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February 1, 2013 to June 30, 2013

East Court Ford


Ford introduces 'really fast'
2014 F-150 Tremor

The 2014 Ford F-150 Tremor comes standard with the company's powerful 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, offering V-8 performance, V-6 fuel economy and a launch-optimized 4.10 rear axle with electronic locking differential. (Ford)

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
June 30, 2013

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. added another variant to its F-Series pickup lineup on Thursday when it introduced its 2014 F-150 Tremor, a "really fast truck" aimed at street truck enthusiasts.

Equipped with a short wheelbase, the regular-cab truck will come with Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine. It will achieve 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque.

The truck will have a launch-optimized rear axle — the shortest final drive ratio offered in an EcoBoost F-150 — meaning that drivers can achieve fast acceleration. The Tremor is equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission, and will achieve 16 miles per gallon city — and 22 highway — for the 4X2 version.

The Tremor will come with 20-inch flat-black wheels and bodyside graphics that will distinguish it from other F-Series trucks. It will also have black leather seating surfaces and come equipped with SYNC and MyFord Touch.

The truck goes on sale this fall. Pricing has not yet been announced.

Tremor is the latest in a series of F-Series variant trims, including King Ranch, Lariat, Limited, Raptor and the recently nixed Harley Davidson.

The F-150 Tremor will be a niche vehicle, said Doug Scott, Ford's truck group marketing manager.

Regular-cab trucks comprise about 10 percent of the truck market, Scott said, but about 5 to 6 percent of all Ford truck sales. Tremor will represent a fraction of the 5 to 6 percent of Ford sales, Scott said.

The Tremor is similar to Ford's SVT Lightning truck from the 1990s and 2000s, which boasted an engine with similar horsepower to the new Tremor.

The Tremor name is not new to the Ford brand.

Back when the automaker offered its Ranger small pickup truck in the U.S., the vehicle was available in a Tremor trim.


Ford to recall 13K vehicles
over door latch issues

Karl Henkel and David Shepardson
The Detroit News
June 29, 2013

The Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it will recall about 13,100 vehicles for door latches that may fail and cause child safety locks to deactivate.

The Dearborn automaker will recall three 2013 model-year vehicles — the Explorer SUV, Taurus sedan and Lincoln MKS sedan — built at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant.

Upon opening or closing a door, the child safety lock may change from "activated" to "deactivated."

Ford said that no accidents or injuries have been reported.

As part of the recall, dealers will test rear door latches and child safety locks, and replace the latch if necessary.

The affected vehicles, sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, were built between Nov. 29 and Dec. 12, 2012.

The problem was first discovered on Dec. 6 during a routine audit, the latch supplier identified a latch with lower-than-expected child safety lock retention torque. On Dec. 7, Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant was notified of the condition and a stop-ship was issued.

Ford spent months testing the issue, using accelerated testing on each vehicle line.

This is not the first time that Ford has recalled model year 2013 Explorer, Taurus and Lincoln MKS vehicles. Last month, those three vehicles — plus other 2013 models including the Ford Flex, Fusion and Police Interceptor utilities and sedans, and the Lincoln MKT and MKZ — were among 465,000 vehicles recalled after 600 fuel leak complaints. Approximately 390,000 of those recalled vehicles were sold in the U.S.


Mulally warns feds about impact of Japanese trade on U.S. auto sales

David Shepardson
The Detroit News
June 27, 2013

Washington — Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Alan Mulally met with senators and Obama administration officials on Wednesday, warning about the impact of Japanese trade and currency policies on U.S. auto sales.

Mulally said his message was needed for free trade agreements and the "importance of letting the markets establish the currencies" and ensuring that they reflect "the global trade rules."

He declined to say if he was asking Congress to push for any specific policies on Japanese currency or other policies. "We'll all work together to ensure the right elements are in place," Mulally said. "We're going to continue to work with all of the constituents to ensure that we end up with a very positive free trade agreement."

Mulally and Ford had a key role in the final deal the Obama administration reached on a free trade deal with South Korea in late 2010.

Asked if he thought Nissan Motor Co.'s decision to lower prices on some models was the result of currency changes, he declined to comment.

Mulally said Ford sales were good in June. "Looks like the market is growing around 2 percent," Mulally said. "We're growing faster because of the strength of our products."

Mulally, along with Ford chief operating officer Mark Fields and chief financial officer Bob Shanks, met with members of Congress, including Sens. Carl Levin, D-Detroit; Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. It was his first trip to Capitol Hill in about a year.

Mulally also met with Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and new Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, among other officials on Wednesday, before heading back to Dearborn.

Last week, Mulally told Bloomberg TV that Japan is "absolutely" manipulating its currency. "With the currency manipulation, we just have to get back to the place where the currencies are set by the markets and the free trade agreements really are free trade agreements," he said.

The Japanese yen has fallen 22 percent against the dollar since November, making Japanese exports cheaper in dollar terms, and U.S. automakers argue that Japan's market is largely closed to most U.S. imports.

More than half of U.S. House members wrote President Barack Obama earlier this month, urging him to address currency manipulation as part of talks to create a 12-nation free-trade zone called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Talks with Japan are set to start after a congressional consultation period ends next month during the next round of talks in Malaysia.

U.S. automakers and the United Auto Workers union have strongly lobbied to keep the world's third-largest economy out of the talks. They fear that dropping U.S. tariffs on Japanese imports — especially the 2.5 percent tariff on cars — would give Japanese rivals a significant leg up and could lead to the loss of thousands of U.S. auto jobs.

"Japan has a well-documented history of manipulating the value of the yen to help its exporters," said Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn. "We cannot allow this practice to continue if Japan is to enjoy the benefits of free trade with the United States. Strong and enforceable currency manipulation provisions must be included in TPP in order to prevent Japan from continuing in this market-distorting and unfair practice."

Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, agreed, saying, "Michigan manufacturers and workers can out-compete anyone as long as the rules are fair, but Japan remains one of the most closed auto markets in the world."

But Japanese automakers deny the market is closed. They say U.S. automakers don't produce the right vehicles and note that other foreign automakers have seen bigger increases in sales of exports to Japan.


Ford's F-150 takes 'Most American' crown back for U.S. automakers

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
June 26, 2013

It's been five years since a vehicle built by a domestic automaker topped the Cars.com list of "Most American" vehicles, but Ford Motor Co.'s F-150 pickup climbed past Toyota Motor Corp.'s Camry for this year's title.

Built at plants in Dearborn and Claycomo, Mo., the 2013 Ford F-150 — part of the F-Series lineup of trucks that have outsold every other nameplate in the U.S. the past 31 years — surpassed the Camry midsize car, which had claimed the title of "Most American" vehicle from 2009 through 2012.

The title of "Most American" does not necessarily mean a vehicle has the highest U.S.-originated parts content. Cars.com's index is based on a formula that includes sales totals, origin of vehicle parts and whether the car is assembled in the U.S.

"Strong sales and 75 percent domestic-parts content propelled Ford's popular F-150 to the top of the index for 2013," Patrick Olsen, Cars.com's editor-in-chief, said in a statement.

Cars.com disqualifies models with a domestic parts content rating below 75 percent, models built exclusively outside the U.S. or models soon to be discontinued without a U.S.-built successor. Even though the F-150 domestic content of 75 percent met the minimum standard for Cars.com's list, the fact that it's the No. 1-selling vehicle in the U.S. took it to the top of the rankings.

The F-150 and Camry are two of eight vehicles with domestic-parts content of 75 percent. Only nine have a greater percentage of U.S.-made parts: The Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Express, GMC Sierra and Toyota Avalon have domestic-parts content of 80 percent. The Chrysler Town & Country, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia are 77 percent domestic, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures which Cars.com used.

The F-150 was previously named "Most American" vehicle from 2006 through 2008.


Ford, UAW unveil pilot program
to improve health, cut costs

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
June 25, 2013

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers on Monday unveiled a pilot program aimed at improving the health of some hourly employees while driving down the skyrocketing cost of health care insurance.

The voluntary program, which begins July 1 and will last two years, will target a couple of thousand Southeast Michigan hourly Ford workers and UAW Retiree Medical Benefits trust retirees with chronic medical conditions.

"If you have less significant medical events occurring, you're going to be using less services and that leads to less cost, which is good for everyone," said Marty Mulloy, Ford's vice president of labor affairs, at the automaker's global headquarters on Monday.

The UAW is also in discussions with General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC to implement a similar voluntary pilot program for hourly employees, said Susanne Mitchell, director of the UAW's Social Security department. Non-Medicare retirees from Ford, GM and Chrysler, who meet a specific health profile, will be invited to participate in the program.

The program includes access to personal care nurse, who will help coordinate personal health goals. The program targets workers and retirees who suffer from five conditions — asthma, diabetes, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Ford says 61 percent of its health care spend for hourly employees — which totals approximately $600 million annually — can be attributed to those five conditions. The UAW Trust spends $4.5 billion annually for its 800,000 or so members.

Ford, the UAW and the UAW Trust will not know the identities of those workers and retirees who choose to participate. They will, however, know how many choose to participate. The pilot program is in partnership with three insurance providers — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network of Michigan and Health Alliance Plan — along with some other physicians in Southeast Michigan. If the program is effective, it could be used in other U.S. regions where Ford has a large hourly worker presence, like Kansas City, Mo., and Louisville, Ky.

Ford says health insurance premiums will not change for participating UAW members or retirees.

"They have a very rich plan, and it's bargained, so we're not going to re-bargain," Rick Popp, Ford's director of employee benefits. But Popp said all employees have co-pays for certain drugs. "And the less drugs you need," Popp said, "the less you're going to pay."

Asked if the program could be made mandatory in the future, Mulloy said, "We thought it'd be best to start off as a voluntary program, and when you take a look at it ... it's a great opportunity to get health care at a (personalized) level." Popp said mandatory programs are largely unsuccessful compared to voluntary programs.

Ford and the UAW Trust, who are funding the cost of the program, are not sure how much the two-year program could save. But a similar pilot program at Boeing Co. yielded savings of 17 percent.

The Detroit News earlier this month reported that Ford and the UAW were hammering out details of the new program.

The announcement comes as health care costs for automakers continue to soar.

Health insurance is the single largest benefit to UAW hourly workers aside from hourly wages, and the cost of providing it is expected to increase dramatically in coming years — particularly as the Affordable Care Act takes full effect in 2014 and the so-called "Cadillac tax" goes into effect in 2018. The latter will impose a 40 percent tax on the value of health insurance plans above $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. The insurance plans for most veteran hourly workers exceed those totals.

"The Affordable Care Act and the Cadillac tax are going to play a big role in 2015 at the bargaining table," said Kristin Dziczek, director of the Labor & Industry Group at the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research, in a recent interview. She added that health care costs already grow at between 8 percent and 10 percent annually.

Ford, GM and Chrysler spend about $5 an hour on health care for new hires and other second-tier hourly workers. For veteran factory workers, who enjoy more generous benefits, the cost is about $8 an hour, and Mulloy said Monday that Ford's costs average about $7 an hour. By 2015, the average for all hourly workers could reach $11 an hour.

More than 70 percent of American manufacturing and production workers are obese, according to the 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Automakers and the union have taken steps to help factory workers improve their health. Many plants offer fitness facilities and offer smoking-cessation and weight-loss programs, Dziczek said.


Ford's Mulally calls
Japan a currency manipulator
amid weaker yen

Bloomberg News
June 22, 2013

Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally called Japan a currency manipulator that's giving local exporters an unfair edge as the weaker yen threatens to undermine U.S. automakers' profits.

Japan is "absolutely" manipulating its currency, the CEO of the second-biggest U.S. automaker said in a Bloomberg TV interview Thursday. "With the currency manipulation, we just have to get back to the place where the currencies are set by the markets and the free trade agreements really are free trade agreements."

Mulally, who has expressed concerns about the yen throughout this year, illustrates how the currency-led boon for Japanese exporters is drawing mounting international criticism. Bank of Korea Governor Kim Choong Soo this week urged Asian countries to work together to defend themselves against the side-effects of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's reflation campaign.

"Mulally is one of the harshest critics on the yen," said John Zeng, a Shanghai-based analyst at LMC automotive. "A weaker yen puts them in a disadvantageous position."

The yen has fallen against every major currency since mid- November, including 18 percent versus the dollar, bolstering the value of overseas sales at Japanese exporters from Toyota Motor Corp. to Sony Corp. Japan's benchmark Topix index last month climbed to the highest in almost five years and exports in Japan in May increased the most since 2010.

Mulally reiterated his concerns that Japan is a closed market for U.S. automakers, who've hired lobbyists to oppose Japan's bid to join negotiations aimed at creating the Trans- Pacific Partnership, a regional free-trade agreement. Japanese carmakers account for more than 90 percent of sales in their home market.

"It's just the most closed market in the world," Mulally said Thursday.

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, joined by 46 other Democrats, said in a letter to President Barack Obama in March that the automobile import market in Japan is unfairly closed to U.S.-made vehicles, and letting the nation join the regional trade deal would hurt rather than help address that imbalance.

It's "not true" that Japan is a closed market, Sho Minekawa, a senior managing officer at Honda Motor Co., said at a company event in Tokyo Thursday when asked about foreign carmakers' criticism that Japan is a closed market.

Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn has countered criticism over the yen, saying such calls ignore history. Ghosn has said as recently as late March that the yen is only "neutral" when it trades at 100 to the dollar and that the Japanese currency had averaged at about 110 in the past 10 to 15 years.

Among the first signs of a Japanese carmaker taking advantage of the yen, Nissan has cut prices on seven models and boosted incentives, helping its U.S. sales surge 25 percent in May, triple the industrywide gain. Sales of its Altima family sedan, which had a $580 price cut, jumped 41 percent, surpassing Ford's Fusion and closing in on Honda's Accord.

In China, where Mulally is currently visiting to open a factory in the southeastern city of Nanchang at one of Ford's Chinese partners, the CEO said the U.S. automaker's sales have been rising faster than "we all expected." He signaled China may eventually become an export hub for Ford, though the company's current focus is on meeting Chinese demand.

"I think it's just a matter of time," he said when asked about Ford exporting from China. "Over time, all of our facilities are positioned so we can support all the markets around the world from any location."

Dearborn-based Ford is on track for its $4.9 billion spending plan in China and is thinking of the next phase of investment in the country, Mulally said. The automaker aims to take 6 percent of China's market by 2015, David Schoch, Ford's group vice president who runs Asia Pacific operations, said in April.

On the Lincoln, Mulally said he expects Chinese consumers to take to the luxury brand when it goes on sale in the country next year given its history and design.

"China is a terrific market both for the volume market but also for the luxury market," he said. "The Chinese have wonderful taste."


Christa Pytel Passes Away

We were deeply saddened by the news that Christa Pytel, daughter
of retiree John Pytel, had passed away suddenly Sunday June 16, 2013.

Our Condolences go out to John and the Pytel Family

Christa Pytel

Thursday June 20 from 2-4 and 7-9

Friday June 21 at 2pm

Ward Funeral Home
52 Main Street South


Map & Location

Obituary for Christa Pytel

PYTEL, Christa Maria

Suddenly on Sunday June 16, 2013 at the age of 37. Loving daughter of John and the late Catherine. Beloved sister of Paul and Kim. Cherished grand daughter of Maria and the late Zenon Lipinski, Kathy and the late Richard Hewitt, Charmaine and the late Robert Bullock. Will be sadly missed by many Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Friends.

Family and Friends will be received at the Ward Funeral Home "Brampton Chapel", 52 Main Street South (Hwy 10), Brampton on Thursday June 20, 2013 from 2-4 & 7-9 pm.
A funeral service will be held on Friday June 21, 2013 in the chapel at 2 pm.
Cremation to follow.

As expressions of sympathy, donations to the World Wildlife Fund (wwf.ca) would be appreciated.

Visit Christa's Book of Memories at www.wardfuneralhome.com



Ford opens $300M
assembly plant in China

Bloomberg News
June 21, 2013

Ford Motor Co.'s Chinese commercial vehicle making partner opened a $300 million assembly plant, more than doubling its production capacity in the world's biggest auto market.

Jiangling Motors Corp., which counts Ford as its second-biggest shareholder, opened the JMC Xiaolan plant that adds 300,000 vehicles in annual capacity to the existing 245,000 units, Ford said in a statement Thursday. The factory will be used to make both Ford- and JMC-branded vehicles.

Dearborn-based Ford is investing $4.9 billion in China to try to catch up with General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG. While behind GM in China, Ford is growing at a faster pace and the second-biggest U.S. carmaker plans to begin sales of its Lincoln luxury cars in China next year.

"Ford's expansion in China this year exceeded our expectation," said John Zeng, Shanghai-based managing director at LMC Automotive. "Ford holds all the aces in China this year as its new products are well accepted by Chinese buyers."

The company is the fastest growing major foreign automaker in China this year with vehicle sales surging 48 percent in the first five months, spurred by demand for its EcoSport and Kuga sport-utility vehicles.

To further widen its product lineup, Ford said it will bring two new global products through Jiangling Motors. It plans to make a new Ford commercial vehicle and new Ford SUV, Ford said.

Ford and Jiangling Motors also announced plans to build an engine plant with initial annual capacity of 200,000 units.

Jiangling, which began making Transit vans in 1997, sold 94,208 vehicles in the first five months, 7.6 percent more than a year earlier, according to the company.


Chrysler agrees to recall 1.6M vehicles to address fire risks

David Shepardson
The Detroit News
June 19, 2013

Washington — Reversing course under government pressure, Chrysler Group LLC agreed Tuesday to recall 1.56 million older Jeep models for what federal safety regulators say are fire risks caused by gas tanks that leak after rear-end collisions. The government blames such collisions for the deaths of at least 51 people driving Jeep SUVs.

But in a victory, the Auburn Hills automaker won't have to recall all 2.7 million vehicles sought by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Instead, Chrysler will offer a customer service campaign for the additional 1.2 million vehicles that the government wanted it to recall. Earlier Tuesday, a Chrysler spokesman had said the company was recalling all 2.7 million vehicles originally sought by the NHTSA.

Also as part of the 11th-hour deal, Chrysler did not agree the vehicles were defective.

In the agreement reached Tuesday afternoon, the Auburn Hills automaker said it would recall 1.56 million 1992-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Jeep Libertys. Chrysler said the fix for those vehicles is a trailer hitch assembly that will protect the gas tank, which is located between the rear axle and bumper, during rear-end crashes. Dealers will install the hitches. Jeeps that already have factory-installed or MOPAR hitches won't need to get a new hitch, but those without a hitch or with aftermarket hitches will get new and presumably sturdier ones.

For the 1.2 million 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees under the service campaign, Chrysler will replace non-factory-installed hitches. It will not, however, install hitches for those vehicles without hitches.

NHTSA said at least 32 fatal rear-impact fire crashes involving Grand Cherokees have resulted in 44 deaths, and at least five fatal rear-impact crashes involving the Liberty have resulted in seven fatalities. Comparing rates of incidents with similar vehicles, NHTSA said the Grand Cherokee and Liberty "are poor performers."

In not agreeing there is a formal defect, Chrysler won a key concession that was central to averting a continued challenge. "Chrysler Group's analysis of the data confirms that these vehicles are not defective and are among the safest in the peer group. Nonetheless, Chrysler Group recognizes that this matter has raised concerns for its customers and wants to take further steps, in coordination with NHTSA, to provide additional measures to supplement the safety of its vehicles," the automaker said.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne had taken a tough public stand against recalling the Jeeps, saying they were safe. He sealed the deal Tuesday with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and NHTSA Administrator David Strickland in a telephone call, according to two officials briefed on the call.

The deal came on the day Chrysler had to formally respond to NHTSA's request to recall the vehicles, and was two weeks after Chrysler defied NHTSA's request. The government had released graphic photos of Jeep vehicles that had caught fire in fatal crashes and could have sought a more expensive fix.

NHTSA said the Jeep's plastic gas tanks behind the axles of 1993-2004 Grand Cherokees and 2002-07 Libertys can be punctured and catch fire, when the SUVs are hit from behind, at a far higher rate than comparable SUVs from other manufacturers. Chrysler, which moved the gas tank location in later Jeep models, has defended the former design as safe.

NHTSA praised Chrysler's decision to recall the SUVs, but said it isn't yet closing its investigation.

"We are pleased that Chrysler has agreed to take action to protect its customers and the driving public," the agency said Tuesday. "Consumers impacted by the safety recall and customer satisfaction campaign should have their vehicles serviced promptly once they receive notification from Chrysler. In the meantime, we will continue our investigation into this issue, pending the agency's review of the documents provided by Chrysler in its recall action."

Experts say the deal means the issue will quickly fade from the headlines. It also means lawyers seeking to sue Chrysler won't be able to say the automaker has admitted the vehicles are defective. It faces about eight lawsuits in connection with Jeep fires.

"Chrysler obviously calculated the risks and benefits and concluded that the cost to repair these vehicles isn't as expensive as the potential long-term damage that could come from bad PR," said Edmunds.com senior auto analyst Michelle Krebs. "This was probably the right decision by Chrysler. Last year, there were 659 recalls issued by NHTSA, and none of them appear to have had a lasting negative impact on any brand. Once the smoke settles, I expect that this will be just a minor blip in Jeep's history."

The Center for Auto Safety, which filed a petition in 2009 that prompted NHTSA to open a formal investigation in 2010, said the government needs to conduct crash tests to ensure the Chrysler remedy works — as the agency did with the Ford Pinto in 1978.

"If the modified Jeeps do not pass, we call on NHTSA to require Chrysler to develop a more effective remedy just as NHTSA did with the Pinto when it failed the first round of tests," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the nonprofit group founded by Ralph Nader and Consumers Union.

It has been more than two years since a major automaker challenged NHTSA's request for a recall. NHTSA can call public hearings into the issue and order a recall, but it needs a court order to enforce it. Chrysler is avoiding the public relations impact of a hearing that would likely have included dramatic testimony from victims' relatives.

NHTSA noted few vehicles made in the same period had gas tanks behind the rear axle, and said Chrysler was aware of safety benefits of placing the tank in front of it. NHTSA cited a 1978 Chrysler internal memo saying its new Omni and Horizon had fuel tanks below the rear seat, and that the upcoming K-car would use the same location.

Chrysler maintained its models are no more dangerous than its competitors' and that the fuel tank location and composition are not defects. Chrysler has, however, changed the design of the affected vehicles, increasing wheelbase and moving the spare tire so the fuel tank is between the two rear axles.


Ford to double engine
production in China

Automaker plans to double EcoBoost engine production

Karl Henkel
Detroit News
June 19, 2013

Ford Motor Co. is doubling engine production in China, company CEO Alan Mulally said Wednesday from Chongqing, China.

The Dearborn automaker now can produce 750,000 engines annually in China at its new Changan plant, which opens Wednesday.

"This kind of expansion is nearly unprecedented, and it really reflects the level of commitment we have to this region," Mulally said in a statement.

Asia is Ford's third-largest region for engine production behind the Americas and Europe.

In China, Ford — through its joint venture with China Changan Ford Automobile — will manufacture Ford's 1-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine and the new 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine. Ford created the 1.5-liter with China specifically in mind; it allows Chinese drivers to avoid about $300 in annual taxes.

Though both engines will be offered in upcoming U.S. models, they will come from engine plants in Europe, and not China. Ford's Changan facility is the second of seven plants the automaker will open in the Asia Pacific region this decade.


Retiree Ross Sutton
Passes Away June 14, 2013

Ross Sutton

William Ross Sutton
Retired October 1, 1992
28.6 Years

Peacefully, at Headwaters Health Care Centre, Orangeville, on Friday, June 14, 2013, Ross Sutton, in his 83rd year, beloved husband for 57 years of Audrey Porterfield. Loving father of Scott and his wife Natalie, Patti and her husband Gord Crawford. Cherished grandfather of Alycia, Jennifer, Michael, Steven, Aimee and Alexis. Dear brother of Elmer (deceased 2013) and Betty, Earl and Delores, Mildred (deceased 2010) and Alastair McKinnon.

The family will receive their friends at the Egan Funeral Home Baxter & Giles Chapel, 273 Broadway, Orangeville (519-941-2630) Sunday evening from 6 -- 9 o'clock. Funeral service will be held in the chapel on Monday morning, June 17 at 11 o'clock. Interment Greenwood Cemetery. If desired, memorial donations may be made to Tweedsmuir Memorial Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 276, Orangeville L9W 2N9 or Orangeville Minor Hockey Association, 6 Northmen Way, Orangeville L9W 3B2. Condolences for the family may be offered at www.EganFuneralHome.com


Buttons, knobs to return
to MyFord Touch system

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
March 18, 2013

Ford Motor Co. is planning to bring back buttons and knobs to help complement — but not replace — the touchscreen on its MyFord Touch infotainment system.

The Dearborn automaker has already added buttons and knobs for climate control and audio on new models like the Fusion midsize sedan and Escape compact SUV, a company spokesman said Monday in an email.

And as Ford continues to revamp its vehicle lineup in coming years, more models will have buttons. Consumers will still be able to adjust climate and audio via the MyFord Touch touchscreen.

The best example of the touchscreen-button pairing can be seen on the F-Series pickup trucks. Ford kept buttons in the F-Series because consumers using trucks for construction or manufacturing purposes needed easier access to simple controls.

Third-party reviewers have panned MyFord Touch since its debut in 2010, and frustrated users have caused Ford's quality rankings to suffer in many surveys. J.D. Power & Associates will release its annual Initial Quality Study on Wednesday.

But despite their complaints, consumers have overwhelmingly bought into Ford's infotainment system. The Dearborn automaker said Monday that nearly 80 percent of U.S. buyers opt for Ford models with Sync — the company's voice-activation system — or MyFord Touch.

Ford says that is double the sales mix of vehicles sold with infotainment systems from Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.

Ford is also planning another downloadable MyFord Touch upgrade this summer that will simplify some features and streamline some consumer-reported issues.


Ford's hot-selling Fusion
struggles to meet demand

Demand for the 2013 Ford Fusion has been the greatest on the coasts in markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. (Ford)

Supply may hold back sales of midsize car, up 22% this year

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
June 17, 2013

Ford Motor Co.'s 2013 Fusion became an instant hit with consumers and has thrust the Dearborn automaker into the middle of a four-car race atop the lucrative midsize segment.

But Fusion sales, up nearly 22 percent this year, may soon be stuck at current levels because Ford can't make enough to meet growing demand, particularly in markets such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. And if car shoppers can't get a Fusion, Ford may lose them to a competitor -- especially one of the strong-selling Japanese midsize cars.

"Inventory is going to be real tight during the summer months," said Erich Merkle, Ford's U.S. sales analyst, in a telephone interview.

That tightening already has begun. Ford has a 39-day supply of the car, according to automotive data and news site WardsAuto.com. That means if production were to stop today, the automaker would have enough Fusions to last about 5 1/2 weeks.

Inventory benchmarks vary by vehicle and season, but typically a healthy average is about 60 days.

The midsize car segment is the largest segment in the industry; sales of midsize cars in May were 17.3 percent of all vehicle sales, according to data compiled by automotive researchers at Kelley Blue Book.

Ford is struggling to maintain normal inventory levels of the Fusion, particularly on the East and West coasts, regions where Ford sales have historically lagged.

But the Fusion, along with the Fusion Hybrid, have connected with coastal consumers better than Ford had anticipated.

Ford has doubled its coastal retail market share, Merkle said, and pointed out that the strongest areas of growth are in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami.

Ford manufactures the Fusion at its three-shift assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, and this year will add a shift of production at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

"Clearly, it's a matter of getting more stock out to those regions of the country and that's what we plan to do in the fall when we get Flat Rock on line," he said.

The Hermosillo plant can produce about 300,000 Fusions annually; the new Flat Rock shift will be able to make another 100,000, or more than 8,000 per month.

An extra 8,000 sales a month would allow Ford to challenge perennial midsize players Toyota Motor Corp., with its Camry, and Honda Motor Co., with its Accord, and fend off Nissan Motor Co.'s Altima, which is fourth in the segment. But if Ford can't catch up with demand, the Japanese automakers may convince new car buyers to look at their offerings.

"Although midsize is still the best-selling segment, in terms of growth, things have stabilized," said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "With such competitive products from the four automakers, it's going to be a very, very tight race to try and own the segment outright."

Toyota last year sold more than 400,000 Camry cars and Honda and Nissan both surpassed 300,000 with their offerings. Ford sold about 241,000 Fusions in 2012.


Chrysler to freeze defined benefits pension plan for salaried employees

Grace Macaluso
Jun 16, 2013
Windsor Star

Chrysler Group announced Friday plans to freeze its salaried employee defined benefit pension plans as of Dec. 31, 2014.

About 8,000 workers in the United States and 850 in Canada will be shifted to a defined contribution plan, Chrysler said.

In the U.S., Chrysler began offering the defined contribution plan to new salaried hires a decade ago and as of Jan. 1, 2013 to new hires in Canada, said LouAnn Gosselin, spokeswoman for Chrysler Canada.

Chrysler decided to make the change to comply with U.S. tax regulations and to be consistent with industry trends, the automaker said in a statement.

Chrysler said it will allow retirement eligible employees who retire on or after Jan. 1, 2015 to receive 100 per cent of their accrued contributory benefit beginning at age 60 (versus age 62).

"We recognize the importance employees place on retirement benefits," said Nancy Rae, senior vice-president of human resources for Chrysler Group. "As we move forward, Chrysler Group will provide comprehensive tools and resources to help employees make decisions about their retirement readiness. By offering transitional financial seminars at no cost and providing diversified investment options in our participant-directed retirement and savings plans, employees can more easily manage their financial health and better prepare for the future."

All benefits earned through to Dec. 31, 2014 will remain in place and participants will not lose what they have accrued as of that date, Chrysler said. In Canada, the salaried employee defined benefit pension plan freeze does not affect those who were hired after Jan. 1, 2013, have already left the company or are currently retired.

Last year, General Motors similarly moved its salaried work force to a defined contribution pension plan.

During the last round of Detroit Three-CAW negotiations, the union agreed to changes to pensions for new hires. New hires, who will also take 10 years to reach the wage level of longer-term Detroit Three workers, will have a hybrid pension plan – the payout for half guaranteed by the employer and the other half based on investments chosen by the employee.

A defined benefit plan puts the legal onus on the employer to make sure it is adequately funded and guarantees workers a set pension based on earnings and years of service. Under a defined contribution plan, the risk is assumed by individual employees.


CAW Reaches Tentative National Agreement with Loomis Express

June 14, 2013,

A work stoppage by thousands of CAW members at Loomis Express has been narrowly averted after marathon bargaining talks led to a tentative agreement for a national contract.

"The CAW members at Loomis Express stood together across the country and fought hard to resist the massive concessions tabled by this employer," said Bob Orr, Assistant to CAW President Ken Lewenza. "The CAW Master Bargaining Committee comprised of members from six different provinces is unanimously recommending acceptance of the new agreement," Orr added.

The agreement was reached in advance of the deadline of 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, As a result of the reaching the tentative agreement, the deadline has been lifted and work will continue at Loomis Express in all locations across the country.

The CAW will be setting up ratification meetings in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Nova Scotia in the near future.

Further details of the tentative agreement will be released after the ratification process has been completed.


Ford will not update
Focus Electric for 2014

2012 Ford Focus Electric (Ford Motor Co.)

Karl Henkel and David Shepardson
The Detroit News
June 12, 2013

Ford Motor Co. will not make any upgrades to its Focus Electric compact car for the 2014 model year, yet another sign the automaker's lone all-electric vehicle is struggling to maintain relevance.

The Dearborn automaker will not have any base vehicle changes for the new model year, which debuts this summer. It's an unusual non-move for an automaker that often tinkers with vehicle packages and options on a yearly basis and will not help the vehicle gain much-needed traction in the marketplace, analysts say.

"My hunch is they do not want to put a lot of effort into the Focus EV," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, in a telephone interview. "It's almost like an obligatory vehicle they have to have for fuel economy and image. Ford's heart is not in this."

The Focus EV's lagging sales and unchanged attributes come at a time when competitors are retooling their EVs and as Ford plans to add production at its Saarlouis Assembly Plant in Germany for the European market, a move Ford will announce today.

Nancy Gioia, Ford's director of Global Electrification, said in an interview Tuesday that while the company is happy with sales of the Focus EV, it is a "niche" product, behind hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

"We still see battery electric as niche," Gioia said on the sidelines of an electric vehicle conference in Washington. "We think that by focusing on the plug-ins and that awareness, we actually end up benefiting both the hybrids and the plug-ins."

Through May, automakers have sold approximately 18,000 battery-electric vehicles and 6.39 million total vehicles.

Ford has three hybrids — a Fusion, C-Max and Lincoln MKZ — and two plug-in hybrids — the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrids.

Gioia said EVs still have issues including range limitations, battery life and charging infrastructure.

"The batteries are still very expensive," she said. "The pay back period is still tough ... BEVs are a hoot to drive. That is not the issue. The economic viability of it is."

Edmunds.com, which tracks vehicles that customers would consider buying, said in November 2012, just 0.55 percent of website visitors said they would consider a Focus EV.

That number dropped to 0.19 percent in May, the same percentage of potential buyers as Nissan Motor Co.'s all-electric Leaf.

But sales of Nissan's EV reached 2,138 in May, according to Autodata Corp.; by comparison, Ford has sold 1,416 Focus EVs since its December 2011 introduction, with most of those coming after May 2012, when retail sales officially began.

Most Focus EV sales have been concentrated in California — an electric-vehicle haven — and a majority have been sold to retail, and not fleet, customers.

Ford does not believe building more Focus EVs, which are produced on a flexible assembly line in Wayne alongside the gas-powered Focus, C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, will help boost more customer demand.

Nissan's sales gains can be attributed almost exclusively to the fact the Japanese automaker dropped the base price on the car by 18 percent to $28,800 for the 2013 model year; the car is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

Nissan also added extra cargo room, and for higher-end trims, a new on-board charger that cuts electric charging times in half. The Focus EV costs $39,200, before the same tax credit.

While Ford has offered some modest discounts on the Focus EV, it won't match hefty price cuts by competitors.

"We're not going to chase down to the lowest price possible — that doesn't make sense to erode the brand image or the true value of the product," Gioia said.

"We're going to continue to evolve that product — make it better and better ... We don't see the need to push it like crazy and erode the image of it."

Hundreds of millions have been spent by Ford and the federal and state governments to help boost the Dearborn automaker's electric vehicle lineup.

Ford spent $550 million to retool its Michigan Assembly Plant for Focus Electric, C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi production.

It spent another $450 million starting in 2010 — and received tax credits totaling $188 million from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority — for engineering and production of electric vehicles.

In 2009, Ford received a $62.7 million Department of Energy grant to help produce an electric-drive transaxle.

LG Chem Inc. — the South Korean company that supplies batteries for the Focus Electric and Chevrolet Volt — also received a $151 million DOE grant.

Another Ford electrified vehicle — the Transit Connect EV, sold for about 15 months from 2010 to 2012 — failed after its electric powertrain upfitter, Azure Dynamics, went bankrupt last year. Only about 500 were sold.

Focus EV heads to Europe
Ford Motor Co. will announce today plans to build the Focus EV for the European market at its assembly plant in Saarlouis, Germany. The Focus EV will be Ford's first fully electric vehicle built in Europe and will be available to consumers in August.
Source: Ford Motor Co.

Ford's Mustang to be featured
in 'Need for Speed' film

The Ford Mustang will be featured in the 'Need for Speed' film next year. (Ford Motor Co.)

Karl Henkel
June 11, 2013
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co.'s iconic Mustang pony car has appeared in more than 3,000 movies and television shows.

But as the car approaches its 50th anniversary next April, it will be the focal point of a movie with likely the greatest global appeal yet — "Need for Speed," a film based on the popular Electronic Arts video game series.

The movie not only coincides with the Mustang's five-decade celebration but will also target a worldwide audience that has purchased more than 140 million "Need for Speed" video games during the past two decades, and at a time when Ford will be prepping its next-generation Mustang not only here in the U.S. but also in Europe.

"We've been engaged with a lot of movies, but not to this extent with Mustang," said Mary Ellen Abraham, Ford's experimental marketing manager, in a telephone interview. "This is probably the biggest one we've done in the last several years. We see the biggest value with it."

Set to debut March 14, 2014 — a month and three days before the Mustang's 50th — "Need For Speed" will feature a made-for-movie Mustang, complete with a custom-designed wide body, 22-inch alloy wheels and larger air intakes for the supercharged V-8 engine that will be under the hood.

The story chronicles a near-impossible cross-country journey — one that begins as a mission for revenge, but proves to be one of redemption, according to DreamWorks Studios, the motion picture company led by Steven Spielberg.

"Once we figured out who we were working with the story, we needed a hero car, and we came straight to Ford," said Pat O'Brien, vice president of Electronic Arts Entertainment. "There's no better iconic car to cross the country than the Ford Mustang."

The movie is based on Electronic Arts' popular video game series of the same name, which has sold more than 140 million copies. The film will star Aaron Paul ("Breaking Bad"), Dominic Cooper ("Captain America"), Imogen Poots ("Fright Night") and Michael Keaton ("Batman") and is directed by Scott Waugh ("Act of Valor").

Ford's Mustang has appeared in movies such as "2 Fast 2 Furious" and "Gone in Sixty Seconds."


Ford, UAW seek healthier workers with pilot program incentives

Automaker, union near accord on pilot program incentives

Karl Henkel and Bryce G. Hoffman
The Detroit News
June 10, 2013

Detroit autoworkers have long been stereotyped as hard-drinking, overweight smokers. But Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers hope to help dispel that image and lower the automaker's health care costs through financial incentives to factory employees who make healthy lifestyle choices.

Details are still being hammered out, but the two sides hope to announce the voluntary pilot program next month, according to people close to the talks. Other American automakers are watching what happens in Dearborn closely and could follow Ford with wellness incentive programs of their own as the industry struggles to rein in rising health care costs.

"As part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, Ford and the UAW agreed to further discuss health initiatives," Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said in a statement to The Detroit News. "We have nothing further to announce at this time."

But sources said the program is similar to one already in place for Ford's U.S. salaried employees. As part of that program, some health insurance plans reward employees with lower premiums if they make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and losing weight.

While the pilot program being put together for U.S. hourly workers will be strictly voluntary, one source told The News that Ford hopes to make it mandatory for all U.S. hourly workers in 2015.

The salaried program already is. Employees and their spouses are required to get annual physicals to identify wellness goals. Salaried workers generally pay more for their health insurance than hourly workers do.

Chrysler Group LLC has a similar program in place for its salaried employees, and says it is following the talks between Ford and the UAW closely.

"Chrysler Group is supportive of programs that support the health and wellness of our employees and their families," said Chrysler spokesman Michael Palese. "We are aware of this effort and hope it will evolve into a viable program we can consider and evaluate for our employees."

Wellness services offered
All three Detroit automakers offer wellness services to their factory workers. General Motors Co., which has about 50,500 hourly workers in the U.S., says it is satisfied with its existing voluntary program, which provides free on-site health screenings and health coaching.

"We feel this is an effective program and it's been well received, and we're not in any active discussion to modify it," said GM spokesman Bill Grotz. "We're always open to new ideas, and improvement and approaches."

The UAW did not comment, but the talks on the pilot program are taking place under the auspices of the existing contract between Ford and the union. That deal left the door open to further negotiations aimed at lowering the company's health care costs while improving the health of UAW members.

The move comes in advance of the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which takes effect in 2014. That is bound to make health care a major topic in the next round of contract talks between the UAW and Detroit's Big Three in 2015.

Health insurance is the single largest benefit to UAW hourly workers aside from hourly wages, and the cost of providing it is expected to increase dramatically in coming years — particularly after the so-called "Cadillac tax" goes into effect in 2018. That will impose a 40 percent tax on the value of health insurance plans above $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. The insurance plans for most veteran hourly workers exceed those totals.

"The Affordable Care Act and the Cadillac tax are going to play a big role in 2015 at the bargaining table," said Kristin Dziczek, director of the Labor & Industry Group at the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research, adding that health care costs already grow at between 8 percent and 10 percent annually.

Ford, GM and Chrysler spend about $5 an hour on health care for new hires and other second-tier hourly workers. For veteran factory workers, who enjoy more generous benefits, the cost is about $8 an hour. By 2015, the average for all hourly workers could reach $11 an hour.

More than 70 percent of American manufacturing and production workers are obese, according to the 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Automakers and the union have taken steps to help factory workers improve their health. Many plants offer fitness facilities and offer smoking cessation and weight loss programs, Dziczek said. But providing financial incentives has already been proven far more effective.

More incentives expected
Approximately 83 percent of large and midsize businesses offer employees incentives for participating in programs that help employees become more aware of their health status, according to a study of 800 companies by global human resources firm Aon Hewitt. Nearly two-thirds of those businesses offer monetary incentives of $50 to $500, and nearly one in five offers more than $500.

And the incentives, according to the study, work a majority of the time. Four in five workers who took the minimal step of filling out a health risk questionnaire and receiving suggestions to improve their lifestyles took action to improve their health.

U.S. employers are expected to increase incentives for employees beginning next year with the complete rollout of the Affordable Care Act. The act will allow employers to use 30 percent of employees' health care insurance premiums on incentive programs — or $4,012 for the average family — up from 20 percent, or $2,675, today.

The maximum incentive could reach as much as 50 percent of premiums for those wellness programs designed to prevent or reduce tobacco use, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But incentives are not a surefire way to lower health care costs, said Aon Hewitt health care analyst Stephanie Pronk.

"Incentivizing is just a component," she said. "It isn't the end-all be-all. It's not a silver bullet."


Ford's 3-cylinder repeats as
Engine of the Year, headed to U.S.

2014 Ford Fiesta. (Ford)

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
June 9, 2013

Is America ready for a three-cylinder engine?

Ford Motor Co. is about to find out.

Ford's 1-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine has become an instant success in Europe, where small cars and smaller engines dominate the market.

Now, the Dearborn automaker will be the first to try a three-cylinder engine in a U.S. vehicle in more than a decade, when its revamped Fiesta subcompact debuts this fall.

On Wednesday, Ford's small engine was for the second straight year named the International Engine of the Year, a prestigious award voted on by journalists across the globe. Last year, Ford became the first engine from a U.S. automaker to win the award; prior to 2012, the previous 12 awards went to engines in European or Japanese-built automobiles.

Although the engine is only slated to appear in the U.S. in the low-volume Fiesta, the 1-liter EcoBoost engine will serve as an important litmus test, as Ford and the auto industry determine if the American consumer will accept three-cylinder engines, which would save consumers money at the pump and help carmakers meet federal fuel efficiency standards.

"Initially, it will be a case of feeling out the market," said Mike Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain at LMC Automotive, in a telephone interview. "But in the long term, it's necessary to meet future fuel economy standards. Three-cylinder engines are seen as a cheaper alternative to buying a hybrid or electric vehicle."

When it hits American highways this fall, Ford says the three-cylinder Fiesta will be among the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid U.S. vehicles.

The smallest of five EcoBoost engines — a marriage of direct-injection, turbocharging and variable cam shaft timing, and proprietary Ford software — will produce 123 horsepower and 148 foot-pounds of torque. Ford's non-turbo 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine, currently the smallest engine in Ford's U.S. fleet, produces just 120 horsepower and 112 foot-pounds of torque.

"With a technology as mature as the internal combustion engine, it's very rare to achieve a true breakthrough, but that is exactly what the team accomplished with this engine," said Joe Bakaj, Ford's vice president of global powertrain, in a statement. "You have to drive it to believe a small three-cylinder engine can deliver such performance and fuel economy."

Other automakers plan to follow Ford with three-cylinders of their own for the U.S. market.

GM plans to offer a tiny engine in future U.S. products. Some German automakers have plans for similarly small engines.

The performance of Ford's engine tops that of previous three-cylinders from the 1980s and 1990s, in vehicles like the Geo Metro small car. Since then, however, it's been a mostly European trend. In Europe, fuel costs twice as much as it does in the U.S. and small cars comprise a majority of the auto market.

Ford sells its 1-liter in a handful of European models such as the Fiesta, Focus compact and soon the Mondeo midsize car, but Omotoso believes potential three-cylinder sales success in the U.S. will be in the subcompact and compact segments. Ford has not announced plans to put the 1-liter in the North American Focus, but it remains a potential option.

"There's definitely a limit on the engines in Europe that can be translated to the U.S.," he said. "In the case of Ford, they are taking the approach of divide and conquer. There's no hybrid Fiesta or hybrid Focus, but they already have a larger Fusion hybrid and C-Max hybrid, which are already very fuel efficient."

Ford has not announced a price for its new three-cylinder Fiesta, but the typical premium on EcoBoost engines is about $1,000.

Ford ups production of 1-liter EcoBoost
Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday confirmed plans to double production of its 1-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine at its Cologne, Germany engine plant beginning in mid-August.

The production increase will allow the Dearborn automaker to manufacture more than 1,000 of the small engines daily.

Ford is adding the engines to many vehicles across the globe, including the EcoSport compact SUV in India and China and the Fiesta subcompact in North America.


Unifor: New union
embraces identity

Grace MacAluso,
The Windsor Star
Jun 08, 2013

The long-awaited name and logo of the new union born of the merger between the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union drew mixed reaction last Thursday from CAW rank and file.

"Unifor sounds like a multinational kind of company," said Mike LaPlante, a member of CAW Local 444 and line worker at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant. "It doesn't sound like something (that) instils solidarity."

The name Unifor as well as a logo depicting a red shield emblazoned with the letter U will serve as the identity and branding of the new union, officials announced at a news conference in Toronto.

Unifor will represent more than 300,000 workers in 3,000 bargaining units in 800 local unions, in more than 20 different sectors across the country. It will also reach out to retirees, the unemployed and workers in non-organized workplaces.

The name was chosen over months of consultations with members, union leadership and communications advisers, union officials said.

But, even Ken Lewenza, CAW national president, said it will be difficult to part with the name CAW. "It will take me a while to get used to it," Lewenza told reporters. "Because I have CAW tattooed on my heart."

Union officials said Unifor Canada and its logo symbolize the two unions' aspirations to be "united, strong, modern, forward looking."

"We have chosen a shield to represent us," David Coles, CEP president, said of the logo. "It's to show the union's strength, protection and security."

The logo resonated with Jerry Logan, CAW unit chair at TRW Automotive. "I think the logo is tremendous. I love the use of the shield: to serve and protect type thing."

The name, however, will take some getting used to, he said. "You know, I grew up under the CAW banner. It's kind of a little bit of a change for us, but I think it symbolizes what we want to do as an organization, to include everybody. It might take some time to grow on me, but I think it's symbolic of what we want to do in the future."

The new branding got the thumbs up from Windsor Assembly line worker James Howson. "I like it. It's cool. It's nice. Not as catchy as CAW, but it is what it is."

Laplante said there was no need to make such a drastic change. "We could have had CAW-CEP. It's the same number of letters."

"There is a big legacy with the AW, whether it be the UAW or CAW," he added. The CAW was created in 1985 when Bob White led Canadian members out of the U.S.-based UAW. "The autoworkers is built right into that, whereas this Unifor, it sounds like something you make up," Laplante said.

Logan disagreed, saying a name change represents the future of the labour movement.

"I think it was a necessity," he said. "All members from both unions were obviously very committed to their organizations and their names, but we're starting something new and I think the logo and the name go along with it.

"It's like the phoenix rising from the ashes. We're going to come back bigger and stronger and I'm excited."

Rob Friend, an hourly worker at the minivan plant, shrugged off the new name. "That's fine as long as it helps make our union stronger and raise awareness to the public about what a union does for the community," he said. "It does nothing but enhance the standard of living for everybody."

The CEP and CAW worked with Strategic Communications and Pivot Design Group to develop the name, logo and new union identity.

The launch of the new union's name and logo comes 18 months after discussions and consultations between the CEP and CAW.

Unifor's founding convention will be held over the Labour Day weekend in Toronto.


Ford recalling 465,000 cars,
SUVs over leaky fuel tank

Recall includes 2013 Fusion, Explorer, Taurus and other models

June 7, 2013

Ford is recalling about 465,000 cars and SUVs because the fuel tanks can leak and possibly cause fires if the leaked fuel ignites.

The global recall affects the Ford brand's Fusion, Explorer, Taurus (pictured), Flex, Police Utility and Police Interceptor. Also covered are the Lincoln MKS, MKT and MKZ. All the vehicles are from the 2013 model year.

Ford says a connector from the fuel tank to the fuel line is the source of the leak. Customers could smell gas or see a leak on the ground.

The company said no fires or crashes have been reported because of the problem.

Dealers will replace the fuel delivery module, which includes the connector, a Ford spokeswoman said.

About 390,000 of the recalled vehicles are in the U.S., with another 24,154 in Canada and 7,600 in Mexico. The rest are in Europe, South America, Asia and other areas.


Lincoln trims free maintenance

Bradford Wernle - Automotive News
June 7, 2013

DETROIT -- Beginning with 2014 models, Lincoln is cutting back its complimentary maintenance program to 2 years/24,000 miles from 4 years/50,000 miles.

In a May 6 memo sent to dealers, Lincoln said the revised program "complements short-term 24-month leases." In a statement, Lincoln said the new program is "competitive with other luxury brands."

Jaguar and Volvo also recently cut back their complimentary maintenance programs.

Dealer reaction to Lincoln's change was mixed.

Paul Mercer, general manager of Diffee Ford-Lincoln in El Reno, Okla., said: "They want to set themselves apart and find a niche in the luxury market. That's sending the wrong message, in my opinion."

He added: "It's going to be disappointing to the existing customer base."

Larry Taylor, president of Beau Townsend Ford-Lincoln in Vandalia, Ohio, said: "They want us to treat these customers unbelievably well. I was surprised by it."

But Bob Tasca Jr., owner of Tasca Automotive Group in Cranston, R.I., which includes two Lincoln dealerships, said the change would not make a big difference to his business. "Most Lincolns are leased for two or three years. A major part of my business is short term. I want to put them out for two or three years, not four or five," he said.



Ford to build more award-winning small EcoBoost engines

June 5, 2013

Ford’s smallest EcoBoost engine is the 2013 International Engine of the Year for the second time and the automaker is boosting production at its plant in Cologne, Germany.

The accolade comes as Ford faces some complaints and lawsuits that allege the larger V6 EcoBoost engine can lose power. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not opened an investigation and Ford has not recalled vehicles with the engine.

Ford is committed to the direct injection, turbocharged engine technology as a major tool in its strategy to meet or exceed U.S. fuel economy standards that will require a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

To meet demand for the smallest member of the EcoBoost family, Ford today confirmed plans to double production of the 1-liter to more than 1,000 engines a day, starting in mid-August at the Cologne plant.

Ford of Europe plans to more than triple annual production of vehicles with EcoBoost engines to 480,000 by 2015, from 141,000 in 2011. Of those, more than 300,000 will be equipped with the 1-liter.

“With a technology as mature as the internal combustion engine, it’s very rare to achieve a true breakthrough, but that is exactly what the team accomplished with this engine,” said Joe Bakaj, Ford head of global powertrain operations, in a statement. “You have to drive it to believe a small three-cylinder engine can deliver such performance and fuel economy.”

The small engine is in a variety of vehicles in Europe and will be offered in the Ford Fiesta in the U.S. later this year.

The engine was designed at Ford research and development centers in Aachen and Merkenich, Germany, and Dunton, U.K., It is built in Cologne and Craiova, Romania. Bakaj has said there are no plans to build it in the U.S.

The award was judged by a panel of 87 journalists from 35 countries.

“Baby EcoBoost – Ford’s first-ever three-cylinder design – is still the engine to beat across the board,” said Dean Slavnich, editor of Engine Technology International Magazine and co-chairman of the award, now in its 15th year.


Canadian Auto Workers union
gives strike notice to Via Rail

Momin Qureshi
Jun 4, 2013

MONTREAL – The Canadian Auto Workers has issued a 72-hour strike notice to Via Rail, after workers countrywide voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike if necessary.

The union — which represents some 2,500 customer service, on-board service and maintenance workers — will be in a legal strike position as of June 14, at 12:01 a.m. ET.

Union members voted 94 per cent in favour of a strike if necessary.

“I can tell you that there’s concessionary demands on the table that haven’t been removed yet. They haven’t made any kind of substantial offer to us on settlement,” said CAW spokesperson Bob Fitzgerald.

Contract talks have been ongoing since October.

“We’re hoping that some of these demands come off the table and they will come up with an offer that’s acceptable to us and we’re always optimistic about that,” Fitzgerald said.

“Via Rail’s prime goal is to reach a fair and negotiated settlement,” Via Rail said in a statement.

“Via Rail is working hard to reach an agreement with the union that will both meet the needs of, and be in the best interests of, both parties.”


As new car sales increase, automotive stocks rally

June 3, 2013

While U.S. new car sales have been steadily rising for three years now, investors are finally starting to notice that the industry they’ve long avoided may have an upside.

Stock prices for Ford, General Motors and several global suppliers have outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 index for the first five months of the year.

The S&P 500 has risen 14% year-to-date, but GM and Ford shares have gained 18% and 21%, respectively .

Even Fiat, which is dealing with the deepest and longest European recession in at least 30 years, has seen its stock price surge 62% this year on the Milan Stock Exchange. Much of that spurt came this past week amid reports that it’s lining up about $10 billion of financing to buy the remaining 41.5% stake of Chrysler it doesn’t yet own.

“People who were very negative on this segment six months or eight months ago are coming to the realization that there is something real going on here,” said Citi Investment Research auto analyst Itay Michaeli. “I think we are still only in the early innings.”

Most of the momentum is coming from the U.S., where a housing recovery is boosting pickup sales. Consumers whose credit scores dipped in the economic crisis of four years ago are finding lenders more willing to finance car loans.

Suppliers outpace automakers

Suppliers, at least those that survived, are doing even better than their automaking customers.

American Axle & Manufacturing shares are up 59% year to date; Lear, up 28%; Magna, up 33%; Johnson Controls, up 22%, and Delphi, up 28%.

Many suppliers shuttered plants and fired thousands of workers during the downturn. Now they’re scrambling to boost production without hiring too many more people, according to a report last week by the Original Equipment Supplier Association, a trade group.

“Suppliers continue to squeeze more production out of existing facilities and work shifts,” the association said in its report.

As suppliers produce more parts from existing plants, their profits are increasing.

Some of the gain is coming from a trusty strategy of buying back one’s own stock. Lear is in the midst of an $800-million share repurchase program.

“We are following a balanced strategy to deliver shareholder value by growing the business, investing in the future and delivering cash to shareholders,” said Lear spokesman Mel Stephens.

Sign of respect

Higher stock prices keep shareholders happy and provide a source of financing for expansion, hiring and acquisitions.

“Historically, the car companies have been the poster children for cyclical performance,” said Ronald Humenny, president and CEO of Starfire Investments in Southfield. “But when they are in the sweet spot of a cycle, Wall Street gets interested in a hurry.”

Investors also look for the mix of vehicles a company is selling and the strength of pickups is a bullish sign.

Last week, Citi’s Michaeli raised his price target for Ford from $15.25 to $18 per share after meeting with the company’s management team. The stock closed Friday at $15.68 after peaking above $16 per share earlier in the day for the first time since February 2011.

Fiat’s stock closed Friday at 6.12 euros, the first time it has traded above 6 euros since Aug. 4, 2011.

GM has traded above its November 2011 initial public offering price of $33 for a week now.

GM CEO Dan Akerson said last month he expects the automaker to soon regain its investment-grade credit rating and rejoin the Standard & Poor’s 500 about four years after being removed from the index. That would almost certainly give the stock a boost because many mutual funds, especially those that replicate market indices, must purchase any stock listed in the S&P 500.

Storm clouds in the distance

Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said he expects Wall Street will continue to embrace the auto sector for about another year, but warns the current cycle could end sooner than some expect.

Jonas said he is closely watching whether lenders are loosening credit too much and the downward pressure on pricing from a weaker Japanese yen and the risk that automakers could make more vehicles than consumers want.

“Pricing is the elephant in the room,” Jonas said.


Ford issues 3 recalls,
including one for 465K vehicles

June 2, 2013

Ford Motor Co. issued three recalls for 2013 models Friday, including calling back 465,000 vehicles for fire risks after 600 complaints of fuel leaks.

The new recalls are the latest in a series of quality issues facing the Dearborn automaker during the last year as it has issued repeated recalls for many of its most popular new vehicles. It also announced Friday small recalls of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ because insulation on the engine block heater cord could catch fire and of 2013 Ford Fusions that could have improperly assembled steering gears, which could cause loss of steering ability.

The first recall, for potentially leaky fuel tanks, affects 465,000 vehicles — 390,000 of them in the U.S. — including 2013 Ford Explorer, Taurus, Flex, Fusion and Police Interceptor utilities and sedans, and Lincoln MKS, MKT and MKZ vehicles. Ford said it received 600 fuel leak complaints as of March 31.

“The condition could result in customers detecting a fuel odor, or in some cases, observe evidence of a fuel leak on the ground,” Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said in an email. “While a fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source may result in a fire, there have been no reports of fires. We are not aware of any accidents or injuries attributed to this condition.”

Ford is also recalling 500 of its new 2013 Lincoln MKZ midsize sedans — 100 in the U.S. and the rest in Canada — equipped with engine block heaters. The automaker says the insulation on the engine block heater electrical cord has the potential to crack in temperatures of minus-4 degrees or colder. A cracked cord could potentially expose wiring, increasing the risk of electrical shock and corrosion.

The Dearborn automaker is also recalling 23 of its new 2013 Fusion midsize sedans — 20 in the U.S. — for steering gears that may have been built without an internal retaining clip. That flaw could result in impaired steering or loss of steering control.

The recalls are another black eye for the launch of the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, which share the same platform and are built at the same assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico.

The new Fusion, which debuted last fall, was recalled last year for problems stemming from its 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine. Engine leaks and related fire risks prompted the recalls. Engine overheating can lead to fluid leaks, which could come in contact with a hot exhaust, resulting in a fire. A software fix was supposed to fix the problem — and it did, for most owners.

But follow-up tests revealed the need for additional repairs on some engines. At one point, Ford said about 1,400 Fusions and Escapes, including some on dealer lots, were not drivable because of a parts shortage.

Most recently, the new MKZ, which was slated to launch in December but arrived as many four months late to some dealerships, had to be shipped from Ford’s Hermosillo plant to its Flat Rock Assembly Plant for additional quality inspections.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally said earlier this year the number of recalls for 2013 models wasn’t a problem, but instead a sign that the automaker was focused on quality. “We learned from every one of them,” he said.

Last year Ford recalled more than 1.4 million vehicles. So far this year it has recalled more than 700,000.

The latest recalls come days after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was opening a preliminary investigation into 400,000 2011-2013 Ford F-150 trucks with 3.5L EcoBoost engines. There have been 95 complaints alleging unexpected sharp reductions in engine power during hard acceleration at highway speeds.


UNIFOR (New Name)



TORONTO, May 30, 2013 /CNW/ - The new Canadian union being formed by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) and the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) will be named Unifor. The name and logo were unveiled today during a packed press conference of 200 local leaders, members, community supporters and allies.

"Today, we are proud to introduce our new union as Unifor, a union that will fight for working people in every sector of the economy and in every community in Canada," said CEP National President Dave Coles. "Unifor will be a union for young workers, those struggling to piece together part-time work and contract jobs, and other precarious working conditions. It will be a union for everyone."

"All together, Unifor will be: 800 local unions, 3,000 bargaining units, in more than 20 different sectors, and we're here to show that we will be a strong voice and a positive force for change for working people across this nation," said CAW National President Ken Lewenza.

Unifor Canada was chosen as a name that is expressive, dynamic, and symbolizes the two unions' aspirations as a new organization: to be united, strong, modern, forward-looking. The name was picked after a process that spanned several months and involved members, union leadership, communications advisers and community allies.

"We have a new union with a new name, and today we will begin to build the next chapter in the future of the labour movement in Canada," said CEP Secretary-Treasurer Gaétan Ménard. "This new union identity - the name and logo - expresses our aspirations for all Canadians, at work and in our communities. This new union will take our movement forward, to a new era of engagement and action."

"This is an historic moment for our two unions, and the Canadian labour movement, another concrete step in the direction of creating Canada's largest private sector union," said CAW Secretary-Treasurer Peter Kennedy. "Collectively, we will represent over 300,000 members and plan to grow to represent many more."

The two unions worked with national communications firm Strategic Communications and Pivot Design Group, in developing the name, logo and new union identity.

More information and graphics on Unifor and the new design are available at: www.newunionconvention.ca

The Founding Convention of Unifor will take place over Labour Day weekend in Toronto (August 31- September 1). At that time, CEP and CAW delegates will vote to create Unifor as an entity, and then will hold individual vote to merge with the new union.

Video with caption: "Video: On May 30, the CAW and CEP unions announced Unifor as the name of the new union that will be formed on Labour Day weekend, 2013.

Image with caption: "A strong, new, bold union for Canadian workers (CNW Group/Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW))". Image available here

PDF available here

Unifor Handout


Wage gains an ominous sign for Canada’s inflation outlook

The Globe and Mail
May. 31, 2013

Need a good reason why the Bank of Canada simply isn’t convinced by the Great Disinflation under way in this country? Take a look at the employee wage numbers.

Yes, consumer price index (CPI) inflation last month ran at an ice-cold 0.4 per cent on a year-over-year basis, the slowest rate since the 2009 recession. Yes, even so-called “core” CPI inflation (a measure that excludes the most volatile components such as food and energy, which is not only a more reliable measure of the underlying inflation trend but is the ultimate guide for Bank of Canada interest rate policy) is a thin 1.1 per cent, dangerously close to the bottom of the bank’s inflation target range of 1 to 3 per cent.

And yes, all of this would typically spur the central bank to action to bring inflation back toward the happy middle of its target range – meaning, typically, rate cuts to lend a hand to a clearly sluggish economy.

Yet the central bank continues to indicate that its next rate move, whenever that will be, will most assuredly be up, not down. It sees that there are a host of temporary factors that have kept consumer prices down – most recently a dip in fuel prices – that may not last.

And, perhaps more strikingly, it sees the wage growth.

Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that Canada’s average weekly wages rose 3.1 per cent in March from a year earlier, matching the pace of February. Those numbers are the highest since last fall, and coming back to back, they make a solid case that wage inflation is gaining speed in this country, as economic growth picked up in the first quarter.

They also make a case for considerably higher inflation pressures on the horizon, as the increased wage costs get passed along to consumers.

“If [above-inflation wage growth] continues, without being offset by gains in productivity – which, as we know, Canada hasn’t had the best record – then yes, eventually it will filter through to prices,” said Michael Gregory, senior economist and head of Canadian rates strategy at Bank of Montreal.

“Where you would see it most profoundly is on the services side, where wages are a large component of final prices.”

Indeed, when you look at wage inflation and CPI over the past 20 years, when wages go up, CPI routinely follows – typically with a modest lag of anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of quarters. But regardless of the timing, the point is that rising wages eventually translate into rising prices. Not only do producers pass along their costs to consumers, but wage gains in excess of inflation serve to increase consumers’ buying power and, by extension, sellers’ pricing power.

“It’s another very subtle reason why the Bank of Canada … is still cautious,” Mr. Gregory said.


U.S. sales outlook gives big boost
to auto stocks Add to Auto Stocks

Globe & Mail
May 30, 2013

The prospect of U.S. vehicle sales soaring to record levels has auto stocks in high gear.

Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy predicted that sales could hit 18 million a year by 2018, a decade after the industry was in such horrible shape that two Detroit auto makers went into bankruptcy protection.

His upbeat outlook for auto sales came with another bullish forecast: Shares of General Motors Co. are set to soar to $56 (U.S.) each, compared with zero when its predecessor General Motors Corp. was granted bankruptcy protection.

The expectation for 2018 sales helped send shares of GM, Ford Motor Co., Magna International Inc. and other parts makers upward Tuesday, extending recent gains. Shares of electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors topped $100 for the first time. The company went public in 2010 at $17 a share.

“After a near disastrous fate in 2009, it is arguable that the U.S. auto industry is now helping lead the U.S. economic recovery and there is still much more room to go,” Mr. Murphy wrote in a research note Tuesday.

The U.S. automotive recovery, driven by pent-up demand and an aging fleet, has the potential to feed on itself and kick the industry into an even higher gear while also giving a bit of a lift to the Canadian economy because many auto makers are operating plants in this country on overtime.

The higher sales level will benefit parts makers and publicly traded dealership groups, Mr. Murphy said, raising his price objective for those companies as well as Ford Motor Co. and GM.

If GM’s shares hit Mr. Murphy’s $56 target and the federal and Ontario governments sell their stake at that price, they would reap about $7.8-billion from the remaining 140.1 million shares in GM they still hold. Combined with the money GM has already paid back, the two governments would end up receiving more money than the $10.6-billion (Canadian) taxpayers doled out to GM in 2009.

Whether GM’s share price hits that level depends mainly on the U.S. market, which hit a trough of 10.4 million in sales in 2009 and is forecast to rise to well above the 15-million-vehicle level this year.

Three key variables underpin the current recovery in U.S. sales and expectations that it will continue through 2020, said industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. His own forecast is slightly less optimistic but still calls for sales to reach 17.5 million by 2018.

The optimism is buoyed by pent-up demand, usage by consumers and vehicle durability, Mr. DesRosiers said.

Pent-up demand throughout North America is in the tens of millions of vehicles, usage is steady and auto makers are reaching the limits of what they can do to make vehicles last longer, he said.

The industry is looking at potentially the best decade for sales in its history, even though it started out with three years well below the 16 million to 17 million in sales racked up in the first seven years of the previous decade, he noted.

Those years of hefty sales, however, were also years of tens of billions of dollars in losses for the Detroit Three as they offered costly rebates and low-interest loans to keep their plants operating and hang on to market share.

But the crisis led to the shutdown of dozens of plants and the shedding of tens of thousands of jobs and profits for Ford, GM and Chrysler Group LLC at much lower sales levels than the early 2000s.

“The restructuring actions taken by not only GM and Ford, but all auto makers producing in North America have resulted in capacity utilization in the 90 per cent range for the industry on average,” Mr. Murphy wrote.

U.S. light vehicle sales were 14.4 million last year, he noted, but capacity utilization was higher than in 2000 and 2001, when sales topped 17 million vehicles annually.


A Song for Electro-Motive Workers
Pete Denomme & The Cosmic Cowboys: They Keep Rollin'


CPP early or late? 4
reasons to take it early

Canada Pension Plan, or CPP, is part of everyone's
retirement equation. The decision to start at 60
or wait until later can be tricky.

Adam Mayers Personal Finance Editor
Toronto Star
May 29, 2013

When Winnipeg retirement planner Daryl Diamond sits down with new clients, the first question they usually ask is, when should they start taking the Canada Pension Plan.

The CPP is part of everyone's retirement equation and the government is offering plenty of incentives to delay. If you wait until 65, you will receive 42 per cent more money every month than you would have received at age 60. If you wait until 70, you'll get about double what you'd receive at 60. So, what should you do?

Diamond, the founder of Diamond Retirement Planning Ltd., and the author of Your Retirement Blueprint, says his clients are often disappointed when he tells them that there isn't a one-size fits all answer.

"My answer is always that it depends," he says.

That sums up our collective problem. Circumstances differ and while the odds of living longer are in our favour, odds are based on the averages of hundreds of thousands of cases. They create a probability of something happening, much like today's average temperature. How often is it ever 'the average'?" Likewise, when it comes to longevity Anything is possible.

"The magic number in all this is the date you die," says Toronto retirement consultant Tina Di Vito. "Since nobody knows when that will be, that's the million dollar question when it comes to the CPP."

Faced with that dilemma, most of are opting for an early pension. In 2012 more than two-thirds of new CPP recipients were under age 65, according to Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), the agency that administers the CPP.

Here are some reasons why starting CPP early can make sense:

You need the income to live on

Orillia reader Barry Caldwell retired in 2008 when he was 55 after 32 years of full-time work. He still works part-time. His wife worked for a few years before they married but stayed home to raise their family.

"The vast majority of Canadian families are two income earners and many will argue that it is better to wait until 65," he says. "But my wife's CPP will probably be less than $75 a month. Thus, taking it early is an important source of income."

The monthly CPP pension is similar for each spouse

In this case, if one of you dies, the survivor may not get much more. CPP's survivor benefit is based on the notion that the maximum payable to a surviving partner cannot be more than the maximum amount payable to one person who paid into the plan throughout a working life.

"In this case you have a situation where you won't get much of a survivor benefit," says Di Vito author of 52 Ways to Wreck Your Retirement. "So if there's a likelihood one of you will have a shorter life because of illness or family longevity issues, take it early."

You retire at 60, don't work, but wait until 65

The maximum CPP amount is based on your best 39½ years of contributions over a 45-year span between 18 and 67. You can drop about seven of your lowest-paid years. If you've already done that and don't work between 60 and 65 you're adding five years of no income to the calculation, says Diamond.

"You think that you'll come out ahead, but those years of no income come into it," he says.

You can save the money

The pension is taxable, but if you have RRSP room, you get a tax break on the way in and it grows tax-free although you pay tax when you withdraw it. If you put it into a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA), you'll pay tax on the pension, but once inside the TFSA it accumulates tax free.

"If you can save it and make it grow, you're ahead of the game," Di Vito says.

Both Diamond and Di Vito, formerly with the Bank of Montreal's Retirement Institute, say it's worth getting professional advice. You can get free advice from your bank and HRDC will give you information but no advice.

As for Diamond, he's turning 60 in November and has made his decision.

"I'm getting my first cheque in December," he says.


CPP survivor benefit: One retiree's 98 cent a month shock

As finance ministers meet to discuss pension reform they should take a close look at the survivor benefit.

By: Adam Mayers Personal Finance Editor
May 29 2013

When Canada's finance ministers meet next month, one of the things on the table will be improvements to the Canada Pension Plan.

It's an annual ritual with the provinces pushing for more money for pensioners, while federal finance minister Jim Flaherty wants to delay. That's because the only way to pay for improvements is by raising contribution rates.

For people like Bill Bell, those improvements would still be worth it.

Bell, a 76-year-old Kitchener real estate agent, started taking the CPP in 2002 when he turned 65. His wife Catherine died in May 2010, two weeks after her 60th birthday. She had paid into the plan all her working life and did not receive any CPP benefits.

Bill wasn't paying attention to the survivor benefit, but contacted me after reading about Nova Scotia couple Sheila and Winston Billard . The Billards also paid into the Canada Pension Plan, but when Sheila died last year, Winston's survivor benefit came to $22.75 a month.

Bill took a closer look and learned he received $11,221 in 2012 from CPP, including 98 cents a month — $11.76 for the year — as a survivor benefit from his late wife.

"I can't quite get over how unfair this is," he says. "The people who contributed for years probably assumed that the contributions would help their spouse get by financially."

The good news is that Canada has one of the best funded national pensions in the industrialized world. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) which operates at arms length from the government, invests our money to cover the cost of future benefits.

The Board recently reported another great year. The CPPIB's assets were worth $183 billion as of March 31, making it is one of the top 10 investment pools in the world. The Board's holdings span the globe and include stakes in our biggest banks and energy companies as well as the world's largest public companies. We own pieces of Turkish shopping centres, office buildings in Manhattan, a natural gas pipeline in Norway and TV and internet transmission systems in Europe. In 2012, the Board spent $1.1 billion for a stake in Chile's largest toll road operator, complementing our investment in the company that operates Highway 407 in Ontario.

The CPPIB's investments grew 10.1 per cent ($16.2 billion) in the year and $5.5 billion more was added from our CPP contributions. Each year the fund gets the difference between what is collected from our payroll deductions and what is paid out in CPP benefits. The board has enough money to pay the pensions of current and projected retirees for 75 years.

Provincial finance ministers, including Ontario's Dwight Duncan during his tenure, want the CPP to pay more. One area that comes up time and again as an area in need for improvement is the plan's benefits for survivors when a spouse dies.

Most pension plans have a default survivor benefit of 60 per cent. This means if one spouse dies, the survivor gets 60 per cent of his or her pension to supplement their income.

This is not the case with CPP. The rules say that if a spouse dies, the maximum the survivor can get is the maximum one person would receive in the year they started the CPP. In Bill Bell's case, he was close to the maximum and so gets 98 cents more a month.

"I'm busy trying to make money to live and am fortunate that my health allows me to do that," he says. "But I wonder about (other people) who are not so lucky. Is this a fair policy? Does it make sense?"

Keith Ambachtsheer, director of the Rotman School of Management International Centre for Pension Management, said CPP benefits can always be changed, but it comes at a cost.

He says the CPPIB is viewed internationally as a model of a well-run national pension fund, offering a good benefit when combined with Old Aged Security. But anybody eyeing that 75 years of cash in the bank should understand the money is already spent on future obligations. If we want more, we'll have to pay more.

"A more generous payment requires funding," Ambachtsheer says. "If you increase spending now, it's at a cost to future generations. They will have to pay."

Even so, it seems that survivor benefits are a place to start and something the finance ministers might want to consider when they gather in a few weeks time.


U.S. investigates 400,000 Ford
F-150 trucks for engine problems

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
May 27, 2013

Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Sunday it is opening a preliminary investigation into 400,000 of Ford's best-selling F-150 trucks for acceleration problems.

NHTSA said it received 95 reports of incidents of reduced engine power during hard accelerations in 2011-2013 Ford F-150 trucks equipped with 3.5L EcoBoost gasoline turbocharged direct injection engines, the agency said in a notice on its website.

Some complaints allege unexpected sharp reductions in engine power during hard accelerations at highway speeds, such as attempted merging or passing maneuvers.

NHTSA said Ford has issued three technical service bulletins related to intermittent stumble/misfire on acceleration from highway cruise in humid or damp conditions in some of the 2011 and 2012 F-150 vehicles.

The Dearborn automaker has issued three separate dealer bulletins since 2012 advising how to address owner complaints. Ford has not issued a recall, which is required when an automaker determines a potential problem poses an "unreasonable risk to safety."

NHTSA said one-third of the reports received say the incidents occurred while driving in humid or rainy conditions. Many complaints allege safety concerns associated with overtaking vehicles.

No crashes have been reported in connection with the issue.

Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said the automaker is aware of NHTSA's probe.

"We will be cooperating with NHTSA on this investigation, as we always do," she said.

Sales of F-Series pickups are up 19 percent this year, and the F-Series has been the best selling vehicle in America for the last 31 years. The automaker said this month it is adding 2,000 workers to add build more F-150s and vans at its Kansas City, Mo., assembly plant, part of a $1.1 billion investment.

In one complaint filed with NHTSA on May 23, the owner of a 2011 F-150 said, as they attempted to pass a slow-moving vehicle, the "truck shuddered and lost ability to accelerate."

"This has happened several times," the complaint said. "Dealership has been unable to fix problem and has just reprogrammed computer each time. This truck is dangerous and has left me on the side of road more than once."

In another complaint filed May 15, the owner of a 2011 F-150 with 41,000 miles was traveling 60 miles per hour when the check engine light came on "as the steering wheel shook violently. The vehicle also decelerated independently," the owner said. "The vehicle was taken to a dealer for diagnosis but they were unable to determine the cause of the failure."

In a complaint filed April 25, a 2011 F-150 owner sought to pass a vehicle and the truck started to sputter and shake uncontrollably. A few days later, the truck had the same problem.

"This is a safety issue while driving due to the massive shaking and lack of vehicle power to move with traffic," the complaint said. "Took to dealer and they could replicate incident, however can't seem to diagnose problem. This should be brought to the attention of Ford Motor Co. before someone gets killed in traffic accident due to loss of vehicle power."

The issue has been a hot topic among Ford F-150 owners on websites.

Ford's most recent technical bulletin, issued March 18, calls for diagnosing a condition related to moisture accumulation in the engine's Charge Air Cooler during extended highway driving at constant speed in humid or damp conditions and repairing the condition by reprogramming the powertrain control software with the latest calibration. It also suggests dealers install a new Charge Air Cooler and air deflector plate.

The bulletin also notified dealers that the F-150 has an adaptive transmission shift "which allows the vehicle's computer to learn the transmission's unique parameters and improve shift quality. When the adaptive strategy is reset, the computer will begin a relearning process. This re-learning process may result in firmer than normal upshifts and downshifts for several days."

After opening a preliminary investigation, NHTSA gathers data from the automaker about the extent of the problem and then typically spends six months to a year investigating before deciding whether to upgrade its review to an engineering analysis.

After an engineering analysis, if required, is complete, NHTSA can formally ask an automaker to recall vehicles the agency believes pose a risk. NHTSA often closes preliminary investigations or engineering analyses without ordering a recall or after the automaker takes voluntary action.


Study ranks Canada third-worst among affluent nations
for paid vacation

Austerity hasn't forced Eurozone countries to cut
back legally mandated paid vacation. The U.S.
still lacks laws guaranteeing time off

Morgan Campbell Business
May 25 2013

With peak vacation season set to kick off, a U.S.-based economic policy think tank has sobering news for Canadians.

Among the 21 affluent nations studied by the Center for Economic Policy and Research, Canada ranked third-worst in terms of legally mandated time off from work, with vacation and statutory holidays combining to give Canadian workers a minimum of 19 paid days off each year.

Austria and Portugal both require employers to grant 35 paid days off — 22 in vacation and 13 in holidays — while workers in Germany and Spain are entitled to a minimum of 34 days.

The study, titled "No Vacation Nation," is the sequel to a similar survey conducted six years ago, and lead author John Schmitt says the results haven't changed much.

He points out that the Eurozone economic crisis hasn't prompted cutbacks on paid vacation time in places such as Spain (34 days) and Greece (26), where hobbled economies prompted austerity measures from federal governments.

"It's quite surprising how little change there's been in vacation policy given the big movement towards austerity," Schmitt says. "It speaks to how important this is to so many people in so many different countries."

But he also emphasizes that the last six years haven't prompted governments in low-ranking countries to increase access to paid days off.

Canada still outranks Japan, where workers are guaranteed only 10 vacation days annually, and the U.S., where employees aren't assured any paid days off.

The study found 90 per cent of high wage earners in the U.S. have paid vacation, but without laws requiring paid time off only 49 per cent of low wage earners in the U.S. have paid vacation.

Schmitt disputes the idea that Americans simply don't value time off work.

"We have a high level of economic insecurity (in the U.S.) and that makes people very nervous about both asking for vacation or taking vacation if they have it available," he says.

"People are afraid that if they take vacation they're not going to get a promotion, or are more likely to be laid off if there's a round of layoffs."

While the U.S. economy is growing faster than many countries that guarantee the most time off, Schmitt says there's no link between mandated vacation time and an underperforming economy.

He points out that Germany has a lower unemployment rate than the U.S., even as its workers are entitled to 34 paid days off each year.


Ford to retire Falcon when
Australia plant closes in 2016

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
May 24, 2013

Ford Motor Co. will shed 1,200 jobs when it ends auto manufacturing in Australia in 2016, but that's not the only casualty of Ford's pending exit.

The Dearborn automaker also plans to retire the Falcon, a vehicle that for decades has been exclusively produced in Australia and during its recent generations has become the envy of some American fans of rear-wheel drive cars.

"The Falcon name is inextricably linked to Australia and being produced here," Bob Graziano, president and CEO of Ford Australia, told journalists in Australia, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. "We will retire that name when we retire that vehicle (in 2016)."

Sales of Ford vehicles in Australia have fallen and the automaker says it has lost about $581 million in Australia during the past five years, prompting the closure of an assembly plant — which manufactures the full-size Falcon — and engine plant in 2016.

The Falcon was sold in the U.S. until the early 1970s, but that small version of the car was not viewed favorably. For the past two decades the car — also available in a sport utility model called the Falcon Ute — has been made exclusively in the Australia. But sales in Australia have fallen sharply during the past decade and Ford has sold less than 20,000 Falcons annually in the past two years.

Ford plans to update the Falcon one final time in 2014.

CEO Alan Mulally's One Ford strategy, which calls for a consolidation of vehicle platforms and an expansion of global vehicles, has cast a longstanding shadow over the Falcon's future. The rear-wheel drive Falcon could have feasibly been built on the same platform as Ford's iconic Mustang, a rear-wheel drive car primarily sold in the U.S.

Ford recently decided to start selling the Mustang in Europe, a sign of that car's growing global presence.

The Dearborn automaker said Thursday it has not decided the fate of the Ford Territory sport utility vehicle, which is based on the Falcon platform and sold in Australia.

Other vehicles built for the Australian market include the Focus compact car, Ranger pickup truck and Kuga SUV. Ford plans to offer those vehicles in Australia for the foreseeable future, even after regional car manufacturing ends. Those imported cars will continue to come from other countries.

Manufacturing costs in other countries are minimal compared to those in Australia and are part of the reason for Ford's departure from manufacturing on the continent. Australian labor costs are about $10 more an hour than in the U.S. and Japan, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And in recent years, a weakening Japanese yen prompted greater sales of import vehicles.

There's one strategy Ford did not enact: Unlike other automakers with a manufacturing presence in Australia like Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co.'s Holden brand, Ford did not produce more vehicles in Australia for export when the Australian dollar was low and did not import more when the dollar was high.

Coupled with Australia-only products like the Falcon and Falcon Ute, Australia was not as integrated with the rest of Ford's operations as other markets are.

Ford in Australia
Here's a glance at the long history of Ford Motor Co.'s Australian footprint:
1904: First Ford vehicle — a Model A — imported to Australia.
1925: Ford Australia founded in Geelong, Victoria.
1934: World's first coupe utility, the Model 40, designed and built by Ford Australia.
1960: First full range of Falcon sedans and wagons produced.
2000: Ford Australia's 75th anniversary.
2013: Ford announces Australian manufacturing will end in 2016.


Ford to cease vehicle
production in Australia

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
May 23, 2013

Ford Motor Co. will stop manufacturing vehicles in Australia in 2016, a continent where the Dearborn automaker has produced automobiles for about nine decades.

Ford on Wednesday said two manufacturing sites — Broadmeadows and Geelong — will close, resulting in 1,200 job losses. Ford said it has lost about $581 million in Australia in the last three years.

"All of us at Ford remain committed to our long history of serving Australian customers with the very best vehicles that deliver cutting-edge technology at an affordable cost," said Bob Graziano, president and CEO of Ford Australia, in a statement. "Unfortunately, due to challenging market conditions we are unable to do that longer-term while continuing to manufacture locally."

The Australian car market iscomprised of comprises about 1.1 million annual new-vehicle sales split among more than 65 brands. A weakening Japanese yen compared to the Australian dollar has resulted in import vehicles that are less expensive.

Ford said it evaluated "all viable alternatives," but that "given the fragmented marketplace and the low model volumes that result, we decided that manufacturing locally is no longer viable," Graziano said.

Ford said it will maintain a presence in Australia through 1,500 team members, including designers and engineers, and more than 200 dealers. Ford will also launch updated versions of three popular Australian cars and will continue to offer global products like the Ranger pickup truck and Focus compact car.


Rising car sales shrink annual
summer plant shutdowns for
Detroit's Big Three

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
May 22, 2013

Summer vacation will be cut short for more auto factory workers this year, as carmakers try to keep up with heightened demand.

Detroit automakers plan to reduce their annual two-week July shutdowns at dozens of North American plants that produce popular models such as Ford Motor Co.'s F-Series pickup trucks and Chrysler Group LLC's Jeeps.

"This sends a strong signal that the industry is in a healthy place," Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at market researcher LMC Automotive, said in a telephone interview. "Competitively, automakers don't want to be caught without vehicles that consumers want."

Ford, General Motors Co. and Chrysler — which have collectively grown their market share this year for the first time in two decades — have their North American plants running at or above capacity, meaning nearly all operate two shifts, with many running three. And this year, they are trying to squeeze every bit of production from their plants.

Auto sales are up 6.9 percent through April, according to Autodata Corp., and U.S. sales may hit 15.5 million this year. That would be the highest annual total since 2007, according to industry news and data company WardsAuto; in 2007, automakers sold nearly 16.5 million cars and trucks but had more production facilities scattered across the continent.

Automakers customarily idle their plants for two weeks during the summer, but in recent years have been reducing that off-time — allowing them to produce tens of thousands more vehicles.

This year, for instance, nearly all of Chrysler's engine, transmission and stamping plants will work straight through the summer.

In addition, three of Chrysler's North American assembly plants won't have a summer shutdown, including two in Detroit: the Jefferson North Assembly plant, which manufactures the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Connor Avenue Assembly Plant, which makes the SRT Viper. Four North American assembly plants will take just a one-week break. Last year, four Chrysler assembly plants worked through the summer; two others took one week off. Chrysler has 26 North American assembly, powertrain, transmission and stamping facilities.

Ford will halve the vacation time at 20 of its 31 North American factories, including six of its assembly plants. Last year, the automaker limited summer shutdowns at 13 facilities.

"When sales and marketing asks us for more, we build more," said Jim Tetreault, Ford's vice president of North American manufacturing. "Our goal in manufacturing is to make one more than they want."

Mark Reuss, GM's North American president, said this week the automaker hasn't had a company-wide two-week summer shutdown since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009. And this year, plants such as Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant, home to the Cadillac ATS and CTS, and the Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant, which produces full-size SUVs, will forgo vacations to manufacture more vehicles. The Flint Truck Assembly Plant, home to GM's full-size pickups, will be down the first week of July.

GM spokesman Bill Grotz said today's plant shutdown times are based on vehicle life cycle and market demand. He said the automaker has made "slight tweaks" to its production plans this summer, though he wouldn't elaborate.

Union officials from several GM factories said Tuesday their facilities will be down during some of July. The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant; Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan.; Lordstown Assembly Plant near Youngstown, Ohio; and CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, will each be down during the first two weeks of the month.

Summer shutdowns are not layoffs; rather, they are scheduled vacation time. UAW members who work at plants with shorter shutdowns will be able to use their previously scheduled July vacation time later this year.

White-collar plant employees follow the lead of their blue-collar co-workers; if a plant remains open, both classes of workers report to the factory. Most white-collar workers who don't work in plants aren't required to take mandatory summer vacations.

Automakers have upped production this year in anticipation of strong demand during the second half of the year, particularly among people who are returning leased cars. Returning to dealerships this fall will be the largest group of lessees since before the recession — when leasing took a back seat — though that group of consumers won't be any bigger than drivers who leased before the recession.

"This is really the last of the low period caused by the recession," Schuster said.

And those returning consumers will buy or lease more expensive vehicles: The average car price has jumped about $3,000 in the past three years, according to data from market researcher TrueCar.

Automakers look to pad their growing North American bottom lines because this year, because sales of more profitable pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles have outpaced the rest of the industry.

But additional production of some hot-selling models might not be enough to satisfy swelling demand.

Ford, for instance, says it cannot make enough of its Fusion midsize sedans. Sales of the car through April have jumped 25 percent this year. The Dearborn automaker has a three-shift operation in Mexico that can pump out 300,000 Fusions annually and will add a shift in Flat Rock in late summer or early fall to produce another 100,000.

Until then, supply will remain tight, Erich Merkle, Ford's U.S. sales analyst, said in a telephone interview last week.

"We're doing everything we can now to get as much as we can to all markets," he said. "But June and July will be very tight."

Ford consolidating Fiesta
production in Thailand

Ford moving work from Mexico, India in '16 to free up N. American production capacity

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
May 21, 2013

Ford Motor Co. plans to free up much-needed production capacity in North America by shifting manufacturing of its Fiesta subcompact car to Thailand in 2016, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

The automaker plans to move Fiesta manufacturing from its Cuautitlán Assembly Plant in Mexico — as well as its Chennai Assembly Plant in India — to a centralized facility in Thailand, according to the sources. A Ford plant in Rayong, Thailand, is currently a manufacturing site for the Fiesta. The Fiesta also is made at seven other plants across the globe.

"We can't divulge our future product plans, but we're always looking for ways to optimize our global manufacturing capability," Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said in an email.

A move to consolidate production makes sense, especially since the "critical mass" of current and future Fiesta sales is concentrated in Asia and nearby Europe, said Jim Hall, analyst at 2953 Analytics LLP.

"The question has been about what the future is for the Thailand plant," Hall said in a telephone interview. "It might have to do with utilizing that plant. And they can always find something to backfill Mexico with."

It is unclear what would be produced at the Cuautitlán plant in Mexico, which currently builds only the Fiesta, after the production shift.

The Dearborn automaker, as part of CEO Alan Mulally's restructuring efforts during the auto crisis, has optimized efficiency at its North American assembly plants. Those facilities currently operate at 114 percent capacity, which means nearly all run two shifts and many run three.

Most of Ford's U.S. vehicles are manufactured at North American plants. And U.S. auto sales could grow by more than 1 million in coming years, according to some projections.

Already running at tight capacity in a region with room to grow, a flexible plant like Cuautitlán has extra value to Ford. The plant is modeled after a Mazda Motor Corp. plant in Hiroshima, Japan — and also the Rayong plant, a joint-venture between Ford and Mazda, and Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant. Those facilities allow Ford to produce multiple vehicles per assembly line.

A major overhaul of the Cuautitlán facility in 2008 allowed Ford added flexibility, but the revamped Mexican plant has produced just one car — the Fiesta.

The planned production consolidation in Thailand would take place between Fiesta generations. The small car is currently in its sixth generation and is going through its mid-cycle refresh for the 2014 model year. The next generation is expected to be built on a new, more flexible platform, in line with Ford's long-term strategy of reducing its number of global platforms to cut development costs.

Along with the Fiesta, the Rayong plant — one of two Ford plants in the province — also produces the Ford Ranger pickup and Everest SUV, along with Mazda's BT-Series pickups.

The relationship between Ford and Mazda has slowly wound down since Ford divested most of its interest in the Japanese automaker beginning in 2008. Mazda in 2011 shifted production of its Mazda2 car from Rayong to Japan.

Ford initially chose the Cuautitlán facility to build the Fiesta because the company could export the car to the U.S. and Canada without worry of import taxes. The U.S. and Thailand are key trading partners and allies, but the two do not have a free-trade agreement.

Thailand imported $24.8 billion in goods in 2011, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.


Ford projects rise in
four-cylinder vehicle sales

In 2008, new vehicles with four-cylinders made up 40 percent of the market, according to market researcher R.L. Polk & Co.; today, they are 53 percent of the new-vehicle market. Ford

Smaller engines in 66% of new
vehicles by 2020; others not so sure

Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
May 20, 2013

In 2008, new vehicles with four-cylinders made up 40 percent of the market, according to market researcher R.L. Polk & Co.; today, they are 53 percent of the new-vehicle market.

In 2008, new vehicles with four-cylinders made up 40 percent of the market, according to market researcher R.L. Polk & Co.; today, they are 53 percent of the new-vehicle market.

Automobiles with four-cylinder engines already comprise more than half of U.S. new-vehicle sales, and that number could grow to two-thirds by the end of the decade, according to projections by Ford Motor Co.

The shift to the smaller engines is a result of strict federal fuel-efficiency standards — known as Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE — and means a growing share of cars, SUVs and trucks will join the four-cylinder fray by 2020.

Ford's estimates are high by some analysts' accounts, but it's not the first time Ford has gone its own way when it comes to powertrains.

"I think it's maybe a stretch. But I don't find it implausible," said Bill Visnic, senior editor at the car research site Edmunds.com, in a telephone interview. "If you look at where things have been going segment by segment, except pickups, you could say that's been the trend."

In 2008, new vehicles with four-cylinders made up 40 percent of the market, according to market researcher R.L. Polk & Co.; today, they are 53 percent of the new-vehicle market.

And Ford anticipates that by 2020, 66 percent of all new vehicles will come equipped with four-cylinders.

Here's how the market currently breaks down: Most small and midsize cars — including hybrid vehicles — come with standard, four-cylinder engines. The same can be said for most compact SUVs.

Pickup trucks, which last year accounted for 13 percent of all new-vehicle sales, come primarily with six- and eight-cylinder engines, as do full-size SUVs.

There are also a growing number of battery-powered vehicles, which could represent 5 percent of new-vehicle sales by the end of the decade, according to some estimates.

Mike Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain at LMC Automotive, said in an email that in order for vehicles equipped with four-cylinder engines to comprise two-thirds of new vehicle sales, Ford would be "expecting pickups and full-size SUVs to virtually disappear."

Raj Nair, Ford's group vice president of global product development, said recently Ford sees continued four-cylinder engine growth but stopped short of saying large SUVs or pickups could be equipped with the smaller engines.

"It's an increased penetration rate in segments that already have four-cylinder engines," Nair said.

Ford in past years has added four-cylinder motors to vehicles like the Escape compact SUV. The smaller engines, aided by turbocharging and direct injection, now rival the power of past six-cylinder engines, while offering better fuel efficiency.

New 4s more powerful

Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said in an email that Ford's projection that two-thirds of vehicles will have four cylinders by the end of the decade "looks reasonable." But they aren't old minicar fours; today's four-cylinders provide comparable performance attributes to old-school V-6s.

"Four-cylinder engines, especially when turbocharged, are often more powerful and always more fuel-efficient than even the best V-6s available on the market just a few short years ago," he said.

General Motors Co. is reluctant to release long-term powertrain forecasts, but said four-cylinder penetration will "remain very significant."

Omotoso said European luxury imports like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Jaguar will still heavily use V-6 and V-8 engines, but they'll up the number of four-cylinder turbocharged gas and diesel powertrains.

Japanese imports, meanwhile, will mostly be powered by four-cylinders, with the exception of Lexus and Infiniti models, which will continue to have a high percentage of V-6s, Omotoso said.

Smaller doesn't mean cheap

Fuel efficiency is the name of the game as automakers strive to meet the federally mandated fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Smaller engines, however, are not necessarily cheaper, Gutierrez said.

"While a typical naturally aspirated four-cylinder is likely cheaper to produce, the turbocharged engines featuring advanced tech like direct injection likely aren't that much more affordable than a traditional six- or eight-cylinder engine," he said.

Automakers do not sell cars with three-cylinder engines in the U.S., but that will soon change.

Ford this year will offer a 1-liter, three-cylinder version of its EcoBoost engines in the company's Fiesta subcompact car. GM is planning to introduce three-cylinder engines in cars in the U.S. within the next few years.

"I think you're going to see both in the market," said Joe Bakaj, Ford's vice president of powertrain engineering, at a recent presentation at the automaker's Dearborn campus. "It's going to depend on the performance class and how much displacement you need as to whether a vehicle will get a three- or a four-cylinder," he said.


Customizers put deluxe
spins on Focus ST

M&J Enterprises, Cosworth and Ford Racing combined their efforts and their parts to turn the already sporty Ford Focus ST into a road-going rocket. (Larry Edsall / Special to The Detroit News)

Aftermarket upgrades serve those craving
power beyond stock performance

Detroit News
Eddie Edsall
May 19, 2013

Ford touts the Focus ST as not only being the company's first "truly global performance car," but also as the forerunner for future performance vehicles in North America.

That means it offers a powerful but responsible punch; in the case of the Focus ST, 252 turbocharged horsepower, 154 miles per hour top speed at the racetrack, but also 32 mpg fuel economy while cruising the freeway.

And that's the sort of combination of numbers that many car enthusiasts will want; many — but not all.

For those who crave more, there are all sorts of possibilities available in the automotive aftermarket, and a bunch of them were packaged together on the 2013 Ford Focus ST Cosworth CS330 car displayed at the most recent SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show.

The car was the product of a joint effort by M&J Enterprises of Phillips Ranch, Calif.; Cosworth LLC, the California-based descendent of the famed auto racing engine-building enterprise; and Ford Racing and the Ford Racing Performance Parts group.

M&J started with a standard 2013 Focus ST and added a Cosworth CS 330 Edition body kit with front spoiler with carbon fiber center and brake ducts, side skirts, roof spoiler, rear skirt and carbon fiber diffuser. The 330 package was continued inside the car with shift knob and trim, and, for good measure, a Ford Racing Performance Parts short-throw shifter.

The exterior was painted a shade of PPG Environbase called Tangerine Scream, with Deep Black and Gunmetal Gray accents.

Ford Racing coilover suspension, Big-Brake kit, brake pads and stainless steel braided brake lines were installed, as were a set of Kahn Design Cosworth RS2000 19x8.5 wheels and 235/35 Pirelli PZero tires.

Such underpinnings are important and necessary because of the Cosworth and Ford Racing tweaks done to the car's 2.0-liter EcoBoosted four-cylinder engine, namely a Cosworth turbo and intercooler upgrade, a set of Cosworth forged pistons and connecting rods, high-performance cams and gaskets, Ford Racing air intake and cat-back exhaust, and a reflashed electronic control unit.

The result: 330 horsepower and 323 pound-feet of torque.

Several other variations on the Focus ST theme were shown at SEMA.

The Bojix Design car got 20-inch wheels and Recaro seats with Katszkin leather. European Car magazine went with LTMotorwerks body and interior packages and an FSWerks powertrain boost.

Galpin Auto Sports fabricated its own body kit and put its ST on 18-inch Motegi wheels. Rally Innovations did its car as a tribute to World Rally Championship racer Colin McRae. Steeda Autosports installed its own intake, exhaust and suspension products. X Games gold medalist Tanner Foust enlarged the turbo and intercooler and designed a set of 19-inch wheels that Motegi produced.


Ford owners sue, saying
EcoBoost engine defective

The 2010 Ford Taurus SHO with Ecoboost on the high speed track at the Ford Dearborn Product Development Center in Dearborn Tuesday, July 21, 2009. / Andre J. Jackson/Detroit Free Press

Detroit Free Press
May 16, 2013

Three Ohio drivers are suing Ford Motor Co., claiming the company's six-cylinder EcoBoost engine is defective.

The lawsuit says the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine can shudder, shake and then rapidly lose power while drivers are accelerating. Two of the plaintiffs, a married couple, say their 2010 Ford Taurus SHO has lost power and stalled on multiple occasions. The third says he has lost power when he was accelerating in his F-150 pickup.

The lawsuit says more than 100 drivers have complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the V6 EcoBoost rattling or losing power. Ford hasn't recalled any vehicles for the alleged defect, and NHTSA hasn't opened an investigation, which is often the first step in the recall process.

The lawsuit claims Ford has acknowledged the problem in messages to dealers, but hasn't informed owners.

Ford declined to comment Tuesday, saying it hasn't seen the lawsuit. The company wouldn't say how many vehicles it has sold with the V6 EcoBoost engine.

Ford has been selling vehicles equipped with the V6 EcoBoost since late 2009. It's an option on the Ford Flex, Taurus SHO, Lincoln MKT and Lincoln MKS sedans from the 2010-2013 model years; the F-150 pickup from the 2011-2013 model years; and the Ford Explorer Sport from the 2013 model year.

Ford also makes four-cylinder and three-cylinder EcoBoost engines, but those aren't cited in the lawsuit. All three engines use turbocharging and direct injection to give them the power of a larger engine with the fuel economy of a smaller one.

The lawsuit was filed late last week in U.S. District Court in Columbus. A similar lawsuit involving different drivers was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Louisiana.


Ford to build $274M
engine plant in Russia

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
May 15, 2013

Ford Motor Co. will up its presence in the expanding Russian market with a new $274 million engine plant, the first passenger-car engine plant in the region.

The investment, announced Tuesday, is further proof of Ford's focus on Russia and neighboring countries as a prime growth market.

"The Russian market will be the largest in Europe in the coming years and represent an important growth opportunity," Stephen Odell, Ford's executive vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa, said in a statement.

The new plant in Elabuga, Tatarstan, piggybacks on previous investments and product launches. Ford last month added production of its Explorer SUV to an assembly plant in Tatarstan, part of a joint venture with Ford Sollers, and on Tuesday said it would also build its EcoSport subcompact SUV there for the Russian market. Ford and Ford Sollers also have another Russian assembly plant in St. Petersburg.

The new engine plant, to open in late 2015, will allow Ford to produce an additional 105,000 1.6-liter engines annually, which could grow to 200,000 to meet demand.

The passenger car market in Russia, the world's largest country, could grow by 1 million vehicles annually and top 3.5 million sales, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. And during the next 10 years, because of an aging vehicle fleet and helped by a declining tariff on cars and light trucks, the number of new car sales in Russia will be equal to all of the cars on the road today.

"It's one of the few markets in Europe that is still growing," Carol Thomas, a U.K.-based analyst for market researcher LMC Automotive, said in a telephone interview last month. "And if you add in former Soviet markets, it's pretty significant."

Russia is largely an untold story, taking a back seat to the turbulent European auto market, with sales at 20-year lows.

But the Russian auto market — close to other growth markets like Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine and Uzbekistan — is primed for growth and has an appetite for expensive SUVs.

Auto sales in Kazakhstan are up 50 percent this year and long term could reach 400,000 annually, according to LMC.

That's roughly the same number of sales that Belarus, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan had collectively in 2012, according to a report compiled by Ernst & Young.

Ford and General Motors Co. are heavily investing in Russia.

Ford just finished building a plant with its Russian joint-venture Ford Sollers in record time. The Dearborn automaker will triple its capacity in Russia to about 350,000 units in coming years.

GM, meanwhile, is in the midst of a $1 billion investment push in Russia to boost its annual production capacity from about 100,000 to 230,000 vehicles.

The Russian auto market is the second-largest in Europe, trailing only Germany, which experts say it will pass this year or next. PricewaterhouseCoopers projects auto sales will rise 5 percent this year.

"It's still a market that possesses significant volume potential when other markets are stagnant or falling," Thomas said.

And that's despite a car density level of 271 vehicles per 1,000 people, according to LMC — about half that of Germany and a third of the U.S. rate. That statistic points to more growth.

"We see Russia as one of our key growth areas," said Bruce Hettle, Ford's executive director of global manufacturing and engineering in a telephone interview. "We're feeling higher than we ever have."


6 in 10 predict demise of
terrestrial radio within 5 years

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
May 14, 2013

Nearly 60 percent of Americans predict the death of terrestrial radio will happen within five years, according to results from a Harris Interactive survey released Tuesday.

Market research firm Harris, on behalf of Stitcher, an on-demand Internet radio service, surveyed 2,066 U.S. adults last month, and found that most adults are choosing on-demand media sources such as Pandora and TuneIn over terrestrial radio options, citing the ability to avoid commercial advertisements as a heavy influence.

"We're relying on our smartphones and mobile technology now more than ever," said Noah Shanok, CEO of Stitcher, in a statement. "We're a nation on the go, and we want access to our favorite radio shows and music at a time that's convenient for us. With the latest advancements in streaming technology, apps like Stitcher put entertainment right at your fingertips."

The survey found that students may be leading the shift to on demand and streaming media. More than 71 percent of U.S. adults who are students predict Americans will be primarily listening to streaming radio over AM/FM radio within five years.

Those ages 18 to 34 are twice as likely as those ages 35 to 54 to listen to music via on-demand sources, the Harris poll showed.

Ed Cohen vice president of measurement innovation at marketing research firm Arbitron Inc., in an interview with The Detroit News last month, said that 90 percent of adults ages 25 to 54 listen to the radio weekly, and it's still the top choice among drivers for in-car entertainment.

"There's a share of the pie for all types of radio platforms, but you really can't replace what radio offers at the local level," said Kim Myers, senior manager of media relations for Arbitron, in a telephone interview. Arbitron data from March shows that approximately 242.8 million Americans listen to terrestrial on an average weekly basis, up 1.6 million from the same month a year ago.

Radio stations have moved quickly to offer online and smartphone streams of their terrestrial content.

But even some in the terrestrial radio business have decided to take their careers to on-demand media sources. Pat DeLuca, who hosted a popular morning show in Canton, Ohio, for six years, recently started his own group of streaming media stations.

"Everybody that I've talked to about this and everybody who knows that we're doing this agree that this is the new way," DeLuca said in a 2012 interview with the Vindicator newspaper of Youngstown, Ohio. "That's not in dispute. This is the way that everything is going."



The right-wing's regressive anti-union rhetoric and U.S. styled attacks on the labour movement threatens Canada's prosperity, says anew report by the Broadbent Institute. The report Union Communities, Healthy Communities debunks the conservative movement's attacks on labour and makes the case that unions are vital to stable economic growth.

"The current right-wing attack on the labour movement is part of an attack on all progressives in Canada," explained Executive Director Rick Smith. "Unions have been a major force for a more democratic, inclusive and sustainable Canada, and the progressive movement as a whole must strongly defend labour rights."

Click the here to download your copy


Chinese Creating New Auto
Niche Within Detroit

May 13, 2013

DETROIT — Dozens of companies from China are putting down roots in Detroit, part of the country's steady push into the American auto industry.

Chinese-owned companies are investing in American businesses and new vehicle technology, selling everything from seat belts to shock absorbers in retail stores, and hiring experienced engineers and designers in an effort to soak up the talent and expertise of domestic automakers and their suppliers.

While starting with batteries and auto parts, the spread of Chinese business is expected to result eventually in the sale of Chinese cars in the United States.

"The Chinese are well behind the Japanese when they hit our shores 30 years ago," said David E. Cole, a founder of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "They lack the know-how, and they're coming here to get it."

As businesses sprout up with little fanfare, Chinese companies seem to be trying to avoid the type of public opposition experienced by the Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda in the 1980s, when the sudden influx of foreign cars competing head-on with cars from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler was perceived as a threat to American jobs.

In contrast to the Japanese, Chinese auto companies are assiduously avoiding the spotlight. Last year, the biggest carmaker in China, Shanghai Automotive Industries, opened new offices in suburban Detroit without any publicity, which is almost unheard-of in an industry that thrives on media coverage.

But China's growth in the American auto industry is drawing notice in Washington. Last year, the Obama administration filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization that China's government was unfairly subsidizing the production of some parts shipped to America. And the country's inroads into American-made batteries and electric vehicles have drawn scrutiny because that sector of the industry has been heavily subsidized by the United States government.

The American industry's overall resurgence has drawn a growing Chinese population to Detroit, with Chinese-owned suppliers bringing executives from their country and American automakers adding new talent. About 50,000 Chinese, many of them engineers and other professionals who work at General Motors and the Ford Motor Company, live in the metropolitan area.

Business networks are growing too. The Detroit Chinese Business Association boasts a flourishing membership, and counts about 100 Chinese-owned businesses, mostly auto-related, in the region.

The Ford Chinese Association, with 650 white-collar workers, predominantly from mainland China, has become one of the largest employee groups at the company. Its president, Raymond Xu, recalled that in 1999, when he came to Detroit to attend college, there were very few Chinese in the area.

"I think people are going to get more and more comfortable with it," Mr. Xu said.

Typical of the Chinese expansion are the nondescript offices of Changan Automotive in an industrial park in the suburban city of Plymouth. Changan, a major carmaker in China, set up a research center to better understand the structural chassis of a vehicle — then hired about 20 Detroit engineers, some of whom had been laid off from Detroit's auto companies, to staff the project.

"Most of the engineers are very young in China," said Hong Su, the Changan executive heading the American facility. "They know how to make vehicles, but they don't know how to develop them."One of his employees is Alan Wall, 54, a former contract engineer at Chrysler who lost his job during the recession.

"It was an opportunity," he said. "And those tend to come from a company that is trying to expand."

Last year, China exported about $13 billion in automotive goods to the United States — tires, wheels and radios that are sold as replacement parts — according to AlixPartners, a consulting firm.

But many Chinese suppliers are pursuing direct business with the Detroit car companies, which now get many of their most common parts from low-wage nations like Mexico. One supplier, Brilliance Auto, an industrial giant with about 500,000 employees in the city of Shenyang in northeast China, is still an underdog in Detroit, trying to crack an intricate network of suppliers that have long relationships with G.M. and the other carmakers.

"We have been exporting our parts to North America for 15 years for the aftermarket," said Dongbin Chen, a Brilliance executive, referring to retail sales of replacement parts. "Now our biggest opportunity is with G.M. and the other big companies."

Brilliance scored a coup last year by supplying lightweight engine mounts for the new Cadillac ATS sedan made by G.M. in Lansing, Mich., which has whetted the company's appetite for more.

At a United States-China conference held here in November, Brilliance displayed a large exhibit showcasing a range of mundane parts — including seat belts, steering wheels and shock absorbers — that it hopes to export to America.

"We have the ability and the capacity to supply these kinds of parts," Mr. Chen said. "And I think right now, it is very important for us to be here."


Retiree Stan McClean
Passes away May 7, 2013

Stan Maclean
1925 - 2013

Retired January 1, 1989
21.3 Years

Our deepest Condolences go out to his family.

Peacefully at Brampton Civic Hospital on May 7, 2013 surrounded by his family in his 88th year. Loving husband of the late Bettie. Cherished father of Margaret, Carol, Danny, Sharon, Ron, David and Bill. Beloved son of the late Charles and Daisy McClean. Dear brother of Eileen (Tait), Ernie, Rhesa and Delmar. Will be sadly missed by numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and one great great grandchild. Stan is a longtime resident of Brampton. He served in the Navy during WWII and also served his community as a volunteer Firefighter.

Ward Funeral Home
 Brampton Chapel
52 Main Street South
Brampton, ON


May 10 2013 2-4pm & 7-9pm

May 11, 2013 11am


Donations to the Canadian Cancer Society or the
Heart and Stroke Foundation would be appreciated


Ford family voting rights upheld

Proposal to end class of shares that gives them control rejected

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
MAY 10, 2013

Wilmington, Del. — A record percentage of Ford Motor Co. shareholders backed a plan to end the Ford family' s special class of voting stock that gives it control of the company again failed to end the family's voting rights.

Ford also said Thursday it has named a new lead independent director — Ellen R. Marram, the first woman to hold the job — to its board.

At the company's 58th annual meeting here Wednesday, 33.4 percent of shareholders backed the proposal to end the class of shares that allows the family to control the Dearborn automaker.

In 2011, the proposal received its highest tally ever: 31.2 percent. It fell last year when a total of 29.5 percent voted to eliminate special voting rights for the Ford family. One advocate said the proposal has gotten a majority of stockholders to support it — not including the Ford family — in recent years. Many corporate governance advocates and some institutional investors oppose two-tier stock ownership plans.

The Ford family holds a special class of stock worth about 40 percent of the voting shares, getting 16 votes per share. That provision gives the family effective control of the company.

The automaker noted that the two-tier stock structure has been in place since it became a public company in 1956.

Ford executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. defended the family's ownership. "If you look at the performance of our company through the last six or seven years versus others who did not have (family ownership), kind of like the way we performed," Ford said after the meeting. "Having the family vote and ownership position really allowed the company to stay focused, not get distracted and to survive and ultimately thrive."

Ford CEO Alan Mulally said the family ownership has "served us very well."

Separately, Bill Ford Jr. told reporters Mulally has a "long run" remaining as CEO and joked he'd like to see Mulally stick around until 2020 or 2025.

"I like listening to Bill," Mulally responded.

Asked directly if he planned to stay as CEO through at least the end of 2014, Mulally agreed. "I think we've said at least through 2014 but I always listen to my chairman."

Ford Jr. said the automaker's stock price has jumped by about 40 percent over the last year — though it is still down from prior years."Hang with us please," he urged stockholders. "We've had some tough years but we're coming back."

Ford Chief Financial Officer Robert Shanks said the company is working to boost its profits outside North America. "We have a great plan," Shanks said. "Just a little more time and you're going to see all parts of the company humming quite strongly."

At a little over an hour, it was the third shortest ever.

Named to the post was Ellen R. Marram, who is president of a business advisory firm, was added to the board after a longtime member retires. President of the Barnegat Group, LLC and former CEO of Tropicana Beverage Group, she has been a Ford board member for more than 20 years.

She's the first woman to hold the position at Ford, and is one of just two women on the board, which includes former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo.

Marram will chair the executive sessions of the independent directors, advise on selection on board committee chairs and work with Ford Jr. and Mulally "to ensure management is adequately addressing the matters identified by the board," Ford said in its proxy statement.

Ford said Irvine O. Hockaday Jr., 76, a former president and CEO of Hallmark Cards Inc., was stepping down from the board. He helped recruit Mulally, then a top Boeing Co. executive, to become chief executive of Ford in 2006.


Fiesta achieves goal of attracting first-time Ford buyers

The 2014 Fiesta sports a new grille, hood and tapered lines. It will also offer a 3-cylinder engine. (Ford)

2 in 3 stay with brand after lease ends, trade for new car

Three years ago, Ford Motor Co. introduced its Fiesta subcompact car to the U.S. market in an attempt to bolster its entry-level offerings and reach a younger consumer base.

And ahead of its refresh for the 2014 model year, the car, albeit with a low sales volume, has accomplished its goals.

Six in 10 Fiesta buyers are Ford first-timers; three in 10 are first-time car buyers of any auto brand. The Fiesta is Ford's third-best vehicle at luring customers from other brands. One in four are Millennials, or those born roughly between 1980 and 2000.

Ford sells nearly half of all Fiestas on the East and West coasts, regions where the automaker trails competitors. And most importantly, two in three Fiesta buyers stay with the Ford brand after their lease expires or they trade for a new car.

"Fiesta is bringing in young buyers, those new to the Ford brand, that we wouldn't be able to reach otherwise," said Erich Merkle, Ford's U.S. sales analyst, in a phone interview. "And it's also bringing in people from a different geography."

Reaching young and first-time buyers is critical for automakers. If a first car makes a good impression, consumers are more likely to buy another car from that brand, boosting the company's bottom line. Since the Fiesta's 2011 model year launch, Ford has increased its Millennial market share to 13 percent from 9 percent.

And Fiesta buyers — 67 percent of them — have stuck with Ford.

When looking for a new vehicle, Fiesta buyers most frequently move up to Ford's Escape compact SUV. Ford's Focus compact car and Fusion midsize sedan are also popular choices.

The stats are juicy, but it hasn't been the smoothest road for Fiesta.

Following a revamp of the Focus for model year 2012, Fiesta sales declined considerably, because of similar price points and powertrain options on the Fiesta and Focus. And although the Fiesta is providing long-term value to the Ford brand, it is a low-volume car: Ford sold about 57,000 of them last year, compared to about 81,000 Chevrolet Sonics and 61,000 Hyundai Accents. It has leap-frogged the Accent this year.

"We don't know what the size of that segment really is," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds.com. "The U.S. hasn't had a segment like this before."

For model year 2014, Ford will add a sport-performance Fiesta variant, with a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine. It will also add a 1-liter, three-cylinder engine. Fiestas equipped with that engine will be the most fuel-efficient car with a gas engine in the country, Ford has said.


A Ford fix is in the works

May 7, 2013
The Globe and Mail

Ford Motor has delivered something of a mea culpa regarding the company's recurring glitches with recent vehicle launches – and there is a plan to fix the problems.

Certainly what's been going on at Ford with recalls and such is no secret. Consumer Reports has been quite critical lately and a long list of embarrassing recalls has cast a shadow over Canada's No. 1 auto company by sales: five recalls on the 2013 Escape, two on the 2013 Fusion and the delayed launch of the Lincoln MKZ among them.

Joe Hinrichs, the former head of Ford in Canada and now boss of all the Americas, north and south, is falling back on his roots in manufacturing to address the quality problems and he's moving fast and with conviction.

"We've done a complete analysis," Hinrichs told Automotive News, "on lessons learned in the last couple of years, including the recent MKZ launch, and are now incorporating a number of changes in our development and new-model launch process."

Make no mistake, this sort of problem is right in Hinrichs' wheelhouse. He was a former plant manager and was once head of all Ford manufacturing worldwide before he ran Ford's business in Asia. He's smart and disciplined and personable, which combined with his manufacturing expertise should work wonders at addressing the quality issues dogging Ford now.

His idea is to get more "proactive earlier in the development process." That allows Ford's engineering to fix issues before they get into the hands of owners and the public eye.

Ford is exceedingly profitable these days, and one reason why can be found in the cost cutting – job cutting – done as part of Ford's restructuring. In my off-the-record conversations with engineers, some argue that Ford has cut too many from their ranks and quality issues are the result.

Lately, Ford has launched new models (Focus, Escape, Fusion, C-MAX, and so on) on new platforms and redone whole assembly plants. It's been a fast and furious few years. And it won't slow down, added Hinrichs, saying that Ford will keep running out new models and new platforms at a rapid pace over the next few years.

Oh, and Ford is hiring engineers, by the way. Cost cutting can only go so far before the surgery starts to wound the patient.


GM, Ford invest in new plants in Russia to take advantage of growth

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
May 6, 2013

Russia is a giant diamond in the rough for automakers struggling to climb out of the financial muck in most of Europe.

"It's one of the few markets in Europe that is still growing," said Carol Thomas, a U.K.-based analyst for market researcher LMC Automotive. "And if you add in former Soviet markets, it's pretty significant."

Russia is largely an untold story, taking a back seat to the turbulent European auto market, with sales at 20-year lows.

But the Russian auto market, close to other growth markets like Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine and Uzbekistan, is primed for growth and has an appetite for expensive SUVs.

The passenger car market in Russia could grow by another 1 million vehicles annually and top 3.5 million sales, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. And during the next 10 years, because of an aging vehicle fleet and helped by a declining light vehicle import tariff, the number of new cars sales in Russia will be equal to all of the cars on the road today.

But the true impact of Russia may be further down the road because of nearby countries like Kazakhstan.

Auto sales in Kazakhstan are up 50 percent this year and long-term could reach 400,000 annually, according to LMC. That's roughly the same number of sales that Belarus, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan had collectively in 2012, according to a report compiled by Ernst & Young.

U.S.-based automakers Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. are heavily investing in Russia.

Ford just finished building a plant with its joint-venture Ford Sollers in record time. The Dearborn automaker will triple its capacity in Russia to about 350,000 units in coming years.

GM, meanwhile, is in the midst of a $1 billion investment push in Russia to increase its annual production capacity from about 100,000 to 230,000 vehicles.

The Russian auto market is the second largest in Europe, trailing only Germany, which experts say it will pass this year or next. PricewaterhouseCoopers projects auto sales will rise 5 percent this year.

"It's still a market that possesses significant volume potential when other markets are stagnant or falling," Thomas said.

And that's despite a car density level of 271 vehicles per 1,000 people, according to LMC — about half that of Germany and a third of the U.S. rate. That statistic points to more growth.

"We see Russia as one of our key growth areas," said Bruce Hettle, Ford's executive director of global manufacturing and engineering in a telephone interview. "We're feeling higher than we ever have," following the opening of Ford's newest plant in Tatarstan, Russia.

After a momentary sales crash during the 2009 global financial crisis, last year's passenger car registrations in Russia reached 2.93 million, according to LMC, up nearly 11 percent from 2011.

Nearly one-third of those sales were SUVs — the vehicle of choice in a country with extreme weather fluctuations and an uneven terrain.

That's more than double the rate of SUV sales throughout the rest of Europe.

Aside from pickups, SUVs are an automaker's best financial friend, particularly those with all-wheel drive capabilities and other extra features.

"We see a little bit more growth in SUVs," Thomas said, noting that automakers also will push smaller, subcompact segment SUVs.


Ford's hybrid sales set hot pace

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
May 5, 2013

Ford Motor Co. expects to shatter its full-year hybrid vehicle sales record this month, led by a handful of new vehicle offerings that are challenging Toyota Motor Corp. for hybrid-vehicle supremacy.

The Dearborn automaker's hybrid share is up to 18 percent compared to 3 percent at this time last year, thanks to April hybrid sales totaling 8,481, a monthly record. Ford has sold 29,561 hybrids through April; it sold 35,496 in 2010 — its highest total to date. Ford in the past year has surpassed General Motors Co., Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor America and Kia Motors America in hybrid sales.

Ford still trails Toyota, which has a 58 percent share of the hybrid market, down from 71 percent at this time last year, according to Ford data.

The hybrid segment in the U.S. is growing at a significantly lower pace than the rest of the industry. Sales of hybrid vehicles are up 2.5 percent, compared to a 7 percent gain for the industry as a whole, said Erich Merkle, Ford's U.S. sales analyst. Hybrids make up about 4 percent of the industry.

"The hybrid segment is growing, but right now, slightly less than the overall industry," Merkle said in a telephone interview Thursday. "As we all know over the last few years, fuel prices have been very volatile, and we believe we will continue to see volatility when it comes to energy prices."

Fuel prices across the U.S. are about 33 cents a gallon lower than they were this time last year and 59 cents lower than the highest recorded average of $4.11 per gallon, AAA's Fuel Gauge report shows.

Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz last month blamed gas prices as a reason for tumbling sales of its Prius hybrid vehicles. Toyota projected it would sell 250,000 hybrids this year in the U.S., but has acknowledged it may need to adjust that goal.

In April, sales of Ford's Fusion Hybrid jumped up more than 400 percent to 3,989, according to Autodata Corp., and sales of Toyota's Prius hybrid, including the c, v, and plug-in hybrid, dropped 21 percent to 19,889. Merkle said Ford is making the biggest gains in California, with the top conquest brand being Toyota.


MKZ leads Lincoln's
April sales rebound

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
May 3, 2013

Ford Motor Co. said sales of its struggling luxury brand, Lincoln, rose in April by nearly 21 percent, boosted by sales of its four-month-delayed-but-finally-in-showrooms MKZ midsize sedan. April's sales gain was the first monthly sales rebound for Lincoln since last August.

As predicted Tuesday by Jim Farley, Ford's executive vice president of marketing, sales, service and Lincoln, MKZ sales topped 4,000 in April, up 115 percent compared to April 2012.

"It's no secret that the new MKZ got off to a rough start, but it is finally getting some traction," Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at automotive research site Edmunds.com, said in an email. "More importantly, the car is catching on with a younger and more affluent buyer."

Lincoln dealers are now fully stocked with the MKZ after waiting about four months because of delays caused by quality issues at the automaker's plant in Hermosillo, Mexico. The plant, which operates on three shifts, churned out too many MKZs and Fusions, compromising quality.

Farley said this week that early sales indicators point toward big gains in important markets such as California, where market share jumped nearly 10 percentage points to 14.5 percent, according to Edmunds.com.

"Although we're encouraged, we're far from victory," Farley said on Tuesday.


Ford Adding 2,000-Plus Jobs at Kansas City Assembly to Support Surging F-150 Demand, Ford Transit Launch

• Ford's Kansas City Assembly Plant will add more than 2,000 jobs to support high demand for Ford F-150 plus the planned production of the all-new Transit family of commercial vehicles starting next summer; more than 1,000 will be new hires
• Ford F-Series sales up 24 percent in April and 19 percent year to date; full-size truck segment growing three times faster than industry average and is fastest-growing segment this year
• Ford has reached 75 percent of its goal to create 12,000 hourly jobs in the U.S. by 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 2, 2013 – Ford, the industry's truck leader, will add more than 2,000 jobs at its Kansas City Assembly Plant to meet surging demand for the Ford F-150 and planned production of the all-new Ford Transit.

"Customer demand for today's F-150 is strong and continues growing, the truck segment is growing three times faster than the overall industry, the housing market is strengthening, and we are seeing growth in the U.S. economy," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of The Americas. "Our 'Built Ford Tough' F-150 is America's favorite pickup, and we are going to expand operations in Kansas City to ensure we have enough trucks to meet customer demand."

Ford is adding 900 jobs and a third crew in the third quarter to build F-150. U.S. sales of Ford's F-Series trucks increased 24 percent in April and 19 percent year to date. Ford also is adding another 1,100 jobs starting in the fourth quarter to prepare for the introduction of the all-new Ford Transit full-size van in 2014.

"For customers who want a modern van that is as tough and smart as the F-Series, the all-new Ford Transit van delivers, with better fuel economy, more capability and the greatest number of technology choices and innovative configurations full-size van buyers have ever seen," Hinrichs said.

Kansas City Assembly
Kansas City Assembly Plant produces the Ford F-150 Regular, Super and Crew Cab and will produce the Ford Transit. The plant currently has 2,450 hourly workers working on two shifts and will add a third crew in the third quarter.

Ford is investing $1.1 billion to retool and expand the facility for production of both the F-150 and Transit, including a 437,000 sq.-ft. stamping facility and a 78,000 sq.-ft. paint shop.

The new stamping facility was completed in 2012. The paint shop expansion will include installation of the three-wet paint process, which is more environmentally friendly and requires less time than conventional paint processes – without compromising Ford's paint quality or durability.

"Today we celebrate the commitment to excellence displayed every day by the men and women of Kansas City Assembly Plant," said Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president and director of the National Ford Department. "These additional jobs are the direct result of the dedicated effort our UAW members display every day at facilities all across the country and serve as another reminder of the resilience of American workers and our nation's manufacturing sector."

With the investment and new jobs in Kansas City, Ford is three-quarters of the way to its plan to create 12,000 hourly jobs in the U.S. by 2015. The company also is investing $16 billion in its U.S. product development and manufacturing operations – including $6.2 billion in plant-specific investments. These actions, including today's announcements, are consistent with Ford's previous 2013 financial guidance for the Total Company and North America.

Community Impact
The plant expansion has a major impact in the local community and beyond. Kansas City Assembly has more than 250 suppliers nationally and more than 10 suppliers locally who will positively benefit from the addition of a third crew. Additionally, when Transit production starts next year, close to 275 suppliers nationally and six suppliers locally will grow their business. According to the job multiplier effect of nine jobs to every one – more than 18,000 jobs will be created to support the plant.

"Today's announcement is yet another testament to our successful efforts to revitalize Missouri's automotive manufacturing industry, which continues to gain steam," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said. "This third crew for production of the F-150 will create hundreds of additional manufacturing jobs for workers in this region and ensure Missouri continues to lead the rebirth of the American auto industry for years to come."

Ford F-150
The "Built Ford Tough" F-150 delivers the segment's best combination of power, capability, safety and fuel economy.

F-150 is part of the Ford F-Series lineup. Now in its 65th year, F-Series has been the best-selling truck in America for 36 consecutive years, the best-selling vehicle in America for 31 consecutive years and the brand with the most trucks on the road with more than 250,000 miles, as certified by Polk.

The Kansas City-built F-150 is the first choice for tradespeople who need the most durable, advanced in the market truck. For example, F-150 leads in a variety of fields, including:

• 62 percent market share in road and highway maintenance
• 68 percent share in hazardous materials work
• 67 percent share in the oil pipeline industry

F-150 also boasts leading safety ratings. F-150's fully boxed frame, made from high-strength hydroformed steel, provides a backbone built for increased durability and safety. F-150 has earned top safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Overall, F-150 offers customers the broadest lineup in the segment, with 10 models that include work-ready XL, sporty and capable FX, well-balanced XLT, refined and luxurious Limited and the no-compromise off-road SVT Raptor.

The Ford F-150 also features an unrivaled four engine choices, including the advanced 3.5-liter EcoBoost, to help customers find the most fuel-efficient and capable engine to meet their needs. Ford's patented EcoBoost engine delivers an unmatched combination of best-in-class towing and payload, torque and fuel economy. More than 300,000 EcoBoost engines have been sold for F-150 and it is now Ford's best-selling truck engine.

Ford Transit
The familiar van that delivers packages or shuttles airport passengers is about to change in a revolutionary way. The all-new Ford Transit will provide tradespeople and businesses with unmatched fuel economy, innovative new configurations and leading versatility in the expanding commercial vehicle market.

Transit is born from nearly a century of hard-earned experience delivering two distinct full-size vans to customers in America, Europe and other global markets. For the U.S., Transit eventually replaces E-Series, first sold in 1961 as Ford Econoline and America's best-selling commercial van for 34 years. Transit was first sold in 1965. It's the best-selling commercial van in Europe.

Customers will have more choices than ever from a Ford van. Transit will be offered in three body lengths; two wheelbases; three roof heights. Cargo volume ranges from about 250 to almost 500 cubic feet – more than twice the volume of today's standard E-Series, saving the customer fuel costs and the time and hassle of a second trip.

Designed and developed to provide efficient service over the long haul, Ford Transit will be at least 25 percent more fuel efficient than today's E-Series, helping save Transit owners thousands of dollars in fuel costs during its service life.

Transit has been tested to the "Built Ford Tough" truck standards at Ford's proving grounds and in the hands of real-world fleet customers in North America.


Ford of Canada Top-Selling Automaker Year-to-Date with strongest growth in Canada

OAKVILLE, Ont., May 2, 2013 — Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited sales increased 16 per cent this month, making this the best April for sales in more than a decade and securing year-to-date leadership. The increase was driven by strength across the lineup, including the all-new Fusion and Escape, which were up 21 and 26 per cent respectively, marking the best April on record for both.

"We're pleased to see long-term growth across varied markets, from the Fusion to the F-150, which has resulted in sales leadership year-to-date through April," said Dianne Craig, president and CEO, Ford of Canada. "Increased sales in cars, SUVs and trucks are a testament to the fact that Ford of Canada really does offer Canadians the power of choice in finding a vehicle that best suits their needs."

SUV and CUV sales experienced a 14 per cent jump, fueled by Expedition increasing 19 per cent and the Oakville-built Edge rising three per cent.

The F-Series continues to be the top-selling vehicle in Canada. Overall, trucks helped to boost a strong sales month, rising 21 per cent. Car sales increased three per cent, with Focus rising six per cent and Mustang increasing two per cent.

Lincoln also had a strong month, increasing 10 per cent, with the Oakville-built MKX and MKT increasing by 15 and 19 per cent respectively, and the MKZ


Local labour leaders to get
update on CAW-CEP merger

In this file photo, CAW National President Ken Lewenza speaks at the Canadian Automotive Workers' First Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention in Toronto on Monday, August 20, 2012. Delegates voted to merge with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) which created the largest private sector union in Canada. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu)

Windsor Star
Grace Macaluso
May 1, 2013

Local labour leaders will get an update Monday on the merger of the Canadian Auto Workers and Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions.

The meeting, slated for noon at CAW Local 444 union hall, is aimed at union presidents and unit chairs of the CAW and CEP, although individual members also can attend, said Peter Kennedy, CAW national secretary-treasurer and co-chair of the proposal committee.

"It's important that the leadership gets an opportunity to be advised of where we're at in this process," said Kennedy, who along with CEP co-chair Gatean Menard, will attend the meeting. "We want to get feedback and input from leadership in advance of the founding convention."

A new name has yet to be determined, although the committee has received more than 7,000 suggestions from union members, said Kennedy.

Communications experts from both founding unions have been working with designers and conducting focus group testing of potential names and identities, said Kennedy. A full report on that process will be provided to the regional meetings.

A decision on the new name will be made by the national executive boards of the CAW and the CEP later this spring.

A meeting has been scheduled in Brampton for Tuesday May 7, 2013 at CAW Local 1285 Hall on 23 Regan Road at 1:00 PM.

The new union will represent more than 300,000 members in sectors across the country. It will hold its founding convention in Toronto, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1.



Harper tightening the reins on
CBC, Via Rail and Canada Post

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
May 1, 2013

The federal government is taking a harder line on collective bargaining, giving itself sweeping new powers to steer independent Crown corporations on their negotiations with employees over wages and benefits.

The main targets are the CBC, Canada Post and Via Rail.

The little-noticed measures were detailed for the first time in a budget bill introduced this week, and early reaction from labour groups is running from bewilderment to outrage, particularly from workers at the CBC.

The new hard line on Crown corporations "is part of a broader issue, which is aligning the public-service compensation and benefits to private-sector norms and expectations," Treasury Board President Tony Clement told The Globe and Mail.

The Conservative government's stand sets the stage for a looming confrontation with public-sector unions – at both Crown corporations and core departments – that could peak at the time of the next federal election in 2015.

While Ottawa will be watching over the contract negotiations of all Crown corporations – the government lists 49 on its website – "there's some that we're going to key in on more than others," Mr. Clement said, adding that larger ones with "viability issues" will top the list.

He specifically cited Canada Post – "it's common knowledge that they are struggling to re-imagine themselves with a declining demand" – Via Rail, which "has some struggles of its own" and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

"CBC is always struggling to put out good content at a time of sometimes declining ad revenues and other revenues," Mr. Clement said.

"These are all examples of Crown corporations [that], when their financial viability goes too far south, always then seem to be at the doorstep of the government of the day."

A section of the budget bill gives the federal cabinet the explicit power to give Crown corporations orders as to how they should negotiate with employees, both unionized and non-unionized. Further, the bill gives the government the power to have a Treasury Board official sit in on collective bargaining negotiations at Crown corporations.

The union representing employees at the CBC warns the new powers are a "ridiculous" infringement on the independence of the CBC.

"I don't know how anybody looking at that cannot see this as turning the public broadcaster into a state broadcaster," said Marc-Philippe Laurin, the CBC branch president of the Canadian Media Guild, a union that represents many CBC workers.

He rejected any concern about spending at the CBC, noting that its budget has been steadily shrinking for years when inflation is taken into account.

Angus McKinnon, a spokesperson for CBC, said the bill's potential impact is still being studied.

"We became aware of this legislation when it was tabled in the House [Monday]," he said.

The government has previously won praise from fiscally conservative groups such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for scaling back pensions and other benefits available to MPs, senators and workers in the core public service. However, Mr. Clement said there is more to be done on that front across the government.

Most contracts with the unionized public service expire in 2015, Mr. Clement said, adding that the bulk of the bargaining will take place in 2014, "which means you have to get your strategy sorted out in 2013."

That strategy entails bringing public-service salaries, benefits and pensions in line with what the government believes is the private-sector norm.

Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service union, noted that Crown corporations often compete for talent with the private sector and need flexibility.

"This is a strange move given that Crown corporations are designed to operate at distance from the federal government," he said.


Canada's grasp on auto investments wanes as loonie strengthens

May 1, 2013

TORONTO (Bloomberg) -- Within the past five years, General Motors moved the production of its trucks and Buick LaCrosse sedan in Oshawa, Ontario, to the United States.

While the 323-horsepower Camaro is still made in Canada, GM said the next generation of its top-selling sports car will be built in Lansing, Mich.

The shift is a symptom of Canada's currency trading at about parity with the U.S. dollar, from as low as 62 cents in 2002.

As the outlook for industrial exports dims, hedge funds and other large speculators have increased bets against the Canadian dollar to the most since 2007, data from the Washington-based Commodity Futures Trading Commission show.

"As those costs increase -- 40, 60 percent -- we simply can't compete anymore," said Ron Svajlenko, the president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 222, the union whose membership has dwindled to 3,500 from 12,000 in 2002. "When it comes to a decision about where you're going to do things, you go to where the costs are low."

The Canadian dollar's relative strength is starting to weigh on the world's 11th-largest economy just as tumbling commodities prices detract from growth.

Its slice of global non-commodity exports, adjusted for differences in growth among trading partners, has declined about 35 percent since 2000, according to Nomura Holdings Inc.

No advantage

Automotive companies globally spent about $43 billion in North America from 2010 to 2012, of which $2.3 billion, or 5 percent, was pegged to Canada, according to the Center for Automotive Research.

The United States and Mexico received $3.7 billion each last year, while Canada took about $200 million.

Canada's exchange rate "is not an advantage anymore," said Kim Hill, research director at Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "We've seen a lot more investment going to Mexico."

Mexico's peso is the best performing major currency this year, appreciating 5.6 percent to 12.1747 on Friday.

The decision to move the production of GM's Camaro to Lansing "was based on a comprehensive business case," said Adria MacKenzie, a spokeswoman for GM. "Lower capital investment and improved efficiencies were key factors."

GM has committed to invest about $850 million in research and development in Canada through 2016, according to MacKenzie.

'Growth disappointment'

"Canada lost a lot of market share, and I think you can actually see it in the economy," said Jens Nordvig, the New York-based global head of foreign-exchange strategy at Nomura. "You're starting to see broad-based growth disappointment. Part of that is the currency is starting to bite."

The nation's employment shrank in March by the most in four years, and its merchandise trade deficit was the 11th in a row.

Policy makers at the Bank of Canada are hesitant to raise interest rates to ward off a burgeoning bubble in real-estate prices because of the potential damage to the broader economy.

Canada's loonie, as the currency is called by traders because of the aquatic bird featured on the nation's one-dollar coin, rose 0.3 percent to C$1.0171 in New York on Friday. One Canadian dollar buys 98.32 U.S. cents.

The currency has lost 2.5 percent versus the U.S. greenback in 2013, and is down 1.2 percent over the past year against a basket of nine other developed-market peers based on Bloomberg Correlated-Weighted Indexes.





Lawsuit claims Fidelity
cheated GM workers

By Brian J. O'Connor
Detroit News Finance Editor
April 30, 2013

A Boston law firm has filed a suit seeking class-action status against Fidelity Investments, claiming the giant financial services firm illegally skimmed tens of millions dollars from the retirement accounts of hourly workers at General Motors Corp.

The suit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, claims Fidelity improperly kept interest generated when account holders' cash is temporarily placed in interest-bearing accounts when deposited, withdrawn or transferred. Fidelity lost part of an earlier suit over this so-called "float income" in Missouri, which it is appealing.

"As soon as Fidelity receives the money, those contributions are plan assets," said Thomas Shapiro, of Shapiro Haber & Urmy, the firm filing Thursday's suit. "Using some of that money to defray its own expenses violates Fidelity's fiduciary duty."

Fidelity spokeswoman Jennifer Engle said the firm didn't earn or retain any income from the float. "We believe that the practices described in the lawsuit are consistent with the law and fair to all parties," Engle said.

Shapiro said his firm filed similar suits in March involving other Fidelity plans, and filed Thursday's suit after being contacted by Korine Brown, a GM hourly worker covered by the General Motors Personal Savings Plan.



Ford increases U.K. engine output

$31M investment will hike capacity to 2M at Britain's 2 plants

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
April 27, 2013

Ford Motor Co. continues to invest in engine production in the United Kingdom, an arrangement that appears to be a safe haven from the European economic crisis. The U.K. currently produces one-in-three Ford engines worldwide.

Ford this week announced plans to invest $31 million at its Bridgend plant in Wales to increase production capacity to 750,000 engines annually.

That capacity, coupled with engine production at another plant, will boost Ford's engine capacity in the U.K. to about 2 million a year.

"We have the capacity to make around one in three of all Ford engines anywhere in the world," said Mark Ovenden, managing director of Ford of Britain, in a telephone interview. "That is a key advantage of the area. It is part of our overall strategy of focusing Britain's role in One Ford."

While auto sales throughout Europe plunge to record lows, the auto industry in the U.K. has been a two-sided story. Take Ford, which has plans to close two production facilities in the U.K. to help it right-size European demand, while at the same time relying heavily on Britain to produce engines for its growing line of global vehicles. It exports engines to many global markets including Germany, Spain and the United States.

"It is the global center of Ford light vehicle diesel engine production (Dagenham) as well as a major supplier of small gasoline engines (Bridgend)," said Al Bedwell, head of global powertrain forecasting at market researcher LMC Automotive, in an email.

Despite the capacity to build 2 million engines, Ovenden said there is still room to produce even more engines. But that assumes a market rebound in Europe; Ford has room to produce more diesel engines, a favorite among European drivers.

Though Britain's engine production will continue to increase, its share of engines manufactured for the global market will most assuredly decrease as Ford adds new engine capacity in North America and Asia.


Ford profits increase
15.4% in first quarter

Ford Earnings

But concern arises over ability to sustain growth in N. America

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News

April 26, 2013

Despite a worsening Europe, high construction costs in Asia and devalued currency in South America, Ford Motor Co.'s profits rose 15.4 percent in the first quarter, buoyed almost entirely by a record-setting North American performance.

The Dearborn automaker posted profits of $1.6 billion, or 41 cents per share, beating the Wall Street consensus of 37 cents per share and topping the $1.4 billion it earned during the first quarter of 2012. Revenue jumped about 10 percent to $35.8 billion.

Ford earned all but $6 million in North America, which posted its highest quarterly pretax profit — $2.4 billion — since at least 2000, when the company broke off North America as its own business unit.

"We've had great consistency over many quarters," said Bob Shanks, Ford's chief financial officer, in a conference call with analysts and reporters. "We're running on all cylinders in North America."

Questions remain about other markets and how long North America can sustain continued growth: Factories here are near capacity and production is unlikely to keep pace with sales in the region in coming years. Ford expects Europe to be profitable by mid-decade and believes Asia will make up a solid portion of its overall profits at about the same time.

The timeline for turnarounds could fluctuate, leaving the company's finances solely in the hands of North America.

"For any company, it's tough to just rely on one region," said Itay Michaeli, analyst at Citi Investment Research. "That's why there's a lot of urgency from the investment community to fix Europe quickly and get South America back on track."

Ford purged another $462 million in Europe last quarter, the company said Wednesday. Sales have fallen to historic lows and sales of Ford vehicles have plunged 20 percent this year.

The automaker lost another $218 million in South America, where the Venezuelan devaluation of the bolivar hit Ford hard.

The only global gain came from Asia, where Ford is still growing. The automaker made $6 million in Asia during the first quarter, the third straight quarter of profitability.

Ford shares Wednesday closed down 0.1 percent, or 1 cent, to $13.35.

Increased market share

Ford's market share increased 0.7 percentage points in the first quarter to 16.2 percent, the company's highest first-quarter market share since 2010, according to Kelley Blue Book.

But Ford's operating margins took a small hit, falling 0.5 percentage points to 11 percent due to a sales mix of smaller, less-profitable vehicles like the Focus compact, Fusion mid-size and Escape SUV, which had a negative impact of about $300 million, Shanks said. Ford also incurred a $300 million loss in manufacturing and engineering expenses.

"We have noted that Ford prefers to reinvest in the product content rather than see margins run into the mid-teens," said Brian Johnson, analyst at Barclays, in a research note.

Here in the U.S., the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion and Escape — along with the C-Max Hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid — helped Ford's sales increase 11 percent through March. Ford has combined these vehicles into what it calls the "supersegment," which it says is the fastest-growing segment in the industry.

Ford is highly competitive in that segment, as are Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which may have an advantage in coming quarters because of a weakening yen.

"I do think that Ford can still grow both profitability and operating margins slightly in North America," Michaeli said. "Ford has very strong products in those segments and are a bit more insulated from the yen. And over time, pickup trucks will gain strength and Ford has the new F-150 on the way next year."

European outlook same

Ford's full-year European outlook — losses of about $2 billion — went unchanged Wednesday.

The automaker is still on track to close two plants in the United Kingdom this year and one in Belgium in 2014. Ford is executing the plans to become profitable in Europe by mid-decade.

"It's been a challenge as we had expected," Shanks said, "and there's still a bit to do."

Stephen Odell, president of Ford's Europe, Middle East and Africa operations, said demand for some vehicles has grown, which he says is an encouraging sign for the market.

"We're actually getting dealers pressing us for wholesale units," Odell said in a conference call, citing demand for Ford's Kuga compact SUV.

Ford Motor Credit profits top $500M

Ford Motor Credit Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Motor Co., reported a pretax profit of $507 million in the first quarter of 2013, compared with $452 million a year earlier. Net income was $364 million in the first quarter, compared with $295 million in the previous year.

The company continues to expect full-year 2013 pre-tax profits to be about equal to 2012.

Ford Credit has provided dealer and customer financing to support the sale of Ford Motor Co. products since 1959.


Record profit in N. America puts 'growth' back in Ford's vocabulary

The Detroit News
Daniel Howes
April 25, 2013

Alan Mulally's Blue Oval machine delivered record pre-tax profits of $2.4 billion in North America, but the most promising sign in Ford Motor Co.'s first quarter numbers is revival of a word generally not associated with Detroit's automakers: growth.

Talk about a turnaround. A little more than four years after much of the Detroit auto industry teetered on the edge of collapse, Ford is leading the way to market share gains and double-digit profit margins with disciplined management of its nine core global product platforms.

"Ford's effectiveness in the mainstream segments has improved considerably over the past four years," Warren Browne, vice president of business development for AutomotiveCompass LLC and a former GM executive in Europe, said in an email Wednesday.

"They also have a unique blend of global and local platforms in emerging markets that appears to help their profitability. In North America they are the benchmark for portfolio effectiveness."

That's not all. Ford's North American operations are being re-established as the company's earnings engine, consistently firing on all cylinders even as Ford of Europe is on track to lose $2 billion this year, South America struggles with unfavorable currency rates and Asia-Pacific invests furiously to make up for lost time.

The automaker is building seven plants in Asia-Pacific, five in China and two in India, signaling that the region's business is likely to "make a big difference in the bottom line of the company … certainly by mid-decade," CFO Bob Shanks said.

"We're going to continue to invest because we have great growth opportunities in Asia-Pacific and North America," he continued. "We think it's the right call to make to invest in growth. We have so much greater ability to grow and expand the business in ways we never had."

And not just in Asia, where Ford is playing catch-up to global rivals General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG. Notwithstanding the dodgy launch of the Lincoln MXZ, Ford's smaller car entrants are joining its stalwart F-Series pickup line in the kind of growth story that hasn't been made in Detroit in a long time.

The early successes of Ford's all-new Fusion midsize (up 26 percent) and Escape crossover (up 25 percent) in the United States are burnishing the Blue Oval in the south and on the coasts, executives say. Credibility in those markets is critical to expanding the Dearborn automaker's market share and bottom line, as well as improving its image.

In other words, growth in Ford's sales, profits and market share is as likely to come at home as it will from overseas. Five years ago, the emergence of the good ol' USA as a driver of profitable growth most would have considered unlikely.

"Ford has generated over $10 billion in automotive … cash flow in the past nine quarters," wrote Eric Selle, analyst with J.P. Morgan. "In just three years post the 2009 Great Recession, Ford was able to achieve investment grade status … by reducing gross debt by $19 billion."

Ford's operating margin in the first quarter reached 11 percent, down slightly from the same time last year. Either way, numbers like those are a vast improvement over the meager margins booked in the pre-meltdown era, persuasive evidence that Detroit can deliver growth and profitability at the same time.

Yes, that Detroit — the industry given up for dead in a town given up for dead because the people making the decisions couldn't manage and wouldn't act. And yet the team Mulally has led the past 61/2 years is culled almost exclusively from the ranks of the Blue Oval, including his likely successor.

Ford has delivered 15 consecutive quarters of profitability; booked 12 consecutive quarters of positive cash flow in its automotive operations; doubled its dividend to 10 cents per share; and maintained a positive net cash position of $8.2 billion at the close of the past quarter.

Not bad for the only one of the Detroit Three to survive the automotive meltdown without taking a multibillion-dollar infusion from the U.S. Treasury. Mulally's Ford bootstrapped its way to profitability, positioning itself now for growth at home and abroad.

Challenges remain. Europe's austerity-fueled recession continues to weigh on the region's volume automakers, Ford and GM included. Ford is moving to close an assembly plant in Belgium, reduce head count and transfer production of engines to Cleveland from Spain, creating 450 jobs in Ohio.

Ford's market share in South America is slipping even as the region's annualized selling rate expanded in the first quarter, typically the slowest selling period there. Ford lost $218 million in the region before taxes, posting a negative operating margin of 9.4 percent.

Problems? Yes. Fixable? Certainly. It's been more than six years since Mulally started dealing his "One Ford" pocket cards to whoever happened to be standing in front of him at the time. And again Wednesday, the CEO started his earnings spiel by recapitulating the four cornerstones laid out for anyone who bothered to look at the opening slide:

"Aggressively restructure to operate profitably at current demand and model mix. Accelerate development of new products. Finance our plan and improve our balance sheet. Work together effectively as one team, leveraging our global assets."

Then he added: "Our One Ford plan remains the foundation for everything we do."

It shows in the metal, in the execution, and in the cold, hard numbers telling a story steadily morphing from turnaround into growth, even right here at home.


Ford may post record Q1 profits in North America, analysts say

April 24, 2013

DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. may post its highest first quarter North American profit ever, the latest sign the automaker's comeback is gaining momentum.

Ford probably earned a record $2.7 billion pretax profit in North America during the first three months of the year, according to analyst estimates at Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

If those predictions hold up, the strong financial performance is largely thanks to a well-received lineup of new cars, led by the mid-size Fusion and compact Focus. And with renewed demand for pickups, the company has earned the biggest U.S. sales gain among top automakers in the quarter.

It's early in the year and Ford faces numerous challenges, chief among them cratering demand in Europe, a weakening yen that's giving Japanese automakers a boost in the U.S. and a poor showing in the luxury market. Still, Ford continues to impress with its ongoing reinvention of its cars and trucks.

"The double benefit of new product in the car segments and the very strong industry pickup demand created what seems like a picture-perfect quarter for Ford in North America," Itay Michaeli, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. who recommends buying Ford stock, said by phone. "They're really in a sweet spot."

First quarter North American profit margin may have topped 12 percent, according to Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan. To stay there, CEO Alan Mulally needs to keep Ford's vehicle lineup fresh as he strives to make further gains in the car and utility segments. That won't be easy as a weakening yen gives Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. an edge.

Pickup rebound

The Fusion, which logged its best-ever quarterly U.S. sales, is combining with the Focus compact in leading Detroit's best lineup of American cars in a generation. First-quarter automotive revenue, to be released Wednesday, probably rose 10 percent to $33.6 billion, the average of 11 estimates compiled by Bloomberg, from $30.5 billion a year ago.

Just as Detroit's cars are making strides, the full-size pickup market is coming back. Led by rebounding demand for F-Series, the best-selling vehicle line in the U.S. for 31 years, large trucks' share of the U.S. auto market climbed to 11.7 percent in the first quarter, from 10.6 percent a year earlier, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

As the Japanese yen declines in value, strong truck products become increasingly crucial for Ford. Trucks are the "first barrier of defense" against a yen that has nearly weakened beyond 100 per dollar for the first time in four years, Citigroup's Michaeli said.

Yen effect

Toyota shares surged 39 percent this year through Monday in Tokyo trading, Nissan Motor Co. had increased 30 percent and Honda had risen 24 percent as the Bank of Japan's deflation-fighting measures fuel the yen's longest streak of monthly losses in more than a decade. Ford, by comparison, has risen 0.8 percent this year, while GM has gained 1.5 percent.

"The yen can go to 110, but there's not much they can do to disrupt what will be a tremendous out-performance of pickup truck sales relative to the market," Michaeli said. "In the next 12 months, there will be an arm wrestle between a weak yen and pickups. We think pickups will win that arm wrestle."

Other currency moves, led by Venezuela's devaluation in February, and trade restrictions by Brazil and Argentina also are denting Ford's results in South America. The company has said it will lose about $300 million there this quarter.

Ford has forecast it will lose about $2 billion in Europe this year, compared with a loss last year of about $1.75 billion.

Factory closures

The losses in Europe and South America may spur a drop in operating profit per share to 37 cents, the average of 17 estimates compiled by Bloomberg, from 39 cents a year earlier.

The bright side for future results is that much of the money Ford will lose in Europe over the near term won't be repeated, said Adam Jonas, an auto analyst at Morgan Stanley.

The three European factories Ford plans to shutter by 2014 are leading to disruptions across its network of plants as production is consolidated, Jonas said by telephone. Those three closures will eventually save Ford $500 million a year.

Ford has deferred by a year the introduction in Europe of the Mondeo, sold in the U.S. as the Fusion, because it's now built at one of the plants due to be shut, at a cost of about $200 million, Jonas said. And the company faces about $400 million of accelerated depreciation this year that will not recur once the three factories close, he said.

Europe is "a very controlled mess for Ford," said Jonas, who is based in New York and rates the shares the equivalent of a buy. "Ford is very blunt about how weak the market is, but they are very confident and excited about the improvement that is going to come."

Luxury Lincoln

That leaves the luxury market, which remains one of the company's biggest headaches. Sales for its Lincoln line plunged in January to the brand's worst monthly showing in almost 32 years as production of the MKZ sedan was slowed for quality checks. Ford said supply would be up to normal this month.

Lincoln deliveries in the first quarter fell 24 percent from a year earlier, the most of any brand with at least 100 sales, to 15,899. A single car in Toyota's premium Lexus line -- the ES sedan -- outsold the entire Lincoln brand by itself in the first three months of the year.

Still, Ford's renewed car and truck lineup has it faring better than it has in years.

Ford "can be competitive regardless of where a customer wants to come into the market, whether it's at the entry level, the truck level or the crossover/SUV level," Kevin Tynan, an auto analyst for Bloomberg Industries, said in a telephone interview.


Ford investing $31M
at U.K. engine plant

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
April 23, 2013

Ford Motor Co. said Monday it will invest about $31 million in its Bridgend engine plant in the United Kingdom, its first big investment since announcing the closure of two U.K. plants last fall.

The investment will allow the plant to build Ford's new global 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine and will boost employment at the plant to 2,300.

The Detroit News first reported the investment last week following an interview with Right Honourable Michael Fallon, minister of state for business and energy.

"Ford is expanding," said Fallon in Detroit to give a speech at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2013 World Congress. "Automotive in Britain is now a success story. We're exporting more by value than we're importing for the first time in 30 years. We've had a huge turnaround."

But Ford, which lost about $1.75 billion in Europe last year, plans to shutter plants in Southampton and Dagenham, U.K., later this year to right-size production to dwindling European demand. European auto sales this year are on pace for their lowest totals since sales tracking began in 1990.

Production of the 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine at Bridgend will start next year. The engine will be built alongside Ford's 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine.


GM, Ford look to the past for Chinese concept cars

By Karl Henkel and Melissa Burden
The Detroit News
April 22, 2013

Two venerable nameplates from the U.S. auto industry are back — in China, and as concepts.

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. on Friday and today unveiled concepts at the Auto Shanghai 2013 with familiar names: the Buick Riviera and Ford Escort.

Ford's Escort, which bears the same name as the compact car produced until 2002, will be marketed as a "bigger, cheaper" version of Ford's Focus compact. Ford now sells two Focus cars in China: a "classic" Focus and the global edition.

"The global Focus that we all know today is 'dimensionally challenged' in the rear seat," said Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific Inc. "This concept looks to address that issue with a longer wheelbase and will likely offer a slightly less-premium interior to reduce costs.

"Chinese consumers have very sophisticated taste for vehicle interiors but, like the U.S., 'cheap and big' are what sells in this segment," Sullivan said as the Chinese show opened to the automotive press.

Ford says the Escort concept is for Chinese consumers who want a "vehicle that is stylish" but not one that is "arrogant and pretentious."

The Escort has a more upright grille compared with other Ford vehicles, has jeweled headlamps and a sculptured shoulder for a "desirable yet attainable look," said Chris Svensson, whose last project as director of design for Ford Asia, Pacific and Africa was the Escort concept.

Sullivan said it's highly unlikely the U.S. will see the Escort concept, but elements from the car could make their way to the states if they play well in China.

GM on Friday showed off a 2013 Buick Riviera concept in a global debut. The new Riviera follows one GM showed as a concept in 2007 in Shanghai. The Detroit carmaker sold the Riviera from 1963 to 1999, producing more than 1.1 million. The Riviera concept, which combines avant-garde looks, gull-wing doors and a plug-in hybrid electric propulsion system, was developed by Shanghai GM and Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center joint ventures.

The vehicle is finished in an ice celadon tone, inspired by jade.

Buick said the Riviera's updated waterfall grille and wing-shaped daytime running lights will become "key elements" of future Buick designs.

"The new Riviera offers a preview of Buick's future design language," Shanghai GM President Ye Yongming said in a statement.

GM said the new Riviera's elegant looks feature deeply sculpted lines and was inspired by a Chinese saying "the greatest good is like water."

"Riviera is a design study of the future expression of Buick design with its elegant athletic shape, sculptural beauty, and precision execution," Ed Welburn, GM vice president of global design, said in a statement. "It is a great opportunity to share Buick's future design language and technology strategy."

The concept also features an all-new dual-mode wireless plug-in hybrid electric vehicle system.

GM said the vehicle could be driven on "green power" electric mode and offer handling and performance of a sports car while driving in hybrid mode. The Detroit-based automaker also said the vehicle could be charged through a cable or wirelessly through a sensory recharge panel that's part of the vehicle's chassis.

Sullivan called the Buick concept a "buzz generator" and for the popular brand in China. He said the vehicle was "flashy" and "young" and not necessarily what Buick is known for in China.

"(It's an) idea of where we see the Buick grille going and the iconic Buick front end, where we're going to see some of the design cues for the brand," Sullivan said. "That's probably the most important thing here, and that GM is working on a next-generation of plug-in hybrid systems."

In other auto show news Friday, Volkswagen said it plans to expand its model line-up 29 percent by 2015 in China.

Volkswagen will offer 90 cars, sport-utility vehicles, vans and heavy trucks in the country compared with 70 models now, said Jochem Heizmann.


Flat Rock Ford plant to be idled

Automaker needs time to prepare for Fusion production

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
April 21, 2013

Ford Motor Co.'s Flat Rock Assembly Plant will shut down for a month this summer to prepare for production of the Fusion midsize car, the Dearborn automaker confirmed Friday.

Beginning the final week of June, Ford will idle the plant, which currently produces the Mustang during its one-shift operation, to train new workers and finalize current production plans for the Fusion.

The plant normally takes about two weeks off during summer months, a United Auto Workers official said; that idle time will be expanded this year. The plant will also be idled for a week in early May.

Fusion production at Flat Rock is slated to begin in late August, though that date has fluctuated, union officials have said. That means Fusion cars from Flat Rock would begin arriving at dealerships in late fall.

There is a vocal contingent of American Fusion fans that have already put off buying the new 2013 Fusion because it is built in Hermosillo, Mexico. Demand for that Fusion, however, has remained at record levels.

Ford sold more than 30,000 Fusions in March — a monthly sales record — and is looking to supplement production at its three-shift Hermosillo plant with an additional shift at Flat Rock.

Though the Mustang line will also shut down for a month, Ford doesn't have plans to ramp up production of the pony car in advance of the idle period; the plant is already producing the maximum number of Mustangs on its eight-hour shift. And demand for the current generation Mustang has waned recently as talk of a new Mustang for 2015 heats up.

The Flat Rock Assembly Plant's 1,700 workers will get most of their pay during the changeover. When a second shift is added, the plant will employ more than 3,000.


Auto manufacturing in Canada in long-term decline, report warns

The Canadian auto industry is attracting less investment, creating fewer jobs, and comprises a shrinking share of North American output, the report by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants found. REUTERS

Canada's share of North American auto
manufacturing in decline, report shows.

By: Dana Flavelle Economy
Apr 20, 2013

Despite nearly record high sales of autos in the U.S. and Canada last year, Canada's share of North American auto production continued to slide, a new report shows.

The Canadian industry is attracting less investment, creating fewer jobs, and comprises a shrinking share of North American output, the report by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants found.

By almost every measure, the state of auto manufacturing in Canada is "dismal" and shows few signs of improving, the report released Thursday concludes.

The report looked at all manufacturers, not just the Detroit Three, and defines North America to include Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

The most worrisome trend is the declining investment in Canadian plants, the author, Dennis DesRosiers, said in an interview. "If they're not investing, it's not going to get better."

Since auto industry sales began recovering in earnest from the last recession, auto makers have invested $42.3 billion (U.S.) in North American plants, according to data supplied by the Centre for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

But only $2.3 billion (U.S.) went to Canada, the research centre found. The rest was spent in the U.S. and Mexico.

One of the issues facing government is the use of subsidies to compete for auto industry investment, the research centre's Kim Hill said in a telephone interview.

"From our research, the incentives -- whether it's future tax abatements or cash or free land or low interest loans -- just to be at the table you have to be willing to talk about that," Hill said.

In the latest example, a Kentucky state finance authority said Thursday it had approved $146.5 million (U.S.) in tax incentives to induce Toyota Motor Corp. to expand its plant in Georgetown.

Already the company's largest plant in North America, Toyota would have to invest $531.2 million (U.S.) and create 570 full-time jobs to receive the full value of the credits, the authority said.

Toyota may add the Lexus ES to the line-up of vehicles built in the Kentucky plant, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal. The company is scheduled to make a production announcement Friday in New York.

Canadian auto industry manufacturers now account for just 15.6 per cent of North American product, down from 17 per cent in 2010, the report by DesRosiers found. Meanwhile, Mexico's share has risen to 19 per cent.

Automotive industry employment is also suffering.

Employment peaked in Canada in 2000 at 153,000 workers. By 2009, it had fallen to 98,000. Since then, even with the robust recovery in sales, the auto industry has added just 4,000 jobs.

"This is an employment-less recovery," DesRosiers said.

During contract negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers last fall, the Detroit Three auto-makers said Canada is no longer cost competitive with other jurisdictions, citing higher wages and a rising Canadian dollar.

The union agreed in contract talks with the Detroit Three last fall to lower wages and benefits for new hires. It has also called on the federal government to develop a national auto strategy.

Canada also lost a cost advantage on health care – worth $2,000 to $3,000 per vehicle -- after the U.S. began moving toward a more Canadian-style health care system and the United Auto Workers assumed the cost of the Detroit Three auto makers health care program, DesRosiers said.

The federal government has been "attentive" to the industry's problem and is addressing it in a variety of ways, including renewing a five-year $250 million auto industry investment fund, DesRosiers said. But the Ontario government is "nowhere on this issue," he said.

Ontario recently shared a $34 million investment with the federal government in a Toyota plant in Ingersoll.

Ford of Canada says it produces about 10 per cent of North American cars in Canada, and also accounts for 10 per cent of North American sales. It also buys $3.6 billion U.S. worth of goods from Canadian suppliers each year.

Chrysler Canada said its two plants in Canada account for 25 per cent of its global production. Production at its Brampton and Windsor assembly plants last year was up 23 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, the company also noted.

While some Canadian auto makers' absolute numbers are higher, DesRosiers said, their share of the North American market has declined.


Ford kicks off 50th year
of Mustang production

Mustang 50 Years

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
April 18, 2013

Flat Rock — Ford Motor Co. has sold more than 8.5 million Mustangs since 1964, but the Dearborn automaker recognizes it has to keep the iconic pony car fresh to boost sales.

The Mustang is narrowing in on its 50th anniversary — April 17, 2014 is the official date — and details about its sixth generation, slated to hit showrooms for the 2015 model year, are scant.

But changes are coming. Sales of the Mustang in recent years have been at historic lows, but demand for the car — at least globally — is at an all-time high, which means the Mustang of old is nearly ready to make room for the Mustang of new.

Raj Nair, Ford's vice president of global product development, was mum when asked about the future of Mustang on Wednesday, as Ford and the United Auto Workers celebrated the Mustang's 49th birthday and the 1 millionth Mustang built at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

"The thing about refresh rates is they are a key factor in your market share," Nair said, when asked what Ford needed to accomplish with the refreshed Mustang.

But Nair also said Ford isn't going to be too radical to boost sales or make hasty alterations to meet the needs of the soon-to-be European Mustang consumer. "We've got a very strong idea of what a Mustang is," he said. "That's what Mustang will always be."

Sales of the Mustang aren't what they used to be. Chevrolet's Camaro muscle car has topped the Mustang in annual sales in the U.S. for three consecutive years. The difference is about only 1,400 cars, but overall Mustang sales are less than half of what they used to be in the 1990s.

The reason: more choices and waning interest for the current-generation Mustang, and because fans are well aware the next edition will come sooner rather than later.

"There's a lot of other choices for those wanting to express themselves, which is the basis of what the Mustang is about," said Jack Nerad, executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book. "The Mustang is a 'Hey, look at me' car, and if there's a new car like the Camaro that's even more 'Hey, look at me,' then that's the one I'm going to buy."

Demand, however, has accelerated to what Ford has called "a critical mass" for markets outside the U.S., particularly in Europe, slated to sell Mustangs for the first time since the 1970s.

Nair on Wednesday insisted that opening up Mustang sales to such a large market — Ford already sells the pony car in 30 other markets — won't change the time-tested car.

"It's an American icon, but it's not solely an American passion," Nair said. "There's always regulatory requirements, but relative to the car, a Mustang is a Mustang."


On labour and expenses,
Hudak is spoiling for a fight

Adrian Morrow
The Globe and Mail
Apr. 17, 2013

Tim Hudak is prepared to slash spending, contract out medical procedures and wrestle with unions over public-sector pensions.

Such muscular measures are necessary, the Progressive Conservative Leader told The Globe and Mail's editorial board, if the province is to balance its books and create the conditions for renewed economic growth.

He knows he will be in for a fight – but it's one he says he can win. "Do I recognize that's going to be controversial? Do I recognize that's going to be a big political battle in newspapers and in media? Yeah, I do," he said. "What do I do about that? I go directly to voters. … I believe average families who have to balance their own household budget get it and will support that."

Such staunchly Blue Tory policies will draw a sharp contrast between Mr. Hudak and left-leaning Premier Kathleen Wynne in the next election. His campaign platform, for instance, will outline a plan to balance the books at least a year earlier than the Liberals' current target of the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The policies are also part of a broader attempt to brand Mr. Hudak as a serious economic manager – the man voters can trust to steer the province to prosperity.

It's a marked change of tone from the 2011 vote when, Mr. Hudak admits, he attacked the governing Liberals without presenting a clear alternative. Afterward, he said, he searched for a better way forward. "I did a deep think about not simply trying to win elections or be the opposition leader, because it's kind of like I auditioned for that job and 'congratulations, you got it again,'" he said.

The result of that contemplation is more than 300 specific proposals for reshaping the province, many involving major overhauls of government departments.

In the health ministry, for instance, Mr. Hudak wants to eliminate 2,000 administrative jobs, and expand the roles of nurses and pharmacists to free up doctors. He insists better care can be had by introducing more competition into the system, both by allowing patients to choose between hospitals and by putting some procedures, such as cataract surgeries, out to private-sector tender.

The counterweight to all this austerity will be a tax cut – either dropping the corporate tax rate from 11.5 per cent to 10 per cent, shaving two percentage points off the HST or slashing income tax – which Mr. Hudak pitches as a way of ensuring spending cuts don't stifle economic growth.

It will no doubt be a tall order to forgo that revenue when the province is already cutting back. But it is on the labour front that Mr. Hudak will likely have the hardest time implementing his agenda, should he one day become premier.

He wants to make the province's manufacturing labour market more competitive with so-called "right-to-work" states, such as Michigan, by allowing workers to opt out of unions. Teacher unions would be forbidden from withdrawing extracurricular activities as they did this school year. And he would scale back public-sector pensions to bring them in line with their private counterparts.


GM, Ford team up on
transmission development

Jointly working on transmissions
will save money, beat competitors

By Melissa Burden and Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
April 16, 2013

Crosstown rivals General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. said today they have signed an agreement to jointly develop advanced nine-speed and 10-speed transmissions, a move that likely will save each company hundreds of millions of dollars and meet competitors' offerings faster.

"Ten-speeds put them ahead," said Jim Hall, analyst at 2953 Analytics LLP, in a telephone interview. "People now are working on eights and nines. Tens are on the bleeding-edge side."

The companies signed a memorandum of understanding in the fall. This is the third time GM and Ford have teamed up to co-develop and co-engineer transmissions in the past decade.

Neither GM nor Ford would comment on which automaker approached the other for this deal, or how much they are spending.

The companies said the new automatics will be used globally and will go into cars, trucks, crossovers and SUVs in high volumes. They declined to say which vehicles will get the transmissions.

The nine-speed will go into front-wheel-drive vehicles at both Ford and GM, while the 10-speed will go into rear-wheel drives at both companies, said Mark Schirmer, Ford's global product communications manager.

"We expect these new transmissions to raise the standard of technology, performance and quality for our customers, while helping drive fuel economy improvements into both company's future product portfolios," Jim Lanzon, GM vice president of global transmission engineering, said in a statement.

Ford and GM aren't saying how long it will take to bring the transmissions to market. But when they worked together on six-speed transmissions in the early 2000s, it took 3-31/2 years.

It could be quicker this time, because some early design work has started and the industry is now faster at bringing products to market.

Transmission development usually takes three to four years, meaning they may be available in 2016, said IHS principal analyst David Petrovski.

Petrovski said working together on transmissions can minimize risk. He said the advanced transmissions should generate a "noticeable improvement" in fuel economy.

Transmission development is pricey; working together likely can save hundreds of millions of dollars for the automakers. Hall said the move won't affect their competitive balance.

"Customers don't care where the transmission comes from," he said. "So there's no disadvantage to sharing it."

The companies plan to produce the transmissions in their own plants, GM spokesman Dan Flores said. "GM and Ford are fierce competitors, and we're going to continue to be," he said.

The goal is to keep the parts identical in both Ford and GM transmissions, Craig Renneker, a Ford chief engineer, said in a statement.

"This will maximize parts commonality and give both companies economy of scale."

GM said in 2011 it would build an eight-speed automatic. Earlier this month, it said it would use those transmissions in "numerous GM vehicles by the end of 2016."

GM will use a different eight-speed in its 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport model. That transmission was developed by Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd. of Japan.

A six-speed automatic is Ford's current offering with the most gear ratios.

GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson said on an employee call last summer that the Detroit automaker was behind the competition on some engines and in transmission development.

Chrysler Group LLC already is using eight-speed transmissions, with nine-speeds coming soon.

Ford and GM announced in fall 2002 they would work together on six-speed transmission development.

Those transmissions were first available in 2006. In another collaboration, Ford and GM developed a smaller six-speed. Production of that transmission began in 2008 and was introduced in 2009 models.

The two automakers in total have delivered more than 8 million transmissions through the partnerships.

Schirmer said it makes "great financial sense" to partner. He said one company will take the lead on developing the nine-speed transmission and the other on the 10-speed. GM and Ford would not say which company was leading which project.

The deal means the companies will essentially end up with two transmissions for the price of one, Schirmer said.

GM and Ford said there are no plans to reduce engineering work forces. Flores said working together will free up manpower to pull ahead other future transmission work at each company.

Consumers will benefit, because transmissions with more gear ratios help boost fuel economy and vehicle performance. Ford, for example, expects to gain up to a 5 percent fuel economy improvement when it moves from six-speeds to nine-speeds, Schirmer said.

The companies say it makes sense to collaborate, given increasing fuel economy requirements.

"No two automakers sell more automatic transmissions than GM and Ford," Flores said. "We have a history of collaborating. ... You take the expertise of both companies, both are willing partners, and you have the opportunity to bring some technology to market that will not only benefit each company, but customers on both ends."


Ford to email customers 'video snacks' on new car features

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
April 15, 2013

As automakers park more technology inside vehicles, the list of features a customer must learn continues to get longer.

And instead of spending hours at the dealership toying with new items inside the car, Ford Motor Co. this week is launching a video vehicle manual of sorts to cut down on time spent at the dealership and better connect consumers to their cars.

"The truth is, many savvy consumers know more about the cars they are shopping for then the sales people," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of market intelligence at auto pricing and information website TrueCar.com, who formerly managed dealerships. "It's just more practical to watch a video for most complicated functions in today's vehicles then to try end interpret a complicated diagram on a page."

Dubbed "video snacks," Ford will try to explain to customers certain features like remote start, MyKey and blind spot mirrors through short videos that will be emailed to customers before they pick up their new vehicles.

Customers will choose which videos they would like to receive and watch, and their salesperson will know which videos have not been selected. When the customer goes to pick up their vehicle, the salesperson will know precisely which features the customer has already learned.

It is part of an effort to cut down on the increasing amount of time customers spend at dealerships learning about new vehicles and their advanced technologies.

Mark Smith, president of Dick Smith Ford in Raytown, Mo., said the video strategy should save time for both dealer salespeople and customers and said he does not see the videos as a potential threat to dealership experience.

"If there's more features, then it takes more time," Smith said in a telephone interview.

Ford said it reviewed customer research conducted from up to three months after a purchase to find out which technologies new buyers found most interesting.

One example is Ford MyKey system, which allows parents to create a customizable key with specific driving settings, including speed limit control, for greater safety for teen drivers.

But MyKey is still a relatively new piece of technology and may not be simple to operate for all drivers.

"Our goal is to simplify and enhance the sales experience by providing customers with the resources they need when they need them so that they can fully enjoy all the benefits their vehicle has to offer them," said Andrew Ashman, Ford and Lincoln consumer experience manager


Toyota-Ford tiff shows challenge
of measuring global auto sales

By Alan Ohnsman and Craig Trudell
Bloomberg News
April 14, 2013

For the second time in seven months, Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. both claim to produce the world's top-selling car. The clash shows how counting in the global automotive industry is complicated.

Ford says its Focus compact car was the leading global nameplate, with 1.02 million sales last year, citing R.L. Polk & Co. data that pegged Toyota's Corolla deliveries at 872,774. Toyota replied with a statement that said it sold 1.16 million Corollas.

Determining which company is correct isn't clear cut. This latest dispute followed a similar spat in August, when Ford claimed a six-month global sales lead for Focus and cited IHS Automotive data that excluded some derivatives of the Corolla such as Matrix in the U.S., the Auris in Europe and the Verso in Japan. Analysts also calculate global sales differently on the basis of autos sold by joint-venture partners.

"There's no simple answer here — it's basically for bragging rights, so you define it however you like to suit your purposes," said Alan Baum, principal of Baum & Associates, an auto consulting firm in West Bloomfield. "Suffice it to say these are both global models that are extremely popular and whose sales are likely to grow as the volumes in developing countries increase."

The differing tallies emerged as Ford and Detroit-based General Motors Co. revamp their U.S. car offerings to win sales in segments dominated for decades by Toyota and Tokyo-based Honda Motor Co. Fusion, Ford's mid-size sedan that was redesigned last year, is gaining ground on Toyota's Camry, the top-selling U.S. car for 11 consecutive years. Camry held a lead over Fusion of 100,830 to 80,558 after the first quarter.

Erich Merkle, Ford's U.S. sales analyst, reiterated that Focus was the "best-selling nameplate." The 1.02 million figure "is a pure number that is verified by a third party," Merkle said in an e-mail.

Polk is unable to provide data on global sales by nameplate beyond what Ford has released, said Michelle Culver, a Polk spokeswoman who works for Lambert, Edwards & Associates. The Southfield-based company's global reporting typically lags by three to four months because it tracks more than 80 markets worldwide.

"Toyota sold 1.16 million Corolla nameplate vehicles globally in 2012," Mike Michels, the carmaker's U.S. vice president of communications, said in an e-mailed statement. "Corolla registrations attributed to Polk come up short by nearly 300,000 units. This discrepancy is glaring and we have requested clarification."

Ford's F-Series pickup line was the No. 3 nameplate globally last year, behind Focus and Corolla, and Ford's Fiesta subcompact was No. 6, according to the Polk data released by Ford. GM's Chevrolet Cruze small car was No. 8, ahead of Honda's Civic compact.


Temporary foreign worker
program lowers wages, thwarts training, economists say

The Globe and Mail
April 13, 2013

The growth of Canada's temporary foreign worker program has created distortions in the labour market, from downward pressure on wages in some sectors to acting as a disincentive to train workers, economists say.

Documents obtained by The Globe and Mail this week show 33,000 employers, spanning all sectors, have used the program in recent years.

The huge uptake, which totalled more than 330,000 foreign workers last year, has likely suppressed wages in some industries, such as retail and construction, and affected opportunities for youth and immigrants, labour market experts say. And the rush to use foreign workers has created problems on the training front.

"Canada already has an abysmal record on training and this is another incentive not to train existing workers," said Robert Fairholm, partner and economist at the Milton, Ont.-based Centre for Spatial Economics. "Not training people who are here can be very detrimental because we're hollowing out skills in the country … and that has the potential for big negative long-term consequences."

Mr. Fairholm said the program needs to pared back. "I think it's run amok." But he and others don't want to see the TFW program scrapped, saying it's valuable to bring in highly skilled people who share their knowledge.

There is plenty of underutilized labour in Canada. The country's jobless rate as a whole is 7.2 per cent, but the broadest measure of unemployment – which includes the unemployed, part-time workers who'd prefer to be full-time and discouraged people, is 11.2 per cent, Statistics Canada figures show.

Underemployment is particularly acute among young people and immigrants, who have likely been most affected by the growth in temporary foreign workers. Young people, newcomers and the aboriginal population are "the groups most affected by the influx of TFWs" since their connection to the labour market is more tenuous, and they are thus "first to be pushed out," said Jason Foster, an industrial relations expert at Athabasca University who's written a paper on the topic.

Plus, he added, these groups are more likely to be found in the sectors, such as restaurants, hotels, retail and construction, where the TFW influx has been strongest.

Just four in 10 skilled immigrants are working in jobs commensurate with their skills and training, a portion that hasn't improved in recent years, said Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation who has long argued the TFW needs to be fixed in favour of permanent immigrants who settle, pay taxes and integrate in Canada.

"What's happening to the other six [in 10]? With very little effort one could reach out to them."

Montreal-based pilot Tanguy Castric was laid off from a Canadian airline last fall, and applied to Sunwing and CanJet. Despite 18 years of experience and related qualifications flying large-sized aircraft, he didn't even land an interview. At around the same time, the two firms were bringing in dozens of temporary foreign workers, according to information obtained by the Air Line Pilots Association.

He later found himself moving from one city to another in Pakistan on a contract with an airline there. It wasn't an easy decision to leave his family behind, missing his baby son's first birthday and first Christmas. And it was stressful.

On his first flight, from Lahore to Dubai, the flaps failed and so did a reverser, causing a hair-raising landing.

In Peshawar, he was told not to leave his hotel.

He felt he didn't have much choice taking the job, however, if he wanted to keep his skills fresh.

"It's hard to understand," said Mr. Castric, now back in Canada with his girlfriend and baby. "I'm not angry about the companies" that employ foreign workers, he said, "and I'm not angry at the people coming here. I'm angry about the government letting this happen. I pay taxes in Canada, and I believe that I deserve some


Six automakers recall 3M
vehicles for faulty air bags

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

April 12, 2013

Washington — Six automakers are recalling about 3.4 million vehicles worldwide, including more than 1 million in the U.S., because air bags from a supplier could catch fire or send metal fragments harming people in the front seat.

The massive recall — blamed on a single faulty part in an air bag built a decade ago in Washington State — is the latest example of the impact of more common parts among major automakers. It's also the latest in a series of high-profile air bag recalls in recent years.

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co, Mazda Motor Co., General Motors Co. and BMW AG are recalling 3.4 million vehicles because of a faulty air bag part produced by Takata, the automakers said Thursday.

Toyota is recalling 1.7 million vehicles worldwide, including 510,000 in the U.S. The vehicles include models from 2001-2003, including the Toyota Corolla, Corolla Matrix, Sequoia, Tundra, Lexus SC 430.

GM said it planned to recall 48,000 2003 Pontiac Vibe cars in the United States - a model assembled at a joint GM-Toyota facility - and up to 7,000 in Canada.

Toyota said its investigation was prompted after learning about a fire in an instrument panel in a crash in October 2011 that involved a faulty inflator in an airbag.

In 2012, the automaker received three reports of fractured inflator parts in U.S. vehicles. Toyota said it believes just 170,000 of the vehicles will need repairs, but all 510,000 will have to be recalled to be inspected.

U.S. auto safety officials are keeping a close eye on the issue.

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been in communication with Takata and the affected automakers regarding the recalls. The agency will continue to monitor the situation closely and will take appropriate action as warranted," the agency said.

Honda is recalling 561,000 vehicles in the U.S.: the 2001-2003 Civic, 2002-2003 CR-V and 2002 Honda Odyssey, while Nissan is recalling 480,000 vehicles worldwide, including about 265,000 in the United States including the 2001-2003 Maxima, Pathfinder Sentra, Infiniti FX crossover and QX4.

Honda said it became aware of a rupture of a passenger airbag in Puerto Rico in October 2011 and began investigating. It will begin notifying owners of the recall next month.

"It is possible that the passenger front airbag inflators in affected vehicles may deploy with too much pressure, which may cause the inflator casing to rupture and could result in injury. Honda is aware of one crash in which a passenger front airbag deployed with too much pressure, causing the casing to rupture. Honda is not aware of any injuries or deaths related to this issue," Honda said.

Edmunds.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs said the recall shows the impact of automakers using common parts "This recall is an example of one of the downsides of using 'super suppliers' for important vehicle components," she said.

Mazda is recalling just 149 vehicles in the U.S. -- some 2003-2004 Mazda6 and 2004 RX-8 vehicles.

Takata, which has a major presence in southeast Michigan and its headquarters in Auburn Hills, said it is aware of six incidents worldwide - two in Japan and four in the U.S. and said there have been no injuries.

The company told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it also provided faulty inflators to BMW AG, though it is not clear how many vehicles might be impacted, the German automaker said.

The Japanese auto supplier's stock fell 9 percent in Tokyo on the recall news, after falling as much as 15 percent.

Takata said the problem was primarily caused by a faulty manufacturing process at its Moses Lake, Wash., plant. The machine at issue was modified by at least September 2002. Takata also said some airbag parts may have been exposed to moisture at its plant in Moncolva, Mexico.

Over the last year, automakers have recalled millions of vehicles for faulty air bags.

Toyota said in January it was recalling 900,000 Corolla and Matrix models worldwide for potentially faulty airbags, saying they have circuits that are susceptible to internal shorting.

Chrysler Group LLC recalled 920,000 Jeep SUVs in November to fix a faulty electrical part after more than 100 reports of unintended air bag deployments.

The Auburn Hills automaker said the front or side airbag could deploy without warning — or the seatbelt pretensioner could deploy.

Ford Motor Co. recalled 182,000 Fiesta subcompacts in October to fix a problem with the side air bags. When the front passenger seat is empty, the rear right seating position side-curtain airbag may not inflate in a crash.

Hyundai Motor Co. recalled 220,000 vehicles in July covering two airbag issues.

The automaker recalling 199,118 2007-2009 Santa Fe SUVs to ensure that airbags deploy in a crash when a small individual is sitting in the passenger seat. Sensors in vehicles do not deploy the airbag when a small person is sitting in certain positions in order to prevent injuries and also recalled 22,512 2012-13 Sonatas to prevent side curtain air bags from improperly deploying and will replace the air bag modules.


Passport Canada could cut 25% of staff as it rolls out new documents

A passenger holds his Canadian passport before boarding a flight in Ottawa, Ont. on Jan 23, 2007. (Tom Hanson / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Terry Pedwell,
Canadian Press
April 11, 2013

OTTAWA -- The agency that issues passports to Canadians is projecting a quarter of its workforce could be cut as it rolls out new chip-embedded, 10-year travel documents.

Passport Canada expects to have the equivalent of 2,512 full time staff this year, says a Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade report.

But that number drops to 1,874 by fiscal 2015-16 in the plans and priorities report.

The agency says it expects fewer people to apply for the new, more secure travel documents by then.

"Passport Canada constantly adjusts staffing levels to respond to passport demand," the agency says in an email to The Canadian Press.

"As such, given an anticipated drop in forecast volumes, Passport Canada expects to require fewer staff in 2015-2016."

But if demand remains high, the planned number of staff cuts will be reduced, the agency says.

"These numbers will be adjusted as needed based on actual circumstances and within the constraints of our cost recovery business model."

Passport Canada is grappling with a $70-million shortfall this year, and plans to balance its books within the next three years, despite projections of lower revenues.

Those projections, the agency says, don't currently reflect fee increases that are to come into effect on July 1.

The plans and priorities report issued recently indicates Passport Canada expects to spend $355.7 million in 2013-14, but will only collect $285.3 million from fees, leaving the agency short $70.4 million.

The same report anticipated spending $315.6 million in fiscal 2014-15, and revenues of $285.3 million, yet projected a zero balance by the end of the year.

Passport Canada has since changed its revenue projection to match the $315.6 million it expects to spend, calling its earlier revenue projection an "unintentional editorial error."

And while it currently anticipates both spending and revenues to drop to $248.9 million by 2014-15, the agency says those numbers will change by this time next year because the new, higher cost of a 10-year passport hasn't been included in its calculations.

"The expenditures shown for 2015-16 reflected the Treasury Board approved numbers prior to the approval of the passport fee increase which will come into effect on July 1, 2013," said the agency.

"The impact of this increase will be reflected in the next RPP."

New regulations posted in December push the cost of a five-year passport to $120 from $87 as of July.

The new 10-year ePassport, complete with embedded computer chip and distinctive historical watermark features, will cost $160.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird unveiled the new chip technology passports last October, saying they would be more secure, even though, outwardly, they look the same as the current booklet.

The agency is also hiking other fees, including a $45 charge on top of the regular passport fee to replace a document that's lost, damaged or stolen.

Approximately 55,000 Canadian passports are reported lost or stolen annually, the agency said.

Canadians ordering passports from outside the country will see the biggest jump in fees. It will cost $190 to apply for, or receive, the five-year document in another country, up from $97. The fee will be $260 for the 10-year version requested under the same circumstances.

The cost of a domestically ordered child's passport is also going up to $57, an increase of $20. That same child's passport, if applied for outside Canada, will cost $100.

The agency noted in December that it had not increased fees for nearly a decade, and that it was losing nearly $5 every time it issued a travel document.

Passport Canada is considered a so-called "cost recovery" agency, and can only finance deficits through previously accumulated surpluses. Its current surplus is expected to run out next year.

Canada is the only G8 country that doesn't currently issue ePassports to the general public, although it has been issuing chip-enhanced diplomatic and special passports since 2009.


Ford to offer smaller-displacement engine for 2014 Fusion

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
April 10, 2013

Ford Motor Co. may be eyeing a smaller-displacement engine for its hot-selling Fusion midsize sedan.

A report on the website FordInsideNews.com says Ford will offer a 1.5-liter engine as an option on the 2014 Fusion. The report also says the Fusion will come in two new colors: Dark Side and Sunset.

This is relevant because ads for a sunset-colored — orange — Fusion have recently appeared on Facebook pages.

A Ford spokesman, when asked about the ads last week, said he would look into their origin. The spokesman did not confirm the new engine reports Tuesday afternoon.

It is believed the engine will have four cylinders and not three as originally reported by multiple car blogs on Tuesday.

Ford last week announced the addition of a 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine for its Mondeo car in Asia. The Mondeo is the global version of the Fusion.

EcoBoost engines are a marriage of turbocharging, direct-injection and twin independent variable-camshaft timing. Ford has five EcoBoost engines: a 1-, 1.5-, 1.6-, 2- and 3.5-liter.

The 1.6- and 2-liter EcoBoost engines are already offered on the 2013 Fusion here in the U.S., as is a 2.5-liter engine and hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains.

The 1.5-liter EcoBoost would conceivably get a better fuel efficiency rating that could elevate Fusion to the top of its segment for gas mileage.

Since going on sale last fall, the Fusion has overcome multiple recalls that hindered its launch. In March, it set a monthly sales record when Ford sold more than 30,000 of the midsize cars.

The 2014 Fusion will come out later this year.


Ford Focus cruises to
top of global sales

Ford sold more than 1 million Focus cars worldwide last year, topping Toyota Motor’s Corolla compact car by more than 147,000 cars. (Ford)

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
April 9, 2013

Buoyed by the Chinese market, Ford Motor Co.'s Focus compact car outsold all other vehicles in 2012 by a wide margin, according to data released today by market researcher R.L. Polk & Co.

The Dearborn automaker sold more than 1 million Focus cars worldwide last year, topping the No. 2 best-seller and perennial sales champion, Toyota Motor Corp.'s Corolla compact car, by more than 147,000 cars.

Ford sells the Focus in more than 100 countries and the car has become a huge success in China. The automaker sold nearly 300,000 Focus cars in China last year, after an all-new Focus made its debut in March. Ford sells two Focus cars in that market — an older-generation, or "Classic" Focus, and the current generation that is sold around the globe.

Ford's F-Series trucks finished third on the 2012 list with 785,630 vehicles sold.

Other vehicles from domestic automakers in the top 10 include Ford's Fiesta subcompact, the sixth-best seller with 723,130 sales, and General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Cruze compact car, at No. 8 with 661,325 sold.

World beaters

Best-selling vehicles in 2012:
1. Ford Focus, 1,020,410
2. Toyota Corolla, 872,774
3. Ford F-Series, 785,630
4. Wuling Sunshine, 768,870
5. Toyota Camry, 729,793
6. Ford Fiesta, 723,130
7. VW Golf, 699,148
8. Chevrolet Cruze, 661,325
9. Honda Civic, 651,159
10. Honda CR-V, 624,982


Hey aspiring snowbirds:
The Florida housing market
could be rebounding

Andrea Cornish
Special to The Globe and Mail
April 8, 2013

Florida is known for its amusement parks, but no white-knuckle ride has been quite like the last real estate cycle. From 2004 to 2007, Florida experienced one of the biggest property booms in America. Lax lending policies coupled with borrower greed led to massive growth in a relatively short period of time. Despite the meteoric rise in prices, many believed the market couldn't fall. But when the U.S. market imploded, Florida was one of the first states to crash. And, like the rest of the country, many watched helplessly as prices and demand plunged.

As 'Foreclosure' and 'For Sale' signs popped up like weeds, many Canadians – retired snowbirds and keen investors alike – started taking interest. Florida prices plunged more than 40 per cent peak-to-trough on the FHFA Index and top destinations such as Orlando experienced a 56 per cent drop in prices from an average $258,000 (U.S.) at the peak, down to $113,400 in 2011. Rock bottom prices and a high exchange rate made purchasing U.S. property an attractive proposition for northern neighbours. According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly a quarter of home sales in the 12 months ending in March 2012 were by Canadians.

Times, however, are changing. A 2012 report from BMO indicates that while the housing market in Florida is relatively stressed, the worst is over. "Florida was one of the epicentres of the housing bubble-bust cycle, but there are mounting signs that a recovery is under way," it said.

Economists indicate that the Florida economy is recovering at a modest pace with real GDP expected to grow 1.9 per cent in 2013.

Unemployment is trending down, but it is still an above-average 8.7 per cent. Certain pockets of the housing market are showing promise, with prices in Miami and Tampa bouncing up 9 per cent from their late-2011 lows. Another positive sign is a reduction in the supply of homes. Property market expert and owner of The Pink Flamingo, Erica Muller, indicates inventory has diminished by more than 50 per cent.

"We are seeing bidding wars and multiple offers on almost every property. As long as a home is not overpriced, we are seeing it sell within the first week of listing and sometimes it's sold before it even hits the public MLS. Building starts are up and more and more people are paying builder prices for a new home due to the lack of inventory available."

However, it should be noted that the foreclosure rate is still the highest in the U.S. at 13.7 per cent.

"Overall, Florida's housing market is one of the most stressed (second of 50) in the country, behind Nevada, but a draw down in inventories and upward price momentum are positive indications that the worst is over," states BMO.

While this might be the beginning of the end for Florida's negative market cycle, Florida Home Finders of Canada vice president Brian Ellis, says it's not too late for Canadians looking to buy.

"Most savvy real estate investors will tell you the best time to buy is just when the market has turned a corner and is starting to go up – and that's where Florida is now," Ellis says.

All of the factors that have made U.S. property an attractive real estate proposition still hold true; Florida real estate prices are low, the Canadian dollar is strong, and low interest rates at home make it easier for Canadians to equity out of their home and put cash down on a U.S. property. The only drawback to the Florida market, says Ellis, is that this situation will not last forever.

"So, Canadians have to jump and they have to jump fast if they want to take advantage of this marketplace."

While factors that make buying south of the border attractive to Canadians can apply to several states in the lower 49th, investment experts argue Florida has unique economic advantages that set it apart from other destinations. According to Florida Investment Real Estate owner Steven Silverman, Florida – which is already the fourth largest state in the country – has long been one of the fastest growing regions in the U.S., and by the next census will surpass New York as the third largest state in population.

Florida's attractions make it one of the top tourist destinations in America and its weather will always be a selling point for retirees looking to escape cooler climes. As Jerry Seinfeld quipped, "my parents didn't want to move to Florida, but they turned 60, and that's the law."

Silverman also points out there is no state tax for individuals and business structures in the state, making it attractive for entrepreneurial activity. Major changes to the Panama Canal – which will allow container ships to reach Florida in 2014 – will make the state a stopping point for distribution of imports to the Eastern Seaboard. Silverman also suggests major intermodal expansion is being planned for Central Florida.

The recovery in Florida is not happening uniformly across the state. As a top tourist destination, Orlando is starting to benefit from a recovery in tourism-related employment and expansions to Disney World's Magic Kingdom Park, SeaWorld Orlando, and Universal Studios Florida.

Meanwhile, Miami is experiencing a turnaround in prices, thanks in large part to foreign investment. The Miami Association of Realtors reported a 34 per cent increase to $160,000 in median sales price of condominiums in Miami-Dade County in 2012 over the previous year.

According to Shalimar Santiago, CEO of Investors Adviser's Network, the hottest market is currently central Florida, from Orlando to the Tampa region, with returns yielding on average 8–12 per cent.

"In the south Florida market returns are less, ranging from 6–10 per cent, but appreciation and prices are much greater. However, it depends on the investor's appetite for risk and investment goals."

According to Ellis, about 80 per cent of Canadians buying real estate in Florida are purchasing condos. "With this product, they can lock the door and walk away and not have to worry about the exterior maintenance. So that's what most Canadians are buying."

While single-family properties are more labour intensive, they are currently producing higher yields, argues Santiago.

Townhouses are also hot, says Muller, because they have lower monthly fees than condos but you can typically pick them up for around the same prices. Also, the rents tend to be higher and they attract more family-oriented renters than condos do.

She adds: "The areas we recommend our investors purchase in are many of the mid-upper middle class suburbs of Orlando such as Winter Garden, Windermere, Lake Nona and Lake Mary. Vacation rentals are also a very popular option right now for those not as concerned with the short-term return but are looking to win big on the capital gain over the long run."


Ford's free-spirit Flex lives
up to its loose name

2013 Ford Flex

By Terry Box
The Dallas Morning News
April 7, 2013

Software programmers, the new artists of the '10s, speak in gibberish all day.

They bounce around in dark cubicles to the timeless music of Angel of Death 5, obsessing over lines of code.

You can't expect such loosely wired people to drive mundane, mainstream Toyota Camrys on Saturday nights, can you?

Absolutely not. And I've got just the counterculture, wacky-wagon crossover for them and anyone else with more eccentricities than pockets on their orange corduroy pants.

Was that Tom Waits you were just listening to, by the way?

No problem. The 2013 Ford Flex SEL has plenty of room for you and all of your personalities.

Easily the most unusual crossover/wagon on the mainstream market, the free-spirit Flex proves that the modern auto industry sometimes succeeds small.

Built on the same basic architecture as the Ford Taurus and Explorer, the Flex managed to scratch out a little over 28,000 sales last year -- a good month for Ford's cute-ute Escape.

But when costs are shared among several different models, individual sales volumes are less important.

And let's hope that Ford continues to make room for the Flex, an oddly beguiling vehicle that somehow manages to combine elements from boxy old station wagons, Range Rovers and Minis, and stirs the design mix pretty gracefully.

Here's an interesting statistic about the Flex: No other Ford vehicle is stronger at attracting buyers who never considered owning a Ford, and no Ford model has a higher buyer-retention rate.

The medium-blue Flex I had recently had a silver Mini-style top and nothing on the outside to suggest that I was driving a cult cruiser.

Square as a Midwestern CPA, my front-wheel-drive Flex sported a long, flat hood that looked like something stamped in one of Range Rover's factories.

A blunt three-bar grille wrapped around to contemporary flush-mounted headlamps.

The sides seemed flat initially, topped by tall, almost square windows.

But look a little closer, and you'll notice that Ford carved four really nifty parallel grooves in the side, sparing the Flex from a slabbish life, I guess.

The doors seemed as big as anything on a Checker Cab, offering enormous leg- and head-room in the second row of seats and reasonable room -- for me, at least -- in the third row.

But the Flex also flashed pretty prominent fender flares covering 255/45-tires on 20-inch alloy wheels, and this wasn't even a top-of-the-line EcoBoost model.

Moreover, polished dual exhausts poked prominently out from beneath the bumper.

Who is this guy, you begin to wonder?

For starters, it's a big vehicle, with a long 118-inch wheelbase and carting about 4,500 pounds of weight.

But it still looks mysterious. Is it a really tall station wagon or an angry minivan? Is it high end? Will my neighbors think I'm moving to Montana to be a dental-floss tycoon?

You may find a few answers inside, kids, but ponder this first: My Flex had a window sticker of $40,030 and was an upper midrange vehicle. Ouch.

Though the black dashboard was flat as North Texas, it was cast in fairly high-grade plastic. Despite all the controversy about MyFordTouch, Ford's infotainment system, I didn't have problems with it in the Flex. Everything seemed pretty legible and worked.

The center-stack screen pulsated with color. Formed in a smooth flat-black plastic, the stack flowed easily into a flat-black console.

Nearby, the black leather seats appeared to be stylishly loose and slightly wrinkled with two horizontal pleats in the center.

A small band of dark wood cut across the top of the dash, matching the trim on the lightly padded armrests.

It felt expansive, looking like the interior you would expect in a full-size SUV.

In fact, if the Flex were rear-wheel drive and had a V-8 nestled under the hood, we might call it a European SUV.

But all Flexes are car-based and only available in front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. Though I would have preferred the optional EcoBoost V-6 engine, mine had a recently revised 3.5-liter base V-6 with 285 horsepower.

It proved surprisingly sufficient and refined, feeling lively and adequate.

The engine got a little coarse above 5,000 rpm in flat-out runs but could still push the Flex to 60 in about 8 seconds, according to Motor Trend.

Coupled to a six-speed automatic, the engine is rated at a reasonable 18 miles per gallon city, 25 on the highway.

While the transmission seemed fine most of the time, it could be slow to downshift, which was aggravating.

As you might expect, the Flex cruised along as confidently as your daddy's old wood-slathered wagon but with more European firmness.

It turned into moderate-speed corners pretty eagerly, and, despite its height, didn't lean much.

Like too many modern vehicles, the steering in the Flex felt fuzzy off center but got better pretty quickly. Although road feel could be vague, the steering was quick and otherwise precise.

Best of all, this is a vehicle you can drive in shorts and cowboy boots and feel perfectly normal.

What more do you need?


-- Front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive six- or seven-passenger wagon
-- 18 miles per gallon city, 25 highway
-- About 4,500 pounds
-- 3.5-liter V-6 with 285 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque
-- Six-speed automatic
-- 0 to 60 mph in 8 seconds
Safety rating: Unrated
Base price, excluding destination charge: $30,900
Price as tested: $40,030


Ford's final offer

Dianne Craig Ford CEO

Craig dangles jobs.

April 2013
Tim Shufelt
Canadian Business

Ford has something big planned for Canada. But to make it happen, the company needs the government's assistance, says Dianne Craig, CEO of Ford of Canada. The company is reportedly considering a $1.2-billion expansion of its Oakville plant—contingent on government subsidizing one-third of the cost. The Big Three automakers contend it still costs too much to build vehicles in Canada, despite wage and pension concessions made by the Canadian Auto Workers union last fall. In response to the carmakers' concerns, the federal government recently ponied up $250 million by extending the recession-era Automotive Innovation Fund. The money was welcomed by the industry as necessary, but not necessarily sufficient.

Four years ago, the financial crisis and ensuing collapse of the auto industry meant the only consideration for most companies was self-preservation. Unlike its Detroit counterparts, Ford averted bankruptcy and survived the recession without being bailed out by taxpayers, by virtue of a timely $23.5-billion loan and a last-ditch restructuring.

Ford now leads Canadian auto sales, having displaced General Motors from its near-permanent perch atop the rankings. Craig, who became CEO in November 2011, spoke to Canadian Business staff writer Tim Shufelt about Ford's brush with death, its path to predominance and the future of vehicle manufacturing in Canada.

Canadian Business: As the industry began to crumble in 2008, when did you realize that Ford faced more than just a downturn, that this was an existential crisis?

Dianne Craig: This was very different. I started in 1986, and the first real downturn was in 1992 to 1994. That was nothing. The U.S. industry was around 14 million vehicles, and we thought that was catastrophic. In 2009, it dropped below 10 million. We let go of 67,000 employees in North America. We closed 17 plants. A lot of my good friends lost their jobs at Ford. It would have been all for naught if we hadn't got through it.

CB: How close did the company come to bankruptcy?

DC: It was very close. Even when we took out the loan, we didn't anticipate the industry dropping that far. But we stuck to it, and we were very pleased we didn't have to take precious taxpayer money. And even through the depths of the recession, we never stopped investing in our products. Whether that meant selling the furniture and sitting on the floor, it was all about making sure we kept investing in the product.

CB: Is there still a perception that Ford is just a truck company?

DC: I think we've changed that perception. You can't be the market leader and be perceived as just a truck company. In the past, we were. We were a truck company and a Mustang company. That's changed over the last five years. We have a lineup of cars that we didn't have four years ago: the Fiesta, a new Focus, a new Fusion, which is drop-dead gorgeous, and of course we still have the Mustang. There were segments we didn't play in and now we're a player.

CB: Did the crisis, in a way, give Ford an advantage over the other Detroit automakers?

DC: We were certainly better positioned to weather the storm. And no one has estimated what impact the bankruptcies had on the other companies in terms of their brand image. We have so many customers, even today, that tell our dealers they're really grateful Ford did it on their own. We're really proud of that.

CB: Ford has claimed the Canadian sales crown for the first time in decades.

DC: For three years in a row.

CB: Right. Do you see that happening without the financial crisis?

DC: It all comes back to working the plan.

CB: Do you see the industry opening new plants in the near future?

DC: When we went through the restructuring, it was about optimizing the capacity we had. We don't see, at this point, adding any other plants in Canada. But we have a very stable footprint with the plants we have in Windsor and Oakville.

CB: What can you tell me about the Oakville project?

DC: I'll just say that we have the opportunity to create a global platform here in Oakville that will ship all around the world. We already ship today to Brazil, we ship to China. But there could be an opportunity to ship to Europe. It would be one of five we have around the world. To have it in Canada could be really exciting.

CB: Before the market recovered, the company said the project couldn't go ahead without government support. Is that still the case?

DC: There are a number of ingredients that go into it, whether it's the labour agreement, whether it's working with governments. They're all key ingredients.

CB: Without the project, is there a risk the Oakville plant could close?

DC: There are all the ingredients that have to go into it, then we make a business decision. So that's what we're going to do.

CB: How do Ford's labour costs in Canada compare to other jurisdictions?

DC: Certainly the Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) negotiations reduced the gap significantly. We felt very good about the negotiations. We got a very good competitive agreement. It narrows the gap. Is it down below the U.S.? No, but does it allow us to compete in Canada despite a high dollar? Yes. Over the next four to five years as new workers come in at a lower wage, we'll continue to reduce that gap. But the most important point is that the labour agreement gives us the opportunity to continue to manufacture in Canada. Also, the prime minister came to Oakville to announce the Automotive Innovation Fund. That's critical, because there is investment all around the world attracting that business to their countries, the U.S. included. The announcement of that fund was really important. It's really important to work with labour and government, both Ontario and federal, to make sure we attract that investment in Canada and keep it here.

CB: Is Canada one of the most expensive places in the world for Ford to build vehicles?

DC: I'll say this: we believe we can be competitive in Canada. The CAW agreement was critical. Without it, it could have been a different story. We would not be having a conversation about the potential of Oakville.

CB: Do you still need much more in government subsidies for this industry to be competitive in Canada?

DC: All I would say is that it's a very encouraging step in the right direction. South of the border, U.S. and state governments are contributing upwards of 50% of the investment to attract manufacturing. In South America, in Brazil, they're looking at up to 50% of the investment, because they know to have a vibrant economy, manufacturing is critical. Especially with the spinoff of jobs. The prime minister understands that. They've been great partners. In 2005, in Oakville, they were partners in terms of investing in flexible manufacturing. We wouldn't even be having the conversation about the global platform if we didn't make that investment. Essex, thanks to the Ontario government and federal government, was the only plant we reopened. The commitment was for 400 jobs; today it's 750.

CB: Is it only through subsidies that Canada can compete with those lower-cost jurisdictions?

DC: It's a key ingredient. There are a lot of pieces that go into it, but in the absence of that, it becomes very problematic.


U.S. considers car ratings
for elderly drivers, families

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
April 5, 2013

Washington - Federal safety regulators are considering new vehicle safety ratings that would help older people and families choose the safest vehicles.

In a notice posted Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it is planning to update its New Car Assessment Program and is mulling a "silver" rating that would assess the safety of the vehicle for older occupants, and a "family" rating for how well it protects rear-seat passengers, including children.

Both ratings would be in addition to NHTSA's five-star assessment program that's been in place since 1978.

"As the U.S. population shifts in coming years, more vehicle drivers and passengers will be 65 and older," NHTSA said of the proposed silver rating, adding that older vehicle occupants are typically less able than younger people to withstand crash forces.

Ultimately, older consumers could use the information to help them buy vehicles that would be potentially safer for them, NHTSA said. "For example, inflatable seat belts or technologies that help prevent low-speed pedal misapplication may have potential benefits for older occupants," the agency said.

Ford Motor Co. is offering inflatable seat belts for the rear seats, and says they are now being ordered in more than 30 percent of Explorers. Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz unit said last year it is adding the devices to its 2014 S-Class.

Buyers could use the family rating to compare which cars best protect passengers in the rear seat, NHTSA said.

"The agency is aware that consumers often wish to know which vehicles are the safest for their children," NHTSA said. "Thus, providing a crashworthiness rating for vehicles based on the protection they offer to both front-seat adult occupants and rear-seat child occupants would support consumer interests."

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said he thinks automakers will want to reach out to groups like families and senior citizens.

He noted there are attributes that some drivers want.

"These are all things that hopefully we can highlight for people to make better buying decisions," Strickland told reporters on Thursday.

He said that growing numbers of older people "are buying cars… They are driving longer, they are more active… They probably have more resources to, frankly, buy more expensive cars."

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which is the trade group representing Detroit's Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and others, said it will work with NHTSA on the proposal. "We welcome this notice and will have lots of constructive comments as we fully review it," spokesman Wade Newton said.

NHTSA also is considering adding the results of crash tests of a small adult in the rear seat to its frontal crash rating.

"An expansion of this concept would be to explore the potential for adding advanced child dummies to one or more of its crashworthiness test modes and explore the feasibility of providing consumers with a 'family star rating,'" the agency said.

NHTSA plans to use the data obtained from its research to support development and evaluation of an advanced 6-year-old child frontal impact dummy, followed by 3- and 10-year-old child frontal impact dummies.

It is also considering whether to include information on vehicle labels about new technologies such as blind-spot detection systems, advanced frontal lighting and lane-departure warning systems. It also is considering adding pedestrian safety technologies to the program.

Strickland said a new overhaul for the ratings might take three or four years to put in place.

Elderly driving is a big issue for safety officials. By 2025, more than 20 percent of drivers will be older than 65; by 2030 there will be 57 million elderly drivers, compared with the 32 million on the roads today.

Older drivers are more likely to wear safety belts and avoid drunken driving and speeding. And while they get into fewer crashes, they are more likely to die or be injured when they do.

More senior drivers, who may have few transportation options, are holding on to their licenses longer. About 78 percent of people over age 70 are licensed, up from 73 percent in 1997.

Those drivers are three times as likely as motorists ages 35-54 to be killed in a crash, but that's down from 3.5 times in 1997.

Eyesight diminishes, especially at night. And some seniors have more trouble turning their necks to check traffic.

NHTSA last revised its "Stars on Cars" program in 2010, giving drivers a single overall score for the first time. It added information on whether autos have advanced safety features, such as lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems.

On Thursday, NHTSA also said it plans to research additional test protocols and tests of electric vehicles using lithium-ion-batteries.


Earlier concepts inspire
Ford truck's design

The Ford F-150 concept truck, known as the Atlas, debuted in January during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Atlas has a tailgate step that also serves as a cargo cradle. (David Coates The Detroit News)

By Karl Henkel
April 4, 2013

How did Ford Motor Co. come up with the design for the Atlas concept, the initial tease of the next-generation F-Series?

The Dearborn automaker, which showed the truck concept in an over-the-top presentation during press days of the Detroit auto show in January, took cues from two early iterations of the concept. One was a bullet train-inspired aerodynamic truck and the other was locomotive-inspired, boxier truck.

The "bullet" truck originally had a windshield that swept over the heads of the drivers and passengers. That template was eventually dropped on the Atlas concept in favor of a more practical roof-carrying system.

And the "locomotive" — which has Hummer-like cues — had a hollowed-out space within the walls of the tailgate for added storage space. The Atlas concept eventually shown in Detroit has a tailgate step that also serves as a cargo cradle.

The design of the next-generation F-Series is not yet finalized, but is expected for the 2015 model year. The F series is the most popular vehicle in the U.S.

An earlier design, inspired by a bullet train, had a windshield that swept over the heads of the drivers and passengers. Ford Motor Co

The alternative locomotive- inspired design had boxier, Hummer-like cues — and a hollowed- out space within the walls of the tailgate for storage. Ford Motor Co.


Ford of Canada Top-Selling Automaker in March

F-150 grows by 23%

Sales March 2013

OAKVILLE, Ont., April 3, 2013 — Ford Motor Company of Canada, Limited sales increased 2 per cent in March, driven by F-150, which grew 23 per cent. Flex, Explorer and Expedition had positive sales, with increases of 11, 21, and 41 per cent respectively.

“Ford of Canada experienced positive sales across the board, seeing continued strength with F-Series,” said Dianne Craig, president and CEO, Ford of Canada. “2013 is forecasted to be a record breaking year for the industry. The Ford of Canada team and our dealers are proud and humbled by our sales leadership in March.”

Car sales saw growth from Mustang, Fusion and Taurus, with increases of 12, 26 and 170 per cent respectively. Lincoln MKZ also had positive results in March with a 24 per cent increase. 

It’s a great time to get behind the wheel and experience Ford’s diverse product lineup. Right now customers can take advantage of Ford’s Recycle Your Ride program. Since the program launched in 2009, Ford has retired more than 60,000 vehicles nationwide (2006 model and older qualify).

See www.ford.ca for details.



MKZ should spark Lincoln
after sales hit bottom

Lincoln MKZ

By Karl Henkel
April 2, 2013

Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln luxury brand may have finally hit bottom, as the automaker said Tuesday that inventory of its all-new MKZ sedan is nearing launch levels, nearly four months after cars were originally slated to hit dealer lots.

Lincoln sales fell nearly 23 percent in March to 6,825 and sales of the MKZ were down nearly 20 percent.

Ford President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs said last month that Lincoln was no longer transporting MKZ cars from an assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, to Flat Rock for additional quality inspections; Ford had also previously predicted inventory of the MKZ would be at launch levels by early April. The car had been expected at many dealers in December.

For some dealers, new shipments of the MKZ came last month during typically one of the best sales months of the year, and the new sedans spent little time on lots. Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, said Tuesday in a conference call that the MKZ is spending about 14 days on dealer lots before selling; the MKZ hybrid is on lots for about eight days.

But other dealers still have a limited supply of the car and have had difficulty explaining to customers why their vehicles took months to arrive.

Ford has tried to patch things up in that time, offering to extend leases for some customers to bridge the gap until their vehicles arrived at dealerships.

The quality problem comes at a time when Ford spent nearly $8 million on two Super Bowl ads to promote Lincoln — including a 30-second spot for the hard-to-find MKZ. Ford has continued the Lincoln ad blitz with commercials on network and cable television, despite inventory constraints.


Ford quiet in N.Y., focuses
on Mustang celebration

The Detroit News
Karl Henkel
April 1, 2013

General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC made big splashes last week at the New York International Auto Show, while fellow hometown automaker Ford Motor Co. was strangely silent.


Ford recently had a substantial new-vehicle push: A Ford Fiesta subcompact and Transit vans debuted last year in Los Angeles. The Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ, Ford Escape and Ford C-Max Hybrid have hit dealer lots in the past seven months. Upcoming vehicles like the next-generation Ford F-150 are still under wraps, although Ford did show a concept pickup, the Atlas, at the Detroit show in January.

"They've done quite a bit at L.A. and Detroit," Jesse Toprak, vice president of market intelligence at TrueCar.com, said. "They've got a lot of momentum going and they really don't have much left to introduce."

Ford is filling time at this year's show with Mustang news. The muscle car turns 50 this year, and the Dearborn automaker is going all-out to commemorate the first five decades, including a special Mustang logo and new Mustang-themed memorabilia.

Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said that not having significant new car debuts in New York won't be detrimental to Ford in the eyes of consumers.

"Ultimately, I don't think consumers are following it nearly as closely as we in the industry are," he said.

Peter Kormos, long-time Ontario MPP, remembered as outspoken
and popular politician

TORONTO — The Globe and Mail
March 31, 2013


Former Ontario MPP Peter Kormos, left, is seen visiting a farmers’ market in Welland, Ont., in 1999. Mr. Kormos died March 30, 2013, at the age of 60. (Joop Gerritsma/CP)

Lanky and lean in his trademark cowboy boots, Peter Kormos's physical appearance matched his personality: plain-spoken, gregarious, a maverick.

A popular former NDP MPP and cabinet minister, he was an idealist and a populist, a beloved man-of-the-people to his constituents and a thorn in the side of several premiers, from his own party and others. He was also possessed of a sharp intellect, an encyclopedic knowledge of parliamentary procedure and a rare ability to set partisanship aside and befriend even his ideological opposites.

Mr. Kormos was found dead in his Welland, Ont., home Saturday morning. He was 60 years old. He had suffered a pair of minor ailments in recent years – a case of Bell's Palsy and a bad back – but his death took friends and colleagues by surprise. The cause is still under investigation and a post-mortem is scheduled for Sunday.

"He was a fighter for the underdog and he maintained that commitment to the people who are struggling every day," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath recalled in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "No matter how smart he was, no matter how strategic he was, he would have people flocking to him at the market and the firehall and the drycleaner when he went out in his riding."

Born Oct. 7, 1952, to a working class family in Welland, Mr. Kormos's political activism began as a high school student during the height of the 1960s counterculture: he was expelled for leading a student strike to protest the principal's veto power over the student council.

Living on his own from age 16, he put himself through Osgoode Hall Law School by working nights at a bookstore on Yonge Street. Degree in hand, he returned to Welland to as a criminal defence lawyer, where he tussled with local police he accused of assaulting one of his clients.

He joined the legislature in a 1988 by-election to replace popular MPP Mel Swart. Then-NDP Leader Bob Rae campaigned closely with him that year and saw his charisma first-hand.

"He was a terrific natural politician. He was very good with people in his constituency. He understood the old adage that all politics is local – he understood that better than anybody," Mr. Rae, now a federal Liberal MP, recalled in an interview. "Whatever factory we walked through or a couple of local restaurants, he was just extremely, extremely popular, very personable. He knew everybody, was very engaged with people and people liked him a lot."

When the party won the 1990 election, Mr. Rae appointed Mr. Kormos to cabinet as Minister of Consumer and Business Services. But the two men soon had a falling out after Mr. Rae reneged on a party pledge to set up a public auto insurance company. Mr. Kormos also appeared – fully clothed – as a "sunshine boy" in the Toronto Sun, to the consternation of many colleagues.

Dropped from cabinet, Mr. Kormos became a left-wing critic of his own party as it tacked to the centre. He voted against Mr. Rae's Social Contract package of legislation designed to rein in government spending.

"Peter was an old-school fundamentalist when it came to the NDP and to politics. He was very much somebody who saw good guys and bad guys," Mr. Rae said. "He was somebody who was instinctively happier in opposition to authority than being subject to it."

Back on the opposition benches after Mike Harris's Progressive Conservatives came to power in 1995, Mr. Kormos put his parliamentary skills to good use. Not only was he razor-sharp questioner and gifted orator, but his effective communication and knowledge of parliamentary procedure helped keep the party and its reduced caucus afloat during its hardest days.

Mr. Kormos helped organize a 10-day filibuster when Mr. Harris merged several suburbs into the City of Toronto. And after the NDP lost official party status following the 1999 election, colleagues say it was Mr. Kormos who pressured Mr. Harris to restore it.

His legislative know-how saw him take on the role of house leader.

Ms. Horwath also credits Mr. Kormos with ensuring André Marin – Ontario's dogged, outspoken and oft-critical ombudsman – was re-appointed.

Mr. Kormos ran unsuccessfully for the NDP leadership in 1996, placing third. In 2009, he supported Ms. Horwath's bid for the leadership.

"For me [his support] was more than just a political boost in the course of the campaign, because Peter was a legend in the NDP even then. He was top-notch in his intellect and his strategy," Ms. Horwath said.

NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson, who served as chief whip under Mr. Kormos, recalled both his tough commitment to principle and his warm friendship.

"If he saw something and he didn't like it, he would tell you. He was pretty straight up. And if he liked something, it was the same. He was a guy who did things according to what he thought was right," Mr. Bisson said.

On one occasion, Mr. Bisson recalled, a Liberal MPP took umbrage with Mr. Kormos's attire – an open-necked shirt with the sleeves rolled up and no tie – and moved to have the legislature adopt a suit-and-tie dress code. In protest, Mr. Kormos organized a caucus protest: his fellow NDP MPPs showed up in the House one day all dressed like him, while Mr. Kormos wore a tuxedo.

"He was making a point about who he was – and he wasn't about to change it for anybody," Mr. Bisson said.

Outside work, Mr. Bisson recalled, Mr. Kormos liked to collect fountain pens and books of photography, and loved to shoot pictures himself. One time, Mr. Bisson took him out fishing in Northern Ontario, where Mr. Kormos enthusiastically photographed a moose and a cougar. When, at one point, the boat had to be hauled around some rapids, Mr. Bisson had to jump out and do the work so Mr. Kormos wouldn't ruin his cowboy boots, Mr. Bisson laughed.

Mr. Kormos decided not to seek another term in 2011, but returned in politics last year when he won a seat on Niagara Regional Council.

He was also excited about returning to practice criminal defence law, Mr. Bisson said.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said Mr. Kormos was "the person to watch" on representing constituents with "passion, intelligence and dedication."

"He was a supportive friend, and I will miss his presence and his profound understanding of parliamentary procedure," she said in a statement. "Peter was a man who never stopped fighting for what he believed in, and he firmly stood his ground within his party and in the face of any opposition. He was a passionate advocate of equality, and an important ally of the working class."

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said that, while he and Mr. Kormos came from opposite ends of the political spectrum, they bonded over their shared Slovak roots.

"Eloquent, informed, by turns fiery and analytical, he was an iconic figure in the New Democratic Party, and beyond. Peter represented true democratic representation at its best," Mr. Hudak said in a statement. "It's rarely said – and in the best sense of the phrase – by politicians these days when speaking of someone so diametrically opposed in beliefs and convictions, but I can say with sad confidence on this day, 'We shall not see his like again'."


Former Ontario MPP
Peter Kormos has died

Former Ontario NDP politician has died at the age of 60. In this 2002 photo, he’s pictured at Queen’s Park, where he was the NDP’s house leader. (Kevin Frayer/The Canadian Press)

The Globe and Mail
March 30, 2013

Peter Kormos, the charismatic and outspoken long-time former Niagara Region NDP MPP, has died. He was 60.

Police were called to his home in Welland, Ont. Saturday and he was pronounced dead.

Mr. Kormos, a jovial figure around Queen's Park, was first elected in a 1988 by-election. Appointed to cabinet in 1990, he ultimately broke with then-premier Bob Rae over the latter's refusal to implement public auto insurance.

A staunch leftist, he also opposed his own party's austere social contract legislation.

He unsuccessfully sought his party's leadership in 1996, after Mr. Rae's departure.

Mr. Kormos was re-elected five times before choosing not to stand again in 2011.

He was elected to Niagara Regional Council last year and co-hosted a radio program on CKTB.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath described Mr. Kormos as a "legend in politics," and recalled his integrity, eloquence and colourful persona.

"New Democrats, and Ontarians across the province, have lost a giant today and I've lost a mentor and friend," she said in a statement. "Peter earned the respect of everyone he met regardless of political stripe. He never minced words and he never put on airs. Peter treated everyone equally whether he was speaking with eloquence on the floor of the Legislature, or shooting the breeze with his friends at the Welland market. Peter Kormos was the genuine article and truly one of a kind. He made a difference in people's lives and left behind a pair of cowboy boots that will never be filled."

Premier Kathleen Wynne recalled Mr. Kormos's friendship and encyclopedic knowledge of legislative procedure.

"Peter Kormos was a supportive friend, and I will miss his presence and his profound understanding of parliamentary procedure," she wrote on Twitter. "My thoughts are with Peter Kormos' loved ones, his friends and community, and his extended NDP family."

Opposition Leader Tim Hudak said that, while he and Mr.Kormos hailed from opposite sides of the political spectrum, the pair shared Slovak roots and came from adjoining ridings.

Mr. Kormos, he said, had a rare ability to set partisanship aside at the end of the day and described him as "friendly, funny, compassionate and thoughtful."

"But Peter was also a tenacious fighter for the things he believed in. Eloquent, informed, by turns fiery and analytical. He was an iconic figure in the New Democratic Party, and beyond. Peter represented true democratic representation at its best," Mr. Hudak said in a statement. "It's rarely said – and in the best sense of the phrase – by politicians these days when speaking of someone so diametrically opposed in beliefs and convictions, but I can say with sad confidence on this day, 'We shall not see his like again'."


Suit: Ford delayed fix on
unintended acceleration defect

By Christine Tierney and Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
March 30, 2013

Ford Motor Co. was installing electronic systems in its vehicles in Europe that could prevent unintended acceleration as early as 2005, but didn't take the same precautions in the U.S. for another five years, according to a lawsuit filed this week in West Virginia against the company.

The complaint, filed on behalf of Ford customers in 14 states, claims Ford was aware of the risk of unintended acceleration in its vehicles sold in the U.S. but concealed it from customers.

Auto experts say unintended acceleration is usually the result of driver error, but safety advocates say the problem tends to occur more often when automakers adopt electronic throttle control. That has been the case at Ford — and at Toyota Motor Corp., which recalled millions of vehicles in 2009 and 2010 and paid record fines because of reports of unintended acceleration.

In the suit targeting Ford, the plaintiffs are seeking compensation for owners who they say paid too much for cars made from 2002 to 2010 that had defects. Ford added a brake-override system, also known as a brake-over-accelerator system, in its North American cars in 2010.

"Ford could have equipped the Ford vehicles with a fail-safe," the suit alleged. "Ford began installing the brake-over-accelerator, one type of driver-controlled fail-safe, in certain Ford vehicles that it manufactured for the European market as far back as 2005. Other manufacturers were already equipping their vehicles with brake-over-accelerator systems before 2002. Yet, despite its knowledge of the problem and the availability of this remedy, Ford failed to take any steps to resolve this problem in North America."

Ford said in a statement it had complied with recommendations and directives from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, whose work it called "more scientific and trustworthy" than personal injury lawyers and their experts. Ford had no immediate comment on the safety features of its vehicles built in Europe.

Adam Levitt, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the fact that Ford equipped models in Europe with a fail-safe system was significant. "It tells me, number one, that they know it's a problem; number two, that they know they have a problem; and number three, that there are steps they can take and have taken to remedy the problem. And it raises a serious question as to why they would implement a sort of fix overseas but not in the U.S."

Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies and a frequent plaintiffs' expert, noted that a judge in a 2011 trial said Ford misled the court when it claimed it knew of no other cause of unintended acceleration than driver error while concealing years of testing showing electromagnetic interference could be a cause.


Ford acceleration lawsuit
seeks class-action status

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
March 29, 2013

Washington — A class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of millions of Ford owners, claiming vehicles equipped with electronic throttle controls are prone to sudden acceleration.

Owners from 14 states filed the suit in U.S. District Court in West Virginia, seeking damages that could potentially cover "millions of purchasers and lessees of Ford vehicles manufactured between 2002 and 2010," according to a statement from law firm Grant & Eisenhofer and other firms. "This case is about helping Ford Motor Co. fix its cars, compensate consumers, and potentially save lives," said Adam Levitt, a Grant & Eisenhofer lawyer.

The suit contends Ford vehicles share a common design defect in lacking adequate fail-safe features, including a reliable "brake override system." Such a system is designed to allow a driver to mitigate unintended acceleration by depressing the brake. The suit says while Ford began installing a brake override on some of its North American cars in 2010, "the company has failed to remedy, or even warn drivers about the lack of a brake-over-accelerator system on its earlier vehicles," the suit says.

The suit cited an October 2011 U.S. Transportation Department Inspector General's report that found between 2002-09 Ford had the highest number of unintended acceleration complaints — 3,018, about 600 more than Toyota Motor Corp. Between 2002-10, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened four investigations into sudden acceleration issues in Ford vehicles.

"Ford was aware that technology is available that could fix the problem and save lives, but chose not to do anything about it until only three years ago. Our objective is to see that consumers are properly compensated, and to see that the defects are addressed in all Ford vehicles manufactured between 2002 and 2010," Levitt said.

The models named in the complaint include the 2005 through 2010 Ford Mustang, 2002 through 2005 Mercury Cougar and 2004 through 2010 Ford Explorer. The plaintiffs seek to represent Ford owners in 14 states.

Ford didn't return a message late Thursday, but in December said it was disappointed NHTSA was upgrading its investigation.

A similar suit was filed against Toyota Motor Corp. in the wake of the Japanese automaker's recall in 2008 and 2009 of million of vehicles for sudden acceleration issues that prompted congressional hearings and forced the automaker in 2009 to temporarily halt the sale of most of its vehicles.

In December, Toyota agreed to the largest-ever auto civil settlement in history, worth at least $1.1 billion. Toyota agreed to install brake-override systems in an estimated 3.25 million vehicles and to set aside $250 million owners lost in resale value in the wake of the recall of millions of vehicles for unintended acceleration. Toyota will offer special coverage on 16.3 million vehicles and pay up to $250 million to owners whose vehicles are not eligible for a brake-override system.


Ford says controversial ads 'totally inappropriate,' responsible employees fired

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
March 28, 2013

New York — Ford Motor Co. apologized Wednesday for controversial ads in India that featured women bound and gagged in a trunk.

Jim Farley, executive vice president for global marketing, sales and service for Lincoln, said the company had taken "swift action" after the "totally inappropriate" ads appeared and had taken steps to strengthen their creative review process.

Farley, who gave remarks kicking off the New York International Auto Show on Wednesday, confirmed the small number of advertising employees had been fired.

A few employees inside Ford's India advertising agency created the ads that appeared on the Internet and apparently were not meant to be made public.

The ads for Ford's small Figo featured scantily dressed women and some bound and gagged in the trunk of the Figo. The ad featured the Ford logo and the tagline: "Leave your worries behind: With Figo's extra-large boot" — referring to the trunk.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was shown in the front seat.

"All of us at Ford and (Ford's ad agency) were shocked as all of you when we first saw them. We didn't have anything to do with the development of these ads, and we're extremely sorry about the incident. It's just not acceptable."

Farley said the company isn't changing its product strategy in India.

"We are absolutely looking at what this means for our brand," Farley said.

Ford took "swift action internally regarding those involved," Farley said. "We take this matter very seriously."

Farley confirmed media reports in India that its ad agency JWT India fired the employees involved.


Porter Airlines strike pits unions against a union pension fund

Striking workers, who fuel planes for Porter Fixed Base Operations, a subsidiary of Porter Aviation Holdings Inc., picket at Queens Quay and Bathurst St. on Jan. 10.

The Porter Airlines strike is very 21st century. Strikers are young, ill-paid and have the deck stacked against them.

Thomas Walkom National Affairs
Wed Mar 27 2013

The strike against Porter Airlines in downtown Toronto is very much a modern labour dispute. It is low-key and almost invisible. It pits unions against themselves. It is also one where the cards are conspicuously stacked against the strikers.

The strike has been going on now for more than two months. But thanks to the Toronto Port Authority — Porter's long-time ally in the Toronto Island airport enterprise — pickets are kept far away from passengers.

So far away, it's hard to find them at all.

Indeed, if pickets try to hand out leaflets to passengers entering the airport ferry terminal at the foot of Bathurst Street, the Port Authority has them arrested.

That's what happened to James Taylor two weeks ago. He and another unionist were charged with trespass for leafleting on the sidewalk outside the publicly owned terminal.

So strikers end up picketing in a hidden parking lot off to the side.

The Porter dispute is a telling one. The 22 striking fuel handlers are new-style workers. They are young. They are not paid much (starting wages are $12 an hour). And their employer doesn't expect them to stay long.

The longest-serving Porter fuel handler says he has been with the company five years. Most stay one or two years and then move on.

Even more telling is the fact that, in this fight, labour is on both sides of the dispute.

On Sunday, delegates from a Canadian Labour Congress convention marched with the strikers to demonstrate union solidarity.

But at the same time, one of the key investors in privately-held Porter Aviation Holdings Inc. is the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), the pension fund for unionized public sector workers.

When I finally caught up with strikers Monday, they weren't picketing Porter at all. Instead, most had set up their signs outside OMERS headquarters on University Ave., where they were trying, with varying degrees of success, to embarrass their union comrades.

Representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the Canadian Autoworkers all sit on the OMERS board.

What's even weirder is that OMERS handles the pension funds of 1,189 members of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, which represents Porter fuel handlers.

So at one level, the Porter workers are on strike against their own union.

This, of course, is the great irony of pension funds. Employees struggle to win pensions. But once won, the pension funds that are established invariably follow the profit-maximizing rules of the financial marketplace.

Which in many case means these funds are used against unions.

The demands of the Porter fuel handlers are simple. Yes, they want more than the 25 cents an hour the company is offering some. As striker Nadim Jaffer explains, more money would reduce turnover and make work more secure.

But they also want better safety measures in place.

Ivan Castillo would like to see enough staff employed to ensure the workplace is safe. He fell from a float plane he was fuelling on his own last summer, shortly after he came on staff. He broke both wrists and had to take a streetcar and subway across town to hospital.

Porter didn't speak to the Castillo incident directly. But in an email, a spokesman said the company provides safety training.

Porter's pitch is cool and sophisticated. Its advertising icon is a globe-trotting raccoon. Its board of directors includes celebrity frequent-flyer Senator Pamela Wallin.

But the airline's labour relations are old-style, based on employing a "flexible" work force that is willing to give its all without expecting a great deal in return.

Porter ground crew workers in Ottawa discovered this when they were unionized two years ago. Bargaining didn't go well. After more than year, their employer remained obdurate.

In the end, the Ottawa workers accepted whatever Porter was willing to give them — against the advice of their union.

It may have been a bad deal for them. But it probably helped support other workers' pension funds. The contradictions are very 21st century.


Ford wins Best Car Styling
Brand award from KBB.com

Ford Fusion

March 26, 2013

Ford is the 2013 Best Car Styling Brand among non-luxury car shoppers in the annual Brand Image Awards according to Kelley Blue Book (KBB.com), marking the third consecutive year Ford has earned KBB.com kudos for vehicle design. Kelley Blue Book determines the Brand Image Awards winners through its Brand Watch™ study that taps into the perceptions of 12,000-plus new-vehicle shoppers, meaning Ford's look is resonating with buyers.

In addition to this 2013 Brand Image Award, KBB.com recently honored several Ford models with a variety of accolades including Fiesta, Focus and Escape, and named the 2013 Fusion the Best Redesigned Vehicle of 2013; KBB.com editors describe the all-new car as gorgeous.


Ford India apologizes over Berlusconi Bondage ad

By Kay Johnson
Associated Press
March 25, 2013

Mumbai, India — The Indian unit of Ford Motor Co. has apologized for advertisements decried as demeaning to women, including one depicting Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi with a trio of bound women in the trunk of a car.

A Ford India spokeswoman said Monday that the company is investigating whether anyone at the automaker ever saw the print ads, which were never used commercially but appeared over the weekend on a website showcasing creative advertising.

The ads caused an uproar online and came just after India passed a new law on violence against women following a fatal gang rape of a student on a bus that prompted mass protests and spotlighted the status of women in India.

Featuring Ford's logo, one ad showed three women bound and gagged in the trunk of an Indian-made compact, the Ford Figo, with Berlusconi smiling from the driver's seat alongside the slogan "Leave your worries behind with the Figo's extra-large boot."

Similar ads featured Paris Hilton apparently kidnapping reality television rivals the Kardashian sisters — all three sisters tied up and one in a bikini — and Formula One driver Michael Schumacher abducting his male racing competition.

Ford said Monday that it regrets the incident, calling the images "contrary to the standards of professionalism and decency within Ford."

The ads were created at advertising agency JWT India and appeared on the website adsoftheworld.com late Friday.

"Ford India Needs to Fire Its Advertising Execs," read a headline on a slate.com blog while Indians on Twitter reacted with posts like "Disgusting!" and "SHAME."

It was unclear Monday whether anyone at Ford India had approved or seen the ads.

"We take this very seriously and are reviewing approval and oversight processes, and taking necessary steps to ensure nothing like this ever happens again," Ford spokeswoman Sethi Deepti said by email.

JWT India's CEO also condemned the ads.

"These were made as posters by individuals. They have never been paid for and were not expected to be released," he told India's Economic Times newspaper.


Delphi pension dispute costly

Senators ask Treasury chief to meet with retirees on settlement

March 24, 2013
By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington - The long-running lawsuit by Delphi Corp. salaried retirees over the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.'s decision to assume the bankrupt auto supplier's pensions hasn't been cheap.

In a new court filing, the PBGC — the government's pension insurer — says it has spent nearly $2 million to pay an outside contract law firm. As many as 50 lawyers have been going through 1.5 million pages of records that PBGC may have to turn over to lawyers for the retirees that are suing, consuming hundreds of hours of attorney time.

Lawyers for Delphi's pension recipients want a federal judge to force PBGC to turn over more documents in a more timely fashion. They note PBGC has withheld nearly 30,000 documents.

At the same time, five U.S. senators — including Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Ohio's two senators — wrote to new Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, asking him to meet with the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association. "It is our sincere hope that a meeting with you will help to finally resolve this matter," said the letter.

One of the issues is the amount of liabilities of the salaried pension plan before they were terminated. Delphi retirees cite a 2009 independent actuary that said liabilities were $3.5 billion, while the PBGC said it was $5.2 billion. The retirees want the documents to try to understand how the PBGC arrived at the higher calculation.

Delphi pension retirees from the Troy-based parts unit that was spun off by General Motors Co. in 1999 have been battling for more than 31/2 years over lost pension benefits and spent millions in legal fees to access documents.

Some 20,000 salaried retirees and future retirees at Delphi lost pensions and health and life insurance benefits. Delphi, while in bankruptcy in 2009, terminated pension plans of 70,000 people and left a $7.2 billion shortfall. The PBGC assumed the plans and must pay $6 billion of the losses.

In a move that's brought criticism from Congress, GM "topped up" pensions of most union Delphi hourly workers and retirees, primarily those from the United Auto Workers union, but didn't do the same for salaried retirees.

The automaker also didn't agree to top up the pensions of smaller unions.

Some retirees will lose up to 65 percent of benefits. Salaried retirees are expected to lose $400 million, PBGC has said.


Ford takes new route to auto sales

The Ford Focus is part of the Dearborn automaker’s ‘supersegment’ that shows dealers the biggest growth division in the auto industry. (Ford)

Automaker combines four popular vehicles into 'supersegment'

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
March 23, 2013

The supersegment is the combination of four segments — subcompact, compact, midsize and compact SUV — developed internally by Ford to show dealers the biggest growth segments in the industry.

Sales within those segments make up slightly more than half of all new-vehicle sales.

"We see this trend playing out over the next 10 years," said Erich Merkle, Ford's U.S. sales analyst.

In the so-called supersegment, Ford has regularly trailed foreign automakers Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., but is quickly making up ground, especially in 2013, where Ford has leapfrogged Honda (through February) for second place among supersegment sales.

Honda in 2012 posted about 980,000 sales in the supersegment. The Japanese automaker's segment total was derived from sales of the Fit subcompact, Civic compact, Accord midsize and CR-V compact SUV.

Toyota — with the Yaris subcompact, Corolla and Prius compacts, Camry midsize and RAV4 compact SUV and Scion small vehicles — posted about 1.1 million sales.

And Ford — with its Fiesta subcompact, Focus and C-Max compacts, Fusion midsize and Escape compact SUV — had about 818,000 sales in the supersegment.

Ford wants to better challenge Honda and Toyota, particularly among the 90-million-strong Millennial generation, which Edmunds.com and R.L. Polk & Co. found is less loyal when it comes to buying cars.The Dearborn automaker thinks it can attract buyers from a competing brand and build a larger customer base through the supersegment.

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, said the segment is "totally invented by" Ford, but called it "a different way to slice and dice the numbers. It is a way that looks at where we're going."

The supersegment has grown at the expense of large cars, like the Toyota Avalon, Nissan Maxima, Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala, sales of which have continually declined.

Tom Libby, lead analyst of North American forecasting at R.L. Polk & Co., wrote in a blog post this week that the market share of large mainstream cars was 3.5 percent in 2012, down from 5.8 percent in 2008.

Large, mainstream cars now make up a smaller slice of the U.S. market share than the woeful minivan segment, which Libby deemed "an endangered species."


Reta Mae Mahoney
Passes away!

Reta Mahoney

Retiree Morris Mahoney's Wife

On behalf of the CAW Local 584 Retirees we wish to extend our sincerest condolences to Retiree Morris Mahoney and his family on the sudden passing of his wife Reta Mae Mahoney on March 21, 2013.

Funeral Information:

McConnell Funeral Home, Tweed - Map

Visitation: Tuesday March 26 from 2-4 & 7-9 p.m.. 

Mass of Christian Burial in St. Carthagh’s Roman Catholic Church, Tweed, on Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 11:00 a.m.  Map

Interment St. Carthagh’s Cemetery. 

Donations: Heart & Stroke Foundation or the Hastings Prince Edward Humane Society.


Our Condolences go out
to the Mahoney family


Ford's Hinrichs: Lincoln MKZ inventory will return to normal at end of March

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
March 22, 2013

Ford Motor Co.'s president of the Americas said Thursday that inventory of the new Lincoln MKZ sedan should be back to normal levels by the end of the month.

Joe Hinrichs, speaking after a supplier event at Ford's Dearborn campus, said MKZs are no longer being shipped from an assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, to another plant in Flat Rock for additional inspection and repairs.

"We expect to have a rather large amount of vehicles in the delivery process… in the last 10 days of the month," Hinrichs said. "We should be pretty close to our inventory levels at the end of the month."

Ford officials had previously said they did not expect a full stock of MKZs at dealerships until early April. The all-new vehicle should have fully launched in late 2012, but Ford opted to further inspect the vehicles to ensure a smooth introduction, something the automaker has not had great success doing in recent months.

Ford has never specifically addressed the nature of the problems. "I don't want to blame the supply base," Hinrichs said. "We've had our own internal issues as well."

New MKZs are now being inspected at Hermosillo, expediting the time it takes for the vehicles to go from assembly line to dealership.

"Normal production at Hermosillo is flowing," Hinrichs said of the Mexico plant. "We're just dealing with the backload of the vehicles that needed parts."

Despite the delays, Hinrichs said Ford has minimized the number of customers opting for other brands by offering extended leases until the MKZs reach dealer lots.

Lincoln sales have plummeted because of the MKZ delay. Through the first two months of the year, sales of the brand are down nearly 25 percent. Ford had eyed double-digit sales gains for Lincoln in 2013.

Hinrichs also said Thursday that Ford has begun shipping some Explorer SUVs to China.

The Explorer, built at the automaker's Chicago Assembly Plant, has experienced a recent sales resurgence here in the U.S., with sales up nearly 60 percent in February. Exports to China are also growing.

It's the latest example of Ford's plans to increase exports from the U.S. market, which through business maneuvers and lower worker wages, has become a much more attractive manufacturing region.

"We are increasing our exports from the U.S.," Hinrichs said, noting "It's continuing. It will grow. Obviously, most of our production here will be targeted for sales in North America to fulfill all the growth demand here."

Ford already ships its Edge SUV, built in Canada, to China. Next year, Ford will launch Lincoln products in China. Those Lincoln models will be exported from North America.


Ford to pay workers $750 million
in Belgium plant closing

4,000 employees to get about $187,500 each in benefits

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
March 21, 2013

Ford Motor Co. will pay approximately 4,000 hourly workers at its Genk, Belgium, assembly plant a total of $750 million in separation benefits, the Dearborn automaker disclosed in a regulatory filing Tuesday.

Ford now will be able to close the facility by the end of next year as it looks to cut excess capacity to meet dwindling demand in economically challenged Europe.

The 4,000 employees will receive about $187,500 each. Ford has also begun negotiating with about 300 salaried workers.

The cost of closing the plant was expected to top $1 billion, analysts projected at Ford's announcement in October.

Ford will treat separation-related costs as special items and will exclude the payments from total company pre-tax profit.

A sovereign debt crisis and high unemployment have taken a toll on consumer confidence and automobile sales in Europe, where Ford expects to lose about $2 billion this year. Europe has experienced five consecutive years of declining vehicle sales.

Ford lost nearly $1.75 billion in Europe last year, up from previously projected losses of about $600 million in early 2012.

That prompted the company in October to announce the closings of three European plants, including Genk, in an attempt to shed nearly 20 percent of its production capacity.

The automaker also plans to close a vehicle assembly plant in Southampton, England, and stamping and tooling operations in Dagenham, England.

The moves will save the automaker a projected $450 million to $500 million a year.

European auto sales dropped 10.5 percent in February and Ford's sales total dropped more than 20 percent, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association.


UAW nears breakthrough
in VW organizing push

By Ben Klayman and Bernie Woodall
Mar 20, 2013

(Reuters) - The United Auto Workers union could soon get a big boost in its efforts to represent hourly workers at Volkswagen AG's assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Horst Neumann, VW's board member in charge of human resources, told reporters on Friday that the automaker was in talks with the UAW about setting up a German-style labor board at the Tennessee plant. It was an about-face for a company that has resisted opening the U.S. plant to the UAW.

UAW President Bob King, who has said organizing U.S. plants run by foreign automakers is crucial for the union's survival, welcomed Neumann's comments and the German system where labor has a say in how companies are run.

King described them as "completely consistent with the UAW's 21st century model of unionism" that centers on a less adversarial relationship with companies.

"The UAW is very interested in the specific model that VW wants to present in the months ahead, and we are looking forward to open, fair and respectful dialogue, and cooperation with VW as we have expressed in our vision of the 21st century UAW," he said in a statement.

Neumann said the company may release a plan for the works council labor board in May or June and formal talks with a union could begin as soon as the second half of the year if VW's managing board approves, according to Automotive News and the Detroit News. A VW spokesman confirmed the comments, adding Neumann also said the UAW is not the only option.

If the UAW gains a foothold in VW's Tennessee plant, which opened in 2011 and builds the Passat sedan, it could be a transformative moment, potentially opening the door to representing workers at Mercedes (DAIGn.DE) and BMW's (BMWG.DE) U.S. plants.

"This truly represents a breakthrough if it takes place," said Harley Shaiken, a University of California-Berkeley labor studies professor, adding that such an agreement could spread to Japanese and South Korean-owned U.S. plants.

However, federal officials may interpret U.S. labor law as requiring a plant's workers to recognize a union before the German model can be implemented, said Arthur Schwartz, president of Labor and Economics Associates of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Historically, plants in the American South have been hostile to unions. In 2001, workers at Nissan Motor Co's (7201.T) plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, rejected UAW representation two-to-one.

More than a decade later, King has been eager to show a new UAW has emerged from the wreckage of Detroit and the union can be a better partner with management.

He previously has cited the union's four-year labor contracts with General Motors Co (GM.N), Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Chrysler Group LLC (FIA.MI) in 2011 as an example of the UAW 's flexibility.

In the past, executives at the various German automakers with U.S. plants have declined to discuss the UAW's push to organize their plants. Privately, they have voiced wariness about the union and its confrontational past.

When the UAW restarted efforts to organize foreign-owned U.S. plants, it initially targeted the German automakers because of the supervisory board seats held by labor officials at companies in that country. The UAW has since supported local efforts to organize workers at Nissan's plant in Canton, Mississippi.

King has been keen to foster more cooperation between global trade unions in an increasingly global auto industry. However, officials at the German union IG Metall previously have taken a more hands-off approach to helping the UAW despite not wanting the U.S. market to become a cheap-labor alternative to Germany.

Whether that has changed is not clear, but IG Metall has assisted the UAW before. In 1978, IG Metall helped the UAW organize the first big foreign factory in the United States, VW's Westmoreland Assembly Plant in Pennsylvania.

In that case, IG Metall told VW to look favorably on the UAW's efforts. The message was, "Help them organize, or else," said a former senior VW executive, who asked not to be identified.

In public, VW executives previously noted that workers already took part in corporate decisions, under co-determination policies first enforced by British military officers in Germany after World War Two.

"We have said that we want our employees to have a strong voice in our operations in Chattanooga, based on the social charter of the company, and believe we are operating with those principles," VW U.S. spokesman Tony Cervone said. "We have always said that any choice of formal representation by a union in the U.S. will be based on a vote of the workers at the facility."

In March 2012, the UAW solicited signatures of support from workers at the Chattanooga plant, escalating efforts to establish a foothold outside the U.S. automakers.

The UAW's efforts, which never gained traction, were discussed during a closed-door meeting with employees and VW executives at the Chattanooga plant in late March last year.

During the meeting, workers in the audience asked VW executives, including Jonathan Browning, head of North American operations, about the UAW's increased organizing efforts, according to people who attended.

Browning and other executives said the choice for UAW representation was up to the workers, repeating the company's long-held stance. One worker, addressing the crowd, said the plant did not need a union, which was met with loud applause and cheers, people at the meeting said.


Ontario Tories want public-sector retirement ages raised, pensions reformed

Adrian Morrow
The Globe and Mail
March 19, 2013

Ontario must raise the retirement age for public sector workers and reform their pension plans to avoid a "ticking time bomb" of unfunded pension liabilities, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said.

The Tory leader said public pensions should fall in line with their less generous private sector counterparts, such as by moving to a defined contribution model. Mr. Hudak also took aim at rules that allow some workers, such as teachers, to retire at age 55.

"It's not fair, it's not reasonable and it's simply not affordable any more," he said.

Mr. Hudak said the government should attempt to negotiate pension changes with public sector unions but, if that fails, it should be willing to impose reforms through legislation.

A new system could be phased in, he said, giving newer workers slimmer benefits than older ones.

He argued that the opportunity cost of not reforming the system would be cuts to program spending to pay for pension shortfalls.

"You have a choice: you can take this on or you can take this out of hospitals, you can take it out of classrooms. We choose to protect public services," he said.

The Liberal government has already begun moving on the file. Just last week, it reached a five-year deal with teachers that froze pension contributions. The aim is to shift a larger proportion of pension shortfalls off the treasury.


The jobless face harsh choices a
year after Electro-Motive shutdown

The Globe and Mail
Mar. 18 2013

They are flipping burgers or driving trucks, sorting the mail, going back to school or still searching for work.

And while the job market looks bleak, with many positions offering low pay on a casual or temporary basis, just 20 of the 465 unionized workers who lost their jobs a year ago – when Caterpillar Inc. shuttered Electro-Motive Diesel, a London, Ont., locomotive plant – have relocated.

The reasons vary for staying put. Many workers have mortgages and kids and roots in the southwestern Ontario town. Others are wary of the cold weather and high living costs in far-off communities. Some are reticent because they think the West, too, for all its promise, is now set to fizzle. So they stay, many of them with the wrong skills or education to find good work locally.

The abrupt closing of the 64-year-old plant came after workers rejected the company's proposal to cut wages, which had been an average of $34 per hour, by up to 50 per cent. The situation garnered international press coverage and stoked a debate about the competitiveness of Ontario's manufacturing sector.

Caterpillar, which has gained a reputation for taking a hard line against unionized labour, moved much of the work being done in London to a plant in Muncie, Ind., where the rate for non-union workers was between $12 and $18.50. The company cited competitive pressures and an unsustainable cost structure at the Ontario plant as reasons for the closure.

A year later, the ripple effects continue to wash over the workers, their families, the community and beyond. Their stories raise questions about the efficiency and health of Canada's labour market. Even as some companies in the southwestern Ontario city are fretting about skills shortages, the local jobless rate remains high, at 9.1 per cent.

Close to 500 unionized workers lost their jobs last year, as well as several hundred non-unionized workers. Of the 463 tracked every month by the Canadian Auto Workers union, 251 had found work as of Feb. 1; of that, 207 were in full-time jobs, 26 in contract positions, eight in part-time work and 10 self-employed. Many are starting to feel the pinch now as severance payments and employment insurance run out.

A visit to the local job action centre illustrates the challenge. Most jobs on offer are out of town. Many are casual positions, and at much lower pay than what was made at EMD; a posting for call-centre agents, for example, offers $17.50 an hour; forklift operator, $15 an hour; cabinet maker, $14 to $20 an hour.

Brandy Damm, 36, has cobbled together some hours sorting mail at Canada Post. But it's casual work: She only knows in the morning whether she'll be working that afternoon. She has seen a steep drop in her living standards in the past year.

"Day to day, I don't know what I'm doing. I have no idea what my day or week looks like," which makes long-term planning impossible, says the former welder. She used to take annual trips overseas, eat in restaurants every week and dream of retirement at age 55. Not any more.

Things have also been tough for Vince Gugliotta and his wife, who both lost their jobs at the plant last February. He tried going West, borrowing money for a flight to Calgary. But after just a few days, the job disappeared. He returned home and says he won't leave his family behind again.

But the picture is brighter for 160 former Caterpillar workers who landed work at a General Motors plant through a deal struck by the CAW.

For Wade Purdy, it means no commute and pay of $34 an hour, similar to what was available at EMD. "It's hard on the body. It's a tough job," he said. "But it is what it is, a job, and a good-paying job, and it gets me going to my pension." Mr. Purdy's nephew and son-in-law, who also worked at EMD, still don't have work.

While hundreds of manufacturing jobs have disappeared from the area in recent years, a function of growing competition and a high dollar, other opportunities are emerging. For example, Dr. Oetker is opening a pizza plant, while Columbia Sportwear, the jacket maker, is hiring.

"Like many communities, we're in an adjustment and redefining mode," said Robert Collins, director of work force development at London Economic Development, adding that some employers are having difficulty finding workers with technical skills in advanced manufacturing and project leaders in the tech sector.

More than 9,000 factory jobs disappeared in the city between 2006 and 2009, the Conference Board of Canada estimates. Manufacturing is "on the road to recovery" in London, buoyed in part by a firmer U.S. auto sector, though employment in the sector remains more than a quarter below its 2003 peak. Economic growth is expected to stay below 2.5 per cent through 2017, it predicts.

There are also silver linings in the closure. For Andrew Lockie, head of the local United Way, the plant's closing spurred his agency to develop new ways of serving people, focusing on families, not just affected workers. An outpouring of donations showed how generous people can be. For Mr. Gugliotta, who is at truck-driving school and whose wife is set to appear on the TV show Dragon's Den, pitching a new business, this year is one of "opportunity."

Caterpillar may have moved on, shifting locomotive production to lower-cost centres . But back in London, more workers are also now setting their sights elsewhere.


Ford's Mulally earns $20.9M

Ford Motor Co. paid President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally

2012 compensation fell from $29.5M in '11

March 17, 2013
By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. paid President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally $20.9 million in 2012 as the automaker made improvements in quality and cost performance, but fell short of targets for market share and cash flow.

Mulally's total compensation — which includes stock and option awards, plus personal expenses — included $2 million in salary and a $3.95 million cash bonus, according to the automaker's proxy filing Friday.

The $20.9 million represents a 29 percent decrease from the $29.5 million Mulally earned in 2011, which included a $2 million salary and a $5.46 million cash bonus. He received about $7 million less in stock awards in 2012.

Mulally will likely be 2012's highest-paid U.S. auto executive.

All automakers have not yet released their 2012 proxy statements, though it is likely General Motors Co. CEO Dan Akerson earned about $11 million.

Sergio Marchionne, who heads Fiat SpA, parent company of Chrysler Group LLC, received about $1.23 million, most in stock option awards from Chrysler. Fiat and Fiat Industrial have not released details on his 2012 pay.

The United Auto Workers, which in past years voiced their displeasure at Mulally's compensation, did not respond to a request Friday seeking comment.

Mulally, 67 — who has now earned approximately $160 million since joining Ford in 2006 — is lauded for keeping Ford out of bankruptcy, cutting costs and implementing a global strategy.

In 2012, Ford's regained its investment-grade credit rating from the second of three major credit agencies, restoring the mortgaged Blue Oval. Ford also reinstated its dividend, nonexistent since 2006, since doubling that dividend to 10 cents. The company's share price, which fell below $9, picked up steam by the end of 2012, finishing near $13.

Compensation for others on the proxy include:

Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman, earned $14.8 million, up from about $14.5 million in 2011, which included a $375,000 bonus.

Mark Fields, who became chief operating officer Dec. 1, earned roughly the same in 2012 as he did in 2011 — $8.8 million. He earned a bonus of $1.3 million, up from $136,500 in 2011.

Jim Farley, group vice president of global marketing, sales, service and Lincoln, earned about $4.6 million; $1.7 million of that was the first of two payments to make up for what he would have made at Toyota Motor Corp.


Ford seeks more stability on
pension after shortfall widened

By Craig Trudell
Bloomberg News
March 16, 2013

Ford Motor Co., the automaker moving to close a growing deficit in its pension, will shift more of its plan's assets to fixed income to shield against changes in interest rates.

The shortfall for Ford's U.S. pension plans would have dropped by $2.3 billion or risen by $2.8 billion as of the end of 2012 if interest rates went up or down by 1 percentage point, according to a presentation Friday. Ford's target is for the change in the pension deficit to be $400 million or less.

Ford is working to diffuse pension risks after the shortfall for its worldwide plans widened by $3.3 billion last year to $18.7 billion, even after the Dearborn-based company contributed more than required. The pension liabilities and size of its deficit affects Ford's credit rating, borrowing costs and stock price, Treasurer Neil Schloss told analysts on a conference call today.

"For companies like us and the other large industrials that have large plans where their shortfalls are meaningful relative to their market cap, pension de-risking should be a big piece of their overall capital strategy," Schloss said in an interview after the call.

Ford plans to "walk toward" a long-term target for 80 percent of its U.S. plan assets to be in fixed income securities, Schloss said. The company ended last year with 55 percent of assets in fixed income, up from 30 percent before 2007, he said. Ford didn't give specifics on when it may reach the 80 percent target.

Lower discount rates, which determine the present value of future obligations, widened Ford's pension shortfall by $8.9 billion last year. That more than offset $1.8 billion in net asset returns and $3.8 billion in contributions. Ford plans to contribute $5 billion to its pensions this year, $3.4 billion of which will be discretionary.


Honda recalls 250,000
vehicles for braking problem

By Associated Press
March 15, 2013

Tokyo — Honda is recalling nearly 250,000 vehicles worldwide for brakes that can suddenly kick in even when the driver isn't braking.

No crashes have been reported related to the defect.

Honda Motor Co. said Thursday it was recalling more than 183,000 vehicles in the U.S., including the Acura RL, Acura MDX and Pilot models.

More than 56,000 vehicles were recalled in Japan, affecting the Odyssey, Legend, StepWgn and Elysion models.

Also being recalled are nearly 8,000 vehicles in Canada, nearly 1,000 in Australia, about 300 in Mexico and 70 in Germany. The vehicles were produced from March 2004 through May 2006.

Some drivers complained about the problem, including 17 in Japan and one in the U.S.

The problem is caused by improper electronics and wiring in the vehicle-stability-assist system.


U.S. auto sales pace at slowest since GM, Chrysler bankruptcies

By Alan Ohnsman
Bloomberg News
March 14, 2013

Sales of new cars and trucks in the U.S. have cooled to the slowest pace in more than three years even as automakers increase spending on incentives.

The average number of days needed to sell new vehicles rose to 64 at the end of February, the most since August 2009, Bloomberg Industries said in a report Wednesday. Carmakers have also raised incentives to 7.8 percent of a vehicle's price to lure buyers, the highest ratio since 2011, analyst Kevin Tynan wrote in the note. Incentives increased more than 8 percent in both January and February, he said.

Vehicle sales have remained a bright spot for the U.S., expanding more than 10 percent annually since 2010, the year after bankruptcies for the former General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC. Growth is slowing this year, with total light-vehicle sales rising 3.7 percent in February, according to Autodata Corp.

Still, it's premature to be concerned as the pace of growth is returning to pre-recession levels, said Jessica Caldwell, industry analyst for Edmunds.com.

"Even though it's creeping up a bit, it doesn't start to raise eyebrows at this point," she said. "The number of days needed for a sale have risen, but it's stabilized in the low 60s."

Brands seeing some of the biggest increases in average numbers of days needed to sell their vehicles include Chrysler, GM's Chevrolet and GMC brands and Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln line, said Caldwell, who's based in Santa Monica, Calif.


Ottawa gives Air Canada more
time to eliminate deficit
in its pension plan

The Canadian Press
Mar. 13, 2013

OTTAWA -- The federal government announced Tuesday that it would give Air Canada more time to eliminate the $4.2-billion deficit in its pension plan, but imposed strict rules on the airline that limit executive pay and prevent it from paying dividends.

"By taking this action, we are ensuring that Air Canada remains viable, that thousands of jobs are protected and the service is there when Canadians need it," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in a statement.

"Air Canada is the country's largest airline and contributes significantly to the Canadian economy."

The deal requires the airline (TSX:AC.B) to make contributions to the plan of at least $150 million a year totalling at least $1.4 billion over seven years, on top of the regular contributions required by the plan.

The agreement also freezes increases in executive pay at the rate of inflation, prohibits special bonuses and puts limits on executives' incentive plans. The airline will also be prevented from paying dividends and buying back stock as well as making any pension plan benefit improvements without regulatory approval.

Air Canada's pension deficit has been a chronic problem for the airline due to low interest rates which have driven up liabilities.

The airline had wanted Ottawa to put a $150-million cap on its annual solvency deficit payments for the next decade, starting in 2014.

Flaherty noted that Air Canada's unions and retirees have been supportive of the company's request for help with its pension deficit.

"This regulatory change is not costing Canadian taxpayers a single dollar, but it is providing Air Canada time to pay off the sizeable pension deficit," the minister said

In 2009, Air Canada signed a deal with the federal government that granted the airline a moratorium on special pension contributions to reduce its deficit for that year and 2010. Under that deal, which expires next year, Air Canada was required to make $150 million in special payments in 2011, $175 million in 2012 and $225 million in 2013.

The Air Transport Association of Canada had argued against Ottawa granting Air Canada pension relief, saying it would create an uneven playing field.

The group, which represents small regional carriers and training centres, argued that Ottawa should provide broad pension assistance to all Canadian companies, instead of giving a competitive advantage to the former Crown corporation.

"We don't really have anything to add, but that we respect the government's decision," said John McKenna, president and CEO of ATAC.

McKenna said the group has decided to be more "cautious" after it was falsely accused of being overly critical of the airline.

Last week, it posted a public apology on the front page of its website for the open letter it had written to the federal government to voice its concerns.

Air Canada has said that cost savings from its recent labour agreements, the startup of low-cost carrier Rouge and pension relief will help to lead the airline to sustainable profits.


Former Chrysler execs lose
bid to restore pensions

They appeal bankruptcy judge's ruling cutting
their retirement benefits in '09 restructuring

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
March 13, 2013

Washington — A federal bankruptcy judge has thrown out a long-running claim from four former top Chrysler executives — including Bob Lutz — over the Auburn Hills' automaker's decision to dramatically cut many executive pensions during its 2009 restructuring.

In a March 5 court filing, lawyers for four former senior Chrysler executives appealed the decision of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stuart M. Bernstein who ruled the old Chrysler trust does not have to assume the liabilities for former Chrysler executives in the Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan.

A lawyer for the four executives, Mayer Morganroth, says the executives collectively lost more than $10 million.

Lutz, a former Chrysler president and vice chairman, left the automaker in 1998 and initially filed his objection in June 2009 to Chrysler's plan to cut benefits from the pension plan.

The other executives who sued include Richard O. Schaum, who was DaimlerChrysler's executive vice president for product development and quality; Gary Henson, who retired in 2001 after heading Chrysler's manufacturing operations; and Donald Miltz, a former Chrysler Financial executive.

At issue was the fact that the new Chrysler agreed to retain liabilities under the plan for active executives but not for retired executives. The suing executives argued Chrysler couldn't only accept part of the pension plan, while some also argued it was unfair to treat retired and current executives differently.

In 2009, Chrysler Group LLC was created in the sale of the "good assets" of the former Chrysler LLC to a government-sponsored entity controlled by Fiat SpA. Many former executives in the bankruptcies Chrysler and General Motors Co. lost two-thirds of their pensions.

Morganroth said the executives may have other claims they can lodge.

The former Chrysler trust continues to sell off assets and pay bills. It had $186 million on hand as of Dec. 31. Most recently, it sold a truck and scrap material from the former Kenosha Engine plant.


CAW begins early
contract negotiations
with GM's CAMI factory

By Bill Koenig
Bloomberg News
March 13, 2013

The Canadian Auto Workers union said it's starting early contract negotiations Monday with General Motors Co.'s CAMI assembly plant.

The negotiations will take place over the next two weeks, and the Toronto-based union and Detroit-based GM are aiming to reach an agreement by March 24, according to a statement. The current contract doesn't expire until Sept. 16.

The plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, bargains separately from other GM plants represented by the CAW. Those factories reached a four-year labor agreement last year. That accord reduced the hourly rate for new hires to C$20.40 ($19.83) from C$23.80. The agreement was similar to agreements reached with Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC.

GM on March 8 announced plans to invest in the Ingersoll plant to install body shop equipment and tools to permit the factory to build more types of vehicles. The factory's current products include the Chevrolet Equinox.


6,500 new Fords being recalled
for child safety lock fix

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
March 12, 2013

Washington — Ford Motor Co. is recalling about 6,500 new vehicles to replace a rear door lock that may have a faulty child safety mechanism.

The Dearborn automaker told safety regulators in the United States and Canada it is recalling some 2013 Ford Focus, C-Max and Escape vehicles because the child lock on the left rear door may have been installed incorrectly.

"The child lock may not engage when the operator uses normal turning force to activate the child lock, and the operator may incorrectly believe the child lock is engaged," Ford told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Ford said it is not aware of any crashes or injuries connected to the recall.

The automaker said that the recall covers 5,675 vehicles in the United States as well as 859 in Canada.

The vehicles were built at Ford's Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne and Louisville Assembly from Nov. 16-21.

Dealers will replace the rear door latch if necessary and owners will be notified starting March 25.

Ford said it temporarily halted shipment of vehicles on Nov. 20 at Wayne after it discovered the problem and began an investigation into the issue.

During the review, Ford learned that a supplier had sent a mixed stock of parts, which led to the faulty latches.



GM to invest $250 million
in Ontario assembly plant

By Melissa Burden
The Detroit News
March 11, 2013

General Motors Co. said Friday it will invest $250 million in its CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, by adding flexible body shop tooling and equipment, and changing the manufacturing line to help bring vehicles to market faster.

GM said construction will begin in weeks and that the investment will allow the plant to build a variety of different products on multiple platforms at lower costs. Construction is expected to be competed in the fourth quarter 2014, GM Canada spokeswoman Adria MacKenzie said in an email.

"Conversion of the CAMI Assembly Plant to a flexible manufacturing facility will provide CAMI with the ability to produce multiple architecture and body styles," Kevin Williams, president and managing director of GM Canada, said in a statement.

CAMI builds the popular Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers. The plant has 2,700 employees, including 2,400 hourly employees who build the vehicles on three shifts.

MacKenzie said it's too early to say if the investment will have an impact on jobs at the plant, as CAMI already is running at full capacity.

CAMI employees learned of the investment announcement Friday, according to a posting from plant Manager Les Bogar on the Canadian Auto Workers' Local 88 website. The investment includes a 336,000-square-foot expansion for the new body shop.

Bogar, in his announcement, said the plant and GM are not announcing that CAMI will produce the next-generation Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain.

"We are not announcing a new product at this time," according to remarks from Bogar on the website. "This investment will prepare the plant for future vehicle production."

The CAW praised the investment.

"Investment in infrastructure will mean greater job security for those working at the facility and the thousand of other workers whose livelihoods depend on it," CAW Local 88 President Dan Borthwick said in a statement.

CAW Local 88 represents workers at CAMI.


U.S. closes investigation
on Ford SUVs

NHTSA cites drop in rollaway complaints for ending probe

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
March 9, 2013

Washington — Federal safety investigations have closed a nearly four-year investigation into allegations that 1.56 million Ford SUVs were at risk of rolling away without ordering a recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a notice posted Friday that it was closing its investigation into the 2002-05 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer, as well as the 2003-05 Lincoln Aviator, citing the low number of complaints.

The failure rate was 4.4 per 100,000 vehicles for a suspected defect involving the automatic transmission parking system, and 3.4 per 100,000 for a suspected defect involving the brake shift interlock system.

NHTSA said it had found 180 complaints of vehicles rolling away after they were shifted into park for various alleged causes, including reports of 14 crashes and six injuries.

But while finding evidence of a problem with some vehicles, NHTSA said "there has been a drastically declining trend including very few incidents occurring in recent years."

Injuries reported were minor — ranging from cuts and bruises to a fractured rib.

NHTSA opened a preliminary investigation in April 2009 and upgraded it to an engineering analysis in August 2009.

The primary issue is whether the brake-shift interlock — which prevents the vehicle from being shifted out of park unless the brake is depressed — is working properly. In its closing report, NHTSA said it could be defeated if drivers shifted within 0.4 seconds of when brakes were applied because of a production change in the 2002 model year.

If drivers continue to quickly shift, the condition may worsen and the driver eventually may not be able to shift into park at all, said NHTSA, which found related 144 complaints.

Ford said in a letter to NHTSA that some complaints are the result of "drivers that do not follow basic, commonsense vehicle driving practices that are consistent with safe vehicle operation may experience unintended vehicle movement while in park."

Ford issued a bulletin to plants in February 2004 explaining that for Explorer-platform vehicles, the parking brake must be applied once vehicles are loaded for shipment on rail or car haulers. Ford said that reduces stress on the transmission.

Ford in November 2004 told dealers some 2002-05 Explorers and Mountaineers may require more effort to shift into park and recommended replacement of a shift interlock part.


Ford recalling 230,000
minivans for rust

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
March 8, 2013

Washington — Ford Motor Co. is recalling 230,000 minivans because third-row seat latches can rust and fail to relatch.

The recall of the 2004-2007 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans is in 20 "salt belt" states, including Michigan, where the vehicles were sold or registered.

Ford agreed to recall the vehicles in the face of a 14-month investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It includes vehicles equipped with a third-row seat. Ford said it is aware of 80 complaints but no injuries or crashes.

In August 2011, Ford became aware of a customer with difficulty latching the third row seat into its seating position.

Between January and November 2012, Ford and NHTSA continued an active dialogue on this subject and conducted vehicle surveys and testing.

The recall includes about 196,000 vehicles in the United States and 33,250 in Canada.

Ford dealers will install new third-row seat latch striker mounting brackets, which relocate the seat latch strikers from the potentially corroded area. In addition, dealers will install overlay panels on the exterior of the wheel wells to prevent entry of water and corrosive elements.

The states where the vehicles were registered or sold are: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.


Ford awards CEO Mulally
$11.8M in stock units
CEO and Chairman Alan Mulally

CEO receives units worth $11.8M that will convert in 2015

March 7, 2013
By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Ford Motor Co. awarded stock options and other long-term incentive payments to top executives this week, including $11.8 million in stock to CEO and Chairman Alan Mulally that he'll get in 2015.

Mulally also this week collected $7 million from 543,734 units that the automaker awarded him in 2011 under its long-term incentive program.

After withholding some of the shares to cover tax liability, Mulally collected stock worth $3.7 million.

Mulally was also awarded Ford stock units worth $11.8 million — the equivalent of 909,179 shares that will convert to stock in 2015.

He was also given the right to buy 745,526 shares of stock at $12.75 a share — the price on the day the options were awarded — but those options can't be fully exercised until 2016.

Mulally earned $29.5 million for 2011, and Ford will make known his 2012 total compensation next week, when the automaker files its proxy.

General Motors CEO and President Daniel Akerson got $9 million in 2011 and 2012, but because of deferred cash, Akerson will be listed as getting $11.1 million for 2012

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. collected $3.3 million in stock that had been awarded in 2011 but also vested this week.

After some of the stock was withheld for taxes, Ford netted $1.8 million.

Bill Ford Jr. was awarded the right to buy 347,912 shares of stock at $12.75 a share, but can't exercise all options until 2016. He also was awarded 171,347 Ford stock units that will convert to shares in 2015 — currently valued at $2.2 million.

Ford Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields, the odds-on favorite to succeed Mulally, collected $940,000 in stock.

Fields was also granted the right to buy 248,508 shares at $12.75 — though the options aren't fully exercisable until 2016 and the equivalent of 223,000 shares of Ford stock that will convert to stock in 2015.

The Dearborn automaker disclosed the executive compensation in filings late Tuesday. The automaker has had profits for four straight years, including net income of $5.7 billion in 2012


Ford Commercial Vehicle Lineup Expands with Industry's Broadest Range of CNG/LPG-Ready Offerings

March 6, 2013

• Sales of Ford trucks with CNG/LPG-prepped engines have soared more than 350 percent since 2009, as gas prices continue to fluctuate and CNG cost remains stable
• Businesses are using CNG-fueled trucks to lower their operating costs, with the payback period for recouping conversion upfit cost as fast as 24 to 36 months of in-use service
• From vans to pickups to chassis, Ford offers customers the widest selection – among full-line manufacturers – of vehicles factory prepped for conversion

Transit Line Up

Click to download PDF.

DEARBORN, Mich., March 6, 2013 – Sales of Ford vehicles capable of running on compressed natural gas or propane autogas have reached record levels, as businesses and commercial customers seek relief from constantly fluctuating gas prices.

In response to increased customer demand for compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid propane gas (LPG) ready vehicles, Ford has expanded its portfolio of product offerings in this growing alternative-fuel market segment.

"Since 2009, we've seen the number of Built Ford Tough commercial vehicles sold with factory-prepped engines for CNG/LPG upfit increase by more than 350 percent," said Jon Coleman, Ford Fleet Sustainability and Technology manager. "To expand power of choice for our commercial customers, we are offering CNG/LPG prepped engines in additional vehicle nameplates – from the Transit Connect compact van up to medium-duty F-650 models."

As gas prices continue to rise, CNG conversion can drastically lower vehicle operating costs for fleet administrators. CNG sells for an average of $2.10 per gallon, representing a significant savings over unleaded regular fuel, selling for a national average of $3.78 per gallon according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. As the commercial vehicle market leader, Ford aims to provide sustainable solutions for a broad spectrum of its fleet customers.

CNG is made by compressing natural gas, which is mainly composed of methane. It is stored and distributed in hard containers at a pressure of 2,900 to 3,600 psi. About 85 percent of the CNG used in the United States is produced domestically. Depending on application and usage, businesses can see payback for CNG/LPG systems in as little as 24 to 36 months.

Another benefit of this alternative fuel: Cleaner emissions. CNG usage can result in up to 30 percent less greenhouse gas emissions according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Companies and fleet customers are also making long-term commitments to CNG. The city of Indianapolis, where this year's NTEA Work Truck Show is being held, has committed to shifting its cars, heavy trucks and police cruisers to a mix of electricity and natural gas, aiming to eliminate use of conventional gas and diesel fuels by 2025.

Power of choice
Ford, the best-selling commercial vehicle brand in North America, will offer the all-new Ford Transit range of full-size vans, wagons, cutaway, and chassis cab models powered by a 3.7-liter V6 equipped with a CNG/LPG prep kit to assist customers running their vehicles with these abundant, affordable, clean fuels.

Transit joins the current compact Transit Connect® van, wagon and taxi lineup; Ford Super Duty® pickups; stripped chassis, legendary E-Series vans, wagons and cutaways; and medium-duty F-450®, F-550® and F-650® variants in offering factory-prepped engines for CNG/LPG conversion.

The next generation of the Transit Connect range will add yet another CNG-ready engine when it goes on sale later this year, offering a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that is more responsive and fuel efficient due to its use of intake-variable camshaft timing.

Each Ford engine that is factory-prepped for gaseous conversion comes equipped with hardened valves and valve seats, and Super Duty trucks equipped with the 6.2-liter V8 feature a unique bi-fuel intake manifold to accommodate these cleaner-burning fuels.

CNG/LPG engine prep from the factory costs approximately $325 before the customer chooses a partner to supply fuel tanks, fuel lines and unique fuel injectors. Upfits run approximately $9,500 to $12,500, depending on fuel tank capacity.

The commercial truck market is composed of many unique vocations and vehicle requirements. Ford is collaborating with qualified upfitters to deliver completed vehicles under its Qualified Vehicle Modifier program.


Ford expects some Europe
market recovery in 2013

By Colleen Barry
Associated Press
March 5, 2013

Geneva — Ford Europe CEO Stephen Odell says the uncertain Italian election results "possibly didn't help" the European car market but he still expects some recovery this year.

Europe's recession has caused auto deliveries to plunge from 18 million in 2007 in Ford's key 19 markets to around 13 million expected this year. Odell said Tuesday at the Geneva Motor Show that Ford sees signs of recovery in recent surveys of purchasing managers and supplier order books.

Odell says Ford Europe was sticking to its target to break even in 2015. Ford will have a lineup with 40 percent new products this year, and it will cut production capacity by a steep 18 percent, or 355,000 units, by the end of 2014.

"We are in for a slow recovery curve," Odell said.


This retiree's $22.75 Canada
Pension Plan shock

Sheila Billard paid into the Canada Pension Plan all her life. When she died her husband's survivor benefit came to $22.75 a month.

Toronto Star
Adam Mayers
March 4, 2013

The decision to start taking the Canada Pension Plan at 60, or to wait until as late as 70, is one that requires some thought.

Starting early gives you the satisfaction of enjoying a benefit that you've paid into all your working life. Waiting gives you a much bigger payment.

But as the case of two Nova Scotia retirees Winston and Sheila Billard shows, even the best laid plans can go astray.

Winston, 72, is a retired teacher who lives in Cape Breton and paid into the Canada Pension Plan for 37 years. He started drawing the pension when he was 63 and last year was receiving $883 a month.

His wife Sheila, a nurse, made contributions for 44 years. She enjoyed being active and continued to work part-time at a local nursing home into her 60s. This additional income, plus other pensions and savings, meant the couple didn't need her pension immediately, so she delayed taking CPP.

Last year, when Sheila was 66, she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. She applied for CPP and received two monthly payments of $1,053 before she died in June.

In addition to the distress surrounding his wife's death, Winston received two other shocks when he applied for her survivor pension. Most pension plans have a default survivor benefit, often at 60 per cent which can be adjusted upward. If one spouse dies, the other gets a reduced, but substantial, monthly payment to maintain their lifestyle.

Not so in the case of the CPP. Even if both spouses have contributed all their lives as in the case of the Billards, the survivor is only entitled to the maximum of one full benefit. The rationale is the notion that nobody should be able to get more than the maximum that one person would receive who had worked all his life.

Had Winston not worked he would have been entitled to 60 per cent of his wife's benefit.

"I was shocked," Winston says. "I thought this must be a mistake."

The second shock was the size of the benefit he would receive. He is getting just $22.75 more a month which doesn't bring him up to the maximum. When Winston appealed the payment they showed him the details of the calculation and said he could not be paid any more.

He's now getting $933 a month, including the $22.75 versus the 2013 maximum of $1,012.

"It doesn't seem fair," he says. "In my case, the extra amount would not buy me a good meal in a restaurant," he says. "This in effect is another form of taxation with the government the winner."

It doesn't seem fair, but it would require a change in legislation to get Winston a better deal. Amélie Maisonneuve with Human Resource & Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) which administers the CPP, could not discuss the specifics of the case. She offered her sympathies, but says HRSDC has strict rules it must apply.

"The rationale for establishing a limit . . . reflects the principle that no person should receive a combination of pensions that is greater than the amount payable to an individual who made the maximum contributions to the Plan throughout his or her working life," she said.

She added that survivor's benefits are meant to provide some help, not a second income.

"The benefits are not intended to replace a second source of household earnings or the retirement income of a dual-earning family," she said.

The CPP is governed by the principle of pooled risk. This recognizes that some people live longer than others and will get more benefits from the fund. The money that would have gone to pay Sheila Billard's benefits is now available for another Canadian's pension.

The Billard's case might seem to make a good argument for why we should all take CPP early.

But Fred Vettese, chief actuary at human resource consultant Morneau Sheppel, says not. While offering sympathies to Winston Billard, he says the odds are in your favour if you wait. If you're healthy and can wait, you should, he says.

HRSDC says if you delay CPP until 70 you will receive roughly double the amount that you would have received at age 60 and 42 per cent more than what you would get at age 65.

Statistics Canada says a 65-year-old Canadian can expect to live, on average, another 20 years, so by waiting, you get a bigger payment that is inflation protected for a long time.

The great unknown is longevity. Statistics and probability are one thing, individual circumstances another. While it's likely that we'll all live longer and probable that we will, that's cold comfort when life gets in the way.


Ford Motor Company Sales Up 9 Percent, Best February In Six Years; Fusion, Escape Set Sales Records

• Ford Motor Company U.S. February sales up 9 percent – best February in six years, with cars up 6 percent, utilities up 21 percent and trucks up 4 percent
• Fusion sets an all-time February sales record, surpasses last year's record by 28 percent
• Escape produces its best February sales ever; Explorer reaches best February sales since 2006, up 59 percent
• America's best-selling pickup for 36 years running, F-Series posts 15 percent gain
• Ford announces 2013 second-quarter production of 800,000 vehicles, up 9 percent from the prior year

Download Full Sales Release (With Tables)

DEARBORN, Mich., March 2, 2013 – Ford Motor Company's U.S. February sales grew 9 percent with 195,822 vehicles sold. This marks Ford's best February sales in six years – with cars up 6 percent, utilities up 21 percent and trucks up 4 percent.

"As more new vehicle buyers continue returning to the marketplace, our fresh new product portfolio of fuel-efficient vehicles is winning over customers," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. "People are buying our all-new Fusion and Escape in record numbers, thanks to strong fuel economy and innovative new technologies."

Ford Fusion posted record February sales totaling 27,875 vehicles. This is a 28 percent gain over last February's record.
Escape followed January's record sales with a new February sales record of 24,110 vehicles – a 29 percent increase over last year. Plus, Explorer boosted its sales 59 percent in February, with 16,586 vehicles sold – its best February sales results in seven years.

America's best-selling pickup, the Ford F-Series, sold 54,489 pickups in February, a 15 percent increase over last year. F-Series had its best February sales results since 2007. This marks F-Series' 19th consecutive month of monthly sales increases. Transit Connect also continues to strengthen, selling 3,610 vehicles in February – a 57 percent increase over last year.

Ford also announced its 2013 second-quarter North American production plan. The company plans to build 800,000 vehicles in the second quarter, up 9 percent (63,000 vehicles) from 2012's second quarter. First quarter production of 770,000 vehicles is unchanged from previous guidance.


California firms sue Ford over
fuel efficiency claims for 2 hybrids

The Ford C-MAX Hybrid, along with the Fusion Hybrid, doesn’t live up to its fuel efficiency claims, hundreds of owners claim in lawsuits against Ford Motor Co. (Ford)

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
March 1, 2013

Two California law firms are consolidating lawsuits against Ford Motor Co., alleging the automaker has led a "false and misleading" marketing campaign for its 2013 C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid vehicles.

Redlands, Calif.-based McCuneWright, which on behalf of "hundreds" of C-Max and Fusion hybrid owners is seeking punitive damages because of potentially overinflated fuel-efficiency claims, said it will consolidate with a similar lawsuit filed by San Diego-based Robbins, Geller, Rudman and Dowd.

"There's a lot of really unhappy people," said Rich McCune, partner at McCuneWright, which has previously filed lawsuits against Hyundai Motor Co. for fuel-efficiency claims, in a telephone interview.

"We've received hundreds of calls from the few newspaper stories that have been around."

The new filing will have between five and 10 class-action representatives — real-world Ford hybrid owners who say that their vehicles are not living up to fuel-efficiency claims — from various areas of the country.

McCune said the law firm has spoken to "literally hundreds" of hybrid owners from across the country, and not just those clustered in colder regions with higher speed limits, two factors that can significantly diminish fuel efficiency.

The original suit stems from the experiences of Richard Pitkin of Roseville, Calif., who purchased a C-Max Hybrid in October. Pitkin says he averaged only 37 miles per gallon, lower than the Environmental Protection Agency rated 47 mpg.

The EPA said in December it would review Ford's fuel-efficiency claims after Consumer Reports found the C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid got significantly worse fuel efficiency than the EPA window sticker suggests.

Consumer Reports said in testing, the C-Max Hybrid's fuel efficiency fell 10 miles per gallon short: It got 37 mpg overall, with 35 mpg for city driving and 38 mpg highways. The Fusion Hybrid, certified for the same 47 mpg, got 39 mpg in testing overall, with 35 mpg city and 41 mpg highway.

Ford has said its hybrid vehicles are built to give customers a choice: Drivers can operate the vehicle conservatively and achieve EPA mileage claims. Or they can drive the car for fun, because Ford hybrids get significantly better horsepower than competitor vehicles.


EcoBoost engine threatens
Essex Engine plant: Expert

The Ford Essex Engine Plant is seen in this 2010 file photo. (Dan Janisse / The Windsor Star)

Windsor Star
Grace Macaluso
Feb 28, 2013

Ford Motor Company's plan to make its line of EcoBoost engines available throughout most of its product line threatens the three-shift operation at the automaker's Essex Engine Plant, an industry expert warned Tuesday.

"We don't think the plant is in danger of shutting down, but production volumes will decrease over time," said Michael Omotoso, senior manager of global power train for LMC Automotive in Troy, Mich. "I would expect it to move to two shifts over the next two years."

Essex Engine employs about 800 workers who assemble the 5.0-litre V-8 engine on three shifts. The engine powers the popular F-150 pickup as well as the Ford Mustang muscle car.

EcoBoost engines will be offered on more than 90 per cent of Ford's North American product lineup this year, and 95 per cent by 2015, Ford said. Omotoso said the plan could also include the 2015 Mustang, although Ford would not comment on future product plans.

Chris Taylor Preisdent CAW Local 200As Ford moves the Mustang onto a global platform, it would make sense to offer a 3.5-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost engine as an entry-level option, especially in places such as Europe where gas is more expensive, said Omotoso. "People could get 365 h.p. which is similar to the power of a V-8 engine, but with much better fuel economy — about two to three miles per gallon, depending on the application."

When asked whether the expansion of EcoBoost engines throughout Ford's lineup could affect the Essex Engine plant, company spokeswoman Lauren More said there would be "no impact on Windsor. There are no production changes planned for the Windsor operations at this time."

Chris Taylor, president of CAW Local 200, said the plant assembled 309,000 5.0-litre engines in 2012. Ford has yet to finalize volumes for 2013, but "we are not seeing any decreases."

The vast majority of the engines produced at Essex Engine go into the F-150 series pickup, said Taylor, who expressed optimism about the future of the V-8 engine.

While the EcoBoost engine has "eaten into the number of engines we could have produced, the V-8 is still prevalent," he said, noting that the V-8 F-150 outsells the EcoBoost version.

"There's always new technology down the road, but the reality is V-8s are not going away." The horsepower and torque of a V-8 are in demand especially for heavy duty trucks and motorhomes, Taylor added.

"Even the motorheads out there want the V-8s."

Ford and other automakers are under pressure to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles in the wake of stricter fuel economy standards in both Canada and the United States.


Ford inadvertently leaks
private information of
Windsor employees, retirees

Grace Macaluso
Windsor Star

Ford inadvertently leaked private information of about 10,000 current and former employees in Windsor to an external website, Chris Taylor, CAW Local 200, said on January 28, 2013.

Someone (at Ford) made a mistake," Taylor said. Ford has sent letters advising affected individuals that their "name, address, phone number, date of birth and Ford seniority were included in a data upload to a file on an external information technology vendor website."

Kerri Stoakley, spokeswoman at Ford of Canada in Oakville, said "there is no evidence to suggest the information was misused. No personal banking, credit or any other financial based information was provided to the vendor."

After Ford became aware of the incident in late December, it "acted immediately and the data was removed from both the vendor website and server," said Stoakley. "We take this matter very seriously and letters are on their way to notify current and former hourly employees."

Stoakley could not say for how long the information was on the website, which was relatively obscure and "difficult to locate." However, that information was accessible to anyone who accessed the website, she added.

The letter includes a hotline for any individuals with questions or concerns, Stoakley said. "They can call the Ford labour relations office at 519-257-2056 if they have any questions and someone will get back to them as soon as possible."

As a "precautionary measure," Ford is referring individuals to agencies that provide credit checks, she added.

Ford is taking steps "to ensure this doesn't happen again," said Stoakley.


Lawsuit filed over web posting Ford employees’ private information

Windsor Star
Ellen van Wageningen

Feb 01, 2013

A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against Ford Motor Co. of Canada and an unidentified corporation on behalf of 10,000 current and former Windsor employees of the automaker whose private information was inadvertently posted on an external website.

The lawsuit filed with the Ontario Superior Court in Windsor late Thursday seeks $13 million in damages and an interim order requiring Ford and the unknown company responsible for the website to pay for credit monitoring services for the employees affected.

It alleges the two companies were negligent for letting the information become public and that they failed to destroy the personal information of those who no longer worked for Ford – claims that have not been proven in court.

In a letter dated Jan. 22 sent to the current and former Ford workers the company said their names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and Ford seniority dates “were included in a data upload to a file on an external information technology vendor website.”

The information was immediately removed from the relatively obscure website when Ford became aware in late December, spokeswoman Kerri Stoakley said earlier this week. How long it was posted there has not been revealed.

It is suggested to the affected current and former employees in the letter that they change online passwords, contact Canadian credit bureaus to make sure no one has fraudulently been using their credit cards and consider placing a fraud alert on their financial accounts, as well as with credit agencies.

“Steps are being taken to improve the process and the handling of personal information going forward. We sincerely regret any inconvenience to you or concern caused to you,” concludes the letter signed by Meeta Huggins, human resources manager for Windsor site operations.

“The people who brought this to us have a lot of questions they’d like answered. They’d like to see their personal information handled with a bit more care and they’d like to be compensated,” said Windsor lawyer Sharon Strosberg.

Her firm, Sutts Strosberg, and Falconer Charney, of Toronto, have commenced the lawsuit naming three representative claimants from the Windsor area – current Ford employee Colin MacEachern, retiree Lawrence Damphouse and David Oglan, who was laid off by Ford and took a buyout in December.

Damphouse, who was a janitor, retired in 2004.

“It’s very confusing to him as to why Ford would even have his information,” Strosberg said.

Currently, all the lawyers know about what happened is in the letter which is vague, she said.

Ford will be able to file a statement of defence and make other arguments in court before a judge will have to decide whether to certify the lawsuit as a class action.

“We have not yet been served with a claim and are not in a position to comment,” spokeswoman Stoakley said when reached Friday afternoon.

Strosberg said her firm is involved in two other proposed class action lawsuits over the loss of private information kept in a digital form and expects to launch a fourth next week, the details of which she wouldn’t reveal. The first lawsuit is over loss of a USB drive that contained information about 5,000 Canadians who applied for pensions and other federal benefits. The second covers the loss of two hard drives containing information about 583,000 Canadians who applied for student loans from 2000 to 2006.

“It’s a huge problem in the digital age,” said Strosberg.

The lawsuit against Ford and the unknown vendor claims employers have a responsibility to keep that information safe and private, she said.

The website for the proposed class action is fordprivacyclassaction.com.


Feds probe 724K Ford
models over power loss

The 2010 Ford Escape is among the vehicles being studied for loss of power. (ford.com)

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
February 27, 2013

Washington — Federal safety regulators have opened a new safety investigation into 724,000 Ford Escape, Fusion and Mercury models over hundreds of reports of sudden loss of engine power.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Monday it has opened a preliminary investigation into the 2009-11 Ford Escape and Fusion, and Mercury Mariner and Milan.

NHTSA said it has 123 reports indicating allegations of reduced power or vehicle stall in Escape vehicles under investigation.

Ford made a design change in 2009 to address complaints but did not recall the vehicles.

NHTSA said there have been 27,500 warranty claims for the issue, along with reports of three crashes and one injury. Ford has received more than 1,400 complaints about the issue.

"We are cooperating fully with NHTSA on this investigation, as we do on all investigations," said Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker.

Vehicles manufactured between June 2009 and October 2009 may contain contaminated circuit boards with plating variations, NHTSA said. Plating variations could lead to a failure.

Ford and its supplier, Delphi Corp., modified the manufacturing process and issued a technical service bulletin in October 2010, NHTSA said.

Vehicles produced after Oct. 15, 2009 have electronic throttle bodies manufactured with a new process that resolved this condition, the government said.

The bulletin instructed dealers to replace the throttle body on a number of Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

Depending on the condition of throttle control system malfunction, a driver may experience varying levels of reduced engine performance.

Vehicles are not likely to unexpectedly stall as a result, but drivers may describe it as a stall even though the engine is still running, NHTSA said.

Separately, NHTSA said it received 59 complaints alleging incidents of engine stalling while driving in model year 2010-11 Ford Fusions.

About 60 percent of the incidents occurred at speeds of 40 miles per hour or more.



Ford dominates 2013 best
cars for the money list

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
Feb 24, 2013

Ford Motor Co. dominated this year's list of best cars for the money from U.S. News & World Report.

The Dearborn automaker had six of the 21 best "cars for the money" based on the opinion of the automotive press, interior features, and comfort and reliability data from J.D. Power and Associates and safety data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Toyota Motor Corp. had five vehicles appear on the list.

Ford's Focus compact, Fusion midsize sedan, Fusion Hybrid sedan, Taurus full-size sedan — which has won best large car for the money the past four years — and Escape and Edge SUVs made the list.

Toyota models on the list included: The Scion FR-S sports coupe, the Lexus RX 350 and RX Hybrid SUVs and the Toyota Tacoma and Tundra pickups.

General Motors Co. had three vehicles make the list: The Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, Buick Verano luxury small car and Buck Regal luxury midsize car.

No Chrysler Group LLC vehicles made this year's list.

2013 Best Cars for the Money

Subcompact car: Honda Fit
Upscale small car: Buick Verano
Compact car: Ford Focus
Hatchback: Honda Fit
Midsize car: Ford Fusion
Upscale midsize car: Buick Regal
Large car: Ford Taurus
Sports car: Scion FR-S
Hybrid car: Ford Fusion Hybrid
Wagon: Subaru Outback
Compact SUV: Ford Escape
Luxury compact SUV: BMW X1
Midsize SUV, two rows: Ford Edge
Midsize SUV, three rows: Hyundai Santa Fe
Luxury midsize SUV, two rows: Lexus RX 350
Luxury midsize SUV, three rows: Acura MDX
Large SUV: Chevrolet Tahoe
Hybrid SUV: Lexus RX Hybrid
Minivan: Mazda Mazda5
Compact pickup truck: Toyota Tacoma
Full-size pickup truck: Toyota Tundra


Ford to add 450 jobs at Ohio plant

Ford President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs announces plans to build the 2-liter EcoBoost engine at Ford’s Brook Part plant near Cleveland. (Tony Dejak / Associated Press)

Carmaker will invest $200M to make 2-liter EcoBoost engines

Ford Motor Co. confirmed Thursday that it is adding 450 jobs at a northeast Ohio plant to increase production of its 2-liter EcoBoost engine.

A $200 million investment at Ford's Brook Park plant near Cleveland will allow the plant to produce 2-liter engines starting late next year for North American vehicles like the Fusion midsize sedan and Escape SUV.

"Cleveland Engine Plant was the first to produce EcoBoost engines and will continue to be a cornerstone of Ford's strategy to deliver affordable fuel economy for millions," Ford President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs said in a statement.

The engine is currently built only in Valencia, Spain. The Valencia plant will continue to make small engines for Europe, but some of its workers will be transferred to a nearby assembly plant.

Ford, which in 2009 introduced the EcoBoost series — a marriage of turbocharging, direct-injection and twin independent variable-camshaft timing — is in need of additional engines for high-volume vehicles such as the Fusion and F-150.

Buyers increasingly have opted for the EcoBoost engines, which offer boosts in fuel efficiency and performance but command a premium of about $1,000.

"I think the supply is basically against the wall, based on demand," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president at Troy-based research firm LMC Automotive, in a telephone interview last week.

"As the EcoBoost technology and brand itself catches on, it is what's driving these types of decisions."

Ford has sold more than 530,000 EcoBoost engines in the U.S. during the past 31/2 years through January and expects to sell more than 500,000 EcoBoost-equipped vehicles in 2013.

The four-cylinder is in just about every Ford vehicle but full-size pickups, and even they could have it in the future, said Scott Makowski, global design manager for Ford's four-cylinder engines.

Ford's 2-liter EcoBoost is one of five powertrain options for Fusion, a high-volume vehicle in the ultra-competitive midsize segment; the 2-liter is also an option on the Escape SUV, Taurus full-size sedan, and Edge and Explorer SUVs. It is the only powertrain offered for the sporty Focus ST.

The 2-liter could eventually rival the automaker's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 as the most popular of the engines sold in the U.S. The jobs are a welcome boost to the Cleveland-area plant, which employs about 1,300 people and produces the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engines for the F-Series pickup, the most popular vehicle in America.

Ford in recent years closed an engine plant and a casting plant in the Cleveland area.

Plans for Europe will create even more demand for the 2-liter EcoBoost: Ford wants to triple production of European vehicles with EcoBoost engines by 2015 to approximately 480,000.

Production in Ohio would allow Ford to better adjust for EcoBoost demand in two regions, analysts say.

"If you're in the region, it's much easier to adjust production schedules accordingly," Schuster said.

The jobs announced Thursday bring Ford to the halfway point in a hiring spurt that will total 12,000 U.S. hourly jobs by 2015.

Another investment, outlined in the 2011 UAW contract but not expected to bear fruit until next year, is a $400 million revamping of Ford's Lima Engine Plant in Ohio. Lima Engine produces 3.5- and 3.7-liter engines. It is slated to receive production of "a new industry-leading small V6," according to the contract.

Ford in January announced a smaller-displacement six-cylinder EcoBoost engine for its next-generation F-150. The truck is expected for the 2015 model year.

Ford's North American success with EcoBoost engines is best summed up by the F-150: When Ford decided to offer a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 for the pickup in model year 2011, company expectations were low. Ford now sells more EcoBoost-equipped F-150s each month — about 42 percent of all F-150 sales — than it expected to sell in a year.

To date, U.S. truck customers have bought nearly 280,000 EcoBoost-equipped F-150s. And some inside Ford are adamant the automaker could sell more, should production of the engines increase.


Ford predicts slow
Focus EV sales climb

The Focus Electric, above, is one of six electrified vehicles in Ford’s portfolio: There are also the C-Max and Fusion hybrids, C-Max and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News

Automaker expects small gains in spite of adding 700 dealers

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
Feb 21, 2013

Ford Motor Co. expects lukewarm sales for its Focus Electric compact car in the coming year, despite an extra 700 dealers who will soon be certified to sell Ford's only all-electric vehicle.

Ford anticipates that electric vehicle sales — at this point just the Focus EV — will comprise no more than 5 percent of its hybrid and electric vehicle sales moving forward. Last year, when Ford sold 685 Focus EVs, sales comprised about 2 percent of Ford's hybrid and electric vehicle sales.

Ford is increasing its number of EV-certified dealers to 900 from 200 by spring, mostly to grow the footprint of the Fusion and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrids, but also to widen the potential audience for the Focus Electric.

"Overall, it's meeting our expectations in the marketplace," said C.J. O'Donnell, Ford's group marketing manager of electrification, in a telephone interview. "I think as we expand the footprint, by definition, we will get more customers."

A majority of Focus Electric sales to date have been retail, not fleet. Most — about 90 percent — have come from California, the first state to receive Focus EVs. That means fewer than 100 of the 774 Focus Electrics have been sold outside the Golden State.

California is also home to strict zero-emissions automobile sales quotas — automakers collectively must sell 7,500 between 2012 and 2014 — but O'Donnell insists the Focus Electric is not a "California compliance" car.

"I hear that a lot and I don't want to say I take offense to it, because that's kind of strong," he said. "Our strategy is to offer customers choice."

Trails rival Nissan's Leaf

The Focus Electric lags behind electric-vehicle competitor Nissan Motor Co. and its Leaf. Since May, when retail sales of the Focus EV began, Ford sold 683. During that same period, Nissan sold 7,716 of its all-electric Leaf.

Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry analysis at TrueCar, said Nissan has topped Ford in product availability and branding. The Leaf is an electric-only nameplate; there is a gas-powered and sport-performance Focus.

Toprak said the Focus EV is still resonating primarily with consumers looking to be trendy, not those necessarily looking at cost.

Ford late last year offered heavy incentives of more than $10,000 on the Focus EV, including a $7,500 federal tax credit. The Focus EV base price is $39,200.

But Nissan, which recently started building the Leaf in the U.S., slashed the base price on all 2013 Leaf trims by $6,400. That means in California, the current hotspot for the Focus EV, customers can buy the Leaf for as little as $18,800 after federal and state rebates vs. $29,200 for the Focus.

Six electrified Ford vehicles

The Focus Electric is one of six electrified vehicles in Ford's portfolio: There are also the C-Max and Fusion hybrids, C-Max and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

Another Ford electrified vehicle — the Transit Connect EV, sold for about 15 months from 2010 to 2012 — failed after its electric powertrain upfitter, Azure Dynamics, went bankrupt last year. Only about 500 were sold.

Hundreds of millions have been spent by Ford and federal and state government to help boost the Dearborn automaker's electric vehicle lineup. Ford spent $550 million to retool its Michigan Assembly Plant for Focus Electric, C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi production.

It spent another $450 million starting in 2010 — and received tax credits totaling $188 million from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority — for engineering and production of electric vehicles. In 2009, Ford received a $62.7 million Department of Energy grant to help produce an electric-drive transaxle.

LG Chem Inc. — the South Korean company which supplies batteries for the Focus Electric and Chevrolet Volt — also received a $151 million DOE grant.


Ford CEO Mulally to get
lump-sum upon retirement *

Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford, addresses Automotive News World Congress at the Marriott at the RenCen in Detroit on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. (Elizabeth Conley/Detroit News)

February 20, 2013
Craig Trudell

Ford Motor Co. will make a lump-sum payment to Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally after his employment ends as reward for leading the second-largest U.S. automaker through its turnaround.

The payment will be based on Ford's contributions to Mulally's company retirement and benefit equalization plans, the Dearborn-based company said Tuesday in a regulatory filing. Ford reported net income of $5.67 billion for 2012 and its shares climbed 20 percent, outpacing the Standard & Poor's 500 Index's 13 percent rise.

The agreement for the lump-sum payment was dated Feb. 13 and is "a clarification of a prior agreement," said Jay Cooney, a company spokesman. "Nothing has changed."

No amounts were disclosed in the accord.

Ford reclaimed investment-grade credit ratings and paid out its first dividend since 2006 on the strength of its namesake brand, the only vehicle line to top 2 million U.S. sales last year. Mulally, 67, has instituted a global product development plan called One Ford to boost profits by selling the same models globally, rather than different versions for various regions.

Ford has earned $35.2 billion the past four years after losing $30.1 billion from 2006 through 2008. Executive Chairman Bill Ford elevated Mark Fields to chief operating officer in December from president of the Americas, positioning the 23-year veteran of the company to succeed Mulally after 2014.

Mulally's compensation for 2012, including salary and benefits, will be revealed later this year in the company's proxy statement. Ford rewarded Mulally with stock worth $58.6 million in March of last year and $56.6 million a year earlier.

Ford began paying a quarterly dividend of 5 cents a share in January last year and moved last month to double the payout. Moody's Investors Service raised Ford to investment grade in May after Fitch Ratings lifted the company to the status in April. Standard & Poor's ranks Ford's debt BB+, the highest level of speculative grade, with a positive outlook

* Nice to see Ford looking after their Retirees! *&^%$#$%%@#@%&


Ford to boost motor home, commercial chassis
production by 35%

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
February 19, 2013

In another sign of an improving economy, Ford Motor Co. says it is boosting motor home and commercial chassis production by 35 percent to meet demand for recreational vehicles.

Much like the relationship between truck sales and the housing market, sales of motor homes — which can exceed $150,000 each — are strong economic indicators.

Sales of Class A motorhomes — built on a stripped truck chassis — climbed 14 percent last year, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. During the fourth quarter, sales jumped 43 percent.

Motor homes are built by Ford's partner, Detroit Chassis, for customers like Winnebago, Thor and Fleetwood.

Plant adds third shift

Ford also said it has officially added 80 jobs and a third shift at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant for automatic transmissions used in the Fusion mid-size sedan and Escape SUV.

The jobs were part of a $220 million investment at the plant that added 225 jobs.


Retirees set to outnumber
Canada's youth for the first time

The Globe and Mail
Feb 18, 2012

For as long as statistics have been kept in this country, the number of young people entering the work force has always exceeded the number nearing retirement.

Not any more.

At some point this year, the number of 15- to 24-year-olds will slip below the number of 55- to 64-year-olds for the first time, according to Statscan's demography division. That represents a major symbolic threshold for a society just beginning the slide from a demographic golden age.

Canada was always able to count on the bulge of its youth population to contribute to growing labour capacity and to gains in wealth and living standards. But as fertility rates dropped in recent decades and the baby boom aged, the two cohorts gradually drew closer in size. The younger group will briefly outnumber the older one again in the 2030s, but projections show they'll be nearly equal in size well beyond the middle of this century.

The shift is a major worry for governments and business. On a basic level, it indicates that, with more people at the age of exit than entry, the work force will grow at a much slower rate. That will have a doubly damaging impact on public coffers; pension and health costs will rise at the same time that growth in the tax base slows. Meanwhile, employers are going to struggle to find workers in some areas, a prospect they identify as a major threat to productivity.

For people on either side of this ratio – those approaching the final phase of their careers and those whose working life is just beginning – the spectre of an aging society raises important questions.

Maggie Dalecki is a 21-year-old fourth-year philosophy student at the University of Manitoba. She's nearing graduation and considering a career in academia or law.

Recently, she watched a documentary about youth unemployment that described her cohort as a jobless generation. It made her a little uneasy, she said. Her goal is to one day find the kind of meaningful work she's always wanted, but she doesn't know how long she will have to wait. Will the baby boomers make way for her generation, or will they hold onto the best jobs longer than any group before them?

And if the boomers don't work into their late 60s, will she and her peers be forced to support their parents to an extent their predecessors did not?

"I'm nervous but I'm still hopeful," Ms. Dalecki said.

While the state of the economy can appear discouraging to young people, those in Ms. Dalecki's cohort are graduating with one major factor in their favour: with less competition at the entry level, it's possible that a demographic effect could actually lift wages.

"One thing you do see in predictions of longer-run models when you have this demographic bulge moving through and you have fewer young people is that wages will rise for those young people who are entering," said Kevin Milligan, an economist at the University of British Columbia.

"It's not to say that everything is going to be easy for this generation but there is one thing pushing to the positive side of the ledger."

Ms. Dalecki is prepared for the possibility that, contrary to the expectation of so many preceding generations, she and her peers may never reach or exceed the standard of living enjoyed by her mother's generation. It's a stark thought. Her mother, Anna Ziomek, says it seems a near certainty.

Dr. Ziomek is a 58-year-old emergency-room physician. She's concerned about what awaits her daughter's generation, but her own circumstances are quite different. She is now at an age when, historically, large numbers of people begin to retire. In 2012, the employment rate for 50-to-54-year-olds was nearly 80 per cent, yet it was below 50 per cent for 60-to-64-year-olds. Life expectancies have risen to the point that today's 65-year-old can expect to live to 85, according to Statscan. If most Canadians continue to retire between the ages of 55 and 65 (the average is closer to 64), today's retirees may spend a long time drawing on pensions and contributing less to tax coffers and economic growth. Dr. Ziomek, though, said retirement holds no allure for her.

"I will probably work well into my late 60s," she said. "I'm very active in my profession in all kinds of things, I'm positive about emergency medicine and I have no outside interests other than gardening, which, if you live in Manitoba, is a very short season.

"I've always said I'd like to die on the job."

In recent years as retirement funds have suffered in the recession, increasing numbers of Canadians have continued to work past the traditional retirement age. Since 2000, the employment rate of 65-to-69-year-olds has gone from one in nine to nearly one in four.

But working in a demanding environment like the ER, where shifts can run around the clock, is likely not something she can do forever, she said. She plans to eventually adjust her practice to something less physically taxing.

One of the major challenges for employers over the next decade will be how to deal with the loss of so many senior workers. Some business groups are predicting labour shortages will slow the pace of economic growth. Prof. Milligan said businesses will have to learn to work with the labour force they have, not the one they used to know. They should strongly consider instituting flexible work policies to keep capable people on the job past the age of 65, he said "There's a lot of people there and a lot of unused work capacity. … We want to make sure that there aren't people sitting at home because companies don't want to be flexible," he said.

Frank Trovato, a demographer at the University of Alberta, said that the decline in the number of young people could set off a chain reaction that resonates through future generations.

"Relatively fewer young people means probably fewer children. Fertility could decline even further, which could intensify the aging of the population." said Prof. Trovato.

With low fertility likely to be a sustained trend in Canada, one of the principal tools to keep the population growing, rather than shrinking, is immigration, he added. Over the next 20 years, nearly all labour-force growth will be due to immigration.

"A country has to ask itself hard questions about whether it wants to open itself up to more immigrants," Prof. Trovato said.


Florida Travel: Politician responsible for licence law
debacle apologizes

CAA still recommends buying the international drivers permit but like the Florida Highway Patrol, local police have been informed not to enforce the law

CAA still recommends buying the international drivers permit but like the Florida Highway Patrol, local police have been informed not to enforce the law

Toronto Star
Alyshah Hasham
Fri Feb 15 2013

The man responsible for the legislation that caused cross-Canada panic ahead of March break wants to apologize to the Canucks that make up his state's largest foreign tourism market.

"I work hard to try to understand bills and their unintended consequences," Representative Ben Albritton told the Tampa Bay Times Thursday evening. "This one I just missed. I want to tell the people in Canada I am sorry."

The intent of the law, which requires Canadians and other non-U.S. drivers licence holders to have an international drivers permit or be considered driving without a licence, was to make it easier for state troopers understand non-English licences.

He assured Canadians that the law would be reworded come the start of the next legislative session in March.

"Clearly, there was no negative intent," he said. "If I messed something up, I am man enough to fix it."

Local police in Florida have been notified that the Highway Patrol is not enforcing the state law, said Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on Friday.

As far as car rental companies go "we're getting in touch with the ones we can to let them know they can just continue to rent cars as they previously did."

The CAA continues to recommend that Canadians travelling to Florida in the next few days obtain a permit — available for $25 from all CAA locations.

However, the CAA is also offering a refund for anyone who purchased an international driving permit and passport photos on Feb. 13 or 14. Customers have 30 days in which to claim their money, The Canadian Press reports.

Steve Kee, spokesperson for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says that until the law is clarified by the Florida Highway Patrol, nothing should change for Canadians when it comes to insurance.

"In the interim, IBC strongly discourages any insurer from using the amended Florida statute as a reason to deny coverage on the basis that the non-resident driver was not authorized to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Florida," says a statement Thursday from the IBC.

Despite the outrage expressed from snowbirds across the state, Olsen-Doolan says there is a silver lining.

In a state that has a problem with people not wanting to get driver's licences at all, it's "just fabulous" to have a group really concerned about "doing the right thing," she said.

What you need to know

Do you need a permit?

It's best to get one if you are travelling in the next few days, says the CAA. Otherwise, wait for more information.

Where do I get one and what do I need?

It's $25 at any CAA location. You need a form (available online) and two passport photographs.

What happens if I get pulled over without a permit in Florida?

The Florida Highway Patrol is not enforcing the law and says you're fine with your valid Canadian licence. The state patrol has reached out to inform local police to do the same.


Ford's EcoBoost engine to spur investment, job growth in U.S.

Service technician Rich Rushlow examines the popular 2-liter EcoBoost engine in a 2013 Ford Fusion at Village Ford in Dearborn on Friday. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
Feb 16, 2013

Ford Motor Co. is poised to add hundreds of U.S. jobs to increase production of its unexpectedly popular EcoBoost engines.

To do so, Ford is preparing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in two Ohio plants as part of its 2011 commitment with the United Auto Workers to add 12,000 hourly jobs at U.S. factories.

The Dearborn automaker, which in 2009 introduced the EcoBoost series — a marriage of turbocharging, direct-injection and twin independent variable-camshaft timing — is in need of additional engines for high-volume vehicles like the Fusion midsize sedan and F-150 pickup. Buyers increasingly have opted for the EcoBoost engines which offer boosts in fuel efficiency and performance but command a premium of about $1,000.

"I think the supply is basically against the wall, based on demand," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president at Troy-based research firm LMC Automotive. "As the EcoBoost technology and brand itself catches on, it is what's driving these types of decisions."

Ford won't publicly speculate on future investments, but the company's goals are clear: In lieu of more fuel-efficient but expensive diesel engines — and until hybrids and electrics catch on, if they ever do — the power and fuel efficiency of EcoBoost remains the chosen path.

So far, it's worked: Ford has sold more than 530,000 EcoBoost engines in the U.S. during the past three-and-a-half years through January.

"I don't know if there is (a ceiling), really," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry analysis at TrueCar. "The biggest challenge with these engines are the larger vehicles, and they've passed that test already with the F-150."

Ford's 2-liter EcoBoost is one of five powertrain options for Fusion, a high-volume vehicle in the ultra-competitive midsize segment; the 2-liter is also an option on the Escape SUV, Taurus full-size sedan, and Edge and Explorer SUVs. It is the only powertrain offered for the sporty Focus ST.

The 2-liter could eventually rival the automaker's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 as the most popular of the engines sold in the U.S. The inline four-cylinder 2-liter is currently made only in Valencia, Spain. But Ford is planning to expand production at its Cleveland Engine Plant in Ohio.

The hundreds of jobs expected at the Cleveland plant — which currently produces the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 — are contingent on a majority approval of a local UAW agreement. The local union is expected to vote in favor of the agreement beginning Monday. The jobs would be welcome in northeast Ohio: Ford in recent years closed an engine plant and a casting plant in the area.

Plans for Europe will create even more demand for the 2-liter EcoBoost: Ford wants to triple production of European vehicles equipped with EcoBoost engines by 2015 to approximately 480,000. Production in Ohio would allow Ford to better adjust for EcoBoost demand in two regions, analysts say.

"If you're in the region, it's much easier to adjust production schedules accordingly," Schuster said.

Another investment, outlined in the 2011 UAW contract but not expected to bear fruit until next year, is a $400 million revamping of Ford's Lima Engine Plant in Ohio. Lima Engine currently produces 3.5- and 3.7-liter engines. It is slated to receive production of "a new industry-leading small V6," according to the contract.

Ford in January announced a smaller-displacement six-cylinder EcoBoost engine for its next-generation F-150. The truck is expected for the 2015 model year.

Ford's North American success with EcoBoost engines is best summed up by the F-150: When Ford decided to offer a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 for the pickup in model year 2011, company expectations were low. Ford now sells more EcoBoost-equipped F-150s each month — about 42 percent of all F-150 sales — than it anticipated selling in a year.

To date, U.S. truck customers have bought nearly 280,000 EcoBoost-equipped F-150s. And some inside Ford are adamant the automaker could sell even more, should production of the engines increase.


Florida not expected to enforce international driver's permit rule

Momin Qureshi,
The Canadian Press,
680 News
Feb 15, 2013

The Florida Highway Patrol will not enforce a state law that required Canadian and non-U.S. resident drivers to carry an international driver's permit.

Officials in the Sunshine State said the law requires further review because it may violate an international treaty and enforcement was being deferred.

According to the rules introduced quietly Jan. 1, all visitors with foreign licences must have an international permit issued by their country of residence as well as a valid licence from home.

Many Canadians were caught off guard by the regulations, which also apply to any vehicle, including rentals.

Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada told 680News that Canadians should expect to be covered by insurance as usual.

"We've asked insurance companies to operate on the status quo that if you do have a client in the United States or in Florida specifically that your insurer does in fact cover your claim."

However, he advises that to err on the side of caution to obtain the permit until the law is clarified.

"To be on the safe side, get the International Driving Permit," he said.

"They're not that difficult to get. Although I understand that there is a great deal of interest and large line-ups to get them."

"They're fairly inexpensive, fairly easy to get, it's good to have."

Officials said the law was passed so police officers do not encounter foreign licence documents in languages they cannot read.

The IDP translates existing driver licence information in 10 languages, is valid for one year and accompanies a valid driver's licence.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, however, the department said it learned its new requirement might violate the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, an international treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory.

"The Florida Highway Patrol will defer enforcement of violations of the amended statutory section until a final determination of the alignment of the amendment with the treaty can be made," the department said.

"Non-resident visitors to Florida who wish to drive while here will be required to have in their immediate possession a valid driver license issued in his or her name from another state or territory of the U.S. or from their country of residence. However, the FHP will not take enforcement action based solely on the lack of an International Driving Permit."

The Canadian Automobile Association — which issues international driving permits — called on Florida to amend the law to exempt Canadians.

"No North American jurisdiction has ever asked for an IDP before from another North American jurisdiction. This is a first," CAA spokesman Ian Jack told The Canadian Press.

"They've subsequently told us that they've recognized that it was a mistake to include Canada and that they will be moving to exempt Canada, but on the other hand, because it's legislation and their legislature doesn't sit till mid-March, it's going to take some time for that to happen."

How to obtain a permit
•The permits can be obtained through CAA offices
•Canadians currently in Florida can apply for one through via mail
•The IDP costs $25
•Applicants must be 18 years of age and have a valid Canadian driver's licence
•Applicants need two passport-sized photographs

•Interview: Pete Karageorgos, Insurance Bureau of Canada


UAW bonuses approach records
on rising Detroit 3 profits

A worker assembles a Ford Motor Co. Explorer sport utility vehicle (SUV) at the company's Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky. Photographer: John Sommers II/Bloomberg

BloomBerg News
Keith Naughton
February 14, 2013

U.S. automakers are close to handing out record profit-sharing checks, bringing new meaning to the term "bonus baby" for Ford Motor Co. hourly worker Nino Pace.

When Pace arrived home from work one evening, his wife had spelled out "baby" in wooden blocks, decorated with sparkles, on the kitchen table.

Pace took the "not-so-subtle hint" and intends to sock away half of his $8,300 profit-sharing check from Ford for the baby he and his wife of 14 months now are planning, he said. With the other half, the production worker at Ford's axle plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, intends to take his wife on one last, child-free vacation.

Thanks to record North American profits, the Detroit automakers plan to hand out checks totaling more than $750 million to about 122,000 workers. Besides Ford's $8,300, the most ever by a Detroit automaker, Chrysler Group LLC is paying hourly workers $2,250. For new Ford hires, who are paid about half what senior workers make, $8,300 adds 23 percent to their annual compensation of $36,000.

If General Motors Co.'s payout surpasses $7,325 when it reports year-end earnings Feb. 14, that would top the cumulative record of $17,875 set in 1999, when Detroit was awash in sport- utility vehicle profits, said Kristin Dziczek, director of the labor and industry group at the Center for Automotive Research.

Economic Impact
In Michigan alone, the checks will contribute $350 million to the economy and generate 3,500 jobs, said Donald Grimes, a senior research specialist at the University of Michigan, who studies labor and the economy.

"This is a much bigger deal than the tax refunds people get," Grimes said. "It's a much bigger check."

GM earned $5.48 billion in North America in the first nine months of last year and may have made $1.17 billion before interest and taxes in the fourth quarter, the average of four analysts' estimates. That would suggest a profit-sharing payment of $6,600. While that would be shy of the record, it's a sizeable sum given U.S. auto sales were 15 percent below 1999 levels, Dziczek said.

"The automakers are profitable now at much lower sales volumes," Dziczek said. "That bodes well for the next few years of seeing checks like this."

Last year, GM paid $7,000, Ford paid $6,200 and Chrysler $1,500.

SUV Days
The last time autoworkers received checks as big as this year's, U.S. auto sales reached a then-record 16.96 million and Detroit's SUVs ruled the roads. Last year, automakers sold 14.49 million cars and light trucks in the U.S., the most since 2007, the year before the fall of Lehman Brothers sent the economy spiraling into the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Carmakers earn more money on fewer sales because they cut their costs during the recession, in part by winning concessions from the United Auto Workers union. A lower break-even level helped GM earn 51 cents a share in the fourth quarter, excluding some items, up from 39 cents a year earlier, according to the average of 16 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The 2009 government-backed bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler cleansed their debts. All three automakers lowered costs by cleaving almost 200,000 workers from their payrolls since 1999, Dziczek said.

"We did what was necessary to save the companies," UAW President Bob King said in an interview yesterday. In 2011 bargaining, "we wanted to make sure that if the company did well, our members would do really well. This is like four bucks an hour for people at Ford. That's huge."

Sober Approach
The workers who survived Detroit's downsizing take a sober approach to spending those big checks. Many are still recovering from the financial hardships of the recession.

With one son in college and another on the way, auto worker Brian Pannebecker doesn't plan to go crazy with the biggest bonus check he has ever received from Ford. Instead, he'll use it to pay off credit cards.

"I'm not doing anything sexy like going to Disney World," says Pannebecker, 54, a hoist operator at the Sterling Heights axle factory. "I'm trying to get both my boys through college without any student-loan debt."

That doesn't mean there won't be an economic impact next month when checks are distributed to workers, mostly in the Midwestern states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

"It is a small stimulus program that serves as an example in an economy where jobs are still a central issue," said Harley Shaiken, labor professor at the University of California at Berkeley. "And it improves the companies' competitiveness because better workers are attracted and morale is higher."

Membership Declines
Those checks are distributed to far fewer workers than in the heyday of the SUV. The Detroit automakers employed 318,000 U.S. hourly workers in 1999, compared to 122,000 last year, Dziczek said. UAW membership fell to 380,719 at the end of 2011, from a peak of 1.5 million in 1979, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

In 1989, when GM had net income of $4.22 billion, the automaker handed out profit-sharing checks of $50 to each of its U.S. hourly workers, according to the Center for Automotive Research. In 2003, when GM had net income of $3.8 billion, workers received $170 each. That was only slightly less than the $195 Ford handed out that year and considerably more than what Chrysler gave workers in 2003: nothing.

In the three decades since the UAW agreed to profit sharing in exchange for smaller raises or no increase to base pay, GM has failed to award bonuses 13 times, Ford has not paid nine times and Chrysler skipped 12 years of payments. While some of those payouts were missed because the automakers were losing money, the union had argued the profit-sharing formula was overly complex and often unfair.

Shared Objectives
The UAW's King made sharing a bigger slice of profits a central theme of contract talks in 2011. He extracted a new formula from the automakers that pays about $1,000 for each billion in North American earnings. Automakers don't have to pay if North American earnings fall below $1.25 billion, and the payout is capped at $12,000, Dziczek said.

Making profit sharing "more transparent and understandable was huge to us," King said. "Workers had made tremendous sacrifices, and we didn't want the games that were sometimes played in the past with the old formula."

'Winning Together'
Giving workers more-generous profit-sharing payouts was aimed at aligning their interests more closely with the company and its shareholders.

"Flexible compensation, profit sharing will definitely be part of the auto industry" in the future, King said. "The auto industry is very competitive. You've got to have everybody focused on winning together."

GM and Ford have each risen more than 12 percent since Oct. 31, when they began outlining plans for European restructuring and continued North American profitability. GM rose 0.4 percent to $28.67 at the close in New York. Ford slipped 0.3 percent to $13.04.

Ford posted a record North America pretax profit of $8.34 billion last year, which translated to $8,300 in profit sharing.

For Vincenza Milana, who started working at Ford's Sterling Heights factory last May, the extra money was unexpected and most welcome. Milana, who makes almost $16 an hour assembling axles for Ford's Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs, is using her check for necessities like making mortgage payments and keeping her car repaired and on the road.

'Means The World'
"It's something I wasn't expecting and every dollar makes a difference," said Milana, 50, a single mother of two daughters in college. "However I can help them, even just food on the table, doing laundry and having heat in the house, it means the world to us."

For senior workers, who make about $70,000, excluding overtime pay, Ford's profit sharing represents a 12 percent bonus, Dziczek said. That disparity may dictate how workers spend their windfall, Shaiken said.

"For some, it may be the deferred purchase of a car or getting a new second car," Shaiken said. "For others, it may be catching up on bills."

To get the more-generous bonus checks, the UAW gave up traditional wage increases for senior workers and cost-of-living adjustments. Senior workers haven't received a raise since 2005. Many are still hoping to win back an annual raise in the next negotiations in 2015, Dziczek said.

Raises Preferred
Profit sharing is "contingent, it's flexible, so people don't see this as security," Dziczek said. "Most every worker on the line would really rather have an annual wage increase that's there every year and compounds."

Linking autoworkers' compensation more closely with profits caused controversy when the union struck the deal in 2011. Members rejected the contract at five Ford factories, including assembly plants in Chicago and Michigan that build the Taurus sedan, Explorer SUV and Focus small car. The contract was ultimately ratified by fewer than two-thirds of Ford workers.

"In the depths of the industry's problems, taking increased compensation in the form of profit sharing was a risk," Shaiken said. "But for the UAW, this is a risk that has paid off."

King, 66, wouldn't say the big profit-sharing checks make up for all the concessions workers gave up. He also doesn't rule out the union seeking a traditional raise in future negotiations.

"This doesn't mean that we'll never in the future look at some wage increase because you've got to keep up with inflation in some way," King said. "But like we did this time, we will be very conscious and very strategic in making sure we get good gains for our membership and we keep the companies competitive."

Bright Future
Now with U.S. automakers on the upswing, autoworkers are on pace for several years of record profit sharing, Dziczek said.

While the prospect of even fatter checks lifts the spirits on the assembly line, workers probably won't return to their free-spending ways of the late 1990s, Pannebecker said. Back then, factories ran around the clock and workers earned enough overtime pay to push their annual income above $100,000. When a big bonus check came, it often went for a new snowmobile or a cabin in northern Michigan.

"Ten or 12 years ago, it seemed like the money would never stop coming," Pannebecker said. "But it did stop and that was a real wake-up call. Now people are talking about saving money and paying off debts, not buying a new stereo."

Veteran workers have warned their younger colleagues like Pace, the 28-year-old presumed father-to-be, not to use their bonus checks to live beyond their means.

"Many of them have told me to just look at it as a bonus," Pace said "And bonuses are here today, gone tomorrow."


Canadians now require
International Driving
Permit in Florida


680 News
John Stall
Feb 14, 2013

A new law in effect in Florida requires Canadians to have an International Driving Permit to drive in that state, in addition to a regular driver's licence.

The state legislature passed a law requiring all non-resident drivers in Florida to carry such a permit as of Jan. 1, 2013.

The new law applies to drivers renting cars as well.

This is not something a driver has to test for, since he or she can buy such a permit from the Canadian Automobile Association for $25.

It's a standardized document that translates your licence details into 10 different languages.

There are up to three-million Canadian snowbirds in Florida; however the CAA told the Toronto Star it is trying to get the state of Florida to modify or wave the law for Canadians.

The next legislative session doesn't take place until March, and the Star reported the soonest any change could take place would be July.

The CAA is urging drivers to get the permit if they are heading to Florida for the March Break.

Interview: CAA's Ian Jack on Florida's new International Driving Permit


Experts urge making
mpg math less fuzzy

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
Feb 13, 2013

Drivers of some cars are learning that gas-mileage estimates on window stickers overpromise what they really get on the highway. That's reigniting a debate on how to calculate fuel economy.

The auto industry is under a more watchful eye, after Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors of America had to scale back mileage claims on several models. And the Environmental Protection Agency is considering changing testing requirements for hybrids after Consumer Reports found real-world fuel efficiency of Ford Motor Co.'s C-Max and Fusion hybrids fell short of EPA estimates.

Some suggest it's time to rethink mileage testing for all vehicles, as automakers prepare to meet the 54.5 miles-per-gallon Corporate Average Fuel Economy fleet standard by 2025.

Drivers of a vehicle averaging 54.5 miles per gallon by CAFE standards won't get anywhere close to that mark. They probably won't even squeeze 43.6 mpg — the EPA window-sticker figure that is equivalent to the CAFE calculations.

Real-world drivers are far more likely to get about 35 miles per gallon, more than a 30 percent reduction from the original CAFE number, according to analyst estimates, because real-world driving conditions are a far cry from laboratory tests.

"It's regulatory fiction," John O'Dell, senior editor at automotive research site Edmunds.com, said of CAFE numbers. "The number has no integrity. It's just the measuring mark (automakers) have to hit."

CAFE and EPA estimates use different methods: The CAFE calculation hasn't changed since 1975, while EPA testing has been updated on multiple occasions to better reflect real-world driving.

"Changing CAFE takes a congressional action; changing the EPA configurations doesn't," O'Dell said. "It's politically unsavory to change the CAFE number, because then you're admitting you're not getting that (efficiency)."

Hyundai, Kia corrected

In an unprecedented decision last year, the EPA made Hyundai and Kia restate fuel-efficiency claims on 900,000 vehicles in the United States. Mileage estimates were overestimated by 1 to 6 mpg.The EPA also is looking into Ford's fuel-efficiency claims on its new hybrids. The EPA has said it will buy a C-Max Hybrid — which fell 10 miles per gallon short of the EPA sticker figure in Consumer Reports testing — for further evaluation.

Automakers test their own vehicles; their estimates are then certified by the EPA.

The EPA has acknowledged it may have to reconsider testing procedures for hybrids to better emulate everyday consumer driving. The agency has said fuel efficiency could vary as much as 30 percent between the sticker and real-world mileage for those vehicles. Hybrids are equipped to achieve better fuel economy in stop-and-go traffic — the opposite of gas-powered cars and trucks — and that can skew mileage estimates.

Real-world fuel-efficiency numbers for all vehicles often differ greatly, depending on a variety of conditions and powertrains. Speed is the most significant factor: A study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that fuel efficiency can decline as much as 26 percent if a vehicle is driven at 80 miles per hour, which is 10 miles per hour greater than the top speed limit in Michigan.

Outdoor temperature, oil type and tire pressure also can affect fuel efficiency, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The EPA defended its estimates in an email: "(The) EPA label values are intended to give consumers an approximation of the real-world fuel economy they will experience for individual vehicles. These estimates can help consumers make an informed decision when shopping for a new vehicle."

Gallons per mile better?

But even with testing changes, all vehicles' fuel-efficiency ratings will still be misleading, said Richard Larrick, professor of management at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Larrick and his colleague, Jack Soll, say gallons per mile — GPM — is a more consumer-oriented way of measuring fuel efficiency.

Their study found in 2008 that most drivers thought going from 34 to 50 mpg saved more gas over 10,000 miles than an improvement from 18 to 28 mpg. In fact, the latter saves 198 gallons over that span, compared to 94 gallons.

Fuel efficiency in Europe is measured in GPM — actually, liters per 100 miles. But that yardstick is unlikely to be adopted in the U.S.

"It makes more sense and it's a lot easier once you understand it," O'Dell said of the gallons-per-mile calculation. "It's a lot easier to see where the savings are."


Ford: 'We can react very
quickly' if diesel demand rises

By Karl Henkel
The Detroit News
February 12, 2013

Ann Arbor — Ford Motor Co.'s chief operating officer said Monday the automaker is prepared to act quickly should there be a spike in demand for diesel-powered automobiles.

"If we see diesels start to take off here in the U.S., we can react very quickly," said Mark Fields, speaking to students and faculty at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. Fields attributed the flexibility to the fact Ford sells diesel-powered vehicles in other regions, particularly Europe, and Ford's global platform strategy.

Diesels made up just about 3 percent of retail passenger vehicle sales in the United States last year, up 25 percent, according to data from Edmunds.com. In Europe, diesel sales comprise about half of the overall new-car sales total.

Here in the United States, Ford offers diesel engines on its heavy duty pickups, but has not announced plans to add diesel engines on new products - aside from the all-new Transit commercial van - but other automakers appear to be taking a step toward more diesel-powered engines.

General Motors Co. last week debuted the new Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel compact car. Chrysler Group LLC will also offer a diesel variant of its Grand Cherokee SUV.

Fields said Ford will stick with its turbocharged EcoBoost engines as a source of fuel-efficiency gains.

"There's still a consumer bias, to a certain degree, against diesels," Fields said.

But if market demand rises for diesel-powered vehicles, which he said come at a $3,000 to $4,000 premium compared to gasoline-powered engines, Ford is in a favorable position because of its diesel-heavy European lineup.

Diesel is approximately 50 cents more expensive per gallon than gasoline here in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, but the Diesel Technology Forum predicts the number of diesel cars, SUVs and pickups will grow to 54 from 23 by 2017.


Retiree Stephen Barnicke
Passes away February 9, 2013

Our condolences go out to his son retiree Rick Barnicke, his
wife Chris, his Mom and the entire Barnicke Family

Stephen Barnicke

Retired August 1, 1983
14 Years of Service

BARNICKE, Stephen - Peacefully at Beeton Manor, Beeton on Saturday, February 9, 2013, Stephen Barnicke, Nobleton, in his 96th year, beloved husband of Margaret. Dear father of Jane and Hazen Golder, Tottenham; Rick and Chris Barnicke, Vancouver; Ron and Carol Lynn Barnicke, Calgary.

Loving grandfather of Kathy Golder and Alex Hamer, Ricky Golder and Joyce, Steven Barnicke, and Kevin Barnicke. Fondly remembered by 3 great-grandchildren. Dear brother of Joseph Barnicke, Toronto.

The family will receive their friends at the Egan Funeral Home, 203 Queen Street S. (Hwy. 50), Bolton (905-857-2213) Tuesday afternoon 2 - 4 and evening 7 - 9 o'clock. Funeral service will be held in the chapel on Wednesday morning, February 13 at 11 o'clock. Interment St. Patrick's Cemetery, Schomberg. If desired, memorial donations may be made to the charity of your choice.

Condolences for the family may be offered at www.EganFuneralHome.com


Ford announces new dealership renovation program

By Melissa Burden
The Detroit News
Feb 11, 2013

Orlando, Fla. -- Ford Motor Co. announced Sunday a new dealership renovation program in which it will match dealers dollar-per-dollar up to $750,000 to make improvements to interiors and exteriors.

Hundreds of Ford dealers learned about the program during a meeting at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention and Expo held here. All of Ford's about 3,100 U.S. dealers are eligible.

"It's not tied to volume, it's not tied to customer scores," Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service for Ford, told reporters following the company's dealer meeting. "It is our affirmative action to support our dealers in a great low interest, growing market, excellent dealer profitability for them to bring their dealerships up to speed."

Ford executives declined to say how much it expects to spend on the program, but the company is hopeful all dealers will participate. Dealers who want to participate must sign letters of intent this year.

"This is about making sure the customers get in the store, get in the service department, they have a great modern experience," said Jim Farley, executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service for Lincoln and Ford. "It's not about just beautiful brand signs and what the dealership looks like on the outside."

The automaker is announcing its dealer renovation program when its dealers achieved record profits last year. Other rival car companies are well under way with dealer renovation programs.

On Saturday, NADA released a study in which it found dealers are "mildly positive" about renovation programs, but still frown on demands to cookie-cutter dealership looks.

Researcher Glenn A. Mercer, hired by NADA to conduct the study, said improving business conditions may have contributed to dealers' change in tone on the programs over the past year.

Mercer said car companies need to provide dealers better business cases for facility image programs.

Dealers take most issue with automakers' standardization programs, which require stores to look the same no matter where they are located. Mercer said spending on standardization "is almost always a pure deadweight loss."

NADA board member and Ford dealer Don Chalmers said he is considering renovating his Rio Rancho, New Mexico Ford dealership.

"I think Ford's going to be a model for programs going forward," he said Sunday.

Chalmers said Ford has considered dealers' return on investment with its new program and said dealers that participate will sell more cars and make more money. He said dealers will be paid with a lump sum and will be able to negotiate to use local companies and in some cases cheaper materials and furniture than what Ford has found.

"They have been more flexible," Chalmers said. "And I believe they'll be more flexible. It will not be prescriptive."

More than 70 percent of Ford's Lincoln Motor Co. dealers in the top 130 U.S. markets have agreed to renovation programs. About 25 percent of dealers in the top 130 markets will have renovated facilities this year, according to Ford.

General Motors Co. expects almost all Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac dealers will have a new look by 2016.


Transform Ford Focus
ST with Shelby magic

Ford Focus ST

An extra $14,995 buys your new wheels a lot more zip and zing

By Larry Edsall
Detroit News
Feb 8, 2013

As president of Shelby American, John Luft's office was next door to the company's founder, Carroll Shelby.

Often, Luft recalls, Shelby would go to the company warehouse and take his pick of the available cars. Frequently, Shelby would disdain a Cobra or Shelby Mustang and instead select a small, econobox Dodge Omni, a car Shelby transformed for Chrysler in the 1980s into the Shelby GLH, short for, as the story goes, Goes Like Hell.

One day, Luft asked Shelby why he picked the little four-cylinder pocket rocket so frequently.

Because, Shelby told Luft, if he drives a Supersnake or other exotic showpiece, "everyone in those Corvettes wants to race you, but when I drive the GLH, all they see is a little old man behind the wheel of a little old car."

Unsuspecting, those other drivers would be stunned when Shelby, at the time already in his 80s, would, as he put it, "floor it and leave them in the dust."

Several months before his death last spring, Luft said, Shelby started talking with Ford about working the Shelby magic on another economical small car — the newest Ford Focus.

For the 2013 model year, Ford launched the Focus ST, the factory's idea of a performance car, with an Eco-Boost four-cylinder engine delivering 252 horsepower. At the recent North American International Auto Show, Shelby American unveiled its version — the Shelby Focus ST.

To get one, go to a Ford dealer, order a Focus ST, say you want the Shelby package and the car goes directly from the Ford assembly line to the Shelby American shop next to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Once modified, Shelby notifies you the car is ready and asks if you want it delivered to your home, to your local dealership or if you want to come fetch it yourself at the Shelby museum.

Pick the museum delivery and you have the option of flying to Vegas, getting your car, driving it on The Strip or out on twisting desert roads for the weekend, and then flying home and having the car shipped to you.

Luft said the Shelby Focus ST is consistent with Shelby's "battle cry": first to make history and then to repeat it. He also said Shelby himself saw the auto industry moving toward smaller-displacement and more fuel-efficient engines and was eager to develop another car like the GLH.

So what do you get for the $14,995 Shelby American charges for transforming the Focus?

You get upgraded brakes, wheels and tires, Ford Racing suspension that lowers the car, a Shelby hood with heat extractors, "hydro-carbon" body accents, a Borla cat-back exhaust, a Shelby short-throw shifter, an engine appearance package, a Shelby interior installation, a numbered dash plaque, the word SHELBY across the back and your choice of three exterior graphics designs — checkered flags, rally or traditional Shelby stripes.

Coming soon are two options — a carbon fiber hood and a performance tune that will bump the engine's output to 300 horsepower (or more). Cars delivered before the horsepower boost can be retrofitted, Luft said.

Orders already are coming in, including those from people who have Shelbys they drive or show on weekends but who want a Shelby for daily driving as well, and from younger customers who find the sub-$40,000 price a good way to buy their first Shelby.

For information, visit www.shelbyautos.com.


Firms turn to employees
for pension relief

The Globe and Mail
February 7, 2013

Some of Ontario's largest companies, facing massive deficits in their pension plans, are turning to their employees in a bid to help solve a deepening funding crisis.

Chrysler Canada Inc., ArcelorMittal Dofasco Inc. and other companies – large and small – have asked their employees to let them take advantage of a special Ontario government rule that allows companies to stretch contributions to underfunded defined-benefit pension funds to 10 years from five.

The requests to extend pension funding underline the seriousness of a decade-long pension crisis that has sent some Canadian firm into bankruptcy protection, caused cuts in benefits for tens of thousands of pensioners and could put governments at risk of having to bail out underfunded plans.

The current pension-funding deficits, which ran to more than $1-billion at some employers and almost $30-billion over all in 2011, have deepened since the 2008-2009 recession despite decent returns on assets as stock markets have recovered. The culprit is low interest rates – the very policy adopted by central banks to spur their economies and encourage companies to engage in capital spending and other job-creating investments. Low rates restrain pension returns and increase liabilities.

The Ontario rule, first put in place in 2009, was reinstated on Nov. 1, 2012, and the number of companies seeking the funding extension appears to be growing.

There is "absolutely" more interest in using the funding relief today than there was in 2009, said Mitch Frazer, a lawyer who advises companies on their pension plans.

"More plans have been underfunded for a significantly longer period of time," Mr. Frazer said. "Now people realize these shortfalls and these low interest rates might be here for a very long time and that's changed the whole game."

One prominent company asking employees for help is Chrysler.

The auto maker faces payments of $296-million annually or nearly $1.5-billion over the next five years to restore its fund to health, the company's labour relations director Todd Bested said in a memorandum. If its request is approved, annual payments will fall to $219-million and spread the $1.5-billion out to 2019. In either case, a rise in interest rates would relieve some of the burden.

The Canadian Auto Workers union is recommending to Chrysler employees that they agree to an extension.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), which regulates pension funds in the province, said it has no data yet on how many companies are planning to seek relief to extend their payments to 10 years.

Earlier numbers, however, underline the deterioration of pension plans. As of June 30, 2011, 88 per cent of the province's 1,438 defined-benefit plans had a funding deficit on a wind-up basis, which measures the value of assets in a plan versus the liabilities it would have to pay out if it were wound up on a certain date.

FSCO forecast that the average fund would have assets that would cover just 72 per cent of liabilities at the end of 2011, compared with 87 per cent at the end of 2010.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco shows a typical decline. As of Dec. 31, 2011, assets in the plan for non-unionized employees of the steel maker covered 52 per cent of liabilities, versus 65 per cent a year earlier.

In 2004, Don Pether, then chief executive officer of Dofasco Inc., (before it was taken over by ArcelorMittal) pointed to its fully funded pension plan as offering "a strategic advantage." But in recent years, record low interest rates and lower returns on investments have caused the deficit, spokeswoman Marie Verdun said Wednesday.

Members of the ArcelorMittal Dofasco plan recently turned down the steel maker's proposal to stretch out the funding.

Like many manufacturers, ArcelorMittal Dofasco and Chrysler are grappling with another problem in addition to low interest rates: a growing number of pensioners and a shrinking number of active workers. ArcelorMittal Dofasco's plan covers 7,100 retirees and 4,400 active workers.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco will continue to finance the plan, as required by the Ontario regulations, Ms. Verdun said.

Unionized employees of The Globe and Mail turned down a similar request from the newspaper's management last week.

Employees at AGS Automotive Systems, a Toronto-based auto parts maker, approved that company's request, said Greg Davies, head of the Canadian Auto Workers unit at the company's Oshawa, Ont., plant.

Employees discussed whether agreeing to the plan would mean the company would have money to invest, but would do so at a plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., rather than its Canadian operations, Mr. Davies said.

"If we do this are we cutting our own throats, freeing up capital that they can invest south of border rather than here? The owners came in and explained to the guys and they are spending money on this place now and I think they do have long-term interests here so I think that swayed a lot of the people."

More companies are opting for the change now than in 2009 because pension reporting rules allowed companies to "smooth" their results – or average out returns from recent years – which had the effect of mitigating the market drop of 2008, said Manuel Monteiro, a partner at pension consulting firm Mercer.

Such smoothing, for many companies, reduced their modest shortfalls to a point where relief was not necessary, and meant companies could avoid seeking its employees' consent to extend payments to 10 years.

"In most cases three years ago, smoothing got them as good a result as the funding relief," Mr. Monteiro said.

But after several years of growing liabilities and ballooning deficits, the smoothing benefit has run its course and will no longer help reduce the funding requirements. "Right now, your smoothed value is pretty much the same or lower than your market value."


Ingrid Christensen
Passes away!

John Christensen's Wife

Memorial Service is as follows:

Monday, February 11th, 2013
Ward Funeral Home
52 Main St S

Our Condolences go out
to the Christensen family


UAW: Growing ranks key to wages

Organize workers at foreign-owned plants in U.S., King says

By David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau
February 5, 2013

Washington — United Auto Workers President Bob King told a union gathering Monday that if workers at foreign automakers' plants in the United States don't become unionized, then wages of suppliers and new auto workers won't rise.

King told 1,500 UAW members and retirees at a four-day political convention here that the union must make progress in organizing foreign auto plants. He said the shrinking Detroit-based union is in a "downward slide."

"The honest truth is you never win justice unless you have the power to demand to get that justice," King said. "We will never win full wages and benefits — equal pay — for our sisters and brothers in the second tier, or the entry level in the Big Three, or in the parts supplier sector if we leave over half the auto industry unorganized."

The union has failed to organize any new foreign auto plants in decades but has made it a top priority.

"We have to re-double those efforts. We have to re-triple those efforts," King said.

King was blunt with members about the challenges of the union movement, which in 2012 fell to the lowest number of workers since the Great Depression.

"The honest truth is that we are at a downward slide in America for the middle class. We've been in a downward slide for UAW members honestly — that's the brutal honesty," King said. "We win good — we win decent contracts — against really tremendous odds. We've done a great job, but we're not growing. We're not expanding."

The UAW had 1.53 million members in 1979. Its membership in 2011 was 380,000.

"How long has it been since of our members have had an actual base rate pay increase? How many of our members in the supplier sector are not getting livable middle-class wages and benefits?" King asked to a standing ovation. "Enough is enough. The sisters and brothers in the parts supplier sector — they need the power of our sisters and brothers in General Motors, Ford and Chrysler."

The 2011 four-year labor agreement with Detroit's Big Three included no base rate wage increase for most workers, though the second-tier wages for newer workers rose.

Many suppliers — like Delphi Corp. and Visteon Corp. — closed or move all union production jobs outside the United States to lower-wage countries.

King has made the point that without union contracts at foreign automakers, Detroit automakers will be under competitive pressure not to raise wages.

Sean McAlinden, an economist at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor who studies labor issues, said union members will be expecting significant gains in the 2015 labor deal with the Detroit's Three after not getting a pay raise in 2011.

The UAW will not be able to win significant wage increases without organizing the transplants, he said. It will be more difficult to win any significant pay raises at suppliers.

"He made a fundamental promise to the Detroit Three that the UAW will remain competitive with U.S. transplants, which is a sea change," McAlinden said.

But he also said that UAW pressure is keeping wages above $20 an hour at some foreign plants that might otherwise be paying less without the threat of unionization.

King criticized Gov. Rick Snyder and Republicans in the state Legislature for supporting right-to-work and cutting the maximum number of weeks of unemployment Michigan residents can receive.

He again called for a broad coalition, saying that unions alone don't have enough clout.

He said the UAW is considering allowing members of the public to "join" the union, make voluntary donations and get UAW's Solidarity magazine.

The UAW would focus on doctors, lawyers, professors and others who came from union households.



Brampton Guardian
Feb 4, 2013
Terry Miller

Nortel pensioners are a determined lot even in the face of challenges from avaricious foes. In January 2013, Nortel pensioners were part of bankruptcy mediation talks in Toronto. These talks were supposed to settle about $9 billion dollars in Nortel assets. Two previous attempts to settle these assets were unsuccessful. This last attempt led by Ontario Chief Justice Warren Winkler just went south… Justice Winkler declaring that further efforts at mediation were 'no longer worthwhile'. The costs, associated with and underwritten by the Nortel bankruptcy to date, is estimated at $838 million dollars and coupled with bondholders claim, for an additional billion dollars in interest charges, ensure that the $ 9 Billion asset may be considerably reduced before any disposition is made.

Aside from interest charges, bondholders now claim anywhere from $20 to $36 billion dollars of the $ 9 billion Nortel asset. That claim doesn't leave much room for pensioners many of whom are suffering from diminished pensions and effectively few benefits. Pensioners view bondholders as vultures scraping the bones of Nortel without any consideration about workers and managers who made the company work every day.

When Justice Hinkler threw in the towel, the chances of Nortel pensioners cashing in on the $ 9 Billion dollars asset fund went adrift. The only option left appears to be litigation. It is estimated that that process will take years to resolve and by that time, if costs keep going up, little of the $9 billion will be left. In the meantime, things don't get easier for Nortel pensioners many of whom are in their seventies.

So at the end of the day, Nortel pensioners are mired in bankruptcy proceedings over $9 billion dollars of Nortel assets. The chance of federal government intervention is zero. Opposition parties are on record on making changes to the bankruptcy act to ensure protection of workers but there is no champion for pensioners in the federal government.

Prior to 2009, Nortel and its employees contributed to the pension plan. When the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009, many pensioners hoped their pensions and benefits would be protected. Pensioners paid on time but Nortel deferred its payments and when they filed for bankruptcy, the pension plan came under attack.

In 2010, Bill S216 was introduced in the Canadian Senate. S216 would have protected employees on long term disability by granting them preferred status in Nortel's and other company's bankruptcies. A companion piece Bill C501, introduced in the House of Commons would have protected Nortel pensioners and other company pensioners by granting them preferred status as well. S216 was talked out of the Senate and C 501 died on the order paper.

At the end of 2010, 375 Nortel employees on LTD lost their benefits. Tony Clement, the Minister of Industry at the time, said that to proceed with the type of protection included in S216 & C501 would have caused litigation difficulties because of the court approved Nortel settlement agreement. In that bankruptcy agreement, secured creditors, bondholders, preferred shareholders, common shareholders were first with their clams and workers and managers got whatever is left. Effectively, the federal government shied away from getting involved in the Nortel bankruptcy and by so doing left pensioners to fight it out with the bondholders.

Nortel pensioners refuse to lie down and fade away. Some of disabled pensioners are suing the two trust companies in charge of the Nortel's health fund. The Nortel disabled pensioners say that the two trust companies knowingly allowed Nortel to significantly underfund the health and welfare trust. The two trust companies say that they will vigorously defend that accusation… another battle in this on-going pension war. Nortel pensioners are organized and with the help of the CAW are continuing to seek their fair share of the $ 9 Billion dollars. That may take some doing and with litigation may take some time as well… but it may also be the final straw.


Ford sued by more than 1,400 ex-employees on Visteon pension switch

Feb 3, 2013
By Jeremy Hodges
Bloomberg News

Ford Motor Co. was sued by more than 1,400 former U.K. workers for making misleading statements about the security of transferring their pensions to Visteon Corp. during the 2000 spinoff of the auto-parts company.

A U.K. judge ruled the claims, all filed at a London court between January 2011 and March 2012, should be tried together as group litigation, according to an order handed down in December and made public Thursday.

Visteon, spun off from Ford in 2000, filed bankruptcy in 2009 as the auto-parts industry faced slowing vehicle sales and reduced production. The company, based in Van Buren Township, Michigan, ran a 350 million-pound ($553 million) deficit in 2009 on the pension plan that had been transferred from Ford, lawyers for one group of ex-employees said in documents filed at a London court in March.

Anyone "who transferred their accrued entitlements in the Ford Pension Scheme to the underfunded Visteon Scheme was exposing themselves to the risk that they may lose their accrued benefits," according to the court filing.

Around 30 members of Britain's Parliament wrote to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee chairwoman on Jan. 30 requesting a report into "multinational companies' duty of care" in relation to pensions, according to the letter seen by Bloomberg, which would require witnesses from Ford and Visteon to attend a public hearing.

"Ford views these claims as totally without merit and it will defend its position vigorously," Brian Bennett, a U.K. spokesman for Ford, said in an e-mailed statement. "While Ford recognizes the severity of the situation for former Visteon U.K. employees, Visteon became an independent company in 2000 and was responsible for its own business decisions."

Jonna Christensen, a U.K. spokeswoman for Visteon, didn't immediately respond to a call and e-mail requesting comment.

Unite, Britain's largest union with some 1.5 million members according to its website, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. Unite is now coordinating the litigation for the ex-employees.

If the workers believed their pensions "weren't safe, there is no way we would've accepted" the transfer, said Simon Harding, one of the claimants, in a telephone interview Friday. "If we hadn't have accepted the transfer, then I don't think the spinoff would've taken place."


Ford, Chevrolet among Consumer Reports' top 6 brands

By David Shepardson
Detroit New Washington Bureau
Feb 1, 2013

Washington — Consumer Reports said Toyota Motor Corp. held the top place as the best overall brand in its annual Car-Brand Perception Survey, followed by Ford Motor Co.

Third-place Honda jumped 26 points to 114 points to close within 4 points of Ford, followed by General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet brand, Daimler's Mercedes-Benz brand and Volvo. The top six brands overall finished in the same rank order as in 2012.

The scores — based on a survey — reflect how consumers perceive each brand in seven categories: quality, safety, value, performance, design/style, technology/innovation and environmentally friendly/green.

Combining those factors gives Consumer Reports the total brand-perception score. "This past year brought stability and increased sales to much of the automotive industry.

"Yet, the brand awareness scores for some like BMW, Buick and Hyundai have declined," said Jeff Bartlett, deputy auto editor online, for Consumer Reports.

"The data shows that it has become harder for companies to compete for share of mind. Consumers are not seeing as much differentiation between brands as they have in the past."

Quality and safety remain the top two car-buying factors for consumers, followed closely by value and performance.

Chrysler's Dodge brand made the top 10 brand list this year (ninth), jumping 23 points to boot Toyota's luxury brand Lexus off the list.

Dodge scored 56 overall, compared with Lexus' 50.

Dodge did not score at the top of any one category, but the magazine said the brand had modest gains in numerous categories.

Also in the top 10 was Cadillac at seventh, followed by BMW and Tesla in 10th.

The worst brand rankings were Toyota's Scion, tied with Mitsubishi with a score of 6, followed by Chrysler's truck brand Ram at 7 and Fiat at 8. Rounding out the lowest 10 are Mini, Land Rover, Jaguar, Mazda, Jeep and Porsche.










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