians can fly but not drive to the U.S. during the pandemic. The government has never responded. 

Last week at a government committee hearing, U.S. Senator Gary Peters of Michigan inquired about the rationale for keeping the land border closed to fully vaccinated Canadians.

"The arc of the delta variant is not yet where we need it to be," responded Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

He said U.S. travel restrictions were being eased in stages and did not provide a timeline for reopening the land border.

"We are looking at the situation," said Mayorkas.

That leaves some snowbirds waiting in the wings to find out if their annual trek down south will be a routine trip, or involve a more costly and complicated journey. 

"There's really nothing we can do about it," said Loiselle.

 

 

Microchip shortage
continues to hit auto sector
hard, with double-
digit unemployment
in Windsor

Dale Molnar
Oct 1, 2021  

New cars rolled off a truck at Performance Ford Friday, but it's a sight that's not as common as it used to be.

"Our inventory levels have been down to, I would say, around 30 per cent," said sales manager Moe Hazime.

But Hazime says this dealership is one of the luckier ones.

Greg Layson, digital and mobile producer for Automotive News Canada, said plenty of dealerships are low on inventory amid a global shortage of semi-conductors, which are used in the making of cars and electronic devices.

"I won't name the one that I've seen, but there is a particular brand that has four vehicles out in front of its store right now that aren't made by that automaker. They're used vehicles," said Layson.

He says North American automakers have been hit the hardest but Honda and Toyota are about to feel the pinch.

"Honda and Toyota are going to cut production here in the fall, and when they stop production, there's usually about a month to a month and a half before the dealers are actually affected. So anyone that doesn't have anything on their lot right now and production stops, it's going to be a long time for those dealer lots to be restocked," said Layson.

The Stellantis Windsor Assembly Plant goes back into production this week after being idled for several months. The plant has only produced minivans for 12 weeks this year.

When that plant goes down, it affects the feeder plants that produce parts for the plant.

The shutdowns have resulted in thousands of job losses in the manufacturing sector, contributing to the region's unemployment rate of 10.6 per cent — three points higher than the provincial average.

"In the Windsor [Census metropolitan area], we would typically have about 40,000 to 41,000 jobs employed in manufacturing. That would be full-time and part-time, and this year we're at about 33,200 jobs in manufacturing," said Justin Falconer, CEO of Workforce WindsorEssex.

J.P. LeFave is the single father of two daughters. He works as a forklift driver at the Syncreon plant in Windsor, which handles parts distribution for Stellantis.

He has been unemployed for the same number of weeks the Stellantis plant has been down.

"The bills are getting paid, but there's not a whole lot at the end, once the bills are paid," he said.

His unemployment benefits are about to run out in December.

"I might be coming in somewhere four to six hundred dollars short every month if I'm just collecting unemployment," he said.

Unifor Local 195 represents Syncreon and 20 other feeder plants. President Emile Nabbout says the federal government needs to work with a private firm to create a microchip production facility here in Windsor so we don't have to rely on offshore imports.

"It would be something we could do as a Canadian-made product," said Nabbout.

However, Layson says it will take many years to get the "very expensive, very detailed, very complex microchip factories and so to get one up and running to solve this problem isn't going to happen."

He expects the shortage to continue into the middle of next year.

Meanwhile, Unifor officials are working with MPs to get the federal government to extend unemployment benefits because Nabbout said the workers are having a tough time gaining enough weeks worked to qualify for benefits.

He says some of the feeder plants are also struggling to stay afloat.

"If you don't produce, how do you pay the bills?" he said.

 

Green energy takes hold in unlikely places with Ford project

Bruce Schreiner, Tom Krisher and Adrian Sainz

The Associated Press
Sept 30, 2021

GLENDALE, KY. -- When Ford revealed plans to ramp up its commitment to the fledgling electric vehicle sector, the automaker chose to create thousands of jobs and pump billions in investments into two states where Republican leaders have vilified the push for green energy and defended fossil fuels.

Teaming with its battery partner, SK Innovation of South Korea, Ford said Monday it will spend $5.6 billion in Stanton, Tennessee, where it will build a factory to produce electric F-Series pickups. A joint venture called BlueOvalSK will construct a battery factory on the same site near Memphis, plus twin battery plants in Glendale, Kentucky. Ford estimated the Kentucky investment at $5.8 billion. The single largest manufacturing venture in the iconic company's history will create an estimated 10,800 jobs.

Choosing Tennessee and Kentucky for the coveted mega-projects created an ironic disconnect between the automaker's high-stakes bet on the future of battery-powered vehicles and the rhetoric from many Republican leaders who have railed against a shift toward green energy and away from fossil fuels.

On Monday, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell applauded Ford for giving an economic boost to Kentucky, saying it solidified his home state's position "as a world-class automotive state on the cutting edge of research and development." McConnell sounded a different theme two months earlier, when he took to the Senate floor to blast Democrats for wanting to "wage war on fossil fuels" and tried to turn their efforts to promote electric vehicles into a wedge issue.

"They want to further expand giant tax credit giveaways for costly electric cars -- when 80% of it is going to households earning six figures and up," McConnell said in July. "They also want money and mandates to push the entire federal government fleet toward electric cars, too. Wouldn't you just love to see an IRS auditor pull up to your tax audit in a $97,000 Tesla?"

In Kentucky, where Republican state lawmakers recently joined Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in approving an incentives package credited with helping lure the battery project to Glendale, hostility toward green energy has focused on the decline of coal production and the erosion of good-paying mining jobs in regions that depended on them. The battery plants will be built in central Kentucky, a lengthy drive from the coalfields of eastern and western Kentucky.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who tweeted out his thanks to Ford for its latest investment in the state, routinely lambastes the Green New Deal. In 2019, he condemned it as an "industry-killing, all-out assault on our way of life in Kentucky" and an attack on automobile makers.

Tennessee GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn said the project "will transform the landscape of West Tennessee." Last month, in explaining her vote against a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, she said much of the legislation amounted to a "gateway to socialism -- a lot of Green New Deal in there." She said that Tennesseans "don't want the Green New Deal."

Scott Jennings, a Kentuckian and former adviser to Republican President George W. Bush, said Tuesday that politicians generally support economic development "however they can get it."

"And as for Republicans, at least most of us, we support markets," he said. "And if the market bears the production of electric vehicles then I don't think anyone will see this as an affront to their culture or energy heritage. There's still a role for coal and other fossil fuels in this world ... and this plant won't change that. I've always viewed conservatives as being for `all of the above' energy strategies and this certainly fits that slogan."

Beshear, who led the push that landed the state's single largest economic development project ever with the Glendale battery production project, said the private sector is leading the conversion toward green jobs.

"And so everybody else is going to have to get on board," Beshear told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. "But let me say, there's a big difference between theoretical arguments that go on in Washington, D.C., and the prospect of thousands of jobs here at home."

Ford picked the Kentucky and Tennessee sites in part because of lower electricity costs, CEO Jim Farley said, as well as being less exposed to flooding and hurricanes than other states. Battery factories use five times the electricity of a typical assembly plant to make cells and assemble them into packs, so energy costs were a big factor, Farley said.

In an interview Monday, Farley said workers at the Tennessee and Kentucky plants will decide whether they want to be represented by the United Auto Workers union. It's common for political leaders in both states to actively campaign against unionization.

At the Tennessee news conference Tuesday, UAW President Ray Curry told The Associated Press that the union has a long history with Ford and he's optimistic about organizing the battery factories and assembly plant.

He conceded that there's no agreement at present between the union and Ford for the Tennessee site.

Both Kentucky and Tennessee have "right to work" laws, which stop companies and unions from signing contracts that require workers to pay union dues. Tennessee voters will decide next year on a constitutional amendment enshrining right to work and making it harder to repeal. Curry said the amendment doesn't complicate matters with Ford.

Asked if he thought Ford located plants in Tennessee to avoid the union, Curry replied: "absolutely not."

In Glendale, a tiny community ringed by corn and soybean fields about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Louisville, residents seemed ready to embrace the newfound ties to the green energy movement and the fight against climate change.

"That's good for my grandkids," said Wayne Noe, a farmer and retired union carpenter.

Laura Tabb said it's "fantastic" that Ford's arrival will hoist Glendale onto the "cutting edge of a green technology." She said the fight against climate change shouldn't be a political issue.

"Everyone should be on board with trying to save the planet," she said. "Who doesn't want to save the planet? If you're opposed to measures that will help make things greener, you're on the wrong side of history."

Adam Lobert, who was in Glendale at the end of a biking excursion and who lives in nearby Elizabethtown, said he could get behind battery-powered vehicles, but objected to the government boosting EVs by dangling tax credits.

As a self-professed "small government guy," he said: "I think battery-powered cars are a wonderful idea. ... But they've got to stand on their own."

 

 

Unifor Local 200 President
Hopes New Ford Plant
owner Creates a Lot of Jobs

Rusty Thompson
September 29, 2021

The president of Unifor Local 200 hopes who ever takes on the Ford Windsor Engine Plant property will create a lot of jobs.

The Windsor Engine Plant and the property that was home to the Windsor Casting Foundry is being put up for sale by the Ford Motor Company.

President of Unifor Local 200, John D'Agnolo says they received word last week that the property would be for sale and was pleased the company reached out to the workers to let them know.

D'Agnolo says the property is around 53 acres while the actual plant has over one-million square feet of space.

He believes the location is prefect for another company.

"We're close to the {Ambassador} bridge and gives them an opportunity to bring things over to the states as quickly as possible," he says.  "I'm hoping who ever takes that plant on creates a ton of jobs."

D'Agnolo says hopes who ever takes on the plant will create a ton of jobs.

"Right now, it's empty, " says D'Agnolo.  "We need as much workforce in our community to keep it vibrant and I'm hoping that happens very soon."

He feels it's a unique property because there's not too many manufacturing plants of that size available in our community.

"It's a piece of property that's very valuable to our community," he says.  "Who ever takes that on, I'm just hoping that it will create a lot of jobs because we need them in our community.

The property is bounded by Drouillard Road and Seminole Street.

The Windsor Engine Plant hasn't been used for production since 2018 while the foundry was demolished after it was closed in 2007.

 

Ford CEO Farley calls for making
EVs more affordable, bringing
mining back to US

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News
Sept 27, 2021

Making electrical vehicles affordable should be among the top priorities for automakers so that the average vehicle-buyer can purchase one, said Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.’s  president & CEO.

“I’m deeply worried about the affordability,” said Farley Saturday during a discussion as part of the Detroit Homecoming VIII events, during a live-streamed interview with Mary Kramer, the director of the annual event.

"Average people cannot afford these vehicles and we have a lot of work to do to make them more affordable. ... That’s the one that keeps me up at night.”

Detroit Homecoming has been an annual event, since 2014, which brings notable ex-Detroiters back to the city to inspire city residents and re-engage them through their individual accomplishments and achievements.

Regarding electric vehicles, Farley said Executive Chairman Bill Ford "had a vision for this 20 years ago." 

 "The (EV version of the F150) is completely sold out in Europe ... in the U.S, in China,” said Farley, whose grandfather worked at the Rouge plant. “We have a 150,000 orders and the truck isn’t just fast ... it’s very fast but it can power your house for three days. I think this will really change electrification.”

Farley added that "the first generation of electric owners don’t work small commuter, economy (vehicles). ... They want Mustangs, they want pickup trucks, they want utility vans,” said Farley. “They want the best products.”

He said a key issue is how production will impact labor concerns since it costs 30% less to manufacture the electrical vehicles. There also is an issue of battery supply and minerals such as lithium and cobalt to power them, said Farley. 

"We have to bring battery production here, but the supply chain has to go all the way to the mines. That's where the real cost is and people in the U.S. don't want mining in their neighborhoods," said Farley.

"So are we going to import lithium and pull cobalt from nation-states that have child labor and all sorts of corruption or all we going to get serious about mining? ... We have to solve these things and we don't have much time."

Farley, who lives in downtown Detroit, said he is proud of the continued work on the Michigan Central Station, which Ford Motor Co. bought in 2018.

"We have some fantastic plans and not just for innovation and mobility," said Farley.

He said there are plans to renovate some of the Riverwalk extension and nearby. He did not go into details about it during his discussion with Kramer.

The train station had closed in 1988 and was abandoned for several decades before the automaker announced plans to buy and restore it as well as the nearby Book Depository.

Farley said the purchase and renovation project was "Bill Ford's  personal vision" for the neglected train station.

"I think we're all kind of fed up with about what happened to the train station," Farley said. "Someone had to step up."

Farley said the company is also exploring an autonomous highway that will run down Michigan Avenue through Detroit, Dearborn and then ending in Ann Arbor. He did not release more details on it but said local governments will have to be on board with it.

"Autonomy is taking longer than we thought," said Farley. "But we still have to solve the second-order problems. Like do we have dedicated infrastructure for our autonomous vehicles? I don't think we should wait for regulators to make up their mind. We have to solve this as companies."

Farley also spoke about his work with the faith-based Pope Francis Center to assist homeless Metro Detroiters with programs that help them with housing, health care and other issues such as addiction.

Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales plunged by one-third in August compared with the previous year amid an industrywide slide driven by a semiconductor shortage that has dragged on since late last year and pushed new-vehicle inventories to historic lows.

While Ford's sales slump was more dramatic than that experienced by some of its competitors, it was not alone. American Honda sales, for example, were down 15.6% year-over-year. Toyota Motor North America sales fell 2%. And Hyundai Motor America sales were off 4%.

Ford reported that its average transaction price in August hit a new record of approximately $50,800 per vehicle, a $9,700 increase over last year.

According to production data reported by the company, output improved from July to August. Amid widespread production cuts due to the chip shortage, Ford's North American plants produced 125,736 vehicles in July. In August, that rose to 226,065. The company's gross vehicle stock stood at 214,500 at the end of the month.

The Dearborn automaker made a $561 million profit in the second quarter. 

 

Ford to introduce high-performance Raptor edition of Bronco in 2022

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Sept 23, 2021

Pontiac — Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday announced it will release a high-performance edition of its Bronco SUV in 2022.

The Dearborn automaker teased the release of the forthcoming Bronco Raptor at Motor Bella, the Detroit Auto Dealers Association's auto show that runs through Sunday at M1 Concourse, and in a short video clip.

The company said only that "more details will be shared later" about "one of the Bronco special edition vehicles that will be available in 2022."

"Interest and demand for the all-new Bronco has been off the charts," said Jeff Marentic, Ford's general manager for passenger vehicles. "With more than 125,000 orders placed for Bronco, we know some customers are waiting for their Bronco and we want to say thank you for hanging in there."

Though Bronco launched over the summer, deliveries have been delayed for some customers due to faulty hard-top roofs that the automaker has opted for its supplier to replace. The move means delivery delays for some customers whose Broncos already have been built and are awaiting replacement roofs, and production delays for customers whose vehicles haven't yet been assembled, pushing some pre-ordered Bronco deliveries out to 2022.

Ford teased a Raptor high-performance edition of Bronco at Motor Bella Tuesday. Here, Jeff Marentic of Ford teases the release with a shot of a Bronco in eruption green behind him.

The automaker earlier this summer announced new colors — eruption green and hot pepper red — that are debuting on model year 2022 Broncos.

"But we aren't stopping with colors," Marentic said. "We also plan to introduce new special editions coming for 2022. Here's a hint at what's coming."

The video teasing the release features a close-up of the front of a red Bronco, a plume of dust as a vehicle speeds through rough terrain, and the Raptor badge, which debuted on the F-150 pickup truck.

"Coming next year is the expansion of our Raptor family," said Marentic. "Bronco Raptor will be the highest off-road performance Bronco yet, giving North America two off-road kings: F-150 Raptor and Bronco Raptor — not just kings, giants."

 

Ontarians now required to
show proof of vaccination
to access certain venues

The Canadian Press
Sept 22, 2021

Patrons at dine-in restaurants, nightclubs, gyms, sports facilities and other venues must present a receipt of full vaccination along with government identification. 

Doctors’ notes for medical exemptions will also be accepted.

Businesses that don't comply with the checks required by the system and patrons who give false information may be fined.

Premier Doug Ford tweeted about the vaccine certificates on Wednesday morning, encouraging Ontarians to respect the new verification program.

"I know this may be tough for some, but we owe it to our businesses to do everything we can to avoid lockdowns," said Ford. "Please be patient. Let’s all continue to support our amazing businesses."

Ford said in an open letter on Tuesday that he understands that some people are concerned their civil liberties are being infringed upon. But he said the greater concern is experiencing a sudden surge in infections and having to lock down the province again.

The province's top public health doctor has asked Ontarians to be "kind and considerate" as the system takes effect.

Dr. Kieran Moore has also said he believes the system will lead to a boost in vaccinations, particularly among those aged 20 to 39 since that cohort often frequents venues covered by the system.

Fines are possible for businesses that don't comply with the checks required by the system, and for patrons who give false information. But businesses, bylaw officers, police forces and the province say enforcement will be gentle at first.

Businesses have said they feel prepared to implement the system but are uncertain how patrons will respond to it. 

James Rilett, Restaurants Canada’s vice-president for Central Canada, said restaurants are "as prepared as they can be" but are expecting "some loss of business" and confrontations with some patrons.

Ryan Mallough, senior director of Ontario affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said businesses have a "decent understanding" of what's required but there's "some stress and anxiety around what happens in a moment that doesn't go smoothly."

While venues will have to check paper or digital vaccine receipts with identification at first, the province has said it will streamline the process with a planned Oct. 22 launch of a QR code and verification app for businesses.

 

        Ford increasing production
for F-150 Lightning
electric truck


Sept 21, 2021

Ford is investing an extra $250 million USD (roughly $318 million CAD) to boost production and add more electric vehicle-related (EV) jobs to its production facilities.

The automaker says that this investment will add a total of 450 jobs and bring Ford’s Lightning production capacity up to 80,000 per year. This seems like a nice amount of trucks, but since the company is sitting on over 130,000 pre-orders, it will be over a year before everyone who wants one gets one.

The first trucks should start rolling out to consumers and dealerships in the spring of 2022.

These numbers are nothing to scoff at and Ford getting into the electric truck game is a big deal, but these stats illustrate how small the EV market actually is for the automaker. For comparison, Ford sold 900,000 F-150 trucks on average every year before the pandemic.

Over the next few years, with  TeslaRivianGM and Ford all releasing electric trucks, it will be interesting to see what company becomes the next major North American truck supplier.

 

Where The Major Parties
Stand On Fighting
Poverty Among Seniors

September 20, 2021

In an election widely seen as being distinguished by a near total lack of substantive policy debates, it may surprise some Canadians to know that, on the issue of combatting poverty among seniors, Canada’s five major parties seem to have taken the matter seriously and put forward original solutions to help redress the largely hidden problem.

While poverty among Canadian seniors fell precipitously during the latter decades of the 20th century — leading some analysts to call it one of Canada’s greatest policy achievements — the poverty rate rose steadily between the mid-1990s and late 2000s.

According to Statistics Canada, 238,000 Canadian seniors were living in poverty in 2017, and that number rose to nearly 350,000 in 2019 (and is likely higher as a result of the pandemic).

Poverty among the elderly disproportionately affects single seniors: while 2.8 per cent of seniors living in families live at or below the poverty line, that figure rises to nearly 12 per cent of single seniors.

It’s further estimated that roughly two-thirds of poor seniors are women, and that a higher portion of poor seniors live in long-term care (LTC) facilities of the kind that were ravaged by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As is the case with poverty in the general population, elderly poverty in Canada increases with seemingly every additional variation from the statistical-demographic mean (i.e. a  heteronormative white couple).

And although elderly poverty in Canada is relatively low when compared with other developed nations (and about half the rate of poverty in the general population), it remains a stubbornly persistent problem. The issue is a growing concern for the most faithful and consistent of voters, and a jarring demonstration of the gaps in Canada’s social safety net.

CanAge, a national and non-partisan seniors’ advocacy organization, has ranked the major federal parties in terms of how they’ll address issues of particular concern to senior citizens.

“While all the parties have some well-developed ideas concerning senior citizens, and are aware of the issues that are affecting their lives, what we’ve noticed is that the specific policy ideas concerning elderly poverty are better developed the further you move to the left of the political spectrum,” said Laura Tamblyn Watts, CanAge’s CEO.

Tamblyn Watts highlights that the NDP is the only party that proposes making automatic enrolment in OAS and GIS retroactive, something she believes would go a long way to alleviating elderly poverty.

“The Liberals’ decision to adopt automatic enrolment was a move in the right direction,” she added. “The NDP’s plan to make this retroactive is the logical next step.”

The NDP and Greens are the only parties proposing a guaranteed liveable income for seniors. The Conservatives, Greens and NDP also have specific economic security policy points that focus on protecting seniors’ pensions.

While the Liberals have promised increases to OAS and GIS for seniors aged over 75, the economic security component of their seniors’ specific platform is less well developed than other areas, such as improvements and additional funding to long-term care facilities.

For their part, the Conservatives have prioritized ensuring clear reporting of pensions and preventing the conversion of underfunded pensions into annuities (which can result in workers eating pension losses they’re not responsible for). Perhaps the most innovative and frustrating Tory position is to use surplus military housing to prevent veterans from becoming unhoused — although this would make good use of unused resources, it doesn’t address the broader housing problem affecting poor seniors.

While some analysts point out that Canada is in the midst of the greatest ever intergenerational transfer of wealth, the stereotype of the wealthy property-owning boomer belies the starker realities of low-income seniors, often single women, who own their homes (or are nearly finished paying their mortgages), but are otherwise living with scant resources and are reluctant to sell their primary assets. These are some of the hidden poor among Canada’s elderly.

Others who tend to fall through the cracks are elderly immigrants, who are vulnerable to exploitation and among the least likely to find gainful employment.

The Bloc Québécois, cognizant that an ever-growing number of seniors need to work to make ends meet, proposes capitalizing on seniors’ work experience by enabling poor seniors to work more without penalty. It’s a pragmatic solution, but also one that tacitly accepts defeat for the social safety net that once ensured comfort in retirement.

Seniors' Entrepreneurship Overlooked

One area highlighted by Tamblyn Watts as not getting enough attention by the major parties or media is entrepreneurship by seniors, which she argues gets essentially no support from most governments, as most support for small businesses tends to focus on tech start-ups. For elderly Canadians seeking to commit a lifelong talent for baking or gardening into viable small businesses, support is virtually non-existent.

Tamblyn Watts thinks this is an unfortunate oversight that merits correction: “Senior entrepreneurship is on the rise in Canada, but they get no support,” she said. “We almost never discuss it, and yet they tend to be successful, conservatively-run, focused on their immediate communities and hire plenty of young people.”

That Canada’s leading parties have all zeroed-in on the vulnerability of LTC residents as a problem requiring immediate attention is mildly reassuring to many.

In addition to proposing $9 billion in spending on LTC facilities, the Liberals pledge additional funding to raise the standard of care in facilities across the country, as well as introducing new federal legislation intended to ensure a higher standard of care. They also propose training new LTC workers and raising their pay.

The Conservatives propose establishing national best practices for LTC facilities, and prioritizing immigrants for work in that sector. They also propose $3 billion to renovate LTC facilities.

The NDP proposes similar ideas but also wants to build half a million new affordable housing units, some of which could accommodate multi-generational families. They further propose increasing the Health Transfer, but most significantly advocate eliminating for-profit LTC facilities within a decade, beginning with the nationalization of Rivera, a private LTC operator.

Despite these pledges, however, the steadily growing number of Canadian seniors living in poverty is a reminder that this country’s self-assurance in the strength of its social safety net is a confidence born of self-delusion.

Canada greatly reduced elderly poverty in the latter decades of the 20th century, but more than two-decades of governments assuming the private sector is best-positioned to handle the evolutions of our society have reversed some significant gains.

 

 

Inflation Jumps to
4.1% in Canada,
Jolting Trudeau Campaign

Shelly Hagan
September 16, 2021 

Surge in housing costs is big driver of annual price increases

Travel-related prices spiked amid summer reopening of economy

Inflation in Canada accelerated to the fastest pace since 2003, a political headache for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau only five days before an election.

The consumer price index rose 4.1% in August from a year earlier, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday in Ottawa, marking the fifth consecutive month of inflation readings above the Bank of Canada’s 3% cap. That’s the highest since March 2003, when it touched 4.2%. Economists were predicting a yearly gain of 3.9%. A surge in housing costs has been a key driver in annual inflation.

Although policy makers are likely to view price pressures as transitory, the report comes at an inopportune time for Trudeau, in the final days of a tight election battle. Affordability is a central campaign issue, and the main opposition Conservatives have been accusing the incumbent Liberal government of stoking inflation with debt-financed spending. 

Gasoline and the homeowners’ replacement cost index-- related to new home prices -- were the largest upside contributers to annual inflation in August. The gauge of housing costs rose 14.3% in August from a year earlier. That’s the largest yearly increase since 1987 and fourth consecutive month of double-digit price growth, the report said. 

“I think because home prices have risen so quickly, now pushing more people into the rental market, we will see further upward pressure on rents through this year,” Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in an interview on BNN Bloomberg Television. “That could keep the shelter component of CPI rising at a good clip and putting general upward pressure on inflation.”

Gas prices rose 32.5%, largely because of lower production by oil-producing countries and artificially low prices last year when the pandemic shut down much of the economy.

The Canadian dollar was little changed after the report, trading at C$1.268 per U.S. dollar as of 8:48 a.m. The yield on benchmark 10-year Canada bonds jumped to 1.196% as of 9:05 a.m. in Toronto, up about 3 basis points from where it stood immediately before the inflation report.

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem’s latest forecasts show inflation creeping up to 3.9% in the third quarter. He has warned against overreacting to the  “temporary” spike that’s being driven by global supply-chain disruptions and pent-up demand for services as the economy reopens.

On a monthly basis, prices rose 0.2%, compared with economist estimates of a 0.1% gain. 

The average of core measures of inflation, often seen as a better measure of underlying price pressures, rose to an annual 2.57% pace in August, the highest since 2009.

 

Former UAW presidents
Jones and Williams
report to prison
for embezzling millions
in workers’ dues money

Shannon Jones
Sept 14, 2021

Former UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams reported to federal prisons this week to begin their sentences after being convicted in connection with the UAW corruption scandal. Both Jones and Williams received token jail time for their parts in funneling millions of dollars in members’ dues money into the pockets of themselves and other corrupt UAW officials.

UAW Vice Presidents Joe Ashton, Jimmy Settles, Cindy Estrada and General Holiefield stand with President Bob King and Secretary Treasurer Dennis Williams after their election in Detroit, on June 16, 2010. Ashton and Williams have both been indicted and pleaded guilty in recent years, while Holiefield died before charges could be filed. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Jones reported to the federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma to begin serving a 28-month sentence. Jones was convicted of embezzling up to $15 million in UAW funds, much of it spent on luxury items such as steak dinners and stays at expensive spas in Palm Springs, California.

Williams will serve his 21-month sentence in Tucson, Arizona. He held the office of UAW president from 2014-2018, during which time he and others embezzled more than $1 million in UAW funds, enjoying months-long stays at a luxury Palm Springs villa, golf equipment, premium liquor and lavish meals. An August 2019 raid on William’s home found “piles of cash” stashed inside.

The federal prison in El Reno where Jones is serving his time is a medium-security facility with a satellite camp for minimum-security male prisoners. The minimum-security facility offers many amenities including “areas for both indoor and outdoor activities, which include field games, court games, tabletop games, individual events, arts and crafts, team sports, space for music enthusiasts, and television Basketball, flag football, soccer, and Frisbee are all popular sports leagues,” according to the InmateAID website.

The Tucson federal prison where Williams is being held also has a minimum-security satellite camp with similar amenities.

Federal prosecutors showed enormous leniency to Jones and Williams, considering the gravity of their crimes. Both men used their positions to divert millions of dollars in dues money into their own pockets from the dues taken from the paychecks of autoworkers. The 21-month and 28-month sentences handed down to Williams and Jones compare with the savage sentences typically handed out to poor and working class defendants for relatively minor crimes. The case of Fair Wayne Bryant, jailed for life in Louisiana's notorious Angola State Penitentiary for stealing a pair of hedge clippers, is only one of thousands of such examples.

The removal of a few corrupt officials from the UAW leadership has done nothing to “reform” the organization, which remains totally hostile to the interests of workers. Since the beginning of this year alone, the UAW has rammed through one pro–company sellout after another, including at Columbia University, parts maker Nexteer in Saginaw, Michigan and Volvo Trucks in Virginia. At auto parts maker Dana, the UAW has refused to call a strike despite the massive rejection by workers of the company’s contract offer.

A total of 12 UAW officials have so far been convicted in the federal corruption investigation. Three former Fiat Chrysler/Stellantis executives also received jail terms for illegal payments to UAW officers aimed at obtaining favorable contract terms, which go back to at least 2009. During that time, the UAW signed contracts that handed over billions in cost savings to the auto companies at the expense of autoworkers' wages, jobs, benefits and working conditions.

This included the expansion of the hated multi-tier wage scales, a massive increase in super-exploited temporary workers and substandard pay raises. But despite the exposure of the bribery scheme, none of the concessionary contracts signed by the UAW with the auto companies have been invalidated and not one penny has been returned to autoworkers.

A consent decree signed by the UAW in December 2020 established an independent monitor to oversee the union and a few other reforms, including a referendum on the direct membership election of international officers in place of the current delegate system.

The government chose high-profile former bank regulator Neil Barofsky as the independent monitor, an indication that the Biden administration sees the matter of restoring a semblance of credibility to the UAW with some seriousness. The erosion of that credibility, amid signs that workers are breaking free from the stranglehold of these corrupt, corporatist institutions, is viewed with alarm by the ruling class.

A membership vote on an amendment to the UAW constitution providing for direct election of officers will be held starting October 12, with ballots due by November 12. Earlier this week, federal prosecutors and the UAW asked a federal judge that the conclusion of the referendum be pushed back two weeks to November 29, claiming this would provide more time for the contractor which is counting mail-in ballots for 1 million UAW members and retirees.

In August, the Detroit News reported that the federal investigation into the UAW was continuing, despite the earlier consent decree. The News reported that federal prosecutors asked that search warrants and related documents from earlier in its investigation be made available to Barofsky, who was planning to meet with Jones. It was speculated Jones might be trying to obtain leniency by providing evidence against other UAW officers.

Among those cited by the News as potential targets were UAW Vice President for Stellantis Cindy Estrada and former UAW Vice President for Ford Jimmy Settles. Private charities run by Settles and Estrada had earlier drawn federal scrutiny. A phony charity run by late UAW Vice President General Holiefield had been used to launder bribes from Fiat Chrysler.

In return for imposing concessionary contracts and suppressing strikes in the 1980s, the companies established a network of incestuous relations with the auto union, including joint committees, joint programs and training centers, funded with billions of dollars in corporate cash. According to court documents between 2003 and 2019 Fiat Chrysler alone handed the UAW $300 million through the jointly operated National Training Center.

Even as the number of dues paying UAW members plummeted due to plant closures, carried out with the blessing of Solidarity House, the assets of the UAW have ballooned due to huge corporate subsidies. Over the years, the UAW amended the union constitution to allow the limitless diversion of hundreds of millions from the strike fund to pay the salaries and perks of UAW officers.

Workers must build new organizations independent of the pro-company UAW. The World Socialist Web Site has called for the formation of rank-and-file committees, democratically run by workers themselves, to take over the functions long abandoned by the unions.

A network of these committees has already been established at auto plants, Amazon warehouses, schools and other workplaces in the US and internationally. During the recent Volvo strike in Virginia, the Volvo Workers’ Rank-and-File-Committee played a prominent role in mobilizing workers to defeat a series of sellout contracts brought back by the UAW. Dana auto parts workers recently defeated a UAW-sponsored sellout aided by the work of the Dana Workers’ Rank and File Committee.

 

Ford to cease manufacturing
operations in India

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Sept 10, 2021

Ford Motor Co. will cease manufacturing operations in India — a market where it has accumulated $2 billion in losses in the last 10 years — in a move that will affect some 4,000 employees and carry $2 billion in restructuring charges.

The Dearborn automaker is not pulling out of India entirely. It plans to "significantly" expand a team of salaried employees based in Chennai, and will continue to sell vehicles in one of the world's largest car markets.

The move is part of a broader turnaround plan for the company under CEO Jim Farley, who has scrutinized spending in under-performing parts of the business. In January, Ford said it would stop producing cars in Brazil, another market where it long had struggled. Automakers worldwide face tough decisions on allocating capital amid a costly transition to electric vehicles, an effort to which Ford has dedicated $30 billion in investments through 2025.

"As part of our Ford+ plan, we are taking difficult but necessary actions to deliver a sustainably profitable business longer-term and allocate our capital to grow and create value in the right areas," Farley said in a statement announcing the move Thursday. 

Ford plans to wind down vehicle assembly at its Sanand Vehicle and Engine Assembly Plant by the fourth quarter. Vehicle and engine manufacturing at its Chennai plant are slated to end by the second quarter of 2022.

More than 500 employees at the Sanand plant, which builds engines for the Ranger pickup truck, and about 100 employees who support parts distribution and customer service, will remain. The company will continue some manufacturing of engines for export, and will maintain parts, service and warranty services for customers in India.

It also plans to expand its Ford Business Solutions team, which currently has more than 11,000 employees based in Chennai, India. Employees who are part of that team "support all aspects of Ford's global business and regions," Ford spokesperson Sinead Phipps said.

Jobs there include software developers, data scientists, research and development engineers, and finance and accounting. The largest teams at Ford Business Solutions are in software engineering and information technology, according to Phipps. 

"India remains strategically important for us and, thanks to our growing Ford Business Solutions team, will continue to be a large and important employee base for Ford globally," Farley said.

Meanwhile, the automaker will begin to import vehicles, including the Mustang coupe and as-yet unannounced electrified offerings, to customers in India, though sales of current products including the Figo, Aspire, Freestyle, EcoSport and Endeavour will stop once existing inventories are sold.  

Asked about what the move means for the EcoSport, which is exported to other markets including North America, Phipps said that production of the subcompact SUV will stop immediately for models sold in India but will continue into 2022 for exports. Beyond that it's unclear.

Ford India had looked into other options to turn around its business, according to the company, including partnerships, platform sharing and contract manufacturing. It still is weighing selling its manufacturing plants in the country.

“Despite these efforts, we have not been able to find a sustainable path forward to long-term profitability that includes in-country vehicle manufacturing,” Anurag Mehrotra, president and managing director of Ford India, said in a statement. “The decision was reinforced by years of accumulated losses, persistent industry overcapacity and lack of expected growth in India’s car market.”

At the end of last year, the automaker abandoned plans to form a joint venture with Indian conglomerate and SUV manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra, casting uncertainty on Ford's future in the market. The tie-up would have seen Ford transfer its operations to the partnership and the two companies co-developing several vehicles for India and other global markets.

Over the last several months, Ford executives have signaled that a serious reappraisal of the company's India operations was underway. In February, while reporting 2020 financial results, executives noted that Ford's international markets group — which includes about 100 countries around the world — was profitable when excluding India.

"While we continue our independent operations in India, we are actively evaluating alternatives and reassessing capital allocation for India," Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said at the time.

India, though a large and growing auto market, has proven challenging for many of the world's top automakers. Just a handful of automakers, led by Maruti Suzuki India Limited and Hyundai Motor India, dominate in India, with other manufacturers capturing just slivers of the market share. Some of Ford's competitors, including crosstown rival General Motors Co., already have exited the region.

Ford shuttering its assembly operations in India "reinforces the fact that just because you have a strong history in automotive manufacturing and a deep footprint across the world, and you can make great cars, it's not going to guarantee your journey in a market as complex as India," said Pavan Lall, a Mumbai-based business journalist. 

With offerings such as the Figo hatchback and EcoSport SUV, Lall said, Ford India "has shown more than once ... that they were more than capable of building good cars at great prices that consumers appreciated and bought." But, he said, the automaker faltered on introducing new products across different price points that could compete with the growing lineups of other manufacturers.

"I think where they potentially could have done better is to have continued the pace of those sorts of products and moved smartly up the value chain when they saw that there were shifts happening in consumer culture in India," he said. "That is something their competitors Hyundai and Kia have done really well.”

Ford India will maintain parts depots in Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Sanand and Kolkata and said it would "work closely" with its dealer network "to restructure and help facilitate their transition from sales and service to parts and service support."

The automaker expects to record pre-tax special items charges of $2 billion, including about $600 million in 2021, about $1.2 billion in 2022, and the balance in subsequent years, in connection with the restructuring.

 

Ontario to require residents
to renew expired driver's
licences, health cards

Canadian Press
Sept 3, 2021

TORONTO — Ontario will once again require residents to renew driver's licences, ID cards and licence plate stickers that were due to expire during the pandemic.

The province lifted renewal requirements when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold last March, but is now reinstating them.

Residents have until Feb. 28, 2022 to renew the documents, which also include health cards and accessible parking permits.

The province will also temporarily allow people to renew their driver's licences online, instead of requiring they do so in person.

Heavy commercial vehicle owners will need to renew their documentation by Dec. 31 this year and novice drivers with class G1, G2, M1 or M2 on their licence will have until Dec. 31, 2022 to requalify or upgrade their identification.

The province says those who don't renew their documents by the deadline will be required to pay the renewal fee for 2020 and 2021.

 

Chip shortage prompts new
F-150, SUV production
cuts by Ford

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Sept 2, 2021

Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday confirmed new production cuts tied to the global semiconductor shortage.

The week of Sept. 6, Dearborn Truck Plant — which makes the Dearborn automaker's cash cow, the F-150 pickup truck — will operate on only one shift. Meanwhile, F-150 production at Ford's Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri will remain down next week as well. Production of the Transit van will continue there.

And Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville,  which builds Super Duty pickup trucks, the Ford Expedition SUV and the Lincoln Navigator SUV, will operate on two shifts the weeks of Sept. 6 and 13, down from three.

"The global semiconductor shortage continues to affect Ford’s North American plants — along with automakers and other industries around the world," Ford spokesperson Kelli Felker said in a statement. "Behind the scenes, we have teams working on how to maximize production, with a continued commitment to building every high-demand vehicle for our customers with the quality they expect."

Automakers around the world have been grappling with a shortage of semiconductor chips — parts that are essential for many automated and electronic features in vehicles — since late last year. 

Automotive forecasting firm AutoForecast Solutions estimates that, through Tuesday, the automotive industry globally has lost more than 7 million units of planned vehicle production. The widespread, lingering shortage has drastically lowered new-vehicle inventories, driving up prices of new and used vehicles alike and giving consumers fewer choices.

Ford was hit hard by the supply-chain constraints, particularly in the second quarter, which it attributed in part to a Renesas Electronics Corp. plant fire in Japan that halted production there for months. AutoForecast Solutions estimates the automaker has lost more than 510,000 vehicles it had planned to produce this year in North America alone.

While there was some optimism that the chip shortage would ease through the rest of this year, some experts and executives have warned the supply crunch is likely to persist throughout next year, amid a COVID-19 surge in parts of Asia where chip manufacturing is concentrated.  

 

Canadians demand to know
why they can fly — but still
not drive — to the U.S.

Sophia Harris  
Sept 1, 2021

When the United States announced it would keep its side of the Canada-U.S. land border closed to non-essential travel until at least Sept. 21, it got an earful from angry Canadians. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) broke the news earlier this month on Twitter, stating it was extending the closure "to minimize the spread of #COVID19, including the delta variant." 

That triggered dozens of complaints from Canadians — and also their American spouses — who argued the DHS explanation doesn't add up, because Canadians can still fly into the U.S. 

"So my wife can't drive over the border because that's ultra dangerous … but hell, she can fly with strangers right on over?" tweeted Steven Husak, who lives in Taylor, Mich., on the outskirts of Detroit.

He's married to a Canadian, April Umbenhower, who lives a short drive across the border in Kingsville, Ont., about 70 kilometres away. 

To visit Husak and her two young stepsons, Umbenhower said her cheapest option right now is to drive around 360 kilometres to Toronto to take a flight to Detroit — which still costs hundreds of dollars. 

"It doesn't make any sense," said Umbenhower about the U.S. travel rules. "It's ridiculous."

Almost a year and a half ago, Canada and the U.S. agreed to close their shared land border to non-essential travel. 

For reasons that have never been fully explained, the U.S. continued to allow Canadian leisure travellers to fly to the country. Currently, air passengers only have to show proof of a negative antigen or molecular test; there's no vaccination requirement. 

When Canada reopened both its land and air borders on Aug. 9 to fully vaccinated American travellers, it was widely assumed the U.S. would reciprocate. Instead, the country has kept its land border closed, frustrating travellers who want to drive — not fly — to the U.S.

© Submitted by April Umbenhower Canadian April Umbenhower lives a short, 70-kilometre drive across the border from her American husband, Steven Husak. Even so, she can only fly to the U.S. to visit him — a trip that first takes her 370 kilometres in the other direction, to Toronto to board a plane.

"There's no rhyme or reason to these closures," said Devon Weber, of Montreal, whose parents live in Long Island, N.Y. "What science shows that it's safer to fly on a crowded plane than to travel in your own private vehicle across the border?"

As an American citizen, Weber is actually able to drive to see her parents. The problem is her Canadian husband can't join her. 

Last October, Weber founded Let Us Reunite, an advocacy group for cross-border families affected by the U.S. land border closure. She argues the current U.S. travel rules disadvantage Canadians who can't afford the high cost of flying — on top of COVID-19 test fees for travellers. 

"It's a classist policy," said Weber. "Not everyone has hundreds of dollars laying around to be able to fly to see their family."

'I feel helpless'

Although she's fully vaccinated, American Terri Renker, of Redford, Mich., currently isn't able to travel to nearby Windsor, Ont., to visit her Canadian husband; she's caring for her mother who's dying of breast cancer. 

Renker's husband, Sean Hartigan, said he can only visit his wife sporadically, because he must take time off work, buy a pricey flight to Detroit and make the long drive to Toronto to board the plane. 

If he could simply drive across the border, Hartigan said he could visit much more often to help Renker care for her mother. 

"I feel helpless; like I just can't drive across [in] 20 minutes to help her out," said Hartigan. "It's depressing, it's a mental strain."

CBC News asked the DHS, the White House, the U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) why the land border remains closed to Canadian travellers, but flying into the country is OK.

The State Department said to contact the White House and DHS. CBP said to contact DHS. Neither DHS nor the White House responded to repeated inquiries. 

Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., points out that the pandemic-related rules for air passengers were set up under a different president: Donald Trump. 

"Air travel was a Trump administration call," she said. "So that's part of the issue."

That administration introduced the current regulations, where foreigners can fly into the U.S. as long as they haven't visited a specified list of countries in the past 14 days deemed high-risk. Canada has never been on the high-risk list. 

But questions remain around why the current Biden administration didn't follow suit after Canada reopened its side of the land border to fully vaccinated Americans — particularly while it is still allowing Canadians to fly to the country. 

What's the holdup?

Some political experts have suggested the U.S. won't reopen its northern land border until it's ready to reopen its shared southern land border with Mexico, which is also closed to non-essential travel. 

Reopening the Mexico border is arguably more complicated, because the U.S. has yet to decide when to scrap Title 42: a Trump-era COVID-19 policy that allows for the immediate expulsion of migrants seeking asylum. 

The decision to reopen the northern and southern land borders doesn't have to be made in tandem , said Ted Sobel, a Homeland Security attaché with the U.S. Embassy in Canada.  

"We're certainly not under any legal restriction to have the same policy, but we do find that we have a consistency of [public health] issues that we are looking at," Sobel said at a conference earlier this month

Trautman suggests the main reason why the U.S. hasn't reopened its northern land border is because the Biden administration has yet to devise a plan for screening land travellers.

"Are you going to require vaccines? Are you going to require tests? What's going to be required? And then they're going to have to figure out how they're going to handle that data."

Trautman said she also believes putting such a plan in place is not a top priority for the U.S. right now — especially considering Canada-U.S. trade continues and Canadians can fly to the U.S.

"The urgency is not there," she said. "You have Afghanistan … and you do have other political priorities within the White House that, I think, are sort of allowing the Biden administration to kind of kick the can down the road."

But Weber, of Let Us Reunite, wants the U.S. government to know that reopening the northern land border is a top priority for cross-border families affected by the closure.

"This is something that we think about every day," she said. "And it affects our lives every day."

 

Ford pauses online reservations
for the Bronco amid
production delays

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Aug 31, 2021

Ford Motor Co. has temporarily stopped taking online reservations for the Bronco amid high demand and production constraints that have slowed the rollout of the hotly-anticipated SUV.

Ford spokesman Said Deep on Monday confirmed that the Dearborn automaker recently sent a note to its dealers informing them that the company has "paused" its online reservation system for the full-size Bronco — but customers still can place orders directly through dealerships. The news first was reported by the Detroit Free Press.

The halt in online reservations, according to Deep, is due in part to the website undergoing an update. He also acknowledged that an issue sourcing hard-top roofs for the vehicle is a factor. He said he expects the online system to potentially open back up in October, which is also when the automaker will open up orders for model year 2022 Broncos.

Shifting orders to dealerships could give customers additional information and visibility that the online system couldn't provide, Deep said. For example, a dealer would be able to alert a prospective customer if someone cancels an existing Bronco order, thus freeing up a model that's already been built. Dealers might also have insight into how customers can configure their Bronco order to potentially expedite production, as only certain configurations are affected by the production constraints.

Earlier this month, Ford announced that, due to quality issues, it will replace hardtop roofs on all Broncos, including those that have already been delivered and those awaiting delivery. The move means delays for customers whose Broncos have been built but not delivered, and for some customers whose vehicles haven't yet been assembled.

Due to this and other delays earlier this year, as well as high demand, Ford has said that model year 2021 will be abbreviated and some builds delayed until 2022.

The company said it identified cosmetic issues with molded-in color hard-top roofs from supplier Webasto. Soft-top orders are not affected, and production on those models continues. The automaker has told customers that it expects to receive replacement hard-top roofs in October.

Ford executives have spoken in recent months about their goal of generating a larger share of new-vehicle sales via online order banks. The automaker has taken online reservations for several of its new products, including the Mustang Mach-E, the all-electric F-150 Lightning and the Maverick pickup.

 

Tesla on autopilot slams into
Florida state police car

Associated Press
AUGUST 30, 2021

Orlando, Florida — A Tesla driving in autopilot mode slammed into a Florida Highway Patrol cruiser on an interstate near downtown Orlando and narrowly missed its driver, who had pulled over to assist a disabled vehicle.

Earlier this month, the U.S. government opened a formal investigation into Tesla's Autopilot partially automated driving system after a series of similar collisions with parked emergency vehicles.

The trooper whose cruiser was hit shortly before 5 a.m. Saturday had activated his emergency lights and was on the way to the disabled vehicle when the Tesla hit the cruiser's left side then collided with the other vehicle, highway patrol spokeswoman Lt. Kim Montes told The Orlando Sentinel.

The report said the 27-year-old man in the Tesla and the driver of the disabled vehicle suffered minor injuries and the trooper was unhurt.

Tesla did not immediately respond to an email sent to its press address.

Autopilot has frequently been misused by Tesla drivers, who have been caught driving drunk or even riding in the back seat while a car rolled down a California highway.

The electric vehicle maker uses a camera-based system, a lot of computing power, and sometimes radar to spot obstacles, determine what they are, and then decide what the vehicles should do. But researchers say it has had trouble with parked emergency vehicles and perpendicular trucks in its path.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened the Tesla probe after tallying 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on autopilot or cruise control have hit vehicles where first responders have used flashing lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board or cones warning of hazards.

In those crashes, 17 people were injured and one was killed, the NHTSA said. An investigation could lead to a recall or other enforcement action.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which also has investigated Tesla crashes, has recommended that NHTSA and Tesla limit the autopilot’s use to areas where it can safely operate. It also recommended that Tesla be required to improve its system to ensure drivers pay attention.

Last year the NTSB blamed Tesla, drivers and lax regulation by NHTSA for two collisions in which Teslas crashed beneath crossing tractor-trailers.

The crashes into emergency vehicles cited by NHTSA began on Jan. 22, 2018, in Culver City, California, near Los Angeles when a Tesla using autopilot struck a parked firetruck with flashing lights. No one was injured in the accident.

 

Stellantis Brampton now
at a crossroads

August 26, 2021

'Brampton would either have to continue on the LX platform for the next generation or get a significant investment for a new platform'

Dodge Challengers and Chargers are now rolling off the line at the Brampton assembly plant, but after 2023, Stellantis has nothing planned there, says AutoForecast Solutions.

Stellantis’ assembly pant in Brampton, Ont., is reportedly without a product mandate beyond 2023, setting the stage for possibilities ranging from closure to a major investment in an electric transformation. 

AutoForecast Solutions LLC (AFS), a U.S.-based forecasting and consulting firm, told Automotive News Canada in July that production of the Dodge Charger and Challenger muscle cars is expected to move to the United States, where they will be built on a new platform that will accommodate an electric variant. 

“Brampton has the LX [Charger and Challenger] platform that has been paid for for years,” AutoForecast Solutions CEO Joe McCabe said. “Brampton would either have to continue on the LX platform for the next generation or get a significant investment for a new platform” to continue assembling vehicles beyond 2023. 

The Charger and Challenger are thought to be highly profitable for Stellantis, and demand continues to be strong. But questions have lingered about the Brampton plant for years, given the LX platform’s age and the lack of recent plant investments on a large scale. The LX platform was introduced for the 2005 model year. While the four other Detroit Three factories in Canada have garnered investment commitments worth billions of dollars since contract negotiations in 2020, Brampton received a pledge of $50 million for new derivatives of the Charger and Challenger. 

“The platform that they’re building on is very, very old,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice-president of research at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Mich. “And that’s usually not a good sign if you haven’t gotten recent major investment or a new product commitment.” 

BATTERIES IN BRAMPTON? 

One possibility for Brampton is that it could be converted into a battery plant for Stellantis, said Sam Fiorani, vice-president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions. Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares told reporters in July that the automaker is considering Canada for one of two North American battery plants. The automaker is investing US $35 billion ($44 billion) in electrification and software development through 2025. 

“Brampton would make a good place for a battery plant,” Fiorani said, given the factory’s potential availability and its relative proximity to other North American plants. 

But Unifor President Jerry Dias said the chances of Stellantis ending muscle car production in Brampton “are zero.” 

“There will be a war if that is their plan, and they’re smart enough to understand that,” said Dias, whose union represents about 3,000 hourly workers at Brampton. “The plant is today and will be the manufacturer of full-size vehicles. ... 

“I don’t believe [the AFS report] to be true, but it would make the dispute that we had with General Motors at Oshawa seem amateurish.” 

The future of the Brampton plant is sure to be a major focus of 2023 Detroit Three bargaining, which will take place with a new Unifor president after Dias retires in 2022. Negotiations will coincide with bargaining between the automakers and the United Auto Workers union in the United States. 

DODGING A BULLET 

McCabe of AFS said the current muscle car program could be extended beyond 2023 while production of electric versions begins in the United States. 

CAR’s Dziczek said Brampton could still receive an investment for EV production.  “There are only so many open spaces in the Stellantis North American orbit where they can retool and make those,” she said. 

This is not the first time that the future of a Canadian assembly plant has been scrutinized in recent years. 

Last year, AFS said Ford Motor's Oakville Assembly would no longer build the Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus crossovers beyond their current life cycles, leaving the plant with no long-term product mandate. Later that year, Ford and Unifor agreed to a $1.8-billion investment in Oakville to build EVs this decade. 

General Motors’ Oshawa Assembly, meanwhile, had been singled out by many as a candidate for closure for years leading up to the end of vehicle assembly there in 2019. GM stopped production there as it scaled back on excess capacity globally, though the automaker plans to resume pickup assembly this year after a $1-billion investment. 

The situation at Brampton is more reminiscent of Oakville “because we are moving or terminating a product on that platform with no successor,” McCabe said. 

“But Brampton needs either an extension of the current platform that’s paid for already or something brand new.” 

BARRIERS CAN BE ‘OVERCOME’ 

Challenges Brampton faces include its location in the rapidly growing Toronto suburb, which makes it slower to ship parts in and vehicles out because of rising traffic congestion. The plant also sits on prime real estate in a region in need of new housing, meaning Stellantis could receive a lucrative payday by selling the property.  

“It has a number of challenges to overcome, but it doesn’t mean they can’t overcome them,” Dziczek said. “It all comes down to what the union and the province and the feds are willing to do to get something in Brampton.” 

A spokeswoman for the Ontario government said in a statement it is “committed to supporting the workers at the Stellantis Brampton plant” and “working with the company on a path forward.” 

Similarly, a spokesman for the federal government said it was “aware” of Stellantis’ electrification plans and said it continues “to engage with the industry and labour.” 

‘A GOOD PLANT’ 

In recent years, the federal and Ontario governments have signaled a willingness to boost incentives for investments in EV production. For instance, the governments committed to spend $590 million for Ford’s Oakville investment, accounting for nearly one-third of the project’s total cost. 

“One thing we’ve seen over the last couple of years is the Ontario government and the federal government are all willing to take steps to ensure that mandates come here and stay here,” said Rob Wildeboer, chairman of Toronto-based supplier Martinrea International Inc. and co-chair of the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, which encompasses representatives from Canadian automakers, suppliers, governments and labour. 

“It’s very expensive to shutter a plant, and the only time to do it is when your volumes really decrease,” said Wildeboer, whose company supplies the Brampton plant. “I don’t see volume decreasing. It’s a good plant.”

 

Ford debuts cool-colored
Mustang Coupe and Mach-E

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
Aug 25, 2021

Running against the grain of blacked-out vehicle trims, Ford introduced an all-white, 2022 model of its iconic Ford Mustang Coupe and Mach-E SUV on Thursday ahead of this weekend's Woodward Dream Cruise. Ford calls the special appearance package Ice White Edition.

If it were a pony, it would be a Cremello.

You’ll know them by their bright white paint schemes, white pony logos on the fascia, iced-out tail lamps, and white, 19-inch wheels. Ice White Edition is the first trim shared by the Mustang siblings as Ford expands Mustang to a sub-brand covering SUVs and EVs in addition to gas-powered muscle cars.

It also marks the first time in 28 years that Ford has offered an all-white Mustang — a throwback to the rare, 1993 Triple White Fox body. The Mustangs made nice bookends with white Ford GT heritage editions at Ford’s Woodward & 12 Mile Dream Cruise display.

The Coupe and Mach-E differ in details.

Available on the Mustang EcoBoost and GT Premium fastback models, the Oxford White coupe features a black and white interior with Oxford White leather seat inserts and leather door panels.

The Ice White Mustang Mach-E, offered on Premium models, gets Light Space Gray seats, center console and door-panel armrests. An Oxford White pony badge anchors the steering wheel.

The exterior is finished in Star White Metallic Tri-Coat paint and includes unique Star White mirror caps and wheel lip moldings.

“The new Mustang Ice White Edition could — just like the original ’93 Triple White Fox body feature Mustang — become one of the hot collectibles of future generations,” said Mustang marketing guru Jim Owens, in sync with the classics rolling down Woodward Avenue this week.

 

Ford's small Maverick
pickup generates big
reservation numbers

Keith Naughton
Bloomberg
August 24, 2021

Ford Motor Co.’s new tiny truck, the Maverick, is generating lots of early interest, with reservations for the hybrid pickup topping 100,000 and demand coming from California markets that typically favor imports.

The reservations are nonbinding and don’t require a deposit, but Ford is confident they’ll convert into orders as they did with a similar system set up to build interest for the electric Mustang Mach-E and revived Bronco SUV.

“This really has exceeded our expectations,” Todd Eckert, Ford’s truck marketing manager, said in an interview. “This is the initial step with reservations. But we think it bodes extremely well.”

Ford is making a bid for entry-level import buyers with the Maverick, which starts at under $20,000 and gets 40 miles per gallon with the standard gasoline-electric hybrid version. The compact pickup is only six inches longer than a Toyota Camry sedan. It represents a new effort to reach price-conscious consumers after the automaker dropped the Ford Focus and exited slow-selling sedans in the U.S.

So far, Ford says the most reservations are coming from Los Angeles, where the Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup dominates the market. San Francisco ranks third on the Maverick reservation list, behind Orlando, Florida, and just ahead of Houston.

The vehicle, which is being built in Mexico, officially goes on sale this fall.

Michael Meadors, 30, of Costa Mesa, California, has already converted his reservation into an order for a black Maverick with a sticker price of $22,030, after he added some safety-oriented technology upgrades. With a nearly 50-mile round-trip commute to his human-resources job in L.A., Meadors said he was attracted by the truck’s fuel economy and modest size.

“It’s not that much bigger than the Ford Fusion I’m driving,” Meadors said. “So it should be pretty easy to buzz around in heavy traffic in Southern California and find parking.”

This is Meadors’ first truck and first new vehicle. Like the growing wave of pickup buyers, he doesn’t need a truck for work, but sees benefits in having a bed to haul things.

“You don’t have to work in construction in order to reap the benefits,” he said. “You could be picking up plants and potting soil, or some large items from Costco or even sandy beach chairs that you don’t want to put inside the cabin.”

 

FCA sentenced for paying
more than $3.5M in
bribes to UAW leaders

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Aug 19, 2021

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to pay $30 million for conspiring to break federal law in the largest labor case against a Detroit automaker whose employees are represented by the United Auto Workers.

FCA, now part of Stellantis NV, must pay that fine within the next 30 days. But the $3.5 million in bribes the automaker made to UAW leaders has even longer lasting implications for the maker of Jeep and Ram vehicles. An as-yet-unnamed independent monitor for the next three years will oversee the company's compliance with labor laws and the dissolution of a joint training center the UAW operated with FCA. The company's actions also could have implications for labor negotiations in 2023.

"I think we’re getting the short end of the stick," said John Barbosa, 50, of Clinton, a skilled trades apprentice at Toledo Assembly Plant. "I think Stellantis is getting off easy, way too easy. There’s not any way you can convince me that the contracts weren’t tainted, because of the company’s actions conspiring with the union officials and giving them extravagant gifts and money, and we’re not getting anything back from FCA."

FCA pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act following a years-long investigation into UAW corruption. The probe produced 15 convictions, including three former FCA executives. The money Stellantis pays will go to the U.S. Treasury general fund. FCA is not required to pay any sort of restitution.

"This is a warning to the new ownership that you can’t play games with the U.S. labor law," said Art Wheaton, an automotive industry specialist at Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations School. "It's an important reminder for the UAW members that it wasn’t just their union that was corrupt. They were enticed or lured by some illegal activities that were being done by the company."

And when it comes to the next round of negotiations in 2023, Wheaton said, it "may make the first contract harder to ratify."

The pattern of illegal payments included paying off former UAW Vice President General Holiefield's $262,000 mortgage, bankrolling a $25,000 booze-fueled bash for another labor leader and financing a $30,000 junket for UAW officials in Palm Springs and southern California. The payments were designed to secure concessions and advantages for Fiat Chrysler during contract negotiations, according to the government.

"The nature and circumstances of this offense are very serious," Judge Paul Borman of the Eastern District of Michigan said during the sentencing. "The history and characteristics of the defendant relating to this charge show a prior pattern culminated in this and was resolved in this plea and sentence."

Calling FCA's offense one of the largest, if not the largest, violation of the Labor Management Relations Act, Erin Shaw of the U.S. Attorney's Office said the company's acts have undermined the rank-and-file's trust in their leaders and the collective bargaining process.

"We are pleased FCA has agreed to accept responsibility for its conduct and appears to be committed to making reforms," Shaw said. The facts of the case "make clear this was not the act of a rogue or low-level employee at FCA, and it is abundantly clear that there was a problem with the culture of this company in years past."

Nicolas Broutin, a New York attorney, represented the automaker in the sentencing hearing, stated in brief: "The agreement was negotiated at length with the government. It includes an extensive factual statement that the company has agreed to for all the reasons put on the record at the guilty plea hearing. We believe it is an appropriate resolution and the court should accept it as it is done."

The pre-sentencing report recommended a one-to-five year probation. FCA's will be three years. The report also called for $18 million to $36 million for the fine, putting FCA's sentencing at the high end.

The $30 million FCA must pay is dramatically less than the $900 million rival General Motors Co. paid to settle claims for faulty ignition switches implicated in 400 injuries and deaths. It also is a fraction of the $800 million FCA paid two years ago to settle diesel claims, or the billions Volkswagen AG paid to atone for its global diesel scandal.

Though the $30 million fine may be "doughnut money" for Stellantis, which raked in $7 billion in profits in the first half of 2021, "there is a signal that the judge has listened to everything, and that this is very serious," said Erik Gordon, professor at the University of Michigan's Ross Business School. "FCA didn’t get the government out of its hair. There is going to be a monitor. I don’t think they got closure as much as they got certainty about the path going forward."

The conspiracy involving Fiat Chrysler executives lasted from at least January 2009 through approximately 2016 and executives paid more than $3.5 million in illegal payments to UAW officials, according to the criminal case.

That includes former Fiat Chrysler Vice President Alphons Iacobelli approving the payment of $262,000 to pay off the mortgage on Holiefield’s home in Harrison Township. Holiefield died in 2015 before he could be charged with a crime.

Iacobelli — who according to the Bureau of Prisons is serving the final part of his four-year federal prison sentence in a Detroit halfway house — also authorized spending $25,000 for a party for former UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell and members of the union’s governing board. The party included "ultra-premium" liquor, more than $7,000 worth of cigars and more than $3,000 worth of wine with custom labels honoring Jewell, who also was convicted in the corruption scandal.

Iacobelli also approved spending more than $30,000 on meals for UAW officials at restaurants in Palm Springs and southern California, prosecutors said. Money to pay for the illegal benefits came from accounts funded by the automaker that were supposed to used for worker training.

The conspiracy also included Michael Brown, who helped run the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in Warren, and former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden, who helped control the finances at the training center.

 

 

Lincoln debuts redesigned
Navigator luxury SUV
with bolder design,
enhanced technology

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
August 18, 2021

Ford Motor Co.'s luxury Lincoln brand on Wednesday revealed a redesigned 2022 model of its Navigator SUV, featuring a bolder exterior, fresh interior themes, new amenities for second-row passengers and the introduction of the brand's hands-free driving system.

"The confident, new look of Navigator and the introduction of advanced features such as Lincoln ActiveGlide — our hands-free driver-assist technology — are great examples of how we elevate our sanctuary experience and keep our vehicles fresh," Lincoln President Joy Falotico said in a statement. "The new Navigator will continue to play a critical role in differentiating our brand and will welcome even more new clients to Lincoln."

The 2022 version of the full-size SUV, which will be built at Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant, is scheduled to arrive at dealerships early next year. Pricing information will be released closer to the launch; the 2021 model starts at $76,705.

Bolder design, luxe interior

The 2022 Navigator features an updated grille and new front end that Lincoln officials say were designed to give the vehicle a bolder, more dynamic feel.

It comes standard with adaptive pixel projector headlamps. New 3D tail lamps fade out from the center and wrap around the rear exterior.

"On the exterior, we took a cue from the client feedback and balanced the proportion with bold enhancement for both front and rear," said Earl Lucas, Lincoln's chief exterior designer. "There’s no mistaking the confident stance of the Navigator, and we’ve elevated it even further with a new and more commanding signature front grille. The appearance is more upright and more noble."

Navigator is available in three trims: Standard, Reserve and the premium Black Label series.

On the new model, Navigator Black Label introduces two additional themes: "Central Park" and "Invitation," joining "Chalet" and "Yacht Club."

The Central Park theme, according to Lincoln, seeks to evoke the famed New York City park, with open-pore dark walnut extending the length of the instrument panel and laser etchings of the park's pathways.

"Invitation" is intended to convey a sense of celebration. It features black leather and dual laser-etched designs on the open-pore Khaya wood that extends across the instrument panel and center console.

“We continue to evolve our exclusive Black Label themes based on luxury trends and the changing environment, ultimately drawing inspiration from our clients,” Marcia Salzberg, Lincoln senior color and materials designer, said in a statement. “Central Park and Invitation both represent an optimistic view of the future in a world where we are all coming together.”

 

The new model also comes available in new colors, including Starlight Gray and, in an exclusive for Black Label, Manhattan Green Metallic.

Navigator designers and engineers say they focused on creating a sanctuary-like environment within the cabin, finding new ways to reduce noise and upgrading existing features such as the vehicle's seat massage system.

Second-row seats, for example, now will come standard with heat and ventilation, with available massage capability.

Eight speakers were added to the SUV's Revel Ultima 3D audio system, for a total of 28. And in a local touch, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra recorded six chimes that sound for things such as an open fuel door or an unbuckled seat belt.

The new Navigator also introduces a new Lincoln Play system for entertainment in the rear rows. It features a 10.1-inch screen and wireless headphones, 16 gigabytes of storage and wireless streaming capabilities via Bluetooth pairing and Amazon Fire TV.

The 2022 Navigator will be the first Lincoln vehicle to offer ActiveGlide. The system marks the latest step for the brand's intelligent adaptive cruise control functions that include stop-and-go, lane centering and speed sign recognition.

Lincoln has not yet announced pricing for ActiveGlide, but a spokeswoman said that Co-Pilot360, Lincoln's suite of driver-assist technologies including ActiveGlide, is standard on the Reserve and Black Label trims but is not available on the base model. 

When the system's camera and radar are activated, blue light cues will appear on the digital cluster and head-up display. At that point, drivers can take their hands off the wheel. The system works on more than 100,000 miles of prequalified sections of divided highways in the U.S. and Canada.

A driver-facing camera monitors the driver's gaze and head position to ensure they're still paying attention to the road.

 

Parts makers warn of more
supply issues to come in
semiconductor shortage

The Canadian Press
August 17, 2021

TORONTO — Canadian auto parts suppliers say the chip shortage that has created havoc in the industry and shortages at dealerships has been worse than expected and could continue to prove forecasts wrong.

During quarterly earnings reports last week, suppliers revised down or eliminated production and revenue forecasts because the situation is so unpredictable.

"This is having a more dampening effect on production than many expected just a few months ago," said Pat D'Eramo, chief executive of Martinrea International Inc., on an earnings call.

The parts producer decided not to release any third-quarter guidance because production schedules are so unclear. Suppliers are sometimes only getting a few days' notice that their customer is shutting down, he said.

"Visibility is a week out in a lot of cases ... a lot of products are hit and miss, run two weeks, stop a week, run four weeks, stop a week. And I think it's going to be like that into the fourth quarter and maybe even a little bit, almost likely for sure into next year."

Magna International Inc. said it now expects 1.6 million fewer vehicles built this year than what it had predicted only in May as the chip shortage has more impact than it expected.

"It is clear that the global semiconductor chip shortage has been and will be more impactful to 2021 than most in the industry anticipated earlier this year," said company chief executive Seetarama (Swamy) Kotagiri.

The semiconductor chip shortage, like so many supply chain issues, came about largely because of the widespread shutdown in production last year because of COVID-19 that hasn't ramped back up as fast as demand. Chips have been especially in high demand in consumer electronics as more people work from home, leaving the auto sector scrambling to get enough supply.

The shortage of chips that are necessary for the ever-increasing number of electronic components in vehicles has forced major automakers to cut back production, as well as focus supplies on larger, more profitable trucks and SUVs, building vehicles to later add missing parts, and in some cases cutting out some components entirely.

GM has cut back on features like wireless cellphone charging, smart mirrors, HD radio and some fuel-saving features in trucks as it tries to meet the strong customer demand at dealerships where lots are running near-empty.

Customers so far aren't too bothered by the cuts, said Dan Murray, general manager of Murray Chevrolet in Winnipeg.

"A lot of it is stuff they don't really care about. I mean a heated steering wheel in Manitoba is an important option, so that's one we don't like to see, but for the most part customers have been OK with what's been taken off."

He said he's pleased with how GM has responded, and demand is high enough that customers are accepting compromises, including waiting up to six weeks for the delivery of their vehicle. The dealership started July with only 29 vehicles on the lot, and ended up selling and delivering 78 in the month.

"Inventory's so tight that pretty well everything is selling."

The supply shortage could be around for some time as major auto producers say the situation remains fluid.

Ford chief executive Jim Farley said on an earnings call that "my guess is as good as anybody's on this" as he predicted the issues would continue into next year.

The company was especially hit because of a fire at one of its major chip suppliers, while GM chief executive Mary Barra said new issues in supply are cropping up.

"We are seeing new challenges in the third quarter due to global COVID outbreaks, including the current outbreak in Malaysia resulting in closures of assembly, test and packaging facilities for semiconductors. This remains, as we said, a fluid and rapidly changing environment."

In early August, GM announced it would even be shutting down some truck production, while the company's CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., that produces the Chevy Equinox has largely been shut down since February.

The continued production cuts are worse than expected, said Linamar Corp. chief executive Linda Hasenfratz on an earnings call.

She noted that coming into the second quarter, the estimated global lost vehicle production would be 160,000 units, and it ended up being 2.6 million. The third quarter is now forecast to lose 1.27 million units, revised up from 50,000 in May, but she said she's worried it will actually look closer to the second quarter in terms of impact.

"Be prepared for a bigger chip impact in terms of lost vehicle builds than is currently forecast by the industry folks out there. We could be being overly cautious here, but we are concerned by the pattern of underestimation that we have seen."

 

 

Bronco bug: Ford will replace
all hardtop roofs to
fix quality issue

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
August 13, 2021

Ford Motor Co. will replace hardtop roofs on all Bronco SUVs due to a quality issues, the automaker said Thursday.

In a letter to customers, the Dearborn-based company said the so-called "molded-in color hard tops" on both two and four-door Broncos have been identified with a quality issue that does not impact performance, but creates an "unsatisfactory appearance when exposed to extreme water and humidity." The Bronco also comes with a soft-top option, and that is not affected.

The automaker said it doesn't expect replacement roofs until October, at which time updates will be prioritized for oldest units first. The letter was first posted to Bronco 6G forum and reported by Automotive News. A Ford spokesperson affirmed its authenticity and the company has posted an FAQ sheet on its website to assist customers.

"Our customers who already have a Bronco with a hardtop can keep driving them in the wild and we’ll get them a new hardtop roof at no cost as soon as we can," said Ford in a statement. "Unfortunately, for some customers who have ordered two-door and four-door Broncos with a hardtop roof, they will need to wait a bit longer." 

Ford says the issue will impact future production of the Bronco as well as current customers and order holders. Fewer 2021 models will roll off the Wayne Assembly Plant and new Bronco orders will now be for the 2022 model year. Bronco customers who have placed an order but do not yet have a production date can update their 2022 hardtop order — or switch to a 2021 soft-top model.

The roof issue has been a consistent thorn in the side for Bronco, delaying production of 2021 SUVs earlier this year. The removable roof is made by German supplier Webasto, which struggled to equip its Plymouth manufacturing facility due to COVID-related issues. The new, $47.9 million manufacturing plant opened last year to service Ford and other automakers.

Previously, Ford pushed off two other roof options — a modular painted hardtop and dual roof — until 2022 models so Webasto could concentrate on getting molded-in color hardtops and soft tops. The supplier will make the replacement roofs.

TFLCar.com, one of the auto industry’s premier benchmarking publications, experienced issues with a Bronco First Edition model it purchased this year for testing.

Andre Smirnov, a writer for TFLCar, said they replaced the roof after experiencing “an annoying rattle near the B-pillar.” TFLCar did not experience fitment or water leaking issues in its tests, though they did notice some discoloration. They replaced the Silver Gray roof (matched with a Cyber Orange body color) with a black soft top acquired from aftermarket accessories supplier Bestop.

Despite its production issues, the wildly-anticipated Bronco has received rave reviews from media and owners for its style, off-road performance, and high-tech features. The Bronco is aimed squarely at Jeep’s Wrangler franchise — and has also spawned a Bronco sub-brand in a Ford Icons brand strategy that includes Mustang and F-150.

The Bronco Sport SUV, also released this year, has been selling like hotcakes. It shares Bronco style cues, but is built not on the Bronco's ladder-frame truck platform, but on the same unibody architecture as the Escape SUV.

The Ford spokesperson said the company is determined to help Bronco customers with the roof issue. Dealers will pick up SUVs in order to make the replacement when the time comes, and Ford has also offered owners Bronco design posters, ride-and-drive experiences, and Ford Pass reward points.

The Bronco hiccups follow the bumpy launch of anther key Ford SUV, the Explorer, in 2019. Bronco owner forums have been buzzing about the roof issue, but it does not seem to have dampened enthusiasm for the SUV. Dealers say orders have been off the charts.

 

U.S. probes whether Ford was
slow to fix backup cameras

Associated Press
August 9, 2021

Detroit — U.S. highway safety regulators are investigating whether Ford acted quickly enough when it recalled more than 620,000 vehicles last year to fix faulty rear-view cameras.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also says it will look into whether the automaker should have recalled more vehicles.

Documents posted Friday on the agency's website say Ford began the recall on Sept. 23 because the backup camera displays can show a blank or distorted image. The recall covered multiple Ford and Lincoln models from 2020 including the F-Series pickup, the nation's top-selling vehicle.

The agency said Ford spotted the problem and monitored warranty claims starting in February 2020. The problem went to an internal Ford safety committee in May.

In July, the agency told Ford about an increasing trend of complaints about the cameras. At an August meeting, Ford showed the agency data showing high failure rates on some of the models.

The agency opened what it calls a recall query to investigate whether the recall was done fast enough and whether it covers all the affected vehicles.

Ford is cooperating in the investigation.

 

Canadian border agents
threaten strike that could
delay travelers, trade

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
August 9, 2021

Travelers entering Canada could experience long lines and delays at border crossings and airports starting Friday if the federal government there doesn't make a deal with unions representing 9,000 Canada Border Services Agency employees.

Two unions served strike notices to the government, they said Wednesday. That would entail a work-to-rule strike action starting at 6 a.m. Friday during which the agency's workers would "obey all of the policies, procedures and laws applying to their work, and perform their duties to 'the letter of the law,'" according to a statement from the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Customs and Immigration Union. The result of such action could be delays entering the country, the unions said.

The work action threat comes ahead of the government's plans to reopen the border to fully vaccinated U.S. travelers on Monday following a 17-month COVID-induced closure. Negotiations are ongoing, union officials said, after the government put forth an offer, including 6.48% wage increases over four years, according to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

A border slowdown risks undercutting any economic boost Canadian border economies like Windsor and Sarnia could reap from renewed tourism by vaccinated Americans. It also threatens to snarl cross-border freight traffic, deepening further supply chain woes already weighing on auto industry production.

“We’ve continued to serve Canadians throughout the pandemic — keeping our borders safe, screening travelers for COVID-19 and clearing vital vaccine shipments,” Mark Weber, the Customs and Immigration Union's national president, said in a statement. “Now it’s time for the government to step up for CBSA employees.”

If no agreement is reached, the slow-down strike will take place at all Canadian airports, land borders, commercial shipping ports, postal facilities and headquarters locations, the unions said. The unions are directing members to not work during breaks or unpaid lunches or past scheduled hours. They are instructing them to ask every question in their manual at ports of entry. There will not be any picket lines, at least for now.

The Canada Border Services Agency will respond to any work disruption to maintain the safety and security of the border, ensure compliance with laws and keep the border open to legal travelers and goods, Jacqueline Callin, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in a statement. She added that 90% of frontline border services officers are essential and will continue to offer needed services in the event of a strike.

"CBSA officers have proven their tremendous resilience and dedication since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic by helping to prevent the spread of the virus and its variants, while facilitating the flow of essential goods," Callin said. "They remain vigilant and continue to effectively enforce some of the world’s strongest border measures to keep Canadians safe.

"We expect that our officers will continue to fulfill their duties with the highest level of integrity and professionalism."

Unionized border agents have been without a contract for more than three years. They are seeking better workplace protections and parity with other Canadian law enforcement agencies, the unions said.

An impasse was declared in December. A public interest commission recommended the parties reach a deal, including making improvements to the working conditions of the border agents. The unions announced their members approved a strike vote in July.

“We truly hoped we wouldn’t be forced to take strike action, but we’ve exhausted every other avenue to reach a fair contract with the government,” Chris Aylward, Public Service Alliance of Canada national president, said in a statement. “Treasury Board and CBSA have been clear they aren’t prepared to address critical workplace issues at CBSA at the bargaining table.”

Following the notice of the strike, the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board appointed a mediator at the request of the government to oversee negotiations, said Geneviève Sicard, chief of public affairs for the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Bargaining has been ongoing since Wednesday. The parties have agreements covering 95% of the federal unionized workforce for this round of bargaining.

The proposal to the Public Service Alliance of Canada includes pay increases of roughly $4,000 ($5,000 Canadian dollars), over three years to 106,000 employees, Sicard said. It's similar to a recent agreement for correctional workers, who received pay increases of 8.1%, or almost $5,600 ($7,000 Canadian dollars) over four years.

"The Government of Canada’s offers," Sicard said, "to all bargaining agents take into consideration current economic conditions, including other collective agreement settlements, the government’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified employees, employment conditions in the federal government relative to other Canadian workplaces and responsible fiscal management."

 

Ford posts 32% July sales
slump as new-vehicle
inventories dwindle

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
August 5, 2021

Ford Motor Co.'s new-vehicle sales in the U.S. slumped nearly 32% in July compared to the same period last year, reflecting the toll of a global computer chip shortage that has thrown a major wrench into auto production.

The Dearborn automaker reported Wednesday that it sold 120,053 new vehicles in the U.S. last month. Total sales were down 31.8% from last July while retail sales were down 37.7%. Sales of trucks were off 27% while SUV sales fell 27.3%. And sales of nearly every Ford and Lincoln model were down compared to the same period last year.

Ford was hit particularly hard by the chip shortage in the second quarter. Executives confirmed last week that the automaker lost about 50% of its planned production for the quarter, or about 700,000 units. And several of its plants in North America took downtime in July due to the chip shortage and other supply constraints.

Ford's results stood in contrast to the foreign automakers that largely posted sales gains for the month. American Honda sales, for example, were up 8% in July. 

Morgan Stanley analysts reported in a note Wednesday that the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of sales for light vehicles came in at 14.8 million units for the month, "below expectations due to record low inventories" but not reflective of the underlying demand.

Inventory across the industry hit a low of 22 days' supply, down from 25 days in June and 53 days last year. Morgan Stanley estimated Ford's days' supply to be 36, compared to 72 days last year.

Meanwhile, the Blue Oval highlighted the success of its first all-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E, which launched at the end of last year. Ford said the Mach-E is, on average, turning on dealer lots in 12 days. Mach-E's July sales of 2,854 units represented 15.8% growth over June, and the vehicle is now the second best-selling battery-electric SUV. 

Mustang sales were down 16.1%. In terms of Ford SUVs, EcoSport was down 27.9%, Escape sales plummeted 71%, Edge sales fell 57.9%, Explorer was off 26.4% and Expedition sales dropped 6.8%.

But transaction pricing for Ford SUVs hit a record of $42,000 per unit in July, up $6,200 over last year.

July marked the second month that sales of the new Bronco SUV were reported. Ford sold 3,277 units of the highly-anticipated product. Meanwhile, Ford recorded 2,306 sales of its new Bronco Sport SUV, a smaller version of the Bronco. That's down from 8,355 sales in June, for a 72% decline.

On the truck side, sales of Ford's profit engine, the F-Series pickup truck franchise, were down 26.2% year-over-year. Sales of the Ranger, E-Series, Transit and Transit Connect also were down. 

Ford's luxury Lincoln brand plummeted 50.9% year-over-year in July with total sales of 4,237 vehicles. Sales of every Lincoln model were down. The Nautilus SUV, for example, was down 24.5% and sales of the Aviator SUV were down 44.1%.

Still, the automaker said the Lincoln brand is seeing a record number of retail orders this year, with new orders more than doubling compared to last year. And rising average transaction prices for Lincoln vehicles — up by $11,500 over last July — are helping to bolster the brand.

"At $62,400 per vehicle, Lincoln transaction pricing grew at almost twice the rate of the overall luxury segment in July with transaction pricing now approximately $5,000 higher than the segment," Ford said in a news release.

Year-to-date, Ford's sales are off 0.8% from the first seven months of 2020.

Despite the weak sales results, Ford last week posted better-than-expected second-quarter financial results. The automaker posted a $561 million profit and revised upward its outlook for the full year, projecting adjusted pretax earnings of between $9 billion and $10 billion.

Executives attributed the results in part to the increase in pricing, which has happened as supplies on dealer lots dwindle.

Ford reported Wednesday that its transaction prices are up approximately $8,400 to nearly $50,000 per vehicle, driven by new truck and SUV offerings and rising sales of high-series trim SUVs. The market dynamics also have prompted the automaker, as well as its competitors, to cut back on incentives. 

Executives said the company is primed for growth as the chip shortage begins to ease and Ford capitalizes on a lineup of new products that already is seeing strong demand from consumers. 

"The primary advantage we have right now is the strength of our product portfolio — and it's about to get a lot stronger," CEO Jim Farley said at the time. "After effectively managing through the first half, we are spring-loaded for growth in the second half and beyond because of those red-hot products."

The new Ford Maverick compact pickup truck, for example, already has gotten 80,000 non-binding reservations. And F-150 Lightning, the automaker's forthcoming battery-electric version of the best-selling pickup truck, has garnered more than 120,000 reservations.

"In addition to the sales we delivered in July, our retail order bank increased over 70,000 units, excluding our Bronco and Maverick retail orders, which is 10 times higher than we were a year ago," Andrew Frick, Ford's vice president of sales for the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement Wednesday.

"With our strong portfolio of new products, robust transaction pricing and a big order bank," he added, "we are perfectly positioned for significant growth as the semiconductor chip situation improves.”

 

Detroit Three, UAW in talks with
White House to set EV sales goals

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News
Aug 4, 2021

Washington — The Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers are in discussions with officials in the Biden White House as it aims to broker a voluntary agreement to dramatically increase electric vehicle sales over the next decade. 

The White House is seeking to get General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Stellantis NV and the union to commit to 40% to 50% electrified vehicle sales by 2030, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations.

The group has not agreed upon a firm target, the sources said, though the administration hopes to announce the goal alongside updated emissions and mileage standards early next week. UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said: "We're still in discussions, but there's no agreement at all."

The administration is keen to project a unified front, with the industry supporting its goals to ramp up electrification and reach carbon neutrality economy-wide by 2050. How the industry acts in the coming years — and whether consumers take up the new electrified vehicles — will determine whether the administration reaches those goals, as the transportation sector is still the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the country. 

The discussions come as some of the world's leading governments move aggressively to phase out gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. The European Union has proposed banning the sale of gas engines by 2035. In the United States, California and Massachusetts have committed to the same goal, and 11 other states have considered following suit.

President Joe Biden has resisted calls from environmentalists and the governors of 12 U.S. states to implement a similar policy federally. Currently, only around 2% of all new vehicle sales in the United States are electric vehicles. 

Biden's original $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan called for $174 billion to "win" the global electric vehicle market, which is currently dominated by Europe and China. Some of that funding, including $15 billion for charging stations and electric buses, is included in the bipartisan plan being drafted in Congress.

The rest, EV advocates hope, will be included in a partisan reconciliation bill that Democrats hope to pass with their narrow majorities alongside the bipartisan package. The negotiations over both packages remain in flux. 

But the end result of those proposals will be fundamental to the industry's ability to sign on publicly to an electrified vehicle sales goal, sources said. Funding for charging stations, grants for retooling factories and tax credits to make EVs more affordable will make it easier for automakers to reach the goal, as "range anxiety" and vehicle cost remain the biggest barriers to adoption among consumers.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the discussions. A spokesperson for GM said they do not have an agreement to announce, a spokesperson for Ford noted the company's pre-existing goal of 40% global EV sales by 2030, and a spokesperson for Stellantis declined to comment.

Rush to green

Right now, there are only around 43,000 public electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S., according to the Department of Energy. Just over 5,000 of those are DC Fast chargers, which can charge an EV to 80% in less than an hour and most closely mirror the experience of fueling up at a gas station (though that speed isn't yet possible with existing technology).

Each of the automakers already has made moves to significantly ramp up EV production in the coming years with goals that are close to what the White House is seeking.

Ford has said it expects 40% of its global sales to be electric vehicles by 2030 and said on a recent earnings call that consumer demand for EVs has outpaced expectation. GM aims to have all of its new light-duty vehicles be zero emission by 2035. Stellantis announced recently it is targeting over 40% of sales in the U.S. to be electrified by 2030.

The UAW has said it supports electrification, and it has a close ally in the administration, which is pushing for protections for unions in the transition. However, union leaders have urged caution on the rush to EVs, raising concerns about consumer adoption and potential job losses under the new technology. 

Environmental groups, which are seeking more stringent standards that would push the industry to electric, and labor leaders have been in discussions for months on how to shape policy that works for them both.

"It’s not the environment or jobs, it’s both," said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, who first organized the discussions. "Everybody’s working very hard to keep the industry at the forefront of the global market, to protect jobs and to transition to cleaner technology."

New standards ahead

The administration hopes to announce the goal alongside new mileage and emissions standards that are expected to be released early next week, sources said. Former President Donald Trump loosened standards while in office, and industry, labor and environmental leaders all expected the Biden administration to reverse course, though how far the new rules would go has remained speculative.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that those standards would implement the California framework, which increases mileage standards and cuts emissions by 3.7% annually, beginning with model year 2023. In 2025, the requirements would increase to the Obama standards of 5% annual increases in efficiency and an even higher increase beginning in 2026. 

However, not all sources agreed that's what's coming. Most automakers prefer the California standards, while environmental groups have pushed for standards beyond the Obama-era requirements in order to make up for added emissions under the Trump administration, when mileage requirements were reduced to 1.5% increases annually.

The auto industry was divided over emissions standards under Trump, who banned California from setting its own emissions standards, which it has done for decades under an exemption in the Clean Air Act.

Five companies — Ford, Volkswagen AG, BMW AG, Honda Motor Co. and Volvo Cars Ltd. — sided with California and agreed to the state's increased standards. GM, Stellantis (then Fiat Chrysler NV), Toyota Motor Corp. and other smaller automakers sided with the Trump administration, though all three dropped out of the suit after Biden was elected.

 

Ford slated to spend more on
EVs than on internal combustion
engine vehicles in 2023

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
August 3, 2021

For the first time in its 118-year history, Ford Motor Co. plans to spend more on electrified vehicles than it does on internal combustion engine vehicles starting in 2023, an executive said Monday.

Speaking at an event hosted by the bank Barclays, the Blue Oval's chief operating officer for North America, Lisa Drake, mentioned the 2023 timeline while discussing the automaker's investments in electric vehicles. Earlier this year, Ford said it was increasing its investments in electrification to $30 billion through 2025.

"In 2023 ... we'll spend more on EVs than we will on ICE," Drake said. "We've been over the moon about the success of Mach-E, and the F-150 Lightning, by bringing in over 70% new customers to the Ford brand. What that allows us to do is, now we have an opportunity not only to lead on our ICE business, but also in the EV space with F-150. So our aspirations are high."

The Dearborn automaker is in the midst of fielding its first wave of electric vehicles. It launched its first all-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E SUV, late last year. It will launch an electric version of its popular Transit van later this year. And next year, it is slated to launch a battery-electric version of the F-150 pickup truck, Ford's cash cow and long the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

Those offerings are reflective of Ford's strategy of electrifying its most popular and iconic nameplates — a strategy that has had some early success in terms of Mach-E sales and reviews, and reservations for forthcoming EVs. 

"The demand for our first round of high-volume EVs clearly has exceeded our most optimistic projections," Ford CEO Jim Farley told Wall Street analysts last week. He reported that F-150 Lightning has drawn more than 120,000 non-binding reservations, with approximately 75% of those potential customers coming from other auto brands.

Leaning heavily into electrification is a key component of the company's newly-announced Ford+ growth plan, which also includes an emphasis on digital connectivity and commercial vehicles.

Meanwhile, crosstown rival General Motors Co. said earlier this year that 2021 marked the first in which it was spending more on the development of electric and autonomous vehicles than on gasoline- and diesel-powered products. 

In June, GM announced it would increase its investments in electric and autonomous vehicles by 30% through 2025 to $35 billion. The Detroit automaker announced earlier this year that it aims to have a zero-emissions lineup by 2035. It plans to introduce 30 EVs globally by 2025.

Ford has said it expects to electrify 40% of its global lineup by 2030. These investments and commitments come as the White House negotiates with the Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers on emissions policies and EV sales targets the administration could announce sometime this week, The Detroit News reported last week.

The Biden administration is aiming to get the companies and the union on board with a commitment to 40% to 50% of sales being electrified by 2030. The administration also is slated to announce updated emissions and mileage standards, policies that will have major implications for investment decisions by automakers.

Speaking with a Barclays analyst Monday, Drake stressed the importance of federal policy in shaping the automaker's EV ambitions, as consumer adoption of EVs in the U.S. remains low.

"We're going to rely a lot on some of the infrastructure policies and the administration's aspiration to make this a bit more ubiquitous. We can't do it alone," she said. "We're very excited to see some of the bipartisan work that's happening in Washington right now, because it's going to be necessary to help us."

 

Unifor reaches tentative deal
with Bombardier but strike
continues with De Havilland

July 31, 2021

TORONTO — Unifor has reached a tentative agreement with Bombardier Aviation at its Downsview plant in north Toronto.

The union says locals 112 and 673 reached an agreement days after it launched a strike against the business jet manufacturer and De Havilland, which make Dash 8 turboprops at the facility.

The three-year agreement covers about 1,500 Bombardier employees.

Details of the settlement won't be released until the deal is ratified during a vote to be conducted Saturday afternoon.

The union has said pensions, use of contractors and erosion of bargaining unit work were key issues at Bombardier, while the future of the Dash 8 program is the focus of talks with De Havilland.

Bombardier says it expects all will return to normal once the deal is ratified.

"Upon ratification, the mutually beneficial agreements will help secure the future of aerospace manufacturing in Toronto," the company said in an email.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias says the union can now focus all of its efforts on reaching an agreement with De Havilland.

“Our membership gave us a strong mandate, after a difficult set of negotiations we have managed to reach a tentative agreement with Bombardier,” added local president Maryellen McIlmoyle, in a news release.

"We remain at the table determined to continue negotiations with De Havilland."

 

Ford cruises by chip shortage,
boosts outlook

The global semiconductor shortage led the company to slash production in half

By Michael Ruiz
July 30, 2021

Ford exec says electric F-150 pickup will 'hook you for life'

FOX Business' Grady Trimble speaks with Ford exec Darren Palmer on electric car models at the Chicago Auto Show.

Ford Motor Co. revved up surprise second-quarter profits this year – powered by climbing pickup and SUV prices even as a global computer chip shortage forced it to pump the brakes on production, which dropped by roughly half.

The company reported revenue of $26.8 billion and net income of $561 million – beating expectations and fueling hopes for the future of Ford+, the company’s new business plan.

"Ford+ is about creating distinctive products and services, always-on customer relationships and user experiences that keep improving," Ford President and CEO Jim Farley said in a statement. "And it’s already happening – there are great examples everywhere you turn at Ford, and the benefits for our customers and company will really stack up over time."

The company also touted 120,000 reservations for the new electric F-150 Lightning and soaring Mustang Mach-E and Bronco orders – making the company "spring loaded" for a surge in sales when global supply lines recover from a semiconductor shortage that has impacted companies in a range of industries.

A Ford F150 XL truck is displayed, Monday, July 26, 2021, at a dealership in Hialeah, Fla. Sky-high sales prices for its pickup trucks and SUVs helped Ford Motor Co. turn a surprise second-quarter profit despite a global shortage of computer chips th

Production of the new Lightning is also creating 500 jobs at the company’s Rogue Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Mich.

The chip shortage is expected to last at least another year, according to some experts – although the company has reportedly mulled shipping incomplete vehicles to dealer lots, where the chips can be installed as they come in.

But despite the stalled production, soaring demand for new Ford vehicles allowed the company to lower incentives and still rake in sales. To keep pace, the company used what chips it had available on its most profitable vehicles.

In June, Ford's sales of electrified vehicles increased 117% for the month and set a half-year record of 56,570 vehicles. Meanwhile, Ford's overall vehicle sales for the month plummeted 26.9% year-over-year as the auto industry continues to feel the pain from an ongoing semiconductor chip shortage.

 

"We’re on a new path, with the Ford+ plan, financial flexibility and a resolve to make us an even stronger company," CFO John Lawler said in a statement. "We’re developing connected, high-quality vehicles and services that are great for customers and profitable for Ford."

Ford’s earnings came in at 13 cents per share – dramatically beating out projections of 3-cent losses, according to FactSet.

The strong showing lifted the company’s projected full-year pretax income to between $9 billion and $10 billion – an improvement of about $3.5 billion.

Ford also reported "persistent, growing strength" in Europe and the success of its Lincoln brand in China – where the U.S. automaker reported its highest ever quarterly retail sales.

But Lawler told the Associated Press that increased prices for raw materials will take about $2 billion out of Ford’s pretax income in the second half. And Ford’s credit subsidiary is expected to see pretax profits drop by about a billion dollars as lease returns are expected to drop in value.

Ford has been accelerating its drive toward electric vehicles as well – announcing a new battery factory in Romulus, Mich., set to open up next year.

The new collaborative learning lab, dubbed Ford Ion Park, represents $100 million of the automaker's total $185 million investment in developing, testing and building electric vehicle battery cells and cell arrays. It is also part of the company's $30 billion investment in electrification by 2025.

 

Bombardier, De Havilland
workers go on strike in Toronto

Reuters
Allison Lampert
July 29, 2021

Canada’s largest private sector union said on Tuesday that a strike is underway by Toronto members working for Bombardier Inc. and De Havilland Aircraft of Canada (DHC) although contract talks continue.

Negotiations between the companies and Unifor come during a rebound in U.S. business jet flights, as more wealthy travellers look to fly on private aircraft during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bombardier shares were down 2.08 per cent in midday trading.

Unifor said it is bargaining for a combined 2,200 workers at the same Toronto manufacturing site for Bombardier’s Global large-cabin business jets and De Havilland’s Dash 8-400 turboprop aircraft.

“We will remain at the bargaining table with both companies as the strike action is ongoing,” said Unifor national President Jerry Dias in a statement.

De Havilland announced in February it would no longer make Dash 8-400 aircraft at the Downsview site beyond confirmed orders due to weaker demand because of COVID-19.

Bombardier spokesman Mark Masluch said “the talks are continuing and we are focused on seeing the process through to an agreement.”

De Havilland, which acquired the turboprop program from Bombardier in 2019, said in a statement that it would continue to meet “all customer needs.”

A key sticking point for the union during talks with De Havilland is the future of the turboprop program it acquired from Bombardier.

Unifor said it is seeking a commitment to maintain prop production within a “reasonable radius” of Toronto if manufacturing resumes.

Bombardier announced Downsview’s sale to a Canadian pension fund in 2018, although plane manufacturing continues at the site temporarily.

De Havilland said Unifor’s position “is drastically out of step with the realities” facing its business and the hard-hit aviation sector, adding the company “will not rush” to a decision on the location of a future manufacturing site.

Key issues in the Bombardier talks include workers’ pensions, the union said.

 

Unifor launches strike at
Downsview facility as
talks continue with
De Havilland, Bombardier

ROSS MAROWITS
THE CANADIAN PRESS
JULY 28, 2021

Unifor says it has launched a strike at the Downsview facility in north Toronto as negotiations continue separately with De Havilland and Bombardier Inc

The union said workers from Local 673 and Local 112 walked off the job as threatened just after 10 a.m., two days after talks resumed following a three-week cooling-off period.

About 1,500 unionized Bombardier workers and 700 De Havilland employees at the plant manufacture Bombardier’s Global business aircraft and, until recently, the Dash 8 turboprops for De Havilland Canada.

“We will remain at the bargaining table with both companies as the strike action is ongoing,” said Unifor national president Jerry Dias.

“Our union will continue to make every effort to reach a fair settlement but we have a number of key issues to resolve with both employers.”

Pensions, use of contractors and erosion of bargaining unit work are key issues at Bombardier while the future of the Dash 8 program is the focus of talks with De Havilland.

Other issues relate to the sale of the Downsview site in 2018 and both companies’ planned exit of the facility, Dias added in a news release.

“Our members work hard and deserve nothing less than an agreement that values their incredible contribution to these companies and respects their hard work,” said Maryellen McIlmoyle, president of Unifor Local 673 which represents technical, office, and professional workers at both companies.

Bombardier says 800 of its non-union workers at Downsview remain active with some working from home due to COVID-19 protocols.

“At this time, the talks continue and we are focused on seeing the process through to an agreement,” spokesman Mark Masluch wrote in an email.

De Havilland Canada said it was disappointed with the union’s statements before the resumption of talks and at the bargaining table that “assert a position that is drastically out of step with the realities facing De Havilland Canada’s business, and the aviation industry more generally.”

The company said it agreed to the union’s request for a 30-day extension of the collective bargaining agreement in the hope that it would use the time to “adjust its negotiating posture to enable a mutually agreeable outcome.”

“De Havilland Canada is eager to collaborate with the Union as we chart a sustainable long-term future for aircraft manufacturing and the skilled employment it supports. But the ability to work together toward a long-term future relies on a concerted effort to transform the business to the circumstances we are facing.”

The company said it has put contingency plans in place in order to continue to meet all customer requirements.

De Havilland announced earlier this year that it would no longer produce new Q400 aircraft at the facility beyond currently confirmed orders. De Havilland indicated two years ago that work will end at Downsview once lease agreements for the land expire.

The union wants De Havilland, whose parent company Longview Aviation Capital Corp. purchased the Dash 8 program from Bombardier for $300-million in June 2019, to commit to making the Dash 8 somewhere in Greater Toronto when production resumes.

Dias has said he fears De Havilland plans to move production to its facilities in Alberta.

He said the company refused to bargain any sort of scope clauses that would limit production to somewhere in the GTA, including Pearson International Airport where Bombardier has broken ground on a new facility for its Global business jets.

“Their silence on the matter is very troublesome,” he said in a Friday interview. “The bottom line is we’ve got a lot of people have worked there for a lot of years and have worked on this program and they deserve the right to continue to build the program.”

 

Why Ford's high-level hiring
spree is no accident

Jordyn Grzelewski,
The Detroit News
July 27, 2021

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. is on something of a high-level hiring spree, and it's no coincidence.

The Dearborn automaker is bolstering its senior leadership ranks, chiefly where politics and the auto business intersect. It's beefing up its policy and technology know-how amid a push to execute its new growth plan, lead the electric-vehicle transition and influence policy decisions that will shape how that future is realized.

As the industry pivots hard toward electrification and self-driving vehicles, Ford executives see major policy issues looming in capitals around the world. Because politics influence the policy-making that weighs on the global auto industry, the Blue Oval is moving to field a team to navigate such complicated issues as infrastructure, incentives and the politics of a hyper-partisan Washington.

Since CEO Jim Farley assumed the top job last October, Ford completed the internal reshuffling that often comes with a new boss by moving people internally and recruiting external hires for such key roles as marketing, new businesses and mergers-and-acquisitions.

But in a signal that Ford is looking to sharpen its policy chops, it tapped director Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor, businessman, diplomat and onetime presidential candidate, as vice chair for policy. And Huntsman recruited Steven Croley, a former federal lawyer who worked in the Obama administration, to become Ford's chief policy officer and general counsel.

"The CEO and the board ... looked forward and said, 'What we need in the C-suite is more policy expertise, more political savvy.' And that's what they got with these two guys," said Erik Gordon, a professor at University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. "They fit into the pile of building blocks that Farley is assembling to execute the plan."

All are tasked with helping to deliver on Farley's growth plan for the company. Dubbed Ford+, it is focused on electrification, providing revenue-generating services enabled by digital connectivity, and growing Ford's commercial vehicle business. Those are the pillars of Ford's plan to move from infrequent transactions with customers to a business model built on new, recurring revenue streams.

These prominent hires come as Ford and its rivals in the auto industry embark on the costly shift to electric and autonomous vehicles, an effort closely intertwined with government regulations and policies now being negotiated from Washington and Sacramento to Brussels and Beijing. And they come amid tightening environmental regulations as the Biden administration pushes infrastructure legislation with major implications for EV sales and manufacturing in the U.S.

"Most companies are taking a different look than what they did historically," said David Cole, chair emeritus of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research. "If you go back a number of years, (automakers) designed cars, built cars, sold them to the dealer, the dealer sold them to the customer. The role of policy ... was pretty straightforward. Now, it's not."

Policy chops

In developing the Ford+ plan, Farley and his team identified areas where they felt the company needed to improve. Those include policy, customer experience and software. There also is a focus on modernizing within the existing workforce, developing in-house software capabilities and preparing employees for the transition to vehicles powered by electric motors instead of internal combustion engines.

Experts say federal policy will play an even more important role than it has during previous eras of transition in the global auto industry. Take, for example, the need to build infrastructure that supports EVs.

"People are not going to buy vehicles they can't operate because there's no electricity for them," Gordon said. "So, that makes policy important. As they move also toward driver assistance and then autonomous vehicles, that's going to be constrained by and driven by policy considerations — policies made by politicians."

New technologies, supply chain snarls and trade issues also are at the forefront. The industry currently is navigating through one of its most complex supply-chain challenges ever, for example: the months-long shortage of computer chips that promises to grow more pressing as vehicles become more technologically advanced.

"Whether you're talking about globalization, interface with ... China or Europe, policy issues, or tech issues, those historically were a lot simpler years ago than they are today," Cole said. "And I think particularly when you're looking at the senior level in terms of policy, you better make sure you're well-connected to every factor that's going to have some impact on the business."

Enter Huntsman, a Republican, and Croley, a Democrat. Their roles are broad-ranging and global, focused on policy areas including sustainability, government affairs, international politics, energy and trade.

Huntsman was eyed for his international affairs chops, particularly in China. As the world's largest auto market and one where EVs are being adopted more rapidly than in North America, China is a focus for Ford and other global automakers as they look to achieve the global scale needed to make the investment in EVs pay off.

Ford historically has been a smaller player in the region. But it has seen some progress with a new product portfolio geared toward the preferences of Chinese customers, as well as the promise of new EVs prepared to challenge rival Tesla Inc. there.

Huntsman is said to have a deep understanding of the China market, consumers there, and the who's who in politics after serving as the U.S. ambassador to China under former President Barack Obama. He speaks fluent Mandarin and has extensive experience in the region.

He rejoined Ford's board of directors last year and in April was tapped as vice chair of policy, an expanded role that has him advising Farley and Executive Chair Bill Ford. He's tasked with working with teams across the company, and representing Ford "with certain government officials and influencers in the United States and other countries around the world," the company said in announcing his new position.

"Global policy is hugely important to transforming Ford and unlocking great value for customers and all stakeholders," Farley said at the time. "Jon's background, insights and achievements are unrivaled — as an ambassador and trade representative, a state governor and a public-company executive."

Huntsman, a former executive at his family's multinational chemicals company, Huntsman Corp., served as governor of Utah from 2005 to 2009. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Donald Trump, ambassador to China under Obama, and ambassador to Singapore under Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. He also had trade assignments under President George W. Bush.

And though he ran for president as a Republican, Huntsman is not a partisan firebrand. He served in administrations under both parties and has relationships on both sides of the political aisle — precisely the kind of bipartisan pedigree Ford wants to help it navigate D.C. politics today.

In an era of extreme political polarization, experts say businesses must consider partisan affiliations when building policy and lobbying teams. In Ford's case, Croley brings Democratic bonafides, balancing out the GOP ties of Huntsman and Mitch Bainwol, Ford's chief government relations officer.

"You better be able to play with both sides, with somebody that has significant interface with each side," Cole said. "That's just the reality of today, with this political polarization. And it's not going to go away soon."

Croley, meanwhile, brings a different type of policy expertise, namely energy issues — a critical competence as the industry pivots toward electrification. In announcing the hire, Farley touted Croley's "deep leadership experience at the intersection of law and policy."

Croley reports to Farley and is slated to work closely with Huntsman. Bainwol and Bob Holycross, vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering, both report to him.

Croley most recently served as a partner in the D.C. office of Latham & Watkins, where he focused on legal policy and regulatory compliance around energy and environmental issues. He previously served as general counsel for the U.S. Department of Energy, and prior to that worked in the White House as a special assistant to Obama for regulatory policy and later as deputy counsel overseeing legal policy.

Croley, who is married to Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, was a special assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan's Civil Division and later worked at the University of Michigan Law School.

In bringing him on board as general counsel and chief policy officer, Farley "brought in — not somebody who has been general counsel of a public company, not somebody who's a dealmaker — but somebody who is an energy policy wonk," said Gordon.

Huntsman and Croley are just two of several recent additions to the senior leadership team. Late last year, Suzy Deering joined Ford as head of global marketing after serving as chief marketing officer at eBay, bringing with her a background in technology, data and analytics as Ford looks to reorient its relationship with customers.

And Ford recently tapped Franck Louis-Victor, formerly an executive at French automaker Renault SA, to head up the automaker's new businesses platform. In that role, he's responsible for devising a strategic plan that encompasses both existing and new capabilities in such areas as autonomous vehicles and mobility service. He also oversees new ideas developed via the company's incubator, Ford X.

Open for business

Meanwhile, Ford last month welcomed Doug Power into a newly created position — vice president of corporate development. He came from multinational foods giant General Mills Inc., where he led the company's $8 billion acquisition of the pet food brand Blue Buffalo.

The University of Michigan graduate has spent 25 years in the mergers-and-acquisitions space, including stints at Merrill Lynch and two technology firms.

Now that he's made the move to Ford, Power is focused on beefing up the company's M&A team, developing a cohesive strategy that serves the company's growth plan and proactively identifying deals that fit in with what Ford is trying to accomplish.

"I've been doing M&A now for 25 years and I've been at four different companies," he said in an interview. "This is the clearest strategy a company I've joined has had, and it's also incredibly clear where we can add value from an M&A perspective."

Those areas align with Ford's plan. His team, for example, could play a role in connected services by acquiring the necessary software capabilities. Another area of focus, he said, will be Ford Pro, the dedicated commercial vehicle business Ford announced earlier this year. And on electrification, Power sees potential around EV charging and vertical integration of the supply chain.

Ford already has made moves in those areas, for example with its recent acquisition of EV fleet charging provider Electriphi, and with its EV battery-manufacturing joint venture with SK Innovation. There are other parts of the supply chain where Power's team will look for M&A potential.

"We're in the strategy phase of vertical integration right now, with the whole stack under review," he said. "I imagine that over time, in the near term, we will identify at least one or two areas where we're going to decide, 'If we can find the right company, with the right capabilities, the right people, it would be better to own this capability.'"

He emphasized it's not just about closing deals, however, but making proactive, strategic moves. Ford's top leadership, he said, already is behind that approach.

Meanwhile, said CAR chair emeritus Cole, "You never work on a detail outside of the context of the bigger picture. What these announcements from Ford basically say is that, 'We've got to be appropriately plugged into the bigger political picture.'"

 

GM, Cruise sue Ford over
use of BlueCruise name

Kalea Hall
Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
July 26, 2021

Detroit — General Motors Co. and Cruise, its majority-owned autonomous vehicle company, are suing Ford Motor Co. over its use of the name BlueCruise. 

GM and Cruise, in a late Friday filing in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, claim Ford did "not have the permission or consent of Cruise or GM to use “BlueCruise,”

and Ford has no corporate relationship, affiliation, or sponsorship with Cruise or GM."

GM contends that the use of "BlueCruise," which is the name of Ford's hands-free driver assistance technology "is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or to deceive, as to the affiliation, connection, or association between Ford and both GM and Cruise." 

The automaker is seeking damages for "Ford's unlawful conduct," and asking the court to issue a judgement that the Dearborn automaker "infringed Cruise’s and GM’s federal and common law trademark rights."

Ford introduced the BlueCruise technology in April this year. GM said in its filing that it "quickly took action after Ford’s announcement to try to persuade Ford to rebrand its unreleased enhancement, but to no avail."

Ford spokesman Mike Levine called the Cruise and GM claim "meritless and frivolous," in a statement.

"Drivers for decades have understood what cruise control is, every automaker offers it, and “cruise” is common shorthand for the capability," Levine said. "That’s why BlueCruise was chosen as the name for the Blue Oval’s next evolution of Ford’s Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control, which incorporates hands-free Blue Zones and other advanced cruise-control features."

Outside of Cruise, GM also uses the name Super Cruise for its self-driving technology and said Ford’s use of BlueCruise "is likely to cause irreparable harm to Cruise, GM, and their related CRUISE and Super Cruise brands."

GM's Super Cruise technology was announced in 2012 and has been used commercially since 2017, the automaker noted in a statement. Cruise has been in business since 2013. 

"While GM had hoped to resolve the trademark infringement matter with Ford amicably, we were left with no choice but to vigorously defend our brands and protect the equity our products and technology have earned over several years in the market," GM spokesman Darryll Harrison said in a statement. "As this is a matter of pending litigation, we have no further comments at this time."

 

Ford, Argo AI team with Lyft
to launch self-driving robotaxi
service in Miami, Austin

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
July 23, 2021

Ford Motor Co. and Argo AI will launch a limited robotaxi service on ride-sharing company Lyft's platform beginning later this year, the companies announced Wednesday.

The initial deployment of the service in two cities — Miami later this year, and Austin next year — marks a significant step on Ford's path to launching a commercial autonomous-vehicle business.

The project brings together Ford, Argo AI — a Pittsburgh-based autonomous-vehicle technology company in which Ford owns a stake — and the No. 2 ride-sharing service in the country, Lyft.

“Argo and Ford are currently piloting, mapping and preparing for commercial operations of autonomous vehicles in more cities than any other AV collaboration, and this new agreement is a crucial step toward full commercial operations — the addition of Lyft’s world-class transportation network,” Scott Griffith, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles & Mobility Businesses, said in a statement.

"This is the beginning," he added, "of an important relationship between three dynamic companies ultimately aiming to deliver a trusted, high-quality experience for riders in a multi-city large scale operation over time.” 

Here's how it will work: As the vehicles are released, Lyft users in defined service areas within the participating markets will be able to hail a self-driving Ford model. The vehicles will have safety drivers.

The companies are planning a larger-scale deployment of the service following the launches in Miami and Austin. They are finalizing agreements under which they would deploy "at least" 1,000 autonomous vehicles on the Lyft network across "multiple" markets over the next five years, according to a news release.

“This collaboration marks the first time all the pieces of the autonomous vehicle puzzle have come together this way,“ Lyft CEO Logan Green said in a statement. “Each company brings the scale, knowledge and capability in their area of expertise that is necessary to make autonomous ride-hailing a business reality.”

Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky said in a statement that the three companies are "executing on a shared vision for improving the safety, access to and affordability of transportation in our cities."

As part of the agreement, Argo AI will use anonymized service and fleet data from Lyft that will inform decisions on scaling the business and how to safely use self-driving technology.

Meanwhile, Lyft will receive 2.5% of Argo AI's common equity as part of the licensing and data access agreements they've reached to collaborate, the companies said.

Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Argo is preparing to go public, with an expected valuation of more than $7 billion.

Both Ford and German automaker Volkswagen have investment stakes in Argo. Argo's role is to develop the autonomous-driving system for use in its automaker partners' products.

That alliance is up against numerous competitors, including General Motors Co.'s subsidiary Cruise LLC, who are racing to develop autonomous vehicles and launch them at scale.

So far, only Google subsidiary Waymo has launched an actual self-driving robotaxi service in the U.S., Bloomberg recently reported. 

Argo has been test-driving autonomous vehicles in six cities around the country, including Detroit.

Ford CEO Jim Farley has spoken highly of Lyft in the past.

At a Deutsche Bank event last month, he said Ford "love(s) what Lyft and Uber are doing."

"I stay really close to both companies," he said. "They're very important for Ford and for Argo, both companies, and we think that once we get past this COVID environment, their demands are really going to surge."

And for Ford, which has committed to investing $7 billion in AV development through 2025, Farley sees opportunities beyond robotaxi services. He said last month that the automaker is "increasingly interested in the moving goods middle mile area," referring to commercial vehicles that transport goods, for example, from a plant to a warehouse.

 

Ford's Europe sales up 43.7%
in the second quarter

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
July 22, 2021

Ford Motor Co. netted 242,618 sales in Europe in the second quarter, for a 43.7% increase over the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Ford's European sales of more than 500,000 vehicles through the first half of the year represent a 22.6% improvement over last year, when the onset of the coronavirus pandemic led to widespread lockdowns.

Ford captured 6.2% of the Europe market in the second quarter. That's down 0.9 percentage points from the second quarter of 2020. Its share of the retail market stood at 5.8% in Q2.

In terms of sales volumes in the second quarter, Ford's top European markets were Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Spain.

Bright spots for the automaker included sales of the Ford Puma crossover, the Kuga SUV, and its commercial Transit vans. The Transit Custom van was the best-selling vehicle overall in the United Kingdom, Ford reported.

And the Ford Ranger pickup truck had a record quarter with nearly 16,000 sales. 

Ford operates a strong commercial vehicle business in Europe. The company noted that it once again was the leading commercial vehicle brand in the market for the first half of the year and in the second quarter.

And amid tightening environmental regulations in Europe and a more aggressive electric vehicle push by Ford, the automaker reported that 46% of its passenger vehicle sales in the second quarter were electrified.

The automaker reported that the plug-in hybrid version of the Kuga so far is Europe's best-selling PHEV of the year and that half of Kuga sales are for the PHEV version.

Ford's presence in Europe spans Austria, Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

Meanwhile, Ford earlier this month reported that its U.S. sales were up 9.5% in the second quarter, while its sales in China were down 3.6% over the same period.

 

Ford may ship unfinished vehicles
to dealers due to chip shortage

Technicians would be responsible for installing the missing parts

Matthew Guy
July 21, 2021

File this one squarely in the ‘unspeakably bad ideas’ folder. It seems that Ford Motor Company is in the throes of debating whether or not to ship unfinished vehicles – specifically, ones affected by the ongoing chip shortage – directly to dealers and training local technicians in the skills required to sort everything out when parts finally become available.

The potential problems with this plan are so vast that your author can scarcely believe it’s actually being considered. First, one needs to recognize that technicians at most dealers are presently overworked, thanks to a backlog of tasks asked of them tied to pandemic-related closures and hiccups.

Adding this labour to their plate is not going to help matters, tying up techs who would otherwise be performing customer-requested jobs — who’ll probably get upset they need to wait longer than normal for routine service.

This is to say nothing of the ire it’ll surely inflame in some customers who will want the truck they’re buying ‘right now’ since it’s sitting out there on the dealer’s front row. Sure, lots look better when filled with product but your author – after toiling in auto sales many moons ago – knows there will be a certain percentage of dealers who’ll simply let the unfinished vehicles run through their system in order to record a sale.

Even if the dealer refuses to let the end customer drive off the lot due to safety reasons, the clock would have begun ticking on its warranty coverage, since the In Service date usually begins when the sale is recorded and the vehicle is put in the customer’s name.

That’s likely a big part of why the Blue Oval wants to pursue this avenue in the first place. In case you’re unaware, the real customer of Ford Motor Company isn’t customers like you and I — it’s the dealer body. In the vast majority of cases, a dealership’s new car inventory is owned by the store, financed through a system called floorplanning. Generally speaking, this is one reason why dealers like quick turning of inventory — in addition to having a fresh stream of new cars, it reduces the amount of monthly interest they pay on their floorplan arrangement.

With this knowledge, one can understand why it could ultimately cost a dealer more money if they are forced by Ford to accept vehicles they can’t immediately sell. By the way, all those sales numbers which are trotted out at the end of every quarter by manufacturers usually refer to vehicles that have shipped and sold to dealers, not Joe Consumer.

Ford must be feeling the pressure, especially after images surfaced last month from the Kentucky Speedway showing thousands of unfinished pickup trucks lining parking areas of that facility. With many dealer lots much emptier than usual thanks to the double whammy of COVID-19-related shutdowns and chip shortages, the temptation must surely be great to simply ship unfinished units and be done with them.

 

Manufacturing beating pre-
pandemic output, with Ont.
to strengthen on EVs: report

Manufacturing is leading the Canadian economy out of recession, but deepening trade tensions with the U.S. could stifle ongoing strong growth

The Canadian Press
REUTERS
July 20, 2021

Although Windsor is a priority in talks, Unifor is also looking for clarity on Brampton.

TORONTO — Manufacturing is leading the Canadian economy out of recession, but deepening trade tensions with the U.S. could stifle ongoing strong growth, a new report on Canada's economic performance amid the easing of lockdown restrictions has found.

The manufacturing sector is outperforming pre-pandemic levels, with manufacturing sales and railway car loadings — the amount of cargo transported by rail — surpassing pre-COVID-19 amounts, according to the report by RSM Canada, an audit, tax and consulting services firm.

Ontario stands to gain exponentially from automaker commitments to electric vehicles, which have been bolstered by provincial and federal government support for the electrification of vehicles, the report released Monday said.

"Canada's manufacturing sector has almost single-handedly pulled the country out of recession in recent months, and this strong performance, coupled with promising signs from other areas such as real estate and energy, suggests that better days are ahead for the economy," Alex Kotsopoulos, RSM Canada projects and economics partner, said in a statement.

Yet Canadian manufactured products face market challenges amid increasing Buy American provisions in the United States, the research suggested.

"There's still plenty of work to be done on the trade front," Kotsopoulos said.

"Canada's over-reliance on the U.S. leaves it vulnerable to any trade frictions that happen between the two nations, and we're seeing that effect now as the Biden administration continues to focus first and foremost on rebuilding the U.S. economy."

Despite the turmoil in the country's energy sector, energy products accounted for nearly 22 per cent of Canada's total exports to the United States in the first quarter of 2021, the report said.

Meanwhile, Canada's housing market accounted for two-thirds of economic growth in the first quarter, as increasing demand for single-family homes and tight supply drove up prices, according to the research.

Demand for housing is expected to remain strong as millennials become the backbone of consumer demand and the workplace, the report said.

In addition, increases in household savings suggests housing market investments may strengthen as the pandemic subsides, the research found.

Still, despite strong manufacturing and housing numbers, business investment has hit a wall.

The report found that business spending on machinery, equipment and non-residential structures has stalled at about 14 per cent below pre-COVID levels, signalling trouble for long-term economic development.

"While there are promising signs, business investment is still too low," Joe Brusuelas, the chief economist for RSM U.S. said in a statement.

"This is something that's slowing down the potential for economic growth."

Strengthening the labour force and its ability to produce diversified items of value will be key to attracting capital long-term, the report found.

It also recommends spending on programs that increase workforce productivity.

The government should invest in productivity through measures like the universal expansion of broadband coverage, childcare, housing and nutritional security, Brusuelas said.

"These commitments, coupled with the ability of the younger generations to work remotely, will allow for sustained growth," he said.

 

Ford recalls 774,696 Explorer
SUVs for possible steering
control issue

Jordyn Grzelewski
July 19, 2021
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. on Friday announced three safety recalls in North America, including nearly 775,000 Explorer SUVs for an issue that may result in loss of steering control and thus increase the risk of a crash.

The Explorer recall includes approximately 774,696 2013-2017 vehicles that may experience a seized cross-axis ball joint that can cause a fractured rear suspension toe link. Ford said affected vehicles may experience a clunk noise, unusual handling or a misaligned rear wheel. Fracture of a rear toe link "significantly diminishes steering control, increasing the risk of a crash," the company said.

The recall affects about 676,152 vehicles in North America, 59,935 in China, 25,257 in Ford's International Markets Group, 13,162 in Europe and 190 in South America.

"In the U.S., the affected vehicles are located in high-corrosion states as defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or in regions with a combination of cold winter weather with relative high humidity and substantial road salt use," the automaker said in news release.

Owner notifications will begin the week of Aug. 23. Dealers will inspect the cross-axis ball joint, replace it if necessary and replace the toe links with a revised design part. The Ford reference number for the recall is 21S32.

Ford said it is aware of six claims of injury in North America related to the issue.

Meanwhile, the automaker also issued a safety recall for approximately 40,995 2020-2021 Lincoln Aviator vehicles equipped with a 3.0-liter engine. Ford said the battery cable wire harness in the vehicles may not be properly secured, allowing contact with the A/C compressor pulley. Over time, that pulley may rub through the wire harness insulation, coming into contact with a circuit and creating risk of a short circuit or fire. 

The recall includes 36,258 vehicles in North America, 2,601 in Ford's International Markets Group and 2,136 in China.

Ford said it is not aware of any accidents, injuries or fires related to the issue.

Owner notifications will begin the week of July 30. The Ford reference number for the recall is 21S34.

The automaker also is recalling approximately 34,939 2020-2021 Ford F-350 Super Duty vehicles with a 6.7-liter engine and single rear-wheel axle. The recall stems from what the automaker described as a "rear axle housing spring seat interface weld issue."

Affected vehicles may experience rear driveline disconnection, according to Ford. Drivers may experience vibration and/or shaking while driving at highway speeds, and/or shuddering when they accelerate. If the driveshaft becomes disconnected, drivers may experience loss of motive power while driving or loss of transmission park function if the parking brake is not engaged, increasing the risk of a crash.

The recall affects 34,855 vehicles in North America, with the rest in Ford's International Markets Group. 

Ford said it is not aware of any accidents or injuries related to the issue.

The automaker will begin notifying vehicle owners the week of Aug. 16. Dealers will inspect the rear axle; if it's deformed, the axle housing will be replaced. If not, the dealer will conduct a weld repair on the spring seats. The Ford reference number for the recall is 21S31.

 

Why the Stellantis plant in
Brampton, Ontario will be
out of product in 2024

July 16, 2021

The Stellantis assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario, may have nothing to build after 2023, as automakers plan to move production of Dodge Charger and Challenger muscle cars to the United States next year. ..

“Analyzing the Stellantis portfolio … throughout North America, chargers and challengers could go to the United States, leaving a gap in Brampton from 2024,” said Joe McCabe, CEO of AutoForecast Solutions. Automotive News Canada When asked about an automobile manufacturer’s electrification plan.

McCabe’s comment came after Stellantis’ EV Day earlier this month when automakers announced that they would introduce battery-electric muscle cars into their lineup in 2024. Stellantis does not say where the car will be made.

The Brampton Assembly currently manufactures gas-powered charger and challenger vehicles, as well as the Chrysler 300 sedan, which will be phased out by 2023. Chargers and Challengers are considered to be very profitable cars for Stellantis, but remain unknown. What is the company’s long-term plan for the Brampton Assembly, especially as automakers accept electrification and software development at $ 35 billion by 2025.

Requests for comments from Stellantis Canada representatives were not immediately returned.

Unifor Local 1285 president Danny Price said there are “no signs” that automakers will stop manufacturing chargers and challengers in Brampton. The local 1285 represents approximately 3,000 workers per hour in the factory.

“Our products are currently paying for Stellantis,” Price said. “Our current order days are higher than when we launched these vehicles a few years ago … Closing a factory that has products that are paying for the rest of the company There is none.”

Price said Brampton would line up with the production of electric muscle cars.

“As long as we sell those cars, we make them,” he said. “It’s our agreement since we launched these vehicles. We’re the only provider. If they want to start electrifying them, we’ll build them.”

AFS predictions do not necessarily mean that the Brampton assembly will be closed. Forecasting company said in 2020 that Ford Motor Company’s Oakville Assembly in Ontario would no longer build a Ford Edge-Lincoln Nautilus crossover beyond its current life cycle, eliminating product obligations in the long run. Stated.

That AFS forecast, first reported Automotive News Canada, Brought new urgency to the negotiations of the year between Unifor and Ford. They later agreed to invest C $ 1.8 billion (US $ 1.4 billion) in the factory. This will eventually bring EV production to Oakville, replacing the outgoing Edge and Nautilus.

Unifor and Stellantis will negotiate a new contract in 2023. The request for comment from Unifor President Jerry Diaz was not immediately returned.

During 2020 negotiations between Stellantis’ predecessor Unifour and Fiat Chrysler, automakers planted $ 50 million at the Brampton Plant to introduce new derivatives of chargers and Challengers during the contract period. Agreed to invest (US $ 40 million).

However, in contrast to the up to $ 1.5 billion ($ 1.2 billion) investment plan agreed upon by the Windsor Assembly to manufacture Stellantis minivans, the long term for what the plant will build after 2023. The question remained unanswered. Automakers plan to build at least one new electric model there by 2025.

Stellantis plans to deploy four EV platforms in the 300-500 mile range over the next few years. According to the company, 98% of European and North American models will be electrified by 2025, with the goal of making more than 40% of US sales EV by 2030.

Long known for its powerful internal combustion engines, Dodge is alongside electrified vehicles.

“If the charger can make the charger faster, we’re in,” Dodge CEO Tim Kniskis said earlier. Automotive News.

 

Ford amends bylaws to adopt
gender-neutral language

Reuters
July 15, 2021

Ford Motor Co. on Friday said it amended its bylaws to adopt gender-neutral language in an effort to build a more inclusive workplace.

The automaker said it would use the title "chair" in place of "chairman."

This comes amid fierce debates over what it means to be a man or a woman, and how language and institutions need to be more inclusive.

Earlier this year, White House added gender-neutral pronouns that people could select when contacting the U.S. government, while professional networking site LinkedIn announced plans to let users add their preferred gender pronouns to accounts in certain countries.

 

Many Caesars Windsor employees
heading back to work

By Maureen Revait
July 14, 2021

Around 600 Caesars Windsor employees are expected to be called back to work when the casino reopens.

The provincial government announced on Friday that casinos would be allowed to open at 50 per cent capacity when the province enters Step 3 of the provincial Reopening Roadmap on July 16, 2021.

“This is a little disappointing that we can’t, based on our numbers in Windsor-Essex County, reopen at capacity,” said Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy. “But this is a step forward that we can at least get patrons in there and get our workers back to work.”

Over 2,200 people have been laid off from Caesars Windsor since it closed last March due to the global pandemic. The casino opened briefly with very limited capacity in the fall.

“It was a tough time for them, we have couples there that both the husband and wife both work there so it was tough. It was a tough hull,” said Cassidy.

Around 300 employees have already been called back to undergo retraining, the remaining are expected to be called back in the coming days.

Cassidy said he is confident Caesars Windsor had a back-to-work plan to keep patrons and employees safe.

“That is a very safe place to be, the guards that are up, the plexiglass that is up, the cleaning that is going to take place,” said Cassidy. “One hundred per cent the casino is safe to go in. They are going to do screening when people come in, both patrons and employees.”

A representative from Caesars Windsor said they would announce their reopening plans on Tuesday.

 

Striking UAW workers at
Volvo truck plant reject
third tentative deal

Associated Press
July 13, 2021

A tentative agreement between Volvo Trucks North America and a union representing nearly 3,000 workers who have gone on strike twice this year at a southwest Virginia truck plant has been voted down, United Auto Workers officials announced Friday.

It was the third tentative labor accord rejected by union workers this year.

A UAW statement said workers at the company's tractor-trailer assembly plant in Dublin would continue their current walkout after rejecting the July 1 tentative pact.

“We appreciate the solidarity and support of the community as we continue to walk the picket line and work to negotiate a fair contract” for members of UAW Local 2069, said the UAW statement issued in Detroit.

Volvo says the 1.6 million square foot Dublin plant is the largest manufacturer of Volvo tractor-trailer trucks in the world. It is one of the largest private sector employers in the region, with approximately 3,300 employees, some 2,900 of whom are represented by the UAW.

The previous contract, reached in 2016, was to have expired in mid-March and negotiations began in February. Unionized workers went on strike from April 17 to 30 and returned to work as negotiations resumed. UAW members rejected a proposed contract in May. The company announced another tentative agreement later that month, but it was rejected June 6.

Volvo Trucks North America noted it was the third tentative agreement approved by UAW leadership but rejected by UAW members involved in Volvo's New River Valley truck assembly operations in Dublin.

“Given the significant wage gains and first-class benefits this agreement delivered, and the strong support it garnered from UAW leadership at every level, this outcome is unexpected and very disappointing,” said NRV Vice President and General Manager Franky Marchand.

He said in the statement that the company was considering its next steps.

“The ongoing strike — which we continue to believe is unnecessary — is hurting our customers, and has already set back our project to expand and upgrade the facility,” he said. “No one is gaining from the current situation, and we will consider all options related to the bargaining process.”

The Volvo Group is the only heavy-duty truck manufacturing group that assembles all of its trucks and engines for the North American market in the U.S., according to Volvo. It said the plant is undergoing a $400 million investment for technology upgrades, site expansion and preparation for future products, including the Volvo VNR Electric truck.

It added the plant has added 1,100 jobs since the current union agreement was implemented in 2016 and is on track to have a net increase of approximately 600 positions in 2021.

 

Ford China sales up 24% year-
over-year for the first half of 2021

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
July 12, 2021

Ford Motor Co.'s sales in greater China — the world's largest auto market and a leader in adoption of electric vehicles — were up 24% year-over-year in the first half of 2021, the automaker reported this week.

Ford recorded more than 306,700 vehicle sales in the region through the first six months of the year, up from the first half of 2020 when recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic was just beginning.

The automaker highlighted the performance of its luxury Lincoln brand, which notched more than 42,200 sales in the first half, up 111.4% year-over-year. That marked the brand's best-ever first-half sales performance in the region.

Sales of Ford-branded SUVs exceeded 57,900 units, up 35.7% year-over-year. And Transit commercial vehicle sales topped 26,800, for a 22.5% year-over-year improvement.

Meanwhile, second-quarter sales of 152,900 vehicles represented a 3.6% year-over-year decline, which Ford attributed to an ongoing global semiconductor shortage. The shortage, which is being felt in varying degrees by the entire auto industry, has stretched on for months and disrupted production around the world.

"Ford is focused on offering the right mix of world-class vehicles and services to our customers in China and on continuing the momentum and growth of our business," Anning Chen, CEO of Ford China, said in a statement. "In the second quarter, we revealed six new vehicles and outlined a strong and innovative electrification strategy. These actions — combined with our commitment to deliver always-on customer experiences — position us for success in the competitive Chinese auto market."

The six new vehicles include the Ford Evos, the Escape plug-in-hybrid vehicle, the Escort, the 2021 Mustang, the Lincoln Zephyr Reflection preview car and the Lincoln Corsair plug-in hybrid, according to a news release.

As part of its push toward electrification in China, Ford has revealed a locally-built version of the all-new Mustang Mach-E. And earlier this year, the company announced plans to sell vehicles directly to customers in China under the umbrella of a new, dedicated battery-electric vehicle organization.

The automaker this week said it established 10 direct-to-consumer EV storefronts in the second quarter. Additional storefronts are planned.

Meanwhile, Ford reported that locally built SUVs, including the Lincoln Corsair, Nautilus and Aviator, made up 86% of Lincoln sales in the first half.

Corsair in particular was a bright spot for the automaker, with sales of approximately 23,700 units representing a more than 200% year-over-year increase. It's been the best-selling Lincoln model in the region for 15 consecutive months, according to Ford.

Lincoln Aviator sales were up 281.7% in the first half, to more than 6,500 units.

Ford-branded passenger vehicle sales of about 116,000 were up 6%.

The locally-built version of the Ford Explorer SUV, which launched in June 2020, sold more than 32,500 units in its first year.

Meanwhile, sales of the Ford Escape and Edge were up 10% and 27.3%, respectively, in the first half.

The Ford Mondeo and Taurus sedans were up 14.1% and 41.2% year-over-year, respectively.

Ford's sales in Taiwan, made via a joint venture with a Taiwanese manufacturer, were up 36.4% to 13,800 units, which Ford attributed to the strength of Ford Kuga and Focus sales.

Ford and its Chinese automaker partner JMC posted approximately 148,000 commercial vehicle sales in the first half, for a 26.3% year-over-year improvement.

Ford last week reported that its U.S. sales were up about 9.5% in the second quarter and 4.9% for the first half of the year.

General Motors Co. and its joint venture partners earlier this week reported that its sales in China were up 5.2% in the second quarter with more than 750,000 vehicles sold.

 

EU fines 4 German car makers
$1B over emission collusion

David McHugh and Raf Casert
Associated Press
July 9, 2021

Brussels — The European Union handed down $1 billion in fines to four major German car manufacturers Thursday, saying they colluded to limit the development and rollout of car emission-control systems.

Daimler, BMW, VW, Audi and Porsche avoided competing on technology to restrict pollution from gasoline and diesel passenger cars, the EU's executive commission said. Daimler wasn't fined after it revealed the cartel to the European Commission.

It was the first time the European Commission imposed collusion fines on holding back the use of technical developments, not a more traditional practice like price fixing.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said that even though the companies had the technology to cut harmful emissions beyond legal limits, they resisted competition and denied consumers the chance to buy less polluting cars.

"Manufacturers deliberately avoided to compete on cleaning better than what was required by EU emission standards. And they did so despite the relevant technology being available,” Vestager said. That made their practice illegal, she said.

According to Vestager, the companies agreed on the size of onboard tanks containing a urea solution known as AdBlue that is injected into the exhaust stream to limit pollution from diesel engines, and also on the ranges that drivers could be expected to drive before the tank needed refilling. A bigger tank would enable more pollution reduction.

Vestager said cooperation between companies is permissible under EU rules when it leads to efficiency gains, such as the faster introduction of new technologies.

“But the dividing line is clear: Companies must not coordinate their behavior to limit the full potential of any type of technology,” she said.

BMW said that discussions on the AdBlue tanks had “no influence whatsoever on the company’s product decisions.” The company said it was significant that that the fine notice found there was no collusion involving earlier allegations of using software to restrict AdBlue dosing.

BMW said it set aside 1.4 billion euros ($1.7 billion) based on the commission's initial accusations but reduced the set-aside in May due to more serious allegations in the case not being substantiated.

The case wasn’t directly linked to the “dieselgate” scandal of the past decade, when Volkswagen admitted that about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide were fitted with the deceptive software, which reduced nitrogen oxide emissions when the cars were placed on a test machine but allowed higher emissions and improved engine performance during normal driving.

The scandal cost Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen 30 billion euros ($35 billion) in fines and civil settlements and led to the recall of millions of vehicles. The Volkswagen vehicles in the scandal did not use the urea tanks but relied on another pollution reduction technology.

 

Date announced for $500
one-time payment, and
Old Age Security to be
automatically increased
by almost $100 over
the coming year

Employment and Social Development Canada

July 8, 2021              
 
The Old Age Security (OAS) pension provides retirement income security for seniors because it maintains its value over time, even as prices increase.

Today, Canada’s Minister of Seniors, Deb Schulte, announced the highest quarterly adjustment to existing OAS payments since July 2014. She also confirmed that the Government of Canada will deliver the $500 one-time payment to older seniors, announced in Budget 2021, during the week of August 16, 2021.

This summer’s one-time payment of $500 will support older seniors’ higher expenses, and will apply to 3.3 million seniors who are eligible for the OAS pension in June 2021 and were born on or before June 30, 1947. No action is required by seniors, who will automatically receive the payment if they are eligible.

In July 2021, OAS benefits will automatically increase 1.3%, bringing the maximum monthly OAS pension amount to $626.49, up from $618.45. Over the coming year, the increase is worth up to $96.48.The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and the Allowances will also be adjusted for inflation.

Budget 2021 also included a permanent increase of 10% to the OAS pension, to be implemented in July 2022 for seniors aged 75 and over. This will provide an additional $766 to full pensioners over the first year, and will be the first permanent increase to the OAS pension since 1973, other than adjustments due to inflation. It builds on measures to support all seniors, which include restoring the age of eligibility for the OAS pension and the GIS to 65 from 67, strengthening the Canada Pension Plan for future retirees, increasing the GIS for single seniors, raising the GIS earnings exemption and reducing income taxes for all Canadians. 

Quotes

“The Government is continuing to improve the financial security of Canadians in retirement after a lifetime of hard work. Increasing Old Age Security for older seniors helps all Canadians with their extra needs later in life. While no single solution can meet every need, step by step our progressive measures are making a real difference in the lives of seniors. Canadian seniors can always count on us to listen, understand their needs and work hard to deliver for them.”

– Minister of Seniors, Deb Schulte

“Canada’s pension system is designed to provide benefits that reflect changes in the cost of living, with payments only ever increasing or staying the same. They will never go down. This helps seniors enjoy the financially secure and dignified retirement they deserve.”

– Stéphane Lauzon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors

Quick facts

  • Seniors are the fastest-growing demographic age group in Canada. By 2030, the number of seniors is expected to reach 9.4 million, representing close to one quarter of Canada’s population.
  • In 2020 and 2021, the Government is providing $5.5 billion in additional direct financial support to seniors, through a $1.3 billion one-time GST credit in April 2020, $2.5 billion for a one-time OAS/GIS payment in July 2020 and $1.7 billion for the one-time payment to older seniors in August 2021.
  • Older seniors face higher costs. As seniors age, their health and home care costs rise, all while they are more likely to have disabilities, be widowed or be unable to work. 
  • Most seniors have low and modest incomes. About 84% of OAS pensioners have individual incomes below $50,000.
  • The objective of the Old Age Security program is to ensure a minimum income for seniors and help reduce the incidence of low income among Canada’s seniors. The OAS benefits include: the OAS pension; which is paid to all individuals aged 65 and older who meet the residence requirements; the GIS for low-income seniors; and the Allowances for low-income Canadians aged 60 to 64 who are the spouses or common-law partners of GIS recipients, or who are widowed or widowers.
  • The maximum OAS pension is payable to seniors aged 65 and over who lived in Canada for at least 40 years after age 18. Partial pensions are payable if they lived in Canada for at least 10 years or qualified under International Social Security Agreements.
  • All OAS benefits (the OAS pension, the GIS and the Allowances) are indexed on a quarterly basis in January, April, July and October so benefits don’t lose value over time. Increases to OAS benefits are calculated using the Consumer Price Index, which measures changes in prices paid by Canadian consumers for goods and services, and is the most widely used indicator of price changes in Canada. If the cost of goods and services goes down, OAS benefits do not decrease. OAS payment amounts will only increase or stay the same. Historical values are available on the Open Data portal.
As a result of automatic indexation, the annual value of the monthly OAS pension has increased to $7,516 per year from $6,404 per year over the past decade

 

Ex-UAW official Vance Pearson
sentenced to 1 year in federal prison


July 7, 2021

DETROIT — Former UAW Regional Director Vance Pearson was sentenced Tuesday to a year in federal prison for conspiring to embezzle union funds and additional racketeering exercise with different high-ranking union officers.

The court docket acknowledged that Pearson performed “a minor role but at the same time, it was active,” stated U.S. District Judge Paul Borman. The court docket didn’t order Pearson to pay a effective.

Pearson’s authentic sentencing guideline was 24-30 months. But appearing U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin final month requested a lowered 14-month sentence due to Pearson’s cooperation and help in the investigation and prosecutions of ex-UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. Jones was sentenced to 28 months in June, and Williams was (*1*) in May.

In December 2019, two months after he was arrested, Pearson started cooperating with investigators via in-person and cellphone interviews. He agreed to testify towards his co-conspirators and forfeited money from two financial institution accounts, his “Flower Fund” and “Members in Solidarity,” that prosecutors had been unaware of on the time. His “Flower Fund” was to be used for the acquisition of flowers for the funerals of UAW members and their households. The fund, made up of union contributions, has been exploited by UAW officers for his or her personal use.

The “Members in Solidarity” account was to be used for marketing campaign bills for UAW elections.

Pearson’s cooperation additionally helped the federal government put together its civil lawsuit and negotiation to safe oversight of the UAW with an independent monitor in May.

 

Ford confirms further downtime
at North America plants
due to chip shortage

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
July 6, 2021

Ford Motor Co. confirmed new production impacts tied to the global semiconductor shortage, a months-long supply chain snarl that has disrupted auto production worldwide.

"While we continue to manufacture new vehicles, we're prioritizing completing our customers' vehicles that were assembled without certain parts due to the industry-wide semiconductor shortage," spokesperson Kelli Felker said in a statement. "This is in line with our commitment to get our customers their vehicles as soon as possible and consistent with our forecasted supply."

The Dearborn automaker is adjusting production plants at the following plants in North America to prioritize those builds, it said:

  • Chicago Assembly Plant will be down the weeks of July 5, 12, 19 and 26 and will run two shifts the week of August 2.  The plant builds the Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator and according to Ford's website employs more than 5,800 people.
  • Dearborn Truck Plant will run two crews the weeks of July 12, 19 and 26. The plant builds the Ford F-150 and F-150 Raptor and employs 4,400 people, according to Ford's website.
  • Flat Rock Assembly Plant, which employs more than 2,400, will be down the weeks of July 12 and 19. Workers there build Mustangs.
  • Hermosillo Assembly Plant in Mexico, which employs more than 2,800 and builds the Bronco Sport, will run one of two shifts the weeks of July 12 and 19. 
  • The F-150 line at Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri will be down the weeks of July 12 and 19. The plant's Transit line will be down the week of July 19. That plant employs more than 7,200 people, according to Ford's website.
  • Kentucky Truck Plant will be down the week of July 12 and will run two shifts the weeks of July 19, 26 and August 2. That plant, which builds Ford F-250–F-550 Super Duty Trucks, Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, employs nearly 9,000 people.
  • Louisville Assembly Plant, which builds the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair and employs more than 4,000, will run on a reduced schedule the week of July 19.
  • Oakville Assembly Complex in Canada will produce only the Nautilus the weeks of July 19, 26 and August 2. The plant also builds the Ford Edge.

Michigan Assembly Plant — which just launched production of the highly-anticipated Ford Bronco, and also builds the Ford Ranger — will be down the weeks of July 5 and July 26 due to "an unrelated part shortage," Ford said.

Meanwhile, the only General Motors Co. North American plant currently down because of the chip shortage is Fairfax Assembly in Kansas, which has been closed since Feb. 8. Employees there were recently informed the plant would remain down through the week of Aug. 16. The plant makes the Cadillac XT4 and Chevrolet Malibu.

GM’s Lansing Grand River plant is currently only running Chevrolet Camaros and halted production of the Cadillac CT4 and CT5 through Aug. 9 because of the chip shortage.

The shortage of semiconductor chips — essential components that power many of the automated and electronic features in modern vehicles — is due to a range of supply chain disruptions. They include market forces tied to the demand for consumer electronics amid the pandemic, a strong rebound of demand for new vehicles, and events such as a fire at a chip manufacturing facility in Japan.

Global consulting firm AlixPartners has pegged the impact of the shortage as $110 billion in lost revenue globally and some 3.9 million vehicles of lost production this year. The firm's analysts expect to see some recovery and fewer plant shutdowns starting in the third quarter and continuing into the fourth.

"The wave should get past us," said Dan Hearsch, a managing director in AlixPartners' automotive and industrial practice. "There will continue to be intermittent blips ... but you shouldn't have plants shut down for weeks or months at a time."

Meanwhile, IHS Markit released a new analysis of the shortage Wednesday saying that while the situation remains fluid, some of the supply-side shocks that have exacerbated the crisis are beginning to ease.

"In the third quarter we expect continued disruption but not to the scale seen in the first or second quarter," the analysis states. "We expect an improvement over the first or second quarter because the situation is becoming better understood and great efforts are being made to enhance visibility within a very complex supply chain."

"However," it cautions, "there are still mixed signals and it is too early to sound the 'all-clear.'"

 

Ford sales fall 27% in June
amid lingering chip shortage,
tightening inventories

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
July 5, 2021

Amid a lingering semiconductor chip shortage that has resulted in widespread production shutdowns and dwindling new-vehicle inventories, hard-hit Ford Motor Co. fell behind in the competitive truck segment and U.S. sales overall in the second quarter.

The Dearborn automaker on Friday reported that its June new-vehicle sales in the U.S., which totaled 115,789, were down 26.9% from a year ago, when sales were just beginning to come back amid the coronavirus pandemic.

For the second quarter, Ford's sales of 475,327 vehicles were up about 9.5% from a year ago when the pandemic closed many businesses, including dealerships, but down nearly 27% from 2019. Through the first half of the year, the Blue Oval's sales were up 4.9%.

The automaker has said that it expected to bear the brunt of the chip shortage fallout in the second quarter, and experts have said they expect the crisis to ease throughout the second half of the year.

But as it's battled through, Ford has lost market share to its crosstown competition and foreign automakers alike.

Ford even ceded the truck wars — long dominated by the best-selling F-Series franchise — to General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV in the second quarter, with F-Series sales of 158,235 coming in below Ram's 164,232 and Chevy Silverado's 164,731.

"It was a very tough quarter for Ford," said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader. "They are really struggling with the chip shortage and low inventories, and that showed up in the sales.”

Meanwhile, GM on Thursday reported second-quarter sales of 688,236, for a 40% increase over last year. Stellantis, maker of Ram trucks and Jeep SUVs, came in ahead of Ford with 485,312 sales, a 32% increase over the same period last year. 

Ford's sales were down across all of its segments in June, with truck sales of 63,129 marking a 27% year-over-year drop and SUV sales falling 11.5% to 49,792.

In a statement, Andrew Frick, vice president of Ford sales for the U.S. and Canada, highlighted the automaker's retail sales being up 10.7% through the first half of the year and Ford's push into electrification.

"With constrained inventories and record turn rates in the second quarter, we have been working closely with our dealers gathering retail orders, which are up 16-fold over last year," he said. "Reservations for F-150 Lightning have now surpassed 100,000 since the truck was first shown in May, while Ford’s sales of electrified vehicles produced a new all-time first half sales record with 56,570 vehicles sold — up 117% over year ago.” 

In another electric milestone, Ford's new, all-electric Mustang Mach-E outsold the gasoline-powered Mustang for the first time. Mach-E recorded 2,465 sales in June, inching above Mustang's 2,240 sales. Mach-E sales were up 26.7% from May.

The new Bronco Sport SUV had 8,355 sales in June and more than 60,500 through June. June was the first month in which sales of the all-new full-size Bronco SUV were reported; Bronco recorded 801 sales.

Among those early sales was Ross Musick, 36, of the Columbus, Ohio area. Musick earlier this week traded in his 2013 Ford Flex with 188,000 miles on it in favor of the four-door, cactus gray Bronco he'd long been awaiting.

Just a few days in, Musick said the new ride has proven popular with his four children and with other motorists who stop to check out the SUV and talk to him about it.

"I wanted it to be something fun to drive the family around," said Musick. "Sometimes the only family time we get is a couple of us together driving to a baseball tournament or softball game or something. So if we’re going to have a two-hour drive, we might as well make it fun — and so far that’s working out beautifully.”

Meanwhile, sales of F-Series, Ford's best-selling truck franchise and its profit engine, were off nearly 30% year-over-year in June, with 45,673 sales. Through the first half of the year, F-Series sales of 362,032 marked a 1.5% dip from 2020.

F-Series sales faltering, said Krebs, is "very significant, because the F-150 is the bread and butter in terms of revenue and profits for Ford. They need that to be strong, and it’s had a weak run here.”

Sales of the Transit commercial van were down 45.6% in June. Sales of the Ranger pickup truck fell 3.7%. 

In Ford's SUV segment, Escape was down 39.9%, Explorer was down 38%, and Expedition was up 42.8%.

Lincoln sales, totaling 4,903, were down more than 43%. Through the first half of the year, they're up 4.4%. Ford reported that Lincoln SUVs posted a new first-half record.

Sales of the Lincoln Navigator SUV were up 15.5% while sales of the Aviator were down 37.3.%

Ford's average transaction prices were up $6,400 over a year ago, to $47,800 per vehicle, an increase the automaker attributed to record turn rates and the new vehicles it's introduced in recent months.

Chip challenges

Detroit automakers, including Ford, have been among the hardest hit by the chip shortage — and it's beginning to show up in their market shares.

Toyota for the first time ever beat out GM as the No. 1 sales leader in the U.S. in the second quarter. It was the first time since 1998 that another automaker surpassed GM, according to Edmunds.com Inc.

Ahead of the release of second-quarter sales, Edmunds forecast that Ford's market share dropped to 10.7% from 14.7% last year. The actual market share shakeout from the second quarter has not yet been determined.

But with second quarter U.S. sales of 486,419, Honda Motor Co. beat out Ford.

The production losses Ford has seen this year are reflected in its inventory levels. The automaker said Friday that it has gross stock of 162,000 vehicles, down from 187,000 last month and 475,000 last year. 

Forecasting firm AutoForecast Solutions estimates that Ford has lost 477,559 units of planned vehicle production so far this year in North America. The automaker has said it could lose as much as 1.1 million units of planned production globally this year due to the shortage.

And earlier this week, it announced extended downtime throughout July at eight of its North American plants.

Overall, industry analysts say that the strong sales pace the industry has seen this year began to falter in June due to the lack of inventory, a trend that is likely to continue through the summer. 

IHS Markit estimated that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of new vehicle sales in the U.S. hit between 15.3 million and 15.8 million last month, down from 17 million in May.

"Inventory pressures are being felt industry-wide, but the incoming June figures point to a few automakers that may have realized stronger sales pinches than others," Chris Hopson, IHS Markit's manager of North American light vehicle forecast, said in a statement Thursday.

"While we expect improvement from an inventory side of the equation as the industry progresses through the second half of the year," he added, "there’s not much relief likely to be realized in July or August.”  

 

Prosecutors recommend 14-month
sentence for former UAW official
Vance Pearson

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
June 30, 2021

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to sentence former United Auto Workers official Vance Pearson to 14 months in prison — lower than sentencing guidelines based on his cooperation with investigators — for his role in an embezzlement scheme that brought down the union's top leadership.

Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin's office on Tuesday filed a sentencing memorandum and motion to reduce Pearson's sentence below the guideline range of 24 to 30 months. Prosecutors cited Pearson's "substantial assistance" in the case that has led to 15 convictions and six years of independent oversight of the union.  

They also are asking the court to order that Pearson make restitution of $250,000 to the UAW and forfeit $119,000. U.S. District Judge Paul Borman will weigh the recommendations at a sentencing hearing scheduled for July 6.

Pearson was a close aide to former UAW President Gary Jones. He succeeded Jones as director of the UAW's now-dissolved Region 5 based in Missouri.

Pearson pleaded guilty in early 2020 for his role in the racketeering enterprise that involved UAW officials embezzling money from members to pay for lavish personal expenses. He agreed to cooperate with an investigation targeting former presidents Jones and Dennis Williams, both of whom have since been convicted and sentenced.

Pearson's role in the scheme was to help other UAW officials embezzle funds from the union. The plea deal portrayed Pearson as carrying out orders from Jones and Williams to rent private villas and buy large amounts of cigars and alcohol, and covering up expenses by filing phony reports with the union.

"While Pearson was not the mastermind of this scheme, he did have an important role in it," prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memo.

Under the plea agreement, Pearson and the prosecution agreed to cap his sentence at no more than 30 months. He also agreed to forfeit $81,000 from a so-called "flower fund" and $38,000 from a "Members in Solidarity" fund.

Prosecutors wrote that Pearson — the final UAW official awaiting a prison term — "enjoyed substantially less than Williams and many of the other top UAW officials" and that the guideline range "was reduced based on his minor participation."

Still, they wrote, his "actions and inactions substantially harmed UAW members, retirees and the union itself." They describe someone who "ascended the ranks of the UAW" but who "lost himself in the culture of corruption."

Pearson, they wrote, "made decisions and took actions that have cast a stain on the UAW and even the labor movement in general. His criminal activity has undermined the trust that the UAW had built up with its members, with union workers, and even with the general public.”

In a motion for downward departure filed Tuesday, prosecutors detailed Pearson's role in assisting the investigation into other top UAW officials who were implicated in the scheme.

In a series of in-person and phone interviews, they said, "Pearson was candid both about his own criminal activity, and about others' actions." He reportedly informed investigators of the existence of the "flower fund" and "Members in Solidarity" account, and agreed to testify against other UAW officials if necessary.

The flower fund originally was established to pay for flowers for autoworkers' funerals, but prosecutors have said that senior staff were forced to contribute to the fund, The Detroit News previously reported. And money in the Members in Solidarity account was supposed to pay for UAW election expenses.

Prosecutors credited Pearson's cooperation with the decisions by Jones and Williams to plead guilty, and with the implementation of independent oversight of the union.

Jones in June was sentenced to 28 months in prison for failing to pay taxes and helping to steal as much as $1.5 million from members. Williams was sentenced in May to 21 months in federal prison for his role in the scheme.

Stolen funds were used on personal luxuries including private villas, steak dinners, alcohol and golf gear.

Under the consent decree between the Justice Department and the UAW, the union will be under the oversight of an independent monitor for six years and a referendum by members will determine whether top UAW officials will be directly elected by rank-and-file members going forward. 

 

UAW President Rory Gamble
announces he will retire June 30

Breana Noble, Daniel Howes, Robert Snell
The Detroit News
June 28, 2021

Rory Gamble, the first African American president of the United Auto Workers, will retire on June 30 — a year earlier than planned, opening the way for the union's fourth leader in three years.

“I said on Day One I would hand over the keys to this treasured institution as a clean union,” Gamble, 65, said in a statement less issued less the two hours after he officially notified the UAW's governing International Executive Board. “My original intent as a UAW Vice President was to retire at the end of June 2021, and after looking at the progress we have made and the best interests of UAW members for a stable transfer of power, this is the right time for me to turn over the reins.”

Gamble's early retirement was expected. The Detroit News first reported in April the intentions of Gamble to retire a year before the end of his four-year term. It would position Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry, 55, as the second Black president of a union marred by 11 former officials being convicted of federal crimes in recent years. Additionally, Curry represents the possibility for a long-term leader amid a historic transformation in the automotive industry toward electrification.

Confirmation of Gamble's early retirement comes a day before a scheduled $150-per-plate gala dinner "honoring and saluting The Man, The Legend, Mr. Rory Gamble" to be held Saturday at The Westin Hotel in Southfield, Gamble himself, in a recent interview with CNBC, acknowledged that he was "looking at my options right now."

During his short tenure, Gamble has helped negotiate a deal to resolve a criminal investigation of the UAW that gives the federal government prolonged oversight and broad control over the union. The oversight is expected to cost millions of dollars.

Gamble also announced reorganizations that included disbanding a 17-state region based in Missouri that employed leaders involved in financial wrongdoing. And he announced financial reforms that include appointing an independent ethics officer, strengthening internal financial controls and ordering the sale of a $1.3 million lakefront retirement home for former President Dennis Williams.

Gamble's resignation comes after a third-party monitor has been appointed to oversee the union for the next six years as the organization emerges from its most legally fraught period in its 86-year history. The union reached a consent decree with the Justice Department in December after a federal corruption investigation convicted two presidents, two vice presidents, and others. 

The consent decree also requires a historic referendum to decide whether to amend the UAW constitution to enable the direct election of the union's top officials. Such a move would represent a radical departure from the decades-long practice of allowing a small group of labor leaders elected by their locals to choose those members of the union's International Executive Board.

Elevating Curry, a member of the union's board, would provide an incumbent option with ties to the UAW's existing leadership for the organization's top job instead of leaving it vacant for what could be the union's first one-person, one-vote election in its history.

UAW leaders have a tradition of stepping down or not pursuing reelection when they turn 65. Gerald Kariem, 65, UAW vice president and head of the Ford Department, recently said he will retire at the end of June.

Curry's appointment could help to realize Gamble's goal of ending a string of one-term presidents leading the UAW since 2010. Gamble and his predecessor, Gary Jones, who was convicted of helping steal more than $1 million from rank-and-file workers as part of a racketeering scheme, had some of the shortest presidencies in the union's history since its earliest leaders after the organization's founding in 1935. Jones was president for 17 months. Gamble has been president for almost 19 months.

With the ability to run for a full term in 2022 and reelection in 2026, Curry's theoretical presidency could last about nine years. Such a tenure could span the fraught transition toward electric vehicles that require fewer workers to assemble and fewer parts than their gas- and diesel-powered predecessors.

If the membership of the UAW chooses the “one member, one vote” principle through the referendum, according to the consent decree between the union and the government, the UAW constitution will be amended to incorporate the new election model ahead of the next UAW constitutional convention in June 2022 when the next election for the executive board would take place.

The secretary-treasurer position is the second-highest-ranking job in a union with more than $1.1 billion in assets and approximately 1 million active and retired workers. The candidates vying to become the next secretary-treasurer are said to be UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, 52, who oversees the union's organizing efforts and its Stellantis NV department, and Chuck Browning, 56, who leads a union region that includes Detroit and most of Wayne County, two sources with knowledge of the succession plans previously told The News.

On Friday, two sources familiar with the fluid situation inside the union's leadership ranks said that Estrada had withdrawn from consideration to become secretary-treasurer and that Browning is interested in heading the union's Ford Department, replacing the retiring Kariem.

The succession plan reflects the personnel challenges in moving beyond the most damaging period in the union's long history. The News reported in late 2017 that federal agents were interested in Estrada while investigating whether worker training funds were misappropriated and if labor leaders received money or benefits through their tax-exempt nonprofits. She has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Browning, meanwhile, served as executive administrative assistant to President Dennis Williams, who was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for conspiring to embezzle union funds. Respected inside the union and among auto executives, Browning has not been linked to the UAW scandal.

The future of the UAW will be shaped by government oversight. U.S. District Judge David Lawson appointed New York attorney Neil Barofsky as the monitor overseeing UAW reforms. Within the next six months, the UAW must hold a referendum vote on amending the union constitution to allow for the direct election of the UAW's executive board.

The consent decree also includes appointing an adjudications officer empowered to discipline and expel UAW officers for committing crimes, violating ethics rules or the union's constitution. Federal investigators have amassed evidence of UAW officials engaged in conduct that did not lead to criminal charges and that evidence could be used to expel current union leaders once the monitor and adjudications officer are appointed, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

In all, the ongoing crackdown on auto industry corruption has led to the convictions of 15 people, including former UAW presidents Jones and Williams. The investigation has revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and illegal benefits from union contractors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives.

 “We have to be very precise and have zero tolerance going forward in how we manage our union," Gamble told The News in an interview in November 2019. "Which means we’ve got to be honest with ourselves and recognize that there was a problem, that there’s a need for great change, and we have to show that we can self-govern.

"We don't have time to procrastinate on big things, on what needs to be corrected in our union. We've got to move fast."

 

Electric vehicles will top global
sales by 2033, study says

Brett Haensel and
Keith Naughton
Bloomberg
June 25, 2021

Global electric vehicle supremacy will arrive by 2033 — five years earlier than previously expected — as tougher regulations and rising interest drive demand for zero-emission transportation, according to a new study.

Consultant Ernst & Young LLP now sees EV sales outpacing fossil fuel-burners in 12 years in Europe, China and the U.S. — the world’s largest auto markets. And by 2045, non-EV sales are seen plummeting to less than 1% of the global car market, EY forecast using an AI-powered prediction tool.

Strict government mandates to combat climate change are driving demand in Europe and China, where automakers and consumers face rising financial penalties for selling and buying traditional gasoline and diesel-fueled cars. EY sees Europe leading the charge to electric, with zero-emission models outselling all other propulsion systems by 2028. That tipping point will arrive in China in 2033 and in the U.S. in 2036, EY predicts.

The U.S. lags the world’s other leading markets because fuel-economy regulations were eased during former President Donald Trump’s administration. Since taking office in January, President Joe Biden has rejoined the Paris Climate Accord and proposed spending $174 billion to accelerate the shift to EVs, including installing a half-million charging stations across the country.

“The regulatory environment from the Biden administration we view as a big contributor, because he has ambitious targets,” Randy Miller, EY’s global advanced manufacturing and mobility leader, said in an interview. “That impact in the Americas will have a supercharging effect.”

There also is a growing consumer appetite for EVs, from Tesla Inc.’s hot-selling Model 3 to new electric models coming from legacy automakers, such as General Motors Co.’s battery-powered Hummer truck and Ford Motor Co.’s F-150 Lightning pickup. Investments in battery powered models now top $230 billion from the world’s automakers, according to consultant AlixPartners.

“Many more models that are much more appealing are coming out,” Miller said. “You factor that with the incentives, and those are the raw ingredients that are driving this more optimistic view.”

The EY study also sees the millennial generation, now in their late 20s and 30s, as helping to propel EV adoption. Those consumers, driven by a coronavirus-influenced rejection of ride-sharing and public transportation, are embracing car ownership. And 30% of them want to drive an EV, Miller said.

“The view from the millennials that we’re seeing is clearly more inclination to want to buy EVs,” Miller said.

Additionally, the combination of government purchase incentives for EVs and proposed bans on internal combustion engines in cities and states are accelerating the adoption of battery-powered vehicles.

Europe is forecast to lead in EV sales volumes until 2031, when China will become the world’s top market for electric vehicles.

Vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel are still predicted to make up around two-thirds of all light vehicle registrations in 2025, but that will mark a 12 percentage-point decrease from five years earlier. By 2030, EY predicts that non-EV cars will account for less than half of overall light vehicle registrations.

 

Boost to seniors benefit this
summer and beyond could
cost $10.7 billion, PBO says

The Canadian Press
June 24, 2021

OTTAWA — The parliamentary budget officer is estimating the Liberals' plan to send one-time payments this summer to seniors over 75 and then boost their old-age benefits thereafter will cost slightly less than the government estimates.

April's budget estimated that the overall cost of the measures would amount to just over $12 billion over five years before accounting for tax revenues that will offset a small part of the overall spend.

The budget office in a report Wednesday estimates the gross cost will be closer to $10.7 billion.

The spending starts this summer with the government's planned one-time payment of $500 in August to every senior who will be 75 and over by the summer of 2022.

And come next summer, the Liberals are also proposing a 10-per-cent boost in old age security for those over 75, which the budget estimated would provide an extra $766 in benefits to 3.3 million retirees.

The budget estimated the net cost of the measure, once accounting for extra tax revenues, at almost $10.7 billion, while the budget officer's report puts it closer to $9.9 billion.

The Liberals promised in the 2019 election to bump up old age security payments, which already rise in line with inflation, arguing that older seniors needed additional help covering costs later in life.

During an appearance at the House of Commons committee last month, Seniors Minister Deb Schulte noted that about 34 per cent of seniors under 75 have jobs to supplement their income, but the figure drops to 15.4 per cent above that age — one of several figures she cited to explain the financial disparity between the two cohorts.

 

Oshkosh to build new U.S. Postal
delivery vehicles in S.C.; Ford
to supply components

June 23, 2021

WASHINGTON -- Oshkosh Defense said Tuesday it will build next-generation U.S. Postal Service delivery vehicles in Spartanburg, S.C., and expects to hire over 1,000 employees to do so.

USPS awarded a multibillion-dollar, 10-year contract to Oshkosh Defense, a subsidiary of Oshkosh Corp., in February. The contract could be worth more than $6 billion in total.

It allows for the delivery over 10 years of between 50,000 and 165,000 vehicles, with a mix of internal combustion-powered and battery-electric models.

Last week, EV company Workhorse Group filed a legal challenge to the decision after USPS rejected its bid.

Workhorse had proposed building an all-electric vehicle fleet for USPS, and has the support of many U.S. lawmakers.

Ford's role

Ford Motor Co., meanwhile, said it will provide engines, transmissions and other parts for the vehicles.

The USPS plans to buy a mix of electric and gasoline-powered Postal Service vehicles. Ford will provide parts for both the electric battery and internal combustion engine versions, including engines and transmissions made in Michigan, along with suspensions and other components, Ford said, declining to release financial terms.

Oshkosh Defense plans to repurpose a warehouse to fulfill the contract, and production is expected to begin in mid-2023.

USPS said last week "preproduction design, tooling and facility preparation are proceeding on schedule, with the first (next generation delivery vehicles) estimated to appear on carrier routes in 2023."

EV fleet

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has committed to at least 10 percent of the fleet being electric, but he said in a letter in March to lawmakers that with government assistance the USPS could commit to making a majority of the fleet electric within 10 years.

He added that the USPS needs about $8 billion to electrify the new fleet to the "maximum extent" feasible.

President Joe Biden and some lawmakers in Congress have called for government funding to speed USPS's transition to more EVs.

New USPS vehicles will include air conditioning and heating, improved ergonomics, and advanced vehicle safety technology including airbags and 360-degree cameras.

Most current delivery vehicles are at least 25 years old and do not have air conditioning or modern safety features.

A 2020 report said USPS spent $706.2 million in maintenance costs for 141,057 delivery vehicles.

 

         Ford built an F-Series
'Lightning' pickup
in 1953


June 21, 2021

It wasn't an electric pickup

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning pickup has been revealed with a starting price under $40G. The all-electric truck is the most powerful F-150 ever and offers a range up to 300 miles per charge.

June 16 marks the anniversary of Ford's incorporation in 1903 and it's a very different company than it was 118 years ago.



The 1903 Ford Model A was the brand's first car. (Ford)

Back then it's only vehicle was the Model A, which was an open-top car with an eight horsepower two-cylinder engine that sold for $850, which is equivalent to about $26,000 today. It was nearly a month before the first order came in on July 15 to keep the startup afloat.

Now things are all about-trucks and SUVs and the future is the F-150 Lightning electric pickup, but it's not the first Ford to wear a bolt on its logo.

        

Along with the two previous editions of the Lightning, which were V8-powered performance trucks, the second generation 1953 F-Series debuted one on its hood badge.



The lightning bolt logo was launched with the second-generation F-Series. (Brian Welker/iStock)

It wasn't an electric truck by any means, but the new logo was special and meant to celebrate the brand's 50th anniversary.

According to a press release from March 11, 1953:
"Over a field of ribbed plastic, a gear has been mounted symbolizing power. Running diagonally across the gear from right to left is a bolt of lightning symbolizing speed."

        

Ford issued a press release in 1953 announcing the 50th anniversary badge. (Ford)

The badge would be used on various F-Series models until the fifth-generation was introduced in 1967 with F O R D lettering across the front of the hood.

"Power" and "speed" need to be considered in context, of course. The 1953 F-Series was available with either a 101 hp straight-six or a 100 hp V8 and two-wheel-drive, while the 2022 F-150 Lightning has a standard 426 hp dual-electric motor all-wheel-drive system that will make it quicker than some Mustangs … which are also available as electric cars, these days.


 

Ford says second quarter earnings
will 'surpass its expectations,'
but profits to dip

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
June 20, 2021

Ford Motor Co. on Thursday said it now expects its adjusted earnings for the second quarter to "surpass its expectations" and be "significantly better" than a year ago, though net income is likely to be "substantially lower" compared to the second quarter of 2020.

The Dearborn automaker provided the update on its financial outlook for the second quarter, which ends in two weeks, to coincide with CEO Jim Farley's participation in a Deutsche Bank auto conference Thursday.

After rising some 75% since the start of the year — powered by the Blue Oval's strategy for electrification, the looming arrival of its electric F-150 Lightning pickup and the success of its Mustang Mach-E — Ford's stock closed down about 1.7% Thursday to $14.77 per share.

Ford said it has seen improvements to its automotive business since it provided full-year financial guidance at the end of April, despite continuing to feel the impact of a lingering semiconductor shortage that's dragged down auto production worldwide since late last year. Those improvements are being driven by lower-than-expected costs, favorable market factors and higher vehicle auction values, the company said.

In the second quarter of 2020, when the automotive industry was still in the thick of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Ford took a $1.9 billion hit to its adjusted earnings, but eked out $1.1 billion in profit thanks to a one-time, $3.5 billion gain on its investment in self-driving vehicle technology company Argo AI.

At the end of April, Ford executives forecast adjusted earnings before interest and taxes of between $5.5 billion and $6.5 billion for the year, reflecting an estimated $2.5 billion hit from the chip shortage. At that time, executives projected Ford would lose about 50% of its planned second-quarter production due to the shortage.

Farley said Thursday that cost reductions from the restructuring of some of the company's overseas operations played a large part in the improvements to the automotive business. He also credited a rise in prices for Ford vehicles, a byproduct of the company's shift to higher-margin trucks and SUVs and of high consumer demand amid the chip shortage.

As for where the crisis currently stands, Farley said the situation remains "fluid," but expects conditions to improve in the second half of the year before normalizing sometime in 2022. Even then, he said, it won't be back to business as usual for the automaker, which has in some ways benefited from having lower inventory levels on dealer lots.

Ford's second quarter, Farley noted, was significantly impacted by a fire at a chip plant in Japan that is still working to get back up to full production capacity.

“The second thing is," he said, "we are not going to redesign our product to take features out. We’re taking a very different approach to managing through the crisis. We don’t want our brand to change during the crisis, even in the name of short-term profits."

That's a reference to crosstown rival General Motors Co.'s approach to navigating the crisis. In some cases the Detroit automaker has opted to build and deliver vehicles without non-essential features that are powered by electronic modules requiring chips, such as an automatic stop/start function on some full-size 2021 trucks and SUVs.

Meanwhile, GM on Wednesday increased its previous guidance for the first half of the year, from $5.5 billion to between $8.5 billion and $9.5 billion in pre-tax profits.

Farley also provided an update on the company's new growth plan, dubbed Ford+ and unveiled to investors last month. The crux of the plan is a transition away from a business model in which customers primarily interact with the automaker on vehicle purchases to an "always-on" relationship.

"The real transformation of Ford is not just our base profitability, getting to 8% [margins]. It's not just the modernization of the company to e-mobility," said Farley. "The biggest change at Ford is going from an episodic relationship with the customer to every day surprising them with physical and digital connected services."

Ford has told investors it expects to electrify 40% of its global lineup by 2030. But based on the early interest consumers have shown in forthcoming electric vehicles such as F-150 Lightning, Farley said, EV adoption might move faster than the company had expected.

Farley also pointed to government incentives as being key to the EV transition, pointing to more rapid adoption in Europe as an example.

"Our view is pretty simple, which is we really encourage the [Biden] administration to put [in place] incentives to help customers move to this new technology," he said. "But we don’t want to leave labor behind. It’s very important in our view that the vehicles built in the U.S. or built [in] North America, but especially in the U.S., are considered differently than those that aren’t.”

The company also provided the latest number of orders and reservations it's gotten for a spate of new vehicles it's in the midst of launching.

Reservations for the full-size Bronco SUV, which began deliveries earlier this week, now stand at 190,000, with 125,000 of those converted to orders. The battery-electric F-150 Lightning, which Ford unveiled last month, now has 100,000 reservations. The just-announced Maverick compact pickup truck has gotten 36,000 reservations. And the forthcoming all-electric E-Transit commercial van has gotten 20,000.

Ford is scheduled to release second-quarter financial results, including guidance for the second half of the year, July 28.

 

Lincoln to introduce four
new battery-electric vehicles
starting next year

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
June 16, 2021

Lincoln is following the buzz of Ford Motor Co.'s Capital Markets Day last month with plans to introduce four new battery-electric vehicles around its anchor products by the end of the decade — with the first coming next year.

The luxury brand provided a focused perspective on what Ford's plans to invest $30 billion in electrification by 2025 and grow its connected vehicle services mean for it. Although Ford is first introducing full EVs as a Mustang SUV and an F-150 pickup truck, EVs represent a larger percentage of the luxury market than the mass-vehicle market. With a full lineup of electrified vehicles by 2030, Lincoln expects a majority of its sales globally will be fully electric by 2026.

Lincoln's portfolio will be fully electrified by 2030.

"You typically see luxury clients more as tech adopters and certainly with the propulsion paired with that connectivity and that intelligence you get in the vehicle and those digital experiences, it makes sense we’re seeing that," Lincoln President Joy Falotico said during a virtual news conference this week. "It’s going to be a transition period, and we want to make sure we have what clients want."

Unlike General Motors Co.'s Cadillac, which has said it will sell only EVs by 2030, there still will be internal combustion engine and plug-in hybrid vehicles for certain Lincoln models by then, spokeswoman Anika Salceda-Wycoco said. But Lincoln will be adopting the new technology ahead of some other Ford vehicles. The Dearborn automaker has said 40% of its lineup will be electrified by the end of the decade.

Four new battery-electric vehicles will debut globally on a new rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive flexible bed architecture by 2030 based around its anchor products. The company currently makes the Corsair, Nautilus, Aviator and Navigator SUVs. The Aviator is available as a plug-in hybrid and the plug-in hybrid Corsair will be later this year.

The first fully electric vehicle, which brand leaders declined to specify, will come next year when Lincoln celebrates its 100th anniversary. Production of Cadillac's first EV, the Lyriq SUV that starts at $59,990, will begin in the first quarter of 2022. Lincoln's new architecture also will support derivatives.

"When you’re working around traditional engines, transmissions, fuel systems, the space left for people can be compromised," said John Jraiche, global director for luxury vehicles' enterprise product line management. "But the company’s new rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive flexible bed architecture allows us to reimagine the interior space and deliver the power of sanctuary in a new way for our clients."

A sketch of the interior space inspired by Lincoln's evolving "Quiet Flight" design as the brand moves toward electrification.

EVs represent roughly 2% of U.S. sales, but 19% of the luxury segment, Falotico said. Now that Ford has showed it has the technology with the electric Mustang Mach-E, F-150 Lightning and e-Transit commercial van, it has the scale that will help to bring EVs to Lincoln, said Sam Abuelsamid, e-mobility analyst for market research firm Guidehouse Inc.

"They've showed what they can do with electrification in their mainstream brand, and they're really starting to accelerate it with Lincoln," Abuelsamid said. "If they had launched it with Lincoln, they would not have as much volume. With the scale, they can manage the cost of bringing Lincoln over to it."

Nearly silent EVs will add a new meaning to Lincoln's "Quiet Flight" design that seeks to create a place where people can live, relax and work. Lincoln is exploring a "Rejuvenation" mode for car owners to create their own sensory environment through various screen display, lighting, climate, seat, massage, audio — and even scent settings.

A sketch of panormaic roofing inspired by Lincoln's evolving "Quiet Flight" design as the brand moves toward electrification.

Augmenting the physical structure is connected services. Lincoln Intelligence System, a cloud-based system for electrical, power distribution and computing systems, will allow for continued updates over the life of the vehicle.

That will start this summer on the 2021 Nautilus. Over-the-air software updates through the Lincoln Enhance platform for Sync 4-enabled vehicles will provide SecuriAlert, which will alert owners' phones when their vehicle is unlocked or accessed, and update navigation, Apple CarPlay and the digital owner's manual. The hands-free Alexa digital assistant will come in an update this fall.

The 2021 Lincoln Nautilus SUV will receive an over-the-air update for the hands-free Alexa digital assistant in the fall.

Lincoln Intelligence System also will support Lincoln ActiveGlide hands-free highway driving technology. It uses cameras, radar and driving monitoring technology to allow a driver to operate hands-free on prequalified "Blue Zone" sections of the highway.

The brand emphasized digital updates on the retail and servicing side, too. Later this year, it will roll out a fully integrated digital sales platform now that one-third of Lincoln's U.S. sales are completed online. Buyers will be able to seek help from participating dealers through any moment of the process.

Lincoln is expanding its brand-exclusive dealerships in the 130 largest luxury markets. It also is adding smaller boutique locations through retail partners. Its first boutique was in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The brand remains committed to its dealer partners, said Michael Sprague, Lincoln's director in North America. It is expanding its brand-exclusive "Vitrine" dealerships and introducing smaller boutique locations that cater to retail environments with existing dealers. There are currently 28 Vitrine locations in the country with another 50 being added. They showcase Lincoln vehicles, provide digital resources for customers to purchase a vehicle, and offer another location where customers can drop off their vehicle for service.

"This is what luxury clients expect," Sprague said. "Brand-exclusive facilities drive our growth. In the top 30 luxury markets, more than 75% of our volume comes from brand-exclusive locations."

 

Lincoln is expanding its brand-exclusive dealerships in the 130 largest luxury markets. It also is adding smaller boutique locations through retail partners. Its first boutique was in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The brand's Lincoln Way app also will provide a unique charging experience to Lincoln EV customers through the Electrify America charging network with more detail to come later.

The brand additionally is testing a mobile fuel and vehicle spa subscription-based service in Houston. It allows the customer to request their vehicle get fueled up, a car wash or vehicle detailing, and Lincoln contracts with third parties to come to their office or home to provide that service, said Larry Farrar, service operations director for the Lincoln West Point dealership in Houston.

The dealership becomes involved if there are additional maintenance concerns or questions, Farrar said. Several hundred invitations were sent to the dealership's customers, and 25 to 30 responded positively, he said.

"We are in the very early stages," Farrar said. "What we've heard is that it has been a pretty good experience."

Such subscription services Ford has trumpeted as being a revenue source even after a vehicle is sold.

"It's the Wild est in terms of understanding what customers are willing to pay for," said Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst for the Americas at IHS Markit Ltd. "Even if half of the vehicles are spending $20 a month, that's a significant amount of revenue opportunity."

 

G7 eyes ambitious shift to electric
cars and away from oil

ALBERTO NARDELLI and
JOSH WINGROVE
June 14, 2021

Group of Seven leaders are discussing ambitious plans to shift the balance of car buying away from gasoline to greener vehicles by the end of the decade, as part of a package of measures to combat climate change.

Under one proposal contained in a document seen by Bloomberg, G7 governments would “strive” to ensure that the majority of all new passenger car sales are not petrol or diesel-powered “by 2030 or sooner.” Countries are divided on how specific the measures should be.

All seven national leaders gathering for their summit in Cornwall, southwestern England, are also set to promise more funding to help the developing world cut carbon emissions, though details of how much are not clear.

The commitments have not yet been agreed to by G7 officials who are drafting the conclusions of this weekend’s summit. But setting the goal for moving away from gasoline could represent a turning point in efforts to reduce global oil consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

EV TAKEOVER

With a day to go before the summit begins, the plans are still in draft form and it’s not clear yet that leaders – crucially including U.S. President Joe Biden -- will endorse the proposed wording on moving away from polluting cars.

A U.S. official declined to say whether the White House supports the drafting under discussion, including whether to set a goal that more than half of vehicles sold in 2030 are non-emitting.

The official said Biden believes in strong investment in electric vehicle markets and the supply chain as a way to tackle climate change and create jobs. But the U.S.’s domestic plan doesn’t go as far as to call for a ban on combustion engine cars.

The biggest U.S. automakers have recently set targets for greener vehicle production. General Motors announced in January that it aspired to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035. Ford Motor Co. pledged last month that four of every 10 vehicles Ford sells would be battery powered by 2030.

Sales of new electric cars will reach 34 per cent of the global total by 2030 and 68 per cent by 2040, assuming no further policy incentives from governments, according to BNEF forecasts.

JOBS RISK

Japan also issued a green strategy plan in December to make all new cars hybrid or electric by the mid-2030s, despite Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda warning days before that governments announcing combustion-car bans were overlooking risks to jobs.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the G7 leaders’ gathering, will ban the sale of new cars running entirely on petrol or diesel from 2030, though the other nations are not likely to back such a dramatic step. At the moment, only a fraction of new vehicles sold in the U.K. are fully electric, with costs putting most consumers off.

According to proposed wording in the draft summit communique, leaders would commit to decarbonize their transport sectors throughout the 2020s by accelerating the spread of electric vehicles, and the development of zero carbon trains, buses, shipping and aviation.

 

Disgraced ex-UAW president
Jones sentenced to 28
months for corruption scandal

Robert Snell
Kalea Hall
The Detroit News
June 11, 2021

Detroit — Former United Auto Workers President Gary Jones was sentenced to 28 months Thursday for helping steal as much as $1.5 million from members, splurging on personal luxuries — including private villas, steak dinners, booze and golf gear — and failing to pay taxes.

The sentencing by U.S. District Judge Paul Borman caps the downfall of Jones, 64, whose short tenure atop one of the nation's most influential unions started with cheers during a ceremony at Cobo Center three years ago. Within months, the reclusive leader was linked to lavish spending at union junkets in Palm Springs, federal agents raided his home, he was identified by The Detroit News as a target of a corruption investigation, and UAW members hurled insults and catcalls as he marched in the Labor Day parade in Detroit before resigning in November 2019.

Prosecutors wanted Jones to serve 28 months and portrayed him as a greedy crook driven by "naked ambition" who stole union dues withheld from members' paychecks and robbed them of trust and confidence in the union. Jones deserved a break, prosecutors also said, because he helped secure the conviction of his predecessor, retired UAW President Dennis Williams, and is willing to cooperate against others who are under investigation. 

Prosecutors said Jones will pay $550,000 restitution to the UAW, $42,000 to the IRS, and forfeit $151,377.

Jones, speaking rapidly, apologized to his family and the union, which is being overseen by a court-appointed independent watchdog empowered to root out corruption.

“I failed them. I failed the UAW," Jones told the judge in a quivering voice. "I let my union down. I pray every day that no harm comes to the UAW.”

Then, Jones fist-bumped his attorney Bruce Maffeo and prosecutors then hugged and kissed his wife — though both were wearing masks.

A 28-month sentence is the second longest for a UAW official convicted in the corruption scandal. Former Vice President Joe Ashton was sentenced to 30 months for taking $250,000 in kickbacks from a union vendor, and former UAW official Mike Grimes was sentenced to 28 months after admitting he received $1.5 million in bribes and kickbacks from a union contractor.

The judge blamed Jones for “sliding ... into significantly corrupt activity" after a distinguished rise within the union ranks that started at a Ford Motor Co. assembly plant almost a half-century ago.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey faulted the UAW’s upper echelon, a group he said was notable for its lack of democracy that demands “unquestioning obedience to bosses.”

“(Gary Jones) was a good man who found himself in and worked in a culture of corruption, which was the leadership of the United Auto Workers union," Gardey told the judge.

Prosecutors could return later to ask for Jones to be released from prison early if he continues to provide substantial assistance in the ongoing investigation. He also is helping the independent watchdog.

Maffeo described Jones as a remorseful man who atoned for his crimes, accepted responsibility and provided open-ended cooperation to federal agents.

“He’s done everything he can do to try and pay back the debt he owes to the union, his family and society,” Maffeo told the judge.

Maffeo said there was a “common theme” among union leadership of “a sense of entitlement.” 

"He knew enough to say no and he didn’t," Maffeo said. "That is to his eternal regret and shame, and that is a burden he and his family will be carrying with them for the rest of their lives — even after this proceeding and its consequences are soldiered through."

The sentencing came seven months after prosecutors and the UAW reached agreement to have an independent watchdog oversee the union for six years, a deal expected to cost millions and add to the cost of the corruption scandal.

Jones and Williams are the highest-ranking UAW officials convicted in a four-year-old prosecution that has led tothe convictions of 15 peopleand revealed UAW leaders and auto executives broke labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and kickbacks. Fiat Chrysler U.S., now known as Stellantis, also was convicted and agreed to pay a $30 million fine because executives paid more than $3.5 million in bribes to union leaders.

The final UAW official awaiting a prison term, former regional Director Vance Pearson, will be sentenced July 8.

“The fact that two former international UAW Presidents will be going to prison after being convicted of embezzling UAW dues money demonstrates that no one is above the law,” acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin said in a statement. “The working men and women of the UAW can feel that justice was done, and that their union is on the road to reform.”

UAW leaders have required Jones to repay legal fees paid and money “he wrongly took or misspent,” according to a union statement Thursday.  

“As we have committed to our membership, when the UAW finds there has been wrongdoing, we will take all available actions to hold that person accountable regardless of status within the organization,” union President Rory Gamble said in the statement.

Prosecutors described tens of thousands of dollars embezzled for personal use and a litany of lavish purchases Jones made with union funds, including custom-made golf clubs, months-long vacations in Palm Springs villas, and more than $60,000 in cigars, entertainment, golf and liquor.

"The exorbitance was jaw-dropping," prosecutors wrote. 

The direct benefit to Jones, his lawyer said, was approximately $90,000. Investigators from the FBI, Labor Department and Internal Revenue Service spent years building a case against him with undercover recordings, bank records and a team of former confidantes and senior UAW officers who cooperated with the government.

A year ago, Jones admitted embezzling the money in support of racketeering activity, evading taxes and causing the UAW to file false tax returns. The crimes spanned from 2010-19, a period that matched Jones' rise from heading a union regional office near St. Louis, Mo., to his tenure atop the UAW.

He admitted scheming with at least six senior UAW officers in a multi-year conspiracy to steal money spent on luxury items for labor leaders. Jones helped conceal the crime by hiding the expenses in the cost of holding UAW conferences in Palm Springs, Calif., Missouri and elsewhere.

The conspiracy involved submitting phony expense forms to conceal that labor leaders were spending member dues withheld from worker paychecks on entertainment and personal expenses. Those expenses included more than $750,000 spent on private villas, cigars, golf equipment and apparel, meals and liquor — including $400 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne and Canadian vodka served in a crystal skull.

Jones also admitted helping to embezzle more than $60,000 in cash from co-conspirator Nick Robinson, who cashed more than $500,000 in checks from a UAW community action program.

 

Ford posts 4.1% sales gain in
May amid tightening inventory

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
June 10, 2021

Ford Motor Co. sold 161,725 vehicles last month, up 4.1% from May 2020, when the automotive industry was just beginning to mount a recovery from coronavirus pandemic-related sales slumps and production shutdowns.

Ford's truck sales were down 11.6% year-over-year in May, while SUVs posted a 48.6% improvement.

“Ford sales were up 4.1 percent on tight inventories, while year-to-date sales increased 11.3 percent," Andrew Frick, vice president of Ford sales for the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement. "Ford and its dealers are working harder than ever to match the right mix of inventory to best meet the needs of our customers at the local level." 

The automaker noted that it posted record electrified vehicle sales, which totaled 10,364.

That record comes on the heels of the introduction of Ford's first fully battery-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E, late last year. Mach-E had 1,945 sales in May, bringing its year-to-date sales to more than 10,500.

The automaker also sold 2,852 units of the hybrid version of its bestselling F-150 pickup truck. Meanwhile, sales of the hybrid versions of the Ford Escape and Explorer were up 125% and 132%, respectively, over the same period last year.

The automaker has received more than 70,000 reservations for its forthcoming battery-electric version of the F-150, dubbed F-150 Lightning. 

Sales of F-Series — Ford's flagship truck franchise and the best-selling vehicle in America — are up 4.7% through May on sales of 316,359 trucks, but for the month sales were down 29.2%. The automaker said that F-Series "continues to turn at record rates" amid tightening inventories. Retail orders for the trucks are three times higher than last year, according to Ford.

The Ranger pickup truck had its best May sales performance since 2004.

Meanwhile, Ford brand retail SUVs had their best May sales since 2003 while Ford brand SUVs overall were up 51.8% year-over-year.

The Blue Oval sold nearly 15,000 units of the brand-new Bronco Sport small SUV last month, helping to drive Ford's retail share in the segment up almost four percentage points. Bronco Sport's May sales performance was its best since launch, and was up 6.9% over April. Ford said that the majority of Bronco Sport customers are coming from other vehicle brands, with the No. 1 source of new customers being Stellantis NV's Jeep brand.

Sales of the Ford EcoSport, a subcompact SUV, were down 15.2%, while sales of the Edge SUV were down 32.1%. The Ford Escape, a compact SUV, saw a 51.4% sales gain. Sales of the Explorer and Expedition SUVs were up 2.1% and 110.4%, respectively.

Sales of Lincoln brand SUVs were up across the lineup in May, for a 24.3% gain. Sales of the Corsair, the best-selling vehicle in the Lincoln lineup, were up 16.2%, while Aviator sales rose 32.5% and Navigator sales expanded 65.6%. Overall, Lincoln sales were up 5% year-over-year in May.

Though automakers have been hit hard by a months-long semiconductor shortage, their bottom lines have been boosted by rising vehicle prices.

Ford reported Thursday that its average transaction price for new vehicles in the U.S. was up $3,400 from a year ago, to $42,800 per vehicle, driven in part by sales of new vehicles such as Mach-E and the Bronco Sport. 

Industrywide, sales were strong in May, outpacing last May's results but falling behind March and April of this year. U.S. sales were up across the board for automakers that report sales on a monthly basis, including Honda, Toyota and Subaru. But dwindling inventory levels due to the microchip shortage could soon start to hit sales.

Ford's inventory level stood at 30 days' supply at the end of May, down from 35 in April. Prior to the chip shortage, it was not uncommon for automakers to maintain more than 100 days' supply.

IHS Markit on Wednesday projected that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales for new vehicles in the U.S. would be between 16.6 million and 17 million units for May, down from 18 million in March and 18.5 million in April.

"The dynamics of the announced production slowdowns is beginning to creep into some OEM results, but the still strong sales pace for the month reflects that consumers are finding new vehicles to purchase," Chris Hopson, manager of North American light vehicle forecasting at IHS Markit, said in a statement. "We expect the sales paces in June and July to continue to recede, but not dramatically."

The "strong pricing environment," added principal automotive analyst Stephanie Brinley, "will also help automakers and dealers through the difficult time with higher profitability helping to offset the generally higher costs resulting from the fragile supply chain and low inventory."

 

Ford's Mach-E output exceeds gas-
powered Mustang so far in 2021

Keith Naughton
Bloomberg
June 9, 2021

Ford Motor Co. surpassed a significant milestone in its conversion to electric vehicles, producing more battery-powered Mustangs so far this year than gasoline-fueled versions of its iconic pony car.

Ford has built 27,816 electric Mustang Mach-E models at a plant in Mexico this year compared with 26,089 copies of the traditional internal combustion engine Mustang at a factory in Michigan, according to production data the automaker released Thursday.

Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley said last week that he expects 4-in-10 models Ford sells to be electric by 2030, as he revealed plans to boost spending on battery-powered models by 36% to $30 billion. The Mach-E went on sale late last year and was the top-selling vehicle in Norway last month. In the U.S., where EV adoption is slower, the gas Mustang still outsells the electric version by nearly 3-to-1.

“Mach-E has been much stronger than we expected, so we’ve totally run out of stock,” Farley told reporters at the introduction of the electric F-150 Lightning pickup May 19. “Mach-E is going global as we speak, but in the U.S.,” the wait for a Mach-E “is months.”

The global computer-chip shortage hobbling the auto industry played a role in the Mach-E surpassing the traditional Mustang. Farley said the company is prioritizing its newest models, such as the Mach-E and the Bronco SUV, as its distributes its scarce supply of semiconductor modules. Ford’s Flat Rock factory built no gas Mustangs last month, according to the production data.

“We have purposely protected our launches — Bronco, Bronco Sport , Mach-E, F-150,” Farley said. “If we can switch a module over to one of those launch vehicles, we have. We’re very protective of the launches because they are so important for our business.”

Ford said its supply of gasoline-fueled Mustangs is down to 24 days, about one-third of what is considered a healthy inventory.

“We are really excited about the success that we are having with our launch of the all-new Mustang Mach-E, not just here in America, but globally too,” Erich Merkle, Ford’s sales analyst, said in an emailed statement. “To be fair, please keep in mind that Mustang and Flat Rock have been impacted by outside factors, which has been the semiconductor chip shortage.”

 

Ford unleashes compact
Maverick pickup

Henry Payne
Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
June 8, 2021

Putting an exclamation point on its aggressive transition to all-SUV/truck brand, Ford Motor Co. debuted its Maverick compact pickup Tuesday — based on the unibody chassis shared with the Escape and Bronco Sport SUVs.

Slotted below the midsize, ladder-frame, $26,015 Ranger pickup, the entry-level Maverick starts at just over $21,000 including destination fee, $19,995 without. Its compact size and bed-full of tech features are aimed at urban buyers who want a “ute with a bed.”

Along with the Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup introduced earlier this year, the segment-busting Maverick further expands sub-$25,000 SUV offerings.

“Since 2009, the car market share in the U.S. has decreased 56% while at the same time, truck/SUV has increased 73%,” said Ford Global Chief Marketing Officer Suzy Deering. “Three years ago, Ford made the decision to stop producing sedans. It opened up an incredible whitespace opportunity for us (that) combined the best attributes of cars and utilities.”

Ironically, Ford first used the Maverick nameplate on a Japanese compact-fighting car in the early 1970s, but the badge now fits the brand’s off-road adventure vibe. It's "the truck you didn't see coming," crows Ford's YouTube ad.

While taking its conservative, bold design cues from Ford’s flagship F-series pickup, Maverick’s nimble unibody chassis, youthful interior, and clever tech will be more familiar to buyers of the Ford Escape and red-hot Bronco Sport, The Detroit News’ 2020 Vehicle of the Year.

“The unibody design gives the truck better ride and handling from an overall maneuverability perspective," Maverick/Ranger marketing manager Trevor Scott said in a vehicle walkaround. "And it gives the truck more of the characteristics this customer is looking for. Five passengers. Tons of cargo space.” 

Contrary to traditional, rear-wheel-drive trucks, the unibody Maverick will be front-wheel-drive-based with an all-wheel-drive option. It will be made alongside the Bronco Sport at Ford's plant in Hermosillo, Mexico. Maverick power-train options are shared with the Escape. A gas-electric hybrid, 2.5-liter four-cylinder comes standard. A more powerful 2.0-liter turbo-4 is optional.

Indeed, Maverick will be the first pickup on the market with a standard hybrid powertrain.

Ford has aggressively priced the Escape Hybrid for volume sales to meet fuel economy regulations, and the Maverick appears determined to make hybrids mainstream with pickup buyers as well.

They will be rewarded with a significant mpg boost as the hybrid Maverick boasts 40 mpg city and 500 miles of range compared to the Ranger’s 21 mpg/414 miles.

“It’s actually stronger fuel economy than a Honda Civic,” said Scott.

Though priced on top of Ford’s cheapest SUV — the India-made Ecosport (and well below the $28,710 Bronco Sport) — Maverick is much more robust. It eschews Ecosport’s somnolent, 123-horse, three-cylinder and 166-horse 4-cylinder egg beaters for four-cylinder mills making 191 and 255 horsepower. Maverick engines can also tow a healthy 2,000 pounds (think two jet skis) and 4,000 pounds (think camper), respectively.

“It’s definitely intended to serve the entry-level price point for the Ford showroom — but also for the Built Ford Tough lineup," said Scott. "We’re going to be looking at a lot of first-time truck contenders."

Similar to Ranger, Maverick will start with Ford’s core XL, XLT, and Lariat trims with the loaded models topping out at $35k. Ford's rugged FX4 package will be available on top trims.  “We anticipate that a lot of the volume will be in the XLT series, which is closer to that $23,000-$24,000 price point," said Scott.

The interior is a departure from the critically-panned, cheap plastic designs of Ecosport and Ranger. Adopting a youthful, blocky look — think IKEA meets LEGO — Maverick bristles with storage cubbies and clever details.

“Cut-out” front armrests allow more vertical space for tall Thermoses. In the rear, speakers have been moved to the c-pillars, opening room for, say, a computer tablet.

To keep costs down, the base XL model will offer basic tech amenities like auto high beams and emergency braking. Popular safety features like blind-spot assist and adaptive cruise control are available. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, however, as does Smart Pass app connectivity so owners can start the pickup remotely in frigid Michigan winters and check details like tire pressure.

Like Bronco Sport, the interior is decorated with bright orange trim while the console mimics a desk organizer with ample storage bins. More storage is under the rear bench seat — courtesy of moving the gas tank aft of the cabin.

Also aft of the cabin is the heart of the Maverick, a 4.5’ long x 4’ wide bed. “Flexbed,” Ford calls it.

Like Bronco Sport’s creative hatchback, the bed can swallow two bicycles with front tires removed. Maverick embraces the Do It Yourself trend with a bed-based 12-volt outlet, 10 tie-downs, and optional rails with cleats and 110-volt outlet. A QR code is even stamped on the bed wall to offers suggestions on how owners might configure the bed for more utility (DIY slots can be found inside for customer add-ons, too). Useful 8” x 8” side bed cubbies can store, say, two-liter soda bottles or bike pumps.

“You can go to your local lumber store, purchase a couple of two by fours, and create bed dividers," noted Scott. "We’ll give (customers) instructions on how they can create their own bike rack.”

Maverick is not as radically designed as Santa Cruz (which channels Tesla’s Cybertruck with a sliding bed cover), but the Ford pickup’s flanks are notably clean like the Hyundai’s, thanks to a single-option bed. Ladder frame trucks like Ranger and F-series, by contrast, have a clean break between cab and bed in order to offer different bed sizes.

The wee Ford pickup’s front fascia bear signature F-series elements like a power-dome hood and C-clamp headlights. Out back, C-clamp taillights and Maverick-stamped tailgate are familiar as well. Maverick distinguishes itself with an off-center license plate holder — in order to make way for the tow hook.

Expect Maverick to ride into dealerships this fall.

 

Ford confirms it will launch
all-new compact pickup
truck called Maverick

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
June 7, 2021

It's long been rumored, reported and predicted, and now it's finally confirmed: Ford Motor Co. on Thursday announced the addition of the Maverick, a brand-new compact pickup truck, to its lineup. 

Maverick will be available beginning model year 2022. No further details were released Thursday, but the truck will officially debut June 8. The Dearborn automaker is teaming up with actor Gabrielle Union for the reveal; Union will highlight the truck on her Instagram and TikTok channels, on Ford's social media channels and on streaming service Hulu.

Ford said this marks the first time it will debut a vehicle on its new U.S. TikTok channel. Details about the vehicle also will be available on Ford's website beginning Tuesday.

Thursday's announcement amounts to confirmation of something industry observers have long predicted: that Ford would introduce an affordably-priced compact pickup. Ford acknowledged the buzz in a news release Thursday, saying, "Months of rumors, spy shots and speculation have all led to this moment. It’s true — Ford is adding an all-new compact pickup to the lineup, and it’s called Maverick."

The new offering appeared to play well with investors, who have been bidding Blue Oval shares higher in recent months. Ford's stock closed up 7.2%, to $15.99 per share — the highest closing price in more than six years.

Numerous media outlets, including The Detroit News, cited production data from Ford to report earlier this year that a new pickup truck had quietly begun rolling off assembly lines at Ford's Hermosillo plant in Mexico, where the Bronco Sport is built.

And upon taking over as CEO in October, Jim Farley identified affordable vehicles as a key growth strategy for the company. Adding more affordable vehicles to Ford's lineup, both in North America and globally, is part of his plan to turn around and grow the Blue Oval.

The introduction of the Maverick comes amid one of the most significant portfolio refreshes in Ford's history. The automaker launched its first fully battery-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E, late last year. It recently debuted a redesigned version of the F-150, and revealed a battery-electric version of the best-selling pickup truck. It also launched the new Bronco Sport and is preparing to launch the highly-anticipated full-size Bronco this summer.

 

Ex-UAW leader Gary Jones
deserves more than two
years in prison, feds say

Robert Snell
Riley Beggin
Detroit News
June 4, 2021

Detroit — Prosecutors want former United Auto Workers President Gary Jones to spend more than two years in federal prison for helping steal as much as $1.5 million from union members. 

In revealing the desired 28-month prison term Thursday, prosecutors also requested that Jones pay $550,000 in restitution to the UAW, $42,000 to the IRS and a forfeiture of $151,377 for his role in a conspiracy that undermined members' faith in union leadership and led to prolonged government oversight.

In a separate filing, Jones's lawyer asked U.S. District Judge Paul Borman for "a significant downward departure" from the sentencing guidelines and asked that he serve any prison sentence in a Texas prison near his wife, though he did not specify how many months imprisonment he feels is appropriate.

Also Thursday, prosecutors moved to dismiss charges against another UAW official, Jeff Pietrzyk, who pleaded guilty two years ago to receiving bribes and kickbacks from union contractors. Pietrzyk was awaiting a likely prison sentence but died of undisclosed causes in April. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman dismissed the criminal case against him.

Jones will be sentenced June 10 and faces a maximum of nearly five years under a plea agreement for conspiring with other labor leaders to embezzle money from 2010-19 and to commit a tax crime. The 28-month requested sentence is less than Jones' sentencing guideline range of 46 to 57 months, but is appropriate because he cooperated with federal investigators and "has not sought to minimize his crimes or to point fingers at others for his own misconduct," prosecutors wrote.

A 28-month sentence would be tied for the second longest for a UAW official convicted in the corruption scandal. Former Vice President Joe Ashton was sentenced to 30 months for taking $250,000 in kickbacks from a union vendor, and former UAW official Mike Grimes was sentenced to 28 months after admitting he received $1.5 million in bribes and kickbacks from a union contractor.

"There is no question that Jones' crimes were substantial and serious," prosecutors wrote in the request.

They describe tens of thousands of dollars embezzled for personal use and a litany of lavish purchases Jones made with union funds, including custom-made golf clubs, months-long vacations in Palm Springs villas, and more than $60,000 in cigars, entertainment, golf and liquor. "The exorbitance was jaw-dropping," prosecutors wrote. 

Jones' lawyer reiterated his client's remorse while arguing that he did not create the embezzlement scheme and only partially benefited personally from it. He also noted Jones' cooperation with federal investigators as reasoning for a more lenient sentence. 

Jones, his wife, his daughters, several UAW members and other supporters wrote letters to the judge attesting to his character and dedication to the union. In his letter, Jones detailed his faith, his path to union leadership, his participation in the embezzlement scheme and his regret for his crimes.

"I have asked the UAW membership for their forgiveness and will ask again and again whenever the opportunity presents itself," he wrote. "I know that the burdens I have caused my family, and my UAW family will be with me for the rest of my life."

Jones is being sentenced four weeks after his predecessor, President Dennis Williams, was sentenced to 21 months in prison for stealing from union members.

They are the highest-ranking UAW officials caught in a four-year-old prosecution that has secured 15 convictions and that revealed UAW leaders and auto executives broke labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and kickbacks. 

Jones is expected to be sentenced to a longer term in prison because he conspired to steal more money than Williams.

In a separate filing Thursday, prosecutors outlined how Jones had helped federal investigators convict Williams and helped to secure federal oversight of the union.

Jones' lawyers approached prosecutors in December 2019, before he was charged, offering to help provide information for the corruption investigation. Beginning the next month, he had several "open, truthful, and candid" conversations with prosecutors and federal agents about his crimes. 

The feds haven't finished investigating everyone suspected in the corruption case, prosecutors wrote in the filing. Jones has informed on those suspects and has said he's willing to testify against them. Jones also said he would help the independent monitor's work overseeing union leadership. 

"It is possible that the government will seek to recognize these parts of Jones' cooperation, which are not yet complete, in the future," prosecutors wrote. 

Jones pleaded guilty one year ago but the sentencing was delayed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and because the courthouse was closed to the public. Jones insisted on being sentenced in person instead of via Zoom.

Jones admitted embezzling the money in support of racketeering activity, evading taxes and causing the UAW to file false tax returns. The crimes spanned from 2010-19, a period that matched Jones' rise from heading a union regional office near St. Louis to his tenure atop the UAW.

The sentencing is scheduled 17 months after Jones resigned in disgrace following raids by federal agents at his suburban Detroit home and former office in Missouri. During the raid, investigators found piles of cash in his garage. The discovered $32,377 was proceeds of criminal wrongdoing and is being forfeited to the government.

The August 2019 raids led to Jones's 16-month career atop the UAW disintegrating amid allegations he helped embezzle money and betrayed the union's roughly 400,000 active members.

Jones admitted wrongdoing after federal prosecutors and a team of investigators from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Labor Department portrayed him as a thief who tried to convince an underling to take the blame while obstructing the investigation. Investigators spent years building a case against him with undercover recordings, bank records and a team of former confidantes and senior UAW officers who cooperated with the government.

 

Trudeau’s EV ambitions need
strategic shift, says CEO of
nickel company

PM has touted Canada as having potential to be a global leader in making batteries for electric vehicles, electrification, and clean technology

Bloomberg
June 3, 2021

Justin Trudeau arrives at an Ottawa news conference in October, where he announced funding to help Ford build electric vehicles in Ontario.

Canada needs a better strategy to build up an electric-vehicle supply chain and become a North American battery hub that takes advantage of a global push toward cleaner energy.

That’s the parting advice Sherritt International Corp.’s outgoing Chief Executive Officer David Pathe has for the Canadian government and an industry set to disrupt everything from mining to automaking. Sherritt owns interests in the nickel and cobalt business. Both are key components in EV battery production.

“Canada as a whole, with some leadership from the federal government, needs to be more strategic about how we develop that industry from a national industrial policy perspective,” Pathe, 50, told Bloomberg last week. “It takes more coordinated policy from the government to bring all the pieces together because it needs more than just raw materials.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has touted Canada as having potential to be a global leader in making batteries for electric vehicles, electrification, and clean technology. The federal government has made investments in projects including a Quebec battery pack assembly plant and Ford Motor Co.’s upgrade of an Ontario facility to make electric vehicles. Resource-rich Canada also boasts deposits of key battery metals including lithium, nickel, cobalt and copper, and plenty of cheap renewable energy.

“Historically Canada has been a supplier of raw materials to the world — I think Canada can aspire to be more than that,” said Pathe, who hands over the top job at the Toronto-based nickel producer to Leon Binedell on June 1. “There’s a role to be played between the government and bringing all the participants in the industry” from project developers and miners, to technology and research firms and processors to identify “bottlenecks” and help foster an EV battery industry.

While three automakers recently announced big electric-vehicle investments in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, the global auto industry and equipment manufacturers have relied heavily on Chinese companies to supply batteries and raw materials such as nickel and cobalt. The coronavirus pandemic highlighted the importance of securing supplies on a regional level and further strengthen western countries’ desire to end reliance on China.

U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order to review U.S. supply chains to ensure reliability for crucial goods in late February. The review covers chips along with large-capacity batteries, pharmaceuticals and critical minerals and strategic materials like rare earths.

Green-car pledges from automakers means there’ll be surging demand for nickel used in the batteries needed to wean the world off fossil fuels, and the metal has to be produced in an environmentally friendly way. Demand for battery-grade nickel is expected to be 16 times higher by 2030, according to BloombergNEF analysts.

“Higher prices is the only thing that’s going to spur the kind of supply reaction the world needs to come anywhere closer” to meeting demand from EV adoptions in the next decade, Pathe said.

 

Even in the face of surging grocery
prices, retail beef and pork
prices cause sticker shock

Laura Reiley
June 2, 2021

As food prices continue to rise, beef and pork have surged out front.

Overall food prices rose 0.4 percent from March, and are up 1 percent from a year ago, according to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on Friday. The price of pork soared 2.6 percent in the month of April and 4.8 percent from a year ago, adjusting for seasonality. And while beef and veal prices stayed fairly flat for the month, they are up 3.3 percent from a year ago.

In a season that routinely sees increased demand for beef and pork, this goes far beyond people excited to get back outside to barbecue.

Michael Nepveux, an economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, ticks off the factors contributing to skyrocketing prices: Labor shortages in the meatpacking industry on the heels of months of slowdowns and shutdowns due to covid-19; a surge in restocking food service as restaurants reopen; high grain and transportation costs; and strong exports and domestic demand.

As covid-19 spreads through Nebraska meat plants, workers feel helpless and afraid

Workers at a Tyson Foods meat-processing plant in Lexington, Neb., are getting sick with covid-19 and say the company hasn’t done enough to protect them. (Robert Ray/The Washington Post)

“Consumers may have become more comfortable cooking some of this stuff at home during the pandemic,” Nepveux said. “And while recessions tend to not treat beef consumption well, the government stimulus offset that somewhat.”

Meat processing plant shutdowns last April caused the largest drop in feedlot populations since records began in 1996, according to Gro Intelligence, an agriculture data platform. And with declines in pork production last year and diminished stockpiles in cold storage (some of this due to the federal Farmers to Families Food Box program, which distributed excess commodity foods to food banks), Nepveux said things might get worse before they get better.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Friday that overall prices were up in April by 3.6 percent compared to a year earlier, even as disposable personal income fell 14.6 percent, as a stimulus-check-fueled spending spike subsided.

And that grocery price inflation trend is also happening worldwide, according to the United Nations food agency. Globally, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization has recorded seven consecutive months of rising meat prices, putting April 5.1 percent higher than a year ago, a month that at the time saw the sharpest increases in meats, poultry, fish and egg prices in the United States in nearly 50 years.

In April 2020, meat hoarding and panic-buying hit its peak, leaving many grocery shelves bare and prompting Tyson Foods, the country’s second-largest processor of chicken, beef and pork, to warn that the U.S. “food supply chain is breaking.”

Bottlenecks due to coronavirus outbreaks at meat-processing plants caused dramatic supply-chain gaps last spring. This is responsible for some of the current high prices, but only a little. The reasons now are more complicated, a function of supply and demand, weather, transportation costs, labor shortages, export markets and, in some cases, opportunism.

Demand for meat went up last year by 2 percent and is up another 5.7 percent so far this year, says Steve Meyer, an economist with Partners for Production Agriculture.

“A part of it is government stimulus payments,” he said. “There’s been cash in people’s pockets, even though some of them weren’t working. And so that has been a positive for meat demand in general.”

He says employed people stuck at home and away from restaurants during the pandemic had substantially more disposable income. Even unemployed people saw a sizable boost in benefits — more, and more expensive, proteins are something people throw money at when they get a little jingle in their pocket. Money goes further in retail than at restaurants, and meat is bought by the package, not the single portion.

Restaurant reopenings are another contributor to price spikes, says Grady Ferguson, senior analyst at Gro Intelligence. As restaurants reopen, a lot of meat has already been sold to grocers or is packaged in cuts specifically for grocers. This causes newly reopened restaurants to initiate a bidding war for the remaining meat. Hundreds of thousands of restaurants are charged with filling their walk-in refrigerators, adding to price hikes.

Domestic retail prices are also affected by surges in meat exports, says Don Close, senior animal protein analyst for Rabobank. Because China’s own pig herd was decimated by African swine fever starting in 2018, it has supplemented with massive purchases of American pork; American pork exports to Vietnam are up 400 percent in the last year for the same reason. In March 2020, restrictions on selling American beef in China were lifted. Earlier this month, Argentina, the world’s fourth-largest beef exporter, announced a 30-day ban on beef exports as part of an attempt to control inflation — some experts say this provides another opportunity for American exports to balloon.

Although Close and Meyer say higher grain and animal feed prices resulting from protracted drought in the American Grainbelt are not yet affecting retail prices, they soon will. And while this month’s hike in gas prices due to the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack hasn’t impacted costs at the farm level, it has had a dramatic effect on transporting meat, says Mike Salguero, chief executive of ButcherBox.com, an online subscription meat company. According to the personal consumption expenditures price index, energy prices increased 24.8 percent in April from one year ago.

“The price to run a truck from the West Coast to the East Coast used to be $6,000 or $7,000 and now it’s $12,000, if you’re lucky,” he said.

Salguero said his business more than doubled during the pandemic as consumers began looking beyond grocery store shelves for meat, but that capacity was constrained by lack of processing facilities. He says more and expanded slaughterhouse processing facilities are planned around the country, which will minimize bottlenecks as happened last spring. It’s not that there aren’t enough pigs or cows, he said, just not enough places to turn them into consumer products, which contributes to high prices.

Meanwhile, he says, “the best antidote for high prices is high prices. As they go up really high, demand will slacken and prices will go down.”

Meyer says the industry is on target to have the second-best year ever for hog prices, but the relationship between the value of beef and the price of cattle is not as tightly linked.

According to Bill Bullard, chief executive of R-CALF USA, an association for independent cattle producers, retail prices have been trending upward since 2017, but the prices of cattle paid to U.S. farmers and ranchers has been trending downward.

“Consumers are paying record prices for beef and yet cattle producers are receiving prices comparable to a decade ago and many of them are at the verge of going broke,” he said. With high prices and record exports, the market is generating unprecedented profits for the four main meatpackers — JBS, Tyson, Cargill and National Beef Packing Company/Marfrig — which together control 85 percent of the fed-cattle market. But Bullard says the ranchers aren’t benefiting. Cargill, the largest private U.S. company, is having its most profitable year ever, with $4.3 billion in net income in the first nine months of its fiscal year on the strength of surging meat, corn and soybean prices, the company disclosed to bond investors this past week.

The four big meatpackers have faced accusations of price fixing, and earlier this spring Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Cattle Market Transparency Act to increase cash sales and bring more transparency to the cattle market and potential beef market manipulation.

 

Electric Ford 'Bronco' and
'Ranger' in the works

By Gary Gastelu | Fox News
June 1, 2021

Electric Ford F-150 Lightning revealed

The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning pickup has been revealed with a starting price under $40G. The all-electric truck is the most powerful F-150 ever and offers a range up to 300 miles per charge.

Ford's electric platform can be used for various types of vehicles

The Ford F-150 is going electric and it looks like the rest of Ford's truck lineup will soon be following it.

The automaker has announced two new purpose-built electric vehicle platforms this week that will underpin full-size trucks and smaller vehicles, with several on the way by the end of the decade.

Ford's chief product platform and operations officer Hua Thai-Tang said the smaller architecture would be used on an upcoming electric Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator, but also on two
potentially more entertaining models.

One is a "rugged SUV" that was depicted with a line drawing that had a similar shape to the upcoming Ford Bronco and the other a "midsize" pickup the size of a Ranger.

An all-new Ford Bronco is launching this year with four- and six-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engines, but is already facing electrified off-road competition from the plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler 4xe, which will be followed by the all-electric Rivian R1T and GMC
Hummer EV later this year.

At a preview event for the electric F-150 Lighting, which uses a modified version of the current F-150's body-on-frame platform, Fox News Autos asked Ford's general manager of battery electric vehicles, Darren Palmer, if electric vehicles like the Bronco and Ranger were on the way.

The F-150 Lightning is scheduled to go on sale in Spring 2022 and will be preceded by an electric Ford Transit van this fall, but the exact timing for additional electric models has not been announced.

 

Ford follows GM, VW with
two new dedicated EV platforms
by 2025, report says

PAUL LIENERT and
BEN KLAYMAN
May 31, 2021
Reuters

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. plans to announce on Wednesday that it is developing two dedicated all-electric vehicle platforms, one for full-size trucks and SUVs, the other for cars and crossovers, as part of a strategy to catch General Motors, Volkswagen Group and Tesla Inc. in the global electrification race, sources familiar with Ford's plans told Reuters.

The all-EV platforms are part of an ambitious multi-year, multibillion-dollar plan the No. 2 U.S. automaker will outline to investors at its Capital Markets Day in an online event.

The dedicated platforms will give Ford common architectures — including shared chassis components, electric motors and battery packs — on which to base many of its future EVs. That will enable it to simplify and reduce the expense of everything from logistics to manufacturing as it transitions from a global lineup of mostly fossil-fueled products.

Ford said it does not comment on future product speculation.

At Wednesday's investor event, the company also will provide more details on its long-range battery strategy, including a recently announced battery joint venture with Korea's SK Innovation, as well as broader goals for electric, commercial and self-driving vehicles, said the sources, who asked not to be named.

Ford previously said it will spend $22 billion (all figures in USD) through 2025 on electrifying many of its vehicles in the Americas, Europe and China. The sources said Ford is planning to launch at least nine all-electric cars and crossovers and at least three electric trucks, vans and larger SUVs, including second-generation editions of the Ford F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E at mid-decade.

What Ford CEO Jim Farley cannot predict, however, is whether — and how many — customers will embrace the newer battery-powered vehicles, even if they are able to match or beat current combustion-engine counterparts in price, performance and operating costs. That concern is shared by nearly all automakers except Tesla, whose lineup is 100 per cent electric.

Ford's traditional rivals have sprinted ahead, with both VW and GM committing tens of billions of dollars to electrify their fleets in the same markets as Ford, but on more aggressive timetables. VW and GM each will have at least two dedicated EV platforms, on which many of their future vehicles will be based.

VW launched the first of its all-new EVs, the ID3, last year in Europe, while GM will begin building its new Hummer EV pickup later this year in the United States. Both companies also are rolling out additional EV models that will share key components with those vehicles.

Ford earlier this year introduced the Mustang Mach-E, an electric crossover built on a new dedicated platform with the internal designation GE, the sources said.

A newer version of that platform, designated GE2, will debut in mid-2023, underpinning new Ford and Lincoln EVs, according to Sam Fiorani, head of global forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions.

The same GE2 platform eventually will be used as the base for replacements for the Mustang coupe and Mach-E, the sources said.

Ford will use a second passenger car platform — a version of Volkswagen's MEB architecture — in Europe for at least two new models beginning in 2023, the sources said.

In February, Ford said its European lineup will be all-electric by 2030.

The redesigned F-150 Lightning, due in late 2025, is expected to be the first to employ the new TE1 truck architecture, Fiorani said. The first-generation Lightning, which debuts next spring, uses a platform that is heavily derived from the standard F-150.

Ford could also use the new TE1 platform for electric versions of the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition utility vehicles, the sources said.

In addition, Ford is expected to get a new EV, possibly a midsize pickup, that would be based on a platform from EV startup Rivian, in which Ford is an investor.

 

Ford recalls Transit Connect
vans for shifter issue

Associated Press
May 28, 2021

Detroit — Ford is recalling nearly 205,000 Transit Connect small vans in the U.S. and Canada to fix a problem that can stop the shift lever from moving the transmission to the correct gear.

The recall covers vans from the 2013 through 2021 model years with 2.5-liter engines and Ford's 6F35 transmissions.

The company said Thursday that a bushing that attaches the shifter cable to the transmission can degrade or fall off. That can stop the shift lever from changing transmission gears, so a driver could shift into park but the van could be in a different gear.

Ford said it's not aware of any crashes or injuries caused by the problem.

Dealers will replace the bushing and add a protective cap. Owners will be notified starting the week of June 28.

 

GM now says it will support
union at new battery factories

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News
May 27, 2021

Detroit — General Motors Co. and LG Energy Solution on Tuesday expressed support for unions and recognized the workers' rights to unionize the companies' joint venture Ultium Cells LLC battery plants. 

In the past, GM and LG, through Ultium Cells, remained neutral on the topic, saying it would be up to the workforce at the plants they're building in Ohio and Tennessee to decide if they want union representation.

In an updated statement, they said: "Both GM and Ultium Cells LLC respect workers’ right to unionize and the efforts of the UAW to organize battery cell manufacturing workers in Ohio and Tennessee at our joint venture sites. When fully operational, these American battery facilities will employ more than 2,300 workers. We believe the UAW, given their historic and constructive relationship in the automotive industry, would be well positioned to represent the workforce."

The United Auto Workers, which represents about 50,000 GM employees, has pressured GM and Ultium to ensure those plants have a union workforce. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has been pushing for union jobs to come out of the electric vehicle transition.

"We in the UAW look forward to starting discussions with General Motors regarding their joint venture to produce batteries in Ohio and Tennessee so workers will have a voice at the table in order to create good-paying union jobs and benefits,"  UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said in a statement Tuesday.

GM has aggressive EV transition plans, including a goal of selling 1 million EVs by mid-decade and having 30 models introduced globally by the same time. The Tuesday statement further added: "As we deliver on our plans to create an all-electric future, GM will build on a long history of supporting unions to promote safety, quality, training, and well-paying jobs for American workers."

To make its EV goals a reality, GM will need battery cells and lots of them. That's why the automaker and LG are investing billions to build the two battery cell manufacturing plants. 

The $15-to-$17-an-hour wage expected at the joint venture plants would be lower than what GM pays its auto assembly workers. By the end of the four-year UAW/GM 2019 contract, hourly GM workers will make $32.32 an hour.

Marick Masters, a professor of business and the former director of labor studies at Wayne State University, said Tuesday the statement from the companies "reflects a commitment to support, at least philosophically, the representation of the new Ultium Cells workforce by the UAW."

But it's still unclear "whether Ultium might agree to take other steps to facilitate organizing, such as recognizing the union if a majority of members of the prospective bargaining unit sign cards authorizing UAW representation," he said.

"It will be important for the UAW to establish majority status, especially if it wants to avoid the prospect of a dissident group of workers that might wish to remain union-free," Masters said. "The landscape here is ripe for intense efforts both to support union organizing and to oppose it.  A variety of outside groups may chose to get involved to push their point of view."

 

Ford introduces F-150
Lightning Pro for
commercial customers

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
May 26, 2021

Ford Motor Co., building on its reveal last week of the all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck, on Monday introduced a version of the vehicle that's designed for commercial customers.

The Blue Oval debuted and opened reservations for what it's calling the F-150 Lightning Pro. The vehicle, which launches next year, will join the E-Transit, a forthcoming battery-electric version of the Transit cargo van, in Ford's lineup of electric commercial vehicles.

F-150 Lightning Pro comes available in two options. The standard version, available for both retail and commercial customers, comes with an EPA-estimated range of 230 miles, targets 426 horsepower and starts at $39,974. An extended-range version for commercial customers, meanwhile, features an EPA-estimated range of 300 miles, targets 563 horsepower and starts at $49,974.

F-150 Lightning, powered by a lithium-ion battery, targets 775 lb.-ft. of torque. It is capable of carrying a maximum payload of 2,000 pounds. The standard option can tow up to 7,500 pounds with an optional tow package, while the extended-range version can tow up to 10,000 pounds with the package.

The extended-range option on Lightning Pro includes Ford's 80-amp charging station.The standard option comes with a 32-amp mobile charger.

Those prices do not take into account available tax incentives for EV buyers, which could drive the cost down.

"F-150 Lightning Pro represents so much more than an electric workhorse — it's made for commercial customers inside and out, it gets better over time, and it's totally plugged into always-on services that can help business productivity," Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement.

Ford executives have laid out what they see as a strong business case for offering electric options to commercial customers, who they say are interested in the cost savings and reduced maintenance time EVs could bring. 

"These customers are extremely pragmatic, and they aren't going to over-index on product features and benefits when it isn't necessary to get the job done," said Ted Cannis, general manager of Ford's North America commercial business. "They are hyper-focused on improving efficiency, uptime, and their bottom line. Unlike retail, commercial customers focus on the cost and capability to complete the job — no more, no less."

Ford is offering a new digital fleet planning tool to its commercial customers that it says will allow them to calculate potential purchase and operating cost savings. 

F-150 Lightning features an aluminum alloy body on a steel frame, an independent rear suspension and dual electric in-board motors in the front and rear.

It also features what Ford is billing as the industry's largest "frunk," or front trunk, located under the hood where the engine would be in an internal combustion engine vehicle. The frunk comes standard with four 120-volt electrical outlets and two USB ports. It can store up to 400 pounds.

Meanwhile, another highlight of F-150 Lightning is its capability to act as a power generator. Ford's Pro Power Onboard is a built-in AC power source that comes standard with 2.4 kilowatts of energy. An upgraded version offers 9.6 kilowatts. 

F-150 Lightning Pro will come in a full-size four-door, five-passenger SuperCrew configuration.

It comes standard with Ford's SYNC 4 infotainment system, a 12-inch color LCD screen, 12-inch productivity screen and Ford Co-Pilot 360, which is Ford's driver-assist system.

Among other digital features and tools, an "intelligent range" system calculates battery range needed to complete a trip, taking into account factors such as weather and cargo load. The system maps out the nearest available charging station when the range gets low.

A 32-amp, 120/240-volt mobile charger is included with Lightning Pro. Ford also offers a higher-capacity 48-amp charge station that runs on 240 volts, as well as a 240-volt, 80-amp charge station for faster charging.

Ford also highlighted the EV Telematics dashboard function, which shares vehicle data over the cloud to help fleet managers with tasks such as paying for public charging and monitoring the vehicle's status and range.

And when activated, a standard 4G LTE modem opens up numerous connectivity services to customers to help manage their fleets. F-150 Lightning will have the capability to receive over-the-air software updates, a function Ford aims to roll out across much of its vehicle lineup in the coming years.

F-150 Lightning, including the Pro, will be built at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn starting next spring.

As of Friday morning, Ford said it had already gotten nearly 45,000 reservations for F-150 Lighting. Customers can reserve one on Ford's website with a $100 deposit.

 

Ford CEO: F-150
Lightning has nearly
45,000 reservations

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
May 25, 2021

Less than two days since Ford Motor Co.'s unveiling of an electric version of its best-selling pickup truck, the automaker said it already had received nearly 45,000 reservations for F-150 Lightning.

Ford CEO Jim Farley said Friday on Twitter that the company had received more than 44,500 reservations. Ford opened up reservations Wednesday night upon the reveal, allowing customers to put down a $100 deposit to reserve a truck. They will later be asked to place an actual order.

The update came after Farley told CNBC Thursday that the Dearborn automaker had netted about 20,000 reservations from Wednesday night to Thursday morning.

The Blue Oval revealed F-150 Lightning Wednesday night, to much fanfare, via a livestreamed event from Ford World Headquarters. The unveiling followed President Joe Biden's visit Tuesday to the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, where union workers will build the electric truck beginning next spring.

Among the details revealed this week about the electric version of America's best-selling truck: the price starts at $39,974, it targets an estimated EPA range of up to 300 miles with an extended battery range option, and features what Ford is billing as the industry's largest "frunk," or front trunk.

Ford reveals the F-150 Lightning electric pickup projected on the side of Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. on May 19, 2021.

Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for Edmunds.com, said there are a few reasons prospective customers might be pre-ordering F-150 Lightning in such high numbers.

"One, it's a high-volume vehicle, and two, truck inventory has been pretty low recently," she said. A global shortage of semiconductor chips has hit auto production worldwide, crimping inventories and vehicle options on dealer lots.

"So if you're thinking about buying a truck or you're interested, $100 is a low barrier to entry to get on a list for something that you may really want next year," said Caldwell.

And, she noted, electric trucks are a brand-new segment. Consumers may be interested in getting behind the wheel of a cutting-edge vehicle, and some may be reserving electric trucks from multiple manufacturers that are slated to roll them out in the coming months, so they can leave their options open for now.

 

20 signs a phone call is
really a dangerous scam

Alison Larabie Chase
May 24, 2021

Is this phone call a scam?

When you answer a phone call, you may be slightly wary these days, and with good reason: there are a lot of scammers out there trying to get your money or your personal information over the phone, so it pays to be skeptical. Here are 20 signs the call is probably a scam.

 You’ve been “selected” to receive money

The caller says you’ve been selected to receive a grant for something from the government, but you need to pay a processing fee. This is never true: governments never charge fees to apply for a grant, and you must apply—you will not be “selected.” Hang up and report the scam to the FTC or CRTC.

You’ve won a prize!

The caller may say you’ve won a free vacation or some other prize, but there’s a shipping or handling fee, so they need your credit card information to send it to you. By law, legitimate contests are not permitted to charge fees (though in Canada they can ask you a skill testing question), so if they do, it’s definitely a scam.

Buy a ticket for this foreign lottery!

If you get a call from someone selling tickets to a big-prize lottery from another country, don’t be fooled: not only will you never receive the ticket you “bought,” but it’s actually illegal for Americans to play foreign lotteries. Canadians technically can, but it could be impossible to collect your prize, even if you do win.

You’ll get a bonus or gift if you buy

Often, a caller trying to get you to buy something over the phone will offer a bonus or free gift if you purchase what they’re selling right away. But since they called you, there’s no way of knowing if they’re trustworthy, even if they say they work for a company you know. Just say “no thanks” and end the call.

They say you owe money on your taxes

This scam is common in both the United States and Canada. The caller aggressively claims you owe money on your taxes, and demands you pay immediately or face prosecution or other consequences. But even if you do owe taxes, the government will never call you to demand that you pay—they’ll send a letter to inform you of your balance.

The phone rings once and then hangs up

Many of us have call display now, but if you miss a call from an unfamiliar number and it only rang once, don’t call back out of curiosity. It could be a common scam that redirects you to a pay-per-minute number that plays a fake recorded message and keeps transferring you to keep you on the line and rack up charges.

They say you’ve been a victim of fraud

Some scammers will say that your credit card or bank is being investigated for fraud, and you need to wire your money somewhere else for safekeeping. When you hang up and call 911 or your bank, the scammer stays on the line and redirects your call to a fake number. This only works on landlines, but it’s always a scam.

They offer to fix your computer

The caller says they’re from Microsoft or another software company and that your computer’s been infected with a dangerous virus or malware, or it’s not running properly, but they can fix it for you if you share your screen with them. This is never legitimate: no software company makes unsolicited calls to computer owners. Just hang up on them.

They’re selling an extended warranty on your car

A caller may tell you that the warranty on your car is about to expire, but they can sell you an extended warranty. They may demand a down payment immediately, use high-pressure sales tactics, or ask for personal information. Don’t be fooled: these companies are rarely legitimate. If you’re concerned about your warranty, call the manufacturer or your car dealership.

They won’t answer your questions

No matter what the caller says, if they deflect or refuse to answer your questions, it’s probably a scam call. Legitimate businesses and governments will answer any questions you have or direct you to a website where the information is available. Scammers will simply try to coerce or convince you to do what they’re asking.

They’re collecting for a charity you’ve never heard of

Charities do call to solicit donations, but they’ll never insist on taking payment information over the phone. Rather, you can ask them to send you a letter or email or direct you to their secure website. Fake charities will insist on your credit card number. If you want to donate but have concerns, hang up and call the organization’s listed phone number.

They threaten to have you arrested

It can be shocking when someone calls and says you’ll be arrested or charged if you don’t pay what they demand. Scammers count on fear and stress doing their work for them. But real organizations and governments simply don’t use these intimidation tactics (and collection agencies aren’t allowed to). End the call and always report these threats to the police.

They want your personal information

Real social security or social insurance numbers can be just as valuable as cash to scammers because they enable identity theft. That’s why you should never give them out over the phone, no matter who says they’re asking or if they just want you to “confirm” your number or other personal information, like your address, phone number, or birthdate.

 

They’re collecting a debt you don’t remember incurring

Phone scammers sometimes pose as debt collectors to intimidate you into paying, and often falsely use the names of actual businesses. Americans have the right to receive a notice by mail that confirms the amount and type of debt owing, so ask. If they refuse, they’re fake. Also, real debt collectors may not threaten anyone with jail time or physical harm.

They claim to have kidnapped someone you know

Some scammers now use social media to find the names and whereabouts of your friends and family members, and use that information to impersonate kidnappers and demand ransom money. It may sound terrifying, but it’s most often fake. Definitely don’t pay them anything. Instead, contact your friend or relative immediately, and report the call to the FTC/CRTC or the police.

They want you to invest in something

Just like buying something over the phone, it’s never advisable to invest in anything an unknown caller is promoting. They might tell you it’s low-risk, and the returns are much higher than other investments, so that’s why it’s only available to you and others who answer the call. This sort of statement is a huge red flag for fraud.

They want your credit or debit card number

Never give out credit or chequing account information to a caller you don’t know—even if they say they just want to “confirm” the information is correct. This is the fastest way to be defrauded of your money and possibly your identity. Neither banks nor the government will ever ask you for this information on an unsolicited phone call.

They want you to make an immediate decision

No matter what the caller is asking you to do, purchase, or provide, one of the red flags of a scam is pressure to make a decision right away. Even if it’s something you want to do, like donate to a charity or buy something, hang up and do your own research to make sure the situation is real.

The call looks like it’s from your own phone number

Technology now exists to let scammers make it look like a call is coming from your own number. The caller counts on your being confused and picking up, then says they are from the phone company, your phone’s been hacked, and they need you to verify your phone account number and social security number, which of course you should never do.

They’re too friendly

Scam artists will often act in an overly friendly manner to try to break down your defences and lull you into trusting them. They might take a personal interest in your life or try to have a pleasant conversation—until they get what they want, whether it’s money or information. Be wary of unknown callers who seem really, really friendly.

 

Province reveals 3-step
plan to gradually reopen
this summer;
Golf and tennis to
resume this weekend

BY LUCAS CASALETTO
Posted May 21, 2021

 The province has released a three-step economic plan for reopening Ontario based on decreased daily COVID-19 case counts, lower hospitalization rates, and the percentage of vaccinated residents that will see restrictions gradually lift through the summer, into September.

The Ford government revealed what it calls the “Roadmap to Reopen,” highlighting what will be allowed provincewide beginning with outdoor activities resuming Saturday, May 22.

Ontario anticipates entering the first step of this roadmap by June 14 and each step will be in place for at least 21 days.

Once 60 percent of adults have one dose of a vaccine, larger outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed, as well as outdoor dining for up to four people per table.

Essential retail will be capped at 25 percent with non-essential retail maxed at 15 percent.

Day camps, campsites and campgrounds – including Ontario Parks and outdoor sports of up to 10 people – will be allowed under this step.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday that 58 percent of adults have been vaccinated with one dose, meaning the province is on track to kick off the first step based on its current progress.

Then, once the province reaches the 70 percent vaccination threshold (with 20 percent fully vaccinated), indoor gatherings will be able to resume as outdoor activities expand.

This will see a max of 25 people allowed to get together outdoors with a cap of 5 people inside. Outdoor dining will expand to allow for up to 6 people per table, essential retail will have a max capacity of 50 percent and non-essential will be capped at 25 percent.

Under this specific threshold, personal care services – such as barbershops and hair salons – will be able to reopen as long as face coverings are worn at all times.

Notably, outdoor cinemas, performance arts, and live performances will also get the green light.

And finally, once the province gets to vaccinate roughly 70-80 percent of the population with one shot and 25 percent fully vaccinated against the virus, restrictions will lift further, allowing for large outdoor and indoor gatherings, indoor dining, and essential and non-essential retail opening at limited capacity.

This will see larger indoor religious services, indoor sports and recreational facilities, indoor seated events, and the reopening of casinos, among other businesses.


(click on Roadmap to Increase Size)

Furthermore, under Ontario’s Reopening Act, the province will allow for the resumption of multiple outdoor recreational activities, including golf courses, tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and playgrounds this Saturday.

Physical distancing must be in place at outdoor facilities.

“Brighter days are ahead,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “We’re almost there.”

The expectation is that the plan will be slowly phased in after the stay-at-home order lifts on June 2.

There is no indication when schools will resume in-person learning, though Premier Ford did admit that Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams is in favour of reopening them.

Ford revealed that health experts aren’t ready to do that, in contrast with Williams’ opinion.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table released updated COVID-19 modelling on Thursday that projects while case counts could increase with a return to in-person learning, it would be manageable for students to get back to class.

The modelling pointed to a “good summer” if public health measures stay in place and daily vaccinations continue above the 100,000 daily thresholds.

“We need to do this slowly and carefully,” Health Minister Elliott said.

“There needs to be a plan, which is being developed, which is based on the scientific advice and medical advice that we received from the chief medical officer of health, the public health table, as well as other medical experts.”

The government confirmed that it was looking at “outdoor activities first and indoor activity later.”

Toronto’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said Wednesday that she’s hopeful the process will allow for improvements across the GTHA.

“It has to be practical, it has to be readily communicated and understandable to the large swath of the province’s that lives, works and plays in the GTHA,” says Dr. Eileen de Villa.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said Wednesday the province was making headway on a detailed reopening plan, saying that sectors would open up provincewide in an effort to limit people from “region hopping” and travelling to an area with less stringent restrictions.

It was confirmed that the colour-coded framework would be scrapped.

In past versions of Ontario’s colour-coded framework, the province witnessed firsthand what could happen if public health units are marked with different health restrictions. Residents from one area would travel to a neighbouring public health unit with fewer restrictions.

The framework, which split up public health units in different colours based on restrictions, was previously in place across Ontario during the second and third waves of COVID-19.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table has repeatedly called for allowing residents to gather outdoors, safely, saying activities like golf, tennis and beach volleyball are low risk.

Dr. Peter Juni said recently that in some cases if physical distancing cannot be maintained during the activity, people should wear masks.

“It’s absolutely doable,” he said of reopening outdoor recreational facilities. “It allows you to play beach volleyball or baseball, for example, all relatively easily. You just need to adhere to these rules.”

When asked if outdoor amenities would reopen in time for the May long weekend, Jones said it might be in the province’s best interest to wait for it to pass before taking that long-awaited step.

“We have seen, and we now have the data to show that generally when we have a long weekend there is a spike of an increase of cases, we don’t want to see that,” Jones admitted.

The latest round of provincial modelling doubled down on that, encouraging residents to safely take part in outdoor activities saying that if at least two metres of physical can’t be maintained, a mask is necessary.

Ontario’s hospitals have asked Ford for a staged and cautious reopening of the province to avoid a fourth wave of the virus.

In a letter to the premier, the Ontario Hospital Association said several factors should be considered in plans to ease restrictions.

The association said vaccination coverage and supply, disease incidence, and an understanding of infection sources are such factors.

The letter said the reopening plan should be evidence-based and focused on limiting the spread of COVID-19.

 

 

Ford Motor, SK Innovation
to announce EV battery
joint venture

By Ben Klayman and
Heekyong Yang 
Reuters
May 20, 2021 

DETROIT/SEOUL (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co and South Korean battery maker SK Innovation are set to launch a battery joint venture in the United States to support the ramp-up of the No. 2 U.S. automaker's electric vehicle rollout, two people familiar with the matter said.

A memorandum of understanding about the joint venture will be announced on Thursday, the sources, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters. The deal may eventually include a jointly owned plant to make battery cells for use in rechargeable EV batteries, the sources said.

Ford declined to comment other than to say SK is a valued supplier. SK Innovation said in a statement it does not comment on specific projects for reasons of client confidentiality.

Talks around the joint venture picked up speed last month after SK Innovation agreed to pay $1.8 billion to LG Energy Solution, a wholly owned subsidiary of LG Chem Ltd, to settle LG's accusations of trade theft by its rival, one of the sources said.

The dispute, which the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden had been on the verge of settling with a ruling, had put SK Innovation's battery cell plant in Georgia at risk. That plant, which is under construction, will serve Ford and Germany's Volkswagen AG.

Biden on Tuesday called for government grants for new battery production facilities as part of a $174 billion EV proposal during a visit to a Ford EV plant in Michigan. He also referenced his administration's role in brokering the settlement between SK and LG Chem.

SK Innovation is expected to complete the Georgia plant's construction later this year, and is building a second facility next door that is expected to start battery production in 2023. The company has invested $2.6 billion in Georgia.

SK Innovation, with battery production sites in the United States, Hungary, China and South Korea, has an annual capacity of about 40 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of batteries. It aims to ramp up to an annual capacity of about 125 GWh of batteries in 2025, which can power about 1.8 million electric vehicles.

A deal with SK may have Ford taking a similar path as rival General Motors Co, which has a battery joint venture with LG Energy that is building plants in Ohio and Tennessee.

Ford is pushing to electrify key models in its lineup, including the Transit van late this year and F-150 pickup mid-2022, and already sells the all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV. It has said it will invest $22 billion in electrification through 2025.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based company has repeatedly stepped up efforts around batteries, with Chief Executive Jim Farley stating several times the automaker was looking at making its own batteries. Last month, after Ford reported quarterly results, he said things have changed as the automaker has boosted its EV volumes.

"We've totally entered a different zone ... so we've already made the decision to vertically integrate the company," he said on a conference call with analysts.

"We're now building motors, e-axles now, we've been writing our own battery management software for quite some time, and now it's time for us to lock in on the latest technology and to have a secure cell production relationship."

While saying Ford had no news to announce, Farley added, "To be competitive in this industry, a major brand like Ford will have to vertically integrate all the way through the system."

 

Ford expands in-vehicle
Alexa capability as it begins
over-the-air updates

Alexa capabilities will expand to millions of additional Ford vehicles over the coming years.

MICHAEL MARTINEZ
Automotive Canada
May 19, 2021  

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that it is bringing in-vehicle Amazon Alexa voice capability to roughly 700,000 Ford vehicles in the United States and Canada this year through over-the-air updates as part of a new six-year deal with the tech giant.

The automaker, which announced a separate six-year deal with Google earlier this year, billed the partnership as the industry's "broadest rollout of the embedded Alexa hands-free experience to date." The update will allow customers to use in-vehicle voice commands to place a phone call or find parking, as well control things such as lighting or temperature in their home from within their car.

Ford said the Alexa capabilities will expand to millions of additional vehicles over the coming years. In addition, Ford and Amazon will develop Alexa skills for commercial vehicles and use artificial intelligence to help business owners better organize fleets.

"We believe in the power of teaming up with other innovators," Alex Purdy, Ford's director, business operations, enterprise connectivity, said in a statement. "Bringing Ford's vehicle know-how together with Amazon's technology expertise will deliver in-vehicle capabilities that help our retail customers travel more enjoyably and with ease, while helping our commercial customers operate more profitably."

The partnership comes as Ford has begun to offer over-the-air updates to certain vehicles such as the Mustang Mach-E and F-150. The company has already beamed software enhancements to 100,000 owners.

The practice was popularized by electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc.

Ford said Thursday that Mach-E customers would soon get a new sketch feature that allows them to draw on the vehicle's touch screen and save their work. Future updates will include the activation of Ford's BlueCruise hands-free driver-assist system.

Ford plans to have 33 million vehicles globally capable of receiving over-the-air updates by 2028.

"Software updates are common across billions of connected devices but not yet for vehicles. Ford Power-Up software updates will change that by quickly bringing it to millions of people," Purdy said. "We've invested in more seamless technology so updates can happen while you're sleeping — making your next ride a better experience."

 

2021 Ford Bronco Revealed

 

 

Chip shortage to cost auto
industry $110 billion

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News
May 14, 2021

Detroit — The semiconductor shortage is now expected to cost global automakers $110 billion in revenue this year, according to global consulting firm AlixPartners, up from the $61 billion the firm predicted in January. 

Interruptions to chip supply, including a fire at a Japan semiconductor facility, severe weather in Texas and a drought in Taiwan, pushed the firm to increase its original estimates, which also included the production loss of 2.2 million vehicles. The firm now expects a production loss of 3.9 million vehicles globally, representing a little more than 4.5% of the vehicles automakers planned to build this year. 

"These (chip) plants are running full out," said Dan Hearsch, a managing director in AlixPartners’ automotive and industrial practice. "There's nothing to absorb the shocks, there's no additional capacity, there's no additional inventory ... all of the cushion has been taken out and you're running on knees with no cartilage."

Automakers here and abroad have been battling the semiconductor shortage since the start of the year. They've halted production at various plants, even shutting down some of the ones that make high-demand trucks. 

Ford Motor Co. expects to lose some 1.1 million vehicles of planned production this year, the Dearborn automaker said on its earnings call. The Dearborn automaker is projecting a $2.5 billion hit to its adjusted earnings for the year due to the chip shortage.

General Motors Co. hasn't provided specifics on volume impact. The Detroit automaker has said the shortage could lead to a $1.5 billion to $2 billion earnings hit.

Stellantis NV lost 11% of planned production, or about 190,000 vehicles, in the first quarter because of the microchip shortage, but didn't specify further volume impact. The transatlantic automaker hasn't released financial impact estimates of the shortage.

Japanese automaker Nissan said it's planning to produce half a million fewer vehicles in 2021, CNBC reported Thursday.

AlixPartners sees the situation normalizing with fewer shutdowns by the third quarter. 

"You're probably going to see little bumps, a plant slow own or shutdown here and there related to this, but it's not going to be 15 plants like what we currently have," Hearsch said. "It's not going to be widespread and global."

By the fourth quarter, the firm anticipates overtime shifts being scheduled to make up for the losses.

Hearsch said the supply constraints the industry has battled this year, from semiconductors to foam shortages, have "served as a wake up call that automakers need to have a lot less trust and a lot more verify."

 

Ford launches 'Power-Up' wireless
software updates, offers
upgraded Amazon Alexa

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
May 13, 2021

Ford Motor Co. on Thursday announced a forthcoming wave of over-the-air software updates that will become standard for millions of its vehicles in the coming years.

The Dearborn automaker recently launched "Power-Up," its name for its wireless software update technology, on the new Mustang Mach-E electric SUV and the redesigned 2021 F-150 pickup truck. Next, the company says, it will launch similar capabilities on the Bronco SUV that is slated for release this summer, and eventually across its vehicle lineup.

“Today, we’re building nearly all new vehicles globally with embedded modems that allow for a new level of exchange between our customers, our company and the world," said Alex Purdy, Ford's director of business operations for enterprise connectivity.

Among the features that Ford will deliver via OTA updates: an embedded, hands-free version of Amazon.com Inc.'s Alexa cloud-based voice service, and BlueCruise, Ford's active-drive-assist system.

Ford executives have spoken frequently about the opportunities posed by connected vehicle technology. The company is looking to shift from a business model under which customers primarily come to the automaker for a one-time transaction, to a relationship in which customers are continually interacting with the company via technological features that deliver new, data-driven revenue streams for the company.

“We believe that data is the new oil, since it’s essential to our electric future and enables us to have an always-on relationship with our customer," said Purdy.

Ford also sees the technology as a way to reduce warranty costs as technology allows previously-costly fixes to be quickly diagnosed and resolved via OTA updates.

“Maybe the greatest leap forward, enabled by connectivity, is our ability to code and send over-the-air updates to connected vehicles and change embedded software," Purdy said. "That means a steady stream of improvements and new features and services can be delivered completely wirelessly. We can double down on the features that people love, get rid of the ones that they don’t, fix the things that are broken, and improve the things that aren’t, all while learning along the way."

Over the last several months, Ford has accelerated its push toward electric and technologically-advanced vehicles, boosting its planned investment in EV development, announcing a strategic partnership with Google, and ramping up production of its first all-electric vehicle, the Mach-E, among other moves.

Ford officials say Power-Up is capable of remotely reaching virtually any computer module in its vehicles. 

Its goal is to produce 33 million OTA-capable vehicles globally by 2028. So far, the company says, it has unleashed an initial round of updates to about 100,000 customers over the last two months, with a new round coming soon.

The moves announced Thursday amount to a new step in Ford's relationship with Amazon. Ford first announced in 2017that it was teaming up with the technology giant to make Alexa compatible with Ford vehicles that have the automaker's SYNC infotainment system. 

Now, Alexa will be embedded in Ford vehicles. Alexa initially will be delivered via Power-Up beginning this fall for some 700,000 Bronco, Edge, F-150, Mustang Mach-E and Super Duty customers with SYNC 4 technology in the U.S. and Canada, with other regions to follow.

The feature will be complimentary for three years. And officials from the two companies said there is more to come from their collaboration: under a new "strategic engagement," they will work together on new features and commercial services over the next six years.

Alexa will be capable of helping drivers do everything from making phone calls to finding parking to controlling smart home devices, all hands-free. Even outside their vehicle, customers will be able to control vehicle functions using Alexa.

"Today what we're doing is fully-embedded implementation," explained Ned Curic, vice president of Alexa Automotive. “We believe the opportunity for creating in-vehicle voice experiences in cars should be on par to what we do today in the smart home.”

A major difference, officials said, will be users' ability to engage with Alexa using voice commands, with no need to push a button.

Meanwhile, Power-Up later this year will add BlueCruise to properly equipped F-150 and Mach-E vehicles. The system, now available for purchase, enables hands-free driving on some 100,000 miles of divided highways across North America. 

And another feature that soon will be rolling out for Mach-E owners in North America is Sketch, a function for touchscreen drawing.

For customers, Ford officials said, the capabilities mean less time spent at dealership service departments, an ever-evolving bevy of features, and a vehicle that has the potential to actually get better over time.

"We’ll be working our way through all of the different nameplates over time, as we update vehicles with the latest electrical and connectivity architecture," said Purdy. "This capability is expected to go across the entire fleet, but it will take many years. We started with the largest volume parts of our business.”

 

Ex-UAW President Williams
sentenced to 21 months in
union corruption probe

Robert Snell
Breana Noble

The Detroit News
May 12, 2021

Detroit — Former United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison Tuesday for stealing from union members during a conspiracy that stripped one of the nation's most influential unions of its clean reputation and led to prolonged government oversight.

Williams, 67, of Corona, Calif., is the highest-ranking UAW official sentenced during a four-year-old prosecution that has secured 15 convictions and revealed UAW leaders and auto executives broke labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and kickbacks. 

The sentencing by U.S. District Judge Paul Borman comes nearly three years after Williams retired to cheers during a convention at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit, and planned to move into a $1.3 million lakefront home in Northern Michigan paid for by the UAW, but built by mostly nonunion labor. His retirement marked the ascension of his ambitious underling, Gary Jones, and Williams celebrated the event by minting gold coins for supporters that read: "Life isn't complete unless you have made the lives of others better."

Behind the scenes, Williams and other labor leaders were stealing from members by using union funds to pay for personal luxuries, including months-long stays in private Palm Springs villas, $150,000 spent on golf and pro shop spending sprees, $60,000 on cigar-store purchases and a $6,000 dinners at steakhouses from Detroit to California.

On Tuesday, Williams spoke during the virtual court hearing, apologizing for his corrupt acts: "Most of all I want to apologize to the men and women of the UAW," he said. "I cannot express my sorrow about this ending. I feel foolish and embarrassed taking Gary Jones at his word when he said everything at the conference was above board. In my gut, I knew better.”

Federal prosecutors faulted Williams for continuing to point fingers at others and said he “created an entitlement culture and crimes that left the UAW reeling,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Cares said. “Abuses of power created a stain on the union that will take years to wash away.

Williams reinforced a distorted culture within the top echelon of the UAW, Cares said: “An upside-down version of solidarity: once I get to the top, I’ll get mine by taking yours.”

The sentence could provide insight into what type of penalty former UAW presidents receive after almost a dozen UAW officials, including two vice presidents, have been convicted and sentenced to prison. Jones, whose short career as president ended in scandal in fall 2019, will be sentenced June 8.

The Williams sentence is the fourth-longest issued during the UAW corruption scandal. Former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Vice President Alphons Iacobelli was sentenced to 5 1/2 years, UAW Vice President Joe Ashton was sentenced to 30 months and ex-union aide Mike Grimes got a 28-month sentence.

The sentence for Williams was too light, said Mike Booth, a 56-year-old electrician at Stellantis NV’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.

“These guys knew what they were doing. You know going into something like that that it is wrong,” he said. “This is not a mistake. This was willful. It’s white-collar crime against blue-collar work.”

Federal prosecutors in December announced the end of a criminal investigation targeting the UAW that resulted in plans to install a government watchdog tasked with eradicating corruption within the union.

The oversight is expected to last six years, cost millions and could result in current UAW leaders being removed and replaced. A criminal investigation of individuals is ongoing, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit.

Williams pleaded guilty in September and portrayed himself as willfully ignorant about how Jones paid for regional conferences and luxuries for labor leaders in Palm Springs and other cities during a conspiracy that lasted from 2010-19. The embezzlement conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in federal prison.

Since pleading guilty, Williams has paid $132,517 restitution to the UAW and $15,459 in taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.

Prosecutors wanted Williams to spend two years in federal prison for conspiring with at least six other labor leaders to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on luxuries at UAW junkets in Palm Springs, Coronado, Calif., and Missouri.

Three people accused of being involved in the racketeering conspiracy have not been charged with wrongdoing amid the ongoing investigation. They are: the late UAW regional director Jim Wells; former Williams aide Amy Loasching, whose Wisconsin home was raided in August 2019; and former Jones aide Danny Trull.

The Detroit News also reported last year that federal agents also were probing financial ties between retired Vice President Jimmy Settles and one of the union's highest-paid vendors. No charges have been filed.

Prosecutors portrayed Williams as an imperious, hypocritical thief who publicly bemoaned corruption while secretly helping steal from members. Defense lawyers urged the judge to sentence Williams to one year in prison, calling him an American success story and charitable leader suffering from health problems.

Court filings last week revealed the scope of cooperation from Jones and former UAW regional director Vance Pearson, who is awaiting a likely prison sentence for his role in the scandal. They blamed Williams for the scheme and said they felt pressured to spend union money on personal luxuries for Williams, including $1,760 worth of champagne requested by his wife, Donna.

Williams, however, blamed Jones and Pearson.

UAW member Scott Houldieson, chairman of the new Unite All Workers for Democracy caucus, was troubled that Williams continued to try to deflect blame: “It shows that he is not truly taking responsibility.”

Houldieson lamented the long-lasting repercussions of Williams’ and others’ crimes that have resulted in government oversight. As a part of that, the union must hold a referendum vote on whether to institute the direct election of international leaders within six months of the approved appointment of a government watchdog.

“UAW members are going to continue to pay for these illegal activities for years to come, maybe decades,” Houldieson said. “It has damaged our ability to organize. It’s going to continue to cost us our treasury.”

Williams was rightfully sentenced for putting his self-interests above members and the union, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in a statement Tuesday: “These serious crimes violated the oath of UAW officers and they violated the trust of UAW officers to handle our members’ sacred dues money."

 

Ford to reveal F-150 Lightning
EV on May 19

Lightning name previously used on two generations of V-8-powered F-150 performance variants

MICHAEL MARTINEZ 
Automotive News
May 11, 2021

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. on Monday confirmed its upcoming battery-electric pickup will be called the F-150 Lightning, and it will be unveiled at its world headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., on May 19.

The automaker said the reveal will be broadcast live across Ford's social media channels and will be shown in New York's Times Square and on the Las Vegas Boulevard. In all, the company says there will be more than 30 ways to watch either physically or digitally.

"Every so often, a new vehicle comes along that disrupts the status quo and changes the game ... Model T, Mustang, Prius, Model 3. Now comes the F-150 Lightning," Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement. "America's favorite vehicle for nearly half a century is going digital and fully electric. F-150 Lightning can power your home during an outage; it's even quicker than the original F-150 Lightning performance truck; and it will constantly improve through over-the-air updates."

Ford previously used the Lightning name on two generations of V-8-powered F-150 performance variants. The first was sold from 1993 until 1995, while the second was sold from 1999 until 2004.

The performance-oriented name squares up with the electric pickup's stated purpose. Executives have positioned it as a workhorse with new capabilities that can be used on job sites.

Car and Driver first reported last month that Ford would use the badge on its EV pickup. Ford last registered for the Lightning name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2018.

 

Ford recalls 661,000 Explorer
SUVs in Canada, U.S. and
Mexico over roof rail concerns

Automaker told U.S. authorities last April that recall wasn't necessary

CBC News 
May 10, 2021

Ford Motor Co. is recalling 661,000 Explorer sport utility vehicles in North America at the request of U.S. regulators because retention pins could loosen and allow roof rail covers to detach from the vehicle.

The recall covers 2016 through 2019 model year vehicles and includes 620,483 vehicles in the United States, 36,419 in Canada and 4,260 in Mexico. Dealers will install push-pins and replace any damaged rail clips and roof rail covers.

The second-largest U.S. automaker said in documents posted Sunday that the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration first inquired about the issue in early 2020 following 11 reports of roof-rail cover detachment.

In April of last year, it asked Ford to issue a recall, but the automaker initially said that wasn't necessary because of the low likelihood a roof rail would detach and its small weight, as well as the fact that drivers would likely detect a loose roof rail cover, according to the documents.

Ford in November said it would extend its warranty to cover the issue for 10 years or 150,000 miles (just over 240,000 kilometres) before agreeing to the recall on April 30.

A Ford spokesperson said Sunday the automaker is not aware of any accidents or injuries related to this condition.

The vehicles covered by the recall have roof rail covers that are painted silver, black or absolute black. Customer notifications will begin the week of June 28.

 

Ford, BMW lead US$130
million investing round in
solid-state battery startup

        Solid-state battery technology improves on lithium-ion batteries

BEN KLAYMAN
REUTERS
May 7, 2021

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. and BMW AG are leading a $130 million (all figures in USD) funding round in a solid-state battery startup, Solid Power, as carmakers push to lower the cost of electric vehicles by investing in the development of affordable but powerful rechargeable batteries, the companies said.

The Series B investment round, which includes venture capital firm Volta Energy Technologies, allows Solid Power to expand in-house manufacturing capabilities and positions the battery maker to eventually supply future EVs, possibly by the end of the decade according to BMW battery cell technology chief Peter Lamp. Solid Power declined to say at what level the funding round values the company.

"The partnerships and the capital that comes along with it are really going to put us on a good footing to execute on our road map, which simply speaking is qualifying this technology for vehicle use and getting them into vehicles in the not-too-distant future," Solid Power CEO Doug Campbell said in an interview.

Carmakers are racing to develop EVs amid tightening CO2 emission standards in Europe and China.

Solid-state battery technology involves a high-capacity energy storage device that improves on lithium-ion batteries, replacing the liquid or gel-form electrolyte with a solid, conductive material. Among other benefits, the new technology offers more energy density and better safety due to a lack of flammable components. Solid Power has said its technology can deliver 50 per cent more energy density than current lithium-ion batteries.

However, solid-state battery technology is more expensive than lithium-ion cell technology. It also must prove it can operate and remain durable in the real world, and must increase its scale to meet industry demand.

Monday's announcement marks the second investment in Solid Power for Ford and Volta Energy. Both participated in the $26 million Series A round in 2018 that included Hyundai Motor Co. and Samsung Electronics.

"We've been working with more than a dozen different startups in this space and we've been most impressed with the progress that Solid Power has made," Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product platform and operations officer, said.

Solid Power, based near Denver, raised $5 million in convertible debt from BMW iVentures earlier this year. Its partnership with the German automaker began in 2016.

Following the latest investments, Ford and BMW will own equal, unidentified stakes in Solid Power, which was established in 2012 as a spinout from the University of Colorado Boulder, Campbell said.

Ford is pushing to electrify key models in its lineup, including the Transit van late this year and F-150 pickup mid-2022, and already sells the all-electric Mustang Mach-E crossover. It previously said it will invest $22 billion in electrification through 2025.

By the end of 2021, BMW aims to have five fully electric models available across the BMW and MINI brands, and it said by 2023 it will have fully electric models available for almost all of its market segments.

Toyota Motor Corp., which has called the technology a "game changer," plans to introduce solid-state batteries on an electrified platform by 2025.

Another solid-state battery startup is Volkswagen-backed QuantumScape, which aims to introduce its battery in 2024. It went public last year through a reverse merger with a special-purpose acquisition company.

Campbell declined to say whether Solid Power is exploring going public with a SPAC.

 

Ford expands off-road
offerings with new 2021
Explorer Timberline

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
May 6, 2021

In a move aimed at capturing a bigger slice of the growing market for off-road-capable vehicles, Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday introduced the 2021 Explorer Timberline — what it's billing as a rugged version of its popular midsize SUV.

The Dearborn automaker is marketing the new addition as a vehicle with off-road capabilities that go beyond what Explorer currently offers, but with an eye toward customers who might be more modest in their outdoor adventures than those to whom the forthcoming Bronco SUV is geared.

"Today is the right time to expand our Explorer family to better appeal to customers who need three rows of versatility, but not quite the footprint of a full-size SUV," said Lee Newcombe, Explorer marketing manager. 

Timberline — pricing for which starts at $45,765 before destination and delivery fees — adds to an Explorer lineup with trim levels emphasizing performance and luxury, including a new, premium King Ranch edition. Orders for Explorer Timberline are now open, with the vehicle scheduled to arrive this summer.

Explorer, built at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant, is one of the automaker's best-selling vehicles. Last year, sales were up nearly 21%, to 226,217 units.

Ford officials noted that the Timberline introduction marks the seventh "rugged" truck or SUV addition to the Blue Oval's lineup since 2019. The automaker this summer is bringing back the Bronco, a favorite among off-road enthusiasts that aims to take on Stellantis NV's Jeep brand. A smaller version, Bronco Sport, launched earlier this year; Ford executives have said the "baby Bronco" has exceeded expectations, with more than 37,000 units sold through the end of April. 

The automaker also previously introduced the off-road-geared F-150 Raptor, as well as the Tremor family of off-road trucks — and officials hinted that the Timberline name could be expanded to other models in the future.

The automaker pointed to two trends behind the decision to add an off-road version of Explorer: the enduring popularity of SUVs among U.S. car buyers, and an increased interest in spending time outdoors — a phenomenon that has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Over the last 10 years, SUVs have jumped from 36% to 55% of the U.S.," said Newcombe. "And when you dig a little deeper, you also see that industrywide since 2018, the large utility segment has seen the most growth in customers who go off-roading."

For Explorer, for example, Ford has tracked a 56% increase over the past three years in owners who report taking their vehicle off-road.

"Consumer data has shown us that now more than ever, customers want to get outside and explore nature with friends and family," Kumar Galhotra, Ford's president of Americas and International Markets Group, said in a statement. "Timberline hits a new sweet spot with these customers who want an ideal combination of passenger space, moderate off-road capability and great manners around town."

Specs

The new Timberline Explorer comes standard with intelligent four-wheel drive, a system that automatically adjusts torque between the wheels based on driving conditions and inputs from the driver. The system is aimed at improving traction.

New on Explorer Timberline is a limited-slip rear differential, which automatically sends torque to the wheel with the best traction.

The vehicle also features a terrain management system with seven drive modes, including one for trails and one for driving in deep snow or sand. A hill descent control feature allows the SUV to maintain a constant speed of between two and 12 miles per hour. 

Other features include standard steel skid plates to help protect the vehicle's underbody, and a front rebound spring to prevent jarring in the cab.

Explorer Timberline — which comes with all-terrain tires — also features a ride height that's increased by about three-quarters of an inch. 

It's equipped with a 10-speed automatic transmission and Ford's four-cylinder, 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, which delivers 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, according to Ford.

And, in a nod to customers wanting to haul RVs or boats, the vehicle comes with a Class III trailer tow package with 5,300 pounds of towing capability.

As for the design, Explorer Timberline will launch with a "forged green metallic" paint color. All models will have blackout treatment around headlamps and tail lamps. It also comes with LED fog lamps to light up trails at night.

Inside the SUV, the interior trim comes in a "deep cypress" hue with tangerine-colored stitching on the seats, steering wheel and door trim. Included are rubber floor liners, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

Explorer Timberline also features Ford's driver assistance system, Co-Pilot360. Some of the features available via that system are adaptive cruise control, lane centering and voice-activated touch screen navigation. The vehicle has a 360-degree camera, and a front camera view that officials said is particularly helpful for off-roading.

Additionally, Ford will offer three packages with all-weather floor mats, crossbars and rooftop accessories.

Explorer Timberline has combined city and highway fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon, according to Ford.

The automaker plans more to come from the Timberline series: "This will be something we will be looking to expand further into the SUV lineup," said Newcombe.

 

Ford posts big April sales gain
amid rebound from pandemic

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
May 5, 2021

Amid a hot vehicle market and a rebound from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Ford Motor Co. posted a nearly 65% sales gain in April compared to a year ago.

The Dearborn automaker reported selling 197,813 vehicles last month, for a 64.8% gain over April 2020 when COVID-19 case numbers were growing and restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus hit factories and showrooms. Retail sales were up 57.1%.

Industrywide, Morgan Stanley put April's seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of light-vehicle sales at a record-high 18.5 million units. Sales were up across the industry for the automakers that report sales on a monthly basis, with American Honda, Hyundai, Subaru of America and Toyota North America among the manufacturers posting year-over-year gains. 

"The strength of SAAR continued from earlier stimulus actions," Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note this week. But, "amid a semi chip shortage, the question now turns to whether we potentially run out of cars?"

The Blue Oval attributed strong numbers across multiple nameplates to favorable customer reactions to a new, SUV- and truck-heavy portfolio with new electrified options.

Overall, truck sales were up 47.5% year-over-year, while SUV sales were up 119.8%. Ford trucks and SUVs posted their best April retail sales since 2006, according to the automaker, and Ford brand SUVs hit record-high retail sales, up from both April 2020 and April 2019.

Ford also highlighted its progress in selling electrified vehicles, a transition that's still in the early days. Electrified vehicle sales were up 262%, with the battery-electric Mustang Mach-E that launched late last year posting 1,951 sales in April, a hybrid version of the best-selling F-150 pickup truck selling 3,365 units and 3,695 electrified Ford Escapes selling, for a total of 11,172 electrified vehicle sales.

The automaker noted, too, that its transition to an SUV- and truck-dominant lineup in North America is paying off in terms of prices — a factor that executives highlighted while detailing Ford's first-quarter financial results last week. After reporting better-than-expected Q1 earnings, executives pointed to higher prices from lean inventories and more expensive trucks and SUVs as a profit driver.

"Ford's retail sales not only increased 57% over (a) year ago, but also exceeded April 2019 by 24%," Andrew Frick, Ford's vice president of sales for the U.S. and Canada, said in a statement. "Strong customer reaction to our newest products, despite tight inventory, confirms our strategy of investing in electrified vehicles, along with trucks and SUVs."

Bronco Sport, the smaller version of the forthcoming full-size Bronco and the automaker's newest addition to its SUV lineup, saw sales increase 41.7% over March. Ford reported that 60% of Bronco Sport buyers are coming from competing brands, with the largest percentage coming from off-road heavyweight Jeep. Year-to-date, the SUV has netted 37,212 sales.

"Bronco Sport just continues to be an incremental add to our portfolio and our SUV sales," Frick told The Detroit News. "It's actually exceeded our expectations."

In April, 94% of sales came from trucks and SUVs, helping to drive Ford's average transaction price for the month to $43,600 per vehicle. 

"Ford's investment in trucks and SUVs is not only producing greater volume, but replaces sedans like Fusion, which produced an average transaction price of $22,600 in April 2021," the company said in a news release.

On the commercial vehicle side, Ford reported that sales overall were up 127%.

F-Series, the automaker's profit engine, has sold 270,099 vehicles through April, for a 14% year-to-date gain. The truck franchise was up 31.8% in April. It was up 9% over April 2019, according to Frick.

Lincoln brand sales of about 10,500 vehicles represented a 114.9% year-over-year gain.

Both a lifeline and a potential challenge going forward for Ford and its competitors is the dwindling of new-vehicle inventories on dealer lots, owning to a deepening semiconductor shortage that has hit auto production worldwide. Ford warned last week that it could lose as much as half of its planned vehicle production in the second quarter due to the shortage.

But in the meantime, inventories have driven prices up, helping to boost automakers' bottom lines — and executives have said that leaner inventories may become the norm. Ford reported Tuesday that its gross stock sat at about 265,000 vehicles heading into May, for 35 days' supply.

The industry, meanwhile, averaged 33 days' supply, down from 39 last month and 120 days last year, according to Morgan Stanley. General Motors Co. is down to 27 days and Stellantis NV is down to 43 days. Ford's 35 days' supply is down from 123 days last year.

Noting that Ford had higher supply than the industry overall, Frick said the automaker is "in a pretty competitive position to compete as we go into May."

He said Ford will be watching inventory levels closely throughout May and June, and continues to work with dealers to get them the right product mix to meet customer demand. 

"We expect it to get down to a pretty low days' supply, probably somewhere in the 20s, over the next couple months — but it's very vehicle-dependent," said Frick. "The absolute stock has dropped, the days' supply has dropped, but our turn rates have increased to a point that it offsets a lot of that and allows us to still deliver a sales month like we saw in April."

 

Ford posts $3.3 billion
quarterly profit, but warns
worst of chip shortage
still to come

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
May 3, 2021

Ford Motor Co. booked a $3.3 billion profit in the first quarter, but warned that it could lose as much as half of its planned vehicle production for the second quarter amid a worsening global semiconductor shortage — a prospect one analyst called "jaw  dropping."

The Dearborn automaker generated $36.2 billion in revenue and delivered a profit margin of 9%. Executives attributed the results to efforts to mitigate the impact of the chip shortage, a refreshed vehicle portfolio in the midst of being rolled out, and longer-term changes aimed at improving the fundamentals of the business. 

"What you're seeing come through the numbers is good execution by the team," said chief financial officer John Lawler. "They really leaned into optimizing the mix of our products, with an emphasis on moving vehicles that are in high demand from our customers and have higher margins for us."

But executives also pointed to changes such as the shift in North America to an SUV- and truck-focused lineup, and a global restructuring plan under which Ford has closed facilities overseas and slashed $1 billion in costs in Europe to become a leaner company. 

"We're executing on our plan, and I'm excited to say Ford is becoming a stronger, more resilient company that can deliver under pressure, manage risk and seize opportunities, all while generating consistent returns for our stakeholders," CEO Jim Farley said.

Among the financial highlights: Revenue was up nearly 6% over the first quarter of 2020, adjusted pre-tax earnings of $4.8 billion marked a record for the company, and warranty costs — a nagging issue for the automaker — were down $400 million from a year ago. 

Executives also highlighted improvements to financial results in regions around the world. Outside North America, the company saw pre-tax earnings tied to the automotive business of $454 million — a significant improvement over the $526 million loss it posted in the same period last year.

In North America, Ford posted a 12.8% pretax earnings margin — higher than the 10% goal the company has been targeting and the highest rate in five years. Executives attributed 5% revenue growth in the region to strong demand for new vehicles such as the Mustang Mach-E, Bronco Sport SUV and redesigned F-150.

The company posted a $73 million pretax earnings loss in South America; generated $341 million in pretax earnings in Europe; saw a $15 million loss in China; and booked a $201 million pretax earnings gain in its other international markets — all of which were profitable except for India, Lawler said. 

Adjusted free cash flow for the quarter, however, was negative $396 million. Ford shares closed down by less than one percent, to $12.43 per share, before the financials release.

Despite the strong first quarter results, executives warned of future fallout from the chip shortage, saying the situation will get worse before it gets better. The company now expects the shortage to peak in the second quarter, then to begin to ease throughout the remainder of the year before full relief arrives in 2022.

To that end, the automaker said it expects to lose about 50% of the production it had planned for the second quarter (or about 700,000 units), worse than the 17% loss in the first quarter. Executives said they expect to lose about 10% of production that had been planned for the second half of the year, for a total loss of some 1.1 million vehicles this year. That's up significantly from the 200,000- to 400,000-vehicle impact the automaker had initially expected.

Nick Shields, senior analyst at investment research firm Third Bridge, said in a note Wednesday that while "the quarter itself was solid" for Ford, its projected production loss for the second quarter "is nothing short of jaw dropping."

Lawler had previously projected that Ford could take a $1 billion to $2.5 billion hit to its annual earnings due to the shortage. The company on Wednesday updated its guidance to account for factors that exacerbated the shortage, including a fire at a chip factory in Japan.

The company is forecasting adjusted pretax earnings of between $5.5 billion and $6.5 billion for the year, reflecting an estimated $2.5 billion hit from the semiconductor shortage. The company had previously estimated pretax earnings of $8 billion to $9 billion for the year.

Meanwhile, the automaker has been building and setting aside F-150s and other vehicles, opting to hold the vehicles until missing electronic modules containing semiconductor chips can be added. Executives said Wednesday that as of the end of the quarter, some 22,000 vehicles — primarily in North America — were sitting waiting for parts.

The shortage of chips — essential components that help power everything in a vehicle from infotainment systems to power steering — could cost the global auto industry up to 3.1 million vehicles and more than $61 billion this year, according to a forecast from industry consulting firm Alix Partners.

Experts say that the continued popularity of Ford's flagship F-150 pickup truck and rising vehicle prices have helped the automaker weather the chip issue and other disruptions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Though Ford's U.S. sales were up only 1% in the first quarter, the average transaction price for its vehicles jumped 8.3% to $47,858, according to data from auto information website Edmunds.com. 

"F-150 remains one of the most coveted trucks in the industry, and although Ford's first quarter sales were flat, the company has sustained increases in average transaction prices which should help drive profitability," Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for Edmunds said in a statement ahead of Ford's release. "Ford is hanging on tight for now, but might find itself in a less secure position as this chipset shortage continues with no immediate end in sight."

And though the current imbalance between supply and demand will begin to normalize in the coming months, executives said some changes could be here to stay.

"We're learning as we operate in this extraordinary low-stock, high-demand environment in the U.S. and around the world, that we will see a leaner, more efficient company in the future," Farley told Wall Street analysts. "This is a better way to run our business."

Ford's crosstown rival General Motors Co. is scheduled to release its first quarter financial results May 5. Transatlantic automaker Stellantis NV will share first quarter revenue and shipments the same day.

 

Ford slumps 10% after being
hit by chip shortage, drags
down rival GM, suppliers

April 30, 2021

(Reuters) - Shares of U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co fell more than 10% on Thursday, after it warned the global semiconductor chip shortage could cut its second-quarter vehicle production in half, a dour outlook for rivals and key suppliers.

Analysts said the chip shortage is getting worse as Ford also reduced its full-year earnings before interest and taxes outlook even after handily beating Wall Street's profit estimate for the first quarter, helped by pricing gains.

"Ford joins a growing chorus saying the semiconductor issue won't be resolved until 2022," RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak wrote in a note.

The chip shortage has forced U.S. automakers to cut production of less profitable vehicles, while allowing them to raise prices on their most profitable ones as demand surges, offsetting the production loss.

Analysts say that trend won't last long and prices will come down later in the year, as the supply of chips becomes normal.

Shares of Ford's larger rival General Motors Co also fell over 4% on Thursday.

Ford's lower second-quarter production is likely to weigh on suppliers such as Visteon, BorgWarner, Tenneco, Lear Corp, Adient Plc, RBC's Spak said.

Shares of the suppliers fell between 1% and 5% in morning trading.

"While we believe Ford has every opportunity to execute a path that could achieve our $18 bull case valuation, we remain 'underweight' at this time given our elevated concerns around auto industry expectations broadly," Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a note.

Shares of Ford fell as much as 10.4% to $11.14, posting their biggest one-day loss in more than ten months. Ford's stock is still up about 30% this year.

 

Ford, GM stock rallies
hang in the balance as
earnings kick off

ESHA DEY
Bloomberg
April 29, 2021

The stock rally for America’s traditional automakers may face a reality check with companies starting to report results amid an industrywide semiconductor shortage and an uncertain outlook heading out of the pandemic.

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors have drawn renewed interest from investors as they join the race to capture more of the electric-vehicle market dominated by Tesla Inc., the world’s most valuable car company.

But quarterly earnings -- beginning with Ford on Wednesday and followed by General Motors next week -- will leave investors and analysts balancing the companies’ gas-car-fueled performance at the start of the year against their outlook for the future, all against the backdrop of a global shortfall of computer chips.

Pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions and a sudden jump in the demand for products that use those chips -- from laptops and phones, to home appliances and cars -- has led carmakers including Ford, Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor Corp. to halt production and idle plants.

“Global auto production in first quarter saw a large negative impact from semi shortages, although likely not as much as feared a month ago,” Deutsche Bank AG analyst Emmanuel Rosner wrote in a note on April 22. “Conversely, production schedules for the second quarter seem to be coming under deeper pressure than anticipated from prolonged shortages, and the potential to make up large lost volume in the second half seems to be diminishing.”

The industry’s first quarter will likely be stronger than initially projected by analysts after a report showed auto sales for the period largely surpassed expectations and rose from a year ago.

But the outlook is likely to face more scrutiny.

“More important than first-quarter results will be the status of 2021 financial outlooks, which in most cases had been provided earlier prior to an exacerbation of the global semiconductor shortage,” Bank of America Corp. analyst John Murphy wrote in a note. Murphy said a number of companies may reaffirm their 2021 guidance -- although that will likely rely on a stronger second half of the year to make up for any first-half weakness.

That may cause some investors to reassess the recent stock price gains. GM and Ford have both risen over 40 percent this year, dwarfing the nearly 12 percent advance in the broader S&P 500 Index.

Analysts will also be watching for any update on the two companies’ plans for reinstating their dividends, which were suspended last year. GM CEO Mary Barra in February said the company will comment on it “later in the year.”

“In our recent conversations with investors, we sensed a certain degree of apathy towards the sector, and lack of great stock convictions,” Deutsche Bank’s Rosner said. While he sees room for further gains for both GM and Ford shares, he said that would require the companies to prove their mettle in electric and self-driving cars.

What Bloomberg Intelligence Says:
“Ford’s first-quarter results should be buoyed by robust pricing and volume gains in high-margin segments, with SUV volume growing 14 percent and pickup trucks 5 percent against a 1Q 2020 curtailed by pandemic-related shutdowns -- while car sales cratered 57 percent. A global chip shortage adds a dose of uncertainty on 2021 guidance of $8 billion-$9 billion in adjusted Ebit, vs. $2.8 billion in 2020 and $6.4 billion in 2019.”

“General Motors is navigating supply shortages by leaning on high-margin pickups and SUVs. Production in first quarter was down 10 percent -- adjusted for discontinued car models -- but total unit sales rose 4 percent and average transaction prices were 3 percent higher.”

 

Auto companies among those
stepping up in absence of
mandated paid sick days

Magna, GM both have provisions in place to allow workers to take time off if they're sick or suspect they have COVID-19

The Canadian Press
April 23, 2021

As it becomes increasingly clear that workplaces are a key transmission location in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, some Canadian employers, including some automakers and suppliers, are offering paid sick leave to their employees in the absence of government action.

Paid sick leave benefits, which allow workers to call in sick without fear of losing a day's pay, are becoming a political issue across the country, especially in Ontario. The benefit is one of the measures recommended by a group of experts who advise the Ontario government on COVID-19 measures, but has so far been turned down.

To date, there have been a total of 825 workplace outbreaks in the province's two biggest COVID-19 hot spots — 423 in Toronto and 402 in neighbouring Peel Region.

Last year, roughly 2,000 people with COVID-19 reported going into work following the onset of their symptoms and at least 80 worked for one or more days after a positive test result, according to Peel's public health unit.

Without paid sick leave, workers bear the cost of lost income if they don't come to work, labour experts say.

"We're in the middle of a pandemic. Without paid sick leave, there's pressure on especially lower-income workers to come into work even if they're not feeling well," said Raji Jayaraman, an economics professor at the University of Toronto.

The Canadian Press contacted 36 employers across the country where workers must be physically present, seeking information about their paid sick leave policies.

Fourteen of those companies said they offer such benefits, including CIBC, Dollarama Inc., WestJet Airlines Ltd., Kraft Heinz Co. and Labatt Brewing Co.

Grocer Loblaw Cos. Ltd. introduced programs for all full- and part-time employees "to ensure no one would lose pay for COVID-related absences," said spokeswoman Catherine Thomas.

She added that "thousands of employees" have used its "pay protection program," which she said amounts to paid sick days during the pandemic.

Rival grocer Metro Inc. also offers paid sick days "to a number of unionized employees depending on their collective agreement as well as to a number of employees who are not unionized," said vice-president of communications Marie-Claude Bacon in an email.

Meanwhile, Air Canada employees who suspect they have COVID-19 are paid while they determine whether they have the virus, if supported by appropriate documentation, said spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick in an email.

Enbridge Inc. employees "get as much paid time as they need to get well," said spokeswoman Tracie Kenyon in an email. She added that the company has paid sick leave for employees for 14 calendar days, as well as short-term disability benefits if more time is needed.

General Motors Co. said it has provisions in place to support employees who cannot work because they are sick or have been asked by GM to self-isolate or quarantine.

Provisions include flexible work arrangements, temporary leave, and paid sickness and accident benefits, said Jennifer Wright, director of communications for GM Canada.

"Under our collective agreements with Unifor and our salary work policies, we have provisions in place to support employees who cannot work because they are sick or who have been asked by GM to self isolate or quarantine," she said in an email.

Toy and game maker Spin Master Corp. said it provides employees with five personal paid days per year, which they can use for personal illness or to care for others in their family who may be ill. They do not require a doctor's note.

"For those employees who may have contracted COVID or who have had to care from someone with the virus, we have been making every accommodation, including extended paid sick or caregiver leave," said spokeswoman Lauren Colt in an email.

Auto parts maker Magna International Inc. provides paid leave that can be used for vacation, personal use or if someone is sick, said Tracy Fuerst, vice-president of corporate communications, in an email.

Tim Hortons did not directly answer questions about whether it offers workers paid sick days. However, a spokesperson said a program funded equally by the company and franchisees "ensures that Tim Hortons team members who have contracted COVID-19 or who are self-isolating at the specific request of the government, medical authority or restaurant owner will be compensated for scheduled hours for up to 14 days."

Tim Hortons did not respond to followup questions regarding whether the program covers employees who stay home if they suspect they may be sick.

Maple Leaf Foods also did not directly answer questions about its paid sick leave policy. The company "is providing nourishing food people need during this pandemic and we are committed to finding the best ways to fill our essential role and keep our people safe at the same time," said Janet Riley, vice-president of communications.

Scotiabank said employees are eligible to receive full salary for 10 days of combined sick and personal time with no doctor's note required. Employees sick for more than a week can apply for short-term disability, a fully bank-paid benefit that provides full compensation for the first eight weeks. Documentation may be required.

A spokeswoman for BMO Financial Group said the safety of its colleagues, customers, and communities is a priority.

"BMO provides excused paid days to all regular employees, in all jurisdictions, to support quarantine requirements due to exposure to or a diagnosis of COVID-19," Natasha Boeck said in an email.

"In situations where an employee falls ill as a result of COVID-19, they can utilize their sick days and if the situation persists, employees may also apply for short-term disability."

TD Bank and RBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bulk Barn, Canada Goose, Canadian Tire, Couche-Tard, DavidsTea, Dollar Tree, Dorel, Sobeys parent Empire Co. Ltd., Freshii, Honda Canada, Kinder Morgan, Martinrea, McCain Foods, Second Cup, Stellantis Canada (formerly FCA Canada) and Suncor did not respond to a request for comment.

A representative of Linamar said its CEO and spokesperson, Linda Hasenfratz, was unavailable for comment.

Paid sick days should be legislated through governments' employment standards to make sure all workers have access to it, said Carolina Jimenez, a co-ordinator with advocacy group Decent Work and Health Network.

Only 42 per cent of working Canadians say they have access to paid sick leave, while only around 10 per cent of low-wage workers do, data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows.

"Workplaces are key drivers of infection. We've seen these numbers time and time again," said Jimenez, who is also a registered nurse in Toronto.

"It's no coincidence that these are the very same places that employ workers at minimum wage, with very little protection, no paid sick days."

 

 

Ford launches on-site vaccinations
for employees in southeast
Michigan, Ohio, Missouri

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
April 22, 2021

As Michigan battles a worst-in-the-nation surge in COVID-19 cases, Ford Motor Co. on Monday launched on-site vaccinations for employees at some of its manufacturing facilities in the U.S., including locations in southeast Michigan.

The Dearborn automaker announced that, in partnership with the United Auto Workers and providers that are distributing the vaccine, it would begin offering on-site vaccinations at facilities in three states. The opportunities are open to employees in southeast Michigan and in Lima, Ohio, and Kansas City, Missouri.

"This is just one of the ways that we are protecting the health and safety of our employees," Dr. Francesca Litow, Ford's corporate medical director, told The Detroit News. "Our place-dependent employees have been working for almost a year now, successfully, and how we've been able to keep them healthy and safe is through our robust health and safety processes for our employees. Vaccination adds one more layer to that."

In southeast Michigan, Ford and the UAW have partnered with Rite Aid to administer the Moderna vaccine. Clinics are being organized at Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant, the Ernest Lofton Fitness Center at the Rouge complex in Dearborn, Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights, and the Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti.

Meanwhile, the automaker and the union have teamed up with local hospitals to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to employees at Ford's Lima Engine Plant and Kansas City Assembly Plant.

Ford's crosstown competitors Stellantis NV and General Motors Co. previously launched on-site vaccinations at some of their facilities.

Stellantis NV employees in Belvidere, Illinois, were among the first autoworkers to receive the COVID-19 vaccines. The automaker is distributing the shots to its employees and their families through its health and wellness centers operated by regional health systems in Belvidere, Detroit and Kokomo, Indiana, based on state orders. The Ascension Michigan-operated center in Detroit is administering vaccines to patients 16 years old and older.

GM spokesman David Caldwell said Monday that the Detroit automaker is "making a lot of progress working with public health officials to administer vaccines — both inside our workplaces and elsewhere."

The automaker, for example, worked with the city of Detroit to vaccinate hundreds of employees at its Factory Zero Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center in March. Numerous other GM facilities have offered on-site vaccination clinics, including in Lansing, Saginaw, and Spring Hill, Tennessee. And the automaker continues to help employees secure vaccine appointments at external sites.

Caldwell said GM would add on-site vaccinations at other locations in the coming days and weeks.

Ford's program began at the Flat Rock plant Monday and will continue at "various locations" through June, according to the automaker. Ford and the UAW plan to make similar arrangements at other facilities in the coming weeks and months. Litow said that plans are being made to offer Chicago-area workers on-site vaccinations sometime in May, for example.

"The timing depends upon the vaccine providers," she said. "Ford is not receiving vaccine to our medical facilities; we are partnering with vendors such as pharmacies ... as well as healthcare providers or hospital systems or occupational health clinics that have vaccine allotments now or in the future."

The automakers' efforts to vaccinate their workforces come as Michigan leads the nation in new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, a trend that state leaders have attributed in part to the spread of more-contagious variants and lack of compliance with health protocols.

The state added 8,574 new COVID-19 cases and 61 deaths Monday, and marked a record-high number of hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. In all, the state has had 793,881 cases of COVID-19 and 16,901 deaths since the virus first was detected in March 2020, according to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services.

About 30% of Michigan's residents are fully vaccinated. The state has set a goal of vaccinating at least 70% of the adult population by the end of this year.

Litow said that as cases in the state have gone up, Ford has seen "waxing and waning of our rates, but certainly not to the extent that we've seen out of the community."

"The good news is that we have not seen anyone who we've identified as potentially exposed to someone with COVID in the workplace become infected when they followed our policies and our processes," she said. 

Litow said the demand for vaccine among Ford's workforce mirrors that among the public; some were eager to get vaccinated as soon as they were able to do so, while others have been hesitant. For those who are hesitant, she said, "providing quality information to them is one thing that we can do to help start those conversations and allow them to make an informed decision about accepting vaccination."

The automaker set up a digital scheduling system that employees can use to make an appointment. Employees are automatically scheduled for their second dose when they receive their first dose.

The Detroit Three automakers have not required their employees to get vaccinated, but along with the UAW have provided information to employees about the vaccines and issued guidance on other ways workers can keep safe both inside and outside of work. The automakers worked with the UAW to develop health and safety protocols for manufacturing facilities before plants reopened last spring after a two-month shutdown.

 

Ford to end production
of the Lincoln Continental

Jordyn Grzelewski
Kalea Hall
The Detroit News
April 21, 2021

Ford Motor Co. confirmed Wednesday it will permanently end production of the Lincoln Continental built at the Blue Oval's Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

The move is just the latest in the Dearborn automaker's long-term strategy of ditching sedans and compact cars in favor of a wider array of profit-rich trucks and SUVs that U.S. customers have come to prefer.

It also brings Ford a step closer to fulfilling the strategy it announced in 2018 of no longer producing traditional cars, except for such select models as the Mustang and its multiple variants. By axing the Continental, Lincoln's lineup will be all-SUV since the brand previously announced the discontinuation of the other remaining car, the MKZ.

In confirming the discontinuation of the Continental, Lincoln emphasized its SUV lineup, which includes models such as the Aviator and Navigator: "Lincoln is investing in growth segments and the brand will feature a full portfolio of SUVs, including a fully-electric vehicle in the future," spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said in a statement.

"Lincoln will continue to keep its newest SUVs fresh and we will have more news to share later this year; however, as the full-size premium sedan segment continues to decline in the U.S., we plan to end production of the Lincoln Continental at the end of this year."

A 2021 model year Continental will be offered in Ford's China market, before the model is discontinued there, as well: "The Continental has had a really rich past, but we'll return the name to the vault after that," Kozleski said.

The Flat Rock plant also produces the Mustang. Kozleski said Ford does not anticipate any layoffs as a result of discontinuing the Continental.

The Continental makes up just a small portion of Lincoln brand sales. In 2019, Ford sold just more than 6,400 Continentals, down nearly 25% from the previous year. The brand as a whole delivered more than 112,000 vehicles, most of them SUVs.

It makes economic sense for Ford to drop the Continental because the luxury sedan shares the same chassis as the Ford Fusion, and Fusion production is slated to end this year, said Karl Brauer, executive publisher for Cox Automotive. A Ford spokeswoman confirmed production of the Fusion will end this summer.

That plant, that assembly line, that chassis, the R&D budget to keep evolving it, all of those things are more important for the volume model than the luxury model," said Brauer. "If the volume model can’t exist, the luxury model is gone."

But he said the new Continental was not just a “gussied up Ford Fusion: "Yes, somewhere in the heart of its chassis was a Ford Fusion, but they did such a good job on its exterior design and proportions … it looked like its own vehicle.”

The history of the Continental dates back to the World War II era. The Lincoln Zephyr Continental was introduced in 1939 and was "an immediate design icon," according to a history of the model on Ford's website. The Continental was commissioned by founder Henry Ford's son, Edsel Ford. He headed up the Lincoln division at the time and wanted to make a vehicle reminiscent of the automobiles he encountered in Europe.

The original version of the Lincoln was discontinued for several years, before being revived in the 1950s as the Lincoln Continental Mark II.

The Continental and Fusion are just two victims on a long list of discontinued cars as sales have plummeted in recent years. General Motors Co. nixed its Cadillac XTS, a full-size luxury sedan, the Chevrolet Impala and Cruze. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV was the first to start exiting the car market with the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200.

Now, with consumers favoring trucks and SUVs, automakers are resurrecting old, larger vehicle nameplates, including the Ford Bronco, GM's Hummer and the Jeep Wagoneer.

 

Ford sales up 7.7% in Europe
in first quarter of 2021

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
April 20, 2021

Ford Motor Co. sold 259,809 vehicles in Europe in the first quarter of 2021, a 7.7% increase over the same period last year0, when the onset of the coronavirus pandemic shuttered factories and dampened consumer demand.

The results, released Monday, include sales in 20 European markets: Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland.

According to a news release from the automaker, its Q1 results beat the industrywide  sales improvement of 4.4%.

And in a reflection of the crisis that took hold last March and the recovery that's taken place since then, Ford Europe's March sales were up more than 70% year-over-year.

The Blue Oval's market share in the region was 7.2% for the quarter.

Sales for the quarter were up from the same period last year in most of the automaker's top European markets, including Great Britain, Italy and France. Sales in its No. 2 market, Germany, however, were down more than 20%.

Among Ford's passenger vehicle offerings in the regions, one of the highlights for the quarter was the Ford Puma, a compact crossover vehicle the automaker unveiled in late 2019. Puma sales were up more than 50%. Ford reported that the vehicle was the segment leader in the United Kingdom and Italy.

The Kuga compact crossover was another bright spot, with sales up from just over 30,000 units in the first quarter of 2020 to nearly 55,000 units in Q1 of 2021.

Meanwhile, Ford reported a just over 1% sales improvement in North America — its largest and most profitable market — in the first quarter. It reported 73.3% sales growth in China for the same period.

 

Ford to see widespread production
impact on U.S. plants this
month due to chip shortage

Jordyn Grzelewski
April 15, 2021
The Detroit News

The ongoing global shortage of semiconductors continues to hit the production schedules and bottom lines of automakers, with Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday announcing the extension of down time and new impacts at several of its plants.

The Dearborn automaker confirmed to The Detroit News that it will extend down time at plants in Chicago, Michigan and Missouri, reduce production at an Ohio plant, and schedule down time and cancel overtime shifts at a plant in Kentucky in the coming weeks. 

Automakers around the world have been faced with a global shortage of microchips — essential components that power the automated and electronic features in modern vehicles — for several months. 

AlixPartners, a global consulting firm, has estimated that the shortage already has cost the industry 1.4 million units of production globally. The firm predicts up to 2.5 million vehicles could be lost this year and the industry as a whole could lose $61 billion if the shortage persists.

The situation has drawn the attention of the Biden administration, which has framed the issue as an example of the nation's over-reliance on foreign suppliers and as underscoring the need to expand domestic production of key automotive parts.

Executives from the Detroit automakers were among a group of leaders who met with White House officials earlier this week to ask the administration to help bolster chip production. The auto industry has pressed the administration to set aside a portion of any chip production that comes from negotiations in Congress as automakers compete with tech companies for the parts.

Meanwhile, Ford has previously said the supply-chain issue could cost it between $1 billion and $2.5 billion in earnings for the year. Executives could provide updates on the financial impact when the automaker releases its first-quarter earnings report later this month.

On Wednesday, the automaker confirmed the following chip-related production impacts:

  • Ford's Chicago, Flat Rock and Kansas City assembly plants will be down the weeks of April 19 and 26. Those plants collectively build the Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility, Lincoln Aviator, Mustang, F-150 and the Transit. 
  • Ohio Assembly Plant will produce only Super Duty Chassis cabs and medium-duty trucks the weeks of April 19 and 26. The plant in Avon Lake also builds vans.
  • Kentucky Truck Plant, which builds Super Duty trucks, the Ford Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator, will be down the weeks of April 26 and May 3. Overtime shifts will be canceled from May 8-31.
  • Ford Otosan, Ford's joint venture in Turkey, will temporarily stop production of the Transit Custom and Transit 2-Ton vans from April 19 to June 3. The company opted to pull ahead two weeks of planned shutdown from the summer to that period. 

"The global semiconductor shortage continues presenting challenges to a number of industries — including automakers worldwide. A fire at a chip supplier facility in Japan and severe winter storms in Texas are driving additional production changes at Ford," company spokeswoman Kelli Felker said in a statement. 

She said the company continues to prioritize "key" vehicles for its allocation of semiconductors, a strategy that automakers around the world have employed as they seek to insulate high-margin SUVs and trucks from the effects of the chip shortage. Still, Ford has had to reduce production of its profit engine, the F-150, several times this year.

Meanwhile, Ford's crosstown rival General Motors Co. said Tuesday it would restart production at its Spring Hill, Tennessee, plant a week early and will not have to cancel Chevrolet Blazer production at a Mexico plant, as previously planned due to the chip shortage.

GM spokesman David Barnas said in a statement that “GM’s supply chain organization has made strides working with our supply base to mitigate the near-term impacts of the semiconductor situation on both Spring Hill Assembly and Ramos Assembly."

 

Feds pick UAW monitor to
oversee corruption reforms

Robert Snell, Kalea Hall &
 Breana Noble
The Detroit News
April 14, 2021

Detroit — Federal prosecutors asked a judge Monday to appoint a veteran lawyer and former prosecutor to oversee reforms at the troubled United Auto Workers union following a corruption scandal.

Prosecutors have selected New York attorney Neil Barofsky, who served as special inspector general for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, a series of moves created during the Great Recession to stabilize and strengthen the financial sector.

The request to U.S. District Judge David Lawson comes more than two months after the judge approved a consent decree that will put the beleaguered union under a federal monitor for six years. The plan also includes allowing members to vote on whether to amend their constitution to directly elect leaders. That referendum could happen by the end of the year.

The appointment of a monitor is part of a settlement between the government and the UAW aimed at eliminating fraud and wrongdoing within one of the nation's most influential unions following a years-long crackdown on corrupt labor leaders. 

If approved, Barofsky would head a team tasked with implementing reforms that target union election, compliance, and investigations.

Barofsky was selected after UAW officials proposed multiple candidates, who have not been publicly identified. Federal officials — who had veto power — interviewed candidates and conducted background checks.

"It's obnoxious the UAW had the ability to choose the monitor given the severity and extent of the crimes committed by our former leadership," Matt Horner, a General Motors Co. employee at the Fort Wayne, Indiana, truck plant and member of the UAW Local 2209, wrote in a text message to The Detroit News.

Asked for a response to Barofsky's appointment, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg replied: "Both the UAW and the government followed the procedures set up in the settlement agreement on the appointment of the monitor."

In all, the ongoing crackdown on auto industry corruption has led to the convictions of 15 people, including former UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams. The investigation has revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and illegal benefits from union contractors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV executives.

The UAW also will be subject to an adjudications officer. The monitor and adjudications officer will be able to employ the personnel necessary to perform their functions. The UAW will be responsible for compensating those positions and their activities.

Barofsky, a partner at the law firm Jenner & Block, leads the firm’s monitorship practice. He monitored Credit Suisse Securities LLC and Credit Suisse AG After billion-dollar settlements and was appointed by the Justice Department and New York State Department of Financial Services. He previously served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.

The court oversight is going to be lengthy, expensive and paid for by the UAW: “Accordingly, Mr. Barofsky has agreed to discount his and his team’s normal rates for services related to the monitorship,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Gardey and Steven Cares wrote in a court filing Monday.

As special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Barofsky monitored the $700 billion Wall Street and auto bailout fund and built an investigatory agency from scratch to probe corruption and waste stemming from the program.

In a 2012 book, he wrote that the Obama administration pressured the old General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group to close more than 2,000 auto dealerships without considering the impact on lost jobs.

The filing identifies others who would work alongside Barofsky. They are:

• Jenner & Block partner Kali Bracey, who would work on overseeing a referendum vote and other election issues. She participated in the Citigroup monitorship and is a former deputy assistant Attorney General.

• Glen McGorty, partner at the Crowell & Moring law firm in New York. He has served as independent monitor of the New York City District Council of Carpenters and is a former assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.

• Jenner & Block partner Reid Schar, who would focus on investigating corruption within the UAW. He is the former lead prosecutor in the corruption case against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

• Jenner & Block partner Erin Schrantz, who will focus on compliance. She has worked alongside Barofsky on the Credit Suisse monitorships.

 

Why Amazon workers in
Alabama voted against union

Sebastian Herrera 
The Wall Street Journal
April 12, 2021

Amazon.com Inc. employees in Alabama who sided against unionization said they had broad concerns about job security and grew convinced that their pay and benefits might not markedly increase with the help of a union.

The resounding victory for Amazon, the nation's second-largest private employer, came after it organized what proved to be a successful local campaign, highlighting the company's strengths and questioning the union's benefits. Nationally, Amazon grew vocal in pushing back against criticism about its workplace conditions, including when a top executive engaged in disputes with members of Congress on Twitter.

Analysts say the defeat of unionization will strengthen Amazon after what has already been a year of tremendous growth and success fueled by the pandemic. The tech giant's revenue last year soared 38% to $386 billion, and its profit nearly doubled, as it added 500,000 people to its global workforce.

Some workers said Amazon helped steer their vote against unionization. Other employees said they didn't need convincing by Amazon and were against unionizing from the start.

Amazon pointed to its minimum wage of $15 an hour, double the state's minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which is also the federal minimum. The company also highlighted its healthcare and retirement benefits.

Workers said they were wary of the cost of union dues and not persuaded that the union would be able to add significantly to their pay or improve benefits. In the end, less than 16% of the facility's total workforce voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

"I work hard for my money, and I don't want any of it going to a union that maybe can get us more pay, or maybe can get us longer breaks," said Melissa Charlton Myers, a 41-year-old employee at the Bessemer, Ala., facility that voted on unionization. "It's not worth the risk."

In company meetings, which some employees described as mandatory, Amazon gave them details about other contracts the RWDSU had negotiated on behalf of employees in other industries. The bargaining agreements that Amazon showed employees didn't seem to indicate that there would be a substantial difference, said Cori Jennings, 40, another worker who voted against unionization.

The union has cited U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data that show union members on average earning more than nonunion members.

Less than 16% of the facility's total workforce voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. (AP Photo/Bill Barrow)

In a news conference Amazon organized Friday, some workers who sided against unionizing said they still sought changes at the facility, such as added training for managers. However, the workers said, they believed they could resolve issues with the company without a third party.

Also playing a role were fears about possible repercussions of forming a union, including the possibility that Amazon would shut down the facility if they decided to unionize, some employees said. Others worried the company would nix plans for two other facilities it had announced last year that it plans to open in a nearby area.

Amazon declined to comment.

Pro-union workers said they wanted more say over break times, how they are monitored by the company and the rate at which they are expected to sort and move packages. The union is expected to appeal the vote.

Iwan Barankay, a labor economist at the University of Pennsylvania, said while unionizing efforts can be popular among employees at the start of drives, the messages from companies over time can wear on employees -- especially if it threatens their livelihood.

"The location of this plant plays a role," Mr. Barankay said. Alabama has many low-income residents, "and other opportunities are not so readily available. These people might really feel the difficulty of living through a pandemic."

The union vote removes one major challenge for Amazon, though others loom.

Late last year, a congressional panel asserted that Amazon has amassed "monopoly power" over sellers on its site, bullied retail partners and improperly used seller data to compete with rivals. Amazon said at the time that "large companies are not dominant by definition, and the presumption that success can only be the result of anti-competitive behavior is simply wrong."

Congress is now considering the most significant changes to antitrust law in decades, including proposals that would make it easier for the government to challenge anticompetitive behavior or force tech giants to separate lines of business.

This week, meanwhile, merchant groups announced a national coalition to campaign for stricter antitrust laws. The effort adds to state and federal investigations and lawsuits Amazon has faced over its power and workplace conditions. Amazon has said its business model has benefited both consumers and the millions of independent sellers that sell on its site.

Amazon isn't finished confronting labor battles. As ballot-processing took place in the Bessemer election, a small number of employees held a protest at a Chicago facility over working conditions. Workers in Europe recently went on strike over similar issues, and the National Labor Relations Board during the past year has found the company at fault on multiple occasions of retaliating against workers who have spoken out on different issues. Amazon has said disciplinary measures with workers are due to violations of workplace policies. The company has said the Chicago protest didn't disrupt its operations.

Still, Amazon's victory in the election gives the company flexibility in running its warehouse, said Sucharita Kodali, an e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "They want to be able to make changes quickly and as they see fit" without disruption, she said.

As voting wrapped up in Bessemer, Amazon and its executives became more vocal. Dave Clark, chief executive of Worldwide Consumer, published tweets taking aim at Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a frequent Amazon critic who supported unionization in Bessemer and called CEO Jeff Bezos greedy.

"I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that's not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace," Mr. Clark tweeted on March 24, referring to Amazon's $15 minimum wage being higher than Vermont's $11.75 per-hour wage. President Biden and celebrities such as the actor Danny Glover had joined Mr. Sanders in supporting the Alabama workers.

"All I want to know is why the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, is spending millions trying to prevent workers from organizing," Mr. Sanders responded on Twitter the same day.

Amazon's news account similarly tweeted defenses of the company. Some of them backfired. The company apologized after publishing a tweet on March 24 by its news account that it said incorrectly challenged accounts of workers having to at times urinate in bottles because of Amazon's demanding schedule to deliver packages.

 

Ford reports 73.3%
growth in China sales in
first quarter of 2021

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
April 10, 2021

Ford Motor Co. sold 153,822 new vehicles in China in the first quarter, for a 73.3% year-over-year increase and the automaker's fourth consecutive quarter of growth in the market.

Ford, which historically has struggled to gain traction in the world's largest auto market, attributed the positive results to rising consumer demand as well as its product mix, which it recently has sought to refresh with locally-built SUVs and luxury vehicles preferred by customers in the region.

The strategy could be paying off, as the company reported SUV sales from its luxury Lincoln brand were up 323.5% for the quarter, while SUVs under the Blue Oval brand were up more than 100%.

"Ford continues to deliver on its commitment to offer consumers in China the right mix of locally produced, world-class Ford and Lincoln vehicles," Anning Chen, president and CEO of Ford China, said in a statement. "We intend to fully build on these four consecutive quarters of sales growth to meet rising Chinese consumer demand with our Best of Ford, Best of China strategy."

Ford announced earlier this year that Mustang Mach-E, its first SUV built on an all-electric platform, will be manufactured in China by Changan Ford for local customers.

The growth over last year also is in part a reflection of the fact that the country was largely shut down in early 2020 due to the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. The period saw dampened auto sales industrywide, but restrictions on manufacturing have since been lifted and demand for new vehicles has come roaring back.

For Ford-branded vehicles, sales of more than 76,600 in the first quarter marked a nearly 45% increase from the first quarter of 2020. Ford SUV sales totaled more than 34,000, a year-over-year increase of 103.4%. The company reported that SUV sales were led by the Ford Explorer, Escape and Edge.

Lincoln vehicle sales in the region rose 217% to more than 19,300 units. SUV sales of more than 17,300 made up the majority of sales. Ford reported that the locally-built Lincoln Corsair and Aviator accounted for three-quarters of overall Lincoln sales for the quarter. And the Lincoln Nautilus, which just launched in the first quarter, sold about 1,700 units and generated more than 4,000 orders.

Commercial vehicle sales, too, were up. And the automaker noted that its battery-electric Mustang Mach-E, which is already sold in North America, will launch in China later this year. The vehicle will be assembled in China for customers in the region.

Meanwhile, Ford's crosstown rival General Motors Co. earlier this week reported that, with its joint venture partners in the region, it sold more than 780,000 vehicles in China in the first quarter, a 69% increase over the same quarter last year. GM — which sells more vehicles in China than anywhere else — attributed the rebound to the popularity of luxury and premium vehicles, midsize and large SUVs and multi-purpose vehicles.

The auto industry last week reported U.S. sales numbers. Despite the ongoing pandemic and related supply-chain issues, the three Detroit automakers and their foreign rivals — buoyed by demand for trucks and full-size SUVs — posted sales gains.

GM sold 642,250 new vehicles in the U.S. in the first quarter, for a 4% year-over-year improvement. Ford saw a 1% increase for the quarter, with 521,334 new-vehicle sales.

 

Manufacturing workers in
Ontario COVID-19 hot
spots to get vaccinated

'We’ve built safe workplaces, we test on the spot. Vaccinations on site is the final critical step,' auto supply association says

The Canadian Press
April 9, 2021

TORONTO — Calls are growing for provincial governments to prioritize vaccination rollout for essential workers amid a third wave of the COVID-19 virus across Canada.

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters on Wednesday called on the Ontario government to put essential workers at the front of the line for vaccinations to protect the safety of manufacturing employees, just hours before Premier Doug Ford instituted a provincewide stay-at-home order.

Ford said Wednesday afternoon that vaccinations would be available for anyone over 18 in hot spots such as Toronto and neighbouring Peel Region next week.

Manufacturing workers have been told that the earliest potential inoculation is June, the CME said, while their U.S. counterparts have largely completed vaccinating their employees.

The organization wants the province to prioritize essential production workers right after front-line workers and seniors. It's offering help to speed the vaccination rollout, including using industrial sites and resources to deliver vaccines.

Time is of the essence, they say, because hospital beds are becoming overrun with patients under 60 years old — a dramatic shift from elderly patients and long-term care home residents who had the most severe reactions to the virus in the pandemic's early days.

"The new long-term care is the essential workplace and it will continue to be the new long-term care despite lockdown," said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases specialist in Hamilton and an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University.

At the very least, manufacturing workers in hot spots in Ontario will be receiving ] vaccinations as soon as possible.

Over the next few weeks, Ford said the province will start vaccinating people aged 18 and older living in COVID-19 hot spots, including teachers and essential workers. Mobile teams will deliver vaccines in congregate settings, residential buildings, faith-based centres and large employers in areas hit hard by the virus, he added.

Regions will be selected based on patterns of transmission, severe illness and mortality from COVID-19.

Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturing Association, called the plan great news.

“Auto suppliers have made PPE and life-saving medical products to help keep Canada safe,” Volpe said. “We’ve built safe workplaces, we test on the spot. Vaccinations on site is the final critical step.”

Vaccines will be administered in about 120 postal codes currently being hit hardest by COVID-19.

Between March 15 and 21, people under the age of 59 made up 46 per cent of the province's intensive care patients, the Ontario government said. Between Dec. 14 and 16, the same age group represented just 30 per cent of cases, suggesting a higher proportion are becoming infected.

Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton's office said it does not have data on how many Ontarians who can't work remotely have contracted the virus, but said less than 20,000 of the province's 338,000 cases were contracted in workplaces as of March 26.

The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters said vaccinating essential workers would help keep workplaces in the province safe and open.

CEO Dennis Darby said Ontario is set to vaccinate those workers in May or June, while American workers in the same setting have largely been vaccinated.

"As a sector that employs over 750,000 essential workers in the manufacturing sector that continue to go to work every day — we must ensure that Ontario uses every resource available to them to increase vaccination rollout," he said.

VACCINE HUBS IN QUEBEC

In Quebec, companies including CAE Inc. have signed on to operate vaccine hubs or otherwise participate in corporate vaccination programs to accelerate immunization, beginning May 1.

Health Minister Christian Dube said Wednesday the province will unveil full details on Thursday, adding that "hundreds of businesses have contacted us" about participation in the program. He previously said Quebec will ensure training is in place to ensure vaccination at businesses is the same quality as in the public sector.

Even with progress in immunization rates, doctors and labour groups say it will take more than faster vaccinations to protect Canadians without the luxury to work from home.

They say the recent spike in cases shows it's also important to roll out paid sick leave, keep workplace inspections frequent and make it easier for employees to speak out about health risks.

This reality is frightening for Narada Kiondo, a food delivery courier in Toronto, who believes workers like him need faster access to the vaccine and paid sick leave.

He had a COVID scare last year after a colleague of someone he encountered tested positive for the virus. Kiondo took unpaid days off work to isolate and await test results and spent much of it worrying about his finances and what would happen when he was back on his bike.

"It's scary ? There are times I feel unsafe," he said. "It's really hard to not touch anything when going into many condos and you have to press elevator buttons all the time."

Gagandeep Kaur, an organizer with the Warehouse Workers Centre advocacy group, is constantly hearing these worries from Brampton, Ont., labourers.

"It's really hard for them to keep safe and physical distancing, especially if we are talking about the manufacturing sector or the factories, warehouses, industries where either people are working on a belt or people are in close proximity to each other," she said.

"These workers definitely need support. They don't want to be left out in the dark."

While quicker vaccinations done at workplaces and on company time top her wish list, Kaur wants the province to keep up its increased inspections and be even more thorough. In Alberta, a union representing employees at some of the largest meat-packing plants in the country has said there needs to be a discussion about making the COVID-19 vaccine more readily available to essential workers.

Thomas Hesse, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, said earlier this year that workers at large operations such as the Cargill meat-packing plant in High River, Alta., and the JBS Canada plant in Brooks, Alta., shouldn't have to wait too long.

The two plants, which together normally process about 70 per cent of Canada's beef supply, were hot spots for COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020.

The plants brought in safety measures that included temperature testing, physical distancing, and cleaning and sanitizing before they returned to normal operations.

Yet packing-plant employees are still at risk, Hesse told The Canadian Press in January.

"In a Cargill or a JBS or other manufacturing facility in Alberta, there'll be a couple of thousand workers in a big box still working in relative proximity," he said.

Cargill said at the time it was working with health authorities and medical experts to make sure its employees have access to vaccines when they become available, as long as the first priority was for health-care workers.

Some companies are implementing additional incentives: JBS USA said it will offer all its employees a $100 bonus, including those in Brooks, if they get vaccinated in the future.

 

 

Why does COVID-19
cause brain fog?

Omar Danoun, M.D.
Henry Ford Health System
April 7, 2021

Many people who have recovered from COVID-19 have reported feeling not like themselves: experiencing short-term memory loss, confusion, an inability to concentrate, and just feeling differently than they did before contracting the infection.

As we’ve learned from more than a year of dealing with COVID-19, the symptoms and side effects vary from person to person. Because COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, some symptoms, like chest pains and coughing, are to be expected. But others, like brain fog, are more puzzling. Many people who have recovered from COVID-19 have reported feeling not like themselves: experiencing short-term memory loss, confusion, an inability to concentrate, and just feeling differently than they did before contracting the infection.

Here is what we know—and don’t yet know—when it comes to brain fog and COVID-19.

Q: Who is most likely to experience brain fog from COVID-19?

A: We aren’t sure. We expect some neurological issues in those who are severely sick, who have had a major stroke or a traumatic injury, or who have undergone anesthesia for long periods of time, but people who have mild cases of COVID-19—who don’t require hospital visits—are also experiencing neurological side effects from the virus, which is unexpected.

Q: How many people who contract COVID-19 will experience brain fog?

A: At this point, it seems like a third of patients will have some type of neurological illness associated with COVID-19. But this includes a spectrum of issues: memory issues, brain fog, seizures, strokes, and neuropathy (or numbness in the extremities, usually hands and feet). We don’t have solid evidence yet that this is the exact percentage of COVID-19 patients who will experience brain fog.

Most of the information we have now deals with patients who have been to the doctor. We don’t have a lot of information about people who experience COVID-19 brain fog who haven’t seen a doctor. And to understand this better, all types of cases have to be studied—we still have to do large-scale, community-based studies.

Dr. Omar Danoun, M.D., is a neurologist with Henry Ford Health System. He sees patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Henry Ford Medical Center in Taylor.

Q: Why does COVID-19 cause neurological symptoms?

A: Preliminary data shows that COVID-19 is neuro-invasive, meaning the virus itself can invade the brain and nearby nerves. Something as simple as loss of smell, which is a symptom of COVID-19, indicates a neuro invasion because the nerves that are responsible for smell are in direct connection with brain.

And we’ve seen cases of encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, caused by COVID-19. The virus can induce a large-scale immune response and that immune response can cause a cytokine storm, which is an excessive mobilization of the immune system. It destroys cells and causes damage to other organs like the brain, liver, kidneys and heart.

Q: Could there also be psychological reasons as to why COVID-19 causes neurological issues?

A: Yes. A COVID-19 infection has expectations of being a severe disease, so it’s a major traumatic event, especially if a patient needs to stay in the hospital and doesn’t have loved ones nearby to comfort them. This is especially so if the patient is intubated or has a near-death experience.

This experience can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The symptoms we see in these COVID-19 patients are similar to those we see in PTSD survivors—they have confusion, memory loss, anxiety or depression.

Q: How long do neurological symptoms from COVID-19 last?

A: Brain fog in COVID-19 is still being studied, but with other critical conditions that affect the brain, we know that a third of people will have complete recovery with no issues. Roughly another third will have lingering effects that improve after therapy and time, and then another third may have permanent effects, especially in cases where the patient has been intubated, has had multiple organ failure or has been under anesthesia for a while.

If someone is going to improve, they should improve within 3 to 6 months after recovering from the infection. If they don’t recover within 6 to 12 months, it’s likely that they’ll be dealing with this life long.

Q: Is it possible to predict how severe someone’s case of brain fog from COVID-19 will be?

A: It depends upon someone’s brain reserve and the severity of illness. Young people who are in good health have higher brain reserves. A healthy 20- or 30-year-old brain has lots of healthy brain cells that can take over the slack and allow the brain to recover. But a 60- or 70-year-old-brain that has had a previous brain injury (such as a stroke or brain tumor) has lower brain reserves and is more likely to feel long-term neurological effects.

Severity of illness is also important. If you have a mild case, you might have a bit of brain fog and recover, but if you have a severe illness, the chances are higher that you’ll have a more permanent outcome.

Q: If someone is experiencing neurological symptoms from COVID-19, what should they do?

A: Recognize and record your symptoms: Write down how severe they are and how they are impacting your life. Bring this list to a doctor who can help diagnose your problem and help you recover with cognitive therapy.

It’s also important to treat any underlying psychological illness. Untreated anxiety, depression or PTSD can affect memory function, so if you put COVID-19 into mix, neurological problems can become inflated.

It’s also always essential to control blood pressure, diabetes—any other underlying health issues you may have. Avoid smoking and alcohol, eat a healthy diet, get enough rest. All of these things will create a nourishing environment for the brain to recover.

 

Ford CEO Jim Farley
received $11.8 million in
compensation in 2020

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News
April 3, 2021

Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley received $11.8 million in total compensation in 2020, the automaker reported in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Thursday. 

That's pro-rated to include the time he spent as president of new business, technology and strategy through the end of February, COO through the end of September, and as CEO beginning in October, when he took over for former CEO Jim Hackett. It's up 41% from 2019, when he received $8.4 million in total compensation.

In 2020, Farley received a base salary of $1.4 million and received stock and option awards worth $9.2 million. Farley's total compensation was 191 times what the median employee earned, which Ford reports was $61,778.

Hackett received $16.7 million in total compensation, including $13.6 million in stock and option awards. That's down 4% from the year before, when he received $17.36 million in total compensation.

Farley's compensation pales in comparison with crosstown rival Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors Co. GM hasn't released its 2020 earnings yet, but Barra received $21.6 million in 2019. Former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Mike Manley (now leader of Americas operations for newly-formed Stellantis NV), received $12.46 million in 2019. 

Like many other automakers, Ford was forced to shut down production early last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and shifted production temporarily to produce medical equipment and personal protective gear.

Due to the pandemic and changeover to the new model of the F-150 pickup, sales were down 15.6% for the year. However, the company ended 2020 with $30.8 billion in cash and $46.9 billion in liquidity, "both significantly higher than year-end 2019," according to the report. 

The report filed Thursday details the pay for Ford's executives in a year of turnover at the top. Chief Financial Officer John Lawler received $6 million in total compensation. Former CFO Tim Stone, who left the company after 18 months to join an artificial intelligence software firm, received $6.2 million in total compensation. 

Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. received $16 million in total compensation, down 4% from 2019. 

Hau Thai-Tang, chief product platform and operations officer, received $11.8 million in total compensation and Kumar Galhotra, president of the Americas and International Markets Group, made $8.5 million. Thai-Tang received a bonus of $83,500 and Galhotra received a bonus of $69,250.

 

Ford adds short-term emissions
targets en route to 2050 carbon
neutrality goal

MICHAEL MARTINEZ
Automotive News
Canada
April 1, 2021  

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday announced new, shorter-term sustainability goals as it works to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The automaker said it hopes to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its global operations 76 per cent by 2035, using 2017 figures as a starting point. Ford also hopes to cut the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from its vehicles 50 per cent by 2035, using 2019 numbers as a starter.

Ford also reiterated plans to use 100 per cent locally sourced, renewable electricity at all of its plants by 2035 and eliminate all waste to landfill from it facilities.

The automaker detailed the goals in its annual sustainability report.

"Ford has always been about building a better world, where people have the freedom to move and pursue their dreams," John Lawler, the company's CFO, said in a statement. "Success in sustainability requires a financially healthy business, and financial health depends on effectiveness in sustainability areas. Combining those topics in a single report reflects that, more than ever, investors and other stakeholders want to know not only what you plan to do, but what you're accomplishing and how you're managing risks along the way."

The company has placed an emphasis on reducing emissions for some time. It was among the first automakers in 2019 to break with the Trump administration and back California's more stringent emissions standards, and executives have said consistently it would remain committed to the goals of the Paris climate agreement after the Trump administration withdrew from it.

Last year, according to its report, Ford's average fuel economy in the U.S. ticked up to 29.9 mpg, from 29 mpg in 2019. Ford trucks improved to 28.4 mpg compared with 26.8 mpg last year.

The company expects a slew of new electric vehicles and hybrids will help it reach its goals.

Ford announced earlier this year it would roughly double planned outlays on electrified vehicles to $22 billion (all figures USD) through 2025. Lawler said then that a "majority" of the $22 billion dedicated to EVs would be spent on battery-electric models, although he declined to say how many Ford plans to add to its lineup. The automaker plans to add an E-Transit van late this year in the U.S., and an electric F-150 pickup next year.

In Europe, Ford said earlier this year it will sell only full-electric passenger cars there by 2030 and will invest $1 billion in a new electric vehicle manufacturing center at its factory in Cologne, Germany, as part of the electric-only transformation.

Ford also said last year its facilities around the world sent approximately 17,469 metric tons of waste to landfill, 36 per cent less than in 2019. It wants to reduce absolute freshwater use by 15 per cent by 2035 and says that it's saved more than 12.5 billion gallons of water since 2000.

The sustainability report also detailed the automaker's push to manufacture personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic, known as Project Apollo.

Ford said that to date, it's made nearly 160 million face masks, more than 20 million face shields, 1.6 million washable isolation gowns, 50,000 patient ventilators partnered with GE Healthcare and more than 32,000 powered air-purifying respirators partnered with 3M. Its philanthropic arm has donated more than $1.13 million to virus-related relief programs.

 

Ford sets new shorter-term goals
to reduce emissions by 2035

Jordyn Grzelewski
Riley Beggin
The Detroit News
March 31, 2021

As the automotive industry awaits guidance from the Biden administration on key environmental regulations, Ford Motor Co. is detailing some of the targets it aims to meet in its quest to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The Dearborn automaker said it will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions tied to its operations by 76% by 2035, from a 2017 baseline. It also hopes to reduce emissions tied to its products by 50% per vehicle by 2035, using 2019 levels as a baseline.

The targets — defined and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative, an organization that defines and helps companies achieve climate-related goals — were outlined in Ford's latest sustainability report, released Wednesday. 

These targets are in line with a framework deal the automaker reached with California, said Bob Holycross, Ford's vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering.

Ford was among a small group of automakers who in 2019 signed on to an agreement with the state to voluntarily increase the average fuel economy of their fleets to about 50 miles per gallon by the end of the 2026 model year.

The issue proved divisive during the Trump presidency, as another camp of automakers — including rival General Motors Co. — sided with the administration on attempts to roll back fuel economy standards and limit California's ability to set its own standards.

Ford's new targets, said Holycross, are "consistent with more reductions than where the current standards have been" and align with the company's pledge in February that it would electrify almost its entire European vehicle lineup by 2030.

"It's consistent with what we've been talking about more broadly with our electrification strategy and the migration of our most iconic nameplates and highest-volume vehicles to electrification over time," said Holycross.

The report comes as the Biden administration is reconsidering greenhouse gas emissions and miles-per-gallon standards. Both were rolled back under former President Donald Trump and are expected to be increased under the new president, who has made fighting climate change a top priority. 

How stringent those standards will become remains to be seen. Leading automaker advocacy groups are pushing for a standard between former President Barack Obama's and Trump's — approximately in line with the California levels.

Ford is in a good position given its alignment with California, Holycross said, but the sooner a new guideline is announced, the easier it will be for the industry to adjust.

"I think the challenge is going to be, how do we take care of the short-term issue for the ’21 model year through the ’26 model year timeframe?" Holycross said. "And then really start to tackle beyond 2026. That means that we need to get this shored up quickly."

However, according to the report, consumer preference continues to shift away from cars and toward trucks. The fuel economy for Ford trucks rose to 28.4 miles per gallon in 2020 from 26.8 mpg in 2019, according to the company. Combined, its car and truck fleet improved from 29 mpg in 2019 to 29.9 mpg. Ford has largely phased sedans out of its North American lineup.

The company reported that, worldwide, carbon dioxide emissions at its facilities were down to 2.96 million metric tons in 2020, from 3.74 million metric tons in 2019. The amount of water it used per vehicle produced increased slightly last year.

The automaker previously announced a goal to power all of its global facilities with renewable energy by 2035. Holycross said several plants in southeast Michigan, including those at the Rouge complex in Dearborn and Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, now operate entirely on renewable electricity from wind power.

And earlier this year, the company announced investments aimed at shifting operations in South Africa and Europe to renewable energy sources. 

He said the automaker continues to evaluate how it can bring about cleaner environmental practices further down the automotive supply chain, as well, by coordinating with its suppliers.

Ford announced earlier this year that it was increasing its investments in EV development to $22 billion through 2025. It rolled out its first battery-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E, at the end of 2020 and has battery-electric versions of the F-150 pickup truck and Transit van coming next year.

But there are other ways the Blue Oval is looking to cut back on vehicle emissions, Holycross said, including making gas-powered and hybrid vehicles more fuel-efficient.

The company has launched hybrid versions of the F-150 and its Explorer SUV. Finding ways to reduce the weight of vehicles, such as by shifting several years ago to an aluminum-bodied F-150, is another method.

“What we’re able to do with these hybrid products, as we continue to make the transformation to fully electric, is demonstrate to customers that we’re going to be able to deliver these carbon emission improvements, while at the same time not compromising on the functionality and other attributes that customers continue to demand," said Holycross.

The company also detailed changes to its staffing and diversity practices, including making its staffing diversity data available for the first time.

A quarter of all employees are female and 34% are members of "minority groups," including 23% Black employees, 5% Asian employees, and 4% Hispanic or Latino employees. Six of the company's 37 corporate officers are women and seven identify as members of minority groups. 

The sustainability report for the first time was combined with the automaker's annual financial report, a move Holycross said reflects a push from investors for companies to show that these efforts span their entire business. Customers, too, increasingly want to know that companies are in line with them on social and environmental issues, he said.

"External stakeholders, especially within the investment community, are really looking to understand what companies are doing beyond just having aspirational goals ... to reduce emissions and address the urgency of climate change," he said.

"We’re committed to continuing to not only talk about aspirations and goals, but really tie this to actions and advocacy, and we think that’s something that will resonate with our customers as well.”

 

Despite corruption scandal
and pandemic, UAW
membership steady

Breana Noble
The Detroit News
March 30, 2021

The United Auto Workers' membership decreased less than 2,000 people year-over-year by the end of 2020, according to the union, despite a racketeering scandal that has led to government oversight of the union and the COVID-19 pandemic that took many workers off payrolls deep into the year.

Average membership fell less than 1% to 397,073 in 2020, according to the UAW, which says it will file its annual paperwork with the U.S. Labor Department later this week after an audit. The numbers are reflective of members who by Dec. 31 paid dues, which typically are deducted from their paychecks. Certain members like those working for Detroit's casinos that reopened with limited capacity just before the new year may not have had a pay cycle in time, UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said.

Despite the decline in membership, net income increased more than 10% to $12.7 million thanks to investment earnings, and the union replenished its strike fund with a 7% increase to $790 million after a 40-day national strike at General Motors Co. during contract talks in 2019.

“The UAW managed a very difficult pandemic year reporting steady membership numbers and weathering pandemic shutdowns," UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement. "We believe actual membership is higher when you account for members who were still sidelined during the pandemic in December and the timing of payroll and dues remitted by our local unions around the holiday shutdown.”

The Detroit Free Press first reported the results. The UAW had 398,829 members in 2019.

Some businesses also have hired. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, now Stellantis NV, is in the process of hiring thousands of UAW-represented workers after investing into some of its plants in Metro Detroit, including the new $1.6 billion Mack Assembly Plant on Detroit's east side.

"They're a middleman in between you and your supervisor," said Bernard Callaway, who was hired last year as a temporary worker at the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant making Ram trucks and is now a part of the team readying for the launch of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L at Mack. His previous manufacturing job, he said, didn't have an advocate the UAW now offers.

"They're meant to tell you about your contract and answer all your contract questions. They fight really hard for you, because we do pay their dues."

FCA agreed to hire first from Detroiters for the plant, and Callaway is one of the beneficiaries of the agreement.

In late January, a federal court approved a consent decree announced in December that puts the beleaguered union under a federal monitor for six years and will allow members to vote on whether to amend their constitution to directly elect leaders.

It aims to eliminate fraud and wrongdoing within one of the nation's most influential unions following a years-long crackdown on corrupt labor leaders. The investigation resulted in 15 convictions of UAW and FCA officials, including former UAW presidents Gary Jones and Dennis Williams.

The investigation revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and illegal benefits from union contractors and FCA executives. The money was found to have been used for personal luxuries on trips for training and conferences in places like Palm Springs, California. FCA separately pleaded guilty in March for violating the Labor Management Relations Act, agreeing to pay $30 million and be subject to three years of federal oversight in its labor relations.

"There still is a significant level of confidence in the UAW as an organization, and there's been very few de-certification votes," said Art Wheaton, an automotive industry specialist at Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations School. "There has been no mass exodus of union locals or members. I don’t think the scandal hurt them in terms of membership numbers. It hurt them in their public reputation."

The union has implemented a number of measures in response to the discoveries, including monetary controls and audits.

The COVID-19 pandemic also curbed spending costs, including for travel, Rothenberg said. They were $3 million less in 2020 than in 2019, and meeting expenses were $1.5 million less. Total figures were not available.

The UAW did send about 500 members in February 2020 to Washington, D.C., to meet with policymakers for its annual political outreach conference. The union implemented a travel ban in early March as the COVID-19 situation worsened, and all travel done after that was considered essential, Rothenberg said.

Secretary-Treasurer Ray Curry in a statement said investments in technology helped to make up for the challenges by the inability to travel.

“The bottom line is that the UAW ended the year balanced with modest growth and the strike fund continued to grow at a healthy pace," he said. "In addition, with our new stringent internal and external auditing, members can be assured that these numbers reflect the solid way in which the union has handled such a challenging year.”

 

Peel residents aged 70+ booking
COVID-19 vaccine through limited
appointments at hospital clinics

Sabrina Gamrot
Caledon Enterprise
March 28, 2021

As Peel Region continues to vaccinate priority populations against the COVID-19 virus, a new group of residents is now eligible to receive shots.

As of March 25, residents aged 70 and older can now book appointments through Osler Health Systems and Trillium Health Partners.

There are a number of limited vaccine appointments and the shots will be administered at either hospital clinic.

Appointments at William Osler can be booked online through their portal or by phone at 905-494-6685, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

To book online, residents will need to register for a MyOsler account before selecting an appointment time.

Trillium Health appointments can also be made online at trilliumhealthpartners.ca.

Trillium offers two hospital clinic sites at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus and at the Mississauga Hospital.

Peel Region cannot determine in advance which type of vaccine will be administered through these limited appointments; however, residents will be updated once their appointment arrives.

Proof of age and residency are required with every vaccination appointment and can include your OHIP card, driver's licence or passport among others. 

All other eligible groups, including residents aged 75-plus, Indigenous adults and health-care workers, can continue to book at all clinic locations.

Residents are asked to wait in their vehicle until 10 minutes before their appointment, to help limit overcrowding.

Residents without internet access can be assisted through the region’s COVID-19 vaccination line at 905-791-5202.

 

Ford receives 125K Bronco orders,
but some customers may be
waiting longer than expected

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
March 26, 2021

Some 125,000 customers have placed orders for Ford Motor Co.'s highly-anticipated Bronco SUV, the automaker reported Thursday — but some will be waiting longer than expected for their vehicle to arrive.

Ford reached out to customers and dealers Thursday to report that an issue sourcing certain roofs that are options on the Bronco will last longer than initially anticipated, meaning customers who ordered those roofs will have to wait until 2022 for their Bronco.

The more than 125,000 orders Ford has received for the Bronco represents about two-thirds of the approximately 190,000 reservations prospective customers in the U.S. and Canada made since reservations opened in July 2020.

Comparison lineup of the three different tops available on Ford Motor Co.'s forthcoming full-size Bronco SUV. The Modular Painted Hardtop will be available in the 2022 model year.

"The demand ... has just been overwhelming," said Mark Grueber, Ford's consumer marketing manager. "We're very excited and pleased with the conversion rate and very humbled in terms of the demand that's out there. So, now we're just focused on trying to get these customers their Broncos as soon as possible."

Production of the full-size Bronco, which comes in two- and four-door variants, is slated to ramp up at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne in the coming weeks. Ford officials say the vehicle is on track to start arriving on dealer lots in June.

Now that Ford has completed the initial conversion of reservations, it has the specifications from each customer who placed an order. The automaker continues to take reservations, and encourages customers to visit its website to make one, since a reservation generates a time stamp that guides the order in which vehicles are made and delivered.

Ford reports that, from orders received so far, customers seem to prefer some of the higher-end options available on Bronco. About 70% of orders were for higher-price trim levels, said Grueber.

To support production of the orders it's received to date, Ford said it is increasing its investments with suppliers and coordinating closely with them to ensure the necessary parts are available.

As for the roof supply, Ford had previously said that orders for vehicles with either the painted modular roof or a dual-top roof would be delayed until late 2021 due to a supplier experiencing pandemic-related issues. Now Ford says those vehicles will not arrive until sometime in 2022.

To compensate customers for the longer wait, Ford is offering several perks depending on a customer's specific order. Customers facing the roof-related delay, for example, will be offered 200,000 Ford Pass reward points (which according to Ford equates to about $1,000 in value) that they can redeem on service work or to buy accessories for their vehicle. The company also announced a price protection program that guarantees customers their price will not increase if they have to wait until 2022.

"It's really just to thank them, because we know they all want to get that Bronco now and take it outdoors, but the wait is a little bit longer than we would like and we just want to thank them again for their loyalty and patience on this," said Grueber.

Because Bronco's launch was pushed from the spring to the summer, the automaker had previously said the 2021 model year would be abbreviated, with some Broncos arriving in 2022.

"The reason the wait is potentially until 2022 is because this first model year is a real short model year," said Grueber. "It's only seven months, and with 125,000 units, we're going to build all the orders, but some of them unfortunately are going to have to wait until 2022."

Ford does not yet know how many deliveries will be delayed until 2022. Michigan Assembly Plant will fulfill as many existing orders this year as possible, officials said. Customers will be notified no later than May on what their expected delivery window is.

Meanwhile, demand for the Bronco — an iconic vehicle that was in production for 30 years before being discontinued in 1996 — has been so strong that Ford is already looking at potentially expanding production, Grueber said: "We're actively evaluating just how to increase the total production for Bronco in Michigan Assembly Plant."

Ford previously said that customers who have to wait until 2022 can expect new roof options, exterior paint colors and other new features on the vehicle.

The automaker launched Bronco's smaller sibling, the Mexico-built Bronco Sport, at the end of last year.

The reintroduction of the Bronco is a key piece of an ongoing, significant refresh of Ford's vehicle lineup. The Blue Oval recently launched a redesigned version of its flagship F-150 pickup truck as well as its first battery-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E. Meanwhile, electric versions of the F-150 and Transit commercial van are slated to roll out next year.

 

Ford to build some F-150 trucks
without certain parts due
to global chip shortage

March 25, 2021

Ford said Thursday that some Ford F-150 pickup trucks and Edge crossovers will be built without certain electronic modules due to a twofold punch of a global semiconductor shortage and a lack of parts caused by a winter storm.

Ford said it will build and hold the vehicles for a number of weeks, then ship the vehicles to dealers once the modules are available and comprehensive quality checks are complete. The automaker also said it is canceling shifts tonight and Friday at its Louisville Assembly Plant because of the semiconductor-related part shortage. Ford said production of the Escape and Lincoln Corsair is expected to resume Monday on short shifts, with full production scheduled to resume Tuesday.

Ford isn’t alone in its decision to build vehicles without certain parts as the global chip shortage drags on. GM said earlier this week that certain pickup trucks would be produced without a fuel management module, a device that will prevent these vehicles from achieving top fuel economy performance.

Both Ford and GM have previously issued guidance that the chip shortage will impact its financial results in 2021. Ford has said that if the semiconductor shortage scenario is extended through the first half of 2021, the shortage could lower its earnings between $1 billion and $2.5 billion, net of cost recoveries and some production make-up in the second half of the year. GM said in February that the global shortage of semiconductors will have a short-term impact on its production, earnings and cash flow in 2021.

 

Ford touts commitment to U.S.
production and workers

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
March 24, 2021

Ford Motor Co., citing data released Friday showing it made nearly 200,000 more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker in 2020, is touting its commitment to domestic vehicle production and to U.S. workers.

The Dearborn automaker cited data from IHS Markit, a research and analytics firm that tracks the automotive industry, affirming Ford's status as the top employer of U.S. autoworkers and leading manufacturer of U.S.-built vehicles.

The release follows criticism from the United Auto Workers questioning Ford's commitment to an assembly plant in northeast Ohio. As for the timing on the heels of the UAW dust-up, Ford officials noted the data is put out annually around this time and said the company remains "committed" to Ohio.

More than 82% of Ford vehicle sold in the U.S. in 2020 were assembled in the U.S., according to IHS Markit data. That's up from 75% in 2019. It's also a higher percentage than any other automaker, according to IHS.

The Dearborn automaker assembled 1.7 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, 188,000 units more than any of its competitors. IHS Markit confirmed the accuracy of the data shared by Ford, but declined to share similar data on competing automakers.

Meanwhile, Ford reported based on the data that it exported more than 280,000 U.S.-made vehicles to foreign markets and said that one in every six vehicles it assembles in the U.S. is exported.

Ford also frequently touts its status as the largest employer of UAW members, with more than 50,000 hourly autoworkers on its payroll.

The company also highighted its commitment to invest $6 billion in its U.S. plants and create or retain 8,500 hourly jobs in the country as part of its current four-year contract with the UAW, which was ratified in 2019. To date, Ford has announced $2 billion worth of investments in the U.S. that would add about 3,000 hourly jobs and retain hundreds more.

About 2,100 of those positions are in place at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, which builds the Ranger pickup and is slated to launch production of the new Bronco SUV this summer. Ford has invested about $750 million there.

Meanwhile, the automaker last year announced a $700 million investment at its historic Rouge complex in Dearborn to support production of the 2021 F-150 and the forthcoming battery-electric version of the best-selling truck. The automaker is building an electric vehicle manufacturing facility at the site, which will create about 500 jobs.

And a $150 million investment is planned for Ford's Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights to add production of e-motors and e-transaxles for future electric vehicles, including the electric F-150. That investment will help retain about 225 jobs, according to the automaker.

Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri received more than $400 million and added 150 jobs tied to the 2021 F-150 and the forthcoming electric version of the automaker's Transit cargo van.

"Clearly the data show how committed we are to American manufacturing," said Kumar Galhotra, president of the Americas and International Markets Group for Ford. Noting the $6 billion commitment in the Ford-UAW contract, he said the automaker is "on track to deliver on all of that."

As for Ohio, Galhotra said: "We remain committed to Ohio, and we remain committed to our commitment to the UAW, the $6 billion and creating or retaining 8,500 jobs."

"Overall," he added, "I feel we have an excellent relationship with the UAW and continue to work with them."

The criticism surrounds plans for Ford's Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, a northeast Ohio city outside of Cleveland. In a March 12 letter, Gerald Kariem, a UAW vice president and head of the union's Ford department, blasted Ford for reneging on a commitment to invest $900 million in the plant and for moving production of a new, still-unnamed electric vehicle to Mexico.

"Unfortunately, Ford Motor Company has decided it will not honor its promise to add a new product to OHAP and, instead, it intends to build the next-generation vehicle in Mexico," Kariem wrote in the letter to UAW Local 2000. "We 100% reject the company’s decision to put corporate greed and more potential profits over American jobs and the future of our members. We expect the company to honor its contractual commitments to this membership and when it fails to do so we will take action."

The tension in part reflects anxiety about union-represented manufacturing jobs in northeast Ohio, which two years ago suffered the blow of General Motors Co. shuttering its Lordstown Assembly plant near Youngstown. The issue has caught the attention of elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat.

Meanwhile, Ford responded to the UAW criticism by noting that it has invested more than $185 million and created or retained more than 100 jobs at Ohio Assembly Plant since 2019 to support expanded production of the Super Duty F-Series trucks that are made there.

"The Super Duty demand has been incredibly high," Galhotra said Friday. "So, we needed to increase capacity on Super Duty, and the most obvious way to do it is by increasing capacity in Ohio. ... Our manufacturing footprint decisions are driven by consumer needs in the marketplace — so that was what we needed to do in Ohio."

 

Ford looks to its electric
future, sees even more
Mach-E-like crossovers

Matthew Guy
March 23, 2021

It’s no surprise every major car company has a thick folio of upcoming all-electric vehicles. According to the crew at Ford Authority , at least two forthcoming EVs out of Dearborn will be mid-size crossovers.

If all goes as planned, the vehicles are expected to enter production late next year or early 2023, hitting dealer lots for the 2023 model year. Sizing will be roughly equivalent to that of the current Edge. You can bet one of these new twins will wear a Ford badge; the other, a Lincoln.

For those keeping track, that’ll potentially make for five all-electric vehicles in Blue Oval showrooms as the model year flips into 2023. We’ve already the love-the-name-or-hate-it Mustang Mach-E and the E-Transit, plus it is all but confirmed the forthcoming electric F-150 will be on the market by that time as well.

graphical user interface, text, application: Ford’s all-electric F-150 due out in 2022, will be its most powerful truck to date© Provided by Driving.ca Ford’s all-electric F-150 due out in 2022, will be its most powerful truck to date

Ford’s all-electric F-150 due out in 2022, will be its most powerful truck to date

In the first full month of Mustang Mach-E sales south of the border, a total of 3,739 vehicles found new homes after sitting on dealer lots for an average of just four days. Tellingly, nearly 70 per cent of Mach-E buyers are from competitive brands and just over one-fifth were sold in sunny California.

At a corporate governance event in February, spox from Ford reiterated their company’s intent to offer “compelling, uniquely Ford fully electric vehicles at scale” in areas of strength including “Transit, F-Series, Mustang, SUVs, and Lincoln”. The seemingly throwaway phrase at scale is anything but; it signifies the Blue Oval is intent on making a serious push with their EVs in these markets, not just producing a token number for compliance reasons.

Ford says they plan on investing about $22 billion in electrification through 2025, including the roughly $7 billion already plowed into such projects up to the end of last year.

 

Ford, GM and Volkswagen
shares are hot thanks to
electric-vehicle mania

Major automakers experiencing sharp share-price gains after embracing new technology

By William Boston
The Wall Street Journal
March 19, 2021

BERLIN — Investors are piling into a long-neglected sector: old-school car makers that are reinventing themselves as electric-vehicle producers

After years lamenting that their shares were undervalued, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Volkswagen AG and other blue-chip car manufacturers are experiencing sharp share-price gains this year as they embrace the new technology.

Ford is up 42% so far this year, while GM’s shares have also surged 42%. VW’s stock is up 46% and even briefly rose 29% in intraday trading one day this week when the company held a “Power Day” event, saying it would build six EV battery factories in Europe alone over the next 10 years. VW has this week also pushed ahead of SAP SE to become the most valuable stock on the German DAX index.

By comparison, the S&P 500 index is up just 4.2% so far this year.

The new infatuation with established auto makers, many of which have been in business for more than a century, follows an earlier rush into electric-vehicle stocks that has driven shares of Tesla Inc. and other electric-vehicle and battery manufacturers into territory that some analysts say is reminiscent of the dot-com bubble of the 1990s.

Conventional auto makers have long stewed in the shadow of Tesla, whose market capitalization remains twice that of VW, GM and Ford combined. But as the incumbents deepen their commitment to electric cars, they are beginning to persuade investors that they are serious about turning away from fossil fuels and embracing green technology.

As a result of greater investor confidence in the EV plans of conventional auto makers, industry analysts say those companies’ shares are undergoing a fundamental repricing. Meanwhile, Tesla’s shares have fallen about 7% this year and some analysts are wondering whether the resurrection of Big Auto rings in a new era: Peak Tesla.

As traditional car makers make deeper inroads into their electric niches, Tesla and other relative newcomers will find it harder to justify their high valuations, said Michael Muders, a senior fund manager with Union Investment. “What we’re seeing…is a re-evaluation of the traditional manufacturers by the financial markets.”

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Investors began reconsidering their conventional wisdom—that legacy car makers would be out of business in 10 years—after VW, Ford, GM and others made clear that they weren’t just building new models but transforming their businesses.

GM recently won praise from investors when it said it would stop selling gasoline-powered cars by 2035 and accelerated plans to produce EVs and batteries. VW has converted several factories into dedicated EV plants and its six newly announced battery factories in Europe would be enough to power nearly four million new EVs a year, analysts said.

Also driving enthusiasm are figures over the past few months suggesting cars and trucks powered by internal-combustion engines remain profitable enough despite the ravages of the pandemic to fund large investments in electric vehicles and still pay dividends.

“I really would like to emphasize that the [combustion-engine] cars are cash machines,” Daimler AG finance chief Harald Wilhelm told reporters last month reporting last year’s earnings. “Cash machines will build the bridge into an [electric] future.”

Mr. Wilhelm rejected a long-held assumption among industry analysts that electric vehicles would always generate lower margins than conventional vehicles. He said Daimler was working hard to bring down their costs and boost their profitability.

Daimler shares are up 29% this year.

Not all traditional car makers have benefited, however. A survey of investors by Bernstein Research, a brokerage firm, showed that 75% of respondents said a clear message and cogent EV strategy was very important or critical in making their investment decisions.

“The substantial positive market reaction to GM’s presentation on its EV and software plans serves as a good example how much perception matters to institutional and retail investors nowadays,” Arndt Ellinghorst, a Bernstein analyst, wrote in a note to clients.

That explains the surge in VW shares after it laid out in more detail than before how it plans to catch up with Tesla and become a dominant competitor in the global EV market. Other beneficiaries of the trend include Mitsubishi Motors Corp. , whose shares have risen about 45% this year, and Hyundai Motor Co., up 22%.

Just as quickly as traditional auto makers have won the love of global investors they could easily lose it again if they fail to deliver on the lofty promises of building and selling millions of EVs at a profit comparable to their current business with gas-guzzlers, analysts warn.

Proving the point, those auto makers with a looser commitment to EVs have lagged behind those that are pushing aggressively into EVs. Toyota Motor Co. , the world’s biggest auto maker by sales, has relied on its hybrid vehicle technology to meet emissions regulations around the world. Its shares have risen nearly 9% so far this year.

BMW AG was one of the first conventional auto makers to develop an electric vehicle and bring it to market, launching the i3 city car in 2013. But after lackluster success, it pulled back on EVs for several years.

While VW has created a standard technology platform for its range of EVs, BMW has relied largely on converting traditional models to EVs and building plug-in hybrids. Oliver Zipse, the company’s chief executive, said Wednesday that BMW would accelerate its EV plans, but wouldn’t commit itself entirely to battery electric vehicles.

“We can assume that in every market a certain technology will become dominant,” Mr. Zipse said. “It becomes expensive when you bet too early on one solution.”

BMW shares are up about 19% so far this year, outpacing the broader market on the back of strong earnings during the pandemic, but lagging behind German rivals VW and Daimler.

 

 

Ford asks Congress for tax
incentives to support
electric vehicle development

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News
March 18, 2021

Washington — Leaders at Ford Motor Co. urged Congress Tuesday to increase tax incentives and other federal funding for electric vehicle technology.

Additional federal help will be critical as the U.S. auto industry faces ongoing competition with Europe and China for the future EV market, said Jonathan Jennings, vice president for Global Commodity Purchasing and Supplier Technical Assistance at Ford.

His comments came as part of a Senate Finance Committee hearing on how the U.S. tax code can be improved to aid American manufacturing. The other witnesses — including National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons, MIT professor Michelle Hanlon, United Steelworkers District Director Donnie Blatt and Intel Corp. CFO George Davis — also urged low corporate taxes and incentives to discourage outsourcing. 

The global shortage of semiconductor chips has sidelined production at auto plants around the country and illustrated the frailty of the supply chain, Jennings said. And competitors like China maintain dominance over crucial EV components such as lithium-ion batteries.

"In short, we must collectively do more to protect the future of manufacturing in America," he told the Senate Finance Committee. "Together, public and private support of electrification will ensure America not only competes as a leader globally, but wins. This is particularly important as Europe and China are already moving forward with robust electric vehicle adoption strategies and policies."

The testimony also comes as a United Auto Workers vice president is accusing the Dearborn automaker of shirking its commitment to add a new product to its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, instead moving the electric vehicle to its Cuautitlan site in Mexico.

Asked by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, why the company decided "to turn its back on a community," Jennings said the company is looking to "increase the capacity that that facility provides from a super duty truck perspective" and invest more in the plant, but "as we continue to look at other activities for other programs, we will be looking outside of Ohio."

President Joe Biden has proposed increasing tax credits for companies creating manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and increasing federal incentives for research and development, both of which would be boons to American automakers, Jennings said. 

But Biden also has proposed raising income taxes on people who make more than $400,000 per year and increasing capital gains, payroll and corporate income taxes. The Tax Foundation, a nonprofit tax research group, found his plan would raise around $3.3 trillion over the next decade but reduce U.S. GDP by around 1.62% in the long term. 

Republicans on the committee repeatedly raised concerns about these tax increases, and Hanlon of MIT called the corporate income tax "the most harmful taxation for economic growth because it discourages job creation and investment.”

However, both Republican and Democratic members expressed interest in supporting research and development and incentives to bring highly-needed resources into the U.S. 

“The U.S. is a global clean energy country that is in a race right now. We know $100 billion has been put in that race by China for electrification," Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said. But she added there are layoffs in Michigan right now because of the shortage of semiconductor chips, and a potential crunch on battery availability may be imminent.

"There’s no reason we can’t have those things made in America."

Sales of electric vehicles have taken off in China and Europe while they remain less than 2% of sales in the U.S. And China is home to 73% of the world's lithium ion battery manufacturing capacity and the U.S., in second place, has around 12% capacity, according to a 2019 analysis by Bloomberg.

"This is simply unacceptable," Jennings said. 

Last month, the U.S. International Trade Commission prohibited the majority of U.S. imports of batteries from Korean company SK Innovation for the next ten years for stealing trade secrets from rival LG Chem. The order will go into effect in mid-April unless Biden intervenes and reverses the decision. 

Jennings told the committee that Ford will have to "look to foreign suppliers" to fulfill requirements by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement due to the decision because there isn't adequate battery supply available in the U.S.

"That's why we really feel it's critical for us to have a more competitive position within the U.S. footprint," he said. "What we've consistently stated is we encourage the Korean government to work with these two companies to resolve this before the 60-day USTR timeline. They need to come to an amicable agreement."

 

Union seeks vote of 87 workers
at Nissan Tennessee plant

Jonathan Mattise
Associated Press
March 16, 2021

Nashville, Tenn. – A union wants to hold a vote for representation of fewer than 100 workers out of thousands at the Nissan vehicle assembly plant in Tennessee, a move the company opposes because the effort doesn’t stretch more broadly across the facility’s workforce.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers says an overwhelming majority of the 87 tool and die maintenance technicians at Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Nashville, have signaled their support for unionization. The effort marks the latest foray in the uphill fight for unions to gain traction at foreign-owned auto assembly plants in the traditionally anti-union South.

Whether or not a vote can be held hinges on ongoing arguments in front of the National Labor Relations Board.

An attorney for Nissan argued that the employees are not sufficiently distinct from other plant workers during a virtual hearing Friday, reasoning that any unionization vote would need to extend to about 4,300 production and maintenance employees. An attorney for the union contended that the 87 employees have extremely specialized skills for a job that others at the plant cannot do, making them eligible for their own standalone union representation.

Nissan does work with organized labor in the rest of the world, but votes to unionize broadly at the U.S. two plants have not been close. Workers in Smyrna rejected a plantwide union under the United Auto Workers in 2001 and 1989. The Japan-based automaker’s other U.S. assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi, rejected facilitywide representation by the UAW during a 2017 vote.

“Our history reflects that Nissan respects the right of employees to determine who should represent their interests in the workplace,” Nissan Smyrna spokesperson Lloryn Love-Carter said. “Nissan employees have a very long history of self-representation and voting no to unions.”

The margin was much closer in 2019 and 2014 votes at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where workers twice rejected a factorywide union under the UAW.

The year after the 2014 vote failed, a group of 160 Chattanooga maintenance workers won a vote to form a smaller union, but Volkswagen refused to bargain. The German automaker had argued the bargaining unit needed to include production workers as well. The dust-up led to the 2019 factorywide vote.

Unions also have run into opposition from Republican politicians when they attempt to organize at foreign automakers in the South. Before the 2019 Volkswagen vote, Republican Gov. Bill Lee told employees there in a closed-door meeting that he believes “when I have a direct relationship with you, the worker, and you’re working for me, that is when the environment works the best.”

During the 2014 Volkswagen election, then-U.S. Sen. Bob Corker waited until voting had actually started when he all but guaranteed that the company would announce within two weeks of a union rejection that it would build a new midsized sport utility vehicle at its only U.S. factory, instead of sending the work to Mexico.

At the Nissan plant this time around, the machinists union says workers have cited numerous workplace concerns, from forced overtime to increased health care costs. Laura Ewan, an attorney representing the union, said the workers were excluded from a buyout offer to plant employees in general because of issues hiring people for the specialized jobs.

“A union contract will ensure fair wages, benefits, working conditions and the ability to retire with dignity,” said lead campaign organizer Tim Wright, machinists union Grand Lodge representative.

Tennessee does have a big union presence at an American automaker. The General Motors plant in Spring Hill has about 3,000 production and skilled trades workers represented by UAW.

The machinists union represents about 47,000 tool and die makers and 3,000 automotive manufacturing workers at companies that includes Ford, Penske Truck, Hyundai and Chevrolet.

 

Ford recalling 275,000 vehicles
in Canada over airbag
deficiencies and tires

The Canadian Press
March 14, 2021

DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford Motor Co. has issued two safety recalls involving more than 2.6 million vehicles in North America, including nearly 275,000 in Canada, mainly over airbag problems.

One recall involves Takata driver-side front airbags for 2006-12 Ford Fusion, 2007-10 Ford Edge, 2007-11 Ford Ranger, 2006-11 Mercury Milan, 2006-12 Lincoln Zephyr/MKZ and 2007-10 Lincoln MKX vehicles.

The airbags contain a calcium sulphate absorbing propellant that may degrade after long exposure to high humidity and temperatures and could cause a rupture during deployment.

While the condition could result in injury or death, Ford says it is not aware of any ruptures.

Ford says these airbags contain moisture-absorbing desiccant and perform differently than previously recalled Takata parts.

The automaker says it doesn't believe the recall is warranted but the U.S. National Highway Traffic Administration in January denied Ford's 2017 petition.

The second recall involves 19 tires from Continental Tire of America that may be cured beyond specification. Affected tires can experience sudden air loss or tread loss from a break in the side wall. 

The recall affects 15,769 vehicles in the U.S., 3,082 in Canada and 138 in Mexico, including select 2018-20 Ford F-250 and F-350, 2018 F-150 and 2019 Ford Escape vehicles.

 

Traffic deaths spike even as
pandemic cuts miles traveled

Tom Krisher
Associated Press
March 11, 2021

Detroit – Pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders kept many drivers off U.S. roads and highways last year. But those who did venture out found open lanes that only invited reckless driving, leading to a sharp increase in traffic-crash deaths across the country.

The nonprofit National Safety Council estimates in a report issued Thursday that 42,060 people died in vehicle crashes in 2020, an 8% increase over 2019 and the first jump in four years.

Plus, the fatality rate per 100 million miles driven spiked 24%, the largest annual percentage increase since the council began collecting data in 1923.

And even though traffic is now getting close to pre-coronavirus levels, the bad behavior on the roads is continuing, authorities say.

“It’s kind of terrifying what were seeing on our roads,” said Michael Hanson, director of the Minnesota Public Safety Department’s Office of Traffic Safety. “We’re seeing a huge increase in the amount of risk-taking behavior.”

Last year’s deaths were the most since 2007 when 43,945 people were killed in vehicle crashes. In addition, the safety council estimates that 4.8 million people were injured in crashes last year.

Federal data shows that Americans drove 13% fewer miles last year, or roughly 2.8 trillion miles, said Ken Kolosh, the safety council’s manager of statistics. Yet the number of deaths rose at an alarming rate, he said.

“The pandemic appears to be taking our eyes off the ball when it comes to traffic safety,” Kolosh said.

Of the reckless behaviors, early data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show speed to be the top factor, Kolosh said. Also, tests of trauma center patients involved in traffic crashes show increased use of alcohol, marijuana and opiods, he said.

In Minnesota, traffic volumes fell 60% when stay-home orders were issued early in the pandemic last spring. Hanson said state officials expected a corresponding drop in crashes and deaths, but while crashes declined, deaths increased.

“Almost immediately the fatality rate started to go up, and go up significantly,” Hanson said, adding that his counterparts in other states saw similar increases. “It created less congestion and a lot more lane space for divers to use, and quite honestly, to abuse out there.”

In late March and early April, the number of speed-related fatalities more than doubled over the same period in 2019 in the state, Hanson said. Last year, Minnesota recorded 395 traffic deaths, up nearly 9% from 364 in 2019.

Drivers also used the empty roads to drive extreme speeds. In 2019, the Minnesota State Patrol’s 600 troopers handed out tickets to just over 500 drivers for going over 100 mph (160 kph). That number rose to 1,068 in 2020, Hanson said.

Traveling over 100 mph makes crashes far more severe, the safety council said.

The high number of speeding drivers is continuing even as traffic is starting to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Hanson.

The safety council is calling for equitable enforcement of traffic laws, infrastructure improvements, mandatory ignition switch locks for convicted drunken drivers, reducing speed limits to match roadway designs, and laws banning cellphone use while driving, among other recommendations to stem the deaths.

The council collects fatal crash data from states on public and private roads. The numbers released on Thursday are preliminary, but every year are only slightly different from the final numbers, Kolosh said.

 

Ford delays 4,500 Mustang
Mach-E deliveries

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
March 10, 2021

 Motor Co. confirmed Wednesday that buyers of some 4,500 Mustang Mach-Es —the Blue Oval's highly touted new electric vehicle — will face delivery delays.

That's a higher number than the hundreds of impacted vehicles the automaker had previously said would be delivered late. Meanwhile, Ford said Wednesday that it will compensate some buyers of the all-new, battery-electric SUV due to the delays. 

In a statement, Ford spokeswoman Emma Berg said the company will provide $1,000 toward the purchase of a Mach-E for approximately 150 customers "who have experienced more than one delay due to quality checks." The company initially said the offer applied to 250 customers, but revised its statement after this story was published.

The automaker also said it would provide an additional 250 kilowatt hours of free charging via its FordPass Charging Network in response to the delay. That's double the amount of free charging owners typically would receive. That offer applies to the 4,500 customers who have experienced delays, including about 1,500 who have already received their Mach-E, Ford said.

The automaker has not specified what issue is causing the delivery delays, except to say that additional quality checks are being performed.

In an email posted in an online forum for Mach-E owners, Andrew Frick, Ford's vice president of sales for the U.S. and Canada, noted that the automaker has had "challenges ... in meeting demand and delivery timing for the Mustang Mach-E."

"We continue to build and ship vehicles every day, but we’re doing so with a meticulous attention to detail and dedication to quality. Your vehicle timing was impacted by more than one of these quality checks," he wrote.

The news comes as the automaker on Wednesday reported its sales numbers for the month of February — the first full month reflecting sales of the Mach-E, which launched at the end of last year. The automaker sold 3,739 Mach-Es last month, according to the report.

The Mach-E has garnered positive attention from owners, critics and Wall Street analysts alike, earning Ford comparisons to EV heavyweight Tesla Inc. In January, the Mach-E took home the title of Utility of the Year from the the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year awards.

News of the extended delays also comes amid other recent challenges for the Blue Oval, including an ongoing shortage of microchips that are essential components in vehicles, a winter storm that hampered production in February, and some quality issues with the redesigned 2021 F-150 and new Bronco Sport SUV that have required recalls.

 

 

Republicans invoke UAW scandal
in opposing pro-union legislation

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News
March 9, 2021

Washington — Legislation that would dramatically change U.S. labor laws is on a fast track for a vote in the House later this week. 

During a Monday hearing on the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, Democrats argued the bill is a long-overdue update that would even the scales in collective bargaining, which they say is currently tilted in favor of employers.

Congressional Republicans argued it would enable corruption and diminish worker freedom, frequently citing the embezzlement, bribery, money laundering and other charges against former United Auto Workers leaders as a caution against giving unions more power. 

"Since the Democrats last introduced this bill, a federal probe uncovered almost a decade of rampant corruption among the senior ranks of the United Auto Workers Union," said Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina. "The bill before us makes union bosses more powerful but less accountable to workers, increasing the risk of union corruption and wrongdoing."

The bill — which is co-sponsored by all of Michigan's Democratic representatives and has been opposed in the past by all of the state's Republican members — would eliminate state right-to-work laws, set a "joint employer" standard that would allow franchisee workers to organize with their parent company, give the National Labor Relations Board the ability to levy fines up to $50,000 against businesses who break labor laws and more. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, argued the problems that have plagued the UAW's top brass can be compared with corporate corruption as an exception to the rule. 

"The (UAW leaders) who have gotten in trouble have been corrupted by the company" and stopped representing the interests of workers, Raskin argued. "That doesn't translate into a condemnation of all unions."

The UAW is moving towards a settlement in the ongoing federal investigation that has led to more than a dozen convictions and uncovered a wide range of illegal conduct by auto industry leaders, including union leaders taking bribes from automakers, stealing union funds and spending the money on luxuries such as golf trips, vacation homes and expensive cigars.

Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for the UAW, told The Detroit News via email Monday that “there have been members of Congress indicted for wrongdoing and members of Corporations indicted for wrongdoing — and rightfully so."

Those institutions, like the UAW, have made changes in order to move forward, he said. "The fact is the PRO Act actually gives power to workers to have a voice with management on their wages, benefits and health and safety in the workplace. It actually increases the power and voice of individual workers which is the right and ethically sound thing to do.”

The legislation would also bar employers from holding mandatory meetings designed to convince employees not to join the union; allow unions to organize using a "card check" system that shows a majority of employees support unionization if the employer is found to have broken labor laws by interfering in the election; and would require employers to give unions access to employees' personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses in the case of an election. 

Republicans said these measures prioritize union leaders over the interests of small businesses and workers who would prefer not to be a part of a union. Democrats argued they protect the freedom to choose whether to join a union without intimidation. 

The Biden administration expressed their support for the bill in an official statement released Monday from the Office of Management and Budget. 

"America was not built by Wall Street. It was built by the middle class, and unions built the middle class.  Unions put power in the hands of workers," the statement read. "The PRO Act will strengthen our democracy and advance dignity in the workplace."

 

Ford Begins Building Mysterious New Pickup, It’s Likely
The Maverick

Anthony Alaniz  
March 8, 2021

Ford built 21 examples of its “C-Pick Up.”

It appears production for Ford’s bite-sized pickup truck has already started. The company’s February 2021 sales report shares the company’s production numbers broken down by factory, make, and model, revealing that “C-Pick Up” production has started at the company’s Hermosillo factory in Mexico. This likely represents the first bit of production for the new Maverick, which will slot below the Ranger in Ford’s lineup.

Ford built just 21 examples of its C-pickup, likely representing a slate of pre-production models intended to be tested against the company’s grueling standards. Photos emerged in early January showing what appears to be a Maverick pickup sitting alone on the assembly line in the Hermosillo factory. It lacked doors, though it did wear camouflage along the fenders, hood, and bumper. Reports have indicated that the Maverick will share its underpinnings with the new Bronco Sport, which is also being built at the Mexican factory.

CNBC initially reported the interesting nugget of information, even asking Ford for comment, though the automaker declined to add anything beyond what’s in the sales report. That’s not a surprise considering how tight-lipped automakers are about future products. We expect it’ll share its powertrain with those of the Escape and Bronco Sport, which means a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder will serve as the base offering while a larger turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder will be an available option. 

There’s a good chance that the Maverick will arrive with a sub-$20,000 price tag, which will help separate it from the Ranger that starts at nearly $25,000. Ford’s newly minted CEO Jim Farley has been vocal about offering more affordable options to consumers, though that didn’t necessarily mean lower striker prices. We won’t know more until Ford reveals the Maverick, though judging by the latest production report, we won’t have long to wait. We expect the Maverick to go on sale before the end of the year as a 2022 model.  

 

Ford begins early
production of
not-yet-announced
small pickup truck

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
March 5, 2021

A new pickup truck from Ford Motor Co. quietly began rolling off assembly lines at the Dearborn automaker's Hermosillo plant in Mexico last month, according to production data reported to shareholders this week.

The news was first reported by CNBC. The new product — dubbed "C-Pick Up" and expected to be called "Maverick" — appeared in a plant-by-plant production report accompanying the automaker's monthly U.S. sales figures. The truck is being produced at the same plant where Ford's new Bronco Sport is built. 

According to the production data, just 21 C-Pick Up units were built last month. Ford spokesman Mike Levine declined to comment beyond what's in the production report. It's long been anticipated by industry observers that Ford would introduce a compact, affordably-priced pickup truck sometime this year.

AutoForecast Solutions, a global automotive forecasting firm, expects the Hermosillo-built truck to use the same platform and some of the same powertrain components as the Bronco Sport but feature different styling, according to Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting.

The firm expects the truck to be smaller than the mid-size Ford Ranger pickup. It's likely to feature a unibody frame, four-cylinder engine, front- and all-wheel drive options, and eventually to have a hybrid version.

The truck is expected to go into full production in July. That units are being built now indicates the automaker is testing the product on the assembly line, Fiorani said, and would likely ramp up production this summer.

He expects the truck to be sold in North and South America, including in the U.S., and to eventually reach more than 100,000 units of production per year.

"We're expecting it to be priced below the Ranger, it (having) smaller engines and (being) lighter duty," he said. "It's more of a lifestyle vehicle. We're not expecting it to show up on construction sites."

Industry analysts say there is plenty of room in the market for a more affordable offering, as the average price for a new vehicle in the U.S. hovers around $40,000. 

“There’s a market for a low-priced, smaller, but highly flexible and functional pickup truck," said Karl Brauer, executive analyst for iSeeCars.com. "And I don’t think anyone is making a vehicle for that — so whoever does it first will own that market.”

The Ranger's starting price is about $25,000, while the lowest trim level of the latest model year of the F-150 is just under $29,000. But with various add-ons and more luxury-oriented trim levels, those prices can quickly climb.

If the new truck is indeed priced below the Ranger, that would put its starting price closer to $20,000 — a rarity in an SUV- and truck-heavy market in which average transaction prices have soared, shutting out some would-be entry-level buyers and driving them to the used-vehicle market or to competitors.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, upon stepping into the job in October, identified affordable vehicles as a key growth strategy. Farley at that time laid out a plan for turning around the Blue Oval's automotive operations and profitably growing the business; adding more affordable vehicles to the global lineup, including in North America, is part of that plan.

Ford has hinted that a new vehicle is in the works. In November, the automaker said it would be adding a "not-yet-named vehicle that will fill a whitespace in the market."

Brauer said, too, that the market conditions are just right for this type of addition, given the potentially appealing price point, limited offerings of smaller trucks, and strong consumer appetite for utility-type vehicles: “If you are making a new truck or a new SUV that’s never been built before, it’s as close as you’re going to get in the auto industry to a no-lose proposition right now, in terms of consumer and market demand and interest.”

The new product, he said, also speaks to the success of Bronco Sport, which launched at the end of last year: "The level of success they’ve found with that platform already bodes well for the ability to produce a compact, small pickup truck and have it still be well-received.”

 

Most Canadians could get 1st
dose of COVID-19 vaccine
by end of June

BY MICHAEL RANGER
March 4, 2021

The target date for herd immunity could be shifting forward thanks to a change in vaccine guidelines and a potential fourth vaccine on the way.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has remained steadfast that all Canadians who want a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get one by the fall.

But with extended intervals between the first and second doses, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) projects 80 per cent of Canadians over the age of 16 could receive a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot by the end of June.

On Wednesday, Trudeau acknowledged changes in public health guidance regarding the timing of second doses would likely speed up the vaccine rollout and move up the target.

Additionally, Trudeau says the timeline set by the federal government didn’t factor in the newly-approved AstraZeneca shot, or the Johnson & Johnson shot that could be approved in the coming weeks.

NACI said Wednesday that provinces can now wait up to four months before giving the second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. That is up from the three week maximum first suggested when vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna were first approved.

The federal body is recommending that “in the context of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply” the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose should be maximized.

What this means for Ontario’s vaccine rollout remains unclear, but sources suggest the Ford government could provide a list of who will get vaccinated sooner by the end of the week.

“This will allow Ontario to rapidly accelerate its vaccine rollout and get as many vaccines into arms as quickly as possible and, in doing so, provide more protection to more people,” said a spokesperson from Ontario’s minister of health.

“I suspect that the government simply hasn’t made up its mind,” said epidemiologist Colin Furness to CityNews. “That’s too bad because we could have been thinking about this sooner.”

Timeline could move up even more if the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets approved.

Health Canada officials say the decision on the Johnson & Johnson shot could come in the next few weeks after the U.S. and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the shot.

All three currently approved vaccines are 100 per cent effective against death and hospitalization as a result of COVID-19, but clinical trials suggested mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) were more effective at preventing COVID-19 infections. NACI is not recommending the AstraZeneca shot for residents over 65.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones was asked who in Ontario will receive the new AstraZeneca vaccine that has a shelf life of less than a month. Jones said she’s not ready to release the details yet, but said it will go to those aged 60 to 64, and suggested it would be pharmacists doling it out.

 

Ontario won't administer
AstraZeneca COVID-19
vaccine to seniors, final
plan still in the works

Colin D'Mello
Queen's Park Bureau Chief
CTV News Toronto
March 3, 2021

TORONTO -- Ontario will limit the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under the age of 65 on the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee for Immunization (NACI), Ontario’s Health Minister confirmed, but the province is still finalizing the plan for who will be prioritized for that shot.

Christine Elliott also said the province is looking for guidance from the NACI on delaying the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by up to 16 weeks in an effort to dramatically expand the number of people receiving their initial inoculation, and suggested those recommendations will be the final key Ontario needs to unlock its plan.

“This could make a significant difference for Ontario in reducing hospitalizations and deaths,” Elliott told reporters at Queen’s Park. “As soon as we receive that [recommendation] we will be able to finalize the plan and get in front of you.”

The province is facing increasing pressure to reveal how it plans to vaccinate a broad segment of the population as it prepares to receive more than a hundred thousand doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming days.

The federal government announced 300,000 doses have been shipped from the Serum Institute of India -- putting Ontario’s per capita share at roughly 114,000 doses – all of which expire on Apr. 2.

“Right now, we're doing the calculation based on the AstraZeneca vaccine coming into the mix,” Elliott said. “This is something that we did after we got started with Pfizer and then we introduced Moderna. In the same way, we're building AstraZeneca into the plan as well.”

The quick expiration date raises questions about whether Ontario will be ready to administer the doses within the timeframe provided, given that the province’s portal to register patients for the vaccine will only be launched on Mar. 15.

Elliott told MPPs in the Ontario Legislature that the “big system” was soft-launched in select public health units on Monday because the government doesn’t want the portal to experience the type of crashes seen in Alberta and Quebec.

“We want it to be solid and to stand up to the pressure that we know is going to be coming because people are anxious to know when they’re going to be receiving the vaccine,” she said.

The NDP said the province is “unprepared” for the increased shipments of vaccines and said it was “obvious that they haven’t done their work.”

“We're literally days away from AstraZeneca arriving, why isn't the government being upfront, being clear, being transparent about what the plan is,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who added that in the absence of a detailed plan, the government should have outlined the potential options that public health units could exercise.

While some of the government’s critics say the province should be cut some slack given the federal government’s ever-evolving vaccine rollout, they say it doesn’t excuse the province’s lack of clear direction.

“There's no question that this is not an easy endeavor, vaccinating 14 million people. That's why you need to plan, because then you can adapt quickly,” said Liberal MPP John Fraser.

 

FCA guilty in labor corruption
scandal as auto industry
marks new low

Robert Snell
Breana Noble
The Detroit News
March 2, 2021

Detroit — A Fiat Chrysler U.S. executive admitted Monday the automaker conspired to break federal labor laws by paying more than $3.5 million in bribes to union leaders, marking a new stain for an auto industry beset with scandals in recent years involving vehicle emissions and faulty equipment implicated in hundreds of deaths.

In pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act, the transatlantic automaker also agreed to pay a $30 million fine to settle a criminal investigation into auto executives breaking federal labor laws. The fine is part of a broader settlement with federal authorities that includes the appointment of an independent monitor for three years to oversee company compliance with labor laws and oversee dissolution of a joint training center the United Auto Workers operated with Fiat Chrysler, now part of Stellantis NV.

The legal development ends prolonged negotiations stemming from a years-long corruption scandal involving the UAW. The federal investigation produced more than a dozen convictions and revealed union leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes and illegal benefits from union contractors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives.

The pattern of illegal payments included paying off former UAW Vice President General Holiefield's $262,000 mortgage, bankrolling a $25,000 booze-fueled bash for another labor leader and financing a $30,000 junket for UAW officials in Palm Springs and southern California. The payments were designed to secure concessions, and advantages for Fiat Chrysler during contract negotiations, according to the government.

The hearing Monday in front of U.S. District Judge Paul Borman was sterile, unconventional and anticlimactic after approximately two years of negotiations between federal prosecutors and FCA lawyers. The automaker's top lawyer, Chris Pardi, stood in as the company's representative during the virtual hearing Monday, watching with a blank, unblinking look on his face as prosecutors described crimes committed by other FCA executives during a prolonged conspiracy.

“The public thinks the companies and the UAW fight each other but just as often the companies and UAW leaders corruptly collude at the expense of the unionized workers,” Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross Business School, wrote in an email to The Detroit News on Monday.

Fiat Chrysler has 60 days to nominate three candidates to serve as monitor who will serve for three years. Federal prosecutors have the right to reject the nominees until both sides agree on a monitor.

“You’re putting the fox in charge of the hen house,” John Barbosa, 50, a team leader at Stellantis’ Dundee Engine Plant, said of the monitorship included in the plea agreement. “It’s like putting police in charge of investigating the police. It don’t work. It puts on a show for people who don’t know any better.”

The guilty plea Monday obligates Fiat Chrysler officials to cooperate with ongoing investigations of corruption within the auto industry.

“If they violate the law during the term of probation, if they provide deliberately false, incomplete or misleading information or fail to retain an independent compliance monitor…, the United States could reinstate criminal charges and bring any other charges based on underlying conduct…,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Shaw said.

The News has previously revealed investigators were probing financial ties between retired UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles and one of the union's highest-paid vendors.

After the courts have dismissed class-action lawsuits brought against the automaker by other employees, Barbosa said the situation is infuriating: “We’ve been robbed of potentially thousands of dollars in income because of that; the contract talks were tainted. Nothing is going to be done opening and renegotiating those contracts.”

The $30 million fine is dramatically less than the $900 million rival General Motors Co. paid to settle claims for faulty ignition switches implicated in 400 injuries and deaths. It also is a fraction of the $800 million FCA paid two years ago to settle diesel claims, or the billions Volkswagen AG paid to atone for its global diesel scandal. 

“Instead of negotiating in good faith, FCA corrupted the collective bargaining process and the UAW members’ rights to fair representation,” Labor Department official Irene Lindow said in a statement.

Just as FCA has been found to spend millions of dollars on bribing UAW officials, “when it comes to costly environmental regulation, the companies are just as willing to put their technical expertise to work on cheating as on compliance," Gordon added.

The proposed deal was announced six weeks after prosecutors secured a separate deal with the UAW that includes prolonged oversight of the troubled union.

The conspiracy involving Fiat Chrysler executives lasted from at least January 2009 through approximately 2016 and executives paid more than $3.5 million in illegal payments to UAW officials, according to the criminal case.

That includes former Fiat Chrysler Vice President Alphons Iacobelli approving the payment of $262,000 to pay off the mortgage on Holiefield’s home in Harrison Township. Holiefield died in 2015 before he could be charged with a crime.

Iacobelli, who is serving a four-year federal prison sentence, also authorized spending $25,000 for a party for UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell and members of the union’s governing board. The party included "ultra-premium" liquor, more than $7,000 worth of cigars and more than $3,000 worth of wine with custom labels honoring Jewell, who also was convicted in the corruption scandal.

Iacobelli also approved spending more than $30,000 on meals for UAW officials at restaurants in Palm Springs and southern California, prosecutors said. Money to pay for the illegal benefits came from accounts funded by the automaker that were supposed to used to pay for worker training.

The conspiracy described by prosecutors Monday included former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden, who helped control the finances at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center.

He was portrayed as a pivotal figure in the auto industry corruption scandal, helping funnel illegal payments to UAW officials involved in a labor conspiracy. He helped control the finances of a training center and was the first person charged in an ongoing prosecution that has led to 13 convictions.

 

 

Ford of Canada names
Bev Goodman as new
president and CEO

By Wheels.ca
Feb 26, 2021

Ford of Canada has named Bev Goodman as its new president and CEO.

That announcement, said that Goodman will helm the automaker immediately, replacing Dean Stoneley who has been appointed as general manager, North America truck, Ford Motor Company, a newly created position.

In a release to the media about Goodman’s appointment, Kumar Galhotra, Ford president, Americas and International Markets Group said: “During a year of extraordinary challenges, Dean led the Ford of Canada team to its twelfth consecutive year of sales leadership and now brings his agile leadership approach and strong customer focus to the critical role of maintaining Ford’s dominance in the North American truck market. At this time of rapid change in the auto industry, Bev demonstrates a deep understanding of what matters most to our customers now, and in the future. She also has a proven track record of working collaboratively with our dealer partners and a commitment to innovation as Ford accelerates its efforts to deliver high-quality, high-value vehicles and services.”

“I look forward to embracing new ways to serve our customers across the country as we introduce iconic vehicles such as the Mustang Mach-E, Bronco and F-150 hybrid,” said Goodman in a press release. “We’ll focus on delivering the benefits of electrification and connectivity to consumers, including plans for the $1.8-billion transformation of our Oakville Assembly Complex to a battery electric vehicle manufacturing facility and continuing to grow our advanced connectivity and innovation centres,”

Ford of Canada's operations include a national headquarters, three regional offices, three vehicle assembly and engine manufacturing plants, two parts distribution centres, two research and development sites, and three connectivity and innovation centres.

 

Ford, GM face big earnings
drop from chip shortfall

Bloomberg
Feb 25, 2021

The global semiconductor shortage will slash earnings at General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. by about one-third this year as supply constraints hamper production and profits, Moody’s Investor Service estimates.

The chip shortage will materially erode margins and could lower expected earnings before interest and taxes by as much as $2 billion for GM and $2.5 billion for Ford, the ratings agency said in a note published Tuesday. GM’s EBITA margin could fall to 3.4%, while Ford’s could dip as low as 1.8%, according to Moody’s.

Rising demand for the chips needed to build technologically advanced and connected vehicles has introduced a new set of challenges for the North American auto industry, with shortages triggering production cuts and temporary plant closures, Moody’s said. Demand from consumer-electronic companies exacerbated the supply shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Next week, Ford will idle an assembly plant in Ontario, Canada, where it builds Edge and Lincoln Nautilus sport utility vehicles. The company said that plant will shut for a week due to the chip shortage, the latest in a series of temporary shutdowns and line slowdowns caused by the lack of semiconductors.

The situation could deteriorate further after weather-related challenges in large parts of the country added to the component shortage, Bill Rinna, director of vehicle forecasts at LMC Automotive, wrote in a report on Tuesday. North American production is likely to be hit hardest in the first quarter, with pockets of disruption emerging to a lesser extent in the second quarter, he said.

LMC reduced its production forecast by more than 250,000 units, with the possibility of another 100,000 units lost, for the first quarter, Rinna said. The production loss across North America as of mid-February is estimated to exceed 190,000 units, he said.

“We do not see inventory returning to normal levels until the fourth quarter of this year, or the early part of next year,” Rinna wrote.

Earlier this month, both automakers said they could experience earnings reductions in line with what Moody's predicted Tuesday.

The short supply of semiconductors could result in a 10% to 20% production loss in the first quarter for Ford. If current estimates were projected across the first half of the year, the shortage could result in an adjusted pre-tax earnings loss of between $1 billion and $2.5 billion this year, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said during Ford's earnings release call.

GM said during its earnings call the microchip shortage could deliver a $1.5 billion to $2 billion hit to earnings this year.

 

 

Ford announces recall
of thousands of 2021
F-150s over defect

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Feb 24, 2021

Ford Motor Co. on Monday announced it is recalling thousands of its profit-rich F-Series trucks due to windshield defects.

The Dearborn automaker said the front windshields on certain 2021 F-150 and 2020 and 2021 Super Duty trucks "are inadequately bonded to the vehicle body structure," meaning the windshield may not stay in place during a crash. The recall affects 79,017 vehicles in the U.S. and federal territories, 6,986 in Canada and 1,347 in Mexico. 

The recall includes 2021 F-150s built at the Dearborn Truck Plant between Oct. 27 and Feb. 3, as well as Super Duty trucks built at the Kentucky Truck Plant between Oct. 13 and Jan. 23. Ford said it is unaware of any crashes or injuries related to the issue.

The company declined to comment on the cost of the recall.

The recall comes just months into the launch of the redesigned 2021 F-150. The pickup truck, which is alsobuilt at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri, is Ford's profit engine and the best-selling truck in the country with hundreds of thousands of units sold every year in the U.S. 

F-150 production has had disruptions in recent weeks due to a global shortage of the microchips that power the automated and electronic features of vehicles, and because of the winter storm that hit large parts of the country last week.

It's not unusual to see recalls shortly after the launch of a new vehicle, experts say.

"You want to try to get everything right before the vehicle ever launches, but it's not uncommon for automakers to still have to do some level of follow-up after the vehicle is released because there are just so many components that go into a modern car," said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com. "When you get into full production, that's when things will commonly pop up with an all-new vehicle."

Though the F-150 is a hugely important product for Ford, Brauer said a recall of this kind typically is a short-term issue for automakers.

New vehicles, he said, are some of the "more complex mass products that are out there. It can be challenging to launch an all-new vehicle without having some level of recall."

Owners of the vehicles included in the recall will begin to receive notifications from auto dealers the week of April 6, Ford said. Dealers will remove and replace the windshields. 

Ford on Monday also announced a recall for select 2020 Super Duty vehicles with 6.7-liter engines, due to the trucks having labels with incorrect payload information. The recall affects 9,979 Super Duty vehicles in the U.S. and federal territories and 1,750 in Canada and includes units built at the Kentucky Truck Plant from May 13, 2019, to Sept. 19, 2020.

Ford said it was unaware of any crashes or injuries related to the issue.

The recall announcement follows a separate one from last week for select Ford vehicles that may have had "obsolete" Takata parts installed in collision and theft repairs after the Takata airbag recall was completed. Ford, along with other automakers, was required to recall vehicles that contained potentially-deadly airbag inflators made by Takata, as part of a massive global recall of the defective parts.

"Ford identified that certain Takata airbag modules were not purged from service stock after the parts for the permanent service fix became available," the company said in a statement. "Following extensive investigation and tracing, Ford could not account for some of the obsolete service parts, indicating they may have been installed on vehicles as part of collision or theft repairs."

Ford also said last week that it was recalling 1,666 Bronco Sport vehicles due to those units being "produced with rear suspension modules that may not be fully secured to the subframe." The Blue Oval launched the all-new vehicle late last year.

 

Ford loses track of dangerous
air bags, forcing 2 recalls

Associated Press
Feb 23, 2021

Dearborn – Ford has lost track of some older Takata air bags that can explode and hurl shrapnel, so it’s recalling more than 154,000 vehicles in North America to check for them.

The company issued two recalls, with the largest coming because Ford can’t find 45 obsolete air bags that may have been installed on some old Ranger pickup trucks. The company says the air bags were not purged from the stock of service parts and could have been used in crash or theft repairs.

This recall covers just over 153,000 Rangers from the 2004 through 2006 model years.

In a smaller recall, Ford found just over 1,100 vehicles that may have gotten obsolete Takata air bags in collision repairs.

Included are certain 2004 through 2011 Rangers, some 2005 to 2014 Mustangs, certain 2006 Ford GTs, some 2008 through 2012 Fusions and certain 2007 through 2010 Ford Edge SUVs. Also covered are certain 2009 to 2011 Mercury Milans, some 2010 through 2012 Lincoln MKZs, and certain 2007 through 2010 Lincoln MKX SUVs.

Ford said it’s not aware of any crashes or injuries caused by the problem. The company said it’s checking the vehicles at the request of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Dealers will inspect the driver or passenger air bag units and replace them if necessary. Owners will be notified starting the week of March 8.

Takata used the volatile chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate the air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to high heat and humidity and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister. The air bags have caused at least 27 deaths worldwide, including 18 in the U.S. About 400 have been injured.

The problem caused the largest series of auto recalls in U.S. history, with at least 67 million inflators recalled by 19 automakers. A court-appointed monitor reports that as of early January, 50 million had been repaired or were otherwise accounted for in the U.S. About 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide.

 

 

Flying back to Canada? Here’s
what you can expect at the new
COVID-19 quarantine hotels

Emerald Bensadoun
Global News
Feb 22, 2021  

The federal government has a message for Canadians: Now is not the time to travel.

On Monday, Canada's mandatory COVID-19 quarantine hotel stays will go into effect. The new rule is part of an effort to reduce non-essential travel and get ahead of the new virus variants — three of which have already been confirmed inside the country.

Anyone flying into Canada will be forced to stay in an approved hotel either in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario or Quebec while they await negative test results.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had initially touted a hefty $2,000 stay per room, but the cost is expected to be much lower and will be set by the hotels.

A spokesperson from the Hotel Association of Canada told Global News the cost of each stay will "vary between hotels, with additional fees for meals, augmented security, supervised movement to outdoor areas, designated transportation, and additional infection control measures."

However, the association added it "will continue to implement the advice of public health experts including the best practices provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for those specific hotels."

What can you expect?

Each privately owned hotel has agreed to meet operational guidelines and selection criteria set by the federal government.

Health Canada said it will allow people who own cars that have been parked at one of these airports to drive themselves there. Those without their own vehicles will be allowed to take either a designated shuttle bus, taxi or limousine.

Travellers will not be allowed to leave their rooms unless escorted by an official for monitored outdoor time, but all guests will be provided free Wi-Fi, as well as contactless meal deliveries to their door. Alcohol and cannabis are not considered essential, and won't be delivered.

Try not to make a mess: toiletries will be delivered, but there will be no room cleaning service for the duration of a guest's stay to help prevent any possible spread of infection between guests and staff members.

Masks will be mandatory for anyone staying at the hotel and will be required when speaking face-to-face with hotel staff, when opening the door to retrieve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and whenever a guest is being escorted to or from their room.

Private security firms hired by the federal government are expected to help enforce the 14-day mandatory quarantine and conduct in-person compliance visits, PHAC has said.

The agency said $2-million contracts were awarded to G4S Secure Solutions (Canada) Ltd., GardaWorld and Paladin Risk Solutions. PHAC added that the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, an organization that hires Canadian Armed Forces veterans and retired RCMP officers, was also selected to help make in-person visits.

Anyone who tests positive will be required to stay a full 14 days, either in a "federally designated quarantine facility or other suitable location."

The penalty for breaking the rules is high. The federal government said fines can go up to $3,000 for "a day of non-compliance," and breaking any quarantine or isolation rules when entering Canada could land travellers a fine of up to $750,000 or up to six months in jail.

Breaking from those requirements and causing death or serious bodily harm is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000,000 or up to three years in prison.

The federal government also outlines these guidelines on its website, here.

Where are these approved hotels?

The 14 hotels listed by the federal government are:

Alberta: Calgary International Airport (YYC)

Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel

Acclaim Hotel

British Columbia: Vancouver International Airport (YVR)

Fairmont Vancouver Airport

Radisson Vancouver Airport

The Westin Wall Centre, Vancouver Airport

Ontario: Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ)

Alt Hotel Pearson Airport

Fairfield Inn & Suites Toronto Airport

Four Points by Sheraton

Holiday Inn Toronto International Airport

Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto International Airport

Quebec: Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL)

Aloft Montreal Airport

Crowne Plaza Montreal Airport

Holiday Inn Express and Suites Montreal Airport

Montreal Airport Marriott In-Terminal

Will it work?

Experts say it is too soon to give a definitive "yes" or "no."

Currently, non-essential travel accounts for between 1 and 2 per cent of COVID-19 variant cases detected in Canada.

That number may seem small, but Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist with the University of Toronto, told Global News "we wouldn't have (those) variants if it wasn't for international people coming in."

He said the question of whether quarantine hotels were justified, but raised concerns that travellers would try to "game the system" and undermine the government's initiative.

"This is not the type of thing that a Canadian society would normally do, but I think the threat of the variance really changes that," he said.

"If you look at some countries that have been crazy successful like Australia and New Zealand, compared to us, quarantine has been central to their strategy."

Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner questioned PHAC representatives on Friday whether there was data that would suggest the quarantine hotels would be more effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 than quarantining at someone's home.

 

 

 

Why proper home care should
be a cornerstone of how our
health system looks after seniors

Elizabeth Niedra 
CBC News
Feb 19, 2021

The pandemic is shining an interrogative floodlight on the face of Canada's elder care system. Specifically, it has brought close scrutiny to the highly publicized circumstances in which long-term care residents have accounted for a gut-punching 55 per cent of COVID-19 related deaths in Ontario alone — 3,730 as of Feb. 18.

This data we already know; it has been the constant horror music playing behind society's collective pandemic trauma this year. The older person in long-term care has become the divisive and central figure of our pandemic response and its shortcomings. In them, we see the heart-wrenching sadness and exhaustion of this crisis writ large upon frail human form.

However, now we also understand how much attention and thoughtfully allotted resources it really takes to give our seniors the comfort and dignity they deserve. A lofty goal, when this year has felt like a panicked scramble to keep them, at bare but difficult minimum, out of emergency rooms and safe from COVID-19.

Outside of long-term care homes, much of the community response to the pandemic has focused on virtual care. This buzz-wordy concept shifts patient assessments from in-person care to telephone-, video- and app-based interactions.

These might be promising solutions for a subset of healthy, technologically literate patients, but for thousands of seniors with multiple health conditions and sensory impairments, virtual care often serves only to exacerbate their unique vulnerabilities. To say nothing of the immense work involved with elder care; the work of actually knowing an older person, understanding their needs and accompanying them on their aging journey.

For our aging older adults in crisis, virtual care is not a silver bullet.

In the space between long-term care and virtual care, however, there is home-based care. Though underfunded and understaffed, it already exists in the publicly funded health system — and it works.

Geriatrics specialist Dr. Samir Sinha says boosting the level of home care and sending fewer people to long-term care facilities is both cost-effective and the right thing to do. 0:33

The model of multidisciplinary home-based care — involving teams with a mix of specialists, such as doctors, social workers and physiotherapists — is specifically designed to help older adults age in place. These are seniors who are comparable to the long-term care population, on the metrics of age and medical disease, yet proper home-based care allows them to stay safely and comfortably in their own residence rather than moving into an institution.

A good home-care team coordinates nearly all of an older person's chronic and complex health needs, and delivers them within the safety of their chosen home. It can respond to urgent patient needs the same day, and also provide 24/7 at-home palliative care support to those who are at the end of life.

Historically, this model has helped two-thirds of its referred patients age at home, and has been shown to help reduce their re-admission to hospital by up to 29 per cent.

Home care also matters for the happiness and well-being of patients. According to a recent report from the National Institute on Aging, nearly all older people surveyed in Ontario would prefer to age in their own home rather than in a care facility.

High-quality home care also makes financial sense. At-home care for a frail older person costs the health system an average of $103 per day, according to the report, compared to $201 for someone in long-term care, and a whopping $703 daily for older adults admitted to hospital to await a permanent place.

After ten years of negotiations, Jonathan Marchand has won his fight for the home care services he needs to live outside of an institution. Guest host Alison Brunette speaks to the disabled rights activist about why he says this is a huge win for his community. 7:22

And yet, home care remains in the shadows of our provincial elder care strategy. It's often viewed culturally as an old-fashioned and folksy form of medicine, or else a fantasy approach outside the reaches of possibility for standard clinic-anchored care teams.

Housebound older people who don't have access to proper home care, for their part, are too often forgotten as a large group of vulnerable, high-needs patients. And they are unfairly viewed as burdensome crises once they do appear at the doors of the emergency room when, due to lack of proper ongoing care, their needs become acute.

In short, the care of the elderly in Canada has not failed this year because there is no solution. Excellent home-based care is a ready answer to our elder-care crisis.

However, we must radically expand upon these established models if we are to help older Canadians age in safety and dignity. Indeed, we must rewrite our health-care culture to sustainably invest in older people and address the tragedies of the threadbare elder care system that have been splashed across the headlines in recent months.

Bluntly, we must ask ourselves and our leaders whether we will elevate home care to be a cornerstone of elder care. Even more critically, will we keep the needs of the frail older person front-of-mind when they are no longer dying in heartbreaking numbers from COVID-19?

These may not be the most commonly asked questions of the current elder crisis, but they should be.

Dr. Elizabeth Niedra is a care of the elderly physician, writer, and lecturer in family medicine at the University of Toronto. She does home visits for frail older adults with SPRINT House Calls.

 

 

Ford bets $1 billion on electric
future, new EV manufacturing
facility in Germany

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Feb 18, 2021

Amid tightening environmental regulations driving an industry-wide shift to electric vehicles, Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday detailed a major step forward in its path to an all-electric future.

The Blue Oval pledged that almost its entire European vehicle lineup would be electric in the coming years — a commitment it plans to fulfill in part by converting its Cologne, Germany, plant currently producing internal combustion engine cars into an EV manufacturing center. The automaker plans to invest $1 billion to convert the site, and the plant's first all-electric model is slated to begin rolling off assembly lines in 2023.

Ford of Europe President Stuart Rowley in a statement dubbed the announcement "one of the most significant Ford has made in over a generation. It underlines our commitment to Europe and a modern future with electric vehicles at the heart of our strategy for growth."

Ford said its entire European passenger-vehicle lineup will be "zero-emissions capable, all-electric or plug-in hybrid" by mid-2026 and all-electric by 2030. On the commercial vehicle side — the driving force behind Ford's profitability in Europe — the automaker said its lineup will be "100% zero-emissions capable, all-electric or plug-in hybrid" by 2024. It expects two-thirds of commercial vehicle sales to be all-electric or plug-in hybrid by 2030.

Ford shares were down 0.26%, to $11.51, at market's close Wednesday. The dual announcements signal Ford's intention to push forward with a turnaround in Europe, including on the passenger vehicle side of the business that has proved more challenging for the automaker to crack.

In announcing its fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 financial results earlier this month, Ford reported that it made its highest quarterly profit in Europe in more than four years. The results come amid an ongoing restructuring that has netted a more than $1 billion reduction in annual structural costs. Those cost savings have been achieved in part by Ford reducing its employee and plant footprint in the region.

The company also announced a near-doubling of its global investment in electrification, to $22 billion by 2025; the $1 billion investment in Cologne is part of that planned allocation. That news came on the heels of crosstown rival General Motors Co.'s pledge to exit gas- and diesel-powered engines by 2035 and be carbon neutral by 2040. GM plans to spend $27 billion on EVs and autonomous vehicles through 2025.

"We successfully restructured Ford of Europe and returned to profitability in the fourth quarter of 2020," Rowley said in a statement Wednesday. "Now we are charging into an all-electric future in Europe with expressive new vehicles and a world-class connected customer experience."

Ford of Europe remains "on track" to deliver a 6% profit margin before interest and taxes, he said. Wednesday's announcement comes amid a company-wide assessment of where to most effectively allocate capital, as part of a plan detailed by CEO Jim Farley to turn around the Blue Oval's automotive operations and hit profit goals.

Ford has announced major shakeups and investments in other regions in recent months, including a restructuring of its South America operations that includes ending manufacturing in Brazil and a $1.05 billion investment in its South Africa manufacturing operations.

The investment in Cologne — home to one of Ford's largest manufacturing centers in the region as well as its European headquarters — will be used to "modernize" the site and convert it into what will be dubbed the Ford Cologne Electrification Center. Ford said it would be the company's first such facility in the region. Currently, the Cologne plant employs more than 4,000 people and builds the Ford Fiesta.

The automaker said its first European-built, all-electric passenger vehicle, which will be sold to customers in Europe, will begin production at the facility in 2023, "with the potential for a second all-electric vehicle built there under consideration." 

In a statement, Martin Hennig, who heads up Ford of Europe's workers' council, called the move "an important signal to the entire workforce. It offers a long-term perspective for our employees and at the same time encourages them to help shape this electric future."

Ford confirmed that the first all-electric passenger vehicle it's planning for 2023 is part of its strategic alliance with Volkswagen AG, under which the two automakers have agreed to collaborate on commercial vehicles, EVs, and autonomous driving. The new vehicle will be built on VW's MEB platform.

"However, while alliance vehicles will share certain technologies under the skin, Ford's first volume all-electric passenger vehicle built using the MEB technologies will look, feel and drive every inch like a Ford," Ford spokesman John Gardiner said.

Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, a professor of automotive economics at the Center for Automotive Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, said the use of VW's technology could bring competitive advantages to Ford over its European rivals: "They are now in a position, together with VW, to be a very strong competitor to Opel, Peugeot, Citroën and Fiat."

The move on Ford's part to drastically reduce its lineup's carbon emissions comes as environmental regulations continue to tighten. Dudenhöffer noted that stronger regulations from the European Commission are slated in the coming years, making it impossible for automakers to avoid regulatory scrutiny and fees with hybrid and combustion engine vehicles alone.

Also key to its plans for the region, the Blue Oval signaled, is the incorporation of digitally-connected offerings into its commercial vehicle lineup, which leads the segment in Europe.

Ford executives have said that they see potential for lucrative new revenue streams generated by data-driven services — a direction underscored by a new strategic partnership the Blue Oval recently inked with Google. Among other areas, the two companies plan to work together on developing new tech- and data-driven offerings for customers.

Ford said it would have additional details on the Cologne site and its electrification plans to share in "the coming months."

 

Winter storm halts production at
Ford, GM plants across country

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Feb 17, 2021

A major winter storm that was slated to hit large swaths of the country with snow, ice and freezing temperatures this week prompted Detroit automakers to pull back on production — the latest in a recent string of manufacturing disruptions that have threatened the auto industry's recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Ford Motor Co. confirmed Monday that it had cancelled operations at its Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri beginning this past Saturday and continuing until Feb. 22. And General Motors Co. said it would have weather-related production impacts at four plants in Texas, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The weather-related production cuts effectively are delivering a double whammy to some of the U.S industry's most profitable vehicles, as the automakers continue to navigate the deepening effects of a global microchip shortage.

"Due to unseasonably cold temperatures in the midsection of the United States, Ford was warned that the availability of natural gas could be restricted in the Kansas City area in the coming days," company spokeswoman Kelli Felker said in a statement. The decision to cancel production this week, she said, was made "to ensure we minimize our use of natural gas that is critical to heat people's homes."

Kansas City Assembly builds the F-150 pickup, Ford's cash cow. The Dearborn automaker is in the midst of launching the new 2021 model year of the truck. Kansas City also builds the Transit cargo van.

GM said Monday that it had canceled three shifts Sunday and Monday at its Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas, which builds the GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, and the Cadillac Escalade.

Monday's second shift was cancelled at GM's Bowling Green Assembly Plant in Kentucky, which builds Corvettes, as well as at the automaker's Wentzville Assembly Plant in Missouri, which makes the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Chevy Express and GMC Savana.

And three shifts were cancelled between Sunday and Monday at GM's Spring Hill Assembly Plant in Tennessee, which builds the Cadillac XT5 and XT6, GMC Acadia, and Holden Acadia, as well as engines.

A company spokesman said Monday afternoon that the automaker still was determining how production at those facilities would be impacted going forward. During downtime, eligible union-represented auto workers receive approximately 75% of their gross pay.

Meanwhile, the auto industry continues to battle a global shortage of semiconductors, crucial components that power the automated and electronic features in vehicles. The shortage has caused a slew of production disruptions for automakers around the world, and industry experts say the crisis likely won't be resolved until the second half of the year.

In the latest hit to its manufacturing schedule, Ford cancelled an overtime shift at its Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville — which builds Ford F-250 through F-550 Super Duty Trucks, the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator — that had been scheduled for Feb. 13.

Last week, both plants where the F-150 is built — Kansas City and Dearborn Truck Plant — operated on reduced shifts due to the shortage. The Blue Oval also has seen previous disruptions to production at facilities in Chicago, Louisville, and Ontario, as well as at plants in other global markets.

GM shut down plants in Kansas, Mexico and Canada last week because of the shortage. And Stellantis NV's Windsor Assembly Plant in Ontario currently is shut down for the same reason. 

 

Ford sells stake in lidar
maker Velodyne

KEITH NAUGHTON
BLOOMBERG
Feb 16, 2021

Ford Motor Co. has sold off its stake in Velodyne Lidar Inc., a leading maker of sensors being used in the development of self-driving cars.

Ford, which invested $75 million in Velodyne in 2016, no longer held any shares as of the end of last year, according to a regulatory filing. The automaker held almost 13.1 million shares three months earlier, a holding worth $244.2 million at the end of the third quarter.

“This is consistent with our efforts to make the best, highest use of capital,” said T.R. Reid, a Ford spokesman. “We are using Velodyne technology in our autonomous vehicles.”

Velodyne last year merged with Graf Industrial Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company, and trades on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker VLDR. The valuation of the San Jose, Calif.-based company has been volatile since its trading debut, peaking at $4.62 billion in late December. Stock markets were closed Monday for Presidents' Day.

Ford took a stake in Velodyne six months before it invested $1 billion in self-driving startup Argo AI, led by Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander, previous leaders at autonomous teams at Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Uber Technologies Inc. Since then, Argo has developed an entire self-driving system that Ford intends to deploy commercially next year. Lidar, which bounces light off objects to assess shape and location in real time, has become key proprietary technology in the race to develop driverless vehicles.

“Our in-house lidar development effort, formed upon the acquisition of Princeton Lightwave in 2017, is going very well,” Alan Hall, an Argo spokesman, said in an email. “We will share more information about the progress at the appropriate time.”

Argo also is developing autonomous autos for Volkswagen Group, which invested $2.6 billion in the startup last year, giving it a valuation of $7 billion.

 

How Canada can capitalize on
U.S. auto sector's abrupt pivot
to electric vehicles

Canadian Press
Feb 15, 2021

WASHINGTON — The storied North American automotive industry, the ultimate showcase of Canada's high-tensile trade ties with the United States, is about to navigate a dramatic hairpin turn.

But as the Big Three veer into the all-electric, autonomous era, some Canadians want to seize the moment and take the wheel.

"There's a long shadow between the promise and the execution, but all the pieces are there," says Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association.

"We went from a marriage on the rocks to one that both partners are committed to. It could be the best second chapter ever."

Volpe is referring specifically to GM, which announced late last month an ambitious plan to convert its entire portfolio of vehicles to an all-electric platform by 2035.

But that decision is just part of a cascading transformation across the industry, with existential ramifications for one of the most tightly integrated cross-border manufacturing and supply-chain relationships in the world.

China is already working hard to become the "source of a new way" to power vehicles, President Joe Biden warned last week.

"We just have to step up."

Canada has both the resources and expertise to do the same, says Volpe, whose ambitious Project Arrow concept — a homegrown zero-emissions vehicle named for the 1950s-era Avro interceptor jet — is designed to showcase exactly that.

"We're going to prove to the market, we're going to prove to the (manufacturers) around the planet, that everything that goes into your zero-emission vehicle can be made or sourced here in Canada," he says.

"If somebody wants to bring what we did over the line and make 100,000 of them a year, I'll hand it to them."

GM earned the ire of Canadian auto workers in 2018 by announcing the closure of its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont. It later resurrected the facility with a $170-million investment to retool it for autonomous vehicles.

"It was, 'You closed Oshawa, how dare you?' And I was one of the 'How dare you' people," Volpe says.

"Well, now that they've reopened Oshawa, you sit there and you open your eyes to the commitment that General Motors made."

Ford, too, has entered the fray, promising $1.8 billion to retool its sprawling landmark facility in Oakville, Ont., to build EVs.

It's a leap of faith of sorts, considering what market experts say is ongoing consumer doubt about EVs.

"Range anxiety" — the persistent fear of a depleted battery at the side of the road — remains a major concern, even though it's less of a problem than most people think.

Consulting firm Deloitte Canada, which has been tracking automotive consumer trends for more than a decade, found three-quarters of future EV buyers it surveyed planned to charge their vehicles at home overnight.

"The difference between what is a perceived issue in a consumer's mind and what is an actual issue is actually quite negligible," Ryan Robinson, Deloitte's automotive research leader, says in an interview.

"It's still an issue, full stop, and that's something that the industry is going to have to contend with."

So, too, is price, especially with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic still a long way off. Deloitte's latest survey, released last month, found 45 per cent of future buyers in Canada hope to spend less than $35,000 — a tall order when most base electric-vehicle models hover between $40,000 and $45,000.

"You put all of that together and there's still some major challenges that a lot of stakeholders that touch the automotive industry face," Robinson says.

"It's not just government, it's not just automakers, but there are a variety of stakeholders that have a role to play in making sure that Canadians are ready to make the transition over to electric mobility."

With protectionism no longer a dirty word in the United States and Biden promising to prioritize American workers and suppliers, the Canadian government's job remains the same as it ever was: making sure the U.S. understands Canada's mission-critical role in its own economic priorities.

"We're both going to be better off on both sides of the border, as we have been in the past, if we orient ourselves toward this global competition as one force," says Gerald Butts, vice-chairman of the political-risk consultancy Eurasia Group and a former principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"It served us extraordinarily well in the past ... and I have no reason to believe it won't serve us well in the future."

Last month, GM announced a billion-dollar plan to build its new all-electric BrightDrop EV600 van in Ingersoll, Ont., at Canada's first large-scale EV manufacturing plant for delivery vehicles.

That investment, Volpe says, assumes Canada will take the steps necessary to help build a homegrown battery industry out of the country's rare-earth resources like lithium and cobalt that are waiting to be extracted in northern Ontario, Quebec and elsewhere.

Given that the EV industry is still in his infancy, the free market alone won't be enough to ensure those resources can be extracted and developed, he says.

"General Motors made a billion-dollar bet on Canada because it's going to assume that the Canadian government — this one or the next one — is going to commit" to building that business.

Such an investment would pay dividends well beyond the auto sector, considering the federal Liberal government's commitment to lowering greenhouse gas-emissions and meeting targets set out in the Paris climate accord.

"If you make investments in renewable energy and utility storage using battery technology, you can build an industry at scale that the auto industry can borrow," Volpe says.

Major manufacturing, retail and office facilities would be able to use that technology to help "shave the peak" off Canada's GHG emissions and achieve those targets, all the while paving the way for a self-sufficient electric-vehicle industry.

"You'd be investing in the exact same technology you'd use in a car."

There's one problem, says Robinson: the lithium-ion batteries on roads right now might not be where the industry ultimately lands.

"We're not done with with battery technology," Robinson says. "What you don't want to do is invest in a technology that is that is rapidly evolving, and could potentially become obsolete going forward."

Fuel cells — energy-efficient, hydrogen-powered units that work like batteries, but without the need for constant recharging — continue to be part of the conversation, he adds.

"The amount of investment is huge, and you want to be sure that you're making the right decision, so you don't find yourself behind the curve just as all that capacity is coming online."

 

 

Autoworkers face dimmer future
in a new era of electric cars

Tom Krisher and
John Seewer
Associated Press
Feb 12, 2021

Toledo, Ohio – When General Motors boldly announced its goal last month to make only battery-powered vehicles by 2035, it didn’t just mark a break with more than a century of making internal combustion engines. It also clouded the future for 50,000 GM workers whose skills – and jobs – could become obsolete far sooner than they knew.

The message was clear: As a greener U.S. economy edges closer into view, GM wants a factory workforce that eventually will build only zero-emissions vehicles.

It won’t happen overnight. But the likelihood is growing that legions of autoworkers who trained and worked for decades to build machines that run on petroleum will need to do rather different work in the next decade – or they might not have jobs.

If the history-making shift from internal combustion to electric power goes as GM, Ford and others increasingly envision, jobs that now involve making pistons, fuel injectors and mufflers will be supplanted by the assembly of lithium-ion battery packs, electric motors and heavy-duty wiring harnesses.

Many of those components are now built overseas. But President Joe Biden has made the development of a U.S. electric vehicle supply chain a key part of his ambitious plan to create 1 million more auto industry jobs with electric vehicles.

Yet for workers at GM and other automakers, that future could be perilous. The more environmentally focused plants of the future will need fewer workers, mainly because electric vehicles contain 30% to 40% fewer moving parts than petroleum-run vehicles. In addition, many of the good union jobs that have brought a solid middle-class lifestyle could shift to lower pay as automakers buy EV parts from supply companies or form separate ventures to build components.

Most vulnerable in the transition will be the roughly 100,000 people in the United States who work at plants that make transmissions and engines for gas and diesel vehicles.

They are people like Stuart Hill, one of 1,500 or so workers at GM’s Toledo Transmission Plant in Ohio. At 38 years old and a GM employee for five years, Hill is still decades from retirement. The future of the plant and his role in it worries him.

“It’s something that’s in the back of my mind,” Hill said. “Are they going to shut it down?”

He and others hope that Toledo will be among the sites where GM will build more EV parts. If not, he’d be open to moving to some other plant to continue to earn a solid wage; top-scale workers represented by the United Auto Workers are paid around $31 an hour.

Yet there is hardly assurance that automakers will need as many workers in the new EV era. A United Auto Workers paper from two years ago quotes Ford and Volkswagen executives as saying that EVs will reduce labor hours per vehicle by 30%.

“There are just less parts, so of course it stands to reason that there is going to be less labor,” said Jeff Dokho, research director for the UAW.

“We’re sort of at the beginning of that transition,” said Teddy DeWitt, an assistant professor of management at University of Massachusetts Boston who studies how jobs evolve over time. “It’s not going to be just in the vehicle space.”

The number of industry jobs that will be lost in the transition will likely reach into the thousands, though no one knows with any precision. And those losses will made up, at least in part, by jobs created by a greener economy, from work involved in building electric vehicle parts and charging stations to jobs created by wind and solar electricity generation.

Indeed, the most far-reaching change in manufacturing since the commercial production of internal combustion-driven vehicles began in 1886 will ripple out to farm equipment, heavy trucks and even lawnmowers, snow blowers and weed-whackers. The oil and gas industries could suffer, too, as the fading of the internal combustion engine shrinks demand for petroleum.

At the century-old transmission plant in Toledo, GM workers make sophisticated six-, eight-, nine- or 10-speed gearboxes. Eventually, those parts will be replaced by far simpler single-speed drivetrains for electric vehicles. Especially for workers low on the seniority list, GM’s plans for an “all-electric future” mean that eventually, their services will likely no longer be needed.

“This is that moment to define where we go in the future,” said Tony Totty, president of the UAW local at the Toledo plant. “This is a time we need to ask ourselves in this country: What are we going to do for manufacturing? Is manufacturing dead in our country?”

Those worries already were in the air when Biden made an October campaign stop at the Toledo union hall. Totty delivered a letter imploring the candidate “not to forget about the people getting the job done today.”

Even though fully electric vehicles now constitute less than 2% of U.S. new vehicle sales, automakers face intense pressure to abandon internal combustion engines as part of a global drive to fight climate change. California will ban sales of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. European countries are imposing bans or strict pollution limits. Biden, as part of a push for green vehicles, pledged to build a half-million charging stations and convert the 650,000-vehicle federal fleet to battery power.

At the moment, though, American motorists have other ideas. They continue to spend record amounts on larger gasoline vehicles. With average pump prices close to a $2 a gallon, trucks and SUVs have replaced more efficient cars as the nation’s primary mode of transportation. In January, roughly three-fourths of new-vehicle sales were trucks and SUVs. A decade ago, it was only half.

All that demand will still keep Toledo in business for years. Yet there’s little doubt that the move to electricity is inexorable. About 2.5 million electric vehicles were sold worldwide last year. IHS Markit expects that figure to increase 70% this year alone. In December, there were 22 fully electric models on sale in the United States; Edmunds.com expects that figure to reach 30 this year. GM alone has pledged to invest $27 billion on 30 EV models worldwide by 2025.

The acceleration of the trend has heightened anxiety even at plants that are now running flat-out to meet demand for GM trucks.

“It definitely scares me,” said Tommy Wolikow, a worker at GM’s heavy-duty pickup assembly plant in Flint, Michigan, who has worked eight years for GM. “I think that eventually there’s a good chance that I might not be able to retire from this plant.”

Depending on how fast consumers embrace electric vehicles, Wolikow fears he could be bumped out of his job by employees with more seniority. Workers already are starting to vie for jobs at three plants that GM has designated as electric vehicle assembly sites, two in the Detroit area and one in Tennessee.

In the meantime, GM says it needs its full factory workforce as it rebuilds inventory depleted by a coronavirus-related factory shutdown last spring.

“We have to run our current core business smart and strong, because that will ultimately allow us to invest in this all-electric future,” spokesman Dan Flores said. “There’s no way we can speculate on the future of any individual facility.”

Not all internal combustion-related jobs will vanish in the transition. GM excluded heavier trucks in its EV goal. And some manufacturers will keep making gas-electric hybrids, said Kristin Dziczek, a vice president at the Center for Auto Research, an industry think tank.

It’s unclear what will happen to workers at GM or other automakers who might be squeezed out in the transition. In the past, GM has protected some workers in periods of downsizing. When it closed an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, in 2019, for example, laid-off workers were given a chance to transfer to other plants. And when GM shuttered factories heading into a 2009 bankruptcy, laid-off employees received buyout and early retirement packages.

The UAW says it views the transformation to electricity as potentially less a threat than an opportunity for growth. Dokho suggested, for example, that the Biden administration could offer incentives to build more EV parts here.

“We’re optimistic about making sure that there are jobs in the future, and that the jobs there now are protected,” he said.

Every major industrial transformation, DeWitt said, has tended to result in both lost jobs and new work. He noted, for example, that when Americans migrated from farms to cities after the Civil War, agricultural jobs dwindled. But cities were wired for electricity, and jobs such as electricians were created.

If the automakers are willing, DeWitt said, most of their workers could be retrained to move from gas vehicles to electric parts and vehicle assembly.

“It feels unlikely to me that all of that knowledge we have built up in that workforce for the past 50 years is all of the sudden completely useless,” he said.

The protection of jobs seems sure to be a top issue in the next round of UAW contract talks in 2023, and workers will especially want to preserve higher-wage positions. GM and other automakers now view battery manufacturing as a parts-supply function with lower pay.

The automaker is building a battery factory in Lordstown in a venture with South Korea’s LG Chem. CEO Mary Barra has said that workers there will be paid less than those at vehicle assembly plants, to keep costs closer to what competing automakers will pay.

The 2023 contract bargaining could be even more contentious than it was two years ago, when a 40-day UAW strike cost GM $3.6 billion.

Indeed, the reckoning between GM and the union may come sooner than anticipated, said Karl Brauer, executive publisher at the CarExpert.com website. Automakers, he said, generally work on vehicles five to seven years ahead of when they go on sale.

“You could make the argument that by 2028, they’re not going to be doing any more development on internal combustion engine vehicles,” he said. “Which starts to sound much closer than 2035.”

 

2021 Ford F-150 Raptor
pickup revealed with
new suspension and tech

Third-generation F-150 Raptor is the most capable ever

By Gary Gastelu 
 Fox News
Feb 11, 2021

Ford President Kumar Galhotra talks to Fox News Autos Editor Gary Gastelu about the new F-150 Raptor and Ford's upcoming electrification plans.

After taking a brief hiatus as Ford rolls out its redesigned F-150 lineup, the high-performance Raptor will soon return for 2021.

The off-road pickup revealed on Wednesday has received significant changes that include the first five-link, coil-spring rear suspension ever featured on an F-150.

Ford said it is based on the ones used by trophy trucks that compete in races like the Baja 1000 and provides 15 inches of rear-wheel travel for high speed off-road driving and jumps to go with the 14 inches available up front.

The Raptor, which is only available in a four-door SuperCrew configuration this time around, also gets all of the new technology that was launched with the 2021 F-150, including the ability to receive over-the-air updates, Ford’s hands-free Active Drive Assist highway driving aid and an optional Pro Power Onboard 2.0-kilowatt built-in generator.

An optional 360-degree camera system provides a front view with guidelines to help place your front tires while maneuvering on rough trails, where you can use a new one-pedal drive system that automatically engages the brakes as you lift off the accelerator to make it easier to modulate speed in challenging situations.

One thing that’s not very different is the engine that pedal is connected to, which remains a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 delivering 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque, according to Ford President Kumar Galhotra, that breathes through a new exhaust system equipped with active bypass valves that can turn up the volume. A 10-speed automatic is standard and the only transmission available.

But wait, there’s more!

After being king of the hill over its first decade of existence, the Raptor finally has direct competition in the form of the Ram 1500 TRX, which offers similar off-road chops along with a 702 hp supercharged V8 that makes it the most powerful pickup ever made. Galhotra told Fox News Autos that power isn’t primarily what Raptor customers are looking for, but if any of them want more they’ll soon be able to get it.

Later this year Ford will reveal the Raptor R, which will have a V8 under the hood. Galhotra won’t reveal any details about it just yet, but there have been rumors that it will be based on the Mustang Shelby GT500’s 760 hp supercharged 5.2-liter V8, which could make the Raptor a TRX-beating beast.

Pricing for the Raptor will be announced closer to when it hits showrooms this summer, but the previous 2020 SuperCrew model started at $57,785.

 

GM hourly workers expected to
get $9,000 profit-sharing checks
for pandemic-marred 2020

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News
Feb 10, 2021

Detroit — General Motors Co. hourly United Auto Workers-represented employees could receive up to $9,000 in profit sharing checks this year.

GM said 44,000 eligible hourly employees would be eligible for the profit-sharing, which will be paid the week of Feb. 26. Last year, GM hourly employees received an $8,000 payout.

The Detroit automaker, which made $6.4 billion last year, announced profit-sharing as part of its full-year 2020 earnings report released Wednesday. Profit-sharing is based on GM's profits in North America, which totaled $9 billion last year. For every a billion made in North America, employees get $1,000, according to GM's contract with the United Auto Workers.

"Despite a year of a pandemic and loss of production in 2020, General Motors reported a solid profit for North America," UAW Vice President and Director Terry Dittes of the General Motors Department said in statement. "This is a testament to our UAW-GM Membership, who produce some of the finest and most sought-after vehicles in the world, right here in the U.S.A.”

Ford Motor Co.'s 2020 profit-sharing payouts will be up to $3,625, down roughly 45% from the year before. The payments will be made in March. In 2020, Ford paid up to $6,600 to 53,000 eligible employees.

 

UAW Ford workers can expect
profit-sharing payouts down 45%

Jordyn Grzelewski
Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Feb 9, 2021

Ford Motor Co.'s 2020 profit-sharing payouts of up to $3,625 for eligible hourly United Auto Workers members will be down roughly 45% from the year before, the automaker said Thursday.

The lower payments, to be made in March, are a direct consequence of the eight-week manufacturing shutdown last spring amid the COVID-19 pandemic that walloped the top and bottom lines of Ford and its rivals.

In 2020, Ford paid up to $6,600 to 53,000 eligible employees, the smallest payout of the Detroit Three automakers.

"I didn’t think we were going to get one," Brad Crozier, 56, who works at Ford's Sterling Axle Plant, said of the smaller checks this year, "just because we’ve been off work for so long. Anything is better than nothing."

The Dearborn automaker, in the midst of launching the newest edition of its iconic F-150 pickup and increasing investment in development of next-generation electric vehicles, announced the payouts as part of its report on full-year and fourth-quarter 2020 financial results. 

The profit-sharing checks are part of the automaker's collective bargaining agreement with the UAW. The amount is based on the company's $3.625 billion North America pre-tax profits.

"Like all sectors, the 2020 pandemic caused many challenges in our industry," UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said in a statement. "And while profit sharing for UAW members may not be what we are used to, our members-negotiated benefit has preserved profit sharing checks even during a dark year when many other employers may be reluctant to share in profits."

A Ford spokesperson could not immediately say Thursday how many UAW workers would be eligible for the 2020 payouts. Rivals General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV will announce their profit-sharing amounts when they report full-year earnings on Wednesday and on March 3, respectively.

GM paid 44,000 UAW members up to $8,000 in profit sharing last year. Stellantis' predecessor, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, which calculates its profit-sharing differently, awarded bonuses of up to $7,280 to roughly 44,000 workers.

 

"A call to arms"
Canada Stuggles
to get Vaccines

Inside Canada’s impossibly high-stakes rush to lock down tens of millions of doses of the most sought-after product on Earth

Nick Taylor-Vaisey
Macleans
February 6, 2021

When Agnes Mills was a young teenager, she battled tuberculosis for three years in a hospital in Aklavik, a remote hamlet nestled in the Mackenzie River delta north of the Arctic Circle. She contracted the disease when an epidemic hit the residential school where she lived. She led a solitary existence at the Anglican-run school known as All Saints, separated from her mother, who lived nearby. She was a long way from Old Crow, the tiny Vuntut Gwich’in community in Yukon where she grew up and her grandfather was chief.

Mills, now nearly 85 years old, calmly explains those devastating formative years in Aklavik. She was sexually abused by older girls at the school. An extended hospital stay offered a break from All Saints, but Mills says she received little education.

Eventually, Mills moved south. She lived in Edmonton and Kenora, Ont., before settling in Ottawa where she was the executive director of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. She worked in government for a decade before returning north, where she was an Elder adviser of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Last year, Mills received the Order of Yukon.

Now she lives at Whistle Bend Continuing Care Facility in Whitehorse. Dementia is creeping into her life, and most of a year without seeing her grandchildren has been excruciating. “It’s a very lonely time. You’re all by yourself in this little room,” she says.

On Jan. 4, Yukon started immunizing high-risk residents with Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. Mills, a survivor of so much hardship, was at the front of the line.

About 50 residents and staff at the Whistle Bend home got their first shots that day. The 150-bed facility has managed to avoid an outbreak since last March—a feat matched by every other home in Yukon, where only 70 cases have been reported across the entire territory.

Dozens of long-term care facilities across Canada haven’t been nearly as fortunate. Of the roughly 20,000 Canadians who succumbed to COVID-19 in the pandemic’s first 11 months, nearly 9,000 were residents of long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec—a grim number that climbs daily.

As new, more easily transmissible variants of the disease threaten to spread quickly among vulnerable communities in Canada, the need for widespread vaccinations has never been more urgent.

Mills’ single inoculation was an early milestone in Canada’s desperate, stubborn quest for normalcy—a remarkable but still infinitesimally small step in a massive immunization campaign, the largest in Canadian history, meant to beat COVID-19.

That campaign needs doses, and a federal bureaucracy upended by the pandemic has been duking it out with the richest countries in the world for what is now the hottest commodity on the planet. Without the ability to produce COVID-19 vaccines at home, Ottawa is bargaining with a powerful pharmaceutical industry that holds all of the cards. And the feds are racing against the clock. Every day without vaccines means more sickness, tragedy and preventable death.

Bergstedt moved to Moderna after nearly 20 years at Merck (Photograph by Kayana Szymczak)

June 1 was Patrick Bergstedt’s first day on the job as Moderna’s senior vice-president of commercial vaccines. Bergstedt is an affable South African, who was based in the small town of New Hope, Penn., at the time. Like so many of us, his office was in his home, and he was making deals over Webex.

“I was commercial person number one,” he tells Maclean’s, describing the emerging biotech player as a “tiny little company that had never sold anything in its life.” He wasn’t exaggerating. Moderna was developing a wide variety of products, but had yet to make a sale.

Bergstedt came from Merck, a pharmaceutical giant where he spent nearly 20 years and gained familiarity with Canada’s health system, which he viewed as “very progressive” on vaccinations. “You can have vaccines sitting in a warehouse, but it’s about vaccines in arms,” he says. “That’s what’s important.”

For all his years in the business, Bergstedt had no idea who to call north of the border about COVID vaccines. On June 11, as global interest in Moderna’s mRNA vaccine was starting to pick up, a serendipitous email landed in Bergstedt’s inbox from a couple of Canadians.

Bergstedt might have expected to hear from a scientist or procurement officer, but it was friendly neighbourhood diplomats who came calling. Valérie La Traverse and Carolin McCaffrey, a senior trade commissioner and an investment officer at Canada’s consulate in Boston, reached out to learn about the fledgling company’s vaccine and gauge interest in potential expansion to Canada.

“There is a God,” thought Bergstedt.

In Ottawa, it was all hands on deck—even Global Affairs Canada had been pressed into duty to work contacts that might kick-start vaccine talks or dredge up some leads.

Within a week, Bergstedt was on a call with then-consul general David Alward. On June 26, he was back on a video conference with representatives of Health Canada; the Public Health Agency; Innovation, Science and Economic Development; and Public Services and Procurement. They peppered him with questions about clinical data and potential supply. “I’ve been on many calls with many different countries,” he says. “But I have never had a call that big, representing so many branches of government.” Bergstedt recalls that Moderna’s reps all had their webcams turned on. The federal officials, he notes, kept theirs off.

In these early conversations, Moderna’s vaccine was promising, but unproven. The company had created the vaccine in 42 days and dosed the first test subject three weeks later.

“At that time, we had no clinical data,” says Bergstedt. “We had this early, experimental phase 1 data that says this vaccine produces an immune response. We had no data on efficacy or safety.”

Even to Bergstedt, the eager salesman, getting the vaccines into arms before the end of the year seemed an impossible task.

Within days of Moderna connecting with Ottawa, Mark Lievonen was sitting in his condo in Stouffville, Ont., when he pulled out his iPad and logged onto Zoom. For many years, Lievonen had been the president of the Canadian vaccine division of Sanofi, a pharmaceutical giant. Now he joined Joanne Langley, a Dalhousie University professor and head of infectious diseases at Halifax’s IWK Health Centre, as co-chair of the federal COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force (VTF).

As the pandemic’s first wave was slowly subsiding in hard-hit Ontario and Quebec at the end of May, Lievonen and Langley were invited to head up the group. They were asked, says Langley, to serve their country. “When you get a letter like that, you just say yes.”

The federal government assembled an initial group of 12 core task force members, including epidemiologists, physicians, manufacturing specialists and industry insiders, with orders to recommend safe and effective vaccines the feds should buy in large quantities—a daunting assignment, since none of the leading candidates were anywhere near a sure thing. “As we were about to begin, I thought, this is a mind-boggling, important task,” says Lievonen. “What if we fail? That was in the back of my mind.”

A few weeks before the task force got to work, Lievonen had made a presentation—by Zoom, of course—to a public COVID-19 webinar at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. He cautioned his audience that a novel coronavirus vaccine could take well over a decade to produce. Some observers had pegged 12 to 18 months as the fastest possible time frame, which Lievonen recalls was “still far beyond anything I would have thought at that point.”

Starting in June, the task force quietly invited manufacturers of most of the leading candidates to make presentations. (The panel’s existence would not be made public until August—and even now the government is reluctant to talk about it.)

“Most members were logging full-time hours, particularly through July and August,” says Lievonen. They liked what they heard from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Medicago, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline—and eventually recommended that Public Services and Procurement Canada, headed up by rookie cabinet minister Anita Anand, pursue supply agreements with all of them.

While those experts toiled in obscurity, the government’s critics were already beginning to raise the alarm about a weak link in the federal procurement strategy. Other countries, like the U.K. and the U.S., had plans to manufacture vaccines by the millions on their own soil, but Canada did not; nor could it rely on American supply chains, which Washington had reserved for domestic supply.

Canadians, it turned out, would be entirely at the mercy of European-made drugs.

By early August, Brad Sorenson had been waiting to hear back from Ottawa for several months. Before the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic in March, the president of Calgary-based Providence Therapeutics had started talks with the feds on a homegrown COVID-19 vaccine. But he was starting to feel impatient.

As far back as February, Sorenson conferred with his scientific advisory board about the novel coronavirus. It was clear to them life was about to be disrupted in a big way. The company had been working on cancer vaccines but decided to pivot to COVID-19.

Sorenson spent part of March in Hawaii for his father’s 80th birthday. He returned to Alberta just before lockdown, and convened an emergency meeting on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine that used mRNA—the same technology as Pfizer and Moderna’s product. Within weeks, Providence took a preliminary plan to Health Canada. The bureaucrats were “responsive” and eager to learn more. At that point, Sorenson estimates his company trailed Moderna’s progress by only a couple of months.

By April, Providence had submitted a formal proposal to the federal Strategic Investment Fund that sought $35 million for clinical trials. Then the waiting began. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. On Aug. 17, the day before the Liberals prorogued Parliament, Sorenson heard back. The feds had turned down the proposal, saying Providence wasn’t far enough along to meet the requirement for funding. Eventually, the company scored a few million dollars for clinical trials from the National Research Council (NRC). Sorenson admits he was angry at the time. “This was no warp speed,” he says. “This is turtle speed.”

As Sorenson waited, his proposal started to look like a missed opportunity for a federal government desperate for domestic vaccine production.

China’s CanSino was Canada’s big early bet on making a vaccine domestically. Attached to the plan was $44 million for upgrades to the NRC’s Human Health Therapeutics facility in Montreal. That plant was meant to eventually produce CanSino’s vaccine candidate, Ad5-nCoV.

The plan fell through when Chinese customs officials prevented the shipment of test vaccines from leaving the country. Documents tabled in Parliament in January revealed the feds were aware of the blocked shipment just days after the CanSino deal was announced in May. Exactly why the shipment was blocked remains a mystery, though the Chinese didn’t kibosh similar exports to other countries. Canada’s bet on CanSino angered the government’s critics, including the opposition Conservatives, who cast the Liberals as naive for partnering with a Chinese firm in the middle of a deep freeze in bilateral relations.

But if not CanSino, could the NRC lab be used to produce another company’s more promising candidate? Other countries had plans to manufacture AstraZeneca’s vaccine on their own soil. Why, critics wondered, hadn’t Canada negotiated a similar licensing agreement?

The Liberals insisted that was impossible at the time. A spokesman for Public Services and Procurement Canada says when the feds were doing deals, the country “had no flexible large-scale bio-manufacturing capacity suitable for a COVID-19 vaccine.” Canada hasn’t had a publicly funded lab that mass-produces vaccines since the ’80s, and no big private labs have the technology in place to make mRNA vaccines. Both of the largest pharma facilities in Canada—GlaxoSmithKline’s plant in Quebec City and Sanofi’s operation in Toronto—would have had to build entirely new facilities in order to produce a vaccine like AstraZeneca’s, says Andrew Casey, the president of pharmaceutical lobby group BIOTECanada.

In August, Ottawa committed $126 million over two years for a new NRC bio-manufacturing facility in Montreal. It said at the time the new facility would, as early as this coming July, be equipped to produce up to two million doses a month of several kinds of COVID-19 vaccines—including the viral vector technology used by AstraZeneca and the protein subunit technology used by Novavax. (That projected date would prove to be wildly optimistic.)

The feds could also have given Providence a shot. Sorenson laments what could have been with that $35-million injection last year. Providence, which is currently running phase 1 clinical trials, might have been much further down the line.

CanSino, meanwhile, found a new locale to test its vaccine: Russia.

Canada’s hope for nailing down contracts for vaccines now rested with a tiny group of bureaucrats, just 10 to 20 people working from home in and around Ottawa—and Oakville, Ont., where Procurement Minister Anita Anand spent the summer.

“You have to keep it small because we put our best negotiators on the table,” explains Arianne Reza, the associate deputy minister for procurement at Public Services and Procurement Canada.

They were a seasoned team already battle-tested by months of pandemic scrambling, says Reza. The department was just emerging from the springtime rush for personal protective equipment and testing supplies. They were buying billions of products seemingly on the fly. “You normally do business with pre-qualified, trusted suppliers. All of a sudden, we were in the thick of it, buying masks and gloves,” says Reza. “So much complexity. So much risk.”

At one point, when Reza turned to procuring all the supplies for immunization—syringes, vials, stoppers and swabs—she picked up the phone and called a vendor out of the blue. “That person was very suspicious of getting cold-called by the Government of Canada to offer them a contract,” she says. “I had to go through many layers, many verifications, to convince them I was the real deal.”

The feds bought up to two billion pieces of PPE, 40 million rapid tests, 145 million syringes and 126 cold and ultra-cold storage freezers. Even so, the negotiations for vaccines was a whole new game.

Anand, a lawyer and professor who specialized in corporate governance before entering politics, explained the intricacies of vaccine deal-making. “It’s not simply a matter of distributing standard-form contracts and having vaccine suppliers agree to our preferred terms,” the procurement minister tells Maclean’s. “Each supplier has its own set of concerns. As a result, each agreement is bespoke and contains terms related to doses and price and manufacturing and finishing parameters of each vaccine.” The manufacturers, keen to see doses actually administered, were lured in part by Canada’s strong public health network and widespread embrace of vaccination.

Reza said Canada enjoyed certain advantages. “The reputation of having a first-rank regulator made it easy to attract them to the table,” she says. A senior government source familiar with vaccine procurement planning says Canada faced a “middle power issue”—wielding more influence than most countries, but offering smaller orders than the U.S. or European Union. Reza took the opposite view, arguing that Canada’s comparatively modest needs “wouldn’t add a huge burden” to manufacturers’ supply chains.

In the case of Moderna, Bergstedt says negotiations involved “tough conversations” that stretched late into the night and into weekends as the two sides haggled over the timing of supply and the volume of doses. The Canadians were “efficient,” he says; it had been more of a challenge to pin down negotiations with EU customers. Moderna knew the whole planet, including Canadians, were watching closely. “Building a relationship of transparency and trust is critical for us in a world in which people are very cynical about pharma in general,” says Bergstedt.

On July 24, Canada inked an advance supply agreement with Moderna. The feds announced other deals: Pfizer on Aug. 5, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax on Aug. 31, GlaxoSmithKline on Sept. 22, AstraZeneca on Sept. 25 and Medicago on Oct. 23.

By early fall, Canada seemed to be sitting pretty, having secured up to 398 million potential vaccine doses between seven companies, the world’s most diverse portfolio and more doses per capita than any other nation on Earth.

Some questioned Ottawa’s refusal to discuss the fine print of those deals—what was Canada paying and what did the contracts say about Canada’s place in the global pecking order? Canada was one of the first countries to lock down deals with Moderna and Pfizer, but was much later than some of its rivals to sign with other companies. Could that affect deliveries?

“Staking out the back of the queue means that we might beg for a little vaccine in a hurry for our health-care workers or most vulnerable,” Amir Attaran, a biomedical scientist and lawyer at the University of Ottawa, wrote in Maclean’s last summer. But ordinary Canadians should “expect to wait.”

Procurement Canada’s official line was the feds “cannot disclose details of specific agreements in order to protect Canada’s negotiating position and commercially sensitive pricing information, as well as to respect confidentiality clauses in the vaccine agreements made to date.”

Nevertheless, early doses would soon begin arriving, and months ahead of anyone’s wildest expectations.

Four days after Moderna’s vaccine was approved on Dec. 23, a FedEx delivery arrived in Whitehorse. Similar deliveries would happen over Christmas in all three territories.

Benton Foster, Yukon’s director of community health programs, said his team “first started hearing rumblings” about the distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in early November, before either was approved. The feds were hinting at first-quarter deliveries in 2021, which Yukon officials initially interpreted as aligning with their fiscal year—meaning they’d see delivery in April. They soon realized Ottawa was talking about the calendar year. “Everyone was kind of in disbelief that it would happen,” says Foster.

The rollout required a big country like Canada, with so many rural and remote communities, to reckon with monumental logistical questions. Former military leaders, known for their mastery of rules and promptness, emerged as obvious choices to lead the effort. The feds enlisted Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to coordinate federal-provincial co-operation. Ontario turned to Rick Hillier, Canada’s chief of the defence staff during the height of the war in Afghanistan. UPS and FedEx unveiled advanced tracking technology that monitored every shipment from Europe.

But a less hopeful Christmas story was unfolding in Ontario, where the real challenge with the vaccine rollout was proving to have little to do with logistics.

On Boxing Day, health-care workers in Ontario took to social media in protest after the province stopped vaccinations for a short period over the holidays. Observers also noted a significant drop in injections on weekends. At a time when more than 100 people in Ontario were dying every day in an out-of-control second wave, a pause in vaccinations looked as absurd as firefighters leaving a five-alarm blaze for a lunch break.

A source close to Ontario’s rollout team stood by the province’s strategy, arguing that health-care workers desperately needed a holiday break, and the province was ratcheting down weekend appointments largely to prevent no-shows that would result in thawed doses going to waste.

But a bigger problem still was emerging across the country. Most provinces’ hastily prepared immunization programs started to outpace shipments from Pfizer and Moderna by January. Several provinces worried they’d run out of doses before they could administer second shots within the roughly three-week time frames recommended by Pfizer and Moderna.

The Liberals were nevertheless sticking to their guns. Negotiators had secured four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and two million doses of Moderna’s product, guaranteed before the end of March. And Canada would still get those doses, they promised.

The truth was that the numbers were now out of the government’s control.

In mid-January, Pfizer announced a temporary slowdown in production as the company retooled its facility in Puurs, Belgium. Christina Antoniou, a company spokeswoman, acknowledged at the time that “fluctuations in orders and shipping schedules” would impact deliveries “in the immediate future.”

A few days later, the Liberals dropped a bomb. Pfizer would send no shipments to Canada in the last week of January. Federal officials claimed every country would receive fewer doses, and that they expected “equity” from Pfizer. But exports to EU members never hit zero.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose country emerged as a global vaccination leader, boasted of a dozen phone calls with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Suddenly, everybody was calling Pfizer Canada’s president, Cole Pinnow. Doug Ford called him up. Erin O’Toole picked up the phone and then demanded Trudeau call Bourla—which he did.

Anand maintains “very close contact” with Pinnow. “I text with him regularly,” she says, adding that she spoke to him every day the week Pfizer announced reductions. Moderna gets the same treatment. Patricia Gauthier, the company’s country manager for Canada, says phone calls certainly don’t hurt. “Everybody’s looking at how can we accelerate? What can we do? I understand people are anxious.”

On Jan. 29, Moderna also announced a temporary reduction in shipments to Canada.

Amid the uncertainty, NDP MP Don Davies, the party’s health critic, joined the Tories in pressuring the Liberals to release at least some of the terms and conditions of their contracts, as the U.S. had already done. “I’m very suspicious of a government that’s gone through such Herculean efforts to resist that. What are they hiding?” he asks. “Deliveries are probably contingent on a lot of factors that are out of the government’s control.”

Moderna’s Bergstedt offers that the company will face penalties if it misses its first-quarter obligations. “The government has held the industry responsible for keeping its commitments,” he said. “We’ve not been given a blank cheque.”

In the middle of the zero-delivery week, Canada’s place in the queue took yet another potentially disastrous hit when the EU, angry with U.K.-based AstraZeneca for reducing its planned supply, threatened export controls. Trudeau told reporters that European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen had assured him EU protectionism wouldn’t affect Canadian imports. But Canada was absent from a list of exempt countries.

The limited supply of approved vaccines meant that one country’s gain was necessarily another’s loss. That contagious vaccine nationalism threatened to launch a supply chain cold war.

At the end of the month, Canada’s sputtering vaccine effort ranked 20th in the world, behind countries like Spain, Hungary and Estonia.

In early February, Canada announced a new plan to manufacture Novavax doses in Montreal, beginning in 2022—months after the initial vaccination campaign is supposed to wrap up at the end of September. In the likely event new variants require new or modified vaccines, Canada will be ready.

But Canadians will surely be looking enviously at countries that will ramp up much sooner. Australia will be pumping out AstraZeneca doses by the millions domestically as soon as that shot is approved. Japan plans to manufacture up to 90 million doses of the same vaccine.

Domestic production and licensing agreements increasingly seem to be the path to speedy vaccinations. The U.S. is ramping up quickly, having administered 32 million vaccines by February, three times Canada’s per capita rate. At the same time, the U.K. was at five times Canada’s rate.

Israel bet on closer ties with Pfizer, agreeing to hand over anonymized biometric data in exchange for early doses—a deal that raises serious privacy concerns but has also seen five million shots administered in a month. It’s already seeing sickness declining among those over 60.

Canada’s solution in the absence of an ability to manufacture vaccines was an impressive shopping spree—we out-purchased everyone in the world. In February, along with AstraZeneca’s imminent approval, both Novavax and Johnson & Johnson published clinical data that showed promise. Canada had secured up to 134 million doses of those three vaccines. The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine could on its own be a game-changer.

Still, at this writing at the beginning of February, the hole in Canada’s plan has been deepening by the day, as the rollout falls further and further behind other developed countries. Can Canada catch up? Maybe. If supply disruptions don’t sink the government’s planned ramp-up in April, Canada would need to administer more than 300,000 shots per day before the end of September to inoculate most Canadians. That’s orders of magnitude more than the current peak this year of 48,195 on Jan. 15. But, again, if the deliveries that Canada’s devoted team of bureaucrats lined up last spring start landing as planned, the pieces are in place to get doses into arms in community halls, arenas and pharmacies across the nation.

The priority for now remains long-term care homes, where new, more transmissible COVID variants have started to creep in. More than 50 people died at a long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., in January. The province planned to immunize every resident and worker in high-risk long-term care homes by Feb. 15.

Ontario hopes to extend its rollout to other high-risk populations—those over 80 years old, front-line workers and Ontarians with high-risk conditions—in March. In August, it will open up to anyone who wants a shot. British Columbia is hoping to broaden beyond high-risk populations by July. In a “high-supply scenario,” Manitoba plans to wrap up its program entirely by September. Alberta, on the other hand, only anticipates a rollout to the general public in the fall. A general rule of thumb: the youngest will wait the longest.

But there’s no real winning in this race. Canada has lost 20,000 souls and counting. There isn’t a vaccine on the planet that can fix that.

 

 

Ford beats Q4 earnings estimates,
announces $29 billion electric
and autonomous car plan

By Gary Gastelu
FOX Business
Feb 5, 2021

Ford beat Wall Street estimates with adjusted fourth-quarter earnings of 34 cents per share on $33.2 billion in revenue versus an expected loss of 7 cents on $32.89 billion, but reported a full-year net loss of $1.3 billion, its first since 2008.

The automaker also announced a near doubling of its investments in electric vehicles to $22 billion through 2025, with an additional $7 billion earmarked for autonomous car development.

“We are accelerating all our plans – breaking constraints, increasing battery capacity, improving costs and getting more electric vehicles into our product cycle plan,” CEO Jim Farley said in a press release on the results. “People are responding to what Ford is doing today, not someday.”

During Ford's earnings call, Farley said that the amount doesn't include potential in-house battery production, which would require additional investment.

Ford's combined $29 billion plan for EVs and AVs compares to General Motors' latest commitment to invest $27 billion in the technologies through 2025.

Ford projected an $8-$9 billion profit for 2021 that includes a $900 million gain on its stake in electric vehicle startup Rivian, in which it made a $500 million in 2019. Rivan, which is scheduled to begin deliveries to customers late this year, was reportedly valued at $27.6 billion following a recent funding round in January.

Ford cautioned that the ongoing semiconductor chip shortage that has affected production could negatively affect its 2021 performance.

Farley used the chip issue as an example of why it will need to be aggressive, but smart developing the battery supply chain for its electric vehicles, and that more details on the electric car plan would be revealed in the spring.

 

Ford to sell Mustang
Mach-E in China

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
Feb 4, 2021

Ford Motor Co. will offer its new, all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV to customers in China, the Dearborn automaker said Thursday.

In a news release, the automaker said that the vehicle will be manufactured in China by its joint venture with a Chinese automaker, Changan Ford, for local customers. 

The announcement comes amid an effort by the automaker to turn around its automotive operations in part by allocating resources and capital to its strongest businesses and vehicle franchises, and by electrifying its most iconic and popular nameplates, including Mustang.

The Blue Oval noted the introduction of a China-built version of Mach-E is part of its "Best of Ford, Best of China" strategy aimed at offering customers in the region "industry-leading smart vehicles and advanced technologies."

The automaker historically has struggled to gain traction in the China market, but has seen its results trend in a more positive direction amid a refresh of its Chinese lineup to make its offerings more in line with Chinese customers' demand for SUVs and luxury vehicles.

Touting Mach-E as "a breakthrough vehicle in Ford's electrification strategy," the Blue Oval claims the vehicle "will set new standards in style and performance in the Chinese high-end EV market when it becomes available in China later this year."

Ford has committed to investing $11.5 billion in electrification by 2022. An all-electric version of the automaker's flagship F-150 pickup truck is due out next year, as is an electric version of its popular Transit cargo van.

The China-built Mach-E will feature a "smart cockpit" equipped with Ford's driver-assist technologies (called Ford Co-Pilot360) and an infotainment system that will receive upgrades via over-the-air software updates. The vehicle will have the capability of hands-free driving on prequalified sections of divided highways. 

The automaker claims it will be the first in China to offer "cellular vehicle-to-everything," or C-V2X, technology in mass production vehicles. C-V2X is essentially the vehicle's communication system, and Ford says it will help drivers "anticipate potential driving hazards and improve traffic safety and efficiency."

The Mach-E sold in China will have an estimated driving range of more than 600 kilometers, or about 373 miles. 

Meanwhile, Ford also announced it also will localize production of Mach-E's GT performance edition. "The GT high performance edition will adopt a front and rear dual-motor layout, joining the 3-second club with its impressive 0-100km/h acceleration capabilities," the automaker said.

 

 

Retiree Konrad Wilski Celebrates
his 97th Birthday Feb 1, 2020

Congratulations Konrad on Your Birthday! Konrad Retired from Ford Bramalea on March 1, 1989, he has been retired for 32 Years.

 

 

Canada’s new travel restrictions
‘a death blow’ to airlines,
UNIFOR president says

Emerald Bensadoun
Global News
Feb 1, 2021

The new coronavirus travel restrictions imposed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday are "a death blow" to the aviation sector, the national president of the country's largest private union said.

"Everybody understands that governments need to do everything they can to keep Canadians safe, but we also have to make sure that we have industries to come back to when the pandemic is over," Jerry Dias, Unifor national president, said on Sunday's episode of The West Block with Global News' Mercedes Stephenson.

"We can't talk about 'build back better' and not have a strong aviation sector and that's what's at peril right now."

In an effort to crack down on non-essential travel, Trudeau announced that Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat would be suspending services to all Caribbean destinations and Mexico, effective Sunday.

He said international passengers looking to fly back to Canada will only have the option of four airports in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal, adding that they’ll be forced to quarantine for up to three days at a designated hotel that could cost "more than $2,000" while they await results from new mandatory COVID-19 tests.

“With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” Trudeau said.

“By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time, when we can all plan those vacations.”

Ad 00:03 - up next "Coronavirus: Transport minister says feds asking all Canadians to cancel vacations, not just to sun destinations"

Dias, who represents roughly 15,000 workers within the aviation sector, said airports have been blowing through cash reserves and criticized the Canadian government for doing "nothing" to help the aviation industry since the pandemic began in March.

"Workers are concerned, workers are disillusioned and they're wondering when the government is actually going to step in," he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the aviation industry, with demand for flights down between 85 and 90 per cent since spring.

In order to help, Dias said the Canadian government could waive fuel taxes for a year, advised waiving the Canadian carriers' landing and gate fees and suggested a $7-billion loan at a rate of 1 per cent over 10 years.

"That will go a long way to stabilize things, and will send the message too to the tens of thousands of workers in this industry that the government understands the strategic importance of the work that they do," he said.

Dias urged the federal to act quickly.

"Rome is burning and there's a lot of diddling going on," he said.

"We need some solutions. We need some answers. We need some commitments. And it's the only way we're going to move forward."

 

Is it time to end ‘for-profit’ long-
term care in Ontario?

By Bill Kelly  
January 31, 2021

Frustrated yet undeterred by what they see as government inaction on the long-term care crisis in Ontario, a group of doctors with expertise in the field has formed “Doctors For Justice In Long-Term Care” to advocate as one voice for immediate action to deal with the life-and-death situation.

I’ve interviewed two of the co-founders of Doctors For Justice on my show in recent weeks:  Dr. Amit Arya and Dr. Vivian Stamatopoulos. Their passion is obvious, their frustration is palpable.

They’ve presented a number of recommendations to address the shortcomings in long-term care, many of which they say have been talked about but not acted upon.

It should be noted that Doctors For Justice readily admits that the problems in long-term care pre-date the Ford government and certainly the pandemic, but the reality is, as the sitting government, the ball is in the Ford government’s court to do something.

One of the most contentious recommendations calls for an end to “for-profit” long-term care facilities in Ontario.

It’s not the first time the issue has been brought forward, but in the past, it was often dismissed as simply a ploy by unions to flex their muscle with the government.

As Dr. Stamatopoulos told me, while many of the issues existed before the pandemic, the coronavirus crisis has exasperated the problems immensely.

Dr. Arya was more blunt, saying there are more COVID-19 cases, more COVID-19-related deaths and more staffing problems in for-profit facilities, all of which contribute to the abhorrent conditions in too many of those privately run operations.

8:38Coronavirus outbreak: As long as profit is being made in senior care, that care will be restricted: Unifor president

Coronavirus outbreak: As long as profit is being made in senior care, that care will be restricted: Unifor president – May 24, 2020

For its part, the government points to a recent report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that suggests that the frightening rise in COVID-19 cases in long-term care is due to community spread, rather than shortcomings in the operation of the facilities.

But that report admits that researchers spent very little time analyzing staffing at the facilities because there are too many variations for staffing levels, training or pay across the province.

It also suggests that the higher number of cases in for-profit facilities may be due to the fact that they tend to be old buildings that aren’t properly equipped or structured to handle the crisis.

Dr. Stamatopoulos was quick to respond.

She says the inconsistent standard of care across the province is part of the problem and asks, why isn’t there a standard level of staffing and staff compensation across the province?

For-profit facilities tend to have fewer staff, less training and lower wages and that, according to Doctors For Justice, is the trifecta for poor patient care and possible tragic outcomes in this pandemic.

All of this begs an answer to an uncomfortable question — what is the priority of “for-profit” operations? Is it maintaining a healthy bottom line for their business or is it offering the best possible care for frail and elderly residents?

But, let’s not forget that government is culpable as well.

Public/private partnerships to deliver services can work but there must be strict guidelines and constant oversight of the operation to ensure that those guidelines are being followed.

That’s not happening in Ontario right now. Of the more than 600 long-term care facilities, only a handful have been inspected in the past two years of the Ford administration and that is shameful.

Residents are dying in cataclysmic proportions, staff are getting sick and staff are quitting.

This group of doctors has seen and experienced enough.

So who stands with these doctors to demand the best for our seniors?

Certainly not many of the for-profit owners, but, more tragically, not our government, which should always be putting people ahead of profit.

 

Canada announces mandatory
hotel quarantine for international
passengers, suspends travel
to Caribbean

BY LUCAS CASALETTO
Jan 30, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced further stringent restrictions on travellers entering the country including making it mandatory for passengers to quarantine in a hotel at their own expense when they arrive in Canada.

The federal government said passengers will have to quarantine at these selected hotels until the test results come back. Trudeau says it is expected to take around three days, and cost travellers around $2,000.

Those with negative test results will be able to then quarantine for the remainder of the mandatory two weeks at home, while those with positive tests will be required to quarantine in designated government facilities.

“Now is just not the time to be flying,” Trudeau said Friday. “As part of this effort, the government of Canada will work with future airlines on testing and flying requirements.”

The Prime Minister said all incoming international flights will be forced to land in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal.

Canada is also suspending all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico until April 30. In the coming weeks, non-essential travelers will also have to show a negative test before entry at the land border with the United States.

“I’d like to acknowledge the leadership of Air Canada, West Jet, Sun Wing, and Air Transat to making this commitment to suspend flights and be such strong partners in the fight to curve the spread of