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July 2017 to December 2017

Retiree Sy Rouse's wife
Mary Passes away Dec 24, 2017

Our Condolences go out to the Rouse family on the passing
on the passing of Retiree Sy Rouse's wife Mary

ROUSE, Mary “May”
May 30 1928 – December 24, 2017

Mary Rouse

Peacefully on Sunday, December 24, 2017, in Cambridge, Ontario. May formally of Acton, in her 90th year. Beloved wife of Sylvester for more than 60 years. Loving mother of Tony (Sharron), Maureen (Ray) and Mike (Sandi). Proud “Nana” of Melanie, Kyle, Scott, Sean and Will. Dear sister of Tess, Dymphna and Paddy. May was predeceased by her sisters Angela and Jo.

Friends will be received at the MacKinnon Family Funeral Home, 55 Mill St. East, Acton, on Thursday,
December 28, 2017 from 7-9 pm. A Funeral Mass will take place at St. Joseph Patron of Canada Parish, 64 Church Street East, Acton on Friday, December 29, 2017 at 11 am.

Cremation will follow with future interment back “home” in Ireland. The family would like to thank the wonderful staff at Riverbend Place for their kindness and compassion.

As expressions of sympathy, donations to Parkinson Canada would be appreciated by the family.

On-line condolences may be made at www.mackinnonfuneralhome.com

MacKinnon Family Funeral Home
(519) 853-0350 or 1-877-421-9860 (toll free)




Lincoln plans two new
McConaughey spots

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Dec 28, 2017

Lincoln Motor Co. is turning to its most recognizable spokesman to help sell the all-new 2018 Navigator.

The Dearborn-based automaker will debut on Thursday one of two new television commercials with Matthew McConaughey, who’s starred in several Lincoln commercials since 2014. It will debut first on Twitter and YouTube, and then air during the College Football Playoff on Jan. 1.

The TV spots with the actor have done well for the Ford Motor Co. luxury brand by generating buzz — even catching the attention of “Saturday Night Live,” which parodied the first ads three years ago.

This time, McConaughey is behind the wheel of the redesigned Navigator that’s received rave reviews from auto critics. The big SUV has been a staple for Lincoln since it was introduced in 1998, and the company is leaning into the full-size SUV to pave the way — along with the new Continental sedan — to stronger sales and a bigger presence in the U.S. and China amid yet another rebranding.

McConaughey doesn’t wax poetic about why he drives a Lincoln in the new 60-second spot, titled “Perfect Rhythm.” He doesn’t talk at all. This time he conducts a concert with wind, rattling railroad tracks, clanging train signals and his own drumming on the plush leather steering wheel of his baby-blue $95,000 Black Label Navigator.

Those behind the commercial said it complements the Navigator. The commercial is meant to be about energy and the capability of the spacious new SUV. It’s also meant to illustrate how all the components of the new vehicle harmonize.

“Perfect rhythm refers to the feeling you get in those situations when everything comes together,” said John Emmert, group marketing manager of The Lincoln Motor Company.

The ad is the first of two new McConaughey spots set to air in January. The second ad will come out later in the month. Lincoln has not released the details of that ad.

At the Los Angeles Auto Show last month, Lincoln said the launches kicked off a brand-wide shift and rebranding. All the vehicles now feature a honeycomb grille and similar design cues.

Lincoln also decided to drop the alphanumeric names in favor of those with a nautical theme. It renamed its mid-size MKX SUV the Nautilus.

Ford Motor Co.’s high-end brand has changed vehicle names, front-end designs and lineups multiple times since 2000. That’s made it hard for consumers to stay loyal to the brand, and muddied the automaker’s reputation and marketing. But under Kumar Galhotra, Lincoln group vice president and Ford’s chief marketing officer, Lincoln may have found a niche market.

Galhotra spent the last few years pushing Lincoln to grow sales in China, and sell customers an experience rather than just a vehicle. That led to a high-end Black Label trim available on most Lincoln models, which brings additional services as well as nicer materials to the owners. Galhotra has also launched several customer service pilots and programs, including a concierge, chauffeur service and a planned subscription service in select markets.


How to keep your car's
safety sensors clean when
snow and ice attack

By Patrick Olsen
Consumer Reports
Dec 27, 2017

As snow, ice, or salt grime gathers on cars this winter, many of the sensors that are key to the operation of advanced safety systems can become blocked and shut down.

Take, for example, forward-collision warning (FCW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems. These life-saving features rely on radar sensors that are often mounted in the car's grille—sometimes even in the car's emblem—or on its front bumpers. When these sensors can no longer tell what's in front of them, they can shut down, illuminating a warning light on the dash. At that point, the systems aren't working.

Some automakers say that to work best, AEB sensors, for example, need to sit behind the front grille, and so can be at the mercy of snow or ice build-up. Automakers say other sensors are carefully placed around the car, such as on bumpers, so they can best do their jobs.

Understanding where the sensors are located and how to keep them clear and functioning properly is important. The locations are listed in the owners manual, and the dealer can also show you on your particular vehicle. We also offer some advice near the end of this report.

Some automakers have moved key sensors to behind the windshield in an effort to shield them from the weather.

“Volvo moved all the semi-autonomous drive sensors (for FCW and AEB, among others) to an area in the windshield that falls within the wiper sweep to ensure a clear view of the road at all times,” says spokesman Russell Datz. Still, even on Volvos, parking and blind-spot sensors remain on the outside of the vehicle, where they can be affected by weather, he says.

Remember, too, that your car's safety systems may have issues properly reading lane markings in heavy snowfall or intense rainstorms, or when those marking have been altered during road work.

Six Key Areas to Keep Clean

The grille: When you first get a new car, spend some time identifying all of the sensors that may be hidden in the grille area so that you’ll know where to focus your cleaning effort. Recent vehicles that have FCW, AEB, and/or adaptive cruise control most likely have their radar sensors located out front, either within the grille or in the lower center of the front bumper.

The windshield: More cars are using cameras and sensors behind the glass for FCW or automatic wipers. As these sensors can sometimes be located outside the path of the wipers, it’s worthwhile to stop periodically during foul weather to completely clear your windshield of built-up ice and snow.

Rear body quarter panels: These often house radars that are used to power blind-spot monitoring systems, or behind you when your vehicle is in Reverse. Older models (such as some from Acura and Volvo) use a camera located just below the outside mirrors.

Sensors in the car’s front and, often, rear bumpers: These power the parking alert systems. The front ones let you know when you’re getting too close to an object; the rear ones can tell you if a car is moving toward you in a parking lot.

The rearview camera: Ice, snow, salt, and dirt can muck this up and make it useless.

Remember the cameras located in the front grille, underneath your side mirrors, and in the back that power a 360-degree-view system. Ice, snow, and salt can often cake on these, making them unusable.

If weather permits, get regular car washes to keep the sensors on your car clean. For do-it-yourself cleaning, use a mild automotive-specific detergent (so you won't damage your car’s paint). Be gentle in cleaning fenders, because salt and sand can be abrasive on paint.

Make sure you have a clean paper towel or rag to dry the area after cleaning. You don’t want to be part of the problem by coating the car in ice.

Make sure the entire car is snow-free before driving. It's the law in some areas. And, of course, you may have to clear the sensors several times on a trip, especially if you’re driving through a storm. One CR staffer needed to stop five times on a 100-mile trip through a snowstorm to keep his car's sensors clean.


Ford, Mazda recall pickups
2nd time for air bag problem

Associated Press
Dec 26, 2017

Detroit – Ford and Mazda are recalling more than 380,000 older small pickup trucks for a second time to replace Takata air bag inflators that can explode and hurl shrapnel.

The recalls cover driver and passenger inflators in certain 2004 to 2006 Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series trucks made by Ford.

Takata uses ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that inflates air bags. But the chemical can deteriorate over time and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister. At least 20 people have been killed worldwide.

The trucks were recalled in 2015 and 2016 to replace inflators with newer ones as a temporary fix. Under the latest recalls, inflators will be swapped for ones that don’t use ammonium nitrate.

Owners will be notified starting later this month.


Secretive cabinet decision
limits sick days for

Cristina Howorun and
Jessica Bruno
Dec 23, 2017

It’s one of the most important sectors in Ontario’s economy, but thanks to a behind-the-scenes government decision, auto workers aren’t getting the same protections as most other people working in this province.

“We can build a better, fairer Ontario for everyone” was what Labour Minister Kevin Flynn promised as the province passed major changes to the Employment Standards Act in November. Those included a $15 minimum wage, domestic violence leave and ten emergency leave days for everybody who works in a provincially regulated field. Everybody, that is, but the auto sector.

A quietly approved cabinet regulation exempts the auto sector from the 10 days of emergency leave. Instead, those workers only get seven unpaid days for personal illness, the illness of a close family member or an emergency situation.

 “I’m not saying anybody else’s job isn’t just as hard, but for me to have less days than somebody sitting behind a desk is insanity,” says William Murray, a 15-year employee at Toyota’s Woodstock plant.

Katrina Dicks, who works the assembly line at Toyota agrees. “It feels like [the government] honestly doesn’t care what our say is in this, and how it affects us. We feel discriminated against as opposed to everybody else in the province who gets the benefits of the Employment Standards Act.”

While Ontario’s Ministry of Labour enforces employment standards and led the plan to increase worker benefits, the exemption for auto workers comes from the Ministry of Economic Development. Sources familiar with the file say this comes after years of intense lobbying from certain automakers, but previous ministers were reluctant to bend to their demands. But in 2015, Ray Tanguay, former chair of Toyota Canada, was named a special advisor to the federal and provincial governments on the auto sector. Talk to introduce the special rules resumed shortly after he took the job.

“Somebody lobbied them and said ‘we need this’ and they quietly did it,” says Cindy Forster, the provincial NDP’s Labour critic. “They are kowtowing to companies over worker’s rights.”

The government says it’s trying to balance workers’ rights with the needs of the largest manufacturing sector in Ontario.

“In terms of the auto sector, our approach is to balance the rights and needs of workers with ensuring the auto sector in Ontario remains competitive in what’s becoming a fast changing global economy,” writes Daniel Bitonti, spokesperson for the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. “This was the impetus for the exemption. Sometimes, minor adjustments to a regulation like this one will ensure these companies can continue to support good jobs in Ontario for the long term.”

He did not address our question about whether foreign-owned corporations are directly influencing employment standards

Ontario’s automotive manufacturing sector employs over 100,000 people; about 40,000 in the GTA alone.

“The auto industry greatly influences that province’s international trade,” says management company Desjardins in a 2017 report on the sector. “Auto and auto part manufacturing make up 2.5 per cent of Ontario’s GDP.”

While the province introduced this auto worker sick day exemption as a pilot project earlier this year, there is no end date.

“As we designed the pilot project, we worked very closely with workers, union representatives and company leaders from a number of firms,” Bitonti writes. However, Unifor, the union that represents most auto workers, has big concerns with the regulations. It argues that the exemption disadvantages their members compared to other sectors. Employees from two large non-union shops that are impacted, Toyota and Honda, don’t feel like they were consulted at all.

“I don’t know what the government is thinking at this point,” says auto worker Murray.

“I think it’s totally discriminatory, I’m going to have to table a private members’ bill to try to address this,” provincial NDP Labour critic Cindy Forster tells CityNews. “Here we were […] trying to set the bar equally for all workers in the province, and now we have this one group of employees and it’s not addressed for them.”


UAW president condemns
sexual harassment

Nora Naughton,
The Detroit News
Dec 21, 2017

The president of the United Auto Workers is taking a hard line on sexual harassment.

UAW President Dennis Williams“Let me be very clear about this: the UAW has a policy of no tolerance — zero tolerance — when it comes to sexual harassment,” UAW president Dennis Williams said at a roundtable with the media Wednesday.

His forceful statement comes in the wake of a New York Times report on years of sexual harassment at two Ford Motor Co. plants in Chicago. The women in the story say their complaints were met with hostility by mostly male union leadership, and that management’s efforts to correct the problem proved ineffective.

The report comes amid a national reckoning for sexual harassers, toppling high-powered men like Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose allegations sparked the #MeToo movement on social media. Time Magazine named these “Silence Breakers” — the women who came forward to name their harassers — its 2017 person of the year.

The accusations have taken down some of entertainment’s most-recognized names, from Matt Lauer to Louis C.K. It also rippled to government officials, with U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., the longest-serving current member of Congress, resigning earlier this month amid allegations that he sexually harassed staffers. But the women at Ford’s Chicago plants put a new face on this movement.

“All of the sudden when you see a workplace — an industrial workplace — with these kinds of issues, it becomes so vivid,” said Harley Shaiken, a professor specializing in labor issues at the University of California at Berkeley. “It shows this is a social problem that needs to be addressed in society — in a plant.”

The union is in a tough spot when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment allegations because it represents both the accuser and the accused when a grievance is filed. Williams said he could not comment on the specific incidents.

“Working men and women have to understand that people ought to be able to go to the workplace without being harassed for any reason whatsoever,” Williams said.

Ford also says it does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination.

“We take those claims very seriously and investigate them thoroughly,” the Dearborn automaker said in an emailed statement. “We are taking the steps necessary to reinforce Ford’s commitment to a work environment free of harassment and discrimination.”

The union and Ford started tackling this issue in earnest as far back as 2011. The UAW and Ford have conducted anti-harassment training for roughly 30,000 members since then. New employee orientation also includes a four-hour anti-harassment training session.

The Chicago Assembly Plant and the Chicago Stamping Plant — the two facilities at the center of the New York Times report — were both under investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the summer, prompting Ford to pay $10.1 million to settle sexual and racial harassment charges.

At the time, the EEOC said it found personnel at the two Ford plants had harassed female and African-American employees.

The Chicago Assembly Plant’s UAW chairman, Alan “Coby” Millender, was suspended by Ford in 2015 after a lawsuit claimed he and other managers at the plant sexually harassed female employees. Millender later returned to work after the UAW filed a grievance.

Ford said it starting taking further actions at the Chicago plants more than two years ago, increasing the human resources staff by 30 percent to provide investigations support and oversight. This includes a staff member that oversees both plants and reports directly to personnel relations at the automaker’s headquarters in Dearborn. The automaker said it also ramped up anti-harassment, leadership and diversity training at the facilities.

“It’s important not to underestimate the severity of the problem and the damage that it does, but I think (sexual harassment) is an issue that Ford appears to be very committed to addressing, and the UAW is very committed to doing something now and going forward,” said Shaiken.

That doesn’t mean addressing the problem will be easy. Half of all sexual harassment and gender discrimination complaints made to the EEOC about Ford in 2015 originated among the 5,700 employees — about a third of which are women — at the two Chicago plants, the New York Times reported.

“Here you’ve got a shared workplace and to have women treated in this way is wildly unacceptable and difficult to address,” Shaiken said. “It will require a lot on the shop floor, strict responses to complaints — and it’s going to involve a year from now and a decade from now being on top of it.”


Why Ford would be
comfortable killing the Fusion

A 2014 Fusion on the production line at Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Mich., on Aug. 29, 2013. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Michael Martinez
Automotive News
Dec 20, 2017

DETROIT -- Read between the lines of last week's news about the Ford Fusion, and it becomes tough to see a post-2020 future for the car in the U.S.

It won't be made in Mexico anymore, Ford has told suppliers, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions. Sources say production of the Fusion's European counterpart, the Mondeo, also will end in Valencia, Spain.

And the automaker insisted, on the record, that it won't import the Fusion to the U.S. from China.

Assuming Ford isn't lying to its suppliers or the media to avoid a political backlash, that means production of the North American Fusion would have to move to a different country or end.

Ford says it hasn't made a final decision, but CEO Jim Hackett last week gave the strongest hint yet that the Fusion will go the way of the Freestyle and Fairmont.

How do I know? He literally said, "I'm giving you a hint," when asked whether or not there's need for the Fusion in Ford's future.

Automakers have traditionally built sedans such as the Fusion, Hackett said, to offer a more budget-friendly option to gas-guzzling trucks and utilities. But thanks to EcoBoost engines, 10-speed transmissions and other technologies, Ford and others are "starting to crack that code" and close the fuel-economy gap between cars and light trucks.

"The reasons for the balance in history had more to do with fuel than customer preference," Hackett said. "And so, if you can get rid of the difference there because of fuel, you start to relieve the pressure of what kind of portfolio you have to have."

Describing the Fusion as a vehicle Ford has been forced to offer isn't the type of ringing endorsement you'd want on a dealership billboard.

But Hackett's right.

Whatever customer-preference advantage the sedan used to hold is virtually gone. Although it's still cheaper than the Escape or Edge crossover, longer loan terms have made the difference in many buyers' monthly payments hardly noticeable.

This year through November, Fusion sales have slumped 22 percent, on pace for the nameplate's third consecutive annual decline. The Fusion is a second-tier player in a segment that the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord will likely continue to dominate.

To its credit, Fusion has been Ford's autonomous test vehicle for years, but last month, as if to add insult to injury, Ford executives said the self-driving vehicle Ford produces in 2021 won't be a Fusion because it doesn't meet the company's package-delivery or passenger-ferrying needs. (Perhaps another hint that the Fusion won't be around in 2021?)

Now Hackett says one of its only remaining advantages -- better fuel economy -- is slipping away, too.

A lot can change before 2020, when Ford would need to introduce the next-generation midsize sedan or a replacement for it.

But when you add up the hints, it's tough to see how the Fusion is anything but a car that's no longer needed.


Exec charged in UAW training
center probe leaves GM

Nora Naughton,
The Detroit News
December 19, 2017

A top labor executive for General Motors Co. charged with criminal corruption connected to the Fiat Chrysler-United Auto Workers joint training center is no longer employed by GM.

A GM spokesman confirmed Friday that Alphons Iacobelli — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s top labor negotiator before his abrupt departure in the summer of 2015 — had left GM, but declined to comment further on the executive’s departure. It’s not clear whether Iacobelli, who joined GM after leaving Fiat Chrysler, was fired. Iacobelli originally was suspended from his duties at GM.

News of Iacobelli’s departure, first reported by Automotive News, comes two days after retired UAW Vice President Joe Ashton resigned from GM’s board of directors. Six weeks ago, The Detroit News reported that federal agents had expressed interest in talking with the former head of the union’s GM department as part of their widening investigation into the joint training centers funded by all three Detroit automakers.

Ashton has not been charged in the FBI investigation into the possible misappropriation of training funds, and if labor leaders at GM and Ford Motor Co. received money or benefits through their tax-exempt nonprofits.

Iacobelli was suspended by GM after he and Monica Morgan-Holiefield, wife of deceased UAW vice president General Holiefield, were indicted by a federal grand jury this summer. Iacobelli was accused of spending more than $1 million in UAW-Chrysler National Training Center funds on luxury items while working as FCA’s top labor negotiator.

The luxury items included $375,000 in home improvements for a pool, outdoor kitchen and spa at his home and landscaping; a $350,000-plus Ferrari 458 Spider; and two limited-edition, solid-gold Mont Blanc fountain pens that cost $37,500 each.


Ford offers buyouts at
some Michigan plants

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
December 18, 2017

Ford Motor Co. is offering voluntary retirement packages to hourly United Auto Workers employees at some U.S. factories, including four in Michigan.

Employees at the Michigan Assembly Plant, Dearborn Engine Plant, Rawsonville Components Plant and Woodhaven Stamping Plant hired before Nov. 19, 2007, are eligible for the packages, said Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker.

The Dearborn-based automaker is aiming for 150 employees from those U.S. plants to take the offer. The company wants to “reduce a short-term surplus,” Felker said.

The buyouts come as Ford, under CEO Jim Hackett and the company’s leadership, also works to cut operational costs by about $14 billion over the next five years. Hackett and other Ford executives have said they expect to cut costs without turning to layoffs.


NAFTA: In new phase
of talks, search starts for
solutions to break impasse

Alexander Panetta
Canadian Press
Dec 17, 2017

WASHINGTON - NAFTA negotiations are approaching a new phase of talks after early rounds marked by acrimony, inflexibility and finger-pointing.

It's the search for solutions.

Negotiators gathered at an informal session in Washington this week are considering ways to work around a main impasse of the talks so far, a U.S. demand on auto parts deemed unfeasible by Canada, Mexico and the industry.

The other countries intend to ask the U.S. whether there might be a way to rework the proposal in a manner palatable to everyone, while still achieving America's goal of bolstering domestic auto production.

Time constraints are intensifying pressure to find solutions: Rounds are currently scheduled only into March, Mexico and the U.S. have national elections thereafter and President Donald Trump has threatened to start the withdrawal process to get a quick deal.

One Canadian official said that a spirit of problem-solving has permeated this informal round.

"The mood has lightened a bit since the Mexico round (last month)," he said.

"It was a bit acrimonious."

The main goal this week was to chip away at less-controversial chapters. But the Canadian side has some ideas for a new path forward on automobiles, a key priority for the Trump administration, elected on a promise to strengthen manufacturing.

The Canadian side thinks that goal can be achieved by moving away from the traditional method of calculating the content of a car. For instance, the current NAFTA says that a car's pieces must be 62.5 per cent North American to avoid a tariff and the U.S. called for a ramp-up to 85 per cent, plus a U.S.-specific 50 per cent requirement, with virtually no adjustment phase-in period, to the dismay of other parties.

But what if the formula were completely overhauled?

Canada is weighing a new calculation method that takes into account the full cost of a vehicle, including the most valuable components of modern cars — which, increasingly, are new digital technologies, light-weight composite materials and other intellectual property, for which the United States is a world-leading hub.

"Evaluating the entire value ... rather than some of the components that are currently spelled out. (Things like) digital inputs," is how one official explained it.

"It's important to recognize that what goes into a car has changed since NAFTA was signed."

Canada has not yet presented the proposal to the U.S., its side said late Thursday.

The context for the idea is outlined in a recent paper by the government-and-industry-funded Center for Automotive Research in Michigan, which describes how a technological revolution is already underway, spurred by autonomous cars; new fuel-efficiency standards; improved safety and computer connectivity.

It says the accelerated rate of innovation will last at least three decades.

It estimates that while mild steel and high-strength alloys made up 80 per cent of a car's materials in 2010, that fell to barely 60 per cent in 2015; will fall to barely 30 per cent in 2020; just over 20 per cent in 2030; and less than 10 per cent in 2040.

A Canadian auto-parts representative said these changes are partly driven by tough new international fuel standards.

Flavio Volpe said companies are spending hundreds of billions of dollars to double fuel efficiency through everything from lightweight materials to internal components: "Start-stop technology. Hybrid technology. Batteries, electric, fuel cell... Material sciences."

He said the U.S. is currently a hotbed of these technologies. And he said it might make sense to design incentives to keep production of emerging technology on this continent, so that the research and production are clustered here.

He called the tracing requirements in NAFTA a tool designed for the cars of 1994.

"I think we have to have a fresh look at the way that works," Volpe said.

"(So) can you devise a formula that captures the hundreds of billions of dollars currently being spent to meet advanced fuel-efficiency and safety regulations? If you can, then we can all negotiate the numbers (later)."

There might not be much time.

Trump has repeatedly said he might start withdrawing from NAFTA to press the other countries into making concessions; Mexico has said that, if that happens, it would leave the negotiating table and some decisions will need to be made by March, when the current schedule of talks ends.

That places extra pressure on countries to make progress at the January round scheduled in Montreal.

There are other small, emerging slivers of potential compromise: insiders familiar with U.S. negotiating positions said they anticipate room for negotiation on the controversial idea of a five-year review clause. The part deemed a non-starter by Canada and Mexico is the idea that NAFTA should end in five years, unless everyone extends it.

Both Mexico and Canada have said they're willing to live with a less-aggressive review clause.


Ex-UAW VP resigns
from GM board

Joe Ashton, a retired United Auto Workers vice president who represents the union’s Retiree Health Care Trust on General Motors Co.’s board of directors, resigned Wednesday from the automaker’s board.

Daniel Howes,
and Robert Snell
Dec 14, 2017

Retired United Auto Workers Vice President Joe Ashton resigned from General Motors Co.’s board of directors Wednesday, weeks after being linked to a federal grand jury investigation into auto industry corruption.

Ashton’s abrupt departure came six weeks after The Detroit News reported that he had drawn the scrutiny of federal agents looking into potential corruption at UAW joint training centers funded by all three automakers. The investigation focuses on whether training funds were misappropriated, and if labor leaders at GM and Ford Motor Co. received money or benefits through their tax-exempt nonprofits — an allegation that emerged this summer involving Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and General Holiefield, a former UAW vice president who died in 2015, sources said.

Ashton, who represents the union’s health care trust on GM’s board, is resigning amid a separate internal investigation GM launched this fall after learning of the widening federal investigation. Sources told The News that GM’s internal review is being conducted by Jones Day, the global law firm that represented Detroit during the city’s landmark bankruptcy.

“Boards are very sensitive bodies, especially for public companies,” David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research, said in an interview. “A couple of people (in the industry) have been impacted already, but you don’t know how far that web is going to go. Any hint of impropriety is just not good at all. That would absolutely be a reason for someone to leave a board.”

Ashton is one of GM’s 10 outside directors. After retiring as head of the UAW’s GM department in 2014, he was nominated to represent the union’s Retiree Medical Benefits Trust on GM’s board. The trust’s stake in GM, acquired as part of GM’s bankruptcy, totals 9.3 percent of the automaker’s outstanding shares, according to GM’s latest proxy statement. It is unclear whether a replacement would be appointed to represent the union trust.

The federal probe is the second criminal investigation involving GM in recent years. Under a so-called “deferred prosecution agreement,” the automaker remains under federal oversight following a scandal involving faulty ignition switches that have been linked to almost 400 deaths and injuries.

Under the agreement, GM needs to cooperate with federal prosecutors and report any wrongdoing, an obligation that explains why the Detroit automaker is conducting an internal investigation that is expected to be shared with federal prosecutors.

“That puts a premium on identifying individuals in the company who can be exposed to prosecution, maybe that’s what’s happening,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “Justice Department policy for prosecuting companies is if they want credit for cooperating, they have to give prosecutors the individuals involved.”

The combination of a grand jury investigation and GM’s internal probe leaves anyone embroiled in the probes in a “vice grip,” Henning added. The scope of GM’s internal review is unclear. But such investigations typically involve reviewing a significant amount of documents, conducting interviews and employing outside experts, if necessary.

Earlier this year, Jones Day conducted another high-profile review of Michigan State University’s football program following allegations of sexual assault involving three players. A Jones Day spokesman did not respond to a message seeking comment about the GM investigation.

In a four-sentence statement, the automaker said Ashton, 69, of Ocean View, N.J., who joined GM’s board in August 2014, “elected to resign.” In a short note, Ashton told GM of his plan to resign immediately from its board, according to a source familiar with the situation.

“This FBI investigation has been a pretty ugly situation for the UAW,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with Cox Automotive. “It’s unfortunate, because it’s important for there to be a UAW representative at the board level. The UAW fought for years for that, and I think it brings value. What will be interesting to see will be whether they replace him with someone who is also from the UAW.”

A union spokesman declined comment.

Federal investigators are interested in Ashton and Cindy Estrada, his successor in charge of the union’s GM department, according to sources familiar with the investigation. Ashton is the highest-ranking official whose name has surfaced in connection with a criminal investigation into whether money and illegal benefits corrupted the bargaining process.

Spurred by corruption charges filed last summer against a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV labor executive and the wife of a deceased union vice president, investigators have issued subpoenas for information about training centers financed by GM and Ford Motor Co. that are operated jointly with the union, sources familiar with the investigation said.

Ashton’s resignation comes roughly five months after Fiat Chrysler labor negotiator Alphons Iacobelli and Holiefield’s widow, Monica Morgan-Holiefield, were indicted and accused of violating the Labor Management Relations Act. They are accused of participating in a $4.5 million scheme that siphoned corporate training funds earmarked for blue-collar workers.

According to an indictment, the payments included designer clothing, jewelry, furniture and $262,219 to pay off a mortgage on the Holiefields’ home. The payments were made using the UAW-Chrysler training center’s credit cards and bank accounts. Holiefield and his wife received more than $1.2 million, prosecutors allege.

Iacobelli, 58, siphoned more than $1 million in training center funds and spent the money on a $365,000 Ferrari, two $35,700 fountain pens, a pool, outdoor kitchen and spa at his Rochester Hills mansion, according to the indictment. The federal investigation dates at least to 2015 and involves FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Labor Department agents.

Ashton’s resignation is the latest departure for an auto industry figure entangled in the corruption scandal. Last month, the UAW announced that Norwood Jewell, head of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV department, would retire Jan. 1, roughly six months before his current term is scheduled to end.

Jewell’s name emerged in August when The News reported he received a $2,180 shotgun purchased with training center funds. The shotgun was part of a broader review by federal agents of questionable spending by UAW leaders, who are accused of using training center credit cards to buy designer purses and $1,000 shoes.

The union vice president received the shotgun as a birthday present in 2015 after the firearm was purchased with funds earmarked for blue-collar workers, according to sources familiar with the investigation. He later reimbursed UAW-Chrysler training center and has not been charged with a crime amid the continuing investigation.


Annual food bill for
Canadian family in 2018
expected to rise by $348

Sidhartha Banerjee
The Canadian Press
December 13, 2017

Canadians are eating out more and can expect to pay extra to do so in 2018, suggests a forward-looking report into food prices.

Food inflation overall is expected to rise between 1 and 3 per cent next year, says Canada's Food Price Report, which was crafted jointly for the first time by researchers at Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph.

For an average family of four, that represents an increase of $348 to about $11,948 for the year.

About 59 per cent of the expected hike – $208 – will come from consumers eating out and opting for prepared food.

"Most of (the increase) will come from food service which would make some consumers a bit vulnerable – particularly those who don't cook or (who) eat out a lot," lead researcher Sylvain Charlebois said in an interview from Halifax.

"But if you are cooking and you rely mainly on grocery stores to get your food, you should be in good shape for 2018."

Restaurant and store owners recognize the demand for eating out and ready-to-eat products is a robust one. In the United States, the divide between grocery expenditures and those types of eating out reached a 50-50 split in 2016.

Charlebois said a fast-food culture has been successfully cultivated over the past 50 years in the United States, but Canada could reach that split by 2035 at its current pace.

Canadians now spend about 30 per cent of their food budget on eating out and consuming prepared meals.

The report suggests different parts of the country will feel different impacts at the checkout line next year.

Atlantic Canada is expected to see above average increases – with prices bouncing back after consumers in the region enjoyed lower prices in 2017.

British Columbia too is expected see increases, due to inflation.

But increased competition in Alberta and Ontario means consumers will see below average price hikes, while Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are expected to remain steady.

The cost of dairy, baked goods, meats and seafood is expected to rise by up to two per cent, while fruits and nuts are forecast to rise by one to three per cent.

The other category where consumers are expected to pay significantly more is vegetables – as much as four to six per cent extra because of climate woes like the La Nina weather phenomenon, bringing drought conditions to the United States.

Health Canada expects to unveil a new Canada Food Guide in 2018, which the department hopes will change the way people eat over the longer term as a shift toward plant-based diets continues.

A dramatic policy shift isn't expected to have much impact in the short term, Charlebois said.

Another issue is where people buy food – the so-called Amazon effect as food sales move online has grocers trying to change their pricing strategies and approach.

Charlebois said that in an effort to compete, grocery chains are looking at online delivery, embracing more responsive business models and using data science.

Researchers found that pricing discounts intensified around September 2016, which has made food prices more difficult to predict.

"Grocers are trying to compete, they are discounting aggressively to keep consumers in their stores," Charlebois said. "That will come to an end at some point, but we're not sure if that'll happen in 2018."


Ford will test Internet
sales models in China

December 12, 2017
Michael Martinez
Automotive News

Ford Motor Co. is using the world's largest vehicle market as a test bed for alternatives to traditional dealer showrooms.

The automaker last week announced a partnership with Alibaba Group Holding to explore cooperation on, among other things, the sale of Ford vehicles in China on Alibaba's online retail platform Tmall. Although Ford has not divulged specific plans, the partnership could involve using the concept of a "car vending machine," where customers use smartphones to browse vehicles housed in a collection several stories high, then wait as they're delivered to the ground floor.

Separately, Lincoln recently launched a number of pilots in China's Hunan province as it experiments with selling models. Amy Marentic, president of Lincoln in China, told Automotive News that the brand last month began testing three ideas: online-only stores using virtual reality and mobile phone technology, popup-like mobile sales centers, and mini delivery centers with room for a couple of show cars and service bays.

In each instance, Marentic says that if the pilots are successful, the methods could eventually make their way to the U.S.

Ford's foray into alternative selling models makes sense in China, analysts say, because the market is highly competitive and primed for growth. And, much like the U.S., consumers are increasingly interested in online sales.

"Ford's partnership with Alibaba will benefit its competitiveness in the Chinese market, as the e-commerce market in China will continue to grow as more consumers opt for online shopping rather than traditional brick-and-mortar stores," BMI Research said in a report last week. "However, Ford dealers will come under pressure if its strategy is successful."

The automaker has vowed that its dealer body will continue to play a key role in China.

Lincoln, for example, has been adding showrooms nearly every week since it launched in 2014, and says the most important factor influencing a consumer's purchase in that country is dealership experience.

The brand has about 90 showrooms to date, with plans to reach 100 by year's end.

But its high growth rate may slow in the coming years. While Lincoln's luxury competitors each have 500 to 600 dealerships in China, Marentic said Lincoln may take a different approach.

"When you come into a market last, you have to come in in a thoughtful way," she said. "We have a network strategy. We're not tied down to 600 stores. If the market moves more online, we're in a really good position."

That involves trying the three pilot programs. Marentic said the goal is to attempt to serve a province that's the size of Kansas and home to nearly 70 million people, without adding more traditional dealerships. If successful in Hunan, they'll expand to other parts of China.

"We could stop our network expansion at any point and move all online, but all through our dealer investors," Marentic said.

Mike Burgiss, vice president of digital retailing for Cox Automotive, said the small size of Lincoln's network in China creates an opportunity to try something more suited to the desires of today's consumers.

"If we could clear the slate in the U.S., I'd bet we'd end up with a different number of dealerships," Burgiss said. "There's a lot of flexibility when you can design in a new market."

Ford's three-year tie-up with Alibaba allows them to dabble in four business units: operation systems, cloud computing, digital marketing and online retail. It could involve areas such as mobility services, connectivity and artificial intelligence.

CEO Jim Hackett said it aligns with Ford's mission of delivering "smart vehicles in a smart world."

Initially, the two sides will explore "digital solutions for new retail opportunities at various stages of the automotive ownership cycle, from presales and test drives to leasing options," Ford said in a statement.

Beyond the high-tech pilots, the partnership could help Ford by combining sales components under one umbrella.

"China is a very different market than the U.S.," Burgiss said. "When you can integrate like that — the financing, retail sales component, distribution channel and have perfect control over the inventory — it simplifies a lot of things."


VW exec gets maximum
sentence, fine for Dieselgate role

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Dec 11, 2017

Detroit — A maximum seven-year sentence for a former Volkswagen AG executive, handed down Wednesday, closes a long chapter in perhaps the largest and most expensive conspiracy in the global auto industry’s history.

Oliver Schmidt, 48, was sentenced to 7 years in prison and fined $400,000 in federal court here for his role in the automaker’s diesel emissions cheating scandal. The German national had pleaded guilty in August to two charges in Volkswagen’s scheme to rig nearly 600,000 diesel cars to evade U.S. pollution standards.

“This crime ... attacks and destroys the very foundation of our economic system: That is trust,” U.S. District Judge Sean Cox said Wednesday in sentencing Schmidt. “Senior management at Volkswagen has not been held accountable.”

Yet the furious backlash to Volkwagen’s duplicity drove former CEO Martin Winterkorn to resign in September 2015, soon after the scandal broke. It was one of the rare executive departures in a transatlantic scheme that rocked so-called “Deutschland AG,” undermined confidence in one of Germany’s corporate pillars and forced the automaker to pay at least $16 billion in fines and settlements.

Six other former Volkswagen executives remain at large in the case, according to David Ashenfelter, a federal court spokesman. Experts have said Cox’s tough sentencing could make it unlikely that other indicted employees — most living in Germany and out of reach from U.S. law enforcement authorities — will be brought to justice in the scandal that marred Volkswagen’s image as an environmentally friendly company.

Schmidt worked at the German automaker’s Auburn Hills offices from 2012 to February 2015, and was arrested in Florida in January for his alleged involvement in what came to be known as Dieselgate. He had a base salary of $130,000, received bonuses of at least $40,000, and had a net worth over $1 million, Cox said Wednesday.

Schmidt pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to defraud the United States to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act; and for violating the Clean Air Act. A third charge of wire fraud was dropped.

David DuMouchel, Schmidt’s defense attorney, had asked that his client serve no more than 40 months and pay a $100,000 maximum fine. In a Nov. 29 letter addressed to Cox, Schmidt wrote: “The last eleven months behind bars in the United States has been the most difficult time in my life. I am truly embarrassed/ashamed to be standing in front of you.”

Wearing handcuffs and a red jumpsuit from the Milan federal prison along U.S. 23 in York Charter Township, Schmidt called Wednesday the hardest day of his life. He choked back tears as he apologized to his wife, who has a home in Michigan so she can visit him in prison.

“I accept the responsibility for the wrong I committed,” he said in court, reading from a prepared statement. “I justified my bad decisions. ... I am as ready as I will ever be to accept the punishment you believe is fair.”

Schmidt has said he was told in summer 2015 that Volkswagen had installed defeat devices on its so-called “clean diesel” vehicles that allowed pollution-control systems to work properly during laboratory emissions testing. But in normal driving, regulators have said, the cars emitted up to 40 times more smog-causing nitrogen oxide than the legal limit.

Schmidt admitted he did not disclose those illegal devices to officials during multiple telephone calls, meetings and filings. He wrote in his November letter that he should have disclosed those things, and that he felt “misused by my own company in the Diesel scandal.”

“Being arrested on the toilet of the airport in Miami by (eight) law enforcement officers and then being led to my wife in handcuffs was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life up until then,” he wrote in the letter to Cox. “This humiliation was surpassed by the public shaming that followed. My mugshot became the face of Dieselgate worldwide.”

DuMouchel on Wednesday asked for a smaller fine for Schmidt. He said his client has already been punished for his actions in a number of ways, and that he was not as involved in the scandal as other executives.

Prosecutors argued that Schmidt was “brazen” in the lies he told U.S. federal officials, and his role in the scandal was “important.”

Volkswagen AG, Europe’s largest automaker, pleaded guilty in March to three criminal charges related to the automaker’s decade-long conspiracy to evade U.S. emission standards. The company was fined a record-setting $2.8 billion and faces three years of probation.

In July 2016, Volkswagen reached a $14.7 billion civil agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency that calls for the automaker to spend $10 billion to buy back or repair about 475,000 2-liter diesel cars sold between 2009 and 2015. It also agreed to a $1.2 billion settlement with its American dealers.

Current and former Volkswagen executives were indicted in what regulators called a 10-year conspiracy to rig thousands of diesel cars to evade emission standards. Also charged: Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis and Jürgen Peter, all of Germany. Former Audi executive Giovanni Pamio, who is from Italy, reportedly was arrested by Munich authorities in July.

In late August, James Robert Liang, head of diesel compliance for Volkswagen from 2008 to June 2016, was sentenced to 40 months in prison and a $200,000 fine for his role in the worldwide scandal.

Liang and Schmidt were crucial parts of a conspiracy that defrauded the average U.S. consumer, Cox said from the bench: “You viewed this as your chance to shine,” he told Schmidt. “It is a very serious and troubling offense.”


Ford to bring 50 new
vehicles to China by 2025

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Dec 10, 2017

Ford Motor Co. wants to grow its share in the expansive Chinese auto market. To do that, experts say the company has to build more vehicles there that cater to Chinese drivers.

That includes electric vehicles.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett on Tuesday announced plans to bring 50 new vehicles to China over the next eight years. Fifteen of those will be either battery-electrics or plug-in hybrids. The company also said it will assemble five more vehicles in China for that market by 2019.

Ford is lagging nearly every global automaker in the world’s largest car market. Tuesday’s announcement outlines a nearly decade-long plan to establish relevance where people are buying the most vehicles, but Ford was late to the market.

Ford and Lincoln sold 938,570 vehicles in China through October of this year. By comparison, General Motors Co., sold 418,225 vehicles there in November alone. Along with its joint ventures, GM has sold more than 3.5 million vehicles in China with a month left in the year.

The plan marks the first sweeping list of goals outlined under Ford’s new CEO. Hackett in October told investors that he and his team plan to trim billions in operating costs and divert money from the development of passenger cars and internal combustion engines. Ford will invest those savings in trucks, SUVs and electric vehicles, but the company offered few specifics. Analysts say Tuesday’s plans show the importance of the Chinese market.

“The market is still extremely hot there,” said Dave Sullivan, manager of product analysis for AutoPacific. “The market there is twice as big as it is here. The luxury market is very big. Lincoln has a lot more potential than the Ford brand right now, but a lot of that success is going to come from being able to build in China.”

Ford has most recently found success in China with its Lincoln brand. The company said Tuesday that Lincoln will introduce more than a dozen electric vehicles and eight new SUVs there, and there’s reason to believe Ford might follow Lincoln’s path.

The Lincoln Continental released a year ago was designed for China with a plush, spacious back seat and airy cabin. The big sedan has helped bring customers to the Ford luxury brand there, where Lincoln is far more separated from the Blue Oval than it is in the U.S.

“The product has been designed with the Chinese customer in mind,” Amy Marentic, president of Lincoln China, told the Detroit News in a recent interview. “It just happens to work really well in the U.S. as well. We knew coming into the market as one of the last luxury brands to enter that we had to do something a little different.

“We’re still finding our way, but I do expect we will continue to grow.”

Lincoln sales have shot up 85 percent in China through October of this year.

Marentic believes the Chinese market will continue to lean toward electrics, driven largely by government mandates.

Her view is amplified by recent decisions at Ford. Less than a month ago, the company announced a $756 million Chinese joint venture with Chinese electric-vehicle giant Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. That partnership will launch a line of all-electric vehicles, the company says. Ford has a test center in China, and launched its Quick Lane service department there. As in the U.S., Ford plans for 100 percent of new vehicles sold in China be connected through embedded modems or plug-in devices by 2019.

The company also plans to manufacture its next-generation Focus in China and export them to the U.S. as a cost-saving measure. Another goal for Ford in China: improve revenue by 50 percent by 2025. The company made a $289 million profit there in the third quarter 2017 on a revenue of $3.7 billion.

The company will need to make a series of quick, strategic moves going forward to truly compete, according to analysts. That could include decisions to manufacture even more vehicles in China as import tariffs there begin to take a bigger toll. And it could mean more vehicles specifically designed for that market.

“Ford’s still a ways off,” said Sullivan. “They’re slow to react compared to their competition in China. Everyone understands how important it is to manufacture there, though.”



Ford ups investment at Flat
Rock, moves EV to Mexico

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Dec 7, 2017

Ford Motor Co. is scrapping plans to build an all-electric SUV at its Flat Rock Assembly Plant so it can concentrate on self-driving cars there and build the electrics in Mexico.

The change will allow the Dearborn-based automaker to manufacture greater numbers of its upcoming autonomous vehicles and will lead to more jobs at the Michigan plant, Ford spokesman Alan Hall said Wednesday night.

The hybrid-electric autonomous vehicle to be built at Flat Rock will be an entirely new model. To prepare for that, Ford will invest an additional $200 million at the plant over the next few years, Hall said. That’s in addition to the $700 million the company said in January it would invest to build electrics alongside self-drivers. It will add 250 more jobs above the 700 that had been promised earlier.

The latest plans were first reported Wednesday evening by the Wall Street Journal.

The low-margin electric vehicles ultimately will be cheaper for Ford to build in Mexico. But the move could draw the ire of President Donald Trump, who less than a year ago praised the company’s plan to build electrics at Flat Rock. During his campaign and early in his presidency, Trump frequently criticized U.S. automakers, singling out Ford multiple times, for plans to build factories outside of the U.S.

Hall said Ford is preparing Flat Rock for greater production volume of the hybrid autonomous vehicle that will come to market in 2021. Manufacturing the battery-electric SUV there wouldn’t have allowed the company to expand as much as it might need, so executives decided to build the SUV at Ford’s Cuautitlán Stamping and Assembly Plant in Mexico.

Ford in January announced it was scrapping plans to build a $1.6 billion in plant in Mexico, where it would have built the next-generation Ford Focus. Former CEO Mark Fields said then the company would instead invest $700 million at Flat Rock to make an electric SUV and a hybrid-electric autonomous vehicle. The company said then that the Focus would be built at an existing plant in Mexico.

But in June, those plans changed. Under new CEO Jim Hackett, the next-generation Focus will be built in China and imported to the U.S. It will be the first time Ford will import Chinese-made vehicles to the U.S. Ford said the change in plans will save the company $1 billion.

The switch appeared not to have registered with Trump, who has been known to tweet when an automaker announced foreign manufacturing plans.

The company has said moving production of the Focus to China will not result in any job cuts for U.S. hourly employees at the Michigan Assembly Plant where it’s currently produced. That plant in Wayne will be converted to make the new Ranger pickup starting in late 2018 and the new Bronco SUV in 2020 once Focus production is moved.

The all-new hybrid electric nameplate to be built at Flat Rock will function as Ford’s autonomous fleet vehicle. In a Wednesday evening blog post, Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president and president of global markets, wrote that the new vehicle will be “commercial grade” and “designed for purpose.”

The company currently tests its suite of sensors and software for the autonomous vehicles on hybrid Ford Fusions.

Farley wrote Ford will supply vehicles to partners based on the partners’ needs.

“Next year will be an important time for us as we begin to test both our self-driving technology and business model in a variety of pilot programs in the first city in which we plan to operate an autonomous vehicle business,” Farley wrote. “I can’t wait to share more with you about our plans and promise to do so throughout this journey we’re on to create the future.”


at Queens Park
for Long Term Care

Did you know that in many long term care facilities, personal support workers
have only six minutes in the morning to prepare residents for breakfast?

How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?  Residents in long-term care
facilities in Ontario only get 6 minutes. This means that residents in long term care
facilities aren’t getting the care they need and workers are rushed off their feet.

Lobbying for 4 hours of direct care per resident, per day in long term care

MPP Loren Coe - Oshawa - Whitby

MPP Harinder Malhi - Brampton - Springdale

MPP Wayne Gates - Niagara Falls Riding

Ian Chesney - Senior Policy Advisor - Ministers Office

Take the Six Minute Challenge


Chinese truck manufacturer to
open Ontario factory, Premier
says on trade trip

Chinese maker of electric trucks and buses to build
an assembly plant here within the next five years,
Kathleen Wynne says on Chinese trade trip

Toronto Star
By Rob FergusonQueen's
Park Bureau

Dec. 5, 2017

A leading Chinese manufacturer is planning to open an Ontario factory assembling as many as 900 electric vehicles in the next five years, Premier Kathleen Wynne says.

The move by BYD Company Ltd., which has a Canadian office in Windsor, would mean 20 to 30 jobs initially and position the province “at the front of the curve” in a growing field, Wynne told the Star from Shenzhen, China.

“It’s a very good connection to make,” said Wynne, who toured BYD’s operations on Friday as she wrapped up the mainland China portion of an Asian trade mission before moving on to Hong Kong and Vietnam.

“They are very much cutting edge and it looks like it could be a very big deal . . . . We’re really excited about working with them.”

The company confirmed the plans to build and finish vehicles — it specializes in delivery trucks, buses and taxis — in Ontario, where a plant location is yet to be announced.

“BYD is working on many significant orders that will bring final assembly to the province,” said a statement from the company, which is partnering with grocer Loblaws to electrify its fleet and working with public transit agencies.

The Toronto Transit Commission voted last month to buy 30 new electric buses from three main manufacturers for trial runs on routes in the city starting in 2019 as a precursor to larger orders.

“We look forward to working with the Ontario government to provide environmentally friendly transportation and energy storage options for its residents,” said BYD Canada vice-president Ted Dowling.

 ‘A nightmare for Donald Trump’: Flynn’s guilty plea puts spotlight on Kushner, the president himself Wynne said the plans of BYD, short for Build Your Dreams, are “a validation of us being at the front of the curve in terms of the new, advanced manufacturing in auto.

“We’ve got the capacity, because of our history in manufacturing, when a company looks at Ontario they know they can find the talent, find the skills,” she added.

“We’re part of a supply chain. We’re located in a good place, geographically.”

While Ontario remains a major manufacturer of traditional automobiles, production of gasoline-powered cars and trucks is expected to continue tailing off, as the industry moves to more environmentally friendly forms of transportation.

BYD, founded in 1995, is a world leader in rechargeable batteries and has operations and offices in more than 50 countries.

Wynne said her trade mission with International Trade Minister Michael Chan and more than 100 business people and academics has resulted in almost $1.9 billion in new deals, which are, collectively, expected to generate more than 2,100 new jobs.

Companies involved include iNano Medical Inc., which signed a $6-million agreement with China’s Medihealth Limited, to supply diagnostic devices used to detect colorectal cancer.

This is Wynne’s third trade trip to China and the last before next June’s provincial election.


John Cena sued for
flipping his Ford GT

In a suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, the automaker charges that Cena took delivery of the car in September. A few weeks later, Ford learned he had sold it.

The Detroit News
Dec 4, 2017

WWE wrestler-turned-actor John Cena is being sued by Ford Motor Co. for allegedly flipping his $463,000 Ford GT supercar for a profit in violation of an agreement that he would not sell it for two years.

In a suit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, the automaker charges that Cena took delivery of the car in September. A few weeks later Ford learned he had sold it.

The Dearborn automaker received about 6,500 online applications for the first 500 GTs to be produced as 2017 and 2018 model-year cars.

Not just anyone can buy the 647-horsepower supercar: Ford implemented a rigorous vetting process that included previous GT ownership, activity on social media, and signing a legal document stating they wouldn’t selling it for 24 months. Among the big names in line were Jay Leno and Justin Verlander.

On Nov. 3, Ford offered to buy back the Liquid Blue GT for the purchase price and said “they could discuss how to address the profit he received from the unauthorized resale.” (Photo: Youtube)

In the suit, Ford says Cena admitted to selling the car along with other assets to liquidate for cash to take care of expenses. When the automaker told him he had violated the agreement, he allegedly texted the company saying: “I completely understand and as stated am willing to work with you and Ford to make it right. My sincerest apologies.”

On Nov. 3, Ford offered to buy back the Liquid Blue GT for the purchase price and said “they could discuss how to address the profit he received from the unauthorized resale.”

To date, the suit says, Cena has “not made it right.”

“Mr. Cena has improperly benefited to Ford’s detriment by receiving a large profit from the resale. Ford also has lost almost two years of ambassadorship and brand value that Mr. Cena would have offered by owning the vehicle for the contractually required time,” the complaint concludes. “Moreover, the unlawful resale bypassed a line of people waiting to purchase the vehicle through the program, thus affecting Ford’s goodwill and customer relationships.”

The company seeks unspecified damages and recovery of what it calls a “large profit from the resale.”

The GT is powered by the automaker’s 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine. But the GT engine kicks it up several notches with custom pistons, rods, turbos and cams that help it get more than 600 horsepower. The supercar includes a number of light-weighting tricks, including a carbon-fiber tub and a gorilla-glass windshield that is 12 pounds lighter than a traditional windshield.


Ford November sales up;
GM, FCA down

The Detroit News
Dec 3, 2017

Ford Motor Co. was the only Detroit automaker to report a sales increase in November, despite Black Friday offers lasting all month.

The Blue Oval’s sales were up 6.7 percent while General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles saw sales declines of 2.9 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

Ford’s increases were driven by a good month for trucks and SUVs, with the Explorer up nearly 25 percent and the F-Series posting a nearly 1 percent gain compared to November 2016.

GM fell 2.9 percent on a tough month for the GMC brand amid declining fleet sales, with the Canyon pickup and Yukon each down about 26 percent.

Despite significant gains for FCA’s Jeep Compass and Cherokee, the Jeep brand’s sales fell 2 percent. The Dodge brand was down 15 percent and Ram trucks declined 5 percent with pickups sales remaining flat last month. Chrysler was the only brand to post an increase in November, up 14 percent on a hot month for the Pacifica minivan, which saw a 51 percent increase in deliveries.

Analysts are expecting overall auto sales to pick up in November, driven by incentives and Black Friday deals.

“Usually, the first two weeks of the month are slow, especially before a holiday,” Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell said in a statement. “But this year retailers are pushing the Black Friday bargains throughout the entire month of November, and it's putting everyone in a buying mood. It also doesn't hurt that automakers are starting to really sweeten the deals to clear out lingering 2017s and end this year on a high note.”

Edmunds is forecasting a seasonally adjusted annual selling rate of 17.8 million in November, putting the industry on pace for another record-breaking year, while others are more conservative. Kelley Blue Book is predicting a SAAR around 17.1 million in November

After a record year of sales in 2016 and seven consecutive annual increases, Kelley Blue Book's forecast for 2017 calls for sales in the range of 17 and 17.2 million units, which represents a 1.5 to 3 percent decrease from last year.




Passes away
November 28, 2017


Retired Feb 1, 1995
27.6 Years

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Retiree Arnold Van Beurden who passed away November 28, 2017 in his 88th year. He will be sadly missed by his daughter Arlene Rudolph, active local 584 member and his entire family.

On behalf of all the retirees we would like to express our deepest condolences to the Van Beurden Family.

A private family ceremony is to take place and some time in December there will be a celebration of life with details to follow.

Arnold Van Beurden

Nov 28, 2017

Arnold Van Beurden

of Palmerston and formerly of Meaford passed away suddenly at the Palmerston and District Hospital on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 in his 88th year.  Beloved husband of Clara (Van Herwynen)  for 64 years.  Dear father of Mary and Henry Post of Palmerston, Jack and Barb Van Beurden of Brampton, John Van Beurden and his fiancé  Cary Ledingham of Markdale and Arlene and Gary Rudolph of Brampton. Cherished grandfather of Peter and Michelle Post, Michael and Lisa Post, Robin Bachelor, Bryan Post; Karen and Colin Dobson, Mark Van Beurden and his fiancé Vanessa Hymans and Amanda Van Beurden; Alyssa and Shawn Dixon,  Sean and Becca Van Beurden; Weston Rudolph and Colton Rudolph. Great grandfather of Elsie, Abigail, Clara, Mila, Braedon, Charley and Brock. Brother of Riekie and Jo Thyssen and Cor and Miet Van Beurden all of the Netherlands. Predeceased by his brother Martin and Riet Van Beurden. Arnold was a retired employee from the Ford Motor Company.

To honour Arnold’s wishes cremation has taken place and there will be no period of visitation or funeral service. A private family celebration will take place at a later date.

In lieu of flowers and as expressions of sympathy donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation would be appreciated by the family.




Lincoln Navigator,
luxury suite on wheels

The Detroit News
Nov 30, 2017

The Lincoln Navigator is a rolling condo. Big enough to comfortably seat six and sleep four, with lush interior trimmings, Wi-Fi connectivity and 30-way seats that make BarcaLoungers feel like lawn chairs, it shames most second homes.

I have one criticism: Where’s the fridge?

An icebox is about the only feature that is missing from this 181/2-foot long, 61/2-foot-high, $95,000 masterpiece of luxury. It needs to be. As Lincoln charts its premium comeback, it needs home runs like the Navigator to navigate the treacherous shores of six-figure luxury. An impressive navy of hulking battle ships sail these waters, including the Cadillac Escalade, Land Rover HSR, Mercedes GLS and Infiniti QX80.

Lincoln does not shy from the fight. It brings the big guns:

1. Big power from the same twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6 engine that beats at the heart of the Ford F-150 Raptor, the baddest truck ever built. Stomp the Navi’s gas, and its roars like King Kong at dinner time. Call it the Lincoln Raptor.

2. Biggest towing capacity (8,700 pounds) in its class, courtesy of the same bones as the F-series, the most capable pickup hauler on the planet.

3. Biggest heads-up display.

4. Biggest seating capacity.

5. Biggest moonroof.

6. Biggest fuel economy numbers thanks to that turbocharged six — and Lincoln’s first application of a 10-speed tranny (co-engineered with Ford and GM) that drives other rear-wheel drive performance powerhouses like the Camaro ZL1 and Raptor.

But if you think all this brawn makes the Navigator look like a sumo wrestler on steroids, you’d be wrong. Because the remarkable thing about this land yacht is how elegant it is from stem to stern.

The grille is 10 stories high, but modeled after the same Jaguar-esque sculpture that first graced the Lincoln Continental and MKZ sedans. It’s a piece of art (replacing the split-wing grille that always looked awkward on big utes — like wings on a rhino) with little Lincoln logos knitted into a honeycomb pattern. Anchored by a centered, giant Lincoln logo, the grille begins a theatrical welcome — “Embrace,” it’s called — when you approach the big ute.

The logo glows, lighting a path from the LEDs in the headlights, to the lighted door handles, and finally, Lincoln’s signature, horizontal rear lights. Big, illuminated running boards unfold from beneath the car to meet you. To complete the introduction, the mirrors sport LED lights that project the Lincoln logo on the pavement — think of it as a welcome mat. It’s a dazzling display that stopped passersby in their tracks one night in the lot where I parked.

It’s the best show this side of the Tesla Model X’s automatic-driver system and falcon-wing doors. I pined for the original Navigator concept that dropped jaws at the 2016 New York Auto Show with its own gull-wing doors and cascading, fold-out, three-tier steps.

Given that Tesla’s complicated falcon doors delayed production almost two years, it’s probably best that Navigator left the gull-wings in the attic.

The “turbine wheels” on my top-trim, Black Label $96,570 Navigator tester (hey, condos ain’t cheap) are worth the added price. These pinwheels are a nice complement to the ute’s long, horizontal lines. The English accent is unmistakable — from the Jag grille to the Range Rover floating roof and blacked-out C pillar.

But the exterior gift wrap is for the real treat inside. Lincoln has been resolute in following its own premium path. While other luxury brands chase Teutonic athleticism (Caddy, Alfa and Acura), Lincoln claims “quiet luxury.”

You won’t find YouTube videos of camo-wrapped Lincoln’s chasing Nurburgring lap records or jetting down drag strips posting ludicrous zero-60 times. Instead, Lincoln wants to sink you into a recliner, turn up the stereo and deliver you to your destination on a flying carpet. It works.

Easing into the Lincoln’s interior is less like driving and more like settling into a wealthy pal’s basement infotainment man cave. The 30-way thrones are exquisite with automatic, door-mounted adjustments for the head, upper and lower back — even each thigh. Only an ottoman is missing, though the Navigator’s pedal adjusters are close enough. After you’ve tweaked everything to your liking, the console screen will create a “Personal Profile” that recognizes you (and two other drivers) each time you arrive at the club — er, SUV — and adjusts the cabin accordingly.

The front “floating console” should be on display at Art Van. My tester console was laser-cut out of a maroon khaya wood; the mahogany’s continuous grain runs across the cupholder and smartphone (recharging) compartments courtesy of Yamaha piano makers’ laser-etching technique. I’m not making this up. Speaking of piano keys, Lincoln’s push-button, electronic tranny has been replaced by more workable “piano keys” — an elegant touch, though I find GMC’s similar “trigger” transmission even better.

In the middle of acres of stitched, wooded dashboard, an elegant, silver-rimmed tablet rises above the console — though the Lincoln’s superb, steering wheel/voice control-operated, digital instrument display meant I rarely had to take my eyes off the road to poke at its touch screen. Even the console-mounted drive modes — Conserve, Normal, Normal 4x4, Slippery, Sport, Ocean Liner (making that last one up) — are introduced with colorful, digital graphics that might have come out of Lucas Studios.

Speaking of technology, the Navigator can park itself. Using hands-free, self-driving software pioneered on Ford’s Escape, this ocean liner will parallel-park and perpendicular-park into the tightest of spaces. All you have to do is control the brake. Meanwhile, second- and third-row passengers can kick back in living-room comfort. Like the F-150, Navigator saves 600 pounds with an aluminum skin — but the Navigator has plowed its weight-savings into interior quiet and independent rear suspension for effortless motoring.

Both rows get USB ports and Wi-Fi connectivity (up to eight devices). Second-row passengers can also control the radio. Or occupants can just flatten the rear rows, go horizontal (at 6-foot-5 I fit easily), under the biggest moonroof in autodom, and stargaze. Mrs. Payne and I did.

Navigator chief program engineer Andrew Kernahan is a British ex-pat and says he’d like to see Queen Elizabeth park her Land Rovers and try a Lincoln Navigator for a change.

If she did it would be a national scandal. But she would also be treating herself to an SUV worthy of the crown.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

2018 Lincoln Navigator

Vehicle type

Front-engine, rear- or all-wheel drive,

seven- or eight-passenger SUV


3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6


10-speed automatic


5,685-6,056 pounds (5,855 Navigator AWD as tested)


$73,250 base ($96,570 — Black Label as tested)


450 horsepower, 510 pound-feet torque


0-60 mph, 5.2 sec. (Car and Driver est.);

8,700-pound towing capacity

Fuel economy

EPA mpg est. 16 city/23 hwy/19 mpg combined (4x2);

EPA mpg est. 16 city/21 hwy/18 mpg combined (4x4)

Report card ★★★


Stylish condo on wheels; self-park feature


Can a Lincoln command $90K?; piano shifter even better

if it used “trigger” keys

Overall: ★★★★

Grading scale

Excellent ★★★★Good ★★★Fair ★★Poor ★


How Ford City helped create
union laws Canada has today

'Bitter... pivotal strike in the union movement'
that established unions, says historian

Raising funds for Christmas baskets for needy Windsor families Roy England, left, President of the Ford local of the United Automobile Workers Union, and Rhys M. Sale, Ford of Canada President, sell Christmas editions of the Goodfellows Club newspaper outside the factory. The club sponsors the campaign. (The Canadian Press)

CBC News
Nov 29, 2017

Ford City has a rich history of people working to build automobiles, but it's the day that 17,000 employees at the Ford Motor Company plant stopped assembling them that may have had the farthest reaching impact on the industrial landscape in Canada.

When the strike started on September 12, 1945 the Ford Motor Company in Windsor was the largest employer in Canada following the war.

"Ford City...was very much at the forefront of the union movement," said Herb Colling, an author who is finishing a book on Ford City and wrote 99 Days: The Ford Strike In Windsor, 1945.

Colling said the "pivotal, bitter" strike hinged on two things: union security and better collection of union dues.

"The men had just returned from war and they didn't want to be dictated to when they returned to their jobs," said Colling, sitting inside of his writer's room in Belle River.

Workers at Ford in Windsor created their union in the early 1940's, but by 1944 the company had started to return to pre-war conditions, according to Colling.

Author Herb Colling said that the 99-day strike was a pivotal and bitter step in the union movement for Canada. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

"Ford said 'Well we don't really want this union thing here so maybe what we should do is get rid of the union and if you really want a union - we'll set one up for you,'" said Colling.

After long negotiations, employees decided to go on strike.

"As I said a very bitter strike, but a very pivotal strike in the union movement because it established what we know of unions today," said Colling.

Strike Conditions

Workers parked cars on the street blocking off sections of Ford City as they were on strike — mainly at Riverside Drive and Drouillard Road.

"They just plugged up those intersections and they called it a model T that Ford wouldn't like," laughs Colling.

He said there was a lot of community support, with gifts of food from people in the neighbourhood. The movement even gained support from the city's mayor at the time, Arthur Reaume.

"He basically more or less sided with the union which kept him in power," said Colling

Employees working at the Ford factory in Windsor. (CBC)

But some of the tactics used by striking workers went beyond picket lines and protest signs.

"They shut the plant down," said Colling. "They kicked out management, they kicked out all the non-union workers, they kicked out workers that weren't within their union and they just shut the whole place down."

Rand Formula

In December workers voted to go back on the job while a federally appointed arbitrator reviewed the two sides' positions: Supreme Court judge Ivan Rand.

The 99-day strike in 1945 led to the Rand formula that's used by unions across Canada today. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

That's where the Rand formula was born.

"It established that you didn't have to belong to the union or join the union but you did have to pay dues - and the company would collect those dues," said Colling.

Rand also made a point of condemning both the union and the company for their behaviour during the strike while instituting financial penalties for unions that starts an illegal or 'wildcat' strike.


Detroit automakers to VP:
Retreat from NAFTA demands

Keith Laing,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
November 28, 2017

Washington — Detroit automakers pressed Vice President Mike Pence on Monday to pump the brakes on proposed changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement that they say could add thousands to the cost of a car in the United States.

Pence met Monday with General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne and Ford Motor Co. Executive Vice President and President of Global Operations Joe Hinrichs in Washington. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn also attended.

Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, which lobbies for Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler, said in a statement that automakers used the face-to-face meeting with Pence to “directly address the industry’s concerns” about the Trump administration’s proposal for increasing the minimum percentage of parts that must be made in the U.S. for a car to qualify for duty-free treatment under NAFTA.

Blunt said automakers pushed Pence to tell President Donald Trump to focus instead on boosting protections in NAFTA against foreign governments manipulating their fiscal policies to ensure the U.S. dollar trades lower against their currencies. They also said U.S. auto safety standards should be adopted by any potential U.S. trading partner.

“We believe achieving inclusion of strong and enforceable currency discipline and ensuring foreign markets accept products built to our standards are important components of a modern NAFTA agreement,” Blunt said.

Detroit carmakers referred requests for comment about the meeting to the industry group. An aide to Pence said the vice president discussed Trump’s “commitment to grow manufacturing in the United States, reduce trade deficits and strengthen the U.S. auto industry.”

U.S. negotiators have proposed increasing the minimum percentage of parts that must be made in the U.S., Canada or Mexico — from 62.5 percent to 85 percent — in order to escape tariffs when imported to this country. And they want to require that 50 percent of parts must come from the U.S. Canada and Mexico have thus far rejected what they see as hardline proposals from the U.S.

The fifth round of talks wrapped up in Mexico City last week with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel. The three nations have pushed the deadline for hammering out a new agreement into early 2018, but hope for a deal appears to be dwindling. The next round of NAFTA talks are scheduled for Jan. 23-28 in Montreal.

Automakers have pushed back strongly against the Trump administration’s efforts to upend NAFTA provisions they find favorable. Groups that lobby in Washington for Detroit’s manufacturers and their foreign-based counterparts, as well as parts manufacturers and dealerships, banded together in a rare show of unity to form a coalition called “Driving American Jobs” to fight the Trump administration’s proposed NAFTA changes.

They say NAFTA has been integral to the car industry’s resurgence, and that abandonment of the trade agreement could have the unintended effects of killing U.S. jobs, increasing the price of cars and disrupting supply chains.

Economists disagree on the potential impact to Michigan and other auto-dependent states in the Midwest. Forecasters at the University of Michigan have estimated that Michigan would gain 6,400 jobs by 2020 in a “soft withdrawal” from NAFTA, in which Mexico and the U.S. do not place additional tariffs on each other’s exports. The economists said a “hard” withdrawal, in which the countries slap retaliatory tariffs on one another, would cost Michigan 7,000 jobs by 2020, with 3,900 of them coming from the manufacturing sector.

Gabriel Ehrlich, director of research seminar in quantitative economics at UM, said automakers would likely build more trucks domestically if the U.S. withdraws from NAFTA, but he said production of small cars now built in Mexico would likely go to Asia if tariffs are enacted.

A separate study from Fitch Ratings found Michigan would be the state most harmed by changes to NAFTA because its economy is “the most interconnected of all U.S. states with Canada and Mexico.” Michigan sends 43 percent of exports to Canada and 22 percent to Mexico, according to the study. The state received 36 percent of its imports from Canada and another 36 percent from Mexico.

Renegotiating NAFTA was a central tenet of Trump’s campaign as he promised voters he would bring back jobs. NAFTA was enacted in 1994 to create a free-trade zone between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

On the campaign trail, Trump said he would end the trade pact with Canada and Mexico and slap a 10 percent to 35 percent tariff on vehicles and parts made in Mexico that are imported into the U.S. if NAFTA renegotiation is not a success. That could add $5,000 to $15,000 to the price of a car.

Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry, Labor and Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research, said the biggest impact of the U.S. withdrawing from NAFTA would likely be felt in the truck segment.

“GM, FCA, Toyota and Nissan are all exposed on that,” she said. “Toyota’s whole plan for their new plant in the U.S. was to free up space in Mexico to build more trucks. If they’re going to be paying a 25 percent tariff, they may have to rethink that.”

Without NAFTA, pickups and SUVs built in Canada or Mexico and then sold in the U.S. would be subject to a 25 percent duty imposed by former President Lyndon Johnson. Passenger cars and most other goods that are traded would be hit with a 2.5 percent tariff.


Revology Cars resurrects the
1967 Shelby GT500 Mustang

Fox News
Nov 27, 2017

Ford may get around to building a new Shelby GT500 one of these days, but now you can buy a new one that looks like the old one.

Revology Cars has unveiled at the SEMA show in Las Vegas an officially-licensed reproduction of the 1967 version of the classic muscle car built on a modern platform.

The Florida-based company already sells several Mustang models, each with all-new bodywork, drivetrains, suspensions and engines.

The GT500 features picture-perfect styling, but comes powered by a new Roush Performance supercharged 5.0-liter V8 rated at 600 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque.

The double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear with Panhard rod and adjustable coilover shocks were developed to give the car 21st Century ride and handling characteristics, and it comes loaded with power everything, navigation and a Bluetooth connection.

The interior stays true to the original’s, with highback seats and a wooden steering wheel, but is trimmed with premium wood, leather, steel and aluminum materials and uses high tech instruments designed to fit the period-correct gauge cluster.

Another thing it has in common with the authentic 1967 car is the price. At least the prices they sell for today.

The Revology GT500 starts at $219,000, but it does come with a one-year bumper-to-bumper/two-years powertrain/five year body warranty.


Little Lincoln MKC
refreshed for 2019
with big car style and tech

By Gary Gastelu
Fox News
Nov 26, 2017

The MKC is Lincoln’s smallest model, but the compact SUV is one of its top sellers and a gateway for new buyers to the brand’s more expensive offerings, like the Continental and Navigator.

The refreshed 2019 MKC set to make its public debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show better resembles those by adopting Lincoln’s new rounded-rectangle mesh grille design and enhances the ownership experience with a standard pickup and delivery service for maintenance visits that includes a loaner vehicle.

The MKC also gains a pedestrian-detecting automatic emergency braking system to complement its available lane-departure warning, semi-automated parking assist and adaptive cruise control systems, while its four-cylinder engine choices remain a 245 hp turbocharged 2.0-liter and 285 hp turbocharged 2.3-liter, both mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel-drive.

Prices haven’t been announced for when it hits showrooms next summer, but they shouldn’t be too much higher than the 2018 MKC’s, which start around $34,000 and run over $50,000 for a fully-loaded Black Label that features high end trim materials and additional services including free car washes and an annual detailing.


Ford opens first proving
ground in China

Vehicles drive on the newly-opened Nanjing Test Center, Ford’s first vehicle testing facility in China

Nora Naughton,
The Detroit News
Nov 25, 2017

Ford Motor Co. is opening its first vehicle testing facility in China, the company announced Friday.

The new test center in Nanjing, China, where Ford already runs a research and engineering center, is the automaker’s first in the world’s largest auto market. The Nanjing Test Center and accompanying MakeSpace creative hub represent $100 million of the company’s roughly $200 million investment in Nanjing.

The opening of the test center comes as Ford and other automakers scramble to expand in the rapidly growing Chinese auto market. The Dearborn-based automaker is also partnering with Chinese electric-vehicle giant Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. in a $756 million joint venture to sell all-electric vehicles there.

The roughly 160-acre proving ground in Nanjing will allow Ford to more quickly develop cars for the Chinese market. It features 80 different types of road surfaces conditions, a nearly two-mile-long test track and an emissions testing facility.

The Nanjing Test Center will foster the development of next-generation vehicles for the Chinese market, as well as well the certification of imported vehicles like the Explorer and Mustang. Ford in 2016 sold a record 1.27 million vehicles in China. Over the next three years, the company plans to export nearly $10 billion in product from North America to China.

“Nobody knows the needs of Chinese drivers better than our local engineers,” Trevor Worthington, Ford’s vice president of Asia Pacific product development said in a statement. “The NTC will now allow us to test their designs quickly and easily, reducing time-to-market for future Ford products.”


NAFTA is sinking, and
Canada needs a lifeboat

The Globe and Mail
November 24, 2017

There was zero progress at the North American free-trade agreement renegotiations in Mexico this week. In fact, the talks took a decidedly backward step, with the United States refusing to move off its red-line positions, something that was predictable given the updated negotiating objectives released by the U.S. Trade Representative ahead of this week's session.

This is an "America First" administration, after all, with no interest in accommodation, increasing the likelihood of eventual U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, an action that President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened, in spite of intensifying business and political pressures to the contrary.

Given that gloomy prospect, let's look at how things could unfold over the next while, bearing in mind that things are fluid and the situation could change.

First, the negotiations could soon end, even ahead of the 2018 deadline, either with an American walkout or with all three negotiating teams agreeing that there's no point in continuing the process. It could be ended definitively or just suspended for the time being. Ending or suspending the negotiations doesn't terminate the NAFTA, however. It's what happens next that counts.

With negotiations at an impasse, Mr. Trump could send in the six-month U.S. withdrawal notification required under NAFTA Article 2205 – which says that a party "may" withdraw from the agreement on six months' notice – attempting to ratchet up the pressure on Canada and Mexico with the threat of formal withdrawal hovering in the background.

After the six-month period ends and without Canada and Mexico caving on U.S. demands, Mr. Trump could send Canada and Mexico the definitive U.S. withdrawal notice. If he does and the U.S. walks out, that doesn't terminate the NAFTA as a binding treaty. Under Article 2205, it continues in force between Canada and Mexico. More on this point later.

Here's where things get more difficult to predict.

If Mr. Trump notifies U.S. withdrawal without congressional approval, Congress could try to thwart him, a point discussed before on these pages. The Canadian government has been assiduously lobbying congressional leaders and committees – in both the House and the Senate – in a massive and well-orchestrated full-court press, the strategy being to ensure that if and when NAFTA withdrawal is put to the Congress, both houses will turn it down.

Whether that would happen is a good question. Sentiment in Democratic and Republican caucuses has shifted decidedly toward protectionism, thanks to Mr. Trump's own rhetoric and Bernie Sanders' anti-free-trade crusade on the Democratic side.

Moreover, Congress is fully preoccupied with enacting tax reform legislation and won't jeopardize those efforts by confronting the President on trade matters. On this hypothesis, if Mr. Trump seeks approval, some observers predict Congress would vote in favour of withdrawal. That's a discouraging prospect.

Whatever Congress does or does not do, there will be immediate court action by opposition groups seeking a restraining order and putting the issue of presidential authority versus the powers of Congress on trial. The argument is that Congress has exclusive constitutional authority over international trade plus the fact that neither Fast-Track nor the NAFTA Implementation Act contains withdrawal authority, meaning only Congress can authorize a U.S. pullout.

The result will be ongoing uncertainty as U.S. courts deal with an epic constitutional battle. In the meantime, the NAFTA struggles along as a leaky vessel, as business tries to navigate these legally and politically roiling waters.

It's always possible that with negotiations suspended, Mr. Trump won't try to force through formal U.S. withdrawal, at least initially, but could tweet his annoyance at Canada and Mexico as unfair trading partners, accusing each as unwilling to compromise, and using extensive executive powers to tighten the screws to force both countries back to the bargaining table. Under this scenario, goodwill would dissipate, making it impossible to settle trade wars like softwood lumber and the Boeing-Bombardier battle, or even more mundane trade irritants.

If Mr. Trump actually tossed the NAFTA withdrawal grenade, he would likely include withdrawing from the 1989 Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement as well, which has similar withdrawal provisions. He could then say, notwithstanding lack of congressional approval and ongoing court challenges, that he's prepared to sit down and talk with Canada about a totally new bilateral trade deal. Indeed, judging from his public comments, that seems to be the White House strategy.

As stated earlier, NAFTA says that if one party withdraws, the agreement isn't terminated but remains in force for the other two parties, meaning Canada and Mexico. How does Canada (or Mexico for that matter) sit down face-to-face with the Americans when they are still legally bound to each other under the agreement?

What does the Trudeau government do? Does it refuse any Trump invitation for new bilateral talks? It's a challenging question but needs to be considered because that seems to be where we are heading.

All this says navigating these stormy and perilous waters in the next weeks won't be easy. The good ship NAFTA is in danger of sinking. Canadians need to have lifeboats ready.

Lawrence Herman of Herman & Associates is a former Canadian diplomat who practices international trade law. He is a senior fellow of the C.D. Howe Institute.


Patricia Ann Grasby

In Loving Memory
1937 - 2017

Obituary of Patricia Grasby

Grasby, Patricia Ann "Pat"- Peacefully on Wednesday November 22nd, 2017 at the Georgetown Hospital. Pat, in her 81st year, wife of the late George Grasby. Loving mother of Steve (Margie), Bob, Leanne Reynolds and Carolyn (Marc) Bertrand. Cherished and proud Nanny of Krista, Shauna, Nic (Elisha), Melissa (Matt), Stephanie, Kyle, Brad, Dan, Brett and Eric. Great Nanny of Cohan, Braylyn and Gabryela. Dear sister of Debbie Snook (Pius). Predeceased by her sister Mary Elizabeth Erwin. Dear aunt of Charlie, Trisha and Erin. Friends will be received at the J.S. Jones & Son Funeral Home 11582 Trafalgar Rd., north of Maple Ave., Georgetown 905-877-3631 on Sunday November 26th, 2017 from 12:00 noon until time of funeral service held in the chapel at 1:00 p.m. Interment Hillcrest Cemetery, Norval. In memory, contributions to the Canadian Diabetes Association or a charity of your choice would be appreciated. To send expressions of sympathy visit www.jsjonesandsofuneralhome.com



Ford could exit parts of
South America to cut losses

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Nov 23, 2017

Ford Motor Co. could soon present a fix for the millions of dollars it loses in South America, which might mean exiting parts of the region.

J.P. Morgan analyst Ryan Brinkman wrote in a note issued Tuesday that the automaker’s leadership is considering “an out-of-the-box transformational plan to stanch what it deems as unacceptable losses in South America which we expect could be announced over the short-term. Ford is evaluating strategies in relation to doing business in emerging markets overall. ... It could also entail selective exits from certain markets.”

“South America remains important to our overall business operations and we continue to focus to make it operationally fit,” said Said Deep, a Ford spokesman said.

While the company reported a $1.7-billion profit in the third quarter, it lost $158 million in South America. That was the third consecutive loss there this year. Since 2011, the company has lost $2.6 billion in that region, including $1.1 billion last year.

Analysts have said that exiting that market could immediately boost profits. Ford has given no indication it plans to leave any region of the world, a once-unthinkable notion that General Motors Co. already is doing. GM ended 20 years of loses in Europe by ditching those operations this year. It cost GM $3 billion this quarter, but the company’s top executives say it will bring long-term shareholder value and growth for a company seeing a surging share price in recent months.

Brinkman also wrote Tuesday that Ford is expecting challenges in Europe due to electrification demand there the company will have a hard time meeting.


Canada Pension Plan
is safe for generations,
says CEO of
investment board

Lisa Wright
Toronto Star
Nov. 22, 2017

In his travels to every province and one territory over the last 17 months, British-born Mark Machin was struck most by one thing about Canadians.

“There’s still this myth that’s circulating that the Canada Pension Plan won’t be there when you retire,” said the CEO of the CPP Investment Board, the largest pension fund in the country that manages a $328-billion investment portfolio on behalf of 20 million Canadian workers and retirees.

“You ask the average person — stop anyone on the street — and they’ll say the CPP won’t be there . . . . It’s amazing,” Machin said.

“Overall it’s the envy of the world.”

So the first person from outside of Canada to head up the independent investment arm of the Canada Pension Plan is now on a mission to reassure Canadians that the fund is safe and healthy for generations to come, even in the face of inevitable economic and stock market fluctuations.

Don’t just take the former Goldman Sachs executive’s word for it. The chief actuary of Canada regularly reviews the financial state of the fund and measures its sustainability, and last year estimated the fund is sustainable for 75 years — until 2091 — with an average rate of return of 3.9 per cent.

The CPPIB says its 10-year annual rate of return after accounting for expenses and inflation was 5.2 per cent, and was 10.5 per cent over each of the last five years — well above the threshold set by the chief actuary.

The widely diversified portfolio is invested across 50 countries, including ownership stakes in a slew of assets few Canadians are aware of, from First Canadian Place and Highway 407 to Viking Cruises and the entertainment conglomerate that owns the Ultimate Fighter Championship (Machin pointed out the UFC is very popular with millennials).

He said that in financial circles around the world, the CPP is renowned as “a smart, sophisticated global investor. So I come to Canada and it really surprised me that people around the country who are contributing their hard-earned money into the CPP don’t know what’s going on,” said Machin, who took over the post in June 2016 after running the board’s international division in Hong Kong.

“We have delegations coming from all over the world here to figure out how we do it, what are the elements that make this so successful in Canada.”

Machin said that’s mainly due to “some really brave and far-sighted things” the Canadian government did in the 1990s to fix the then-faultering pension system, which was formed in 1966 (coincidentally the year Machin was born in Cheshire, England.)

Back then there were 6.5 workers for every Canadian retiree. But by 1993, amid falling birth rates and longer life expectancy, benefits paid out started to be higher than contributions and investment income coming in. Projections showed that by 2055, there would also only be two workers per retiree.

So in 1997, Ottawa did two things: raised contribution rates and created the CPPIB as an arm’s-length organization investing the assets of the CPP outside of what was needed for benefit payments to ensure its financial viability into the future.

“Our job is to grow that pot of money so that there’s more than enough to pay the benefits whenever they’re needed,” said Machin.

Though the chief actuary warned in 1995 that there would be nothing left in the fund by 2015 if the status quo continued, it took up until 2015, coincidentally, before investment income exceeded cumulative net contributions, the board said. That year the fund returned 18.7-per-cent interest and had climbed to approximately $265 billion.

As of Sept. 30, the fund reported assets of $328.2 billion. The fund has about $3 billion extra coming in from contributions than is needed to pay the benefits in any year.

Starting in 2021 however, the CPP is expected to begin using a small portion of CPPIB investment earnings to supplement the contributions that constitute the primary means of funding benefits.

Last year the government also announced an “enhanced” CPP that will increase benefits paid out — although many years down the road — through an increase in contributions over five years starting in 2019.

Another reason for the CPP’s success, Machin notes, is that the investment board is free of political interference so that government can’t dip into the fund to take money out when times are bad or good.

“We are protected by an act of Parliament. To change that act of Parliament is a higher bar than to change the Constitution of Canada. That’s part of the secret sauce,” he said.

Though the investment mix has shifted in recent years from roughly 70 per cent equity “equivalent” (since it includes public and private investments) and 30 per cent fixed income to a more aggressive 85-15 ratio, Machin said he is comfortable with the investment strategy, despite fears of an impending market correction after years of bull markets.

“We think it’s an appropriate level of risk for a long-term investor like us,” he said, adding their experts put the investment model through rigorous stress tests. “You can’t make returns without taking some risks,” he added.

The fund is also invested 82 per cent outside Canada. Though Machin said that might seem like a lot to some, Canada represents less than 3 per cent of world financial markets so given that, the investment on home turf is quite substantial.

“We have a really simple mandate: to maximize returns without undue risk of loss,” noted Machin, who began spreading his upbeat outlook at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto on Monday and will appear later this week in Ottawa and Vancouver.

“The system is sustainable and we’ve got a group of people here in Toronto to make sure the money’s there and is invested wisely both in Canada and around the world on their behalf.”


Canada’s unions call
anti-pension bill
C-27 a betrayal

Wednesday, November 21, 2016

Canada’s unions are organizing against Bill C-27 a new piece of federal legislation that enables Crown corporations and federal private-sector employers to back out of defined-benefit pension commitments.

“This bill was announced without consultation or advance notice, though it directly contradicts election promises to stabilize and improve retirement security,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff, who wrote a letter to Finance Minister Bill Morneau outlining the CLC’s opposition to the bill.

Currently, defined-benefit (DB) pensions provide stability and security to employees because employers are legally obliged to fund employees’ earned benefits. Already earned benefits are legally protected. Bill C-27 removes employers’ legal requirements to fund plan benefits, which means that benefits could be reduced going forward or even retroactively. Even people already retired could find their existing benefits affected, after paying in their entire working lives.

The bill would also invite employers to establish inferior, less-secure target-benefit (TB) plans, and persuade individual members to give up their DB benefits in exchange for the new plan.

“Bill C-27 invites employers and other plan sponsors to abandon their pension promises to employees and retirees, downloading virtually all plan risks brought on by market volatility from employers to workers and retirees,” Yussuff wrote to Morneau. “This is an unconscionable betrayal of the legal rights and protections of plan members.”

In 2014 Stephen Harper’s Conservatives launched public consultations on a similar framework, but after overwhelmingly negative feedback from unions, retirees and other stakeholders, they scuttled the idea. 

“This is very dangerous legislation that was even rejected by Harper’s Conservatives, and I’m urging the current government to abandon it now,” said Yussuff.

Yussuff noted the sole jurisdiction where employers are allowed to back out of promises to pay already-earned DB pensions is New Brunswick. Since 2012, when New Brunswick’s Conservative government introduced their legislation, New Brunswick has seen class action lawsuits, constitutional challenges, and plummeting defined-benefit planned membership. 

“Instead of following the Conservatives’ example, we urge the federal government to strengthen and expand pension and retirement security. If they instead go ahead with C-27, we are prepared to work very hard to ensure Canadians’ opposition is heard loud and clear,” said Yussuff. 



Ford, Ekso hope to
help factory workers
with this mechanic
work vest

By Julia Limitone
Fox News
Nov 18, 2017

Ekso Bionics CEO Tom Looby on teaming with Ford to create mechanical exoskeletons to help factory workers avoid fatigue and injuries.

Ford wants to help factory workers avoid fatigue and injuries.

Last week, Ford said that workers at two U.S. factories began testing new mechanical exoskeletons manufactured by Ekso Bionics (EKSO), and there are plans to expand the pilot program to more locations, according to Reuters.

The EksoVest is lightweight and aims to elevate and support workers’ arms while they perform overhead tasks.

You put it on like a backpack, and it enables you to hold weight and lift up to 15 pounds per arm while allowing range of motion. For heavier duty work, the California-based company also created a gravity balancing arm that goes up to 35 pounds.

“The vest is really meant for hand tools,” Ekso Bionics CEO Tom Looby told FOX Business’ Stuart Varney on “Varney & Co.” “A lot of the injuries on work sites are pick and carry operations.”

Ekso began designing and selling wearable robots for the military and medical fields, but branched out in the construction and industrial market in 2013.

This is the latest step in Ford’s efforts to lower its workers’ injury rates.

“Typically what happens on Ford assembly lines and other automotive lines—they have to do repetitive motion sometimes above their head 4,600 times a day, a million times a year and if you can think about the wear and tear on a shoulder—the shoulder is one of the weakest joints in the body,” he said. “So one-third of the workman’s comp claims go to the shoulder injury. So we can help to alleviate that by maybe a half.”

The cost of the exoskeletons are $7,500, according to Looby, who added bulk orders for companies like Ford can be discounted.


Mustang sales
roar overseas

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
November 17, 2019

Los Angeles — It seems Europeans crave rumbling, rib-rattling V-8s as much as we Yanks do.

Ford’s decision in 2015 to sell its sixth-generation, iconic Mustang muscle car internationally has been a runaway success. The best-selling sports car in America for half a century is now the best-selling sports car in, for example, Germany — outpacing that country’s own performance icons, the Porsche 911 and BMW M3. Mustang’s international sales have kept Ford’s Flat Rock Michigan assembly plant humming even as domestic sales have softened.

The global launch has also come with surprises.

“To be honest, we thought it was going to be a majority Ecoboost take because of better fuel economy,” says Ford cars marketing manager Corey Holter in reference to the lower-cost, turbocharged “Ecoboost” 4-cylinder. “But for 50 years a lot of customers haven’t been able to get Mustang, so fuel economy maybe was less a priority than getting the most iconic engine.”

That iconic V-8 engine is woven into the fabric of American auto culture — a culture that glorifies open roads and has been exported in Hollywood films for decades.

“Ford spent 50 years building up equity for the Mustang,” says Kelley Blue Book executive publisher and auto analyst Karl Brauer. “It was the forbidden fruit abroad. Foreigners saw it in movies like ‘Bullitt’ and ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ and salivated. Now it’s available internationally and Ford is meeting pent-up demand.”

While U.S. sales dipped 13 percent in 2016 after a breathtaking 122,395 units sold in 2015 (up nearly 50 percent over gen-5 sales), Mustang’s international sales climbed 6 percent last year to almost 45,000 as Ford expanded the pony’s presence to 140 countries. Six more countries are being added to the stable this year including Brazil and the Ivory Coast. In addition to Germany, Mustang is the sports car sales-leader in the world’s biggest car market, China, with business up 74 percent in 2016 and another 33 percent so far this year.

Since 2015, some 395,000 sixth-gen ‘Stangs have rolled out of Flat Rock — 98,000 of them sold overseas.

“Taking Mustang international has been a smart move,” says KBB’s Brauer. “It’s tougher to justify the cost of a new sports car with a small number of domestic sales. But now you can justify it because it sells all over the planet — and helps the model survive the ups and downs of the U.S. economy.”

The 2015 redesign was met with rave reviews for its menacing good looks, sophisticated suspension, and efficient, powerful 4-banger. A major mid-cycle refresh introduced to media here this November piles on the latest tech toys including a digital, 12-inch gauge cluster and quick-shifting, 10-speed transmission. Mated to the turbo-4 (a third, V-6 engine option was available only in the United States until this year), the 10-cog promises even better fuel economy for foreign markets like Europe where gas prices can push $6-a-gallon.

But outside of China, where buyers pay a huge premium for the Mustang’s high-displacement, 5.0-liter engine, global customers have ignored fuel economy for good ol’ Yankee horsepower. Holter says European sales have run 60/40 for the V-8 over the Ecoboost. In Australia where gas prices nudge $5-a-gallon, V-8 orders are running at 80 percent of sales.

Since it invented the affordable, so-called “pony” sports car in 1964, Mustang has consistently innovated in a competitive segment that includes cross-town rivals Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger. Ford’s retro-styled, 2005 car breathed new life into the segment — and the current, sixth-gen car was the first to go global.

“You can count on one hand the truly iconic cars. The Porsche 911. The Jeep Wrangler. From a brand equity standpoint, they are gold,” says KBB’s Brauer. “Ford has two of them: the F-150 pickup and the Mustang. Ford realizes that and they’ve worked hard to maintain that brand equity.”

He says Chevrolet and Dodge should take note.

“They would be brilliant to follow Ford’s lead,” Brauer says. Like Mustang, the two-door Camaro (“Transformers”) and Challenger (“Fast and Furious”) have co-starred in international blockbuster films.

“Dodge especially has done an amazing job at turning its car into an international icon in a few short years,” he continues. Born in the ’60s muscle car wars, Challenger disappeared in 1974 — only to find new life in 2008. As Fiat-Chrysler develops its rear-wheel-drive Giorgio architecture as a global platform for all its performance steeds — from Alfa to Dodge — the Challenger has an opportunity to follow in Mustang’s footsteps. As does Camaro, which shares the same bones as GM’s nimble, luxurious Cadillac ATS.

“International strategies can save brands,” says Brauer. “For example, China’s market saved Buick, not the US.”

The same applies for Motor City muscle cars. “The Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger look like nothing else aboard,” he says. Their V-8s sound like nothing else, either.


Ford brand will carry
company in future

Ian Thibodeau,
 The Detroit News
November 16, 2017

Ford Motor Co. is leaning on experience amid calls for a clear path to the future of the auto industry.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of global operations, told Goldman Sachs analysts Tuesday in Boston that the Blue Oval’s history will drive the company forward as it expands into electrification, autonomous vehicles and other new mobility fields. The comments come as CEO Jim Hackett outlines plans to cut $14 billion in costs over the next five years and change the Dearborn-based company to drive up value.

It was the third time in two weeks that a Ford executive has pointed to the company nameplate as a driving force into a future where traditional automakers will compete in electrification, autonomous driving technology and mobility services like ride-sharing and shuttle services.

“Ford will be part of the solution of the future of transportation mobility challenges,” Hinrichs, said when asked why someone should buy Ford stock today. “We’re going to be part of that solution as we have been for 114 years. And we have capabilities and experiences that matter in this business. We’re going to be a successful part of that plan.”

Hinrichs told investors that consumer confidence in the Ford brand will add value in the future, though he offered no new information on the company’s plan under its new CEO. Hackett and Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. have done the same at recent talks in Detroit.

Ford’s pickups will continue to drive profits amid tougher competition over the next year, he said. The company was ahead of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and General Motors Co. in redesigning or refreshing its leading F-Series over the last three years, which has set it up for lucrative sales as consumers opt for the bigger trucks.

Ford’s competitors are expected to release new models of the Silverado and Ram trucks for the 2019 model year. By then, Ford’s refreshed aluminum-body 2018 F-150 will have been out for roughly a year.

The company is expecting a stronger balance sheet from cost cuts, which will add to the pile of cash Ford’s currently sitting on. Hinrichs also said he’s not expecting Ford to take on costs due to “footprint” reductions, which would come out of plant closures or buyouts, as a result of the cost cuts under Hackett.

The company is cutting costs from its supply base, and through redesigned business models, he said. That money will act as a buffer from what Hinrichs expect will be increased costs for its electric and autonomous vehicle development.

There, Ford’s experience will push it forward despite the fact that Ford hasn’t made much money on its hybrid vehicles to-date.

“We’re very bullish on electrification,” Hinrichs said. “We want to time it where we think consumers and the technology are ready together so there’s a business model that can work.

“We’re very open to collaborations and partnerships in this area. (But) how that vehicle feels, how it performs, how it sounds are all pretty important parts of all this. We believe that we’ve learned a lot. The Ford brand matters. People trust the Blue Oval, and they trust that if we’re going to bring something to market and we’re going to launch it. ... It’s going to work.”

Ford has had a number of expensive recalls recently, but Hinrichs said Ford’s build quality is currently the best it’s ever been.



Supersize SUVs fund
EV, self-driving car

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
Nov 14, 2017

Los Angeles — The death of giant, truck-based SUVs has been greatly exaggerated.

Ford Motor Co.’s decision in 2003 to shelve its supersize 19-foot-long Ford Excursion SUV was seen as the end of an era. The world was running out of oil and hybrid vehicles were the future. The Sierra Club dubbed the Excursion the “Ford Valdez” — a reference to the crippled Exxon oil tanker that blackened Alaska’s coastline — while then-Ford CEO Bill Ford promised a shift to smaller, greener SUVs like the hybrid-electric Escape.

Fifteen years later and dinosaurs still roam the Earth. Indeed, they are thriving. In Los Angeles last week, Ford introduced an all-new, bigger-than-ever $49,000, 181/2-foot-long Ford Expedition — a fraternal twin to the $72,000 Lincoln Navigator SUV that the automaker released earlier this fall. Jeep is getting into the full-size SUV space with its 2019 Grand Wagoneer.

Their introduction points out a duality for carmakers: On one hand, companies like Ford promote a narrative of the future with advanced EVs and robotic piloting. On the other hand, they are turning out ever-bigger SUVs. The reason is simple: Big SUVs are hugely profitable. And those profits finance development of advanced battery systems and robotic cars.

“Big, profitable SUVs really enable us to do the things we need to do,” said Craig Patterson, marketing manager for Ford utility vehicles. “There are a lot of different ways to go with autonomous vehicles and electrified vehicles — and the future is uncertain. Having the foundation of profitable vehicles like F-150, Expedition and Navigator allows us to have the cash flow we need to invest in all these technologies.”

The Chevy Suburban innovated the enclosed pickup back in 1935, but the segment really hit its stride in the mid-1990s as SUVs squeezed out mid-size and large family sedans. Customers with growing families could climb the product ladder from, say, a compact Ford Escape to a mid-size Explorer to an Expedition.

GM expanded its truck offerings with GMC and Cadillac badges, while Japanese brands with full-size pickups — Toyota and Nissan — saw the opportunity with the Sequoia and Armada mega-utes. The vehicles gushed profits, and Detroit makers looked to expand the XL SUV trend with vehicles like the GMC Hummer and Ford Excursion.

But they hit a wall in 2002 as terrorism and green protests grabbed headlines. “What would Jesus drive?” ads aired on television.

“Kids were coming home from school and saying: ‘Mom, you’re ruining the environment by driving this vehicle,’ ” remembers Patterson. “There was a significant decline (in sales), but demand never went away.”

Neither did technological progress.

“The industry has continued to innovate,” said AutoPacific auto analyst Dave Sullivan, who is a former Ford product manager. “The highway fuel economy for a 6,000-pound vehicle is almost on par with what a midsize sedan was 12 years ago. People need to pack their SUV with hockey sticks and tow a camper. You can’t do that with a Prius.”

While Ford got huzzahs from the Sierra Club for scaling back (“William Clay Ford will go down as the man who was smart enough to kill the Excursion before it became an Edsel,” cheered Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope), GM continued its full line of profitable trucks. Combined sales of GM’s Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade last year totaled more than 250,000. Insiders say the $73,000 Cadillac Escalade alone is good for $35,000 profit for each one sold.

On the other side of the Great Recession, a new generation of buyers has embraced them.

“Now SUVs are back in a big way,” Ford’s Patterson said. “Millennials are now getting to the point where they are having children. They are following the same patterns their parents did — they are falling in love with SUVs.”

The all-new Excursion has some catching up to do with GM’s perennial sales leaders — which are due for a remake of their own soon.

“The money that they’re making off these they are turning around and investing in whatever the future may be — ride-sharing, autonomous,” Sullivan said. “Ford and GM are laser-focused on the future, and they are reinvesting those profits.”

But those profits may be in danger as green activists and governments like California — following the lead of France and the United Kingdom — target big SUVs again with threats of gas-engine bans over the next 20 years. Twenty years is the product cycle of the Excursion.

“There is a clash coming between what the regulators are pushing for, and what consumers want,” said IHS Markit auto analyst Stephanie Brinley. “You don’t want to electrify these things, because you make them unprofitable. And that’s a challenge.”

With lighter aluminum bodies, 8,700- to 9,300-pound towing capacities and a truckload of high-tech features, Ford isn’t bashful about its new generation of big utes.

“All of the (automakers) adapt to ever-changing requirements whether state or federal,” Expedition Program Director Bill Hoevener said. “You look back 15 years and these things didn’t have fuel efficiency. Now Expedition gets 24 miles per gallon on the highway.”


China to ease curbs on
foreign investment, autos

Joe McDonald,
Associated Press
Nov 12, 2017

Beijing — China took what it called a major step toward opening its financial industry with a promise Friday to ease limits on foreign ownership of banks and securities firms following a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump that was dominated by trade issues.

The announcement by a Cabinet official appeared to respond to mounting U.S. and European complaints that Beijing hampers foreign activity in a variety of industries in violation of free-trade commitments. The American Chamber of Commerce in China, which has appealed to Beijing to ease market barriers, said it looked forward to seeing details of the latest changes.

The announcement followed a series of multibillion-dollar contract signings with American companies during Trump’s visit in a tradition aimed at blunting criticism of Beijing’s trade surpluses and market barriers.

China will lift its limit on foreign ownership of securities, fund management and futures companies from a minority stake of 49 percent to a majority stake of 51 percent and end restrictions after three years, the official, Zhu Guangyao, said at a news briefing. He said a similar change would be made for life insurance companies and those would end in five years.

Regulators also will abolish restrictions that limit a single foreign investor’s stake in a Chinese bank to 20 percent and cap total foreign ownership of any institution at 25 percent, Zhu said.

“In other words, foreign owners can have full ownership of such companies” after three to five years, he said. “This opening up is decisive and the effect will be far-reaching.”

Beijing will also gradually reduce tariffs on automotive imports, Zhu said, without providing details.

The announcement came hours after Trump left Beijing to attend an Asia-Pacific economic meeting in Danang, Vietnam.

Asked about the timing of the changes announced Friday, Zhu cited President Xi Jinping’s comments at the ruling Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress last month. Xi promised freer markets but also emphasized that Beijing wants to build up state-owned companies that dominate finance, energy and other industries.

American, European and other foreign companies complain that despite official pledges to open China’s economy, they are hampered by ownership limits and other restrictions in finance, health care and other promising industries.

“I look forward to seeing the details, as opening up the financial sector in particular could greatly improve the allocation of financial resources and support China’s future development,” William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber, said in an email. “These restrictions, and many others yet to be addressed, have been hindering economic activity in China for far too long.”

Ahead of Trump’s visit, the American Chamber had expressed concern that his focus on trade in goods might mean he paid less attention to complaints about restrictions on access to finance, health care and other industries in China’s state-dominated economy.

Trump has made narrowing the U.S. trade deficit with China — $347 billion last year — a priority. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that was a “central focus” of Trump’s talks with Xi.

Xi promised Thursday to open China’s state-dominated economy wider, but foreign companies have been disappointed when previous pledges of liberalization turned out to include restrictions that limited their impact.

For its part, Zhu said Beijing wants Washington to ease security-related export controls on high-tech goods and take action on what Beijing says is a promise to grant the country market-economy status.

China has pressed the United States for years to end controls on “dual use” technologies with both civilian and military uses such as supercomputers and advanced materials that can be used in warplanes and missiles.

Beijing says Washington and other governments agreed to grant market-economy status last year as part of China’s 2001 accession to the World Trade Organization. That would make it harder for them to bring anti-dumping and other cases against China.

The United States, the European Union, Japan and other governments reject China’s assertion and say Beijing has yet to follow through on liberalization required to qualify.

This week’s contract signings give Trump the opportunity to claim a rare political win following a first year in office marked by little legislative progress on health care and taxes.

Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said agreements signed Thursday at a ceremony attended by Trump and Xi totaled $253.4 billion, though many were memoranda of understanding or other arrangements that were less than firm contracts. Commercial sales announced appeared to total about $65 billion, many involving goods Chinese companies routinely buy.

That was on top of $9 billion in contracts signed by the two sides on Wednesday covering sales of soybeans, pork, beef and other goods.


U.S. automakers warn Trump’s
‘extreme’ demands threaten
NAFTA talks, say deal
fuelled their comeback

The auto industry is vehemently opposed to a Trump plan to require
50 per cent U.S. content in cars, saying it would likely cause
automakers to do more of their manufacturing outside the NAFTA zone.

By Daniel DaleWashington
Bureau Chief
Nov. 11, 2017

WASHINGTON—NAFTA has helped fuel the comeback of the big American automakers, and those three companies are “very concerned” that the renegotiation will collapse because of President Donald Trump’s “extreme” demands, a representative said Thursday.

Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, which represents the policy interests of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, said the North American Free Trade Agreement has been important to the companies’ transition from dire straits to booming sales.

Killing the deal would impose a $10-billion (U.S.) tariff cost on them, he said, “equal to, essentially, the capital investment we’re making on an annual basis.” He did not detail how he arrived the figure.

Blunt said he retains some optimism. But he made clear that the automakers believe the negotiations are going poorly because of Trump’s proposals — think there is a real risk Trump will follow through on his frequent threat to terminate NAFTA entirely.

“Given the U.S. demands, and the Mexican and Canadian response, we’re very concerned that the negotiations could break down, collapse. We think other people ought to be concerned about that. Because the ramifications for not having a NAFTA are severe,” he said at a Washington International Trade Association panel discussion.

The U.S. auto industry is vehemently opposed to the Trump auto proposal that Canada and Mexico consider a non-starter. Though the U.S. government usually enters trade negotiations bearing auto proposals that are favoured by the powerful domestic industry, the Trump administration has so far dismissed the industry outcry and pursued the protectionist agenda on which the president campaigned.

Trump’s team has proposed that a car should not qualify for tariff-free treatment unless 50 per cent of it is made in the U.S. itself — there is no U.S. content requirement at all in the current agreement — and that the requirement for North American content be raised from 62.5 per cent to 85 per cent.

Blunt, former Republican governor of Missouri, called this “an extreme proposal” and “totally counter to the objectives of the Trump administration.” As independent industry experts have explained, Blunt said it would likely cause automakers to do more of their manufacturing outside the NAFTA zone rather than prompt them to hire more U.S. workers — simply paying the tariff rather than eating the larger cost of complying with the requirement.

“The business decision here is not very difficult,” he said.

Blunt’s words add to the gloom surrounding the state of the negotiations as the fifth round of talks approaches. The fourth round ended in public acrimony between Canada and the U.S., with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland accusing the U.S. of trying to undermine the agreement and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer calling Canada and Mexico overly resistant to change.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland criticized others at the negotiating table for what she called “unconventional proposals” after the latest round of NAFTA talks ended in Washington. The talks are now being pushed into 2018. (The Canadian Press)

Lighthizer also railed against trade deficits, one of Trump’s main focuses even though economists say they are a poor way to measure the health of a trading relationship. Blunt predicted that killing NAFTA would actually cause U.S. trade deficits to increase.

Kevin Dempsey, senior vice-president of the American Iron and Steel Institute, said the same, and he called NAFTA “a success” for the steel industry Trump campaigned on championing. Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said the death of NAFTA is “probably our worst nightmare.”

The fifth round is scheduled to officially begin next Friday, Nov. 17, in Mexico City, with some additional talks in the two days prior.


Advantage China in global
auto investment game

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
Nov 9, 2017

The Chinese auto industry’s bid for global legitimacy depends on access to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

But as President Trump likely will be reminded in a series of meetings in Beijing — including with President Xi Jinping — the rules controlling foreign auto investment in China are far tougher than they are in the United States. That’s because they favor the Chinese.

Just ask Detroit’s automakers. Even as the president arrived Wednesday in China on the latest leg of his Asian tour, Ford Motor Co. confirmed it will invest roughly $756 million to create a new joint venture with Zotye Auto to produce and sell all-electric vehicles in China.

With the possible exception of so-called free-trade zones, Chinese law requires 50-50 partnerships of would-be foreign automotive investors in China. The United States? Not at all. Foreign automakers like Toyota Motor Corp. and BMW AG can build plants and technical centers in the States, can own those operations outright and can repatriate profits.

Not in China. And that tension is likely to worsen as China cements its position as the world’s No. 1 market and uses that dominance to bend the industry to its policy preferences. It’s already happening — witness the billions of dollars global automakers are pouring into electrifying their fleets because Chinese regulators essentially demand it, even if consumers mostly don’t.

General Motors Co. joint ventures in China operate nearly 20 plants, an automotive technical center and an auto finance company. Last year GM and its JV partners delivered 3.8 million vehicles, making China the Detroit automaker’s No. 1 retail market in the world for the fifth consecutive year.

Simply put: China’s vast market is good for American automakers — and Chinese policy-makers, up to and including President Xi, know it. Aside from the United States, China ranks among the most profitable markets for global players. Its sheer size and growing middle class of brand-conscious consumers are likely to keep it that way.

That reality can’t help but reshape the industry’s investment priorities. China’s centrally dictated electrification policies, melded with self-driving technological innovation coming from Detroit, Silicon Valley and other tech hotbeds, are creating a new level of competition in the global auto industry that Chinese players fully expect to join.

In the era of Trump and economic nationalism rooted in the industrial Midwest, Chinese ascendancy in the auto space should create a fundamental trade off, says Michael Dunne, founder of Hong Kong-based Dunne Automotive Ltd. and a former president of GM Indonesia.

“If the Chinese want to sell their cars to Americans, they must invest in plants in America,” he wrote in a note this week, reprising an argument in his 2011 book “American Wheels, Chinese Roads.” “Chinese companies will be free to own 100 percent of their operations in America — provided that American car companies get the same rights in China. If the Chinese refuse, then America will reciprocate.”

This sounds like a vintage Trump negotiating position — in the president’s telling anyway: demand full reciprocity, and if you don’t get it, retaliate in kind. Whether that would be effective is another story entirely, given the inescapable fact that Trump’s tour of major Asian capitals is intended to solidify regional opposition to the North Korean nuclear threat.

He needs China more, and more immediately, than he does less restrictive access to China’s auto market for American automakers like GM, Ford and even Tesla Inc. The electric-only carmaker is reportedly close to icing a deal to allow it to build a wholly owned assembly plant — not a JV operation — in one of China’s free-trade zones.

And Chinese investors? They’re on the muscle. Chinese companies last year invested a record $140 billion on mergers and acquisitions outside the country, according White & Case, a global law firm. That amount is expected to double by 2025, signaling a Chinese urgency to buy market access and credibility instead of develop it over decades.

Prominent auto industry assets are not immune. China’s Zhejiang Geely Holdings’s ownership has revived the fortunes of Sweden’s Volvo Cars Ltd., a former ward of Ford. Midea Group acquired Germany’s Kuka AG, a leading supplier of automotive production robotics, for $5 billion.

That’s evidence of a Chinese auto industry on the move, and it’s headed for the world’s richest market: Detroit’s backyard.


Ford, China partner to
invest $756M in electric cars

Bloomberg News
Nov. 8, 2017

Ford Motor Co. and partner Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. will invest 5 billion yuan ($756 million) to make and sell small electric cars in China as automakers step up investments in low-emission vehicles in the world’s biggest auto market.

Ford and Zotye plan to build a new manufacturing facility in Zhejiang province and the vehicles will be sold under a new Chinese brand, the U.S. automaker said in an emailed statement Wednesday. The joint venture is equally owned by the two companies and the plans require regulatory approval.

Automakers are accelerating investments into electric vehicles to meet stricter emission and fuel-economy rules set to take effect in major markets. China is implementing a cap-and-trade framework next year that will penalize companies that don’t meet fleet-based limits through fines or buying credits.

While Ford chose to team up with Zotye and Volkswagen AG has partnered with Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Corp. to make electric cars, companies like Tesla Inc. may benefit if China relaxes its joint-venture rule. The Chinese government is discussing a plan to allow foreign carmakers to set up wholly owned electric-vehicle businesses in its free trade zones, according to company officials briefed on the matter.

Peter Fleet, Ford’s Asia-Pacific president, said in a Bloomberg Television interview that he is due to meet with President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping Thursday. Ford will confirm approximately $10 billion exports from U.S. to China in the next three years, he said. That will include Ford-brand and Lincoln-brand cars and components.

Ford has said it plans for 70 percent of all of its vehicles sold in China to have electrified powertrain options by 2025. Besides Zotye, the automaker also has joint ventures in the country with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. and Jiangling Motors Corp.

Ford expects the market for new-energy vehicles in China to grow to six million units per year by 2025, of which about four million vehicles will be all-electric. Deliveries of such vehicles rose 53 percent to 507,000 units in 2016, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

In May, Volkswagen received approval for a new joint venture to produce electric cars. Daimler AG and BMW AG also have electric car brands under their partnerships with BYD Co. and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd.

While carmakers including Tesla are racing to grab a slice of the electric-vehicle market in China, local manufacturers such as Beijing Automotive Group Co. have had considerable success in the market, in part thanks to generous government subsidies. New entrants are also coming in.

Local startup NIO is raising more than $1 billion in a new round of financing from investors led by Tencent Holdings Ltd. to develop affordable and connected battery cars, according to people with director knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified as the information is private.

To give a fillip to the sector, China also eased financing for consumers on Wednesday. Buyers of electric cars can take out loans for up to 85 percent of the cost of a new-energy car, compared with 80 percent for conventional vehicles


Marchionne questioned amid
UAW corruption probe

Robert Snell,
The Detroit News
Nov 7, 2017

Detroit — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne has a criminal defense lawyer and has been questioned by federal investigators about a $4.5 million corruption scandal involving the automaker’s training center, The Detroit News has learned.

Marchionne was questioned during a private meeting in July 2016 with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in downtown Detroit, sources familiar with the investigation said. The Italian auto executive was escorted to the meeting by his white-collar, criminal defense lawyer, William Jeffress of the Washington, D.C., law firm Baker Botts.

Marchionne, 65, has not been charged with a crime during an ongoing federal grand jury investigation that has expanded in recent weeks to include a member of General Motors Co.’s board and United Auto Workers training centers funded by all three Detroit automakers.

The scandal emerged publicly in July. That is when former Fiat Chrysler Vice President Alphons Iacobelli was indicted and accused of funneling kickbacks to UAW officials.

“If a subordinate is charged with a crime ... you ought to be concerned,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “This doesn’t mean (Marchionne’s) done anything wrong. This is a process that is fraught with great risk so you want good counsel to guide you through it and see if you have any criminal exposure.”

Jeffress, 72, is a prominent white-collar defense lawyer who handled post-Watergate legal matters for President Richard Nixon and defended Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Scooter Libby in a high-profile CIA leak trial. Libby was convicted in 2007 of lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative’s identity, but President George W. Bush commuted his 30-month prison sentence.

It is unclear what Marchionne told prosecutors during the meeting but he appeared voluntarily and was not subpoenaed, The News has learned. Also unclear is whether Marchionne reached an agreement that would grant him limited immunity before talking to prosecutors.

“That’s the key,” Henning said, emphasizing the meeting is not unusual.

“Fiat Chrysler has to appear cooperative,” Henning said. “No one wants to start yelling ‘Fifth Amendment.’ That sends a signal to the government that there’s at least smoke, and maybe fire.”

One year after the July 2016 meeting, Iacobelli was indicted.

Fiat Chrysler provided Marchionne with the lawyer and is paying Jeffress’ bills amid a years-long investigation involving federal agents from the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Labor Department.

“This is going to be expensive,” Henning said.

Fiat Chrysler also has provided lawyers for other executives questioned during the investigation. That list of executives includes Iacobelli’s supervisor at the time, Michael Keegan. He headed human resources for FCA North America until being named head of the automaker’s global communications in August.

“This is customary to hire attorneys for employees and executives that are interviewed as part of a government investigation,” a Fiat Chrysler spokesman told The News on Friday.

Jeffress has ties to the auto industry and experience in federal court in Detroit. In 2006, he defended former Delphi CEO J. T. Battenberg after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused the executive and others of participating in or aiding and abetting a fraudulent accounting scheme before the parts supplier filed bankruptcy in 2005. The case ended with Battenberg paying a $215,000 penalty.

Iacobelli, meanwhile, was indicted alongside Monica Morgan-Holiefield, widow of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield. The executive and the widow are accused of violating the Labor Management Relations Act and siphoning corporate training funds slated for blue-collar workers.

The criminal investigation was at least a year old by the time Marchionne met with prosecutors. As The News first reported Thursday, investigators have issued subpoenas in recent weeks for information about training centers financed by GM and Ford Motor Co. that are operated jointly with the union, sources familiar with the investigation said.

Investigators are interested in Joe Ashton, a retired UAW vice president appointed to GM’s board in 2014, and Cindy Estrada, his successor in charge of the union’s GM department, according to sources familiar with the investigation. Ashton, 69, of Ocean View, N.J., is the highest-ranking official whose name has surfaced in connection with a criminal investigation into whether money and illegal benefits corrupted the bargaining process.

The investigation focuses on whether training funds were misappropriated, and if labor leaders at GM and Ford received money or benefits through their tax-exempt nonprofits — an allegation that emerged in the case against Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield.

The indictment alleges Iacobelli and other UAW-Chrysler training center officials created a liberal spending policy and used training center credit cards and bank accounts to keep senior UAW leaders “fat, dumb and happy.”

According to the indictment, Holiefield used his UAW-Chrysler training center credit card for more than $200,000 in personal purchases, including jewelry, furniture and designer clothing. Training center funds also were used to pay off the $262,220 mortgage on the Holiefields’ home, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, Iacobelli, 58, siphoned more than $1 million in training center funds and spent the money on a $365,000 Ferrari 458 Spider convertible, two $35,700 Montblanc fountain pens, a pool, outdoor kitchen and spa at his Rochester Hills mansion, according to the indictment.

Four people have been charged with a crime and two have struck plea deals with the government. They are:

Former Fiat Chrsyler financial analyst Jerome Durden, who prosecutors say helped transfer millions of dollars in training center funds to Holiefield, Morgan-Holiefield and Iacobelli. He faces up to 37 months in prison and is expected to cooperate with prosecutors.

Former UAW official Virdell King admitted misusing funds that were intended to train and retrain blue-collar workers. She faces up to 16 months in prison and is expected to cooperate with the investigation.


CAMI Strike 2017:
After Another Setback
Can Unifor Move On?

Employees of the GM CAMI assembly factory stand on the picket line in Ingersoll, Ont., on Sept. 18.  (Dave Chidley / THE CANADIAN PRESS)  

Herman Rosenfeld
November 6, 2017

A four-week strike at the CAMI assembly plant, that began on September 17th, ended on October 16th. Members of Unifor Local 88 voted 86% in favour of the tentative agreement bargained with the stand-alone GM plant. Located in Ingersoll, Ontario, close to London, it is a former joint venture between Suzuki and GM. CAMI assembles hot-selling Chevrolet Equinox crossover vehicles.

CAMI has an interesting history, and it is reflected in the membership of Local 88. It was originally opened in 1988 as a ‘model’ team concept plant. It integrated key elements of Lean Production – modeled on the Toyota Production System – with promises of ‘worker empowerment’ and job satisfaction. Suzuki’s production system attempted to combine notorious continuous work intensity practices (euphemistically referred to by the Japanese term for ‘continual improvement’ as kaizen), working in teams, and efforts to align the union with company goals. But Local 88, in partnership with the national union (Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) at the time), built a strong, independent and militant local union, relying on the critical thinking and ingenuity of the membership.

CAW sponsored a two-year participatory research project tracking the CAMI experiment and found – to no one’s surprise – that although CAMI was originally opened as a model team concept plant, it ended up being Just Another Car Factory (the title of a book on Local 88 and CAMI, subtitled Lean Production and Its Discontents).

A strike in 1992 continued the ongoing efforts of the local to limit and transform the company’s system of work intensity. In recent years, Suzuki pulled out and CAMI became part of the GM chain. But Local 88 was never fully integrated into the GM Master Agreement, bargaining separately, but tracking the pattern for the larger corporation.

Mixed Results

The settlement echoed the concessionary agreements that were bargained last fall at GM, Ford and Chrysler. There is a similar 10 year ‘grow-in’, acceptance of two-tier that was so contentious at Ford Oakville, Local 707. Pay and benefits tracked those contracts, (and it included a similar weighting in favour of lump sums and bonuses, rather than base rate increases). There were some popular gains, such as the inclusion of 10 days available as leaves of absence for domestic violence. The local also bargained increased funding to allow workers with 28 years seniority to grow-in to the 30 and Out pension, framed as a disincentive for GM to close or institute massive downsizing.

But this is only part of the story. This strike began with an unique central demand. That demand was audacious and radical – that GM designate CAMI as the lead plant for the production of Equinox now and in the future. In this era of free trade and the free movement of capital and investment, it would have limited GM’s freedom to invest where it wished. Fearful of possible plans to move Equinox production to Mexico (where two GM plants currently assemble it), that demand inspired the CAMI workers in a spirited strike. Their concern is not without foundation: this summer GM shifted production of the second-generation GMC Terrain crossover to Mexico, which resulted in about 400 people being laid off at CAMI. The strike touched a chord with the local community and many others. But it was lost – and, in retrospect, it appears that it never had any possibility of being won.

In general, the mood on the picket lines was spirited, hopeful and supportive and the mood of the workers after the ratification remains largely positive. The four week strike was deeply popular and participatory among the workers, auto workers at other plants and even the wider community. The local and rank and file members enthusiastically staffed the picket lines, and created a series of banners and art that called for maintaining their jobs here in Canada. There was support for the local leadership and the union as a whole. The local community was supportive of the principal demand and provided material support for the strikers. And, in spite of the ambivalent results, peoples’ spirits remained high after the ratification.


The national union argued publicly about the danger of GM moving jobs out of the plant into Mexico, and demanded that NAFTA bargainers address the issue of Canadian auto jobs. Unifor National President Jerry Dias went to a number of NAFTA negotiation venues and argued that ending the low-wage regime and the lack of independent unions in Mexico and the so-called ‘Right to Work’ laws in the U.S. needed to be conditions of any new NAFTA. (As well, in the days immediately preceding the agreement, Unifor representatives held solidaristic meetings with independent Mexican trade unionists.)

But Dias was unwilling to differentiate the union’s interests from those of the Liberal government and spread illusions about the possibility of bargaining changes to NAFTA that could be friendly to working class interests. He also did not call for replacing NAFTA with a new Auto Pact (with content rules for each country). But it was important that the union’s larger concerns were articulated and found their way into the news.

The clear articulation of these two moments: the strike over GM’s right to move investment to other venues and the negotiations of the terms of investment and corporate power through NAFTA, would have presented an important opportunity to challenge GM, and the larger world of corporate investment. This articulation – one of the factors that drove the membership and community during the strike – did not happen. Why? And how should this strike be seen in an historical context?

Evaluating the Outcome

It is not a cynical ‘sellout’ as some (like the cynical WSW folks) have portrayed it to be. The local leadership was quite honest about their inability to get GM to budge on the central demand, and was not in a position to think through and give leadership to a larger struggle; that would have demanded a much deeper and wider strategic approach (not to mention a recent history of a buildup of confidence and capacities). While the original pattern agreement was full of concessions, this is not the same as ‘selling out’.

The problem goes deeper, and is rooted in Unifor’s auto sector bargaining strategy, and certainly precedes CAMI and the strike there.

The union’s National Office has a recent history of refusing to build a necessary fightback against the power of the auto companies on a number of levels: the challenge in the workplace to work intensity increases and lean production has vanished in the past decade; the steady disinvestment process, that included plant closures across the board at GM, Ford and Chrysler were not challenged (and instead included buyout and other benefits, which had no effect in limiting job losses). Think of the symbolic blockade of the management offices that the union organized when GM closed its truck plant in 2008 and didn’t include any collective challenge to production; the non-occupation of Caterpiller in London in 2012 – which also had broad community support at the time (see, “The Electro-Motive Lockout and Non-Occupation,” April 2012); the acceptance of the closures of the Chrysler and Ford Truck plants; the tenuous promises of production in the last GM agreement (and the rather sad example of the once-huge Oshawa complex, down to the level of the old Scarborough Van plant or Ford St. Thomas). As well, there was a refusal to see in the resistance to the pattern agreement among the rank and file and local leaders at Ford Oakville last fall, an opportunity to challenge and overturn two-tier – and instead, they saw it as a threat. It was clear that this was not really going to happen at CAMI, either.

There has been absolutely no larger strategic plan to counter the power of steady job loss and disinvestment in auto – either in resisting closures, demanding the reclamation of plants destined for closure, demands for products other than cars, trucks or SUVs, and no political demands to restructure the industry for the 21st century. Nor have there been demands for the Federal and Provincial governments to force the corporations to provide investment and job guarantees.

GM knew full well that Unifor had no plan to really challenge their ownership prerogatives at CAMI, because the union hasn’t fought over those issues since the 1996 occupation of the Oshawa North Plant over “Job Ownership.” (At that time, the CAW did run a province-wide campaign over the right to keep jobs safe from outsourcing, and won important if temporary and limited safeguards.) It would seem that all the brave talk about challenging GM was gone with the wind, when the corporation threatened to set in motion plans to replace CAMI’s production in Mexico and cut off existing parts sourcing to the plant. Although similar threats were made in the 1980s, when the union challenged American concessions, the union clearly had no plan to challenge them this time (and unlike the 1980s, had not engaged in a series of struggles to create and build-on a culture of resistance to prepare members for struggle). It’s not as if those threats should be taken lightly – if GM were to cave in to these demands around CAMI, they would have become vulnerable to similar demands across the USA.

As dedicated and sincere the local leadership has been – and the support given from the local Ingersoll community – victory required a national campaign that would have had to combine direct, militant actions across the industry, and in alliance with other unions and communities. It would have required a war on a number of fronts, with an understanding of the sacrifices possibly necessary from members. This is precisely what didn’t happen at Caterpillar, either, with all of the support it had in the London community.

GM was well aware that this would not happen and it didn’t. The national leadership of Unifor raised some important themes in their campaign around NAFTA, but while it was tied to the Liberal government, it was not tied to the kind of independent ‘industrial’ and political action necessary to win. (More recently, the union has organized protests at Liberal MP’s offices.) Even then, it’s difficult to see how they could have won at CAMI. The larger war to challenge the power of GM and the auto companies might have seen a battle fought in CAMI, but the war would have required more battle fronts. As it worked out, one of the armies declared an armistice as soon as the roar of the guns were heard coming from the other side.

How to Move from Here?

In spite of the defeat of their main demand, the morale in CAMI after the bargaining seems quite positive: people didn’t fall further behind the economic pattern set in the albeit concessionary Detroit Three Master agreements, and strike participants were heartened by the community support they received. There is kind of a resigned acceptance and – quite frankly – a highly problematic dismissal of the possibility of challenging GM’s power. It’s almost as if the National Union’s clear abandonment of a larger perspective, has seeped down into the ranks of the membership. For now, there is a certain amount of confidence that the updated Equinox production will continue at CAMI for the near future. But there is no guarantee that the price of oil will remain low, and that any of the Canadian plants are necessarily safe from closure.

Unifor needs to rethink its close ties to the Liberal government, and its continued dependence on the Detroit three and their investment plans. It needs a strategic plan to defend the productive resources that the workers have built over the past decades, an approach that calls for producing needed public transit vehicles and components in plants that are at risk, and environmentally friendly vehicles at others. This has to be backed up with actions that challenge the corporations – much like the approach taken in the early days of building the union in the 1930s and the period when the CAW established itself as a voice against concessions in the 1980s. Massive educational and mobilizational efforts for the members and their communities are needed.

The Unifor leadership has instead, bought into the strategy of plant level competitiveness, which forces bargaining down to the level of negotiating unit costs for each company, concessions, lobbying the state for increased investment in the sector through Research and Development support and direct subsidies to individual plants, and regulatory accommodations in trade agreements. The implicit political pact that exists between Unifor and the Liberal Party tends to recall the old-style Lib-Lab partnerships of the past. This can only lead to further concessions and political defeats for working class ambitions down the road.

But this won’t come about by itself. The leadership strata in Unifor haven’t been part of any radical strategic orientation for most of their careers. The rank and file and secondary leadership have been trained to accept the kind of limited approach the union has taken for the past decade or so. It can only change with an explicit political turn inside the union’s membership, and a socialist political movement that does not see private ownership without controls on capital as sacrosanct and fosters a larger vision of the ecological transition needed in the transportation sector under the constraints of climate change.

Herman Rosenfeld is a Toronto-based socialist activist, educator, organizer and writer. He is a retired national staffperson with the Canadian Auto Workers (now Unifor), and worked in their Education Department.



BMW recalls over 1 million
cars and SUVs for fire risk,
recommends parking
them outside

BMW issues recalls for fire risk. A spokesperson said the risk of fire is very low in both cases, but the vehicles should say outside “in an abundance of caution.”  (CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

About 80,000 vehicles are also being recalled in Canada
for the crankcase ventilation valve heater, BMW said

By The Associated Press
Nov. 5, 2017

DETROIT—BMW is recalling more than 1 million cars and SUVs in two U.S. recalls due to the risk of fires under the hood, and it’s recommending that they be parked outdoors until repairs are made.

A spokesperson for the German automaker says the risk of fire is very low in both cases, but the vehicles should say outside “in an abundance of caution.” In both recalls, repairs are expected to start on Dec. 18.

The largest of the recalls covers over 740,000 328i, 328xi, 328i xDrive, 525i, 525xi, 528i, 528xi, 530i, 530xi, X3 3.0si, X3 xDrive30i, X5 xDrive30i, Z4 3.0i, Z4 3.0si and Z4 sDrive30i vehicles from 2007-2011. Also included is the 2008-2011 128i. All have 6-Cylinder engines.

Documents posted Friday by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that a heater for the positive crankcase ventilation valve can overheat and cause the valve to melt, increasing the risk of a fire even when the vehicle is not in use. No injuries have been reported. Dealers will replace the heater.

The heater is designed to prevent the valve from freezing in cold temperatures, BMW spokesman Hector Arellano-Belloc said. But irregularities in manufacturing can cause corrosion can lead to overheating.

The other recall covers nearly 673,000 cars including the 323i, 325i, 325xi, 328i, 328xi, 330i, 330xi, 335i, 335xi and M3 from the 2006-2011 model years. Also covered are the 2007-2011 328i xDrive, 335i xDrive and 335is, and the 2009-2011 335d.

Wiring for the heating and air conditioning system can overheat and cause connectors to melt, also increasing the fire risk, even when vehicles are unattended. Four drivers reported injuries. BMW says a wiring connection can corrode and in rare cases cause fires.

Dealers will replace the wiring and connectors.

The U.S. recalls total about 1.4 million vehicles, but some are included in both, BMW said.

About 80,000 vehicles also are being recalled in Canada for the crankcase ventilation valve heater, BMW said. The company is reviewing whether the wiring recall will apply to Canadian vehicles.


FBI’s UAW training center
probe widens to GM, Ford

Robert Snell,
Daniel Howes and
Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Nov 3, 2017

Detroit — Federal agents have expanded a corruption investigation to include a member of General Motors Co.’s board and the United Auto Workers training centers funded by all three Detroit automakers, The Detroit News has learned.

Spurred by corruption charges filed against a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV labor executive and the wife of a deceased union vice president, investigators have issued subpoenas in recent weeks for information about training centers financed by GM and Ford Motor Co. that are operated jointly with the union, sources familiar with the investigation said.

Investigators are interested in Joe Ashton, a retired UAW vice president appointed to GM’s board in 2014, and Cindy Estrada, his successor in charge of the union’s GM department, according to sources familiar with the investigation. Ashton, 69, of Ocean View, N.J., is the highest-ranking official whose name has surfaced in connection with a criminal investigation into whether money and illegal benefits corrupted the bargaining process.

Neither Ashton nor Estrada returned calls from The News. The investigation focuses on whether training funds were misappropriated, and if labor leaders at GM and Ford received money or benefits through their tax-exempt nonprofits — an allegation that emerged this summer involving Fiat Chrysler and General Holiefield, a former UAW vice president who died in 2015, sources said.

“If the companies are buying labor peace by corrupting union leadership, that has to be a significant concern,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “This sends a message that union leaders are just in it for themselves. This can rile up members and lead to an insurgency.”

New details about the corruption investigation emerged Wednesday, four months after former Fiat Chrysler labor negotiator Alphons Iacobelli and Holiefield’s widow, Monica Morgan-Holiefield, were indicted and accused of violating the Labor Management Relations Act. They are accused of participating in a $4.5 million scheme that siphoned corporate training funds earmarked for blue-collar workers.

The expanded investigation appears to be focused at this point on the joint training centers, sources confirmed, not the automakers themselves. Ford was notified in recent weeks of the investigation into the Dearborn automaker’s joint training center in downtown Detroit.

“We are cooperating with the inquiry,” Ford said in a statement. “We are confident in the UAW-Ford National Programs Center leadership team and the policies and procedures used to govern the program operations ... .”

Federal prosecutors contacted GM within the last month and the automaker has launched an internal investigation. “We are fully cooperating with the investigation,” a GM spokesman said in a statement provided to The News.

The probe is the second criminal investigation involving GM in recent years. Under a so-called “deferred prosecution agreement,” the automaker is still under federal oversight following a scandal involving faulty ignition switches that have been linked to almost 400 deaths and injuries.

“(GM) will bend over backwards — more than backwards, if that is possible — to cooperate” with prosecutors, Henning said. “Nobody wants to bust the agreement.”

The UAW and FBI declined comment Wednesday.

The expanded corruption investigation, and the Iacobelli indictment, offer insight into the UAW’s top ranks and its culture of six-figure paychecks, liberal expense accounts and personal charities that, in at least one case, served as a conduit for a union leader to pocket more than $1 million in illegal benefits, according to court records.

UAW President Dennis Williams has vice presidents assigned to GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. Each handles contract negotiations with the respective automakers, helps run training centers for blue-collar workers and oversees charities that, in most cases, have received more than $1 million in contributions in recent years.

They are:

■Estrada, 49, of Whitmore Lake. She is a trailblazing labor negotiator assigned to GM and the first Latina elected as an international labor officer. She succeeded Ashton in 2014 and is co-president of the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, which has almost $78 million in assets.

She also chairs the Cynthia Estrada Charity Fund. The nonprofit has received almost $1.4 million in the last five years, according to tax filings that do not reveal donors.

■Vice President Jimmy Settles, 67, of Detroit is assigned to Ford and is co-president of the joint training center, the UAW-Ford National Programs Center. The center, funded by Ford, has more than $27 million in assets, according to its most recent tax filing.

He also is president of JUST, a Detroit-based nonprofit that has received almost $1.3 million in recent years. Donors are not identified in tax filings.

■Vice President Norwood Jewell, 60, of Davison is assigned to handle Fiat Chrysler negotiations and is co-chairman of the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center. The center, funded by Fiat Chrysler, has $58 million in assets.

Jewell is president of the Making Our Children Smile nonprofit, which has received more than $629,000 in the last three years, though donors are not identified in tax filings.

Shane Dawes, listed as the assistant director of the UAW-Chrysler Training Center, was secretary and treasurer of Jewell’s nonprofit, according to the 2016 tax filing.

The nonprofit group’s former vice president, Nancy Johnson, was Jewell’s top administrative assistant until 2015. Johnson also served on the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center board.

Johnson has drawn scrutiny from federal agents investigating corruption at the training center. Former UAW official Virdell King used a training center credit card to buy a $2,180 shotgun for Jewell as a birthday present. King, who has struck a plea deal with prosecutors, was told to buy the firearm by Johnson, two sources have told The News.

Ashton, meanwhile, is one of GM’s 10 outside directors. He’s also associated with the Ashton Fund, a nonprofit that has received $1.3 million in the last six years. Donors are not identified in tax filings.

A former head of the UAW’s GM department from 2010 to 2014, Ashton was named to GM’s board of directors after his retirement from the union. He was nominated to represent the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, which owned 9.3 percent of the automaker’s outstanding shares as of March 15, according to GM’s latest proxy statement.

Nonprofits linked to UAW vice presidents often are overseen by boards that include UAW officials. Garry Bernath, a board member of the UAW-GM Training Center, has served as treasurer of Ashton’s nonprofit. UAW-GM Training Center board members Patti Bieber, Mike Grimes and Kris Owen all served as officers of Estrada’s nonprofit, according to tax filings.

“The charities are the big issue. There is so much misuse of funds in the international and major locals,” said Patricia Meyer, an outspoken UAW critic. “Why are they having the charities?”

A nonprofit controlled by General Holiefield factors prominently into the indictment of Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield. Holiefield’s nonprofit Leave the Light On Foundation was used to help hide more than $1.2 million in payments to Holiefield, prosecutors allege.

According to the indictment, the payments included designer clothing, jewelry, furniture and $262,219 to pay off a mortgage on the Holiefields’ home. The payments were made by using the UAW-Chrysler training center’s credit cards and bank accounts.

“The government is looking at whether a cozy arrangement went much further and became theft of labor funds,” Henning said. “There is a concern that a slush fund has been created.”

After Iacobelli was indicted in July, the UAW changed its policies and banned its training center from contributing money to charities union officials control.

The indictment alleges Iacobelli and other UAW-Chrysler training center officials created a liberal spending policy to keep senior UAW leaders “fat, dumb and happy.”

Iacobelli, 58, siphoned more than $1 million in training center funds and spent the money on a $365,000 Ferrari, two $35,700 fountain pens, a pool, outdoor kitchen and spa at his Rochester Hills mansion, according to the indictment.

Holiefield and his wife received more than $1.2 million, prosecutors allege. Jewell, meanwhile, succeeded Holiefield atop the training center board and received a $2,180 shotgun purchased with union training center funds. He later reimbursed the company for the firearm.

The federal investigation dates at least to 2015 and involves FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Labor Department agents.

Iacobelli was a labor negotiator at Fiat Chrysler but abruptly retired in June 2015 a month before negotiations with the UAW were to begin and amid the FBI investigation. In July, Fiat Chrysler said it fired Iacobelli after it learned of the investigation.

Months later, Iacobelli was hired by GM as executive director of labor relations and was involved in negotiations for GM with the Canadian auto workers union, Unifor.

Investigators also are interested in the circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of Rex Blackwell, GM’s top labor negotiator, in June 2015, The News has learned.

Blackwell retired June 1, one month before Detroit automakers launched critical contract negotiations with the UAW. Blackwell, who previously served on the UAW-GM training center board, retired eight days before Iacobelli, his counterpart at Fiat Chrysler, was fired.

The timing of Blackwell and Iacobelli’s departures drew headlines at the time considering the significance of upcoming contract negotiations. The 2015 contract was the first since GM and Chrysler emerged from post-bankruptcy restrictions.



Ford faces class-action
suit over Fusion probe

Keith Laing,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
Nov 2, 2017

Washington — Ford Motor Co. is facing a class-action lawsuit that alleges the company made false statements about the quality of 841,000 cars that are under investigation for having steering wheels that could detach while the vehicles are in motion.

The lawsuit alleges Ford violated federal securities laws by making “false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that flaws in the company’s manufacturing processes, supply chain, and/or quality control rendered at least 841,000 Ford vehicles unsafe to drive” between 2014 and 2017 that led to “precipitous decline in the market value of the company’s securities.”

The lawsuit, filed Monday in the Eastern District Court of Michigan, follows an Oct. 26 announcement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it is investigating the complaints about the steering wheel fastening bolt of 2014 through 2016 Ford Fusion vehicles becoming loose, and in one case detaching completely.

NTHSA said it has received one complaint for each model year covered by the investigation.

“A detached steering wheel can result in a loss of vehicle control that may lead to a crash,” the agency said. “A preliminary evaluation has been opened to assess the scope, frequency and safety-related consequence of the alleged defect.”

Ford declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday, saying it “will respond through the appropriate legal channels.”

The company added: “Regarding NHTSA, we are cooperating with the agency, as we always do. Any customers with concerns should contact their local dealer.”

The suit alleges Ford failed to “advise its investors of any specific shortcomings in the company’s manufacturing processes, supply chain, and/or quality control” during the model years that are covered by the Fusion investigation.

“The foregoing issues, when revealed, would foreseeably subject Ford to additional regulatory scrutiny and impact the company’s profitability,” the lawsuit says.

The number of plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit was not specified in the legal paperwork that was filed on Monday because it is “so numerous,” according to Paul Ruckel, who filed the lawsuit.

“Throughout the class period, Ford securities were actively traded on the (New York Stock Exchange),” the lawsuit. “While the exact number of class members is unknown to plaintiff at this time and can be ascertained only through appropriate discovery, plaintiff believes that there are hundreds or thousands of members in the proposed class.”


October sales: Ford up;
GM, FCA down

Ian Thibodeau &
Nora Naughton
The Detroit News
Nov 1, 2017

General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Wednesday reported sales declines in October, while Ford Motor Co. saw sales jump 6.2 percent compared to the same month a year ago thanks to strong truck and fleet sales.

Fiat Chrysler reported a 13 percent drop compared to the same month a year ago, due to a 43 percent decline in fleet sales compared to last year. GM sales dropped 2.2 percent due largely to slumping Buick and Chevrolet deliveries.

Only the automaker’s GMC brand saw a bump in sales last month, up 4.6 percent.

“F-Series produced another big sales gain for us in October,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a statement. “Strong customer demand for high series Super Duty continues, and now we’re seeing the same for the new 2018 F-150. With sales up 15.9 percent, F-Series drove our overall truck sales to an 11.4 percent gain for the month.”

Fiat Chrysler sold 153,373 vehicles in October. Retail sales fell 4 percent, though the company’s Ram and Jeep brands had strong months, according to the automaker. GM reported it sold 252,813 vehicles last month, with pickups up 9 percent to 84,902, and crossover sales were up 12 percent. Ford sold 200,436 vehicles; 93,248 of those were trucks.

Ford’s car sales fell 2.4 percent. SUV sales increase 5.3 percent.

GM’s strong point is still in its pickups, up 9 percent last month. That increase is driven by the Chevrolet Silverado, up 6.8 percent, and the GMC Sierra, up 25.5 percent.

Some of the starkest declines were among sedans. At the Buick brand, the LaCrosse saw a decline of 43.7 percent and the Regal was down 40.5 percent. At Chevrolet, the Cruze saw a decline of 35 percent while the Malibu was down 9.3 percent.

“We are heading into the fourth quarter with good momentum, thanks to a strong U.S. economy and very strong pickup and crossover sales,” said Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales operations. “The all-new Chevrolet Equinox is off to a great start and we could have sold even more if we had more available.”

Analysts expect U.S. new vehicle sales to drop 2 percent compared to a year ago. Cox Automotive analysts forecasted Fiat Chrysler sales would drop 11.1 percent. Ford and GM were expected to see sales increases of .5 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.

“Although the headline shows a small decline in sales, October looks relatively strong for the industry, as evidenced by the nearly 18 million (seasonally adjusted annual rate),” said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Sales blew past expectations in September toward an 18.5 million SAAR pace, and we expect October to keep up some of that momentum. Some of the strength can be attributed to replacement demand that continues in Texas and Florida, but perhaps more importantly, higher incentive spend is playing a role. Even with production cuts this year, incentives are on the rise and have reached 11 percent of average transaction prices. This is an indicator that new-vehicle demand is still contracting, and production cuts could be on the horizon to prevent oversupplies.”

Analysts at Edmunds forecast a steeper year-over-year decline at 3.5 percent. But the automakers will still see a lift from vehicle recovery sales due to hurricane season. Edmunds expected Fiat Chrysler to drop 10.1 percent, Ford to increase 5.1 percent, and GM to drop 7.3 percent.

“While replacement demand in Houston was higher in September, we anticipate that hurricane recovery efforts will continue to supplement October vehicle sales in the market,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis. “In Florida, far fewer vehicles were lost to flood damage, but we expect to see an incremental boost in vehicle sales primarily from shoppers who may have delayed their purchases due to the storm.”


Hennesssey VelociRaptor 6x6 Ford
F-150 will have you seeing double

Fox News
Oct 31, 2017

Ford sells an F-Series pickup now that costs $100,000, but it’s got nothing on this.

The Hennessey VelociRaptor 6x6 is a custom Ford F-150 Raptor with six-wheels and a six figure price tag of $295,000 to go with them.

The truck is making its public debut at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, if they can fit it in the building.

Along with the extended bed, the super truck gets a second Raptor rear axle that gives it six-wheel-drive, modified Fox suspension, 20-inch wheels, and unique front and rear bumpers.

If you don’t think the Raptor’s 450 hp twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 can handle it, Hennessey also offers an engine and exhaust upgrade that bumps it up to over 600 horsepower for $22,500.

(That’s not cheap, but it is less than 8 percent the price of the rest of the truck, so there’s that.)

The power kit is also available on the 4x4 Raptor if you want to save a couple of hundred grand, but the 6x6 is several times cooler.


Ford demonstrates auto
industry balancing act

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
October 30, 2017

Detroit automakers are balancing the drive for near-term profits with funding for mobility ventures that may not pay off — as Ford Motor Co. is demonstrating yet again.

A day after the Dearborn-based automaker posted a $1.6-billion profit driven largely by North American truck sales, the company’s autonomous vehicle partner, Argo AI, announced it would acquire 17-year-old LiDAR company Princeton Lightwave. Ford on Friday also launched production in Kentucky of its all-new aluminum-body — and sure to be profit-rich — Expedition SUV.

The moves illustrate an apparent contradiction emerging monthly in the auto industry: Ford, rival General Motors Co. and other automakers generate buzz on Wall Street when spending big on autonomous vehicles and the electric cars consumers mostly don’t buy. But trucks and SUVs bought by real people are expected to boost profits for the foreseeable future.

Industry analysts and investors are beginning to accept that model will do well as the automakers continue to show stability and value-creation in a changing industry. The near-term may be less exciting for shareholders, but evidence is mounting that automakers are changing.

And share prices are starting to show it. Shares in GM have gained more than $10 apiece since July, a 20 percent gain, and stock in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is surging on the strength of Ram and Jeep sales, as well as tailored moves in mobility — making it Morgan Stanley’s top auto stock. And Ford shares have gained nearly 10 percent since Jim Hackett was named CEO in May.

It’s still unclear how autonomous vehicles will ever deliver big profits for automakers. But leaders are demonstrating that it’s critical to maximize profits on the traditional car and truck business as they place uncertain bets on ride-sharing, electrification and self-driving vehicles.

“Forget about mobility for now,” said Dave Sullivan, analyst with AutoPacific. He estimated it could be 2030 before autonomous vehicles begin to be something average people regularly use or buy. “We don’t really know what that is yet. Nobody does.

“Is autonomous development going to end up being a commodity? They’re spending a lot of money, but in the future will people care when they order a car on their phone? We don’t know what demand is.”

Or what it will be. Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler appear to be preparing for a nebulous future in which mobility isn’t only about self-driving vehicles. The Blue Oval’s Ford Smart Mobility LLC, created last year and first headed by Hackett, is designed to hedge the automaker’s bets.

Shuttle services, bike-share programs, infrastructure improvements, patents on vehicle interior components and developing vehicles that move goods rather than just people could help the Blue Oval distinguish itself if, as Sullivan suggests, every autonomous vehicle will effectively do the same thing.

The company has said as much publicly. Executive Chairman Bill Ford, also co-founder of a venture capital firm focused on mobility, will speak to the Detroit Economic Club Tuesday about how mobility will impact the auto industry, and what it will take to effectively use that technology.

When Hackett talks about “transforming” the 114-year-old automaker, it doesn’t necessarily mean he intends to lop off pieces of the company to make room for those ventures. Existing and new models will be adapted and made “smarter,” he’s said, and they won’t all be self-driving.

“We’re fully embracing an evolution brought on by the intersection of powerful computing concepts and the ability to develop intelligent capabilities,” Hackett told analysts this week. “For us, this means that we have a clear path to leverage what we’ve done well historically as we move toward this optimistic future.”

The CEO appointed to replace Mark Fields wants to boost revenue and cut operating costs while he figures out what the future will require. Based on the company’s third quarter, that means Ford will continue its push to book fat profits on high-margin trucks and SUVs — with new models driving up average transaction prices — while it develops new technology to ready for a distant future where some people use autonomous vehicles.

Meantime, developments in autonomous technology are expected to offer customers safety improvements over the next 20 years. That might underwhelm Wall Street now. But as Hackett and his team work to lower operating costs by $14 million over the next five years, the thinking inside Ford is the Blue Oval could prove its worth.

“We believe it will take several years for Hackett’s initiatives to ultimately bear fruit, providing little near-term reason to be excited on Ford stock,” Brian Johnson, Barclays analyst, wrote in a Friday note. “That said, this is a good start to the Hackett era, and Hackett and co. seem motivated to drive results.”


U.S. probe of Ford Fusion steering
wheels that may loosen, detach

The Associated Press
October 29, 2017

DETROIT -- U.S. regulators are investigating complaints that steering wheels can come loose or fall off in the Ford Fusion, a midsize sedan.

A person in Georgia told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that a steering wheel fell into their lap in a 2015 Fusion when turning into a gas station on Sept. 23.

People who file complaints are not identified in the NHTSA public database.

The agency opened the probe after receiving three complaints about loose steering wheels.

The probe revealed in documents posted Friday covers about 841,000 midsize sedans from the 2014 through 2016 model years.

Two other people reported that the bolt attaching the wheel to the steering column came loose while driving and had to be retightened at a repair shop. The agency doesn't have any reports of crashes or injuries.

Investigators will determine how often the problem happens, how many vehicles are affected and will assess safety consequences of the problem. No recall has been issued.

Two messages were left Friday seeking comment from a Ford spokeswoman.


Canada needs a bigger change
in pension system

‘While they address the needs of workers like those caught in the
Sears bankruptcy, politicians should resolve to tackle the
longer-term issue of retirement security. The most logical
solution is to keep building on the firm foundation
of the Canada Pension Plan.’

Toronot Star
Editorial Board
Oct. 28, 2017

Workers at bankrupt Sears Canada are getting a raw deal; that much is clear. Many have already been stiffed on severance payments, and now thousands more are worried they will face deep cuts in pension benefits that they thought were guaranteed.

Understandably, the Sears pensioners are pressing for changes in the law that would give them a better chance of claiming their full benefits. But the real lesson from the Sears debacle lies elsewhere – in the need to strengthen Canada’s public pension system.

At this point it’s probably too late to help the 18,000 Sears pensioners. The company’s pension plan is underfunded to the tune of $270 million and they face losing 19 per cent of the pension they were counting on as part of the company’s bankruptcy process.

That’s a hard blow, especially since they are in what’s known as a defined benefit pension plan: they thought they could count on receiving a certain amount of money each month, no matter what. That’s how they planned their retirement.

Now they’re learning the hard way that under Canadian law employees and pensioners are far back in the line when a company goes bankrupt and its creditors come looking for what’s left of its assets. If there isn’t enough money left over, they lose out.

There’s a good case for changing this. The Bloc Québécois has tabled a private member’s bill in Parliament aimed at putting pensioners ahead of creditors when a company declares bankruptcy. And New Democrat Scott Duvall plans his own bill aimed at putting workers and pensioners ahead of “big fat corporations and CEOs.”

Clearly, Duvall’s heart is in the right place, but changing the law may not be quite so simple. All creditors aren’t big fat corporations; small businesses are often owed money when a company they do business with fails and it’s not clear why they should be pushed back in the line. There will be tricky trade-offs in any reform.

More to the point, any reform of bankruptcy laws aimed at protecting pensioners like those at Sears Canada won’t go far toward addressing the deeper issues involved in making sure everyone has an adequate income in retirement.

Defined benefit pension plans like the one at Sears have been declining for many years, at least in the private sector. In some cases (like Sears) part of the problem is greedy corporations: its biggest shareholder has sucked billions out of the company over the past decade. But other private pension plans are struggling because of more fundamental issues. Retirees are living much longer and interest rates have been at record lows for years. That forces companies to make up the shortfall at a time when they may be fighting for their very survival.

That’s where the public pension system must step in. Canada took a major step forward last year when Ottawa and the provinces agreed on the first expansion of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) in two decades. But it didn’t go far enough, and the continuing crisis in private pensions underlines why further changes are needed.

The CPP is an admirable system: it guarantees a minimum level of support, it’s cost-effective, and it’s securely funded for many decades into the future. But the changes introduced last year will go only about half way toward meeting the goal of giving workers a basic floor for a decent retirement.

While they address the more immediate needs of workers like those caught in the Sears bankruptcy, politicians should resolve to tackle the longer-term issue of retirement security. The most logical solution is to keep building on the firm foundation of the Canada Pension Plan.


Sears Canada pensioners demand
shortfall be paid off first

A letter representing Sears Canada pensioners has asked
monitor to pay for $270-million deficit ahead of other creditors

By Francine Kopun
Business reporter
and Canadian Press

Oct. 28, 2017

The law firm representing Sears Canada pensioners has issued a letter to the agency overseeing the liquidation and all other creditors, asking that the pension deficit be paid first and as soon as possible, as money from liquidation sales becomes available.

“Our clients . . . are entitled to first priority recover for those amounts,” according to the letter, from Koskie Minsky’s Andrew Hatnay, citing a prior Supreme Court of Canada decision.

The letter is addressed to the monitor assigned to the case, FTI Consulting, and to the service list, which includes lawyers representing every party to the insolvency.

If Hatnay’s position is accepted by the creditors lining up to be paid, the pension’s $270-million deficit would be paid first, although pensioners would not receive other benefits – dental benefits and life insurance benefits, which were discontinued at the end of September.

If the other creditors refuse to allow the pensioners to be paid first, the matter could end up before the court, according to Hatnay.

The legal letter was sent Thursday, a day after Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said the federal government will consider legislation to protect employees’ pensions when a company goes bankrupt.

While there’s no plan for the government to introduce legislation at the moment, he said it will carefully examine two different private member’s bills on the subject, put forward by a New Democrat MP and a Bloc Quebecois MP.

“This is a legitimate issue and a legitimate challenge,” Bains said Wednesday, adding that the government is “very mindful” of the fact that bankruptcy “could happen at any time with any company.”

“That’s why we support secure pensions, that we want to make sure that companies maintain and fulfil their pension obligations and so we’ll work with the employees and companies to address this issue.”

Bains added that the government is “willing to work with anyone that wants to put forward proposals.”

The government has come under increasing pressure to do something to protect the pensions of employees since struggling retailer Sears Canada won court approval to liquidate its assets and close all its remaining stores. The company has been operating under court protection from creditors since June.

The NDP wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday, asking him to launch a special parliamentary investigation into the liquidation of Sears.

“While in opposition, the Liberals vowed to change bankruptcy laws to protect workers,” NDP pensions critic Sott Duvall told the House of Commons.

“But since then the Liberal government has done nothing to help workers except apparently monitor the situation, leaving workers at companies like Sears, U.S. Steel, Stelco, Algoma steel, Wabush Mines, and Cliff Mines reeling.”

Outside the Commons, Duvall said he’s met with workers who’ve lost their benefits, severance and termination pay and their pensions when a company goes belly-up.

“This is criminal and it’s got to stop,” he said. “It’s theft, that’s basically what it is, it’s real theft.”

Duvall said he believes it’s already too late to help Sears employees but the government needs to act quickly to prevent the same thing happening over and over again.

In the Commons, Trudeau said that “our hearts go out to workers affected” by the Sears liquidation and he insisted the government has been making every effort to “help them through this tough time.”

Bains said Service Canada has held 82 sessions with Sears employees across the country to advise them on the various government programs that exist to help them and their families.

As of Dec. 31, there were 16,921 members in the defined benefit component of the Sears Pension Plan - 13,121 of them retired.



Ford's net income jumps
in 3Q on truck sales

Associated Press
October 27, 2017

DEARBORN, Mich. –  Pickup trucks helped Ford Motor Co. to a strong finish in the third quarter despite lower global sales.

 The Dearborn-based automaker said its net income rose 63 percent to $1.6 billion in the July-September period. The earnings of 39 cents per share handily beat Wall Street's expectations. Analysts polled by FactSet forecast earnings of 33 cents per share.

Ford's revenue rose 1 percent to $36.45 billion. Automotive revenue of $33.6 billion also topped analysts' forecasts.

With those results under its belt, Ford raised its full-year earnings estimate to $1.75 to $1.85 per share, up from $1.65 to $1.85. That compares to $1.76 per share in 2016.

Ford's overall sales fell 2 percent to 1.5 million cars and trucks. Sales were lower in China, North America and the Middle East; they rose in Europe and South America.

But the company earned more thanks to booming sales of high-margin trucks, which got an added boost in the U.S. after the season's hurricanes.

U.S. sales of F-Series pickups were up 14 percent during the quarter. Ford said buyers paid an average of $45,400 per truck, up $2,800 from the same period a year ago.

Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said more buyers are springing for luxury packages on their trucks to get extras like heated seats and backup cameras.

The third quarter was Ford's first full quarter with new CEO Jim Hackett at the helm. Hackett, the former CEO of furniture maker Steelcase Inc., was leading Ford's new mobility efforts until May, when he took over the top job after CEO Mark Fields was ousted.

Earlier this month, Hackett told investors that Ford plans to cut $14 billion in costs by 2022. The company says better deals with suppliers, more shared parts and simpler designs will help it reduce material costs, while decreasing product development time will help with engineering costs. Ford also said it plans to cut one-third of its engine development costs and redeploy them to electric and hybrid vehicles. Ford plans to introduce 13 new electrics and hybrids over the next five years, including a small electric SUV coming in 2020.

Shanks said those efforts are already underway, noting that the company spent less on engineering and materials in the third quarter.

But Ford is struggling to be heard over splashier announcements from rivals like General Motors Co., which said last week that it will soon be testing self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric cars in New York City, and Fiat Chrysler, which is supplying hybrid minivans to Waymo, Google's autonomous car division.

GM's share price hit an all-time high Tuesday, climbing above $46 per share after the company reported a $2.5 billion pretax profit despite selling its European division. Fiat Chrysler's shares also jumped Tuesday after it reported a 50 percent increase in its third quarter net income, to $1 billion.

But Ford's shares have languished. They closed Wednesday at $12.04 and have traded in a range of $10.47 to $13.27 over the past year


Ford issues recalls for full-size
vans and F-150 trucks; wiring
issue in vans may have led to fires

The recall covers 73,443 Ford Transit vans, including 8,365 in Canada,
from 2015 through 2017 that have a trailer tow computer module. The
company also issued three other safety recalls involving F-150 vehicles.

Toronto Star
October 26, 2017

DETROIT—Ford has recalled more than 100,000 full-sized vans and F-150 trucks in North America, including 8,365 vans in Canada to fix a wiring problem that was potentially related to two fires.

The company said it is not aware of any accidents or injuries associated with this issue.

The recall announced Wednesday covers 73,443 Ford Transit vans from 2015 through 2017 that have a trailer tow computer module.

Here’s what you need to know about the recall:

— Ford says water can enter the module and cause corrosion. That could cause an electrical short and an increased fire risk.

— Corrosion also can cause unexpected seat belt pretensioner activation, rapid flashing of turn signals, loss of heating and air conditioning controls and other problems.

— Fires could happen when the ignition is off so Ford is recommending they be parked outdoors until repairs are made.

— Owners can have dealers disable the module as a temporary fix. Dealers will add a drain hole to the driver’s door step well and install a fuse in a wiring harness when parts become available at an unspecified later date.

The U.S.-based carmaker also issued three other safety recalls involving F-150 vehicles.

One involves about 15,000 trucks, including 2,203 in Canada with 3.3-litre engines, six-speed transmissions and column-mounted shift levers. Inaccurate gear selection could result in unintended vehicle movement.

Rapid shifts from park to drive may cause a loss of the gear indication in the instrument panel and result in a momentary engagement of reverse or neutral operation before the vehicle achieves forward drive function. There are no reported accidents or injuries associated with this issues.

The affected vehicles were built between Jan. 12 and Oct. 9 at the Dearborn and Kansas City assembly plants.

A third recall involves 15,000 2017 Ford F-150 vehicles with 10-speed automatic transmission. The affected vehicles are unable to shift the transmission using the shift lever.

The pin attaching the transmission shift linkage to the transmission may come out, leaving the transmission stuck in that gear. The key could be removed even if the vehicle is not in park, making it impossible to restart the vehicle and increasing the risk of accident or injury.

The affected vehicles include 3,160 vehicles sold in Canada that were built between August 2016 and August 2017.

The fourth recall involves nearly 30 2018 Ford F-150 vehicles with 3.5-litre engines for possible loss of motive power and engine failure.

In affected vehicles, certain cylinder heads are missing machined holes intended to supply lubrication to the camshaft-bearing journals. The lack of proper lubrication increases the risk of a crash, although there are no reported accidents or injuries.

The vehicles, including seven sold in Canada, were built Sept. 3-17.

With files from The Canadian Press


Auto industry bands together
in bid to save NAFTA

Groups that lobby in Washington for Detroit’s automakers and their foreign-based counterparts, as well as car part manufacturers and dealerships, have banded together to fight President Donald Trump’s proposed changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Keith Laing,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
October 25, 2017

Washington — Groups that lobby in Washington for Detroit’s automakers and their foreign-based counterparts, as well as car part manufacturers and dealerships, have banded together to fight President Donald Trump’s proposed changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

U.S. negotiators have proposed in talks with Canada and Mexico to increase the minimum percentage of a car’s parts that must be made in one of the three countries — from 62.5 percent to 85 percent — in order to escape tariffs when it is imported to America. And they want to require that 50 percent of parts must come from the U.S.

The American Automotive Policy Council, which lobbies for Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has teamed up with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents foreign and domestic manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers, which represents international carmakers, the American International Automobile Dealers Association and the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association to form a coalition called “Driving American Jobs” to fight the Trump administration’s proposed changes.

The groups said their members “agree that the future of the American automotive industry and its workers depends on trade.” They added that “NAFTA enhances the United States’ global competitiveness through the elimination of tariffs and other barriers to trade and investment.”

“American automakers are driving the revival of American manufacturing,” Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council and former governor of Missouri, said in a statement. “When you examine the data, there’s no question that NAFTA has helped advance the global competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry sector.”

Renegotiating NAFTA was a central tenet of Trump’s campaign as he promised voters to bring back jobs, especially in auto-dependent states in the Midwest. NAFTA was enacted in 1994 to create a free-trade zone between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

On the campaign trail, Trump said he would end the trade pact with Canada and Mexico and slap a 10 percent to 35 percent tariff on vehicles and parts made in Mexico that are imported into the U.S. if NAFTA renegotiation is not a success. That could add $5,000 to $15,000 to the price of a car. Some vehicles assembled by American companies in Canada or Mexico could be hit with import tariffs.

Trump has threatened recently to withdraw completely from the deal. In a Forbes interview published earlier this month he said: “I happen to think that NAFTA will have to be terminated if we’re going to make it good. Otherwise, I believe you can’t negotiate a good deal.”

The auto lobbying group coalition countered that “a diminished NAFTA endangers the success and competitiveness of our industry, reverses our manufacturing comeback, and places many jobs in the auto sector at risk.”

“NAFTA continues to spur innovation and support high-paying U.S. jobs. It’s important to remember that these jobs are not just numbers,” John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Association of Global Automakers, said in a statement. “They belong to hardworking Americans across the country who support their families and communities by working for auto manufacturers across the United States.”

Jennifer Thomas, vice president of Federal Affairs at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, added: “Our biggest concern is for American workers and customers. Pulling out of NAFTA would lead to a decrease in vehicle production, a decline in jobs and an increase in what our customers spend when buying a new vehicle. Not to mention this would also have an impact on our abilities to export vehicles to foreign markets.”

Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, said dealerships are equally at risk in the high-profile NAFTA talks.

“America’s 1.1 million dealership employees rely on NAFTA to offer customers a wide selection of safe, affordable new cars and trucks,” Lusk said. “It’s clear NAFTA is working for the towns and communities served at the 16,700 dealerships across America, and helping create more stable, skilled American jobs with each passing year.”

Ann Wilson, senior vice president government affairs of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association added: “NAFTA is working by keeping American businesses competitive and hiring here in the U.S. While modernization of a 23-year old agreement is welcome, this must be done with care.”


VW and Daimler Inspected by
EU as Cartel Probe Widens

Volkswagen GTE Golf hybrid automobiles hang as they move along the assembly line inside the Volkswagen AG (VW) factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, on Friday, May 20, 2016.

By Aoife White
Elisabeth Behrmann
and Karin Matussek
Bloomberg News

October 24, 2017

Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG were inspected by European Union antitrust investigators as the EU stepped up a probe into allegations the German car industry colluded on technology for decades.

Just days after raiding BMW AG, EU antitrust officials visited Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg headquarters and its Audi unit’s offices in Ingoldstadt “as part of an announced review,” VW said in a statement. Daimler also received “an announced visit” to its Stuttgart headquarters, spokeswoman Ute Wueest von Vellberg said by phone.

The deepening probe represents another challenge for the German auto industry, which is grappling with the fallout of VW’s diesel-cheating scandal and the disruptive shift to self-driving, electric cars. Allegations emerged in July in Germany’s Spiegel magazine, which reported that VW, Daimler and BMW met starting in the 1990s to coordinate activities related to vehicle technology, costs, suppliers and strategy as well as diesel emissions controls

“The Volkswagen Group and the Group brands concerned have been cooperating fully and for a long time with the European Commission and have submitted a corresponding application” that might allow it to receive a reduction in any eventual fines, the company said in an email. “It is not yet clear whether the European Commission will instigate formal proceedings.”

Leniency Program

The commission in Brussels said it carried out visits at the premises of several carmakers in Germany, accompanied by German antitrust officials. Regulators are concerned the companies may have violated antitrust rules, the EU said in an emailed statement. It didn’t name the manufacturers visited.

Daimler reported a possible cartel as part of the EU’s leniency program that allows firms to dodge fines for being the first in line to report wrongdoing, Chief Financial Officer Bodo Uebber said last week, confirming previous press reports.

Investigators don’t always need to visit a company’s offices to collect documents or copy hard drives if firms have already offered evidence in return for a reduced fine, said Aitor Ortiz, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence.

“We have here two companies claiming for leniency and we don’t know what information they are handing in, which products or services are involved,” Ortiz said, referring to VW and Daimler. If officials “found some inconsistencies in the evidence gathered, they may prefer to go to the premises and collect the evidence by themselves to better define the line of the investigation.”

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in September that her officials are checking whether “completely legal cooperation” between German car companies isn’t being confused with an illegal cartel.

BMW said it was raided last week, in an inspection the EU said it started on Oct. 16. Reuters reported the Daimler visit earlier on Monday.

BMW is irritated by its rivals’ conduct, Markus Duesmann, who heads procurement for BMW, said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. VW and Daimler both continued talks with BMW and didn’t disclose they had informed the EU’s antitrust authorities about cooperation discussions.

The three carmakers worked together on a wide range of technology including discussing the size of tanks for AdBlue, a liquid that helps neutralize pollutants in diesel exhaust, according to Der Spiegel. More than 200 employees participated in 60 working groups in areas including auto development, gasoline and diesel motors, brakes and transmissions, it said.


Tom Petty was a master
of the driving song

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers perform at Viejas Arena on August 3, 2014 in San Diego, California.

Andrew Clark
The Globe and Mail
October 23, 2017

Tom Petty, the 66-year-old rock icon who passed away recently, created some of the finest road tunes ever recorded. Petty, who sold more than 80 million albums, not only wrote music that was great to drive to, he frequently wrote about driving itself in songs like Turn This Car Around and Runnin' Down a Dream.

The lead singer of Tom Petty and the Hearbreakers was a car buff who owned a 1993 Cadillac Allante and who, in 2012, auctioned off his beloved 1996 Jaguar XJS convertible with proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders. His tunes, ideal for solo sing-alongs in the car, were featured in several films, soundtracking memorable moments in Jerry Maguire, Silence of the Lambs and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, among many others.

Petty's untimely death got me thinking about the nature of road tunes. While many will credit Tom Petty as the king of the subgenre (especially baby boomers), road music is as unique as the driver.

Music inspired by life behind the wheel also springs from the romance of the automobile. Cars are part of the North American dream of individuality – a car lets you go where you want to go, when you want to go, with whom you want to go. The world opens itself up as the road unfurls.

You're either heading toward something you really want or running from something you are desperate to leave behind. "I rolled on as the sky grew dark," Petty sings at the end of Runnin' Down a Dream. "I put the pedal down to make some time. There's something good waitin' down this road. I'm pickin' up whatever's mine."

Today, however, the romance seems to be fading. When the car was first introduced, it was considered a way for working folks who had been trapped in city slums to escape to the fresh air. A guy could buy a car and take his family out into the country. Cars still represent freedom, but they're associated with pollution and climate change, not individuality. Driving used to be a rite of passage, now most drivers in their twenties can't afford to own a car.

It's hard to say where the road tunes of the future will come from. How inspired will musicians be when self-driving vehicles flood the highway? Is the very notion of road tunes bound to disappear as autonomous vehicles eventually flood the roads? Will we get lyrics like, "I get in my car. The robot takes over. It's just like being in my living room except moving and I can see trees."

Tom Petty was a terrifically gifted musician, one who had an innate grasp of the automobile and its place in the North American psyche. In songs such as "Free Fallin'" (inspired by his drives on Ventura Boulevard) he revelled in the duality of the fantasy of the open road. He approached the North American dream of freedom via automobile with a romantic yet skeptical delight. Tom Petty showed us that the highway can lead equally to hope or despair. It's an insight summed up at the end of his most classic road tune.

"I rolled on as the sky grew dark

I put the pedal down to make some time

There's something good waitin' down this road

I'm pickin' up whatever's mine

I'm runnin' down a dream

That never would come to me

Workin' on a mystery, goin' wherever it leads

Runnin' down a dream"


Australian car-making
ends with last GM plant closing

Rod McGuirk,
 Associated Press
Oct  22, 2017

Canberra, Australia —  The last mass-produced car built designed and built in Australia rolled off General Motors Co.’s production line in the industrial city of Adelaide on Friday as the nation reluctantly bid farewell to its auto manufacturing industry.

GM Holden Ltd., an Australian subsidiary of the of a U.S. automotive giant, built its last car almost 70 years after it created Australia’s first, the FX Holden, in 1948.

Since then, an array of carmakers including Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Chrysler and Leyland have built and closed manufacturing plants in Australia.

After the last gleaming red Holden VF Commodore, a six-cylinder rear-wheel drive sedan, left the plant in the Adelaide suburb of Elizabeth that had grown over decades to provide its workforce, 955 factory workers will clock off the last time

“It’s pretty tragic really that we’ve let go probably one of the best cars around the world,” an auto painter who identified himself as Kane told reporters.

The 36 year-old was worked at Holden for 17 years and starts a new job with an air conditioner manufacturer on Monday. But he knows many other former Holden employees won’t find jobs so quickly.

Thousands of jobs in businesses that have supplied components and accessories to Australian auto manufacturers are also at risk.

“It’s not the easiest thing. Life will go on,” Kane said.

Dozens of Holden enthusiasts gathered outside the factory, bringing with them generations of Holdens dating back to favored FJ models that were built between 1953 and 1956.

South Australia state Premier Jay Weatherill said car manufacturing was seminal to the state’s industrial know-how.

“It has provided the backbone for our manufacturing capability in this state,” Weatherill told reporters. “It’s given us the … the capacity to imagine ourselves as an advanced manufacturing state.”

Holden is an iconic Australian brand and has been a source of national pride for generations.

The V8 Holden Commodore has sold in the United States since 2013 as the Chevrolet SS.

The brand will survive although Holdens will all now be imported from GM plants around the globe.

Holden retains design and engineering teams, a global design studio, a local testing ground, 1,000 employees and a 200-strong national dealer network.

The brand that became known as “Australia’s own car,” accounted for more than half the new cars registered in Australia by 1958.

The reasons behind the demise of Australian auto manufacturing are numerous.

The first Holden cars were built in an era of high Australian tariffs and preferential trade with former colonial master Britain, which encouraged global carmakers to set up local factories to increase market share.

Australian import tariffs have since tumbled through bilateral free trade deals with car manufacturing countries like the United States, Japan, China, South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia.

The Holden workers’ union blames a lack of government support through subsidies for GM’s decision to end manufacturing.

There had been debate about whether the 7 billion Australian dollars ($5.5 billion) that the government spent on the car industry in subsidies since 2001 was worth the jobs that it created.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the closure was due to a “perfect storm” of factors.

The factors included the value of the Australian dollar which due to a mining boom was for the first time stronger than the greenback in 2013 when the last three carmakers — GM, Ford and Toyota — announced that they would close.

Other factors were high production costs, a small domestic market in an Australian population of 24 million and the most competitive and fragmented auto market in the world, with more than 60 car brands on sale.

“You can’t get away from the emotional response to the closure,” Turnbull told Melbourne Radio 3AW on Friday.

The opposition Labor Party accused “rightwing economic rationalists” within the government of “goading General Motors to leave Australia” but refusing to guarantee future subsidies.

“We’re not just losing a car, we’re not just losing an industrial capability. We’re losing an icon and that is a tragedy,” Labor lawmaker Nick Champion, who represents the Holden factory region, told reporters on Thursday.


Ford recalling 1.3M vehicles
for possible door issue

Associated Press
October 20, 2017

Detroit — Ford is recalling about 1.3 million 2015-17 F-150 and 2017 Super Duty vehicles in North America because of potential door problems.

The company said Wednesday that in some vehicles a frozen door latch or bent or kinked actuation cable may cause a door to not open or close. If consumers are able to open and close such doors, the door may appear closed, but the latch may not fully engage, increasing the risk for a possible injury.

Ford said it’s not aware of any accidents or injuries related to the issue.

The company’s dealers will install water shields over door latches and inspect and repair door latch actuation cables if necessary free of charge to customers.



The final NAFTA bombshell:
U.S. demands Canada end supply management for dairy, poultry, eggs

With that demand, the U.S. has now adopted a highly aggressive posture
on virtually all the key issues expected to arise in the current NAFTA talks

National Post
October 19, 2017

ARLINGTON, Va. — The United States has lit the fuse on one of Canada’s most politically explosive trade issues, asking in NAFTA talks for an end to the supply management system for dairy, chicken, eggs and turkey within the next decade.

With that demand, the U.S. has now adopted a highly aggressive posture on virtually all the key issues expected to arise in the current NAFTA talks: it has asked to erect trade barriers in its own politically sensitive sectors, while eliminating them north of the border.

The latest demands come near the end of a week-long round where American negotiators dropped one bombshell demand after another, leading the other countries to question whether the U.S. goal is to actually reach a deal or to blow up NAFTA altogether.

Two sources tell The Canadian Press the request came on Sunday evening, catching some on the Canadian side off-guard, since they hadn’t expected the highly contentious issue to arise during the current round.

One source says the supply-management request came with an initial phase-in period of five per cent more market access per year, leading to total duty-free, quota-free trade in protected supply-managed areas within 10 years.

That adds dairy, poultry, and eggs to a list of irritants that includes auto parts, textiles, trade-enforcement panels, Buy American rules for public works and a proposed five-year termination clause embedded in the agreement, with the countries holding not just different positions, but sitting on opposite sides of gaping ideological differences.

“Outrageous,” said Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, of the latest proposal.

“It would be the end of supply management…. We are not surprised by the U.S. demands, they are in line with the demands they have made in other sectors.”

The Canadian government, meanwhile, is calling the idea a non-starter.

Canada’s system of protections was born from a 1960s effort to stabilize dairy prices, and was later emulated in other industries. It works by limiting imports and setting fixed prices.

The system’s critics say the tightly controlled program stifles innovation, bars Canadian companies from selling onto international markets, limits choice at the grocery store and saddles Canadian consumers with higher prices.

The U.S. move was praised by the Montreal Economic Institute, a free-market think tank in Montreal, which urged Canadian policy-makers to seize the opportunity to dismantle a system that it says costs Canadian families an extra $339 a year in grocery bills.

“You can’t on the one hand defend tariffs that sometimes reach 300 per cent for supply-managed products, then accuse the American government of being protectionist,” said Alexandre Moreau, a policy analyst with the institute.

“That being said, the Canadian government should also make sure the Americans abolish their own dairy programs, and obviously offer fair compensation to farmers for their (supply-managed) quotas.”

Therein lies the challenge.

Defenders of the current system say eliminating it would create new problems — starting with the billions it would cost to buy out existing quotas. They say the status quo provides stability in rural communities, allows farms to survive without boom-bust cycles, and makes taxpayer bailouts unnecessary. The U.S., meanwhile, maintains numerous support programs to prop up its farmers, they note.

No major Canadian political party has ever opposed the system.

The federal Liberal government had said entering the talks it did not want to even discuss supply management, having promised to maintain the system. Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said Monday: “I’ve indicated quite clearly that our government is going to fight to make sure (supply management) stays in place. To deal with anything else is simply a non-starter.”

The U.S. has now tabled a series of positions far outside the realm of what Canada says it’s prepared to negotiate, prompting fears that a deal may be slipping out of reach.

Indeed, the prospect of a deal by year’s end already seems impossible. With Mexico and the U.S. embroiled in national elections next year, the countries fear that a failure to get a deal by early next year will push the talks into 2019.

U.S. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, keeps threatening to cancel the existing agreement, to force concessions from the other countries. Mexico’s finance minister, Jose Antonio Meade, blamed the uncertainty Monday for damaging his country’s currency.

Pro-trade U.S. senator John McCain tweeted a Wall Street Journal editorial with the headline, “Trump’s NAFTA threat: Ending the pact would be the worst economic blunder since Nixon,” calling the editorial a “must-read.”

The head of the World Trade Organization warned against increasing uncertainty in the global trading system. The U.S. is being accused of sabotaging the dispute panels at the international body, as it’s seeking to gut them within NAFTA.

“I hope that (NAFTA) will not (end) because not only of the economic impact … but also for the systemic implications,” said WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo.

“It’s very important to have these initiatives because they are the groundwork, they are the foundations of the WTO itself.”

The U.S. has introduced aggressive demands in virtually every major NAFTA area:

— Auto parts. The U.S. wants all cars to comprise 50 per cent U.S. content to avoid a tariff. The U.S. has requested this policy be phased in within one year, which automakers call impossible.

— Dispute-resolution. The U.S. wants to gut the enforcement systems of NAFTA, making the panels for Chapter 11, 19 and 20 disputes either non-binding, or voluntary.

–Buy American. The U.S. wants to severely curb other countries’ access to public works contracts.

–Sunset clause. The U.S. has requested a termination clause that would end NAFTA after five years, unless all parties agree to extend the agreement.

–Dairy. The supply management request follows an earlier request for a de-facto veto over Canadian milk-classification decisions, which in the case of diafiltered cheese-making products has advantaged Canadian producers.


Trump NAFTA demands
could have unintended effects

Keith Laing,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
Oct. 18, 2017

Washington — A Chrysler Pacifica built in Canada could be hit by tariffs when shipped to the United States under a contentious proposal from the Trump administration in negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement.

U.S. negotiators proposed increasing the minimum percentage of parts that must be made in the U.S., Canada or Mexico — from 62.5 percent to 85 percent — in order to escape tariffs when imported to this country. And they want to require that 50 percent of parts must come from the U.S.

That would mean the Pacifica and several other vehicles made by Detroit carmakers could be hit by import taxes when sent here. Only 44 percent of the components of the Pacifica — which is built in Windsor — originate in the U.S., according to a study conducted by American University. And industry observers say the demands could raise the price of cars and actually drive production offshore by causing carmakers to just pay the tariff and shift production to countries with lower labor costs.

Canada and Mexico this week rejected what they see as a hardline proposal, and pushed the time frame for resolving differences into 2018. The next round of talks take place in Mexico on Nov. 17-21.

“We have seen proposals that would turn back the clock on 23 years of predictability, openness and collaboration under NAFTA,” Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday in a press conference at the conclusion of the latest round of negotiations in Arlington, Va. “In some cases, these proposals runs counter to (World Trade Organization) rules. This is troubling.”

Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal added: “In order for this effort of the United States, Canada and Mexico to be fruitful, we must understand that we all have limits.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he was “surprised and disappointed by the resistance to change by our negotiating partners.”

“NAFTA has resulted in a huge trade deficit for the United States and has cost us tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs,” Lighthizer said. “The agreement has been come very lopsided and need to be rebalanced.”

A 50 percent requirement for domestic content would trigger import duties not just for the Pacifica, but for the Ford Fusion, which is built in Mexico with 48.5 percent of its parts coming from U.S. A GMC Terrain built in Mexico with 43 percent of its parts coming from the U.S. also would also face tariffs if it was sold domestically.

But a Toyota Tacoma — which is built in Mexico and in Texas with 52.5 percent of its parts coming from the U.S. — would clear the threshold.

Paul D. Ryan, vice president of trade and competitiveness for the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Global Automakers, which lobbies for international carmakers, said the Trump administration’s demands are “unprecedented, and I think they’re both unrealistic and unworkable.”

 “I don’t think it’s anything our trading partners could accept,” he said.

Assessing ramifications

Renegotiating NAFTA was central to President Donald Trump’s campaign as he promised to bring back jobs, especially in auto-dependent states in the Midwest. NAFTA was enacted in 1994 to create a free-trade zone between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Trump vowed to end the trade pact with Canada and Mexico, and slap a 10 percent to 35 percent tariff on vehicles and parts made in Mexico that are imported into the U.S. That could add $5,000 to $15,000 to sticker prices.

Critics have noted Mexico will continue to be attractive to automakers because it has free-trade agreements with more than 40 countries that are separate from NAFTA. Additionally, they note the U.S. has most-favored nation status with all 164 countries that are members of the World Trade Organization, including Mexico, Canada and China, which limits tariffs on most traded goods to 2.5 percent.

Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry, Labor and Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said the Trump administration’s latest demands could push more auto companies into claiming most-favored nations status, meaning they would pay only a 2.5 percent tariff for cars imported from Canada and Mexico if they fall under the 50 percent threshold. Automakers, she said, are not going to move production to the United States unless the cost of doing so is less than paying a 2.5 percent tariff.

Then there’s the “chicken tax.”

Without NAFTA, pickups and SUVs built in Canada or Mexico and then sold in the U.S. would be subject to a 25 percent duty imposed by former President Lyndon Johnson in response to tariffs by France and West Germany on U.S.-raised chickens.

Dziczek said the higher tariffs for pickups and SUVs could force automakers to be more creative in their vehicle designation. She noted that crossovers have already blurred the lines between SUVs and passenger cars.

“A 25 percent tariff is going to make you think about how to get around it,” Dziczek said.

Dziczek said auto companies claimed NAFTA’s duty-free treatment for 99.5 percent of the cars that were imported from Canada and 99.7 of the vehicles that were imported from Mexico in 2016.

She said the proposed changes to NAFTA could put U.S. auto companies at a disadvantage against global competitors.

“Every vehicle that is traded in the world has a portion of that car that is done in a low-cost, or some would say best-cost, country,” she said. “If you’re competing in a global market and you don’t have a low-cost or best-cost country, you’re going to be at a disadvantage.”


Alan Deardorff, professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, said it’s not clear how Trump’s NAFTA proposals will impact employment in the U.S.

He noted automakers would be free to import cars cheaply from other U.S. trading partners, except in the case of light trucks that would face higher tariffs due to U.S. trade law.

“If they are no longer trying to qualify for preferential tariffs, they might as well import parts from China,” Deardorff continued.

Linda Lim, professor emeritus of strategy at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said the Trump administration may be trying to “self-sabotage” the NAFTA talks with its strident domestic-content proposals.

“What’s really happening is the Trump administration is not very enthusiastic about NAFTA,” she said. “One thing they can do is make demands that are so extreme they kind of self-sabotage. I’m not saying that’s what they’re doing definitively, but it’s quite ridiculous to suggest such a high local percentage.”

Domestic content

These cars built in Canada or Mexico by Detroit carmakers would face tariffs on U.S. sales under the Trump administration’s NAFTA proposal (U.S. content figures are from an American University study):

■Cadillac XTS, assembled in Canada, 49 percent U.S. content

■Ford Fusion, assembled in Mexico, 48 percent U.S. content

■Chrysler Pacifica, assembled in Mexico, 44 percent U.S. content

■GMC Terrain, assembled in Mexico, 43 percent U.S. content


Striking GM workers at
CAMI OK contract

Kristine Owram,
 Bloomberg News
October 17, 2017

Workers at a General Motors Co. factory in Canada ended a month-long strike by approving a new agreement despite their union’s inability to secure a key protection against work being moved to Mexico.

Members of the Unifor union local at GM’s assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, voted 86 percent in favor of a deal reached late Friday. The automaker refused to designate the plant its lead producer of the Chevrolet Equinox sport utility vehicle, which would have dictated preferential treatment over the two facilities building the key model in Mexico.

“We weren’t able to secure a lead production letter from General Motors, but we were able to improve some of our programs that would soften the event if there in fact is a layoff or closure in the future,” Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick said in a phone interview.

The union seized on GM’s unwillingness to make the plant its lead Equinox factory as an example of how Nafta was failing to protect auto workers from losing out to lower-cost Mexico. Canada lost more than 53,000 automotive jobs from 2001 to 2014 before employment rebounded slightly in recent years, according to the Automotive Policy Research Centre at McMaster University.

Workers at a General Motors Co. factory in Canada ended a month-long strike by approving a new agreement despite their union’s inability to secure a key protection against work being moved to Mexico.

Members of the Unifor union local at GM’s assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, voted 86 percent in favor of a deal reached late Friday. The automaker refused to designate the plant its lead producer of the Chevrolet Equinox sport utility vehicle, which would have dictated preferential treatment over the two facilities building the key model in Mexico.

“We weren’t able to secure a lead production letter from General Motors, but we were able to improve some of our programs that would soften the event if there in fact is a layoff or closure in the future,” Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick said in a phone interview.

The union seized on GM’s unwillingness to make the plant its lead Equinox factory as an example of how Nafta was failing to protect auto workers from losing out to lower-cost Mexico. Canada lost more than 53,000 automotive jobs from 2001 to 2014 before employment rebounded slightly in recent years, according to the Automotive Policy Research Centre at McMaster University.


Donald Trump isn’t all
wrong about NAFTA

Employees of the GM CAMI assembly factory stand on the picket line in Ingersoll, Ont., on Sept. 18.  (Dave Chidley / THE CANADIAN PRESS)  

By Thomas Walkom
National Affairs Columnist
Toronto Star

Mon., Oct. 16, 2017

The three-nation pact does favour low-wage Mexico, as Ingersoll autoworkers are finding out.

Oops. Donald Trump’s critique of the North American Free Trade Agreement may not be that crazy after all.

The U.S. president routinely savages NAFTA, charging that the three-nation trade and investment pact is biased in favour of low-wage Mexico.

Equally routinely, he is chastised as a know-nothing protectionist for making these remarks.

But it seems that he may be right. Last week, General Motors informed workers at its Ingersoll, Ont. CAMI plant that it plans to deal with a month-long strike there by ramping up production at two of its cheaper Mexican operations.

Under NAFTA, automobiles manufactured anywhere in North America may be sold duty-free in Canada, the U.S. or Mexico.

Since, at $2.45 (U.S.) an hour, Mexican wages are a fraction of what they are in the other two NAFTA countries, this is a powerful incentive to locate production there.

As a recent report by former CIBC chief economist Jeff Rubin shows, this is exactly what has happened. Rubin calculates that the number of auto jobs in Mexico has quadrupled over the past decade. Over the same period, auto manufacturing jobs shrank by 26 per cent in Canada and 28 per cent in the U.S.

It was to deal with this problem that the workers at GM’s Ingersoll plant went on strike. Their demands did not focus on the usual issues such as wages. Rather employees sought ironclad assurances from GM that Ingersoll would continue to be the lead plant in North America for production of the popular Chevy Equinox sport utility vehicle.

Earlier this year, GM moved production of its Terrain model to Mexico from Ingersoll — at a cost of 400 Canadian jobs. The CAMI workers and their union, Unifor, wanted to make sure this didn’t happen again.

We shall see whether this was a wise strategy on the part of the union. Perversely, the strike may end up encouraging GM to shift production to Mexico.

But the broader point is that, under NAFTA as it is currently written, the auto giant is able to do so without penalty.

Trump, for all his many faults, has a solution for that. He would require that cars sold duty-free in the U.S. under NAFTA contain not only minimum North American content but minimum American content.

Linking domestic sales to domestic content is not an unusual principle. It is the same one that informed the very successful 1965 Auto Pact between Canada and the U.S.

If Trump weren’t so unpopular in Canada, there might be political pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to follow suit by demanding Canadian content rules for autos sold here under NAFTA.

But Trump is that unpopular in Canada. Anything he supports tends to be treated here as either racist or nuts.

In 2016, before Trump became president, polls showed that Canadians were split over NAFTA with 25 per cent in favour, 25 per cent opposed and the rest indifferent.

Now that NAFTA-hater Trump is president, polls show that an overwhelming majority of Canadians support the deal.

If Trump were a NAFTA backer, my guess is that most Canadians would say they opposed it.

There are many reasons to dislike Trump. He is a bully and a boor. His brinksmanship in the North Korean crisis is dangerous. He panders to xenophobes and nativists.

But his economic nationalism should be familiar to Canadians. Until recently, it was the position of the New Democratic Party. A little further back, it was the position of the Liberal Party.

Justin Trudeau may reject economic nationalism as dangerous. But his father, Pierre, did not. Indeed, Pierre Trudeau recognized that sometimes even the most cosmopolitan of nations need to protect themselves from the buffeting winds of the global economy.

In that, the elder Trudeau was right. It is ironic that one of the few politicians who understand this today is Donald Trump.


Analysts applaud Ford's
move away from sedans

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
October 16, 2017

Ford Motor Co. is doubling down on trucks and SUVs. But is the Blue Oval making the same mistake it made 17 years ago?

Not even close, experts say.

CEO Jim Hackett’s plan to divert money from passenger cars to more profit-rich trucks and SUVs aims to fund larger investments in mobility and autonomous vehicles.

He’s also pushing to make every Ford sold in the United States a connected vehicle within two years and to shift money from gas and diesel engines to development of electric powertrains.

Leaning again on light trucks might reek of old Ford. But those segments were overhauled and expanded over the past decade. And analysts say the monumental swing American consumers made away from trucks and SUVs to small cars when gas prices increased to more than $4 per gallon before the Great Recession — a shift that gutted auto industry profits — isn’t likely to happen again.

“The idea that people will run back to cars was true 10 years ago, 15 years ago, but that’s just really not true now,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst with Cox Automotive. “You just get so much more benefit with an SUV, and now you don’t really get any downside like you used to.”

They come in more shapes and sizes than earlier generations. They’re more fuel-efficient, sporting a wider array of powertrains. And they’re more flexible, delivering the higher seating positions familiar to SUV drivers with the handling of cars.

Buyers have shown overwhelmingly they want bigger vehicles. According to U.S. sales data from Autodata Corp., they bought three trucks and SUVs for every two cars this year. Consumers can get the space and utility they want without sacrificing much fuel efficiency.

Ford, come 2018, will be selling a more diverse group of light trucks than it had in the early 2000s. From the 2018 EcoSport subcompact to the new Expedition, or the $94,455 fully loaded Super Duty Limited pickup, Ford’s lineup will be stable moving forward, analysts said.

Profits from those segments, combined with Hackett’s additional pledge to shift about a third of the capital currently used to develop gas and diesel engines to electrified vehicles, is intended to propel the company through a period of disruptive changes in coming years.

“They want to be prepared for whatever emerges,” said David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research. “Are they prepared for a dynamic future? A requirement in this is that they’re profitable. If you can’t make money on this stuff, it’s not good for anybody.”

Gas guzzlers gone

Details of Ford’s plan are scarce, but profit-rich trucks and utilities are a valuable crutch for the company with little downside for consumers.

The gas-guzzling behemoths of the early 2000s have been replaced by more fuel-efficient models that are the key to funding the new future-looking investments in mobility and electrification Ford plans to make.

Crossovers have also filled a gap for the company. Late-’90s and early-2000s body-on-frame SUVs closely resembled their full-size pickup cousins. They offered bumpy rides and poor gas mileage, making it comparatively easy to ditch them when the global oil prices shot up.

Modern unibody SUVs and crossovers — typically based on cars — are smarter products, experts say. And Ford, maker of the nation’s best-selling truck, fully understands that.

Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president and president of Global Markets, told investors in New York that the company will cater to global wants and needs with SUVs. Europe will see more urban utility vehicles and crossovers; China will see bigger, seven-seat crossovers; in the U.S., the investment means more nameplates, some new, in the utility segment with credible off-road capability.

The Ford Bronco is expected in 2020. Joe Hinrichs, Ford executive vice president and president of Global Operations, has said that hotly anticipated vehicle will look and feel like an off-roading vehicle, but the company hasn’t offered many details on that product.

The company will also have a small truck back in the lineup when the Ranger returns in 2019.

Where will ax fall?

The company plans to further diversify. Not all trucks and SUVs are created equal, and Ford wants to fill as many niches in those segments as possible. Ford SUVs are outselling cars at about three utes for every two cars; trucks are closer to two to one.

“We want to leverage where we’re really strong,” Farley told Wall Street. “It’s really credible for Ford, and it’s a real opportunity for us to grow even faster.”

There will be fewer nameplates overall, but Ford has not said which cars will get axed. Cole expects there won’t be many sedan models left in Ford’s line-up when the company finishes its transition into a mobility and an automotive company.

Wall Street isn’t impressed with Ford’s plans. The stock price has moved less than 30 cents per share since Hackett told investors what he planned to do. And it hasn’t been worth more than $13 per share in more than a year.

But the experts see glimmers of change that might be under-appreciated in the investment community. One example: a company operating with an eye on the future would boost its biggest profit-generators — and trim products with slimmer margins — to fund electrification, mobility ventures and autonomous research.

“The way business works is you plan for the future and you fund it with what makes money today,” Brauer said. “There’s still plenty of demand for an internal combustion-powered truck and SUV. And nobody’s saying that when the car world goes all electric, trucks will go away.”


Ford offers Explorer
exhaust-leak fix

The Dearborn company said the fix, which covers the model years 2011-2017, involves reprogramming the vehicles’ air conditioners, replacing lift-gate drain valves and inspecting the sealing of the rear of the vehicle in an effort to reduce “the potential for exhaust to enter the vehicle.”

Keith Laing
Detroit News
 Washington Bureau
October 15, 2017

Washington — Ford Motor Co. is offering a fix for potential carbon monoxide leaks in 1.3 million of its Explorer SUVs in the U.S, although it maintains there is nothing wrong with them.

The Dearborn company said the fix, which covers the model years 2011-2017, involves reprogramming the vehicles’ air conditioners, replacing lift-gate drain valves and inspecting the sealing of the rear of the vehicle in an effort to reduce “the potential for exhaust to enter the vehicle.”

The reported exhaust problems with the Ford Explorer have prompted investigations by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which says 2,719 drivers have complained to regulators or Ford about symptoms including loss of consciousness, nausea, headaches and dizziness since launching an investigation in July 2016. Despite the complaints, NHTSA has steered clear of launching a full-scale recall of the cars, although it escalated its investigation in July 2017.

One driver in Washington state complained to NHTSA last week of a “strong foul odour” coming from the exhaust of a 2016 Ford Explorer.

“We bought this vehicle brand new, the dealer has tried multiple times to find the cause of the issue and try to fix it, still not resolved,” the driver, who was not identified, wrote to NHTSA. “The said odour is very strong that it gives us chest pains, headache and nausea. One of my kids does have a severe allergy and my other kid is a special need child, we would need to drive the car with windows down in order for us to use the car.”

Another 2016 Explorer driver in Alaska, who was also unidentified, complained of a “smell coming from dash vents all the time. “Not sure if it is exhaust but eyes start burning after about 15 minutes of driving,” the Alaska driver wrote. “Higher RPMs seem to make it worse.”

Even as it was announcing the fix Friday, Ford stressed that its own investigation of complaints it received directly from drivers has “not found carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day.”

The reported exhaust problem with Ford Explorers occur against a backdrop of a police officer losing consciousness at the wheel of an Explorer-based Police Interceptor Utility in August and striking a civilian’s vehicle in Massachusetts.

At least two police departments have pulled their Police Interceptor Utility vehicles from the road over related safety concerns. The SUV is made on the same platform as the consumer Explorer and recently became the most popular police vehicle in the country.

Ford says it believes the issues in the police vehicles are caused by aftermarket modifications that require wiring access holes to be drilled in the rear of the vehicle that are not sealed properly. Those holes do not exist on the Explorer sold to consumers and the automaker contends it has not seen the same issue with the regular SUV.

NHTSA launched a preliminary investigation into the Explorer’s apparent exhaust problems in July 2016. The agency escalated the inquiry in July of this year, saying it is now conducting an engineering analysis to determine “the root cause, frequency and safety consequence” of exhaust manifold cracks that are believed to be causing a low level of carbon monoxide detectability in the SUVs. The cracks are believed to be a possible explanation for the exhaust odours that drivers have complained about.

NHTSA has been reluctant to launch a full-scale recall of either version of the Explorer.

The agency said in July that no substantive data or actual evidence such as blood samples showing evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning.

NHTSA said its preliminary testing suggests carbon monoxide levels “may be elevated in certain driving scenarios,” but it said the significance and effect of those levels remains are being evaluated as part of an ongoing engineering analysis.


GM, Unifor reach deal that
may settle Canadian strike

Associated Press
Saturday Oct 14, 2017

Detroit — General Motors and Canada’s autoworker union on Friday reached a deal that will likely end a 26-day strike at a factory in Ontario that makes a hot-selling SUV.

The deal with Unifor still must be voted on by members. Terms were not disclosed.

The 2,500 members of Unifor Local 88 went on strike Sept. 17 at the factory in Ingersoll, Ontario, west of Toronto. The workers make the Chevrolet Equinox, a compact sport utility vehicle that is a hot seller.

The union wanted GM to designate the plant as the main Equinox manufacturer. The company can make the same vehicle at two plants in Mexico, drawing the disputed North American Free Trade Agreement into the labor dispute.

“This strike has shown all of Canada why a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement must address the needs of working people first,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said in a statement on the union website.

The statement said the deal would end the strike. The union’s local bargainers and national leadership are recommending that the contract be approved, the statement said. Unifor said terms would be released after the ratification vote, which likely will come early next week.

On Thursday it appeared that both sides had reached an impasse over the union’s job security demands, with Dias accusing GM of declaring war on Canada and of threatening to ramp up production in Mexico and wind it down in Ingersoll.

But GM said it has invested $800 million in the Ingersoll plant, a move that the company said should show workers it plans to keep producing vehicles there. The company said it didn’t want to agree to a main factory designation because it needs flexibility to respond to market conditions.

Dias also accused the company of exploiting low-paid Mexican workers at the expense of good-paying jobs in the U.S. and Canada.

Wages and benefits were mainly decided with the Unifor national contract settled last year.


GM heartless in response
to CAMI workers

Oct 13, 2017

Unifor stands behind the members of Local 88 in Ingersoll in the face of coldhearted indifference shown by General Motors as it threatens to ramp up production of the Equinox in Mexico, Unifor National President Jerry Dias said.

 “This is a callous and heartless attitude for General Motors to take toward a community that has worked so hard to build its top-selling vehicles,” Dias said.

“GM is turning its back on the entire community.”

GM has rejected a Unifor proposal to name CAMI as the lead producer of the Equinox, saying it can meet production needs for the vehicle at its Mexican facilities.

The Equinox is now the only vehicle now made at CAMI. In July, production of the Terrain was moved from Ingersoll to Mexico.

“CAMI is the poster child for what is wrong with North American Free Trade Agreement,” Dias said.

“You can make a best-selling vehicle, win shelves full of awards along the way, work three shifts a day, and still the company sends work to Mexico and refuses to discuss showing some loyalty to workers or the community that supported it.”

Unifor president:
GM has declared war

TORONTO — General Motors said Thursday it was backed into a corner when it told Unifor it may shift more production of one of its best-selling vehicles to Mexico, a move the union's president said is tantamount to an attack on Canada.

The company's warning to the union comes as a strike at its southwestern Ontario operation stretches into a fourth week. Both sides refuse to budge on the demand of job security at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., which assembles GM's Chevrolet Equinox sport utility vehicle.

A GM spokesman — who did not want to be named because the company does not like to comment during negotiations — said in an interview that the company sees no alternatives but to explore production alternatives and said as much to Unifor president Jerry Dias on Wednesday.

The company's position is that it can't agree to the union's demand to guarantee investments and job security because they're part of long-term trade issues.

"We've been very clear from day one that those are long-term trade and market things that we just aren't going to be able to sign up for," said the spokesman.

Dias said in a phone interview Thursday from Washington, D.C., where NAFTA trade talks are being held, that GM's comments were nothing less than a declaration of war on Canada.

"This is GM saying to us — and saying to Canada — we're going to ramp up production in Mexico and we're going to flood the North American market from cars built in Mexico."

Dias said GM is taking advantage of the low pay scales for Mexican workers at the expense of higher-paid workers in the United States and Canada, as permitted by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He said Unifor won't back down about designating CAMI as the lead plant for the Equinox, and suggested the union could broaden its efforts to defend Unifor jobs throughout Ontario's auto sector.

The CAMI plant is a prime example of a trend that has been happening for years, with GM adding plants in Mexico while closing Canadian and U.S. plants, Dias said.

"This is the ugly side of NAFTA, that people don't want to talk about," Dias said. "Mexican workers are being exploited and, as a result of that, we're losing hundreds and hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in Canada and the United States. It has to stop."

Tony Faria, a professor at the University of Windsor's Odette School of Business, said Unifor is right that Canada's automotive sector has lost out because of the trade deal, getting none of the last 10 assembly plants built in North America, while nine are going to Mexico.

But he said Dias could be making the situation worse by being so firm on demands for long-term commitments from the automaker.

"If Jerry is concerned about losing automotive jobs to Mexico, I think he's just adding to that situation by making it difficult for General Motors to work with Unifor in Canada."

The escalation of the assembly plant strike comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau begins an official visit to Mexico, while NAFTA negotiations continue in Washington.

Earlier this week, Trudeau met with politicians and business leaders in Washington as part of his government's NAFTA negotiation strategy.

—With files from Ian Bickis

By David Paddon, The Canadian Press


Liberal government tells
CRA to back off plan to
tax employee discounts

Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier says
government did not approve new tax

John Paul Tasker
CBC News
October 12, 2017

The national revenue minister is blaming bureaucrats at the Canada Revenue Agency for hatching a plan to tax employee discounts, reversing a new interpretation of the tax code she says she never approved in the first place while instructing the agency to pull the plans from its website.

In a statement sent to CBC News, Diane Lebouthillier's press secretary said she is "deeply disappointed" employees at the tax collector issued a directive — or a "folio" — with new rules around how employee discounts on merchandise would be treated for tax purposes.

The CRA had said on its website that when an employee receives a discount on merchandise the value of the discount should be included in the employee's income at tax time.

"This document was not approved by the minister and we are deeply disappointed that the agency posted something that has been misinterpreted like this," John Power, a spokesperson for Lebouthillier, said in an emailed statement.

"The agency issued a guidance document that does not reflect our government's intentions and the minister of national revenue has instructed officials to clarify the wording."

Shortly after the statement was sent out, the folio was pulled from the CRA's website. Power said the minister has instructed the agency to review its interpretation of the tax code and consult with stakeholders in the industry.

Later in the day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told his Twitter followers that his government has no intention to "tax anyone's employee discounts."

The government's backtrack comes amid a stunning backlash to the change from the Retail Council of Canada and thousands of the country's two million retail workers.

Later, in an interview with CBC's Power & Politics, Treasury Board President Scott Brison said the government will not go after retail workers who get discounted clothes as part of their employment.

"These are people who work really hard and don't make a lot of money. That guidance document is gone from the website for a reason: it does not reflect our intention as a government ... nor does it reflect our government's priorities," he said. "That memo gave the wrong impression."

While the minister has called for a review, the tax collector is still expected to address taxation on employee discounts.

A 2011 tax court ruling found the CRA's guidance to employers on this matter was out of date and did not adequately conform to the Income Tax Act, which stipulates most employee benefits should be deemed taxable income. Indeed, subsection 6(1) of the act states that income should include the value of "benefits of any kind whatever received or enjoyed by the taxpayer ... by virtue of the taxpayer's office or employment," with few exceptions.

In response, in its 2016 folio — a document written in plain language and disseminated to employers to help them interpret the tax code — the CRA said employers should start tracking employee discounts and report that as income on an employee's T4 (statement of remuneration paid). Previously, merchandise discounts were only considered taxable if the price paid by the employee was below the actual cost of the good to the employer.

"What we will do will be fair to Canadians," Brison promised, while adding it would be up to the CRA to determine how best to craft a new interpretation to adhere to the court ruling.

Under the guidelines the CRA had proposed, the difference between the "fair market value" of the merchandise purchased and what the employee paid was what would have had to be claimed on a tax return. For example, if an employee bought an $80 sweater for $40, then the employee would have to claim the $40 difference as income.


Unifor Local 584
Food Drive 2017

President of Unifor Local 584 Barb Morrison (Right) and Chris Wilski Unifor Local 584 Retirees Chair congratulating each other on our successful accomplishment.

Unifor Local 584 retirees and actives (Ford Warehouse) partnered together to host our 8th annual Food Drive for the Knights Table of Brampton this past weekend.

Together we raised a whopping 1,973 lbs of food for the needy families in our community during this Thanksgiving festive season.  Last month the challenge went out again to the Ford warehouse from the Retirees to see who could raise the most food and the active members in the plant came through with flying colours raising a total of 1,037 lbs, the most ever collected while the retirees who have come out ahead every year and were able to collect  936 lbs and $200 cash.

Every year Local 584 puts us on the map as an organization that cares about our community. Our involvement in actions like this sends a signal to the public that Unions serve an important role in our communities as do the retirees and actives.  We want to congratulate all the members of Unifor Local 584 on their generosity and for a  job well done.

Also thank you to Local 584 for hosting the Retirees Thanksgiving Luncheon again this year. It not only gives the retirees a chance to rekindle old friendships but also gives us the opportunity to hold our Food Drive. A big thank you goes out to Dwayne Decoste, Barb Morrison, Chris Wilski, Geoff Riddle, Doug Berry (partner Jean Cameron), Pauline Wilski, Tammy Dempsey, Arvin Gangwar, Mark Machado, Yvonne Rodney and Roz Monchamp for making this day a great success.




Revenue Canada to tax employee
discounts but Ottawa says it's not
'targeting' retail workers

2 million retail workers could now face new taxes on
merchandise purchased with an employee discount

John Paul Tasker
 Karina Roman
CBC News
Oct 11, 2017

The national revenue minister says she is not looking to target the country's retail workers, even after the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) issued guidelines to business owners that could pave the way for new taxes on merchandise purchased with an employee discount.

The CRA said in a document posted on its website that discounts for merchandise should be treated as a taxable benefit. The tax collector said that when an employee receives a discount on merchandise — as a benefit of their employment — the value of the discount should be included in the employee's income at tax time.

"However, no amount is included in the employee's income if the discount is also available to the general public or to specific public groups," CRA said in its "folio," a document written in plain language and disseminated to employers to help them interpret the tax code.

The onus would largely be on the employer to keep track of how much an employee saved with discounts in a given year, as they typically file T4s (a statement of remuneration paid) with the CRA for each of their workers.

This whole exercise is about "clarifying" the law, Liberal MP Marco Mendicino said Tuesday during an appearance on CBC's Power & Politics. "If you've got an employee discount that is not available to the public at any point in time, then it will be categorized as a taxable benefit," he said.

The Canada Revenue Agency issued a recent 'folio' that said employee discounts will now be considered taxable benefits

Retailers hate the idea

That stipulation was cold comfort to the Retail Council of Canada, who said the proposed CRA changes will be a "potentially horrendous burden" for employers and employees alike who will have to maintain reams of paperwork.

Nor is it clear when a discount will be considered to be offered to the general public and therefore not taxable.

"I don't quite know what that means. If you give the same discount to everybody all year long then there's really no employee discount? I don't know how long would be long enough, and to whom? Red-headed veterans? It does strike me as a bit of an artifice," Karl Littler, the vice-president of public affairs at the council, said in an interview with CBC News.

In the past, merchandise discounts were only considered taxable if the price paid by the employee was below the actual cost of the good to the employer.

According to the agency's website, the change is effective as of the 2017 tax year, along with another major change to the tax code — the elimination of the public transit tax credit.

2 million retail workers

Many of Canada's two million retail workers receive comparatively generous discounts at their place of work, with some companies offering as much as 50 per cent off regular prices. Such discounts are widely seen as a perk to working in sectors that typically offer less pay, irregular work hours and few other benefits.

The difference between the "fair market value" of the merchandise purchased and what the employee paid is what will have to be claimed on a tax return. For example, if an employee buys an $80 sweater for $40, then the employee would have to claim the $40 difference as income.

"It strikes me as odd that you would want to impose this on what are primarily modest income earners," Littler said. "I thought it actually might be a typo."

 During an appearance before the House of Commons finance committee late last month, Littler raised issues with the folio's new wording. He said Liberal MP Kamal Khera, the parliamentary secretary to the national revenue minister, and others on the committee, weren't even aware such a major change was coming, even though CRA announced the change last fall.

"That frankly reaffirms my view that this was done without political oversight, without necessary full supervision, even up to the upper levels of CRA ... it would be cheeky to say it lacks adult supervision but that's sort of the impression we get," he said.

CRA's interpretation has changed

National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier said Tuesday there have been no changes to the laws governing taxable benefits to retail employees.

"The agency issued a guidance document to mainly provide assistance for employers and is committed to further clarifying the wording of the guidance to reflect this," she said in an emailed statement. "We are not targeting individuals working in retail."

While it is true no legislation has been changed, the agency's new interpretation of the income tax law could still be costly for many low-income wage earners.

"Just because the law hasn't changed doesn't mean anything if the interpretation has," Littler said, "And it has."

Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative finance critic, said it's "insanity" that workers will have to document all the discounts they receive on merchandise each year under the new interpretation.

He said if all discounts are not documented, it could turn regular law-abiding Canadians into tax cheats.

"Hardworking, low-income, wage-earning retail workers should not have to pay tax on the small employee discounts they receive, this tax will actually cost more to administer and enforce than it will raise in revenue but it's perfectly consistent with Justin Trudeau's uncontrollable addiction to spending.

"He's running out of other people's money and now he's asking CRA to find him more," he said.

*Will this affect the Ford Employee/Retiree New Vehicle 'AXZ' Plans remains to be seen!


September was best auto
sales month of the year

Keith Laing,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
Oct. 6, 2017

September was the best month of the year so far for U.S. auto sales as car manufacturers reversed a year-long downward trend and rebounded from hurricanes that put a damper on sales in multiple major markets.

GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Volkswagen posted strong sales numbers that were part of an industry-wide total of more than 1.5 million vehicles that were sold in September, thanks to a strong economy and a boost in demand in areas where vehicles were damaged by storms.

The result was 6.1 percent higher than last September’s sales figure, and it came after automakers experienced a nearly 2 percent decrease in August that was attributed partially to hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which slammed populous parts of Texas and Florida last month. September was the first month of the year in which auto sales were higher than they were during the corresponding month last year.

General Motors Co. led the pack with 279,176 cars and trucks sold in the U.S. in September, which was a nearly 12 percent increase over the same month last year. Ford Motor Co. sold 221,643 vehicles, a nearly 9 percent increase. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sold 174,266 vehicles, which was down almost 10 percent.

“September was the month the U.S. auto industry had been hoping for,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader. “Vehicle sales surpassed forecasts, thanks to a strengthening economy, August sales disrupted by and replacement demand created by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and attractive model-year-end deals.”

Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said, “The sales numbers for just about every manufacturer have come in well above expectations. As you look at the segment mix, there was strength across the board. ... Regardless of segment, vehicle sales were very strong.”

GM’s uptick was driven by a 17.2 percent increase at Chevrolet and a 9.4 percent increase at GMC.

“Our new crossovers from Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac have been very well-received, and Chevrolet had an outstanding month with the Silverado and Colorado,” Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement.

GM said 2017 was its best September for Chevrolet since 2004. Sales of Chevrolet’s newest crossovers, the Equinox and Traverse, were up 80 percent and nearly 51 percent respectively over the same month last year. GM also reported the GMC Terrain was up 61.2 percent for its best September ever, while the Cadillac XT5 was up 58.5 percent.

Ford said sales of its F-Series pickups rose by 21.4 percent, with 82,302 trucks sold. The company said demand remains robust for its Super Duty, with the premium Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum trim levels making up 52 percent of retail sales. Ford added that sales of its Explorer, Sport and SportTrac SUVs totaled 21,207, which was a 10.8 percent increase over last year and also its best September retail sales performance in 13 years.

 “Ford sales gains came from trucks and SUVs, with truck sales gains of 19.9 percent and SUV sales gains for the month up 1.8 percent,” Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a conference calls with analysts and reporters. “Our business was strong nationwide, with retail increases in 12 of our 21 sales regions, with particular strength in Houston.”

LaNeve added: “The only notable year-over-year decline was in Florida. As you know they were closed for a big chunk of the month mainly to power outages and some debris damage, and even Florida was coming on strong at the end of the month.”

Fiat Chrysler said its fleet sales, which represented 16 percent of its September 2017 total, were down 41 percent from last year. It said the reduction was part of a strategy to “reduce sales to the daily rental segment.”

The automaker said five of its U.S. vehicles — the Jeep Renegade, Chrysler Pacifica, Ram ProMaster and Ram ProMaster City — posted record sales figures in September. Sales of FCA’s Jeep Compass were up 75.2 percent, which the company said was enough to account for the compact SUV’s best sales month ever. FCA also reported that sales of the Dodge Durango increased by 45.2 percent, which was best September sales for the SUV since 2005.

Kelley Blue Book had projected that new overall vehicle sales would rise by 1 percent in September 2017 in a year-over-year comparison with September 2016, going from 1.43 million last year to 1.44 million last month.

Similarly, Edmunds.com forecast a year-over-year increase in sales of 0.4 percent with a projection that 1.435 million new cars and trucks were sold last month. The final tally for the month was 1.52 million.

Among foreign-owned automakers, Toyota Motor North America’s U.S. sales were up 14.9 percent for the month. Nissan Motor Co.’s sales were up 9.5 percent.

Volkswagen of America experienced a nearly 23 percent sales increase as it tries to move beyond its diesel-emissions cheating scandal.

American Honda Motor Co. reported best-ever September sales totals for Honda and Acura, up 6.8 percent.


Three Ontario nursing homes
ordered to stop new admissions
because of substandard care

The crackdown on three Ontario nursing homes came
this week after the Ministry of Health and Long-Term
Care ordered each to “cease admissions.”

By Moira Welsh
Investigative News reporter
Toronto Star
Wed., Oct. 5, 2017

Three troubled Ontario nursing homes — including a Mississauga home — have been ordered to stop accepting new residents due to substandard care.

The crackdown came this week after the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care ordered each to “cease admissions,” meaning no new residents are allowed to move into the homes.

The order affects two facilities operated by the Sharon Village Care Homes chain, Tyndall Nursing Home in Mississauga and Earls Court Long Term Care in London, along with a home from the Caressant Care chain in Fergus. Both companies sent written statements to the Star, saying they will work with the ministry to resolve the problems.

The cease admissions orders are not common. Of Ontario’s 630 long-term care homes, roughly five a year are stopped from accepting new residents.

In Hoskin’s Oct. 3 letter to Schlegel, he called the results of the recent ministry inspection of Tyndall and Earls Court are “deeply concerning.”

The ministry has “determined that there is sufficient risk of harm to the residents’ health or well-being to warrant a Cease of Admissions,” Hoskins wrote.

He highlighted problems at the London home, Earls Court, saying ministry inspectors found the staffing plan does not meet the residents’ care needs. “As a result, residents did not receive the care required,” Hoskins wrote.

Proper staffing of Ontario long-term care homes in general has long been a complaint among workers, families and the residents who suffer from lack of care.

Tyndall nursing home, located on Eglinton Ave. E. and Dixie Rd., had its annual inspection last January. The public report showed that inspectors spent 13 days in the home and found 51 violations, including problems with toileting, food, the use of restraints and communication with residents.

Earls Court in London had a “cease admissions” order in 2016, which Hoskins cited in his letter to Schlegel. In its most recent inspection, posted online, the ministry found 20 violations. Caressant Care Fergus had 14 violations in its most recent public inspection report.

The minister’s letter to Caressant Care president James Lavelle noted inspectors found “repeated” examples of resident neglect and a lack of cleanliness in the home and its furniture, but did not provide specific details.

Hoskins also said the home had not complied with previous ministry orders related to managing residents with “responsive behaviours” and the prevention of falls.

In both letters to Caressant Care and Sharon Village, Hoskin said, “As the president of a corporation that owns places that residents call home, you are entrusted with an enormous responsibility to provide high quality, dignified care to our cherished elderly family members, and our most valuable friends and neighbours,” he wrote.

In a written statement emailed to the Star, Caressant Care said its management team is “working closely with the ministry to address certain compliance deficiencies. Our first priority is to provide a high level of care to our residents.”

A statement from Schlegel, of Sharon Village Homes, said the ministry has “temporarily ceased” admissions “in order that we can rectify some areas of non-compliance. We support the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, in their efforts to ensure the public of high quality care in all Long-Term Care homes in the province.”

These orders were filed a few days after the government introduced legislation that, if passed, would create tougher enforcement against nursing homes. The legislation would include hefty fines for corporations, ranging from $200,000 for first time offence and $500,000 for subsequent offences.

It is currently in first reading and, if passed, likely won’t become law until early 2018, said Jane Meadus, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.

Unless the Strengthening Quality and Accountability for Patients Act becomes law, the “cease admissions” is one of the ministry’s best weapons, said Meadus.

“Clearly, these homes are not able to clean up their act,” Meadus said. “The ministry has no choice but to say if you can’t meet the requirements then we can’t let you accept new residents.”

She said cease admissions orders are considered serious action taken after repeated violations of provincial care regulations, because fewer residents can mean ministry funding cuts for the affected homes. It also impacts Ontario’s long waiting list, removing beds for residents who need a place to live.

“I think that with all the problems we are seeing in the media with long term care homes, the ministry if finally getting the message,” Meadus said.

In a statement to the Star about the ministry action, Hoskins said, “. . . it is completely unacceptable that these operators are not meeting the province’s standards. The distressing practice of failing to meet provincial standards will not be accepted in Ontario.”


Hackett keeps details close
in vision for Ford

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
October 4, 2017

Ford Motor Co. plans to eliminate vehicles, trim billions in operating costs and divert money from the development of passenger cars and internal combustion engines, investing that into trucks, SUVs and electric vehicles.

Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Hackett on Tuesday gave the investment community a sweeping outline of how he’ll steer the automaker over the next five years. That vision included 13 new electric vehicles around the world over the next five years, and came the day after General Motors Co. said its future is in electric cars.

But the new head of Ford and his team kept many of the details to themselves, and that will delay a reaction on Wall Street, analysts said.

Hackett gave few specifics about what would be cut out or when that would happen. The company says it will eliminate $14 billion over the next five years from materials costs and engineering alone. It will cut the number of customizable options on vehicles, trim development times and turn to partnerships to drive foreign business and autonomous vehicles. And it still plans to make a $9 billion in pretax profit in 2017.

“In baseball, a double is still two bases from a run. I think Ford hit a double here,” said Dave Sullivan, analyst with research company AutoPacific. “It keeps them in the game, but it’s not enough to win — yet.

“I was expecting to get more concrete details other than cutting costs and reducing complexity. The complexity reduction is low-hanging fruit that others in the passenger car segment have been working on for years.”

But the big-picture outline Hackett and company gave Tuesday might be to their advantage in the long term.

“I think Hackett’s too smart to get caught up in the here and now,” said David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research. “Maybe it’s better to really build this up over time.”

Hackett delivered the plan as investors and a board of directors look for magic from the “change agent” Executive Chairman Bill Ford and the company directors brought in to guide the company through a tumultuous change into a mobility company. Hackett, who took the helm of Ford in late May, says he feels a sense of urgency to give details to his plan and make the right moves.

Ford’s stock has stubbornly remained below $13. When Hackett was promoted in May, the stock price was about $11. It closed Tuesday at $12.35.

Hackett was joined in New York by Bob Shanks, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Jim Farley, executive vice president and president of global markets; Joe Hinrichs, executive vice president and president of global operations; and Marcy Klevorn, executive vice president and president of mobility.

He touched on Ford’s plan to invest heavily in electrification. The company in September announced a partnership with San Francisco-based Lyft to develop autonomous vehicles. Internally, “Team Edison” was formed to speed up the company’s work on electric vehicles.

That team has been told to think big and move fast to bring new electric vehicles to market as part of Ford’s $4.5 billion investment in the segment. Included in the 13 new electric vehicles are an F-150 hybrid, Mustang hybrid, a hybrid autonomous vehicle, hybrid police sedan and a fully electric small SUV.

GM announced Monday it will have at least 20 new electric vehicles by 2023. GM’s stock traded up and analysts praised the move. And Ford again looked like it was playing catch-up with competitors.

“I think Ford has been behind at least in communicating, maybe in action,” said Michelle Krebs, analyst with Autotrader. “What Hackett described today is exactly what other automakers are going through. They’re straddling the world of now and the future in a way that they’ve never really had to do.”

Financial fitness is a priority for Hackett’s team. That necessitates cost cuts, which could come from axing underperforming vehicles, streamlining operations and potentially cutting jobs. Ford did not say Tuesday that any job cuts are expected, but the company did not rule out the possibility.

That fitness will allow Ford to adjust as the market changes in coming years, Hackett said. The company is lean enough already in many mobility fields, but other segments might need to mirror some newer parts of Ford.

Hackett plans to trim cost growth by 50 percent through 2022. In addition, the company will reduce materials costs by $10 billion, and engineering costs by $4 billion over the next five years. The company will also transfer $7 billion from its car segment to SUVs and trucks. It will reduce capital expenditures on gas and diesel engines by one-third, and redeploy that money into electrification.

And like former CEO Alan Mulally did in the mid-2000s, Hackett and his team plan to reduce the number of orderable combinations customers can get for their vehicles. The company plans to move from nearly 35,000 combinations on the current Fusion sedan to just 96 combinations on the next generation. The company is also aiming to reduce new vehicle development time by 20 percent in the next five years.

Hackett has made a handful of moves already. Since Hackett became CEO, Ford has said it will move U.S. production of the next-generation Focus to China and announced a partnership with Mahindra in India to bolster Ford’s business there.

He realigned executive ranks during his first few weeks into a more rational flowchart. He reduced the frequency of former CEO Alan Mulally’s renowned business plan review meetings held on Thursdays. He also revised the company’s talking points on autonomous cars by taking a broader stance on how the company will bring those vehicles to market in 2021. They could be used for ride-hailing, or they could be used to transport goods.

Hackett said Tuesday that Ford has a good foundation, but every part of the company will need to be ready to adapt in a changing industry.

“We’ve got great facilities at Ford, they just have to be better in the future,” he said. “The company’s got to compete.”


New car sales expected
to jump in September

Keith Laing,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
October 3, 2017

Auto companies are projected to have experienced an increase in year-over-year sales in September, according to analysts who are predicting an uptick of between 0.4 and 1 percent.

Kelley Blue Book is projecting that new vehicle sales will have risen by 1 percent in September 2017 in a year-over-year comparison with September 2016, going from 1.43 million last year to 1.44 million last month.

Similarly, Edmunds.com is forecasting a year-over-year increase in sales of 0.4 percent with a projection that 1.435 million new cars and trucks were sold last month.

Analysts said September likely provided an opportunity for automakers to bounce back after a pair of damaging hurricanes that hit major markets in Texas and Florida put a damper on car sales in August.

“September will be another opportunity for the first sales increase of the year, as we project slight growth for the industry,” Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said in a statement. “While major hurricanes devastated parts of Texas and Florida in the past month, this is driving replacement demand for those drivers with vehicles destroyed. This demand has already started in some areas, but will continue into October and potentially November, as vehicle insurance payouts are received.”

Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis, added: “Labor Day weekend got September auto sales off to strong start. Automakers are finally starting to dial up the incentives to clear excess inventory, which we anticipate will continue through the rest of the year.”

Caldwell also predicted that automakers will have seen residual sales from buyers who were impacted by the August hurricanes.

"We anticipate that the recovery from the recent hurricanes will give vehicle sales an incremental boost in September, and will likely continue to slightly lift the market in the months to come,” Caldwell said. “When you have hundreds of thousands of people affected by an event of this magnitude, not everyone will hit the market at once.”

August was a mixed month for U.S. auto sales, with General Motors Co. sales up for the month, and Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles down. Flooding in Texas dampened hopes for an overall upturn.

Sales in August for General Motors Co. rose 7.5 percent in August over the same month in 2016, while Ford Motor Co. sales fell 2.1 percent and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sales dropped 11 percent compared to the same month a year ago.

Automakers are expected to begin reporting numbers for September on Wednesday morning.


Unifor president calls GM contract
offer to striking workers "fluff"

Employees of the GM CAMI assembly factory stand on the picket line in Ingersoll, Ont., on Sept. 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

The Canadian Press
October 2, 2017

The Unifor bargaining team representing striking workers at the GM CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., has dismissed the company’s latest contract offer as “fluff.”

The comment came from Jerry Dias, Unifor’s president, who says he’s trying to protect Canadian auto jobs that may be moving to plants in Mexico.

The strike began when members of Unifor walked out on Sept. 17 as negotiators worked to have General Motors designate the plant as the lead producer of the Equinox sport utility vehicle, which is also produced at two plants in Mexico.

GM’s latest contract offer came on Saturday morning, but Dias says the offer isn’t good enough because it still allows the company to shift its resources away from the Ingersoll plant.

Dias said that production at Ingersoll has slowed from 400,000 vehicles to 190,000 before the strike was launched.

He said the union will not back any deals unless they’re confident that more jobs won’t be shifted to Mexican plants.


UAW: Nissan surveils
workers at Miss. plant

Josh Eidelson,
October  1, 2017
Bloomberg News

The United Auto Workers accused Nissan Motor Co. of illegally tracking and rating employees by their union sentiments for years at a Mississippi assembly plant where workers voted down representation last month.

In an amended complaint filed Sept. 19 with the National Labor Relations Board, the union alleges the automaker “continues to maintain an employee surveillance, data collection and rating system that records employee union activity and rates workers according to their perceived support for or opposition to the UAW.” Nissan representatives didn’t immediately comment on the claims.

In the complaint, which Bloomberg News obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the UAW asks the NLRB to subpoena the automaker and investigate its claims.

The allegations follow an NLRB-supervised election held Aug. 3 and 4, where more than 3,500 employees at the plant voted by an almost 2-to-1 margin against joining the union. The UAW blamed the result on intimidation, which it has alleged to the NLRB included threatening to close the plant, questioning employees and infringing on the union’s access to voters.

The UAW submitted a partially redacted document to the NLRB that it said is evidence of Nissan’s rating system. The union said the document lists names and employee numbers along with comments such as “has talked with solicitors at the gate before a shift” and “has been seen hanging with pro-union technicians.”

Nissan’s plant in Canton, Mississippi, builds Altima sedans, Titan and Frontier pickups, Murano sport utility vehicles and NV commercial vans.


FCA-UAW scandal figure
unloaded Ferrari amid FBI probe

Former Fiat Chrysler executive Alphons Iacobelli siphoned more than $350,000 from a UAW training center to buy the 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider, prosecutors allege.  Naples Motorsports

Robert Snell,
The Detroit News
Sept 30, 2017

Detroit — The $365,000 sports car former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executive Alphons Iacobelli is accused of buying with cash siphoned from a UAW training center was dumped within days of prosecutors signaling his involvement in a $4.5 million corruption scandal.

The 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider convertible with an “IACOBLI” vanity plate was sold in late September 2015 for $73,000 less than Iacobelli paid a year earlier, state vehicle records show. The sale happened six days after prosecutors filed paperwork revealing he was embroiled in a fraud and money laundering investigation.

State records chronicle the provenance of the most expensive item Iacobelli is accused of buying with money taken from the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center. The documents also help explain why federal prosecutors have not seized the red roadster.

Federal search warrants are sealed and it is unclear whether FBI agents seized cash from Iacobelli equal to the purchase price of the Ferrari.

So far, investigators have seized at least $292,000 from others involved in the case and two solid-gold, bejeweled Montblanc fountain pens that cost $35,700 each. Iacobelli bought the pens with money that was supposed to help train UAW blue-collar workers, prosecutors say.

The Montblanc pens honoring President Abraham Lincoln feature 18-karat gold fittings, a blue sapphire embedded in the clip, a mother-of-pearl cap ringed by three diamonds and an 18-karat gold tip. Only 50 were made worldwide. Iacobelli bought two, prosecutors allege. (Photo: Montblanc)The Ferrari and the fountain pens are polar opposites when it comes to illicit assets that can be easily hidden and transferred without leaving a long paper trail, said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.

“This may well be a sign of the hubris involved — that someone didn’t think they were going to get caught and maybe thought they weren’t doing anything wrong,” Henning said. “That’s the mental gymnastics people go through. They don’t think they did anything wrong and that they’re not a criminal.”

Iacobelli’s lawyer declined to comment.

The Ferrari is among high-profile purchases listed in a federal indictment alleging corruption between officials at one of Detroit’s Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers.

Iacobelli, 58, a former Fiat Chrysler labor negotiator from Rochester Hills, and Monica Morgan-Holiefield, widow of former UAW Vice President General Holiefield, were indicted by a federal grand jury July 26.

Fiat Chrysler officials said they fired Iacobelli after they learned of the federal investigation in June 2015. Seven months later, Iacobelli was hired by GM as executive director of labor relations, but he was suspended after being indicted in July.

The pen and Ferrari purchases and other alleged wrongdoing could land Iacobelli in a federal prison for five years.

The pens were part of what prosecutors describe as a shopping spree of more than $1 million by Iacobelli, bankrolled with money that was supposed to benefit UAW workers.

More than $403,000 was spent paying Iacobelli’s personal credit card expenses, and he used more than $350,000 to buy the Ferrari, according to the indictment.

Another $96,000 in training center funds paid for a pool at Iacobelli’s mansion, an outdoor kitchen, and spa.

Prosecutors have filed paperwork to seize Iacobelli’s 6,815-square-foot mansion upon conviction, arguing the home is tied to fraud and money laundering.

The indictment accuses Iacobelli, former FCA financial analyst Jerome Durden and other unnamed co-conspirators of using the training center’s bank accounts and credit cards to funnel payoffs to Holiefield and other senior UAW officials.

Iacobelli and others created a liberal spending policy to keep senior UAW leaders “fat, dumb and happy,” according to the indictment.

The government alleges Iacobelli, Morgan, and others conspired to violate a federal labor law designed to combat corruption of the collective bargaining process.

Between October 2013 and September 2014, Iacobelli and others transferred more than $350,000 from the training center to buy the Ferrari, prosecutors said.

Iacobelli bought the used Ferrari from a dealership in Naples, Florida, in May 2014. At the time, the Ferrari had 1,720 miles on the odometer.

Boasting 570 horsepower, the 4.5L V-8 Ferrari, painted Rosso Corsa red, has beige leather seats and red contrast stitching and a top speed of 199 mph.

The purchase price Iacobelli paid, including tax: $365,482.

Iacobelli paid $209,452 cash for the Ferrari and financed the rest, according to the bill of sale.

The deal left Iacobelli with a $2,816 monthly car payment.

He transferred the car to Michigan and slapped the “IACOBLI” vanity plate on the coupe.

Iacobelli didn’t own the Ferrari for long.

By September 2015, sixteen months after he bought the Ferrari, the FBI had launched a corruption investigation of training center board members, including Iacobelli. So far, four people have been charged with crimes.

On Sept. 17, 2015, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed an affidavit in Oakland County arguing Iacobelli’s home could be subject to forfeiture because the residence was linked to fraud and money laundering.

If Iacobelli is convicted of charges that include conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act, the government could sell the homes and give the money to the union training center, Henning said.

Six days after the forfeiture filing, the exotic sports car was sold through Cauley Ferrari on Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield Township, according to the Michigan secretary of state.

Fenton businessman Brian Mortz bought the Ferrari for $292,150 — or $73,332 less than Iacobelli paid a year earlier, state records show.

The sale was finalized Sept. 23, 2015.

“It’s a beautiful car,” Mortz, 45, told The News on Tuesday. “It drives nice. No problems whatsoever.”

Mortz did not know Iacobelli and was unaware until Tuesday that the Ferrari factored into an FBI investigation and indictment.

“That’s quite an interesting story,” Mortz said. “I didn’t know who the previous owner was.”

Mortz said he has not been approached by FBI agents.

“The buyer has an innocent owner defense,” Henning said. “Assuming the person can establish it was a bona fide arms-length transaction, the government can’t get the car. They can only go after the proceeds or, if there is a conviction, the equivalent of the car’s value from any other asset (Iacobelli) has.”

Mortz is in the process of unloading the Ferrari.

On Tuesday, the Ferrari was on its way to a Chicago dealership.

“I’m trading it in on a Lamborghini,” Mortz said. “An Aventador. Metallic gray.”

Alphons Iacobelli’s home in Rochester Hills (Photo: Google)
Alphons Iacobelli’s home in Rochester Hills (Photo: Google)


Local 88 CAMI Strike Update

Sep 29, 2017

Negotiations between Unifor Local 88 and CAMI automotive in Ingersoll remain stalled after General Motors rejected Unifor's latest offer of settlement.  The strike which started on September 17 is now in its second week.

The main obstacle in negotiations remains job security as the union is seeking a commitment that the Ingersoll plant will remain the lead producer of the Equinox vehicle. Unifor identified this issue as its top priority in bargaining. Over the last couple of days, the Master Bargaining Committee, along with Unifor National Representatives, had a series of disappointing meetings with the company.

At this point in talks GM remains unwilling to address the issue of job security.

“All we are asking is that this quality work and award-winning production remain in Ingersoll and a contractual commitment that CAMI will retain its lead producer status for the Equinox,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.  “This is about making a commitment to maintain a future for good union jobs in the Ingersoll community.”

In July, GM ended production of the Terrain vehicle in Ingersoll and moved the work to Mexico.  The Ingersoll plant now only produces the Equinox which is also manufactured in Mexico since early in 2017 at two plants.

“The resolve of the Local 88 membership is strong. We all recognize how important it is to secure production at our plant,” said Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick.

Bargaining Committee Chairperson of Local 88 Mike Van Boekel also expressed appreciation to all the union members, residents, small business and community leaders in the area who have walked the picket line, and offered their solidarity.

“Although these negotiations directly affect Local 88 members, this is a community fight,” said Van Boekel. “It’s about the future of Ingersoll and jobs for all of us.”

To show your continued support send a message to the Unifor 88 Facebook group or if you are on Twitter be sure to include @CAMIJobAction.


'Some progress' made as
contract talks resume between
GM and striking workers

The Canadian Press
Sept 28, 2017

The union representing 2,500 workers who have been on strike since Sept. 17 at GM Canada’s CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., says contracts talks have resumed with the automaker.

Unifor Local 88 says the two sides met on Tuesday in Woodstock, Ont., where GM responded to proposals put forward last Sunday.

A statement on the local’s website says “some progress has been made” and the talks will continue.

The brief statement did not elaborate, nor has Unifor revealed what was contained in Sunday’s formal proposal.

However, the union had previously said it wants the automaker to designate the CAMI plant as the lead producer of the Equinox sport utility vehicle _ currently the only product built at the plant.

Job security has become more of an issue for the union since GM shifted production of its Terrain SUV from the CAMI plant to Mexico earlier this year at a loss of more than 400 jobs.


Ford patents table
for autonomous cars

Fox News
Sept 27, 2017

You used to be able to buy a Chrysler minivan that doubled as a living room. The second row seats swiveled to face the rear, and there was a table that was installed between them and the third row. Finally, families could take their board games on the road!

Not too many did, though, so the feature is no longer available. But a high tech version could show up in car of the future.

Ford has patented an autonomous car design that has front seats that can turn around 180 degrees and a table that rises from the floor, according to a filing dug up by Automotive News. The concept is that if you don’t have to drive, you can socialize the old fashioned way, instead. (The bubble-topped car it's pictured in is a whole other thing.)

You might want to keep your drinks in the cupholders, however, because Ford has envisioned the table with an airbag built into the top of it, just in case the car gets hit by one driven by one of those fallible humans.

Ford has promised to debut an autonomous taxi by 2021, but there are no indications that this idea will be incorporated into it. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that legacy automakers have been filing a flurry of self-driving car-related patents in an effort to beat the braniacs in Silicon Valley to the punch.


Ford’s Mich.
Assembly, Flat
Rock face
temporary idling

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
Sept 26, 2017

Ford Motor Co. is planning shutdowns of a week or more at multiple North American plants – including Flat Rock Assembly and Michigan Assembly – said the automaker.

The shutdowns come as U.S. automobile sales have stagnated through most of 2017 following consecutive record sales years and increased production.

The shutdowns are as follows:

■Flat Rock Assembly will idle production for two weeks.

■Michigan Assembly in Wayne will idle for one week.

■Kansas City Assembly in Missouri will idle for two weeks.

■Cuautitlan Assembly in Mexico will idle for three weeks.

■Hermosillo Assembly in Mexico will idle for two weeks.

The company did not give dates for the shutdowns.

The shutdowns will affect plants that make the Ford Fiesta, Fusion, Mustang, Transit and Focus, as well as the the Lincoln MKZ, all of which have had sales declines through the first eight months of 2017. The Lincoln Continental, produced at Flat Rock, went on sale last fall.

“We are continuing to match production with customer demand, as we always do, and we are on track for our dealer inventories to remain at planned levels by year-end,” spokeswoman Kelli Felker said in an emailed statement.


GM laying off 255 at St.
Catharines plant due to
strike at CAMI facility

Workers at CAMI plant have been
on strike since Sunday night

The Canadian Press
September 21, 2017

Layoff notices have been handed out to hundreds of workers at the General Motors transmission-making factory in St. Catharines, Ont., as effects spread from a strike that started Sunday at GM's CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont.

At least 255 of the 350 union workers at the St. Catharines plant will be laid off starting Monday, said Unifor 199 chairman Tim McKinnon.

"We supply about 90 per cent of (CAMI's) transmissions, so it's related to that," he said.

"Even though they were down, we ran all week ... We have a lot of transmissions stockpiled now because we didn't know if they were going to resolve it this week or not. It doesn't look like they're going to."

He said even if the strike at the plant that makes Chevrolet Equinox vehicles is resolved over the weekend, the St. Catharines workers will be out for at least a week. He added his union supports the CAMI workers' strike despite the layoffs.

3 plants affected

GM Canada, meanwhile, says in an update posted Thursday on its website that it has made "production adjustments" at St. Catharines and at two American engine plants in Spring Hill, Tenn., and Flint, Mich., as a result of the strike.

A spokeswoman said in an email no further details would be available.

Earlier Wednesday, parts maker Magna International announced it would stop supplying parts to the CAMI plant, a decision it said would affect output at a few of its facilities in Ontario, without being specific.

Unifor Local 88, the union representing the 2,500 striking workers at CAMI, said Thursday it has invited management to get talks rolling again in hopes of reaching a settlement.

But local president Dan Borthwick said its demand that the plant be designated the lead producer of the Equinox to ensure production and jobs aren't shifted to Mexico hasn't changed.

"We're just trying to be responsible and see if there's any way we can bring a quick resolution to the work stoppage and minimize the effects on our members and the suppliers and the surrounding community," he said.

"With that said, the company has to understand our goals, the lead producer letter, our economics and our contract language are still outstanding issues that need to be resolved."

When asked if GM would meet with the union, the spokeswoman sent a copy of GM's statement posted last Sunday which expressed disappointment that talks had broken down and encouraged Unifor to resume negotiations. She wouldn't say if any meetings have been scheduled with the union.

Job security has become more of an issue for the union since GM shifted production of its Terrain SUV from the plant to Mexico earlier this year at a loss of more than 400 jobs.



Ford suspend
production at
5 North American

Joseph White
September 21, 2017

Ford Motor said Tuesday it plans to idle five North American vehicle assembly plants for a total of 10 weeks to reduce inventories of slow-selling models.

The plants affected include three assembly plants in the United States and two in Mexico, the company said in a statement. The vehicle models include the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ midsize sedans, the Ford Focus compact car, the Lincoln Continental and Ford Mustang, Ford Fiesta and the Ford Transit van.

Ford said the Cuautitlan assembly plant that builds the Fiesta would be idled for three weeks. The Hermosillo, Mexico plant that builds the Fusion and MKZ and the Flat Rock, Michigan, factory that assembles Continentals and Mustangs will be idled for two weeks each. The Michigan Assembly plant that builds the Focus will be idled for one week and the Kansas City assembly line that builds Transit vans will be down for two weeks. Ford did not give dates for the temporary shutdowns.

The factories involved employ more than 15,000 people, according to Ford's website. The company did not say how many of those workers would face temporary layoffs.

As of Sept. 1, Ford had 111 days' worth of unsold Mustangs, 87 days' supply of Fusions, and a 103 days' supply of Transit vans, according to Automotive News. Dealers had enough unsold Lincoln Continentals to last 162 days. Automakers aim for 65 to 70 days of inventory of most models.

Ford and rival General Motors (GM) have wrestled most of this year to rein in high inventories of passenger cars as consumers have shifted to buying pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles. Production cuts slice into revenue, but also could help the automakers avoid deeper price cuts on vehicles they can sell.


Jerry Dias

Unifor donates $500,000 to Hurricane Irma aid

Sept 20, 2017

Sisters and Brothers,

Over the past week we have all seen the utter destruction caused Hurricane Irma as it swept across the Caribbean and U.S., leaving millions of people devastated in its wake. In the immediate aftermath urgent help is required to provide basic necessities including shelter, food, and clean drinking water.

I am proud to tell you that our Social Justice Fund has donated $500,000 to the Canadian Red Cross to provide direct on-the-ground aid in Antigua, Barbuda, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. This donation will reach the most vulnerable people in the Caribbean whose homes, schools, workplaces and entire communities were swept away by the storm.

The coming days will be critical for those left without basic survival tools. Unifor Locals and members can provide immediate help by donating at www.redcross.ca/HurricaneIrma/Unifor. Your support will also help families in these island nations rebuild their lives in the challenging weeks and months to come.

Unifor has partnered with the Canadian Red Cross to provide past relief for multiple disasters including the Alberta fires, New Brunswick ice storms, flood relief in Quebec and the Atlantic, and most recently the BC wildfires.

I ask for your support again so that together we can make a difference for the Caribbean survivors of Hurricane Irma.

For more information on the Social Justice Fund visit unifor.org/sjf.

In Solidarity,

Jerry Dias, National President


In Memory of
Edward Stanley Byckowski


July 16, 1934 - September 18, 2017

It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that the Byckowski family announce the peaceful passing of Edward Stanley Byckowski in Brampton on September 18, 2017 at the age of 83. Loving husband of Mae ( nee Bielik) married for 57 years. Cherished father of Sandy and Bill and daughter-in-law Candice. Treasured grandfather of Thomas and Robert. Survived by sisters Vera Kowbuz and Rosemarie Bewski. Predeceased by brother Jerry Byckowski and sister Stella Dumka.. Edward's memory will be held in the hearts of many nieces, nephews, relatives and friends. Family and friends may gather at the Andrews Community Funeral Centre - 8190 Dixie Road, Brampton (North of Steeles Avenue) 905-456-8190, on Saturday, September 23, 2017 from 11am-1pm. A funeral service will be held in the Chapel of the funeral home at 1pm. following the visitation. As an expression of sympathy, donations may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Ed was a member of Local 584 until he left to pursue a career in the limo business in the 80's. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family on his passing.



Ford partners to grow
presence in India

Ian Thibodeau,
he Detroit News
Sept. 19, 2017

Ford Motor Co. on Monday announced a three-year partnership with India-based Mahindra Group, a leader in utility vehicles there.

The partnership builds Ford’s reach in India, which CEO Jim Hackett said was “front and center on the agenda” when he replaced Mark Fields in May.

The two companies will work together on mobility programs, connected vehicles, electrification and product development, the company said. The partnership could also bring better distribution in India for Ford, and better reach outside of the country for Mahindra.

“Ford is committed to India and this alliance can help us deliver the best vehicles and services to customers while profitably growing in the world’s fifth-largest vehicle market,” Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president and president of global markets, said in a statement.

“Our two companies have a long history of cooperation and mutual respect. The memorandum of understanding we have signed today with Mahindra will allow us to work together to take advantage of the changes coming in the auto industry.”

Ford currently manufactures and exports vehicles and engines from two facilities in India. That country is also Ford’s second-largest employee base in the world.

More than 14,000 people work for the Blue Oval in India.


GM workers in Ontario strike

The Detroit News
September 18, 2017

Canada’s Unifor Local 88 at a General Motors plant in Ontario began striking at 10:59 p.m. Sunday, according to the union’s website.

Under a headline “GM unit-tentative agreement not reached,” the union said the Master Bargaining Committee had not been successful in reaching a new tentative pact with GM.

“These workers are standing up for good jobs. Not just for themselves, but for the entire community,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias in a news release dated Sunday.

A previous post by the local on its website indicated that it was to meet with the automaker Sunday afternoon in a move that brought bargaining at the Ingersoll, Ontario, plant down to the wire.

“We believe this is the result of the tremendous support we have received from the membership,” the post said. “Discussion have become intense and we are starting to see some movement.”

The Cami assembly plant produces the second-generation Equinox SUV. A key goal, the union said in the release, was a commitment from GM to designate the Cami plant as the lead producer of the Equinox.

In July, production of the Terrain in Ingersoll ceased and all production moved to Mexico, resulting in 600 layoffs, the union said.

“Every member understands the importance of reaching a deal that secures production, and what that means to our families and the community,” said Mike Van Boekel, Local 88 chairman at the plant.

GM said it was disappointed it did not reach an agreement with Unifor.

“While General Motors of Canada and our Unifor partners have made very positive progress on several issues over the past weeks, the company is disappointed that we were not able to complete a new agreement,” said Jennifer Wright, GM Canada spokeswoman. “We encourage Unifor to resume negotiations and to continue working together to secure a competitive agreement.”


Ford to add 700 jobs in Russia

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
September 15, 2017

Ford Motor Co. will add 700 jobs to a plant in Russia.

Partnering with Ford Sollers, the company’s Russian joint venture, the company will begin recruiting for the positions in October. It’s all to fill a second shift at the vehicle plant in Elabuga, Tatarstan, where the company makes SUVs and commercial vehicles for the Russian market.

Sales there are up 10 percent through the first eight months of the year.

“The development of our SUV and commercial vehicle range lies at the core of our strategy now at Ford Sollers,” said President Adil Shirinov. “We’re increasing the production of these models to strengthen further our position in these market segments, and to continue to grow our market share in 2018.”



Carmakers can expect sales
surge after Irma, Harvey

John Duke tries to figure out how to salvage his flooded vehicle in the wake Hurricane Irma this week. An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 vehicles were damaged by Irma.

Ian Thibodeau
 The Detroit News
September 14, 2017

Damage dealt by catastrophic hurricanes in Texas and Florida, striking nearly back-to-back, has automakers and dealers accounting for losses even as they prepare to get people back on the road down south.

High winds from Hurricane Irma — which dissipated in the southeast on Wednesday following days of destruction in Florida — didn’t cause as much damage as Hurricane Harvey’s flooding inflicted last month in Texas, according to initial analysis from Cox Automotive. Yet, the estimated 200,000 to 400,000 vehicles damaged by Irma, coupled with the 320,000 to 580,000 vehicles destroyed by Harvey, mean September promises to be a busy month for the automakers.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said hundreds of their dealerships in Florida are still assessing damages, and recovery efforts in Texas are moving quickly. But the automakers want to get dealerships up and running again as quickly as possible.

The reason: Analysts are predicting another influx of vehicle sales in Florida akin to what happened in the Houston area as those caught in the storms start to recover. And that could be a boon to industry sales that have shown unmistakable signs of softening each month so far this year.

“We know one of the first things people do is replace their transportation,” said Michelle Krebs, analyst with Autotrader. “We immediately after Harvey saw an increase in car shopping and sales.”

The trend is likely to be replicated in Florida. Ted Smith, president of the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, said the damage to dealerships from Hurricane Irma is minimal compared to what their counterparts in Houston experienced after Harvey.

“I don’t think we are anywhere near where Houston experienced, which is good news for us,” he said. “We dodged a bullet. It went up the center of the state and it did not do nearly as much damage as was anticipated.”

Smith, based Tallahassee, Florida, added that he is not aware of any significant damage to dealerships in Florida during the storm. He is waiting for updates from south Florida and the Keys, where power and phones are still down.

“There has been some minor damage and walls have fallen down at dealerships, but there has not been tremendous damage to inventory or property,” he said. “In the Jacksonville area, they got hammered with rain, wind and surge, but those dealers experienced more damage at their homes than they did at their dealerships.”

Florida dealerships benefited from having a lot of experience in weathering big storms. Smith said that Irma could put a damper on auto sales in Florida — at least in the short term: “This was a storm of inconvenience. It’s going to impact auto sales for a couple of weeks if the stores can’t even open.”

Harvey damage tanked U.S. vehicle sales in August, but Irma landed earlier in the month, giving automakers more time to recoup losses. Krebs expects recovery sales from Irma to supplement Harvey recovery sales, which spilled over into September.

Harvey also tore through the country’s second-largest automotive market, where profit-rich trucks and SUVs are king. With less flooding, more time before the storm for evacuation and preparation, and the fact that a glut of rental vehicles in Orlando could bail out other Florida cities in need of those vehicles, Irma’s unlikely to cause automakers too much of a headache.

The two hurricanes could bring an uptick in sales through the fourth quarter as automakers close out a year that brought plateauing sales numbers at best, Krebs said. But the most significant effect will come through the used car market.

Automakers can ramp up production to account for new models lost to the storm, but the supply of good used vehicles is limited. Though automakers have a glut of used vehicles sitting on lots, those who lost trucks and SUVs to the storms are unlikely to find such vehicles on the used car market.

People have been turning in cars as they opt for bigger trucks and SUVs. That means used car lots around the country are currently stuffed with sedans at a time when Americans prefer the utility vehicles.

“The used car mix could be challenging,” said Krebs. “And the fact that there will be a lot of demand for used cars will keep prices high.” That’s good for automakers, but potentially challenging for consumers in need of a vehicle, though Krebs downplayed fears that those prices will approach record highs.

Meanwhile, automakers are giving dollars and discounts to assist in the Irma recovery. The Ford Motor Co. Fund is matching employee and dealer contributions to the American Red Cross up to $150,000 to aid Irma disaster relief. The company is also deploying the “family” customer-assistance bundle it rolled out in Texas. It includes “no-haggle” pricing at the same level enjoyed by Ford employees and family members, no payments required until 2018 and a simplified online application process.

That’s in addition to the $3.5 million in total Ford estimates it provided in help following Harvey. Ford is also giving Florida and Texas first responders a $1,000 discount toward the purchase of any Ford or Lincoln vehicle. The company says the more than 500 dealerships affected by Harvey are open for business.

GM said it gave $1 million to the American Red Cross for disaster relief. Employees there have made $110,000 in personal contributions as well. The company also committed $1 million to Habitat for Humanity’s rebuilding efforts.

“We cannot communicate enough just how much those affected by Hurricane Irma, along with those still recovering from Harvey, remain in our thoughts and prayers,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a statement. “The Ford family of employees, dealers and customers is dedicated to putting our heart into everything we do. As we did with Harvey, Ford is committed to taking action where we can to make the process of rebuilding as simple as possible.”


September 13, 2017

Greetings Sisters and Brothers,

I want to provide an important update on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the work of our union.

Unifor is actively participating in the process in the role of advisor to the Canadian NAFTA negotiation team. During the first two rounds of talks in Washington, D.C. and Mexico City I have remained in constant communication with government negotiators on the ground. I was pleased that Renaud Gagne, the Quebec Director was able to join with me for talks in Mexico to help represent Unifor.

During multiple face-to-face meetings with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, and Steve Verheul, Canada’s lead NAFTA negotiator I have provided Unifor’s prospective on trade and advocated strongly for the inclusion of labour rights

On behalf of Unifor, I have continually stressed that no deal is better than a bad deal and the government should be prepared to walk away if required.

While talks are still in the early stages and it is far too early to predict the ultimate outcome, the fact that our voice is present and being heard is a victory for labour. Our government knows that we will not stand quietly by should it decide to sign a deal that hurts workers.

If NAFTA is going to be renegotiated it is important that any new trade deal address the gross inequalities that have resulted for Mexican workers. As a socially progressive union, our union has a responsibility to raise standards for all workers. The stark reality is that it is simply impossible to have fair trade, or compete on an even playing field, with a country that pays its workers poverty wages.

Conditions in Mexico must change to lift up workers and ensure that fair trade works for all of us. It is the only way to keep good paying manufacturing jobs here in Canada.

Our work as a union will ramp up over the next few weeks as we prepare for the third round of talks in Ottawa and a lobby week that will happen this October. To keep you up to date on this important issue I am sending a few important news clips of media coverage that Unifor received:

CTV NEWS  and a CTV clip on NAFTA and low Mexican wages

Toronto Star

Globe and Mail

National Post

In the coming days more information on planned actions will be circulated.  I hope that I can count on your support as we fight for a truly historic deal for all North American workers.  To learn more please visit our campaign webpage at unifor.org/NAFTA.

In solidarity,

Jerry Dias

National President



Temp work growth is ‘alarming’
and changes are coming,
says Ontario labour minister

Kevin Flynn says time to get companies to hire
full-time workers — like they used to.

Toronto Star
Sept. 13, 2017
Kristin Rushowy
Queen's Park Bureau

Mon., Calling the rise in temporary work “alarming,” Ontario’s labour minister is promising changes to legislation that will encourage companies “to return to the day when they hired people full time.”

“We looked at a number of avenues … to change” the reliance on temporary workers, Kevin Flynn said at Queen’s Park on Monday, following revelations in a Star investigation showing how temporary agencies have proliferated across the province, giving workers no job security and little training. Statistics show temp workers are also more likely to be injured in the workplace.

“People in Ontario expect to have full-time work if they want it … what we are saying is that if you are doing the same job in the province of Ontario, there is no justification for any differential you should be paid by the company.”

The Ontario government’s Bill 148, which has passed first reading and gone out for consultation this summer, addresses some concerns around temporary work, including pay, scheduling and unionization.

One area left unaddressed by the proposed legislation is the fact that if a temp worker is injured on the job, their agency, not the workplace where they were actually injured, is liable to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. This, critics argue, is one of the biggest incentives for companies to use temporary help agencies in the first place.

Flynn said his ministry is looking into the issue.

One option that was considered — but dismissed — was to limit the number of such employees in any one workplace because it “seemed like it would be a bureaucratic nightmare. We figure we’d get right to where the issue is — that we take away the incentive to use temporary help agencies, to stop the flourishing of this business. We believe that is far more effective.”

If workers hired by a company or brought in temporarily are making the same hourly rate, “there is no incentive … to go through an agency.”

“Right now, you’ll have somebody that is making $20 an hour standing next to somebody who is making $12 an hour, doing essentially the same work. We just say that’s not on in the province of Ontario, and the way we plan to address that is by the equal pay provisions.”

Research commissioned by the Ontario government found that temp workers are vulnerable and among the most “precariously employed of all workers.”

The Star’s Sara Mojtehedzadeh went undercover at Fiera Foods, an industrial bakery in North York that has racked up numerous health and safety infractions and where a worker died last year.

She and investigative reporter Brendan Kennedy found that temporary agencies have increased by 20 per cent in Ontario in just the past 10 years — with 1,700 now in Greater Toronto. Companies use them to lower costs and reduce their responsibilities for employees. Firms also avoid full liability — and cut their insurance premiums — at the workers’ compensation board for accidents that occur on the job because the responsibility is transferred to the temp agency.

It is unclear how equal pay provisions would change things at Fiera Foods, where Mojtehedzadeh found almost every worker she met on an assembly line was temporary and had been brought in through an agency.

Temporary agencies themselves are not the problem, Flynn said, as “they’ve existed for years and some of them do an incredible job and some people make an awful lot of money working for temp agencies. What we are concerned about is the proliferation of temporary help agencies taking the place of what is essentially full-time employment.”

He said the Star’s investigation “was a clear indication that there’s a problem out there that needs to be solved.”

“We’ve known that for some time in the Ministry of Labour, these are the problems we go out an investigate on a daily basis, so I think (the stories) injected a bit of reality in the situation in a way we couldn’t do at the Ministry of Labour. Reading it on the front page of a large newspaper I think really did help.”

The province’s ultimate goal is to “take any financial incentive to use a temporary help agency unless it’s a legitimate need,” he said.

“We’re going to make it equal for somebody to hire somebody either through an agency or as a full-time employee.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Liberal government has twice tried to improve the lives of temporary workers over the past 14 years “and they’ve failed miserably. So then we see the horror stories that we’ve heard about, the loss of life … this has been the regime in Ontario for 14 years now. It’s not acceptable and the New Democrats made commitments before the Liberals even brought Bill 148 forward around making sure that every worker in the province is paid the same.

“So if temp agencies still exist, they’re going to have to exist in a different way than to utilize low wages as a way to incent employers to use their services.”

Ontario PC finance critic Vic Fedeli said, “Everybody in Ontario wants to know that there are full-time opportunities available and that you can work in a safe environment,” he said. “I think everybody strives towards that.”


Trudeau Teams Up With
Canadian Labour in Push
for NAFTA Reforms

Jerry Dias Photographer: Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images

Josh Wingrove
‎Sept‎ ‎12 ‎2017‎

In Mexico City’s Nafta talks last week, few Canadians had a higher profile than Jerry Dias.

He spoke to a labor rally and a conference. He met at length with Canada’s chief negotiator, Steve Verheul, over red wine and bar nuts. He held court with reporters regularly.

Yet Dias is no government minister or aide. He’s the head of Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, and hates the North American Free Trade Agreement, whose second round of negotiations concluded Sept. 5. And he’s at the forefront of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s renegotiation strategy -- a reminder that, like Trump, Trudeau has his own economic interests and domestic politics to cater to. That means giving labor a prominent seat after Trump spurred new Nafta talks.

Trudeau, the country’s most left-leaning prime minister since his father, has repeatedly said the new Nafta must be more progressive. Among its core objectives, Canada has proposed including environmental provisions and those related to gender and the rights of indigenous peoples.

But it’s labor that’s been at the forefront. Enter Dias.

Speaking in Mexico City, the combative union leader declared Nafta a failure for workers in all countries, insisted Canada would press for higher labor standards in both the U.S. and Mexico and called Donald Trump “crazy” while sounding a lot like the U.S. president in decrying job losses.

Trudeau is indeed pressing for stronger labor rights, a stance that will add another hurdle to reaching a timely agreement as Dias essentially sets the tone on the government’s behalf.

“They know I’m here today, they know exactly what I’m going to say today,” Dias told reporters after speaking to a rally of Mexican workers, demanding higher wages for them. He insists Canada will walk away from the negotiating table without major labor changes. “It’s a red line.”

For Votes

With U.S. and Mexican elections looming, the three countries are accelerating talks in hopes of reaching consensus before the end of the year. Labor’s prominent role underscores Canada has its own political considerations too. Trudeau won power by shifting his centrist Liberal Party to the left and has since wooed labor.

“Comparatively to the last government, it’s night and day,” said Hassan Yussuff, head of the Canadian Labour Congress and an appointee to Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s Nafta advisory panel. Others tapped for the panel include former Conservative lawmakers, whose party was at odds with the labor movement while in government, and a senior figure from the New Democratic Party, typically the most closely aligned with labor. “Her natural ability to work with labor is something very welcome to us," Yussuff said of Freeland.

Adam Taylor, a principal at trade consultancy Export Action Global and former official in the last government, said domestic politics is driving the labor courtship. “It is partly for votes,” he said. “Their coalition of voters probably will accept free trade, but want it to be grounded in all the progressive issues the Liberals are bringing to table.”

Among Canada’s proposed Nafta changes is an overhaul to U.S. and Mexican labor law, according to an official familiar with the talks, including so-called U.S. “right-to-work” rules, derided by labor leaders, that ban unions from requiring workers to pay dues. The U.S., while sure to balk at that, is with Canada in pressing for higher wages -- though Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said there’s no consensus on how to do that.

“On this you’ll have two groups of ideas that could contrast,” he told reporters as the second round of talks concluded. Those include “institutional improvements in labor rights” and a process of forcing through higher salaries, he said. He opposes the latter measure.

Courting Labour

After Trump’s election, Trudeau shuffled his cabinet to prepare for talks -- making Freeland his foreign minister and leaving Nafta in her hands. Shortly afterward, the Trudeau government invited Yussuff for a meeting. He spoke with Trudeau’s two top aides, Gerald Butts and Katie Telford, and the prime minister himself. Yussuff said they wanted to know whether or not his labor group would work with them. It’s clear labor was part of Trudeau’s plan.

“He got elected by the way because he had the right messaging both to workers and to a large extent to Canadians -- and he realized, hey, I might as well stay there, I got elected on it,’” Yussuff said. “It also sends a good message to other people on the business side -- maybe they’re being too selfish and arrogant.”

Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for Trudeau, said his senior aides have met regularly with Yussuff and other labor leaders. A strong and respectful working relationship with Canada’s labor movement “is critical for our government," Ahmad said.

In the lead-up to talks, government officials speaking on condition of anonymity said labor leaders in particular had the ear of the government.

“This one is left-of-center,” Dias said of Trudeau’s typically centrist Liberal Party. “The Canadian government is by far the most progressive of the three, and we’re here to work with them and they know that we’ll go right off the walls if in fact it’s all rhetoric and it becomes the status quo” with Nafta.


In the 2015 election, the incumbent Conservatives were unpopular and Trudeau moved to the left -- they pledged an expanded national pension program, deficit spending and a tax hike on top earners -- to squeeze out the New Democrats and contrast the conservatism of incumbent Prime Minister Stephen Harper. His Nafta strategy suggests he’ll do the same thing in Canada’s next election in 2019.

Speaking to reporters in Mexico City, Freeland demurred when asked for details of negotiations so far, though cited labor as a commitment.

“All of us want to come out of this negotiation being able to say to workers in our countries, ‘We have achieved a deal that will improve your standard of living,”’ she said. “That is an essential foundation for going forward.”

The pledges Trudeau is making to Canadian labor will make it tougher for him to compromise at the Nafta table. Yussuff said the government will need to press Mexico in particular to honor pledges for labor reform, while Dias insists all three countries need to honor eight core conventions, including the right to organize, laid out by the International Labour Organization to make Nafta work. Dias wants raises big enough that Mexican auto workers can all afford to buy the cars they make. The prominence of Canadian labor suggests Freeland is largely on-side -- and is now pressing the issue at the Nafta table.

“This is an opportunity to show, hey we’re seriously committed to working with you to make the relationship much stronger,” Yussuff said of Trudeau’s ties with labor during Nafta talks. "At the end of the day, they’re not negotiating with themselves. They have to convince Mexico and the U.S. to equally agree to these changes."

Car explodes when cigarette
ignites air freshener

By Faima Bakar
Sept 11, 2017

A woman escaped death in a DIY store car park when she lit a cigarette inside her car and an air freshener caused an explosion. 

Sharon Victoria Druitt , 51, went into her car after shopping at B&Q in Essex, UK, where she bought the industrial air freshener. 

There is no suggestion the product was faulty or leaking but gas from the air freshener canister is understood to have been ignited by the lit cigarette.

The doors, roof and windscreen were completely blown out of the Ford Focus in a "very loud bang."

Sharon managed to scramble out of the car after the windscreen hurled 30 feet into the air and all four doors blew off. She is being treated for burns to her arm in Southend Hospital. 

Speaking after the explosion, Sharon said: "I put the air freshener in the backseat, lit a cigarette, turned the engine on then bang." 

She added: "I was on morphine from the moment I left the car park so I had no idea of the damage. 

 "The officer said to me 'do you know what you got out of?' and showed me the images of the car after the explosion." 

A man who saw the roof of the car blazing after the explosion said: "I have never heard anything like it. At first we thought it was a terrorist attack because of the world we live in. 

"Then I just heard screams and ran to the car and all the windows were smashed and the doors were buckled. The whole car park is covered in bits of car." 

He said Sharon was left if a deep state of shock as she tried to get back into the car to get her handbag out. The man added: "I said 'no, no, no the roof is on fire,' I basically had to push her to the other end of the car park." 

Sharon's hair is said to have singed as she got out of the car and there was a very strong smell of burning. 

Shocked witness Albert Quixall added on Twitter: "Just missed witnessing car explosion near Southend. 

"Very loud bang. Ford Focus doors, windscreen, roof blown out. B&Q staff rushing to help." 

Police and firefighters were seen at the B&Q car park inspecting the vehicle as the person was treated at the scene. 

Justin Benson-Ryal, Divisional Officer at the fire service said: "Incidents like this are extremely rare, but it is important for everyone to be aware how flammable aerosol cans, such as air fresheners and deodorants, can be. 

"We strongly advise that you not to use an aerosol in a confined space and also you should not smoking during or shortly after use." 

He said "quantities of aerosols" should not be stored in confined spaces nor exposed to sunlight and high temperatures. 

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service later confirmed their investigation found no evidence of a leakage.

East of England Ambulance said: "An ambulance and ambulance officer were sent. 

"They treated one patient of unknown age and gender for minor injuries. 

"The patient was taken to Southend University Hospital." 

A B&Q spokesperson said: “We were sorry to hear of this incident and wish the customer a quick recovery. 

"We understand the product was purchased at the B&Q Southend store."


After flood, Texans want
to get back in driver’s seat

Jim Lynch and Keith Laing,
The Detroit News
Sept 10, 2017

With the floodwater of Hurricane Harvey receding in southeast Texas, residents are reclaiming their homes, securing food and water — and looking to get back in the driver’s seat.

Hundreds of thousands of cars and trucks in the region have been damaged or destroyed by flooding. Dealerships are reopening for sales and service, and carmakers are reallocating cars and trucks to the region.

But in the meantime, car rental companies can’t keep up with demand. And it will be weeks before things start returning to normal. With Hurricane Irma bearing down on South Florida this weekend, the logistics become even more complicated.

In the Texas region hit by Harvey, where estimates of cars lost to water damage range between 200,000 vehicles to as many as 1 million, the crush is already on.

The scale of the problem varies from automaker to automaker and from dealership to dealership.

W. Carroll Smith, president of Monument Chevrolet in Pasadena, Texas, said Harvey spared his dealership, but he knows of counterparts in the Houston area that were badly damaged by flood waters.

“I was fortunate at my dealership that we didn’t have any flooding or loss of inventory,” he said. “I’m on my way to a Ford dealership that’s totally underwater.”

Smith said General Motors Co. has offered additional inventory to Houston-area dealers, but he said the help is not coming immediately.

“We have been able to have additional inventory, but in the course of normal production, so it’s not going to be overnight,” he said. “That’s an eight-week thing.”

He added that he has seen an increase in the number of drivers who are buying cars without trading in older models. “I’m anticipating that’s because they have a total or some owners have not settled insurance claims yet and they’re not in a position to buy,” he said.

Smith said auto lenders have been lenient with drivers who have loans on cars that may have been damaged. “In many cases, they would not finance two cars for somebody until they pay off the first one, but they’re doing it,” he said. “That’s helping with our industry’s recovery.”

GM spokesman Jim Cain estimated a few thousand of the company’s new vehicles were damaged on dealer lots. He said most dealers had minor problems such as leaky roofs or damaged signs. By the end of last week most had reopened, though he said a small number suffered “catastrophic” damage to facilities and inventory.

The automaker is moving used-vehicle inventory to dealerships as rental and loaner cars. At the same time, GM is expediting delivery of parts such as batteries, engines and transmissions to its dealers.

Ford Motor Co. has had representatives from its finance arm, Ford Credit, on the ground in Houston to assess damages to dealerships. Most dealers finance through Ford Credit, said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service.

Around 80 percent of Ford dealers in the path of the story sustained some damage to either vehicle inventory or buildings, LaNeve said.

Ford estimates it lost vehicles in “the low thousands,” which was less than expected. LaNeve said Ford will prioritize production for Texas and divert some used-car inventory from regional dealers nearby.

“We’re working really hard to get the dealers back on board,” he said.

A Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV spokesman said hard numbers on vehicles lost are not yet available, but said only a few of its dealerships reported that their inventory was completely flooded. The company said it is securing incremental inventory for southeast Texas. “At the plants, this includes prioritizing orders from dealers in the affected areas,” Fiat Chrysler said.

Perhaps as important to those hit hardest by the hurricane, dealers and automakers are creating financial assistance packages targeted to the region.

GM’s four brand websites include information on how to secure loaner vehicles while a car is being repaired. The company is offering $1,000 in extra new-vehicle replacement assistance through Oct. 2 on top of other incentives. Eligible customers who replace a vehicle could qualify for a 90-day deferred initial payment. GM Financial also is waiving certain fees,

Ford has put together something it calls the “Texas is Family” customer-assistance bundle. It includes “no-haggle” pricing at the same level enjoyed by Ford employees and family members, no payments required until 2018 and a simplified online application process.

Fiat Chrysler has launched its Southwest Business Center Disaster Relief Employee Purchase Program, an incentive package available to residents in specific areas of Texas and Louisiana. With a copy of insurance claims for damaged vehicles, residents can become eligible.

New vehicle stock and affordability is only part of the current problem. While dealerships are still assessing both property damage and inventory loss, rental car offices are reporting overwhelming requests.

Enterprise Holdings operates not only its namesake rental company, but also National and Alamo. A company official said Thursday that despite the issues still plaguing Texas, Enterprise was beginning to shift some resources to Florida in anticipation of Irma’s arrival.

One person looking to rent a car near the Texas coast told the Associated Press he was informed there were 2,500 people already on a waiting list.

In Port Arthur, about 70 miles east of Houston, resident Cesar Garcia said: “I tried renting a car and none of those places said there was availability from here to Houston. I was told ‘good luck.’ Nothing.”


Ford CEO to make Street
wait as UAW gets vision first

Keith Naughton and John Lippert
Bloomberg News
Sept 9, 2017

Before he lays out his plans for Ford Motor Co. to Wall Street analysts and investors, new Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett is going to share his vision for the automaker with leaders of its workers’ union.

The mid-September meeting in Detroit with United Auto Workers leaders from across the U.S. sends an important signal that the new boss is putting workers first, Jimmy Settles, the head of the union’s Ford department, said in an interview Wednesday.

“Normally, it’s the other way around, if it happens at all,” Settles said of the CEO meeting with union leaders before Wall Street. “Then people know that I care about you. You’re hearing it from me. You don’t have to hear about it from the media.”

Settles said Hackett has already assured him and UAW President Dennis Williams that there are no plans to seek layoffs of union workers, even as Ford plans to cut 10 percent of its salaried staff in North America and Asia this month. Hackett, who became CEO in May after Ford’s board ousted predecessor Mark Fields, has been engaged in a review of the company’s strategy in his first 100 days in the job.

Tomorrow’s jobs

“He said, Look here, my review is not to see how many heads I can cut.’ He made that perfectly clear,” Settles said of a recent conversation he and Williams had with Hackett. “He’s looking for innovation. We talked about upscaling. The jobs of today may not be the jobs of tomorrow, but let’s talk about that in advance.”

Ford confirmed Hackett would be meeting with the union but declined to comment on what he planned to discuss.

“Ford and the UAW leadership hold regular meetings throughout the year,”Kelli Felker, a company spokeswoman, said in an email. “Ford’s senior leadership team routinely participates in these meetings to talk with the union about the business.”

Hackett is expected to lay out plans to accelerate development of autonomous cars and boost Ford’s sagging stock in an Oct. 3 meeting with analysts and investors in New York. Settles foresees Hackett sharing some of that plan first with UAW leaders, he said in an interview at UAW’s Solidarity House headquarters overlooking the Detroit River, adding that he was the one who requested the meeting between Hackett and union officials.

Benefit of the doubt

“I hope he outlines the vision, the long-term vision,” Settles said. “Our members want to hear that. People want to feel secure.”

Ford is better prepared for the coming downturn that it has been previously, Settles said. But it’s “human nature” for workers to worry about their job security as U.S. auto sales decline for the first time in eight years, he said.

Hackett, the former CEO of office furniture maker Steelcase Inc., still is in his “honeymoon time” and gets the benefit of the doubt because he was hand picked by Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who is popular with workers, Settles said.

“Hackett is obviously not a car man, but he knows manufacturing and seems to be very, very innovative,” Settles said. “It seems when Bill Ford personally goes out and picks people, they seem to be the right people.”


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Harvey soaks expectations
for strong auto sales month

Jim Lynch and
Ian Thibodeau,
Detroit News
Sept 3, 2017

It was a mixed month for U.S. auto sales in August, with General Motors sales up for the month, Ford and Fiat Chrysler down, and flooding in Texas dampening hopes for an overall upturn.

Sales for General Motors Co. rose 7.5 percent in August over the same month in 2016, while Ford Motor Co. sales fell 2.1 percent and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sales dropped 11 percent compared to the same month a year ago.

Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations for GM, said, “We had a very strong month, and grew our retail and commercial fleet business on the strength of robust crossover sales at all four of our brand. But our focus is on the unfolding crisis in Texas and what we can do to help our customers, employees, dealers and everyone else impacted by the flooding.”

Ford Motor Co.’s decline for August was due in part to a drop in SUV sales that had been strong through most of the year. Ford sold 209,897 vehicles last month, a decline going into the last quarter of a year when automakers have been unable to approach stellar sales performances in 2015 and 2016.

Though both Ford’s SUV and car segments slipped, the company sold 9.3 percent more trucks last month than it did in the same period a year ago, an almost monthly trend for Ford that couples with those customers opting for higher trim levels.

“We continue to see customers choosing high trim-level F-Series trucks for Super Duty and with new 2018 F- 150 orders,” Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a statement. “We are seeing high demand overall for our F-Series lineup this year, outpacing full-size truck segment growth 2-to-1 with a 15 percent increase for August.”

Fiat Chrysler sold 176,033 vehicles for the month, with fleet sales down 23 percent due the company’s strategy of cutting sales to the daily rental market. But retail stories also were down – off 7 percent from a year ago. Inside those numbers, the Jeep Compass and Jeep Renegade scored their highest sales figures ever for August, as did the Dodge Challenger, Ram ProMaster and Ram ProMaster City.

Nissan saw a steep decline in August sales over last year, with the 108,326 vehicles sold in the month, representing a drop of 13 percent. American Honda Motor Inc.’s 146,015 vehicles sold last month were a loss of 2.4 percent.

Toyota had a better time of it, posting a gain of 6.8 percent with 227,625 sold. Volkswagen sold 32,015 vehicles to post an increase of 9 percent. And Subaru had its best month ever, moving 63,215 vehicles for a gain of 4.6 percent.

Industry analysts expect August sales for the industry to be undercut in part by Hurricane Harvey, which touched down last week in the country’s second-largest market.

Before the storm, analysts expected automakers to beat monthly numbers from a year ago for the first time in August. Days after the storm hit, they adjusted those numbers to reflect a roughly 2 percent decline industry-wide.

With an early look at the numbers, analysts noted rising inventory numbers that have, at least so far, not been addressed by dealers with a focus on incentives. Edmunds said new vehicles are remaining on dealer lots longer than any time since 2009.

Cars sat for an average of 77 days in August, an increase of two days from July.

“Labor Day weekend usually brings in nearly a third more buyers than the typical first weekend of the month, so this is critical opportunity to make a dent in inventory,” wrote Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of industry analysis. “Given the state of the market, we would usually expect automakers to pull out all the stops to get shoppers into their showrooms, but based on what we saw in August, it’s not a sure thing.”

Analysts have predicted a slowing of vehicle sales after several years of record numbers. Some segments have been hit hard than others. Consumers have consistently turned away from traditional sedans in favors of trucks and SUVs.

That’s due, in part, to rising fuel efficiency being met along the way by reduced gas prices. With the option of getting a larger SUV or crossover that can put them in the same mileage ballpark as sedans, consumers are going bigger.

Year-to-year comparisons are affected slightly by the calendar. This month provided dealers with an additional day of sales compared to August of 2016.

But Hurricane Harvey forced the closure of hundreds in dealerships in Southeast Texas over the past week, taking a bite out of sales there. Any loss due to Harvey could be made up in the coming months as consumers in the region look to put their lives back together.

Earlier this week, Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Cox Automotive, estimated 300,000 to 500,000 cars and trucks could be lost due to the flooding. That figure comes from analyzing damages caused by hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, compared with vehicles per household and conditions in the Houston area.

If Smoke’s numbers are accurate, the damage would eclipse that of Sandy in 2012, which destroyed 250,000 vehicles.

“If Houston indeed lost 300,000 vehicles,” Smoke wrote, “it’s sobering to note that the entire Houston (market area) has seen 325,000 new vehicle sales in the last 12 months.”


10 reasons why the
Ford Edsel floundered

Ford Edsel

 By Don Sherman
September 3, 2017

Had Edsel survived longer than three model years, we’d be savoring birthday cake topped with 60 candles on September 4. That’s the day, in 1957, when Americans got their first look at the highly anticipated Edsel lineup; a promotion television show would follow about five weeks later. But what Ford Motor Company promoted as “the car of the future” instead became the poster child for commercial failure.

The Edsel’s appearance usually gets the blame for the brand’s failure. That didn’t help, but there’s more to the story. Looking back, it’s clear that the deck was stacked against Edsel. What follows are 10 reasons why the program crashed and burned in only 24 months:

Bad timing

Economic recession beset the U.S. only a few weeks after Edsel’s launch. At least five other upscale brands—DeSoto, Hudson, Nash, Packard, and Studebaker—would succumb as buyer preferences shifted smartly toward economy cars. During the late 1950s, Volkswagen’s Beetle gained momentum thanks to its cuteness, cheap price, and exemplary fuel economy.

Insufficient market research

New Edsels were shipped to dealers sealed under wrap to heighten the surprise on announcement day. Ford conducted virtually no test marketing with actual consumers to bolster its conviction that this was the right car at right time. That mistake ended up costing the company $250 million, which is the equivalent of 10 times that amount in 21st-century dollars.

Confusing pricing

The new Edsel Division was part of Ford’s grand plan to expand its business into five distinct operating units. In addition to Edsel, the Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, and Continental brands, each had separate sales and marketing organizations. The intention was for Edsel to slip neatly between Ford and Mercury. Unfortunately, the gap between the most expensive Ford and the cheapest Mercury was only $136, much too narrow for the four Edsel series launched for 1958 to enjoy any elbow room, particularly after optional equipment was factored in. Customers inevitably suffering sticker shock sought refuge in well-established brands and more sensible pricing structures. In essence, Edsel’s most direct competition was Ford and Mercury cars.

Shaky dealer organization

The Edsel retail organization initially consisted of 1,187 exclusive dealers, part of Ford’s effort to match Chrysler’s 10,000-dealer count while moving closer to GM’s 16,000 retail stores. When the Edsels proved tough to sell, many dealers folded or added Ford or Mercury lines to stay afloat. The parent organization left these businesses in the lurch with insufficient marketing and promotion help to move the metal.

Lack of distinction from other Ford Motor Co. models

While Edsels did introduce a few innovative features—such as the “Teletouch” automatic transmission shifter positioned at the center of the steering wheel—most chassis and powertrain components were similar to hardware sold throughout the Blue Oval empire. Since they were built in existing Ford or Mercury assembly plants, no valid claims could be made about superior craftsmanship.

Quality and reliability issues

Surveyed owners compiled a laundry list of problems, including faulty welds, leaky trunks, and power steering failure.  The complex Teletouch shifter was a service nightmare, in part because control wires were routed too close to hot exhaust system parts. Because assembly workers had to use different tools to install some parts distinct from mainstream Ford and Mercury models, it was common practice for dealers to receive unfinished Edsels with the disparate parts chucked in the trunk. Like every all-new car, start-up issues were inevitable during the initial manufacturing months.

Exterior design

Edsel design chief Roy Brown intended the vertical grille feature to be much more slender than what resulted in production. Engineers enlarged his grille, insisting that the original design wouldn’t have delivered sufficient cooling air to the radiator. The resulting shape was commonly called the horse collar, an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon, and a toilet seat. Improvements were made for the second model year and the vertical grille was replaced with a horizontal motif for the third year, ironically resembling a 1959 Pontiac.

Corporate discord

Ford’s executive vice president, Ernest Breech, in essence the Edsel’s father, convinced the company’s top management that upscale midsize models would succeed based on early 1950s market research and a thriving U.S. economy. Chairman Henry Ford II was nervous about risking his father’s good name with a model venturing into uncharted waters, yet the Edsel label was approved in his absence. Robert McNamara, responsible for keeping Ford financially on track, counseled against so many sales divisions, the Edsel’s mechanical distinctions, and the new car’s promotion and advertising budget. When the E car didn’t fly, he was the first to recommend pulling the plug to avoid deeper losses. The pity is that the brilliant Lee Iacocca’s attention was focused elsewhere. Had he provided his astute sense of customer wants and needs, the Edsel program might have fared better.

The ‘Forward Look’

At Chrysler, designer Virgil Exner shifted the entire lineup in a new aircraft-inspired direction called the Forward Look beginning with 1955 models.  By 1957, Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, and Chrysler tail fins, roof lines, and overall proportions were the envy of the industry. Even GM was caught in a catch-up game that yielded wild designs across its entire lineup for the 1959 model year. It’s little wonder that the homely Edsel was swamped by the tidal wave of more attractive designs when it came the market in the fall of 1957.

Chained to dealers’ showroom floors

The 1958 Edsel lineup consisted of 18 models in four series and six body styles built on two wheelbases. Unfortunately, demand was less than one-third of what Ford executives expected. Worse, sales figures dropped 29 percent for the 1959 model year. Adequate power was not the problem. The top 410-cubic-inch (6.7-liter) V-8, rated at 345 horsepower (gross), provided competitive acceleration but insufficient urge to snap the imaginary restraints holding Edsels securely in place at dealer showrooms.


Four Edsel nameplates—Citation, Ranger, Pacer, and Villager—were subsequently recycled. Edsel owners and collectors are passionate for the brand that most consumers shunned. Rare models—such as the 1960 Ranger Deluxe four-door hardtop (only 31 made)—command top dollar when they trade hands.

End game

Approximately 116,000 Edsels were built and sold for the 1958-60 model years. After Ford announced production would cease, used values plummeted so fast that disgruntled owners were given rebate vouchers worth $300-$400 dollars. Looking at Edsel with 60 years hindsight, it’s clear that no single tactical error can be blamed for the brand’s quick demise. Rather, a perfect storm of overwhelming adversity sank this ship.


Auto industry feels
Harvey’s impact

The Detroit News
Jim Lynch,
Keith Laing and
 Ian Thibodeau
September 1, 2017

With as many as 500,000 vehicles estimated to be destroyed by Hurricane Harvey and hundreds of car dealers shut down by the unprecedented flooding, the natural disaster has shaken a piece of the auto industry.

Texas is the auto industry’s second-largest market in the U.S. after California, and major portions of the state’s southeast region are under water with little or no relief in sight.

Auto production in the state — led by General Motors Co. in Arlington and Toyota Motor Corp. in San Antonio — appears to have avoided major interruptions. The most immediate impact is being felt by dealers, many of whom have shut down operations and may have to wait weeks to know the full extent of damage to their properties and inventory.

With a large portion of southeast Texas effectively paralyzed by flood waters and continuing rainfall, near-term sales are likely to take a hit. As many as 20,000 to 40,000 new-vehicle sales could be delayed as a result of the storm, according to Cox Automotive estimates.

But a rebound is expected in the final months of the year as motorists replace damaged or totaled cars and trucks.

An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 cars and trucks could be lost due to the flooding, according to Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Cox Automotive. He arrived at that figure by looking at damages from hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and comparing vehicles per household and conditions in the Houston area. Such destruction would exceed Sandy in 2012, he said, when 250,000 vehicles were destroyed.

“If Houston indeed lost 300,000 vehicles,” Smoke wrote, “it’s sobering to note that the entire Houston (market area) has seen 325,000 new vehicle sales in the last 12 months.”

The impact on dealerships has been severe. AutoNation has 60 new- and used-car stores in Texas. To date, 17 have closed, along with an auction center and collision center.

“We’ve only just begun to get to a handful of our stores,” said Marc Cannon, AutoNation’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “It’s an exercise of going store-by-store and car-by-car so we can access the damage and figure out what needs to be done.

“It’s a fluid situation. It’s still raining there. This is a unique, huge situation that has engulfed that whole community.”

Bill Wolters, president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association, estimates about 25 percent of dealerships in Houston have been damaged by flood waters caused by Harvey, originally classified as a hurricane before being downgraded to a tropical storm after making landfall.

“Almost all of the dealerships are closed, and they have been since the hurricane hit, but not all of them are damaged,” he said. “The majority of the dealerships are not damaged, but they can’t open because their employees and customers can’t get to the dealership.”

Wolters believes most Houston dealerships will be able to emerge relatively unscathed. “We think dealers may be able to ride this out and open back up,” he said, “but this is a tragedy of epic proportions, especially on the personal side.”

Massive market

Stacey Gillman, president of Houston-based dealership chain Gillman Automotive Group, told The Detroit News on Tuesday that her employees fielded around 700 calls over the last couple of days from people who needed a place to bring vehicles damaged by the storm.

Gillman, who closed her Houston-area facilities Monday, left hand-written notes on service doors that said tow-truck drivers and vehicle owners could leave damaged cars for repairs as long as they filled out a slip of paper with the pertinent information and slipped that into the night-drop box. Gates were left open so drivers could park for repairs.

“Now that the water is starting to recede, we’re slowly starting to see some wrecks come in,” Gillman said. She declined to predict how many her service departments might work on in coming days.

With a population of about 6.5 million, the Houston metropolitan area is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the United States and the second-largest in Texas.

The importance of Texas to the auto industry is hard to overstate: Texans buy 9 percent of vehicles sold retail in U.S.; 14 percent of full-size pickup sales this year have been to Texans.

That’s why flooding in the final week of August could cause a significant U.S. sales loss for the month — possibly a drop of 2 percent, according to Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of industry analysis.

Eventually, however, automakers could see a boost as dealers replenish inventories and car owners vehicles lost to water damage.

“That process will likely last months, pushing higher sales in the region in (the fourth quarter),” Cox said. He said initial estimates indicate a potential net improvement on full-year sales after replacement sales pick up in earnest.

Car sales spiked 49 percent in the month after Hurricane Sandy, Cox said. That surge lasted two months.

The long-term outlook

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas in San Antonio is 200 miles west of Houston. The operation, which produces Tacoma and Tundra pickups, was only briefly interrupted.

“We stopped production on Saturday but resumed from the first shift (Monday) morning,” said Amanda Roark, a Toyota spokeswoman. “No damage has been reported and our other manufacturing facilities remain unaffected.”

New-vehicle deliveries to the Houston area’s Gulf States Toyota distributor have been suspended, and Roark said 21 of the distributor’s locations have been closed since Saturday. The damage to inventories is unclear.

GM’s Arlington Assembly Plant is 250 miles north of Houston. The facility builds the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, as well as the Cadillac Escalade. A GM spokesperson said operations had not been interrupted.

Disruption of parts suppliers may take a while to be known. Southfield-based Lear Corp. has operations in Arlington as well as in Piedras Negras, Mexico, southwest of San Antonio. Lear spokesman Mel Stephens said Tuesday the company’s operations had not seen any interruptions.

“If there is an issue with the ability to move materials around, then that could cause a disruption,” he said, “but we haven’t had that.”

The long-term effects on the auto industry are difficult to estimate, says Stephanie Brinley, senior analyst at IHS Automotive.

“It is uncertain how many potential buyers exit the new-vehicle market after a massive event, and for how long they will remain out of the market,” she said in an emailed response. “Eventually, however, buyers in Texas who were planning to buy a new vehicle may return. This could lead to an unusual spike in a later month.”

Buyer beware

After the flood waters recede, what happens to all those cars that were swamped on dealer lots?

Cars caught up in the flooding would be inspected by insurance companies to determine their fate, according to Karen Phillips, general counsel for the Texas Automobile Dealers Association. Vehicles that are considered totaled will receive an “undeliverable” title and would need to be demolished. Cars that are damaged, but not totaled, receive a “salvage” title that is a different color to alert potential buyers of the fact it had been damaged.

Vehicles damaged in natural disasters have presented problems for buyers in the past, often making their way into the used car market, according to Jeff Bartlett, deputy editor for autos at Consumer Reports.

“Fortunately, the consumer protections have improved over time, but this ongoing tragedy is a reminder for all shoppers to be vigilant and diligent when purchasing a used car,” Bartlett said. “And to factor an inspection by a professional mechanic who is not associated with the sale.”


Bob DeCoste Passes Away

Bob DeCoste

August 29, 2017
Retired: Oct 1, 1997
28.4 years at Ford Bramalea

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the
passing of Retiree Bob DeCoste on August 29, 2017.

Our deepest condolences go out to his wife Joyce and son
Dwayne a Local 584 member and the entire DeCoste family.

Bob DeCoste  passed away very peacefully with his  family by his side  on Aug.29, 2017 at Tabor Manor in St. Catharines.

Six days shy of his 81st. birthday. Bob is survived by Joyce, his wife of 57 years, son Dwayne, cherished grandsons Kyle (Cass Lloyd) and Tyler of Georgetown and daughter Sandra of Toronto as well as 4 siblings in Nova Scotia.

Bob & Joyce were fortunate to have enjoyed 20 years of retirement during which time they did extensive travelling, wintered in Florida & played many rounds of golf together.

Cremation will take place. No visitation. His burial Mass will take place on Sat. Sept.16th. at 11 a.m. at St.Julia's Church on Glenridge Ave. in St. Catharines.

Family flowers only please. Memorial donations may be made to The Alzheimer's Society or The Cdn. Diabetes Assoc.



Ex-UAW official pleads
guilty in training center case

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News
August 30, 2017

Ann Arbor — A former associate director of the United Auto Workers pleaded guilty to misusing funds that were intended to train and retrain blue-collar workers.

Virdell King, 65, is the second person to plead guilty in a widening federal investigation into improprieties at the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in Detroit.

This morning, King pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to violate the Labor Management Relations Act. As part of her agreement with prosecutors, she faces up to 16 months in prison and restitution payments of up to $15,000.

Following her appearance in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor, King and her attorney, John Shea, declined to comment. She had faced a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

According to the agreement, King repeatedly made purchases using a credit card account linked to the training center. Those purchases went toward personal items for UAW officials, as well as for King herself.

“The defendant knowingly and voluntarily joined that conspiracy,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie Gorgon. King retired from the UAW in February 2016.

Funding for the training center is provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. Prosecutors have alleged that UAW officials, several linked with union contract negotiations, benefited personally from purchases made via the center’s credit cards.

King was a member of the negotiating team when the UAW hammered out contracts with FCA in 2011 and 2015. She was there at the same time as Alphons Iacobelli, former top negotiator with Fiat Chrysler. Iacobelli was indicted in July for allegedly using training center funds to pay for a $350,000 Ferrari 458 Spider, a pair of Mont Blanc pens valued at $37,500 each, and a swimming pool.

In addition, Monica Morgan-Holiefield, the widow of deceased former UAW vice president General Holiefield, faces charges of spending training center money, including $262,000 to pay off a mortgage and $30,000 in airline tickets.

Both Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for a jury trial March 19.

Earlier this month, Jerome Durden, a former financial analyst with FCA, reached his own plea agreement with prosecutors. He allegedly helped funnel more than $4.5 million to union officials. The 61-year-old Rochester Hills resident faces as many as 37 months in prison.

UAW President Dennis Williams previously released a letter to union members denying the transactions between FCA officials and union negotiators had any impact on bargaining.

Judge John Corbett O'Meara set King’s sentencing hearing for Jan. 3, 2018.


Domino’s, Ford start self-driving delivery-car tests

The new test vehicle is painted to look like a test vehicle, with notices saying as much printed on the doors and hood of the car.

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
August 29, 2017

Ann Arbor — Domino’s Pizza wants to know how customers would react to having their pizzas delivered by a self-driving car. It will begin an experiment with Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday to test that idea.

The automaker is supplying a self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid equipped with Ford’s full suite of cameras, sensors, radar and lidar (light detection and ranging) for testing in Ann Arbor for about a month and a half. Although the car is labeled as a “self-driving delivery vehicle,” it won’t actually be operating in autonomous mode. Instead, one Ford engineer hidden behind tinted windows will drive the car. Another will monitor input from the car’s hardware.

Here’s what selected customers of Domino’s Plymouth Road location will experience:

When the delivery car pulls to the curb, customers will get a text message that their pizza has arrived. When they approach the car they’ll find a touchscreen at the rear passenger-side window of the vehicle. After typing the last four digits of the phone number from which they placed the order, the window rolls down and the customer grabs their order from a warming oven just inside the window. Then the window rolls up, the car thanks the customer and it drives away.

Ford will use the tests as research for autonomous delivery vehicles it plans to sell within the next five years. Domino’s will get to see if customers actually want or like automated deliveries.

The partnership is a step for Ford in the direction that new CEO Jim Hackett has been pushing the company since his time as the head of Ford Smart Mobility.

Hackett wants his people to bring a fully driverless vehicle without a steering wheel, a brake pedal or an accelerator to market by 2021, and he wants the vehicle to have more than one use. The first street-legal, fully autonomous vehicles seen from Ford won’t be used solely in ride-sharing fleets in defined geographic areas, he has said.

“It’s not just ride-sharing and ride-moving or people moving, but it’s also moving the goods,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford vice president of autonomous and electric vehicles. “We develop the plan to go to market as we develop the tech. We work with partners (and) this is one example. There will be more in the future.”

Tuesday’s move could be prudent for Ford, given an increasing number of studies saying a majority of consumers polled would not consider riding in an autonomous vehicle.

The delivery research is as much a chance for both Ford and Domino’s to get a head start on competitors is it is a way to get what looks like a self-driving vehicle on the road to gauge reactions. Company officials say it’s the first open collaboration between a restaurant chain and an automotive company in the autonomous technology sphere.

According to Ford, the market for delivery services will grow from a $13 billion industry to $31 billion industry by 2021, right when Ford plans to have its self-driving vehicle ready to launch.

Kevin Vasconi, Domino’s chief information officer and executive vice president, said he knows there will be a market for autonomous delivery vehicles. A number of retailers are experimenting with drone deliveries, and many automakers are pushing for self-driving vehicles.

The experiments starting Tuesday generate some buzz for Domino’s, and positions the company to have something ready to launch when fully autonomous vehicles are ready to roll.

“We are delivery experts,” Vasconi said. “This technology is going to be here before probably any of us think it will, and we have an opportunity working with people like Ford to set the direction. We’re in a highly competitive industry, and if we don’t keep moving forward our competition are going to close in on us.”

Vasconi and other Domino’s leadership downplayed the chance of these vehicles putting delivery drivers out of work. They say the autonomous vehicles would generate business and more delivery orders for the company.

The pizza delivery vehicle is an early prototype. There’s only one. Domino’s and Roush Enterprises outfitted it with a custom Domino’s Heatwave Compartment, which is modeled after the oven on the back of the Domino’s DXP delivery vehicle rolled out in 2015. That can hold up to four pizzas and five side dishes at one time.

The new test vehicle is painted to look like a test vehicle, with notices saying as much printed on the doors and hood of the car. Those who agree to allow Domino’s to use the test vehicle will not be told anyone is inside.

Both companies want to simulate an autonomous delivery to get true reactions from customers.

Domino’s will monitor everything from delivery times and customer satisfaction, to where customers touch the vehicle, how easy it is for them to remove the pizzas from the insulated compartment, how quickly they’re able to punch in the code, and if they’re able to keep their hands off the car’s valuable lidar systems spinning atop the vehicle.

That last part is important, Vasconi said, because if Domino’s brings an autonomous delivery car to market, there won’t be anyone inside to make sure customers don’t damage the pricey equipment.

Meanwhile, Ford will also monitor how customers approach and interact with the vehicles, and places to potentially make the human interaction with the vehicle easier, safer or better.

The vehicle will be tweaked by both Ford and Domino’s based on the feedback.

“We are learning so that we can feed the development,” Marakby said. “We want to make sure we learn as much as possible, and simulate that with quick prototypes. I feel that the consumer is looking for (autonomous vehicles), the businesses are looking for them — and probably most importantly, society is ready for them.”


Ford, Argo eye new possibilities
for autonomous cars

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
August 28, 2017

San Francisco — Jim Hackett doesn’t want to be handcuffed on how Ford’s first fully self-driving vehicles might be deployed in 2021.

The launch date for those autonomous cars without a steering wheel, brake pedal or an accelerator is still four years away, but Hackett, Ford Motor Co.’s new CEO, wants the company to think more broadly about the best use of that technology. In the past, Ford executives agreed that the first autonomous vehicles would operate in ride-hailing services on established routes.

Hackett doesn’t want to restrict Ford to that one use, he said during a recent interview with The Detroit News in San Francisco at Ford’s City of Tomorrow event. He wants options.

“We won’t define the markets,” he said. “(The market for autonomous vehicles) will change with this capability. ... I would bring everybody into the same room and say you reported on this wrong, and all the automotive people, you told this story wrong. They all got it wrong, and let’s start to clear it up. Look at the computer industry. Why didn’t we say the first time you’re going to have a computer that can talk back to you?”

That’s a big change for Ford, and a line of thought that’s alien to an auto industry where executives and engineers are accustomed to knowing five years ahead of a launch which products will be in the lineup. With new and developing technology like autonomy, it’s unwise to commit too early to a final product, according to Hackett.

That critical thinking could pay off for Ford.

Sam Abuelsamid, analyst with Navigant Research, said, “If anything, I’d describe the attitude as a bit more bullish than (former CEO) Mark Fields, since they are looking at other usage.”

Bryan Salesky, CEO of Argo AI, suggests the robotic cars could operate as delivery vehicles or a freight service in addition to the ride-hailing option. Ford is paying Argo AI $1 billion to build the “brains” for those vehicles.

“We’re looking at all sorts of business models as to how to put this into production,” Salesky said during a Detroit News interview in San Francisco. “And one of the advantages of being partnered with an auto company is you’ve obviously got a number of vehicle platforms to draw from depending on the business model. (We are) collaborating on what are the right ones to go after.”

The teams at Ford and Argo are emphatic that they will have all of the technical capability to bring an autonomous vehicle in some form to market by 2021. Salesky said Argo will soon begin focusing on testing its virtual-driver program in preparation for that date.

Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president for autonomous vehicles and electrification, explained Ford’s position on autonomy in a recent blog post.

“Ride-sharing and hailing is on the rise, and shopping at malls is giving way to buying online, which is increasing package delivery services,” Marakby wrote. “Therefore, we’re building a business to capitalize on both of these trends. We plan to develop and manufacture self-driving vehicles at scale, deployed in cooperation with multiple partners, and with a customer experience based on human-centered design principles.”

Salesky said Argo will have more than 30 autonomous vehicles testing on the road in Dearborn, Ann Arbor and Pittsburgh by the end of the year. Those vehicles, developed less than a year after Ford partnered with Argo, will fine-tune Argo’s virtual-driver system using Ford Fusions outfitted with the automaker’s suite of cameras, sensors, radar and lidar (light detection and ranging). They will have someone in the driver’s seat monitoring the system.

The partnership with Ford helped Salesky and Argo avoid a pitfall that technology companies like Alphabet Inc., Apple Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. found after launching their own autonomous programs: Argo doesn’t have to worry about making an automobile.

Those Silicon Valley companies quickly discovered it was hard to build good cars to pair with the software, which resulted in those companies scaling back or scrapping the autonomous work.

In short, Ford brings a fleet of time-tested vehicles and other hardware, Argo brings the software. The companies focus all of that on one goal.

“We’re talking about a system of vehicles that will, if deployed properly, be a completely game-changing way of moving anything from A to B in a city,” Salesky said. “This technology can fundamentally change how cities move.”


VW engineer’s 40-month
sentence ‘sends ... message’

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
August 27, 2017

Detroit — A stiffer-than-expected sentence Friday for a “brilliant” Volkswagen engineer who helped perpetuate a $25 billion diesel emission scandal helps atone for the perception that business leaders and executives receive free passes for corporate wrongdoing, legal experts said.

VW engineer James Liang’s 40-month sentence and $200,000 fine for his role in a worldwide scandal that defrauded American consumers could foreshadow tough treatment for seven other executives charged in the scandal, including one awaiting sentencing in December.

The tough sentence from U.S. District Judge Sean Cox makes it more likely VW executives indicted in January will remain in Germany and not be brought to justice, experts said.

“It sends a very strong message to them that they better stay safely in Germany,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “We haven’t seen many individuals being held responsible for corporate misconduct, so this is one of those rare cases.”

Liang, 63, who helped devise software that cheated emissions tests and lied to government regulators, is the first person sentenced to federal prison in the scandal. He struck a plea deal with prosecutors in September and helped investigators unravel the scandal.

The sentence was surprising considering that prosecutors recommended Liang spend three years in federal prison and pay a $20,000 fine. Defense lawyers wanted Liang sentenced to home confinement and a nominal fine, arguing the 120-pound man was too old and slight to serve time in a federal prison.

“Judge Cox dropped the hammer in a way that I don’t think anyone expected,” Henning said.

The judge faulted Liang for conspiring in a scandal that eroded trust between American consumers and car companies.

“The conspiracy perpetrated a massive … and stunning fraud on the American consumer that attacked and destroyed the very foundation of our economic system,” Cox told Liang. “It was a very serious and troubling crime.

“Your cooperation and regret is noted,” the judge told Liang on Friday, “but it doesn’t excuse your conduct.”

Liang, who faces deportation to Germany upon his release from prison, did not react to the sentence and declined an opportunity to address the judge.

Defense lawyer Daniel Nixon portrayed the VW engineer as a remorseful man subject to public shaming as the “worldwide face” of the scandal. “This is not a greedy or immoral man,” Nixon told the judge. “He wasn’t the mastermind. He was blindly — blindly — executing misguided loyalty to his employer.”

Prosecutors had urged a 36-month sentence, arguing it would deter automobile industry engineers from committing similar crimes. “Others in Liang’s situation will think twice before following in his footsteps,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow said. “ ‘Doing my job’ is not a proper excuse.”

Liang was the point-person for VW in the United States, prosecutors said, calling him “brilliant.”

“He was the one person who knew what was going on,” Chutkow said. “Liang could have walked away. He could have protested … he could have blown the whistle. But he didn’t do those things.”

Besides Liang, seven other current and former Volkswagen AG executives are facing charges related to the scandal.

They are: Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, 60; Heinz-Jakob Neusser, 56; Jens Hadler, 50; Richard Dorenkamp, 68; Bernd Gottweis, 69; and Jürgen Peter, 59; and Oliver Schmidt, 48, all of Germany.

Last month, Schmidt struck a plea deal that recommends a seven-year sentence.

As he illustrated Friday, Cox can exceed that sentence.

“I think the judge sent as signal that corporate irresponsibility will not be tolerated,” University of Detroit Mercy law professor Larry Dubin said Friday. “There has been a lot of criticism about the criminal justice system and not holding corporations and their executives and employees responsible for criminal acts that caused the major recent recession. The judge is making a statement that that should not be the case with Volkswagen.”

Liang, a German citizen, made $350,000 a year and lived a comfortable life in a 3,600-square-foot home in an exclusive California community, the judge noted.

“And, of course, VW paid the rent,” the judge said. “You didn’t want to walk away from this lifestyle. You were loyal. Arguably too loyal.

“You were an important and key player in a very serious crime,” the judge added.

Volkswagen was charged as a company with three criminal felony counts for what regulators called a “10-year conspiracy” to rig hundreds of thousands of diesel cars to cheat U.S. emission standards. It was forced to pay $2.8 billion in criminal fines and $1.5 billion in civil penalties related to the fraud.

The automaker has been under fire in the United States since it was accused by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September 2015 of selling diesels for years with software that activated required air pollution equipment only during emissions tests. They had been marketed as “clean diesels” for the company’s Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands between 2008 and 2015.

Volkswagen has admitted to programming its diesel cars to trick emissions testers into believing the engines released far less pollution into the air than they actually do, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. Regulators have said that in normal driving they emitted up to 40 times more smog-causing nitrogen oxide than the legal limit.

The $4.3 billion fine comes in addition to a $14.7 billion settlement the company reached this year with the EPA that calls for Volkswagen to spend $10 billion to either buy back or repair about 475,000 2-liter diesel vehicles that were sold between 2009 and 2015 and were built with devices to trick emissions testers; the company must contribute $4.7 billion to federal efforts to reduce pollution.

The company also agreed to $1.2 billion deal that covered fixes and buy-backs of 78,000 additional 3-liter cars.


Ford exploring Chinese
joint venture for EVs

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
August 24, 2017

Americans aren’t keen on them, but Ford Motor Co. sees opportunity for electric vehicles in China.

The Dearborn-based automaker announced Tuesday in Shanghai, China, that it would sign a memorandum of understanding with Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. Ltd., a big all-electric vehicle maker there. The memorandum will help the companies “explore” launching a joint venture to develop, produce, market and sell a new Ford line of all-electric passenger vehicles in China, according to a statement from the company.

To sell vehicles in China, automakers are required to partner with a Chinese company. Ford already has multiple Chinese joint ventures. Any vehicles produced if a joint venture is launched would be sold under a brand owned by the new joint venture, according to a statement.

Zotye Auto was one of the first electric vehicle-makers in the country. The company sold 16,000 all-electric vehicles through the first half of this year, a 56 percent increase over the same period a year ago.

“The potential to launch a new line of all-electric vehicles in the world’s largest auto market is an exciting next step for Ford in China,” said Peter Fleet, Ford group vice president and president, Ford Asia Pacific, in a statement. “Electric vehicles will be a big part of the future in China and Ford wants to lead in delivering great solutions to customers.”

Ford said Tuesday it would give additional details about the brand, products and production numbers at a later date pending a definitive agreement between the companies.

In addition to amplifying Ford’s effort to establish a greater presence in China, Tuesday’s announcement amplifies Ford’s electrification goals. The company has already invested $4.5 billion to make electric vehicles, and plans to bring 13 new electric vehicles to the market in the next five years.

That includes an all-electric small SUV to be sold in Asia, North America and Europe. That unnamed vehicle is slated to be built at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant.

The company also plans to have 70 percent of all Ford vehicles sold in China have electric powertrain options by 2025.

Ford’s Changan Ford joint venture announced it would introduce the Mondeo Energi plug-in hybrid sedan in early 2018. Ford and its joint ventures in 2016 sold a record 1.27 million vehicles in China, though the company’s imported vehicle volume for 2016 was down overall from 2015. The automaker recently began exporting the 2017 F-150 Raptor to China, too.

In June, Ford announced it would produce the next-generation Focus in China instead of Mexico, and it will import the China-made cars to the U.S. Moving Focus production to China will save Ford $1 billion compared to the plan to build that facility in Mexico, which it canceled at the start of the year, Ford said.



Ford considering removable
steering wheel, pedals
for autonomous cars

August 23, 2017
Jackie Charniga
Automotive News

DETROIT -- A patent application from Ford Motor Co. reveals plans for a removable steering wheel and pedals, allowing drivers to either manually steer or clear the dash during autonomous modes.

The application describes a dashboard assembly with a "receiving niche" that can receive the removable steering wheel or a removable "filler module" for when the wheel is not in use.

Autonomous vehicles won't require the use of a steering wheel to pilot a vehicle, Ford inventors said in the filing, but losing one altogether would present major design challenges. Most vehicle design incorporates the driver-side airbag in the steering wheel, and eliminating the tool would make it difficult to regain control of the vehicle in an emergency situation.

Vehicles without manual steering can place test drivers "at higher risk, as it would be more difficult to moderate or abort such maneuvers made under autonomous control, or make such maneuvers with an unfamiliar electronic control such as a joystick."

According to the patent application, filed by the automaker on Feb. 5, 2016, and published last week, vehicle owners will prefer having a wheel because it is familiar, even if it is inactive while the vehicle is in an autonomous mode.

Ford plans to mount the removable wheel to the cockpit on a splined shaft. The automaker is also considering a steer-by-wire system for the wheel, composed of a feedback motor, sensors and a bearing-mounted stub shaft.

The design compensates the safety challenge by adding a second airbag, which will deploy in the event of a collision when the steering wheel is not inserted in the dashboard. One will remain in the wheel for when a steering wheel module is replaced with a filler, and another driver-side airbag is mounted "in a location other than on the steering wheel is applied."

The removable pedals may be fixed to the vehicle floor using threaded fasteners and spring-loaded snap engagement features. Sensors would also be employed here, to determine whether or not the pedal is fixed in place, according to the patent.

The system wouldn't likely be available until fully autonomous vehicles are widely available.

"We submit patents on innovative ideas as a normal course of business," a Ford spokesman said. "Patent applications are intended to protect new ideas but aren't necessarily an indication of new business or product plans."



The 1965 Ford Shelby GT350R
is going back into production

Motor Authority
By Jeff Glucker
August 22, 2017

The Shelby gang's back together again. Calling themselves the Original Venice Crew, former Shelby American team members have joined forces to create an essentially new and moderately updated version of the Shelby GT350R.

This crew consists of Peter Brock, Jim Marietta, and Ted Sutton—and they're channeling Carroll Shelby's spirit.

Shelby hit upon some road-racing magic when he got his hands on the 1965 Ford Mustang, . He turned what he called a "secretary's car" into a real street-legal race car. It was dubbed the Shelby GT350R and it was fitted with a modified version of Ford's K-Code engine. They also had drum brakes, four-speed gearboxes, and live rear axles. If you want to own one today, you'd need to come up with a serious pile of cash and find someone willing to part with their car.

Or, you can buy a brand-new one from the team that helped bring the original to life.

Just 36 examples will be built and there's reportedly one heading up to Monterey for car week. These will be based on 1965 Ford Mustangs like the original, with bodies that have been rehabbed to  make sure they're up to the task. Similar to the original K-Code cars, a 289 cubic-inch V-8 will sit under the hood, and it will be backed up by a Borg Warner four-speed manual gearbox.

Peter Brock has a few upgrades ready though, and these are items he wanted on the car back in the '60s. Now that he gets his chance to update things, he's doing so by adding plexiglas windows, a new front valence, and an independent rear suspension. That's right, Brock knew all those decades ago that the car needed help out back. Now he gets his chance to show the world how much better the car would've been with that rear suspension upgrade.

We have no word yet on how much these reborn GT350Rs will cost. They won't be cheap, but you'll never have another chance to own a brand-new officially licensed Shelby GT350R anytime soon.

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com


Ford shows off its
Dream Cruise muscle

Mustang Alley on Nine Mile in Ferndale was the home to dozens of Ford Mustangs from across the vehicle's history.

August 21, 2017
Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News

Ferndale — If you didn’t know Ford was sponsoring the 2017 Woodward Dream Cruise, you found out as you passed Nine Mile.

If the more than 800 Mustangs lining the barricaded street weren’t enough, Ford Motor Co. used its nearly 20-year tradition of Mustang Alley to showcase every vehicle in its lineup, push T-shirts, celebrate the company’s pony car culture, and show off the crowd-favorite GT supercar.

“You will see every generation of Mustang out here on Mustang Alley,” said Mark Schaller, Ford Mustang marketing manager. “It’s nice to really celebrate car culture, which is really what this is all about.”

While Ford has parked hundreds of Mustang enthusiasts along Nine Mile for almost two decades, this year is the first time the company sponsored the entire cruise. The Dearborn-based automaker replaced crosstown rival Chevrolet, which pulled its sponsorship earlier this year after six straight years of sponsorships.

That gave Ford a chance to boost its presence. While the Blue Oval dominated a roughly mile-long stretch of Nine Mile, Ford had a handful of new features around Royal Oak, too.

A Ford GT was on display at Mustang Alley in Ferndale on Saturday. (Photo: David Guralnick / The Detroit News)

And it was hard to spot a pedestrian through Ferndale who wasn’t carrying some piece of Ford merchandise.

“I was excited about Ford picking that (sponsorship) up,” said 53-year-old Adrian Green, an Eastpointe resident. He got to Mustang Alley at 7:30 a.m. with his brother-in-law to peruse the cars. “I’m a Ford man. They put on a good show every year.”

For Schaller, the sponsorship was a chance to put the beloved Mustang in even more of a spotlight.

“In the past, there might have been people who didn’t know there was a Mustang Alley,” he said. “That’s the nice part. Now we’re bringing even more people down.”

By 9:15 a.m., pedestrians had already filed into Mustang Alley, and by lunchtime, the place felt like a street fair. Coupled with the classic cars lurching up Woodward a few blocks away, Ferndale was packed.

A steady crowd clustered around the silver Ford GT the company had displayed on a rotation platform. The supercar is Ford’s most exclusive vehicle: Ford received 6,506 applications for its 2017 model, of which only 500 were sold.

For many, the Dream Cruise was the only time they’d see the speedster in person.

But the plethora of Mustang muscle wasn’t lost on anyone.

“This is one of those brands,” said Schaller. “You can’t do this with a lot of brands. Mustang has such a strong passion that people are willing to wait in line just to park their car on one street with almost 1,000 cars just like theirs.”

And for a guy who’s driven nothing but Fords for as long as he can remember, the Woodward Dream Cruise weekend is a bit of a reward.

“It’s an ego boost, that’s for sure,” said Mark Fedders, a 69-year-old Macomb resident. He sat behind his 1967 S-Code Mustang GT for several hours, watching passersby admire the sleek white vintage vehicle.

Fedders, a Ford retiree, said he bought the car in 2014 at an auction. Saturday was the second time he’d parked the car on Mustang Alley, and getting some smiles, thumbs-up and questions about the car lets him know he made the right choice in buying it.

“There was a time there after I bought it that I thought ‘What did I do?’” he said, laughing.

Fedders drives the car often now, and it beats years of driving Ford “grocery-getters,” he said. He’s also happy to see Ford take on the sponsorship role.

“They stepped into a void, and I’m really proud they did,” he said.



U.S. signals Trump’s Buy
American agenda is
non-negotiable in NAFTA talks

“They (the U.S.) want to build a wall around Buy American
policies, (and) yet have full access to procurement policies in
Canada and Mexico,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias

Alex Ballingall
Toronto Star
Ottawa Bureau
Aug. 20, 2017

WASHINGTON—The leader of Canada’s largest private sector union says the United States must “soften its stance” on its push for Buy American rules in government procurement if it wants to get a new NAFTA deal.

Unifor president Jerry Dias said he has heard American negotiators are standing firm on their demand to gain more access to government procurement contracts in Canada and Mexico, while restricting businesses in those countries from competing for bids in the U.S. through so-called Buy American laws that have been championed by President Donald Trump.

“They want to build a wall around Buy American policies, (and) yet have full access to procurement policies in Canada and Mexico,” he told the Star in an interview Saturday at the Washington hotel where NAFTA renegotiations are being held this week.

“Why would we do this? We’re a polite nation, but we’re not a stupid nation,” he said.

“They can’t say they want a deal and then bargain as if they don’t want one.”

Dias’s comments came as the U.S. trade office, together with the commerce department, published an eight-page call for “industry outreach” on how U.S. trade deals, including NAFTA, affect the costs and benefits of Buy American laws. The call stems from an executive order — titled “Buy American and Hire American” — made by Trump earlier this year, which instructed government departments to study how these provisions would work.

Dan Ujczo, a trade lawyer from Ohio who has worked for both the U.S. and Canadian governments, said he finds the timing of the public call — in the midst of the first round of NAFTA renegotiations — hardly coincidental.

He explained that it may be a way for the U.S. to take the issue off the NAFTA table, because the government can say they are holding consultations on the issue and how it relates to a series of agreements. In that sense, the issue could be swept from the NAFTA table, Ujczo said, thus blocking any Mexican and Canadian objections to Buy American provisions in the renegotiation process.

“This seems to be a pretty deliberate strategy,” he told the Star. “This takes it off the table”

One of the hallmarks of Trump’s rise to power and subsequent presidency has been his penchant for inflammatory rhetoric on NAFTA. He has called it the worst deal ever signed and threatened to tear it up unless a better agreement can be negotiated for American workers. He has also advocated “America First” policies, which include the exploration of ways to create rules where government projects and large-scale private enterprises — such as the Keystone XL pipeline — would have to hire American workers and use American-made resources.

Canada is expected to push back on this. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a speech Monday that restrictions on government procurement are like “political junk food,” in that they are “superficially appetizing, but unhealthy in the long run.”

Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said the Americans’ push to restrict government procurement in the U.S. while opening it in Canada and Mexico is anything but “reciprocity” — which was the stated goal for the process outlined by U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in his opening remarks to the talks on Wednesday.

Beatty added that the ambitious timeline set out for the renegotiations — the U.S. and Mexico reportedly want a new deal by the end of the year — will be scuttled if the U.S. holds firm on positions like this.

“If (the goal) is simply rewrite the agreement to favour one party at the expense of the other two, there’s not going to be an early conclusion. And if there is an early conclusions, there won’t be a happy one,” he said.

Despite the appearance that the U.S. is standing firm on a key disagreement, Beatty said it’s still early in the renegotiation process. “Everybody should keep their cool,” he said.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress and member of the Liberal government’s cross-partisan NAFTA advisory council, told the Star that the negotiations to this point have been “very respectful and cordial.” He said the sense from the Canadian side is that the talks could actually wrap up by December.

At the same time, he expressed confusion at the U.S. stance on Buy American, which he said is a major issue for Canadian industries like steel and aluminum.

“I’m not convinced that will be their bottom line, but that’s the kind of message that they want to send to the American public, and specifically to (Trump’s) constituency — that they’re tough,” he said.

The three countries that are party to NAFTA have outlined their own goals for the renegotiation. The U.S. has pointed to trade deficits with Mexico and to a lesser degree Canada as a key problem they hope to solve. Lighthizer also said this week that the agreement was a “failure” for countless Americans, pointing to the decline of manufacturing in some sectors and placed blame on the agreement.

Canada, meanwhile, has said it wants to see chapters on the environment, gender and Indigenous peoples added to the agreement, as well as find ways to increase the cross-border flow of business professionals and cut down red tape.

All three countries have said they’d like to see the agreement “modernized” to reflect the realities of technological progress since NAFTA came into effect in 1994.

As the fourth day of negotiations began Saturday, Canada’s chief negotiator strolled by a group of reporters. One of them asked if things are going as expected. Steve Verheul smiled as he passed.

“So far,” he said. “So far.”

The first round of negotiations is scheduled to finish with a joint communiqué from the negotiating teams Sunday afternoon.


A tougher, smarter F-150

2018 Ford-150 delivers more power and
torque, and improves fuel economy

2018 Ford F-150

The Globe and Mail
Aug. 19, 2017

Power and capability lie at the core of any pickup truck, but what I’m experiencing in a 2018 Ford F-150 is more akin to godlike omnipotence.

It’s not the rumbling EcoBoost V-6 under the hood: I’m doing less than 10 km/h. The source of my I-can-do-anything confidence is a small dial on the dashboard. Lightly twirling it with my finger and thumb, I back up a trailer hauling a 23-foot powerboat around a curve and down a narrow boat ramp. I’ve never done anything like this before. I nail it the first time.

While I simply use the dial to “steer” where I want the trailer to go, the ghost in the machine autonomously spins the real steering wheel this way and that to achieve the desired effect.

b-	The backup assist technology offers an overhead view

Pro Trailer Backup Assist is just one of the innovations Ford keeps adding to the F-150, Canada’s top-selling pickup for 51 years. This particular feature dates back to 2016, but it’s still exclusive to Ford. For 2018, it’s joined by available adaptive cruise with stop-and-go and precollision assist with pedestrian detection – more firsts for Ford in a segment that is habitually slow to add automated driver aids.

Other full-size pickups also list powerful engines and take turns at claiming this year’s best-in-class toting or towing ratings. Each has its own fiercely loyal customer base. But Ford’s customer base is consistently bigger, and Ford achieves its dominance with less “my-grille-is-bigger-than-your-grille” posturing.

c-	The interior of the 2018 Ford F-150

Todd Eckert, Ford’s truck brand marketing manager, says the F-150 has a different – albeit perhaps just a tad pretentious – owner profile. Typical F-150 drivers are “pillars of their communities,” he says, adding that they are “the go-to person that everybody turns to when they need something,” and they lead multidimensional lives.

Fittingly, the 2018 cosmetic enhancements emphasize the F-truck’s width, rather than intimidate other drivers with hulking bulk. Note the new “C-clamp headlights that hold the grille in place like a machine puzzle piece,” as design manager Sean Tant describes it. The new face also establishes a family connection with the new Super Duty.

Of course, under it all lies the same aluminum sheet-metal on which Ford bet the farm – and apparently won – in 2015.

Mechanically, the headliner for 2018 is an available diesel, though here Ford is playing catch-up with Ram, which has offered one since 2014. Ford’s 3.0-litre V-6 turbo-diesel isn’t ready for press time yet (it goes on sale next spring), but the gas-engine lineup is plenty newsworthy, too.

Following the Gen-2 upgrades introduced on the 2017 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6, the same treatment has been applied to the base V-6 (which also gets downsized to 3.3 from 3.5 litres) as well as the 2.7-litre EcoBoost V-6 and the non-turbo 5.0-litre V-8. The 2.7 and 5.0 also get to share the 3.5’s new 10-speed transmission (the 3.3 stays six-speed).

A common and key novelty on all the gas engines is dual port and direct fuel-injection. Already used on some Toyotas, this “twinjection” strategy enables best-of-both-worlds gains in both power and fuel economy. Port injection (upstream of the intake valves) provides better fuel atomization (for example, a finer spray that is better mixed with the intake air) at low loads, says powertrain chief engineer Peter Dowding; direct injection (into the combustion chambers) takes over at higher loads, which “allows us to cool down the incoming charge, which increases the density, which means we can get more power and more torque.”

d-	The 2.7 V-6 doesn’t feel much slower than the 3.5 EcoBoost.

As well, Dowding says, with two separate sets of injectors, each can be optimized for its own narrower set of operating conditions, allowing finer control than one injector size having to span the whole range.

But he denies that adding port injection is connected to reports of premature carbon build-up on some DI engines.

Power and torque grow by 3 to 5 per cent for the 3.3 V-6 and 5.0 V-8; the 2.7 EcoBoost V-6’s peak power is unchanged, but torque is fattened by 7 per cent. Fuel economy – helped also by the more-speed transmission and standard idle stop/start – improves almost across the board, mostly in the 3- to 8-per-cent range, depending on model and driving mode. As ever, real-world results may vary.

The 3.5 EcoBoost carries over unchanged, but thusly equipped. The F-150’s maximum tow rating has edged up to 13,200 pounds. That’s best in class, natch … for now.

Last year’s reboot gave the 3.5 a delicious V-8-like soundtrack to go with its equally V-8-like performance, and that doesn’t change for 2018. You almost wonder why Ford keeps an actual V-8 in the lineup, especially a relatively small-displacement one that’s handsomely out-torqued by the 3.5 turbo V-6. Even the 2.7 V-6 beats the 5.0 for useable low-end torque (same 400 lb-ft, but at much lower rpm), and doesn’t feel much slower than the 3.5 EcoBoost. In my hands, the 2.7 showed 10.4 litres/100 km over the 60-kilometre rural test route, versus 12.7 in the V-8.

My own lifestyle doesn’t need a pickup, and my ego doesn’t need to drive high-and-mighty. Full-size pickups take up too much space and still consume too much gas. Yet despite my official disapproval, I’ve never met a modern F-150 that I didn’t enjoy driving. Apparently, beneath my mild-mannered exterior, even I have a taste for power and control.


Ford to pay $10.1M to settle
sex, race harassment case

Keith Laing
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
August 18, 2017

Washington — Ford Motor Co. has agreed to pay $10.1 million to settle sexual and racial harassment charges at two Chicago facilities that were under investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The agency said it found reasonable cause to believe that personnel at two Ford facilities — the Chicago Assembly Plant and Chicago Stamping Plant — had harassed female and African-American employees.

The EEOC said it also found that the automaker retaliated against employees who complained about the harassment or discrimination.

The agency said the Dearborn company has agreed to compensate employees through a claims process that will be established. Ford did not have to provide an admission of liability as part of the agreement.

The EEOC’s Chicago District director, Julianne Bowman, said in a statement: “Ford Motor Co. has worked with the EEOC to address complaints of harassment and discrimination at these two facilities and to implement policies and procedures that will effectively prevent future harassment or provide prompt action when harassment complaints arise.”

Ford said in a statement it “chose to voluntarily resolve this issue without any admission of liability with the EEOC to avoid an extended dispute.”

The company added: “Ford does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind; we are fully committed to a zero-tolerance, harassment-free work environment at all facilities and to ensuring that Ford’s work environment is consistent with our policies in that regard. Ford conducted a thorough investigation and took appropriate action, including disciplinary action up to and including dismissal for individuals who violated the company’s anti-harassment policy.”

Ford was accused in a lawsuit initially filed by four women that claimed men at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant touched and groped them, exposed themselves and subjected them to unwanted comments, stares and pornographic images.

The women alleged in the suit — which was later expanded to include more than 30 female Ford employees — that male co-workers, managers and supervisors would target them if they complained about propositions and inappropriate conduct.

A plant manager and other officials at the plant were replaced two years ago as the investigation proceeded.

Under the agreement, Ford will be required to conduct regular training at the facilities for the next five years. It must disseminate anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and procedures to employees and new hires, and report to the EEOC any complaints of harassment or related discrimination.


Unifor to hold strike mandate
vote for Cami workers

Cami plant worker on the assembly line in Ingersoll

CTV London
August 17, 2017

A strike mandate meeting is set for thousands of workers at Cami Automotive in Ingersoll.

A vote will be held on August 27 at Centennial Hall in London at 10 a.m. for members of Unifor Local 88.

The union is currently bargaining with General Motors and has said this round of negotiations could be the most important in generations.

A strike or lockout is possible any time after September 17 if a deal is not reached.


GM suspends exec charged
in FCA-UAW scandal

Robert Snell and
Melissa Burden
Detroit News
August 17, 2017

General Motors Co. has suspended a top labor executive charged in a $4.5 million-plus corruption scandal tied to his tenure at rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, sources told The Detroit News on Tuesday.

Alphons Iacobelli was suspended within a day of being indicted by a federal grand jury July 26 and accused of spending more than $1 million in UAW-Chrysler National Training Center funds on luxury items while working as an FCA labor negotiator, according to two sources familiar with his employment. The luxury items included $375,000 in home improvements for a pool, outdoor kitchen and spa at his home and landscaping; a $350,000-plus Ferrari 458 Spider; and two limited-edition, solid-gold Mont Blanc fountain pens that cost $37,500 each.

Iacobelli was a labor negotiator at FCA but abruptly retired in June 2015 a month before negotiations with the UAW were to begin and amid an FBI investigation. Fiat Chrysler last month said they fired Iacobelli after they learned of the issues in June 2015 and investigated.

Seven months later, Iacobelli was hired by GM as executive director of labor relations and was highly involved in negotiations for GM last summer with the Canadian auto workers union, Unifor.

Iacobelli’s job status has remained a mystery since prosecutors unsealed the grand jury indictment. GM has refused to comment about Iacobelli’s employment status and on Tuesday again declined to comment.

It remained unclear Tuesday whether Iacobelli had been suspended with pay.

Iacobelli, 57, of Rochester Hills, was indicted alongside Monica Morgan-Holiefield, widow of former-United Auto Workers Vice President General Holiefield, and accused of conspiring in a scheme that siphoned millions of dollars in UAW-Chrysler National Training Center funds earmarked for blue-collar workers.

Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield are charged with criminal violations of the Labor Management Relations Act, which prohibits employers or those working for them from paying, lending or delivering money or other valuables to officers or employees of labor organizations — and from labor leaders from accepting such items.

Prosecutors also say Morgan-Holiefield, 54, and her late husband received more than $1.2 million in illegal payments. They spent the money on jewelry, on furniture and paying off the $262,219 mortgage on their Harrison Township home, prosecutors allege.

If convicted of crimes that could send them to federal prison for up to five years, Iacobelli and Morgan-Holiefield risk losing their homes to the government. A trial date for the two has been scheduled for Sept. 25.

Iacobelli’s lawyer David DuMouchel wrote in an email to The News that he was unaware of his client’s job status.


International pressure
mounts over Ford transmissions

Canadian lawyer seeks certification for class action,
Australia alleges 'unconscionable' conduct

Trisha Glabb no longer owns her 2014 Focus. After a frightening experience on Highway 401, she demanded Ford take it back. (Trisha Glabb)

CBC News
By Yvonne Colbert
Aug 16, 2017

Ford is facing increasing international pressure over transmission problems in some of its Focus and Fiesta models.

A Canadian lawyer is seeking certification for a class action suit, Transport Canada is continuing its defect investigation and the Australian government is starting action against the automaker for alleged "unconscionable and misleading" conduct. At the same time, Ford has agreed to a proposed class action settlement in the United States.

"We've accumulated almost 3,000 registrations from people who've experienced terrible problems with their vehicles," said lawyer Ted Charney, who is leading the $825-million Canadian class action.

Dual clutch transmission to blame

At issue is the PowerShift transmission in 2011-16 Fiesta and 2012-16 Focus models. The vehicles are sold as automatics and have what Ford calls PowerShift dual clutch transmission — essentially two manual transmissions working in parallel, each with its own independent clutch.

The problems experienced by these vehicle owners are all similar, including shuddering, delayed acceleration, sudden acceleration and sudden loss of power.

Trish Glabb of Stoney Point, Ont., no longer owns the 2014 Focus that she plastered with lemon stickers. The final straw came when she was left fearing for her life, her mother's life and that of her 13-year-old as her mother was about to drive onto Highway 401.

"We were coming up the on ramp and my car just got stuck in its gear — which it is notorious for doing — and it wouldn't go any faster," Glabb said. "It was revving out to 7,500. We were between two semis and then the car decided to lunge forward."

She said her mother was able to merge into the next lane and avoid an accident, but the experience sent a livid Glabb to McDonnell Motors in Strathroy, Ont., where she'd purchased the vehicle. The dealership had previously replaced two clutches on the car and performed several updates to its computer.

"They finally agreed to buy out what was left owing on the Focus and gave me enough money for a down payment so I could afford a 2017 Ford Fusion," Glabb said.

145,000 such vehicles in Canada

It's not known how many times Ford has quietly settled with owners. It's estimated 145,000 of the cars have been sold in Canada.

Transport Canada says it has received 1,235 complaints concerning the transmissions but "most complaints received … are not safety related and pertain to driveability and performance concerns."

The department says it is not aware of any injuries related to this issue.

Charney is hoping the Canadian class action will be certified by the courts in November.

In the meantime, Transport Canada is continuing with its defect investigation into the cars, saying it is at the "preliminary evaluation" stage.

It says it will be meeting with Ford Canada in the fall as part of the probe.

Australia calls Ford 'unconscionable'

In Australia, the government is taking a hard line against Ford Motor Company of Australia Limited, alleging it engaged "unconscionable and misleading or deceptive conduct, and made false and misleading representations in response to customer complaints."

A government news release alleges Ford misled customers who complained about the vehicles, telling them "the issues … were caused by the way the driver handled the vehicle, even though Ford was aware of systemic issues … from at least 2013."

It also alleges Ford refused to provide a refund or replacement vehicle unless customers paid on average $7,000 for a replacement vehicle. It says in many cases, "customers who could not afford to make these payments felt they had no option but to continue to use their vehicle."

The Australian allegations have not been tested in court.

U.S. settlement pending court approval

In the U.S., Ford Motor Company has reached a proposed settlement in a class action lawsuit involving the vehicles. It will go before the court for final approval in October. If it is given the green light, it will see a binding arbitration process for buybacks or repairs, as well as cash payments and/or discounts on future Ford purchases.

Charney said Ford likely decided to settle the American class action because the U.S. has much stronger legislation and repercussions.

"If somebody actually gets into an accident where there's serious injuries down there then there's Senate hearings and they have to go to regulatory bodies and explain why they sat on this for years," he said.

Lawyer says Ford feels 'immune'

Regardless, Charney said with the facts of this case it doesn't matter how strong the legislation is.

"Something's going to have to be done about them one way or another. There's just too many people complaining about them now," he said.

He thinks Ford is "oblivious" to the concerns and considers itself "immune" because of its size and political strength.

"They consider this to be a little blip, or until somebody dies in an accident that has something to do with their bad transmission, I don't think they're going to pay attention to it," Charney said. "They're too big to be bothered with these things."

Ford responds

Ford of Canada responded to CBC's inquiry acknowledging the U.S. settlement, saying it only affects U.S. residents who meet certain criteria.

"Ford of Canada is not a party to the U.S. litigation or the settlement," company spokesperson Michelle Lee-Gracey said in an email. "Canada is a different jurisdiction from the U.S., with different laws and rules of civil procedure. Ford of Canada continues to defend its litigation."

Halifax resident Jordan Bonaparte, who first flagged this story for CBC because of problems with his 2013 Focus, said Ford should be embarrassed and ashamed of the way it has treated its vehicle owners.

He is also encouraging others to fight for a remedy if they believe they have been treated unfairly.

"People who feel they've been wronged by a large corporation, they need to stand up for themselves by getting organized, by getting educated on the background and just being persistent," he said.


FCA mum on reported
interest from Chinese firm

The Detroit News
Jim Lynch
Aug. 15, 2017

A spokesperson for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV declined to comment on a media report suggesting the automaker had been targeted for purchase by a Chinese company.

Automotive News reported Monday morning: “Representatives of a well-known Chinese automaker made at least one offer this month to buy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles at a small premium over its market value... The offer was rejected for not being enough, a source said.”

Sergio Marchionne, FCA’s chief executive officer, has repeatedly floated the idea of mergers in the past with other automakers, including General Motors.

But on Monday, FCA’s U.S. spokeswoman Shawn Morgan offered little on the report.

“We are declining to comment,” she said in an emailed response to questions.


GM accuses bankruptcy trust
of secret $1B stock plot

Erik Larson,
Bloomberg News
August 14, 2017

General Motors Co. accused the trust set up to handle its bankruptcy claims of secretly plotting with plaintiffs’ attorneys to make it pay $1 billion in stock as part of a $15 million class-action settlement.

The accord, revealed at a hearing Friday in federal court in New York, will pit GM against the “Old GM” General Unsecured Creditors Trust for the first time since the 2009 bankruptcy sale created the split to save the company.

The settlement between the plaintiffs and the trust for old GM is due to be signed Aug. 15, attorney Steve Berman said in a phone call. The deal will resolve hundreds of personal-injury cases stemming from GM’s faulty ignition switches, as well as a class-action suit over millions of vehicles that allegedly lost value due to a series of recalls in 2014, he said.

Under the accord, which requires a judge’s approval, the trust will pay plaintiffs $15 million and accept $10 billion in previously disputed claims, thus pushing total approved claims in the case beyond a critical threshold of $35 billion, Berman said. That would then trigger a provision of the 2009 sale that would force GM to contribute $1 billion in stock to help pay the claims, he said.

GM, based in Detroit, is balking. The trust is only accepting the $10 billion in claims in order to trigger the provision requiring GM to pay stock, it said. GM has long said the remaining demands are bogus.

“This contrived scheme won’t work,” the company said in a statement. “We will aggressively protect our rights and our shareholders, and will work to hold the GUC Trust and plaintiffs accountable for their bad faith and improper actions.”

Berman said his team has plenty of evidence that the claims are genuine and said GM knew what it was doing when it agreed to the $35 billion claims threshold.

“This is what GM bargained for” as part of the 2009 bankruptcy sale, when it “got away from all these liabilities,” Berman said. “It’s working exactly the way it’s supposed to work.”

The dispute comes weeks after GM won another federal trial over the ignition switches. The devices in the initial recall were linked to more than 100 deaths, with GM paying at least $870 million to settle claims and an additional $900 million to the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal probe.


Unifor occupation of Milton
plant comes to end after
cease and desist order issued

Halton Regional Police say the occupation ended
'peacefully' early Saturday, no one arrested

Northstar Protest

By Muriel Draaisma
CBC News
August 13, 2017

Halton Regional Police say an occupation by Unifor members of the Northstar Aerospace plant in Milton has ended peacefully.

Staff Sgt. Richard Dodds, of the Halton Regional Police's Halton Hills and Milton division, said Saturday that members of Unifor have left the building without incident. No one was arrested.


"My understanding is that they cleared out peacefully," Dodds said. "Our officers were on the scene."

Unifor members took over the plant early Thursday, halting production in a protest over a pension shortfall. The company is preparing to close within two months.

In a news release, the union said a cease-and-desist order brought an end to the occupation, which began at about 3:30 a.m. on Thursday.

"Unifor will continue the fight for fair pensions for Local 112 members and for all workers," the union said Saturday.

The plant currently produces gears and transmissions for Boeing. 

Sgt. Paul Rudall, a labour dispute officer for the Halton Hills and Milton district of the Halton Regional Police, said he helped to mediate between Unifor and the company. He said Northstar representatives were allowed to enter the plant at 10 p.m. on Friday and the representatives then took control of the plant.

Northstar Protest Doug Berry, Chris Wilski and Arvin Gangwar from Unifor Local 584

"Everyone was calm," he said. "All sides were talking it out." 

Rudall said police officers left at that time. Dodds said, shortly after 3 a.m., Halton police returned to the scene and determined that the building was empty. 

Occupation followed shortfall dispute

The union said it took control of the plant to demand that Northstar and its parent company, Wynnchurch Capital, fund a 24 per cent pension deficit for workers facing job loss. 

Unifor said the company has refused to commit itself to funding the pension shortfall after announcing that the Milton plant's equipment would relocate to Chicago and Windsor.

The union said the shortfall, believed to be about $6 million, would affect future and current retirees.

In the news release, the union said it has been trying to negotiate a closure agreement to protect current pension provisions and benefits. It is not known whether that agreement has been negotiated. 

Northstar Protest - Don Barker, Bob Such, Chris Wilski, Jean Simpson, Doug Berry and Arvin Gangwar

Northstar Aerospace and Wynnchurch Capital has yet to return a request for comment. 

In an earlier statement, Heligear Canada Acquisition Co., which purchased select assets of Northstar Aerospace in 2012, said it is not to blame for pension cuts and Unifor is responsible for the state of the pension.

Heligear had called the occupation an "illegal action." 



Sharon Godsoe Passes Away

Sharon Godsoe

March 24, 1948 - August 9, 2017

Wife of deceased past Local 584 President
Steve Godsoe passed away on
August 9, 2017.

Our Deepest Condolences go out to Carrie
and family and to the entire Godsoe family

21 James St., Milton
Sunday August 13, 2017
2 - 4 and 7 - 9 p.m. 

Funeral service:
Monday August 14, 2017 at 11:00 a.m.
170 Main Street, Milton 
Interment to follow at Evergreen Cemetery.

More Information

Obituary of Sharon Godsoe

GODSOE, Sharon

Suddenly at home, on Wednesday August 9, 2017 at the age of 69.  Predeceased by her husband Steven and by her son David.  She will be deeply missed by her daughter Carrie, son-in-law Tom, daughter-in-law Tamara and by her beloved granddaughters, Jessica, Holly, Haylie and Kylie.  She is survived by her brother Ken (wife Sheila), sisters Cathy (husband Don), and Debbie (husband Rick) and their families and will be lovingly remembered by her many friends. 

The family will receive visitors at J. SCOTT EARLY FUNERAL HOME, 21 James St., Milton (905) 878-2669 on Sunday from 2 - 4 and 7 - 9 p.m.  A funeral service will take place on Monday August 14, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. from KNOX PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, 170 Main Street, Milton.  Interment to follow at Evergreen Cemetery.

  If desired, memorial donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation would be appreciated.  Messages of condolence may be left online at www.earlyfuneralhome.com


Retiree Jim McCurdy
Passes Away August 4, 2017

James McCurdy
Jim McCurdy
1941 - 2017
Oct 1, 1997
32.6 years

The Retirees Chapter were not notified of Jim's passing but I believe there were some extenuating circumstances that could be attributed to this. Unfortunately we were not able to notify anyone of the funeral on time as we just found out. Our Deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.


McCurdy, Jim - Survived by his children Jill (Steve) Thompson and Crystal McCurdy, Karen McCurdy and Vicki Sandford. Dear brother of Anne Johnston (Stan). Will be missed by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Friends will be received at the J.S. Jones & Son Funeral Home 11582 Trafalgar Rd., north of Maple Ave., Georgetown, 905-877-3631 on Friday August 11, 2017 from 2-4 p.m. Cremation. In memory contributions to the Heart & Stroke Foundation would be appreciated. To send expressions of sympathy visit www.jsjonesandsonfuneralhome.com




Unifor occupies Milton's
Northstar facility to
demand pension
deficit funding

Aug 11, 2017
Melanie Hennessey
 Milton Guardian

Unifor has taken control of the Northstar Aerospace facility in Milton to demand that the company fund a pension deficit for its outgoing employees and retirees.

The occupation began at 4 a.m. on Thursday (August 10) and is currently underway at 180 Market Dr. Hundreds of Unifor members and supporters have taken turns holding a picket line outside the facility so far and say they plan to continue demonstrating around the clock. Current Northstar employees were sent home when the occupation commenced.

"This action sends a clear message to Northstar that the company cannot shortchange workers and the pension of retirees that have made it profitable for so many years," said Unifor national president Jerry Dias. "There is no financial reason for refusing to fund the plan. The only excuse is corporate greed."

It's around noon and the Northstar property front lawn, lined with yellow caution tape, is covered with dozens of supporters from as far away as Ottawa and Windsor wearing Unifor red and waving red flags. As transport trucks drive by and honk in solidarity, the crowd cheers.

Halton regional police labour dispute officers are also on scene to liaise between management and the union.

After announcing the relocation of its Milton facility's equipment to Chicago and Windsor, Unifor says that Northstar Aerospace has refused to meet a $6-million shortfall that equates to a 24 per cent pension reduction for workers facing job loss and retirees.

"Negotiations have been slow and we finally said enough is enough, we’re taking the plant over," Unifor Local 112 president Scott McIlmoyle told the Champion. "It's in the corporation’s hands now."

Among those impacted by the pension shortfall is Kulwant Bhogal, who worked at Northstar for 17 years before retiring two years ago.

"This will affect me right from day one. I'll have to cut all of my budgets," he told the Champion from the picket line. "I don't know if I'll be able to make it or not."

The sentiment was echoed by Mohan Mistry, a 37-year employee who also retired two years ago.

"This affects the whole family," he said. "Some of us worked hard to keep this place going for a long time. We worked seven days a week to develop all of this stuff, and suddenly you take it all away?"

According to Unifor national representative Barry Lines, a 24 per cent pension reduction will be an extra hard hit for those who've already retired and established their budget based on pension income.

"It's absolutely critical that we address this situation," he said. "This place has been built by the workforce and retirees. To turn a blind eye on them is absolutely disgusting and ridiculous."

Currently, the average pension equates to $881 a month, says literature distributed by Unifor, with the pension cut reducing that amount by about $211.

The closure will affect almost 200 highly-skilled workers at the plant, 50 of whom were to retire this year. Several of the employees are residents of Milton and many have been working at the facility for many years.

It opened in its present location in the spring of 1993 and is scheduled to cease operations by Sept. 30.

Since January, Unifor and its Local 112 have attempted to negotiate a closure agreement to protect current pension provisions and benefits.

According to Unifor, the shortfall will affect future and current retirees, some of whom are already on a fixed income after having worked at the facility for more than 40 years.

"We have stopped production at this facility until Northstar holds up its end of a commitment — a commitment to the workers who have made this company flourish," said McIlmoyle. "After months, the company has refused to discuss the matter. Time is running out — Northstar needs to do the right thing."

The plant specializes in manufacturing high-precision metal products used by aircraft and helicopters, including specialized gears for transmissions used on Boeing’s Apache helicopter.

According to the company, it lost the contract for the gears, forcing it into closure.

The facility, which was purchased by Wynnchurch Capital in 2012, when Northstar went into bankruptcy, employs skilled tradesmen, technicians, machinists, general labourers, and shipper/receivers. The plant operates around the clock with both eight- and 10-hour rotating shifts.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.


Ford engineer teams find
problems in police SUVs

Ford Police Interceptor modifications

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
August 10, 2017

Ford Motor Co. says it has repaired more than 50 police Explorer SUVs for multiple municipalities where officers had been sickened by carbon monoxide while driving those vehicles.

The company said it has engineering teams working with multiple law enforcement agencies around the country to address a growing number of reports of suspected carbon monoxide leaks in the cabins of Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles.

Some departments pulled the vehicles from the road over related safety concerns. The SUV is made on the same platform as the consumer Explorer and recently became the most popular police vehicle in the country.

In Austin, Texas, an officer briefly fainted while driving one of the vehicles. Roughly a week ago in Massachusetts, an officer lost consciousness at the wheel Wednesday and struck a civilian’s vehicle.

The problems come amid what both Ford and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say is an unrelated investigation into 1.33 million regular and police Explorers due to an exhaust issue that has not yet led to a recall.

The Dearborn-based automaker said in a statement Tuesday night that company engineers have consistently found “similar types of holes and unsealed spaces in the back of some Police Interceptor Utilities” that had equipment put on them after leaving Ford’s factory.

Those holes are improperly sealed and allow exhaust to leak into the vehicle, the company said.

Ford’s investigation into the issue, which has been reported by multiple police departments and led the Austin, Texas Police Department to pull 400 of the vehicles from service less than two weeks ago, is ongoing, the company said.

The company reiterated in the statement that it will continue to pay for repairs related to the carbon monoxide leak. Ford is checking and sealing the rear of the vehicle, providing new air conditioning calibrations to bring more fresh air into the cabin during heavy acceleration, and checking the engine codes for indication of a damaged exhaust manifold.

David Green, Austin city spokesman, said officers first complained of carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms in February. In March, the city launched an investigation. Twenty officers tested positive for elevated amounts of carbon monoxide in their blood, three of whom have not been cleared to return to work.

The Interceptors accounted for 61 percent of Austin’s police vehicles. Green said the department had to change patrols to put two officers to a car rather than the usual one.

“We are not willing to return these vehicles to the street until we’re confident that there’s no risk to employees,” Green told The Detroit News.

NHTSA has an unrelated open investigation covering an estimated 1.33 million Ford Explorers — both police models and regular models — from 2011-17 model years for reports of exhaust odors in the main cabin.

The investigation comes after 2,719 reports fielded by NHTSA and Ford. Eleven of those involve the police interceptor versions.

NHTSA opened the preliminary investigation more than a year ago after it received more than 150 complaints from civilians about exhaust fumes. The investigation was expanded at the end of July.

Ford said the exhaust odors reported in regular Explorers are unrelated to the carbon monoxide reports. “If a vehicle has such an odor, customers should bring it to a Ford dealer to address that issue,” the company said.


NAFTA needs an overhaul
to improve workers’ rights

By Linda McQuaig
Toronto Star
Aug. 9, 2017

NAFTA has been key to the transformation of Canada over the last two decades, enabling corporations to become ever more dominant economically and politically, while rendering our labour force increasingly vulnerable and insecure

With the chaos of the Trump administration as a backdrop, Canadian diplomats will arrive in Washington later this month for NAFTA talks that they hope will be no more than a skinny renegotiation.

According to Canadian lore, the North American Free Trade Agreement has been a great boon to Canada, so our fingers should be crossed that Donald Trump, busy composing tweets or colluding with Russia, will forget he demanded Canada and Mexico renegotiate the trade deal, leaving our beloved NAFTA intact.

This narrative is fundamentally wrong. Yes, trade is vital to Canada, but we would have gone on trading, with or without NAFTA.

This is not to say NAFTA’s impact hasn’t been enormous and game-changing. It has — although not in the way we’ve been told.

In reality, NAFTA has been key to the transformation of Canada over the last two decades, enabling corporations to become ever more dominant economically and politically, while rendering our labour force increasingly vulnerable and insecure.

Indeed, the much-lamented rise in income inequality and feelings of powerlessness among working Canadians aren’t mysterious consequences of participating in the global economy. Rather, they’re the predictable consequences of our country signing a trade deal that greatly empowers corporations and their investors at the expense of everyone else.

Gus Van Harten, an Osgoode Hall law professor and expert in international investment law, says NAFTA provides “Exhibit A for how rules of the global economy have been rewritten to favour large corporations and the superrich at the expense of the general public.”

Van Harten is referring to NAFTA’s Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS) mechanism which, amazingly, allows foreign corporations to sue governments over laws that interfere with corporate profitability — even if those laws are aimed at protecting the public from, say, environmental or health risks.

These corporate lawsuits are adjudicated by special tribunals — notoriously sympathetic to corporate interests — that can force governments to pay the corporations compensation (out of our taxpayer dollars!) There’s no cap on the size of the awards.

Canada has already been sued this way 39 times, and paid out more than $190 million, with the money mostly going to major corporations and extremely wealthy investors, notes Van Harten. In addition, we don’t know how many times governments have backed off from introducing laws, to avoid provoking a NAFTA lawsuit.

ISDS, which has now been adopted in other international trade deals, has created an extraordinary set of legal rights for corporate investors. “If anyone doesn’t need to be protected it’s these guys,” notes Toronto trade lawyer Steven Shrybman.

Yet “these guys” enjoy legal protections much stronger than the protections available, for instance, under international human rights laws — for victims of torture and wrongful imprisonment.

Furthermore, NAFTA gives corporations rights — but no responsibilities, Van Harten says. Governments can’t bring a claim against a corporation for breaching NAFTA, and affected individuals and groups have no right to standing at the tribunals.

Indeed, NAFTA provides few rights for citizens or workers to counter all this corporate power, only “side deals” on labour and the environment that are weak and largely unenforceable.

NAFTA’s lopsided empowerment of corporations is a departure from earlier, more balanced trade deals, like the 1965 Canada-U.S. Auto Pact, which provided U.S. auto manufacturers access to the Canadian market — on the condition that they locate some production here.

Effectively, under the Auto Pact, for every car sold in Canada, one had to be produced here — a requirement that guaranteed Canada hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs and became the backbone of Ontario’s economy.

Such requirements are banned under NAFTA, although the Auto Pact was grandfathered and remained in place until 2000.

Since then, auto (and other manufacturing) investment has flowed to low-wage Mexico, leaving Canadian workers forced to compete with downtrodden Mexican workers who are largely banned from unionizing.

The NAFTA renegotiation should be an opportunity to revise the trade deal to include rights for workers and citizens, not just corporate investors.

But proposals that ISDS be eliminated are unlikely to win support from, for instance, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State and former CEO of ExxonMobil, which won $14 million from Canada in a NAFTA lawsuit.

And Trump, a billionaire whose companies (along with daughter Ivanka’s fashion business) routinely outsource work to low-wage jurisdictions, clearly has no interest in tampering with the wildly pro-corporate rules of NAFTA.

Nor apparently does Justin Trudeau, who styles himself a champion of struggling middle-class workers but seems content to do nothing about NAFTA’s headlock on working Canadians.


Ford extends police Explorer
investigation after crash

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
August 8, 2017

Auburn police are still using 15 Interceptors that were deemed safe after testing. “I don’t know honestly if there is a suitable alternative (to that vehicle),” Mills said.

Ford has not recalled any of the vehicles under scrutiny.

“Safety is our top priority, and we are concerned for those involved,” Ford spokesman Brad Carroll said in an email Thursday. “We are working with the Auburn Police Department and have a team on the ground inspecting the vehicles.”

Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said Tuesday during a call with investors that “we haven’t seen any impact on sales. ...We haven’t seen any carbon monoxide issues with regular Explorers.”

He reiterated the company is paying to repair affected vehicles regardless of modifications made after they left Ford plants.

NHTSA said it has identified three crashes involving exhaust odors and reports of 41 injuries.

Police departments reported crashes — including a rollover with injuries — as well as physiological injuries from carbon monoxide exposure. The alleged injuries “range from unspecified to loss of consciousness, with the majority indicating nausea, headaches, or lightheadedness.”

But NHTSA has found “no substantive data or actual evidence (such as a carboxyhemoglobin measurement) ... supporting a claim that any of the alleged injury or crash allegations were the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, the alleged hazard” after testing vehicles at its Ohio research center.

It did find carbon monoxide levels could be elevated in certain scenarios.

The Interceptor version of the Explorer is experiencing manifold cracks that “appear to present a low level of detectability and may explain the exhaust odor,” NHTSA reported.

“Putting together an appropriate fix is not simple,” Cole said. “You just don’t know. Tracking these kind of things down is a real challenge

Auburn has since pulled 14 of its SUVs with aftermarket alterations from service after they produced some level of carbon monoxide during tests, Mills said. Six of its officers who had been driving the SUVs tested positive for exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Ford has a team of engineers there investigating the police department’s fleet of Interceptors. Mills said Auburn police officials also spoke on the phone with Ford engineers in Dearborn on Thursday about the problem.

Other municipalities around the country have encountered similar problems, according to the NHTSA and media reports.

Departments in Michigan also use the vehicles. The Michigan State Police have them in their fleet and said Thursday they have not experienced any carbon monoxide problems.

The Dearborn Police Department also uses the vehicles and Chief Ronald Haddad said Thursday all the vehicles had been tested a few weeks ago and none had issues.

NHTSA has an unrelated open investigation covering an estimated 1.33 million Ford Explorers — both police models and regular models — from 2011-17 model years for reports of exhaust odors in the main cabin.

The investigation comes after 2,719 reports fielded by NHTSA and Ford. Eleven of those involve the police interceptor versions.

NHTSA opened the preliminary investigation more than a year ago after it received more than 150 complaints from civilians about exhaust fumes. The investigation was expanded at the end of July.

The agency does not comment on open investigations, a representative said Thursday.

In addition to the NHTSA complaints, Ford gave the agency 2,400 reports it had fielded through warranties, dealers and legal claims related to the exhaust odor issue.

Ford said the exhaust odors reported in regular Explorers are unrelated to the carbon monoxide reports. “If a vehicle has such an odor, customers should bring it to a Ford dealer to address that issue,” the company said.

Auburn police are still using 15 Interceptors that were deemed safe after testing. “I don’t know honestly if there is a suitable alternative (to that vehicle),” Mills said.

Ford has not recalled any of the vehicles under scrutiny.

“Safety is our top priority, and we are concerned for those involved,” Ford spokesman Brad Carroll said in an email Thursday. “We are working with the Auburn Police Department and have a team on the ground inspecting the vehicles.”

Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said Tuesday during a call with investors that “we haven’t seen any impact on sales. ...We haven’t seen any carbon monoxide issues with regular Explorers.”

He reiterated the company is paying to repair affected vehicles regardless of modifications made after they left Ford plants.

NHTSA said it has identified three crashes involving exhaust odors and reports of 41 injuries.

Police departments reported crashes — including a rollover with injuries — as well as physiological injuries from carbon monoxide exposure. The alleged injuries “range from unspecified to loss of consciousness, with the majority indicating nausea, headaches, or lightheadedness.”

But NHTSA has found “no substantive data or actual evidence (such as a carboxyhemoglobin measurement) ... supporting a claim that any of the alleged injury or crash allegations were the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, the alleged hazard” after testing vehicles at its Ohio research center.

It did find carbon monoxide levels could be elevated in certain scenarios.

The Interceptor version of the Explorer is experiencing manifold cracks that “appear to present a low level of detectability and may explain the exhaust odor,” NHTSA reported.

“Putting together an appropriate fix is not simple,” Cole said. “You just don’t know. Tracking these kind of things down is a real challenge


Fraud claims cast shadow
on UAW’s General Holiefield

General Holiefield, UAW vice president and NAACP national board member, greets actress Halle Berry, who won an Image Award in 2011. He died of cancer in 2015.

Neal Rubin,
The Detroit News
Aug. 7, 2017

He started as a factory grunt, building Chryslers at the Jefferson Avenue Plant, and now here he was at a shimmery Hollywood event with Halle Berry rushing by.

A commercial break was ending at the NAACP Image Awards in 2011, and Berry was being whisked back to her seat. Suddenly, as thousands watched, she stopped to talk to General Holiefield.

General was his name, not his title, but he was as smooth and confident as Captain Morgan. He was the vice president who ran the UAW’s Chrysler department and UAW Chrysler was sponsoring the program, so he was consorting with the swells, trading phone numbers with Cicely Tyson and accepting compliments on his dance moves from producer Randy Jackson.

Holiefield would leave the union hurriedly in June 2014 and die of pancreatic cancer nine months later. His memory would be resurrected last week when his widow and his ever-so-friendly adversary at Fiat Chrysler were indicted over a scheme in which the three of them and others allegedly helped themselves to more than $2 million of the company’s money, allocated to the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center.

But that night in Los Angeles, he was just the subject of curiosity, not an investigation: Who’s that big guy, and what did he say to stop a glamorous actress in her tracks?

Chuck Bennett, The Detroit News’ society columnist, provided the answer. “I just told her that I was captivated by her beauty and acting talent,” Holiefield told him, “but her community involvement as well.”

Holiefield was a charmer that way, according to those who knew him — a gentle soul, 6-foot-3 and a few meals either side of 300 pounds, whose bulk was somehow comforting rather than imposing.

“A really great guy,” says Bennett.

“Engaging and warm,” says Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.

“Affable and charismatic,” says Greg Mathis, a retired 36th District Court judge and the star of television’s long-running “Judge Mathis.”

A thief, says the U.S. government.

The 42-page grand jury indictment unsealed last week says that Holiefield, his wife Monica Morgan-Holiefield and his supposed opponent across the bargaining table, former FCA vice president Alphons Iacobelli, conspired to defraud the federal government and contravene the National Labor Relations Act. The FBI and IRS investigation also names Jerome Durden of Rochester, the controller of the training center from 2008-15, who allegedly parceled out the stolen money to his co-conspirators.

The details are the stuff sneers are made of. For the Holiefields, first-class plane tickets and a $262,219 check to scrub out the mortgage on their large house in Harrison Township. For Iacobelli, a Ferrari and a pair of $37,500 gold Mont Blanc pens.

Morgan-Holiefield is a photographer, and even before the couple’s lavish Italian wedding and globetrotting honeymoon in 2012, she would take pictures at the Image Awards ceremonies. Iacobelli, 57, representing Chrysler, would dance at his seat: “Lenny Kravitz,” he exulted one year, “is the real, real deal!”

Holiefield would make friends.

He didn’t always. Though prosecutors declined to file charges, he was arrested in 2011 in what was called a “domestic violence matter” at the Macomb Township home he shared with his first wife, Marlene. There were rumblings within the UAW that he was excessively cozy with Fiat Chrysler, and that he had agreed too readily to a change in work shifts that allowed four 10-hour days.

In Hollywood, he chatted effortlessly with actors Samuel L. Jackson and Sidney Poitier, and Sandra Oh asked to have her picture taken with him.

“I rarely approach the superstars,” says Mathis, laughing. “If I do, they blow me off. In fact, Halle Berry has blown me off before.”

She made time, though, for a kid from Inkster who grew up not knowing his first name.

Holiefield went by Robert until he turned 18 and needed his birth certificate so he could apply for a driver’s license. Authoritative names were more or less a family tradition — a grandfather was named Caesar — but as Holiefield told Hour Detroit in 2010, his father wanted to protect him from teasing.

In perhaps a bit of foreshadowing, Holiefield’s family continued to call him “Rob.” Holiefield, however, named one of his three children General Jr.

The UAW confirms that General Jr. works for the union and is assigned to the joint program training center his father purportedly stole from, which is nearly as awkward as the timing of the indictments. Workers at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, finish voting Friday on whether to join the union.

The older General Holiefield became active after he was fired from a job driving hi-los at Chrysler’s Detroit Axle Plant and the UAW helped reclaim his job. By 1993, he was president of Local 961, where a successor remembered him preaching the gospel of diligence.

“One of his favorite echoes was telling people they had to come to work because there was work that needed to be done,” Edward May told The News in 2006. That was the year Holiefield was first elected a national vice president; re-election followed four years later.

As Mathis points out, any money stolen did not come from union dues, even if it was intended for the training of members.

“That’s a big difference,” he says. He goes back at least a decade with Holiefield and and 35 years with Morgan-Holiefield, and “I don’t believe based on his and Monica’s character that they stole anything.”

If they’re guilty, Mathis says, “I believe their motivation would have been a sincere desire to help others, because that’s the kind of people they are.”

UAW veterans weighing in online see Holiefield more as a hood than as Robin Hood.

“Holiefield was a disgrace,” wrote Paul Wohlfarth, a Chrysler retiree from Ottawa Lake. “When the General was alive he reportedly spent a million dollars on his wedding, and where was the wedding? Italy, home of FCA.”

Morgan-Holiefield, who sometimes freelanced photos for The News, sent along a wedding picture in October 2012 featuring herself in a beaded silk organza wedding gown and her new husband in black tails, riding in a gondola on a Venetian canal. They went on to Naples, Rome, Athens, Istanbul and Barcelona.

Holiefield’s salary at the time is undetermined, though the three current UAW vice presidents earn $137,718 apiece.

Hackel says he never heard anything cautionary about Holiefield until after his death at age 61 on March 9, 2015. Holiefield had entered hospice care four days earlier at Harper Hospital, and Morgan-Holiefield said at the time that he had asked her to buy sweets and baked goods for hospital staffers and fellow patients.

“He was always caring about people,” she said. “He never thought about himself.”

Nearly a year later, in an essay in BLAC Detroit, she credited Holiefield with saving Chrysler during the 2009 bankruptcy negotiations with the federal government. When no one thanked him, she wrote, “he’d say, ‘I don’t expect any thanks. I get my blessings from God.’”

“He appeared to be a guy who was really there for the organization, for the worker,” Hackel says. While their relationship was professional, not social — Hackel was surprised to be asked to join U.S. Rep. John Conyers, U.S. Judge Damon Keith, Mathis and a long list of other notables speaking at the funeral — he says Holiefield always greeted him with a hug.

Hackel says Holiefield was generous with his time. Bennett says Holiefield was also generous with his money, though not ostentatiously; when he picked up a tab or donated to a cause, he did it quietly.

He was stylish, Bennett says, but not flamboyant. He liked to ride motorcycles and strum the bass guitar he taught himself to play. He was a target shooter, and that led to a near-tragedy: in December 2013, months after he’d been marginalized by the UAW for assigning photo contracts to his wife, he and some friends went to an indoor gun range in Roseville.

Cleaning his Desert Eagle semi-automatic pistol in his kitchen afterward, he accidentally shot Morgan-Holiefield in the abdomen. There were cleaning materials on the table and witnesses in the room, and he ultimately pleaded guilty to reckless use of a firearm, a misdemeanor.

She forgave him, and they went on with their lives.

Now come the FBI and the IRS, and they are less forgiving entities. It’s a case that could be the stuff of screenplays, and there might even be a role for Halle Berry — but as much as Holiefield loved Hollywood, the ending might not be one he’d care to see.



UAW defeated in bid to organize
Nissan workers in South

Keith Laing,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
August 6, 2017

The United Auto Workers suffered a major defeat when Nissan workers in Canton, Mississippi, voted overwhelmingly against joining the labor union after a contentious campaign that emerged as the latest test of the labor union’s ability to organize employees of foreign automakers in the South.

Nissan said employees at its Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant voted “no” by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, striking another high-profile defeat for the UAW in a region where it has struggled to convince autoworkers of the merits of labor unions. The Japanese manufacturer said 2,244 of its Canton workers voted no, while 1,307 cast ballots in favor of joining the UAW.

The defeat marks the third time in nearly 20 years that Nissan workers in the South have voted against joining the UAW. Workers at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee, plant voted against joining the UAW by 2-to-1 margins in 1989 and 2001.

Nissan said the victory over the UAW was a sign of the strength of non-unionized factories in the South.

“With this vote, the voice of Nissan employees has been heard. They have rejected the UAW and chosen to self-represent, continuing the direct relationship they enjoy with the company,” the company said in a statement released late Friday night. “Our expectation is that the UAW will respect and abide by their decision and cease their efforts to divide our Nissan family. Now that the election is complete, Nissan will focus on bringing all employees back together as one team, building great vehicles and writing our next chapter in Mississippi.”

The UAW said late Friday: “The result of the election was a setback for these workers, the UAW and working Americans everywhere, but in no way should it be considered a defeat.”

Shortly before voting closed at 8 p.m. Eastern time Friday, the UAW filed seven new claims that Nissan broke federal labor law. The National Labor Relations Board will consider the charges and could add them to a series of allegations in a complaint the federal labor regulator has issued against Nissan.

“Perhaps recognizing they couldn’t keep their workers from joining our union based on the facts, Nissan and its anti-worker allies ran a vicious campaign against its own workforce that was comprised of intense scare tactics, misinformation and intimidation,” the UAW said.

Among the charges, the UAW alleges widespread surveillance of worker union activity, threats that benefits would be taken away if the Nissan Canton workforce voted for UAW representation, threatening a worker that she could be terminated if the UAW was to become the representative of Nissan worker and that Nissan provided a faulty list of worker contact information. Nissan spokeswoman Parul Bajaj says the company provided all required information. She didn’t immediately respond to the other charges.

If the labor board rules in favor of the charges, the board could order the election to be repeated. Such a decision could be months or years away.

The last days of the campaign were conducted as news spread of the indictments of two former Fiat Chrysler executives and the widow of a former union leader on charges that they allegedly participated in funneling for their personal enrichment more than $2 million in UAW-Chrysler National Training Center funds intended for worker training.

Nissan posted news stories about the indictments on its local employee website and Facebook page, and talked about the union’s legal troubles in presentations to workers.

The company argued that the UAW has a track record of layoffs, strikes and plant closures at plants where it represents auto workers that would alter dynamics at the company’s 14-year-old Mississippi plant.

The UAW and its supporters accused Nissan of seeking to block efforts to unionize by its workers in Mississippi, in violation of federal labor protections. They cited allegations from employees about receiving pressure from supervisors to vote “no” on unionization since the petition for the election was filed July 11.

The allegations of financial misdeeds couldn’t have come at a worse time for the labor union. Indictments handed down last week charge Monica Morgan-Holiefield, 54, of Harrison Township; Alphons Iacobelli, 57, of Rochester Hills; and Jerome Durden, 61, of Rochester Hills with siphoning training center funds to pay for personal expenses and travel in violation of the Labor Management Relations Act.

The union election in Mississippi was closely watched as a sign of the UAW’s vitality outside of the midwestern hub of the Detroit Three automakers.

Despite its two previous failures at Nissan, the UAW has experienced recent successes in smaller elections in the South. Skilled-trades workers who maintain machinery and robots at Volkswagen’s factory in Chattanooga voted for UAW representation by a margin of 108-44 in a 2015 election. That vote took place 20 months after the union was narrowly defeated in an election involving all hourly employees.

Nissan says 6,400 are employed at the Canton plant, which builds Altimas, Frontiers, Muranos, Titans and NV commercial vans. The UAW says senior Nissan workers there earn $26 per hour, while former temporary workers who are brought into the company through Nissan’s “Pathways” program earn $20 after five years. Temporary workers who have not been classified as full-time start at around $13 per hour, the union said.

Wages for UAW members at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler NV plants start at $17 per hour for new “second-tier” hires, but can go as high as $29 after eight years on the job.

Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry, Labor and Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research, said union elections do not usually turn on hourly wages.

“People don’t vote for a union because they are going to get a couple bucks,” she said. “They really do it because they feel like they are being treated unfairly at work.”


NAFTA talks could hinge
on Mexico’s disproportionate
share of auto investment, jobs

Forty-five per cent of North American autoworkers are employed
in Mexico, which buys 8 per cent of North American-made vehicles.

Toronto Star
By Joan Bryden
The Canadian Press
Aug  5, 2017

OTTAWA—The auto sector rates nary a mention in the published list of U.S. objectives for the renegotiation of NAFTA.

But senior Canadian officials privately believe the automotive industry is actually at the root of American demands for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement and will be the key to the success — or failure — of negotiations to revamp the trilateral deal.

Donald Trump, they note, rode a wave of anti-trade sentiment to victory in last fall’s U.S. presidential election, propelled by an unabashedly protectionist, America-first agenda, including a threat to rip up NAFTA, which he called “the worst trade deal in the history” of the United States.

It was a populist message that tapped into long-simmering resentment over the exodus of American manufacturing operations — including the Big Three automakers and auto-parts plants — to Mexico. And it resonated particularly loudly with voters in the 14 auto-producing states, 12 of which ultimately delivered their electoral college votes to Trump.

It was a populist message that tapped into long-simmering resentment over the exodus of American manufacturing operations — including the Big Three automakers and auto-parts plants — to Mexico. And it resonated particularly loudly with voters in the 14 auto-producing states, 12 of which ultimately delivered their electoral college votes to Trump.

It’s an issue on which Canadian and American interests are largely aligned. Some stark statistics compiled by Unifor, the union representing autoworkers in Canada, explain why:

Mexico buys just 8 per cent of North American-made vehicles but employs 45 per cent of the continent’s autoworkers.

Since NAFTA came into effect in 1994, four assembly plants in Canada and 10 in the United States have closed; eight new plants have opened in Mexico.

U.S. and Canadian vehicle and auto-parts trade deficits with Mexico have grown exponentially — a fourfold increase for Canada, from $1.6 billion pre-NAFTA to $8.7 billion now.

And all those disturbing numbers are explained by another stark statistic: Mexican autoworkers earn an average of about $4 per hour, compared to $30-$35 per hour in the U.S. and Canada.

Rebalancing the auto industry so that all three countries get a fair share of investment and jobs “will be the biggest piece of the puzzle, I would suggest, in NAFTA,” says Unifor president Jerry Dias.

On that score, there’s some urgency for Canada and the U.S., both of which hope to regain a bigger share of the pie as the auto industry embarks on historic investments in the next generation of vehicles: electric and self-driving cars.

While the U.S. list of objectives for NAFTA negotiations doesn’t mention the auto sector specifically, it does call for stiffer rules of origin and more stringent, enforceable environmental and labour standards — which would have a direct bearing on the automotive industry.

Unifor supports those American objectives. The union wants to see the rules of origin beefed up so that vehicles must have at least 70 per cent North American-made content — up from the current 62.5 per cent — to be eligible to move duty-free between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

That’s aimed primarily at forcing Asian and European automakers and Chinese producers of auto electronics to build more plants in North America.

Automakers, however, are vehemently opposed to raising the minimum content requirement, which they argue is already the highest of any trade agreement in the world.

“Any changes to the duty-free access and content rules will disrupt the highly integrated supply chains and reduce the massive benefits, undermining the global competitiveness of that integrated automotive industry we talk about,” Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, told the House of Commons trade committee last May.

David Paterson, vice-president of General Motors Canada Ltd., reminded the committee that a vehicle built in North America can cross borders seven times during the manufacturing process. Tracing the content of every part already requires “a lot of bureaucracy.”

“Under the category ‘do no harm,’ we must set out to reduce, not add, red tape,” he said. “We would prefer to see tracing eliminated.”

On this issue, the government appears to be siding with the automakers.

Rather than focus on rules of origin, senior Canadian officials — speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter — said strengthening labour and environmental standards would be a more effective way to reduce Mexico’s disproportionate share of auto investment and jobs.

The objective, one official stressed, is not to stop auto production in Mexico, but to close the wage gap so Mexican workers benefit while making the other two NAFTA partners more competitive.

Mexico would not be averse to measures that would raise the standard of living for its workers, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, suggested in an interview.

“The question really is over what period of time and how you achieve that,” MacNaughton said.

“Also, we need to make sure that living standards and good paying middle-class jobs in Canada and the United States continue to be created, too. So the question is: can you find a way to create that win-win-win?”

Currently, NAFTA includes side deals on labour and the environment — essentially just aspirational goals to improve working conditions and committing each country to enforce its own labour and environmental standards.

That has allowed Mexico to take advantage of its low wage rate, lack of free collective bargaining and non-existent health, safety and environmental standards to lure auto companies looking for the cheapest place to set up shop, Dias says.

That advantage would diminish if companies operating in Mexico were compelled to abide by standards similar to those applied in the U.S. and Canada. Dias advocates strict timelines for raising wages and penalizing companies that don’t meet them.

“There’s going to have to be a wholesale change in the system,” Dias says.

“Corporations are going to have to be more responsible, they’re going to have to start to treat people better, they’re going to have to start to pay them respectfully.”


Toyota, Mazda plan $1.6 billion
US plant, to partner in EVs

Tom Krisher and
Yuri Kageyama
Associated Press
August 4, 2017

TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. plan to spend $1.6 billion to build a joint-venture auto manufacturing plant in the U.S. — a move that will create up to 4,000 jobs, both sides said Friday.

The plant will have an annual production capacity of about 300,000 vehicles, and will produce Toyota Corollas for the North American market. Mazda will make cross-over models there that it plans to introduce to that market, the companies said.

Toyota and Mazda are forming a capital alliance and splitting the cost for the plant equally. It is due to begin operations by 2021.

After reassessing the market, Toyota has changed its plan to make Corollas at a plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, now under construction, and instead will produce Tacoma pickups there, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said.

President Donald Trump had criticized Toyota for taking auto production and jobs to Mexico. With the investment, both automakers can hope to prove their good American corporate citizenship and appease the Trump administration's concerns about jobs moving overseas.

Toyoda denied that Trump's views influenced his decision.

"We have been reviewing the best production strategy for our business," he told reporters at a Tokyo hotel, after shaking hands with Mazda's president.

Trump welcomed the announcement in a Tweet: "Toyota & Mazda to build a new $1.6B plant here in the U.S.A. and create 4K new American jobs. A great investment in American manufacturing!"

The companies also plan to work together on various advanced auto technology, such as electric vehicles, safety features and connected cars, as well as products that they could supply each other, they said.

Toyota plans to acquire 31,928,500 shares of common stock newly issued by Mazda through a third-party allotment, which will amount to a 5.05 percent stake in Mazda, valued at 50 billion yen ($455 million).

Mazda, which makes the Miata roadster, will acquire 50 billion yen worth of Toyota shares, the equivalent of a 0.25 percent stake. The investment deal is expected to be final by October, the companies said.

Toyoda noted the growing competition from newcomers in the auto industry like Google, Apple and Amazon, stressing he was worried about autos turning into commodities. He praised Mazda as a great partner in that effort.

"It has also sparked Toyota's competitive spirit, increasing our sense of not wanting to be bested by Mazda. This is a partnership in which those who are passionate about cars will work together to make ever-better cars," he said.

The companies said their collaboration will respect their mutual independence and equality. Toyota, which makes the Prius hybrid, Camry sedan and Lexus luxury models, already provides hybrid technology to Mazda, which makes compact cars for Toyota at its Mexico plant.

The sheer cost of the plant also makes a partnership logical, as it boosts cost-efficiency and economies of scale. Working together on green and other auto technology also makes sense as the segment becomes increasingly competitive due to concerns about global warming, the environment and safety.

"Given the massive level of competition in the industry, partnerships are no longer a surprise," said Akshay Anand, an executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

Politics are another incentive.

"The new presidential administration has made it clear investments in the U.S. are a top priority, and this plant may be another nod to that mindset," Anand said.

Mazda President Masamichi Kogai said he hoped that the partnership will help energize the industry.

Toyota is vying for the spot of No. 1 automaker in global vehicle sales against Nissan-Renault and Volkswagen AG of Germany, as the industry gradually consolidates.

Japanese rival Nissan Motor Co. is allied with Renault SA of France and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., and is the global leader in electric vehicles. Their alliance led world vehicles sales for the first time in the first half of this year.

The limited tie-up with Mazda marks the latest addition to Toyota's sprawling empire, which includes Japanese truck maker Hino Motors and minicar maker Daihatsu Motor Co. Toyota also is the top shareholder in Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars.

In the past, Toyota was not overly bullish on electric vehicles, which have a limited cruise range. But recent breakthroughs in batteries allow for longer travel per charge.

Mazda, based in Hiroshima, Japan, used to have a powerful partner in Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co., which bought 25 percent of Mazda in 1979, and raised it to 33.4 percent in 1996. But Ford began cutting ties in 2008, and has shed its stake in Mazda.

Also Friday, Toyota reported its April-June profit was 613.0 billion yen ($5.6 billion), up 11 percent from 552.4 billion yen a year earlier. Quarterly sales rose 7 percent to 7.05 trillion yen ($64 billion), as vehicle sales improved around the world, including in the U.S., Europe and Japan.

Toyota stuck to its earlier projection for global vehicle sales for the fiscal year, ending in March 2018, at 10.25 million vehicles. It raised its fiscal full year profit forecast to 1.75 trillion yen ($16 billion) from the earlier forecast of 1.5 trillion yen ($14 billion). It earned 1.8 trillion yen in the previous fiscal year.


UAW scandal roils
Nissan union election

United Auto Workers members set up an informational line outside this employee entrance at the Nissan vehicle assembly plant in Canton, Miss., Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017. Most shifts arriving and leaving were met with posters, flyers and union chants at each of the plant's employee entrances. The UAW has a vote scheduled Aug. 3-4, on whether it should represent the 3,700 full time company employees. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Keith Laing
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
August 3, 2017

The brewing scandal involving an alleged multi-million-dollar conspiracy to divert worker training funds within the top ranks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and the United Auto Workers has the potential to hurt the union’s chances of representing workers at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi.

Workers at the Nissan Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant will vote Thursday and Friday on whether to be represented by the labor union. The election follows two previous failures by the UAW to represent workers at Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. After other rejections in the union’s quest to represent workers employed by foreign automakers with factories in the South, it has been seen as the best chance for the UAW to gain a foothold there.

The last days of the campaign were being conducted against a backdrop of last week’s indictment of Monica Morgan-Holiefield, 54, of Harrison Township, and Fiat Chrysler Vice President for Employee Relations Alphons Iacobelli, 57, of Rochester Hills, for siphoning money that was meant for employee training to pay for personal expenses and travel in violation of the Labor Management Relations Act.

Morgan-Holiefield, who was married to the late UAW Vice President General Holiefield, is charged with participating in a multi-year enrichment scheme that allegedly included paying off her $262,000 mortgage and $30,000 in airline tickets, using money that was supposed to benefit blue-collar FCA workers. Iacobelli, a former top labor negotiator at Fiat Chrysler, is accused of pocketing employee training funds to pay for a $350,000 Ferrari 458 Spider, two solid-gold Mont Blanc pens costing $37,500 each, a swimming pool and more.

On Nissan’s local employee website and Facebook page, the Japanese automaker has posted news stories about the indictments and talked about the union’s legal troubles in presentations to workers.

“Voters have the right to know the company’s perspective on what we believe is in the best interest of our team and our plant, as well as important information about the UAW and about union representation,” Nissan said when asked about the latest twist in its “vote no” campaign. “The UAW has only ever wanted employees to hear one side of the story — the union’s side. The company has the right, and we believe the obligation, to provide employees with full information as they prepare to make this important decision, and we will continue to do so.

Gary Casteel, the UAW’s secretary-treasurer and director of the union’s transnational department, dismissed the idea that the allegations against its former leaders would harm the union’s chances of winning the Mississippi election.

“This was an isolated incident involving a rogue individual in our organization and a rogue individual in the corporation,” he said in a statement. “No union funds or dues were involved. Regardless, we dealt with it swiftly and decisively, and we have fully cooperated with authorities.”

Casteel added: “Nissan is trying desperately to make hay over this as part of their scorched-earth anti-union campaign, but we don’t believe it’s getting traction among employees. We remain focused on helping the workers in Mississippi to realize their goal of meaningful employee representation — and pushing back against Nissan, which seems determined to deny workers’ rights and civil rights.”

Art Wheaton, a labor expert at Cornell University, said the allegations of financial mismanagement come at a “less than perfect time. ”

“It gives a relatively poor impression of the joint labor-management program they had at FCA,” he said, added that the UAW was already facing an uphill battle in trying to organize workers in a region that is typically hostile to unions. “They’re trying to organize in a right-to-work state, which is extremely difficult,” Wheaton said.

Mississippi law prohibits agreements between employees and labor unions that mandate all employees pay union dues. Michigan passed such a measure in late 2012 that went into effect in March 2013.

Workers in Canton say the revelations about the alleged improprieties between the UAW and FCA have reverberated in the plant as both sides make their final pitches in the contentious organizing election.

Washad Catchings, a Nissan employee who has worked at the company’s Canton plant since it opened in 2003, said he heard about the indictments from co-workers.

Catchings said the news has not changed his thoughts about the necessity for Nissan workers to join the union. “You have scandals in church, but you don’t stop going to praise the Lord or whatever you do,” he said.

Mickey Fugitt, a tool-and-die technician who said he was a member of the Teamsters union at a previous job, offered a different take on the allegations.

“I’m not surprised. The union I was involved with, the president was under investigation for the same thing,” he added, referring to the 2014 indictment of former Teamsters Local 783 President Jerry Thomas Vincent Jr. in Louisville, who pleaded guilty in 2015 to multiple charges of embezzling labor union funds.

Fugitt said the latest news has not changed his feelings about joining the UAW: “I don’t think we need it. I’m fighting hard to get the word out.”

The UAW has sought to distance itself from the accusations in the run-up to the Mississippi election.

“This is certainly one of the toughest moments our union has faced in years,” UAW President Dennis Williams said in a letter to members that was released Tuesday.

“We are heartbroken and horrified to learn a man we knew, trusted and loved was involved in these alleged misdeeds,” Williams continued, noting, “UAW leadership knew nothing of General Holiefield’s illegal activities until the U.S. Attorney’s Office contacted us in January of last year.”

The UAW and its supporters have accused Nissan of seeking to block efforts to unionize by its workers in Mississippi, in violation of federal labor protections. They cite allegations from employees about receiving pressure from supervisors to vote “no” on unionization since the petition for the election was filed July 11.

Nissan, which builds Altimas, Frontiers, Muranos, Titans and NV commercial vans in Canton, has denied allegations of intimidating its workers there, and said the factory has a safety record “significantly better” than the national average. The company has argued there is not sufficient interest among its workforce in joining the UAW, pointing out that efforts to unionize at its Smyrna plant failed in 1989 and 2001.

The automaker says 6,400 are employed at the Canton plant. The UAW says Nissan workers there earn $26 per hour, while former temporary workers who are brought into the company through Nissan’s “Pathways” program earn $20 after five years. Temporary workers who have not been classified as full-time start at around $13 per hour, the union said.

Wages for UAW members at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler NV plants start at $17 per hour for new “second-tier” hires, but can go as high as $29 after eight years on the job.


Detroit carmaker sales take
bigger hit than expected

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
August 2, 2017

U.S. sales of vehicles by Detroit automakers fell more than expected in July, starting the second half of the year at a crawl after sales through the first six months of 2017 were down.

When compared to the same month a year ago, General Motors Co.’s July sales fell 15.4 percent — the largest decline of the Detroit Three. Sales at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles fell 10 percent, and Ford Motor Co.’s sales slid 7.5 percent in that same time, the companies reported Tuesday. All were larger declines that analysts expected.

The companies blamed the drops on lower fleet sales. But GM’s retail sales fell 14.4 percent from July 2016. Meanwhile, Ford and Fiat Chrysler retail sales had single-digit declines, and the fleet sales fell by 26 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

But industry analysts and executives maintained, as they have all year, that falling car-segment sales and overall sales – that are plateauing at best after record years – are not indicative of the overall health of the auto industry.

“The fundamentals in the industry are still very, very strong,” said Kelley Blue Book analyst Alec Gutierrez. Big-picture indicators like fuel prices, employment levels within the industry and customer satisfaction are all at healthy leavels.

At a gathering of auto officials in Traverse City on Tuesday, several analysts delivered a similar message on the state of the industry: “The sky is not falling.”

Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of global forecasting for LMC Automotive, said despite sales numbers out of North America, there are reasons for optimism overall.

“Transaction prices are up, that’s a very positive thing…,” he said. “We’re looking at over $31,000 on average – up over a percent.”

In addition, much of the decline shown in the data pertaining to plant downtime, he said, is due to product changeover.

But Schuster’s review of the industry touched on several areas for concern, including a rise in incentives, inventories that have cars sitting on lots four days longer than a year ago and the change that the strong fourth-quarter sales enjoyed by the industry in 2016 won’t likely come again.

The global picture, however, appears brighter, he said.

Michael Robinet, managing director of automotive advisory services for IHS Markit, said overall production in North America has remained relatively constant. But there are issues that need attention trickling down throughout the system.

Those best-positioned are those that have moved quickly to address sales trends.

“I know suppliers that are feeling nothing right now,” said Michael Robinet, managing director of automotive advisory services for IHS Markit. “I know others that are crying.”

In North America, all of GM’s brands saw significant year-over-year declines including Buick dropping 30.5 percent; Cadillac declining 21.7 percent; Chevrolet falling 15.3 percent and GMC dropping 7.3 percent from July 2016.

The automaker’s bloated inventory also hardly budged from a month ago, dropping from 105 days supply at the end of June to 104 days supply at the end of July. GM has said it plans to cut days supply of vehicles to about 70 days by the end of the year.

Despite strong performance from the Jeep Compass, Chrysler Pacifica minivan and Ram ProMaster City utility van, the Fiat Chrysler sold 161,477 vehicles in July. Retail sales were down 6 percent compared to the same month last year, Fiat Chrysler reported.

Ford’s SUV sales increased by 2.2 percent last month, though truck sales, which had been up through the first half of the year, dropped 7.1 percent due to a recall and selling stop on Transit vans, which are now being sold again. The average transaction price for those trucks increased by $4,600, as customers opted for Super Duty pickups.

Car sales for the automaker dropped 19.4 percent. The company sold 44,893 Ford brand cars in July; it sold 69,467 F-Series trucks in that same time period. Sales slipped 2.5 percent for its Lincoln brand.

Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a call with investors Tuesday that the industry has peaked, and Ford will pay close attention to inventory levels moving forward.

While sales numbers have for most months this year come in softer than expected, LaNeve said he does not think declines are accelerating.

“We’re still operating at a very high level,” he said. “I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks. I think we’re in relatively the same position we’ve been all year.”

Meanwhile, Toyota Motor North America Inc. reported its July sales were up 3.6 percent, having sold 222,057 vehicles. American Honda Motor Co. reported total sales of 150,980, a 1.2 percent decrease. The company sold 36,683 Civic cars, an 11.3 increase while almost the entire industry is having trouble selling sedans.

Analysts before official numbers were released Tuesday said the industry would take its largest sales slip this year in July, calling for a year-over-year decrease of around 6 percent. The July results are a continuation of what automakers saw through the first half of 2017, in which sales were down 2.1 percent compared to the first half of 2016.

Analysts call it the post-peak phase. Sales are plateauing after record years, and July — typically a good sales month for auto companies — wasn’t immune.

“July is historically a strong month, but with disappointing sales and inventories still building, something needs to give,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director of industry analysis, in a statement. “A lot is riding on late-summer sales events to help move vehicles before 2018 models start arriving at dealer lots. Production slowdowns will help address some of the inventory issues, but consumers may be waiting for automakers to loosen the purse strings on incentives to get them to pull the trigger on making a purchase.”

Slower-than-expected start to the year has some analysts calling for a softening market in 2017, with year-end expectations now lowered at the mid-year point.


FCA-UAW scandal nears
new potential target

Robert Snell and Melissa Burden
The Detroit News
August 1, 2010

Detroit – A former United Auto Workers official is under investigation and a potential target of the FBI probe into a multimillion-dollar conspiracy within the top ranks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and the union, The Detroit News has learned.

Retired UAW Associate Director Virdell King has hired a criminal defense lawyer amid questions about personal purchases made through a UAW-Chrysler National Training Center credit-card account, according to two sources familiar with the investigation. The training center funds are supposed to benefit blue-collar workers.

The focus on King provides a partial roadmap of additional people who could be charged in a high-profile criminal case that alleges FCA and union leaders spent more than $1.2 million on luxury items instead of using the money to benefit training of Fiat Chrysler hourly workers. The indictment references, but does not identify, a handful of other union and automaker officials accused of participating in a scheme to pay off UAW officials.

King, 65, was part of the UAW-Chrysler bargaining teams in both 2011 and 2015. She spent years on the training center’s board along with Alphons Iacobelli, 57, of Rochester Hills, a former top labor negotiator at Fiat Chrysler who was indicted last week and accused of pocketing employee training funds to pay for a $350,000 Ferrari 458 Spider, two solid-gold Mont Blanc pens that cost $37,500 each, a swimming pool and more.

King’s lawyer, John Shea, declined comment.

The UAW would not comment Monday, citing the ongoing investigation.

Three people have been charged so far in an indictment, including Monica Morgan-Holiefield, 54, wife of the late General Holiefield, a UAW vice president who died in March 2015. She was released on $10,000 unsecured bond Monday after being arraigned on charges that could send her to federal prison for five years.

Morgan-Holiefield’s arraignment came less than a week after she was indicted and accused of participating in a multi-year enrichment scheme that allegedly included paying off her $262,000 mortgage and $30,000 in airline tickets to cities across the U.S. using money that was supposed to benefit blue-collar FCA workers.

The Harrison Township resident was joined by two friends Monday who defended her character.

“She is not the gold-digger they are making her out to be,” friend Alecia Goodlow-Young said outside court. “She is an ambitious woman but that doesn’t mean a negative ambitious woman.

“It’s not right to put this all on her,” Goodlow-Young told reporters. “They’re attacking her character.”

Jerome Durden, 61, of Rochester was charged separately last week with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. He was a financial analyst with Fiat Chrysler’s corporate accounting department and from 2008 through 2015 was controller of the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center. Durden is to be in court Friday.

Iacobelli will appear in court Tuesday.

King began her UAW career at Chrysler’s Detroit Axle Plant in 1974, and 13 years later was elected recording secretary for UAW Local 961, according to an article published by UAW-Chrysler. She was elected president of that local union, becoming then the first black female to be elected as president of a local union in the then UAW-DaimlerChrysler organization. In 1999, she was appointed to the UAW’s international staff, according to the article.

In August 2013, King, then a UAW assistant director, rode in the passenger seat of a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee as part of a celebration of the 5 millionth vehicle to be produced at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant. She touted the milestone and thanked CEO Sergio Marchionne “for believing in us.”

King’s compensation in 2015, the year before she retired, was $128,930.

In spring 2015, King was associate co-director of the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center and was part of the center’s joint activities board. By December that year, she was no longer on the center’s joint activities board, according to UAW-Chrysler documents.

The training center’s joint activities board is governed by eight members from the union and Fiat Chrysler. The UAW and Fiat Chrysler said last week that they worked together with the training center to implement new internal controls. They include things such as hiring a full-time controller; banning any charitable donation from the center to any charity run or controlled by a UAW official; new vendor and credit-card processes and policies; having budgets approved by the training center board or directors; and creating a hotline to report suspected wrongdoing.

The nonprofit UAW Chrysler National Training Center, otherwise known as the UAW Chrysler Skill Development and Training Program, was created in 1985. Its mission is to provide training and boost worker skills and to create a “world-class workforce.”

The center is funded through Fiat Chrysler money. The last Internal Revenue Service 990 filing for the center dated in May 2015 shows contributions and grants for the 2014 fiscal year totaled $46.7 million; expenses totaled $28.9 million. It had a fund balance of nearly $58 million then.

The UAW says officials have instituted a new credit-card policy requiring two officers and the controller to review credit-card statements and payments, and have created a written credit-card policy that includes “what is/is not permissible.”

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Autotrader, said the alleged bribery scandal could hurt the reputations of Fiat Chrysler and the UAW.

“The UAW has the greatest risk in this in terms of tarnishing its reputation,” she said, adding some people in the U.S. have negative attitudes already about unions and the UAW. “It comes at a time when the union is trying to expand its membership and organize some plants owned by foreign automakers. This kind of activity does not help its cause at all.”


Fumes force Austin police to
pull Explorers off patrol

Jim Vertuno
Associated Press
July 31, 2017

The Austin Police Department on Friday pulled nearly 400 Ford Explorer SUVs from its patrol fleet over worries about exhaust fumes inside the vehicles.

Ford Motor Co. responded by promising to repair the vehicles, even as it continues to investigate the cause of the problem.

The move comes as U.S. auto safety regulators investigate complaints of exhaust fume problems in more than 1.3 million Explorers from the 2011 through 2017 model years. In Austin, more than 60 officers have reported health problems since February and more than 20 were found to have measurable carbon monoxide in their systems, city officials said Friday.

“We need to remove these vehicles immediately,” interim City Manager Elaine Hart said “We need to keep (officers) safe as well as our community.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found more than 2,700 complaints of exhaust odors in the passenger compartment and fears of carbon monoxide in an investigation started a year ago. Among the complaints were three crashes and 41 injuries, mostly loss of consciousness, nausea and headaches.

Many of the complaints came from police departments, which use the Police Interceptor version of the Explorer in patrol fleets. Police complaints included two crashes with injuries and one injury allegation due to carbon monoxide exposure.

While several large police departments have been aware of the issue and installed carbon monoxide detectors in their vehicles, Austin appears to be first major city to pull large numbers of police Explorers off the road.

In a statement released late Friday, Ford said it has discovered holes and unsealed spaces in the back of some Police Interceptors that had equipment installed after leaving Ford’s factory. Ford said police and fire departments routinely drill holes in the backs of vehicles to add customized lighting, radios and other equipment.

Ford said it will cover the cost of repairs to any Police Interceptor that may have this concern, regardless of age, mileage or modifications.

The company said it will check for holes and seal them, recalibrate the air conditioning to bring in more fresh air during heavy acceleration and check engine codes to see if the vehicles have a damaged exhaust manifold.

“There is nothing we take more seriously than providing you with the safest and most reliable vehicles,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s executive vice president of product development.

Non-police customers should take their Explorers to a Ford dealer to address the issue, the company said.

The decision by Austin police left the city scrambling to find replacement cars for more than half of its patrol fleet.

The Police Department said it will move equipment from the Explorers to about 200 Ford Taurus and Crown Victoria models, many of which will be unmarked, and have them ready for patrol ready by Monday. Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said Austin will have just as many officers on patrol, but that they will ride in pairs. The city will closely track response time to emergency calls.

“There will be a concern there will be a spike in crime,” Manley said. “But for those criminals who think they can take advantage of the circumstances, remember we now have a whole fleet of unmarked vehicles on patrol.”

The city installed carbon monoxide alarms after officers began reporting getting sick while in the vehicles, and parked 60 of them when the alarms activated. Of the 20 officers found to have elevated levels of carbon monoxide, three have not been able to return to work.

The NHTSA has said nearly 800 people have complained to the government about fumes, while Ford has received more than 2,000 complaints and warranty claims. The agency tested multiple vehicles at its Ohio research center, and made field inspections of police vehicles involved in crashes. As of Thursday, the agency had found no evidence or data to support claims that injuries or crash allegations were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. The agency said it had early tests that suggest carbon monoxide levels may be higher in certain driving conditions, but the significance and effect of those levels remain under investigation.

The NHTSA says its investigation suggests the Police Interceptor is experiencing exhaust manifold cracks that are hard to detect and may explain exhaust odors. Investigators are evaluating the cause, frequency and safety consequences of the cracks, and whether Explorers used by civilians are experiencing cracked manifolds, the agency said.

“There have been a number of police departments that have looked at this problem. Most have not had (Austin’s) experience and those that have had issues have been able to resolve them,” said Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “I have not heard of any other department having the number of problems that Austin is experiencing.”

Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies Inc., a Massachusetts firm that does auto testing for plaintiffs’ lawyers and other clients, said he expects other law enforcement agencies will now check their patrol fleets and may face the same dilemma as Austin about how to maintain patrols.


Ford workers find 277 pounds
of pot in Mexico shipment

Ford employees turned over 277 pounds of marijuana found in a shipment of vehicles to federal authorities Wednesday.

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
July 30, 2017

Woodhaven — U.S. Federal authorities have recovered a stash of drugs found in a shipment of Ford vehicles from Mexico for the second time this month.

Ford employees turned over 277 pounds of marijuana found in a shipment of vehicles to federal authorities Wednesday, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The drugs were concealed inside rail cars holding new Ford Motor Co. and Lincoln vehicles, which had recently come from Mexico.

Employees initially discovered the drugs inside the rail cars that had been offloaded at the Ford Rail Distribution Facility in Woodhaven. Ford contacted Woodhaven Police, which contacted ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit.

The drugs tested positive for marijuana. No arrests have been made, though authorities are following “multiple” leads in an ongoing probe. In early July, 15 Ford Fusions that were made in Mexico arrived in northeast Ohio with drugs stored in the spare tire wells.

Around 400 pounds of marijuana worth $1 million were recovered from those vehicles. A similar smuggling scheme was uncovered in Minnesota in March. Dilworth police discovered seven Ford Fusions with marijuana stashed where the spare tire was supposed to be. Those cars also were made in Mexico.

“We are taking this very seriously,” Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said in an email Thursday. “We are working closely with a number of law enforcement agencies on this investigation, including the FBI, Customs, Department of Homeland Security and local police. We cannot comment further as this is an active investigation.”

Of the drugs found Wednesday in Woodhaven, federal officials said Ford is cooperating fully with the investigation.

“This seizure ensures that these illegal drugs will never be distributed in our communities and offers actionable intelligence that HSI and our partners can now develop into a larger probe," said Steve Francis, HSI special agent in charge, in a statement.


Marchionne: Conspiracy
didn’t affect UAW bargaining

Ian Thibodeau,
The Detroit News
July 28, 2017

The multilayer conspiracy allegedly involving a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV top labor negotiator had “nothing whatsoever to do with the collective bargaining process” during UAW contract negotiations, CEO Sergio Marchionne wrote Thursday.

In a letter to FCA employees obtained by The Detroit News, Marchionne expressed his “disgust” over alleged actions that led to the Wednesday indictment of Alphons Iacobelli, 57, and Monica Morgan, 54, the wife of the former United Auto Workers Vice President General Holiefield.

Marchionne said the alleged conspiracy was acted out by an isolated few and went against FCA’s values. He said when the company learned of “possible malfeasance” in 2015, those involved were “separated” from FCA — in Iacobelli’s case, a month ahead of the start of 2015 contract negotiations,

“I join Dennis Williams, the UAW President, in expressing my disgust at the conduct alleged in the indictment which constitutes the most egregious breach of trust by the individuals involved,” Marchionne wrote. “This conduct had nothing whatsoever to do with the collective bargaining process, but rather involved two bad actors who apparently saw an opportunity to misappropriate funds entrusted to their control and who, unfortunately, co-opted other individuals to carry out or conceal their activities over a period of several years.”

Iacobelli has been charged with criminal violations of the Labor Management Relations Act. The act prohibits employers or those working for them from paying, lending or delivering money or other valuables to officers or employees of labor organizations. The law applies the same standard to labor organization representatives.

Morgan was charged with conspiracy with violations of the act. Her late husband, Holiefield, was the top negotiator for the UAW with Chrysler from 2008 through June 2014. A year before he died of pancreatic cancer, Holiefield took a leave of absence from the union after he accidentally shot Morgan in the stomach at their Harrison Township home. She underwent emergency surgery and recovered.

Iacobelli was vice president for employee relations at FCA. General Motors Co. hired Iacobelli in January 2016 as executive director of labor relations. It was unclear if he still works for GM.

The indictment charges Iacobelli and others associated with FCA of making more than $1.2 million in prohibited payments from 2009 to 2014 to Morgan, Holiefield and others. The indictment claims designer clothing, jewelry and furniture were among the payments, as well as paying off a $262,219 mortgage on Holiefield and Morgan’s residence in June 2014.

Authorities say the payments came from a bank account and credit cards from the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center in Detroit, which is funded by FCA to provide training for its UAW-represented employees. The alleged charges would have come when Iacobelli was in charge of bargaining for FCA and when Holiefield was in charge of FCA negotiations for UAW.

Iacobelli also is charged with tax violations related to diverting more than $1 million of funds from the UAW-Chrysler center for his own benefit and using them to pay for a 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider, lease of a private jet and two limited-edition, solid gold Mont Blanc fountain pens costing $37,500 apiece. Nearly $100,000 was allegedly spent on landscaping, a swimming pool, outdoor kitchen and outdoor spa at his Rochester Hills home, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal credit card expenses and to pay off a relative’s student loan.

A third, Jerome Durden, was charged separately in the case with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. He was a financial analyst with FCA’s corporate accounting department and from 2008 through 2015 was controller of the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center.

FCA and UAW have both issued statements expressing disdain for the alleged actions of those indicted.

“I encourage you not to be discouraged by the actions of a few people that betrayed our core principles and our standards of morality, integrity and quality,” Marchionne wrote. “We dealt swiftly with these individuals as we will anyone who does not abide by our code of conduct and who disregard the ethical principles that lie at the foundation of FCA.”


Mexico built 16% more cars in
first half of 2017, bucking
slowdown in U.S. and Canada

By Pete Evans
CBC News
July 27, 2017

After six consecutive months of record output, Mexico now makes more than one out of every five cars built in North America, new numbers from automotive organization Ward's shows.

Mexico built 1,926,930 cars in the first half of 2017, almost 16 per cent more than the country cranked out in the first six months of last year. That compares with 1,208,911 Canadian-built vehicles over the same period, a figure which dipped by 2.4 per cent from last year's level.

The boom means Mexico now makes more cars than the U.S. does, as America built 1,697,551 cars in the first half of 2017. Compared to last year, that figure is down by 17 per cent — about what Mexico's output has expanded by.

Mexico may now be making more cars than America does, but when larger vehicles such as trucks, vans and SUVs are included, America still leads the region in vehicle production, with 5,812,310 through June — although that figure is down almost five per cent in the past year.

Profit margins on those vehicles tend to be higher, which is why North American automakers build them closer to home, while outsourcing smaller vehicles that aren't selling as well as they used to.

Last month, Ford announced plans to produce all of its Focuses at a new plant in China, the first time the company will build cars in that country that are destined for sale in North America. Previously, the plan was to build the Focus in Mexico, before changing that plan after pressure from the White House.

And General Motors in January announced it would be cutting 625 jobs at one of its Ontario facilities and moving production to Mexico instead.

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to energize American manufacturing in his presidency, and the subject of auto jobs is likely to come up in NAFTA discussions between the three nations slated to start later this summer.

While Trump has rallied support for the Made In America movement, the reality of the North American automotive supply chain makes that basically impossible to achieve, since companies build and assemble hundreds of different components in various countries along the way toward building a single vehicle.

Roughly 40 per cent of the components in a vehicle considered to be made in Mexico in fact come from the U.S., the non-partisan think tank the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) said in a report earlier this year. In Canada, the ratio is about 25 per cent.

A hard-line approach requiring that all cars sold in America be fully made and assembled in America would cost the U.S. about 30,000 jobs, and add thousands of dollars to the price of a vehicle, CAR said.


Ford makes $2B in second
quarter, up 3.7%

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
July 26, 2017

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday reported a second-quarter profit of $2 billion, up 3.7 percent from the same period a year ago.

The company attributed the profit increases to revenue boosts that came from the automotive segment in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region, a favorable adjustment in the tax rate, and the best pre-tax profit since 2011 from the company’s financial arm, Ford Credit.

“This quarter shows the underlying health of our company with strong products like F-Series and commercial vehicles around the world,” said President and CEO Jim Hackett in a statement, “but we have opportunity to deliver even more.”

Wednesday’s earnings report was the first under Hackett’s tenure, who replaced Mark Fields in late May.

The company made $2.5 billion before taxes, down $500 million from last year, according to financial results reported Wednesday.

But Ford posted earnings per share of 51 cents, beating Wall Street forecasts for 43 cents per share, and total company revenue was $39.9 billion, up .5 percent from a year ago.

Ford’s automotive segment grew by $100 million, with revenue of $37.1 billion. Ford’s market share decreased for the second quarter.

The North American automotive segment’s revenue was up 3 percent year over year to $24.5 billion, though the pre-tax profits slipped $500 million to $2.2 billion. Ford also saw a decrease in market share due to lower fleet sales.

Meanwhile, the company saw its ninth consecutive profit in Europe, though revenue and profits slipped compared to a year ago due to Brexit. Ford also saw wholesale volume grow 7 percent in its Asia Pacific operations. Revenue grew 21 percent there to $3.4 billion, and profits increased $151 million from a year ago to $142 million.

David Kudla, CEO and chief investment strategist with Mainstay Capital Management, said in a note ahead of Ford’s earnings that strong SUV, truck and crossover sales are helping Ford boost its average transaction prices, but an expected overall sales slowdown will hamper the company’s share price.

It’s up to Hackett to show investors that he has a plan.

“Investors will be eager to hear Ford's new vision after the recent shake-up at the top,” Kudla wrote.

The company’s cerebral new CEO is nearing the end of a 100-day plan he’s using to assess the company’s revenue, fitness, capital expenditure and innovation as the U.S. auto industry speeds toward plateauing — possibly falling — sales.

Bob Shanks, Ford chief financial officer, said Wednesday in a briefing with reporters that Hackett’s “very intensive” 100-day assessment is “well-underway.”

“It’s progressing extremely well,” said Shanks, who provided no details of what the executives have found so far. “I think we’re all energized and excited about what we’re finding and where the company’s going to head.”

He said the company should have more to report from the 100-day plan later this year.

Hackett’s assessment could spur new ventures to boost underperforming segments of the company, decisions to trim oversized departments within corporate, moves to drop or replace vehicles, according to multiple notes from analysts who met with Hackett and Shanks in June.

But Hackett bringing about further change at Ford would fit with comments Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. made when Hackett was appointed.

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

Ford is offering buyouts to 1,400 white-collar employees, and plans to move production of the next-generation Focus to China by 2019

The automaker is also investing billions of dollars in autonomous technology, electric cars and other new vehicles planned through the remainder of the decade and into the early 2020s. Investments include a five-year, $1 billion investment in artificial intelligence company Argo AI to develop the brains for Ford’s self-driving cars. Ford continues to invest in its autonomous vehicle development, which aims to have a fully driverless vehicle on the road by 2021.

Shanks also said Wednesday that the company is adjusting its full-year guidance at the midyear point. Ford projects it will post adjusted earnings per share of between $1.65 and $1.85, and an automotive segment revenue of $141.5 billion, which is roughly equal to 2016.

Halfway through the year, Ford has made $3.63 billion, down from $4.42 at the midway point a year ago. The company has grown halfway through the year, though, posting a revenue of $73.6 billion, up from $72.2 last year.

On Tuesday, General Motors Co. reported net income of $1.66 billion in the second quarter, down 42 percent from a year ago, primarily driven discontinued European operations. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is expected to report its second-quarter results on Thursday.


Jim HackettFord Delivers Second Quarter Net Income of $2.0B; $2.5B Adjusted Pre-Tax Profit

Good morning,

Today, we are releasing our second-quarter financial results and I wanted to take this opportunity to share some early impressions after my first two months as Ford's president and CEO.

First, Ford is a fantastic company with not only an incredible history, but also a very bright future. We didn't survive and thrive for 114 years through luck or because we've stuck with the status quo. Rather, we have remained resilient and reinvented ourselves many times in the face of disruption.

And so, in this fast-changing, competitive new era, I truly believe we can become an even better company. We can be extraordinary in the way we relate to and deliver value to our customers. In this way, we can deliver much more value to all of our stakeholders.

Turning to the second quarter, we delivered a solid performance and we remain in a strong financial position that will serve us well going forward.

Some specific highlights from the second quarter include:

  • Revenue of $39.9 billion, up $400 million from a year ago
  • Net income of $2 billion, up $100 million
  • Adjusted pre-tax profit of $2.5 billion, down $500 million
  • EPS was $0.51, up $0.02, with adjusted EPS at $0.56, up $0.04
  • Profitability in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, and pre-tax profit of $619 million at Ford Credit, up 55 percent year-over-year

You can view our news release for full details on our second-quarter performance.
Thank you.




Shrewd businesses support $15
minimum wage and decent work

Kaylie Tiessen
Toronto Star
July 24, 2017

There is a growing body of research informing us that a business strategy focused on stably employed, better paid workers is good for business and the economy.

Ontario’s Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (Bill 148) is largely being touted as a story of workers against employers. The tale playing out in the media and around many dinner tables across the province suggests that if workers win, businesses lose.

But a growing group of employers is advocating the opposite. This is a story the Ontario public needs to hear more about.

Indeed the provisions in Bill 148 will benefit workers. If the bill passes, part-time and temporary workers will receive equal pay for equal work. Many workers will see personal emergency leave provisions expanded. Longer tenured workers will have more vacation time, and many workers will see more predicable scheduling provisions.

In addition, full-time, minimum wage workers will earn an income that sits slightly above the poverty line. By the way, that was also the case in the mid-1970s.

Minimum wage will sit at roughly 53 per cent of the average hourly wage. It’s not quite as high as the 60 per cent of the average wage that myself and colleagues have advocated, but it is in the range of what is considered an appropriate goal among many economists and policy-makers.

A boost to $15 an hour also gets low-wage workers closer to realizing the benefits of the productivity gains that have been made over the last 40 years. Between 1965 and 1975, the minimum wage roughly tracked productivity gains as both increased over time. However, since 1976, the two have become decoupled and minimum wage earners have not been seeing gains in their pay cheque anywhere near what the economy has seen in terms of productivity growth.

In addition to closing the gap between minimum wage and productivity gains, increasing the minimum wage is likely to lead to productivity gains both at the firm level and in the aggregate measurements.

And this is where the business case is being made by employers.

A recent report from the United Way of Toronto and York Region in partnership with KPMG outlines some important secure work strategies being employed by local businesses to improve employment quality while simultaneously increase productivity and positively affect their bottom line.

The Ontario Living Wage Network is a network of more than 150 Ontario employers who have made a commitment to lifting the pay floor in their workplaces far beyond the provincial minimum (current and proposed). On average, these employers pay their lowest paid workers $16.30 per hour — well above the proposed $15 an hour minimum wage.

The Better Way Alliance is a group of private sector employers that is speaking out in favour of decent work as a strategy to grow the economy and improve worker well-being. The employment model these businesses rely on goes well beyond pay to include strategies for predictable scheduling, permanent work, training, professional development and employee voice.

These decent work strategies include paying a living wage, providing predictability in hours and scheduling, offering professional development opportunities, providing health and disability benefits, and ensuring paid sick leave to name a few.

The thing is, employers still pay when their business strategy is focused on low-wage and insecure work — they just pay in areas that are not as obvious on the balance sheet as wages, such as higher turnover, increased recruitment costs, employee disengagement, lower productivity, consumer frustration and customer dissatisfaction.

There is a growing body of research informing us that a business strategy focused on stably employed, better paid workers is good for business and the economy. This is a message that flies directly in the face of much of what I learned as a business management student and much of the fear employers are voicing as the legislation moves toward the implementation stage.

The story being touted around the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act is one of workers against employers. Reading the headlines might lead you to believe there can only be one winner, when in fact the implementation of these decent work strategies will benefit everyone.

Kaylie Tiessen is an economist. She works in the research department at Unifor. Follow her on twitter @KaylieTiessen.


Ford to fight latest Takata recall

Associated Press
July 23, 2017

Detroit — Ford is fighting the latest expansion of the Takata air bag inflator recall.

Earlier this month Takata filed documents with the U.S. government adding 2.7 million vehicles to the recall from Ford, Nissan and Mazda. All have inflators with a drying agent that previously were thought to be safe.

But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that Takata tests showed the inflator propellant can degrade and will pose a safety risk if the inflators aren’t replaced.

Nissan agreed to recall about 515,000 Versa cars, but Ford and Mazda filed petitions to avoid a recall.

Takata inflators can explode with too much force and spew shrapnel into drivers and passengers. At least 17 people have died and more than 180 injured due to the problem. The inflators have caused the largest automotive recall in U.S. history with 42 million vehicles and up to 69 million inflators being called back for repairs.

Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to inflate air bags. But it can deteriorate when exposed to high airborne humidity and high temperatures. Previously the company believed that a drying agent called a desiccant stopped the chemical from degrading.

Ford, which has more than 2 million vehicles involved in the latest recall, says the propellant has not deteriorated in any of its inflators taken from vehicles in the field. The company says it will file a petition with NHTSA to further study its inflators. “At this point there is no data to suggest a recall is needed,” the company said in a statement.

A message was left Friday for a Mazda spokeswoman.

The inflators in question were produced by Takata from 2005 to 2012. NHTSA says there have been no ruptures in the real world or in testing, and that other Takata inflators with the drying agent have not been recalled.

The agency said Friday that Ford and Mazda filed recall notices with the agency but also said they will turn in petitions seeking to avoid additional recalls. Such paperwork has to be filed within 30 days, and NHTSA will make the final decision.

Ford vehicles in question include the 2006 through 2012 Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ sedans, the 2007 to 2011 Ford Ranger pickup and the 2007 through 2010 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX SUVs. The recall of about 6,000 B-Series trucks from Mazda also are is in question.

Nissan’s recall covers just over 515,000 Versa subcompact hatchback and sedans from the 2007 through 2012 model years.


Ford debuts first pursuit-rated
F-150 police pickup

Michele Bartlett, Ford's general manager of comerical and government fleet sales, introduce the new F-150 Police responder.

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
July 22, 2017

Ford Motor Co. is rolling out the industry’s first pursuit-rated pickup for police.

The 2018 F-150 Police Responder, expected on the road by next 2018, adds off-road capability and more utility to Ford’s lineup of police vehicles.

There’s demand across the country for a bigger, more capable police vehicle, according to Stephen Tyler, Ford’s police brand marketing manager. Agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, sheriff’s departments and tribal police told Ford they needed off-road ready vehicles.

The F-150 didn’t need a lot of work to make it ready for law enforcement, Tyler said, but the vehicle underwent some changes inside and out.

It’s based on the F-150 FX4 off-road model, and comes standard with that model’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 and a 10-speed transmission. The engine cranks out 375-horsepower and 470 pound feet of torque, which Ford says is more than any pursuit-rated police vehicle.

The Police Responder gets stronger brakes, an upgraded front-stabilizer bar for better handling, 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, and underbody skid plates.

Side profile of the new F-150 police responder. Ford reveals the industry's first police pursuit pickup, the F-150 police responder, at the Belt in downtown Detroit. (Photo: Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)

The pickup is made on the four-door F-150 SuperCrew body. With the largest passenger volume among police vehicles, there’s plenty of room in the back seat. Ford moved the shifter out of the center console to the steering column to free up space for after-market additions between the front seats, which are tweaked to give officers better shoulder and hip room.

The truck also has a high-output alternator to support the electrical components police need on-board.

All of this extra stuff added weight to the truck, but Ford says that doesn’t slow it down too much: The Police Responder can reach speeds of 100 mph, 5-mph slower than the base 2018 F-150’s top speed. Clearly, the truck is aimed at off-road work.

With the addition of the truck, Ford has eight law enforcement vehicles. Including the F-150, four of those vehicles are pursuit-rated.

Ford will begin filling orders for the new vehicle later this year, and expects to have the F-150s on the road by next spring.

The company’s Police Interceptor Utility, built on the Explorer frame, is the best-selling police vehicle in the country, making up over 50 percent of Ford’s sales to law enforcement. The new pickup aims to meet market demand for an off-road capable vehicle.

The front griile of the new F-150 police responder. (Photo: Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)

With the addition of the truck, Ford has eight law enforcement vehicles. Including the F-150, four of those vehicles are pursuit-rated.

Ford will begin filling orders for the new vehicle later this year, and expects to have the F-150s on the road by next spring.

The company’s Police Interceptor Utility, built on the Explorer frame, is the best-selling police vehicle in the country, making up over 50 percent of Ford’s sales to law enforcement. The new pickup aims to meet market demand for an off-road capable vehicle.


What you should know about
online used-car sales scams

 The Globe and Mail
July 20, 2017

In most scams involving a mysterious overseas buyer and their shipping agent, you’ll likely be left waiting for the shipper to come in – after you hand over your own cash.

“Nobody’s ever coming to look at it or test drive it – nobody shows up,” said Allan Boomhour, spokesman for the Canadian Antifraud Centre (CAFC). “We see these every day. The whole idea is to trick you into sending your own real money.”

Here’s how it usually works. First, the crook sends you a payment for more than you’re asking.

“They say, “we’re including the shipping fee’ – so if you’re asking $5,000, they’ll send $6,000,” Boomhour said. “Then they ask you to send that difference to the shipper. It varies, it could be Western Union or MoneyGram.”

That payment? Whether it’s a PayPal notice or a cheque, it’s probably fake, Boomhour said.

“You’ll get an email that says it’s been transferred, but people don’t check into their actual PayPal account to see if the money is there, they’re just going by that email,” Boomhour said. “And with cheques, most banks will clear cheques right off the bat, and then they could be rejected weeks or months later.”

If you send money via Western Union or MoneyGram – or even prepaid gift cards – there’s no way to get it back, even if you report it to police, Boomhour said.

“Once, it’s paid out at the other end, it’s cash-in-hand; there’s no tracing it,” Boomhour said. “Even with prepaid gift cards, once bad guys have those card numbers, they take out the money within a minute.”

Could the scammer actually deposit the money into your PayPal account and then get PayPal to reverse the charges? Yes, but that’s not as common, Boomhour said.

“Usually there’s no money at all but, yes, those scenarios can happen,” he said. “[They] can go through the credit card company and try to get the charge back.”

Canadians do fall for these scams, Boomhour said. In 2016, 39 people lost, in total, nearly $69,000. So far this year, 9 people have lost over $11,000.

And those are just the cases that have been reported to police. Because the scammers are usually in another country, it can be tough to catch them.

“As soon as it leaves the country, jurisdiction becomes an issue,” Boomhour said. “They do occasionally get people. But, like drug dealers, if you arrest one at the corner, the next day there’s another one.”

When we asked PayPal about the scam, it said in an email, “If something sounds too good to be true – it probably is a scam.

“As with any financial services transactions, we always encourage people to be vigilant and protect themselves against criminals trying to fraudulently transact with them.”

So how do you know it’s a scam? Well, in “99 per cent” of cases, nobody will pay the full price for a car without seeing it first, Boomhour said.

“You want to deal with people face-to-face,” he said. “If you’ve met in person, a wire transfer into your account is fairly safe, or if it’s a certified cheque, you go with them to the bank and make sure it’s good. But you have to meet them.”

Also, beware of texts asking for your email address. Sites like Kijiji and AutoTrader have systems that send anonymous messages between buyers and potential sellers. They also detect automated scams, Kijiji said.

“Fraudsters will send a fake SMS message requesting to be contacted via email in an effort to stay off the radar, which they can’t do if they reply through the secure Kijiji reply system,” Kijiji said in an email statement. “[Your] best course of action is to ignore the ploy and block the scammer’s phone number and email address, and refrain from clicking any links sent to him via email or text.”

To avoid them, don’t put your number in the ad, Kijiji said.

So how common are these scams? In a 2013 survey by the Automobile Consumer Coalition, 13 per cent of consumers said they’d been contacted by a buyer who offered to overpay and asked the seller to refund the difference.

We asked Kijiji for the exact number of complaints.

“The incidence of fraud or scams on Kijiji is extremely low,” it said. “To put it into perspective, there are millions of new ads and emails exchanged between users on Kijiji in the average week and complaints about suspected fraud among all that communication traffic make up a tiny fraction of a percentage point.”

If you’ve lost money in a scam, contact your local police, Boomhour said.

“If no money is lost, some police services will tell people to contact [us] and won’t take a report,” Boomhour said.

And there’s likely no reason to worry that they have your email address and phone number. To commit ID theft, they’d need information like your social insurance number, driver’s licence number and date of birth, Boomhour said.

“You may get more unwanted phone calls or junk emails – but there’s nothing you can do about that,” Boomhour said.


Auto insurance rates in Ontario rose
again in the second quarter of 2017

The Canadian Press
July 19, 2017

Approved rates posted by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario show an average increase of 0.76 per cent.

Last quarter, rates went up by an average of 1.24 per cent.

In 2013, the Liberals promised to reduce car insurance premiums by an average of 15 per cent by August 2015, but after the self-imposed deadline passed, Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted that was what she called a “stretch goal.”

In April, a report by Ontario’s auto insurance adviser found that the province has the most expensive auto insurance premiums in Canada despite also having one of the lowest levels of accidents and fatalities.

David Marshall found that the average auto insurance premium in Ontario is $1,458, which is almost 55 per cent higher than the average of all other Canadian jurisdictions.

The insurance system favours cash settlements in lieu of care, Marshall found. Sprains and strains — the majority of claims — often take more than a year to settle and about one-third of overall benefit costs goes toward competing expert opinions, lawyers’ fees and insurer costs to defend claims instead of going to treatment, he wrote.

Marshall’s recommendations included adopting a “care not cash” approach, exploring better ways to care for people who are catastrophically injured and making lawyers’ contingency fees more transparent.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the government will be hosting consultations on the recommendations made in Marshall's report in the coming month


Lucid Motors said to have
takeover talks with Ford

July 18, 2017
Giles Turner, Keith Naughton
and Alex Barinka, Bloomberg News

Electric-car maker Lucid Motors Inc. is raising a new round of financing and is also considering an outright sale after holding early-stage takeover talks with Ford Motor Co., according to people familiar with the situation.

The Menlo Park, California-based firm has hired Morgan Stanley to help raise more money to pay for further development of its vehicle and a new manufacturing plant in Arizona, the people said. They asked not to be identified talking about private company matters.

Lucid approached the senior management of Ford about a possible sale, the people added. Ford is not looking for a deal at this time, one of the people said, as new CEO Jim Hackett is in the midst of a 100-day review of the company’s plans and priorities.

Founded in 2007, Lucid aims to start production of its all-electric luxury sedan in 2018. Staffed by many engineers from rival Tesla Inc., Lucid released a video in July showing its Air production model hitting speeds of 235 miles per hour. The vehicle will start at $60,000.

Lucid, which originally focused on making battery packs for electric buses in China, has raised more than $100 million from Asian investors, including Tsing Capital and Mitsui & Co. Silicon Valley venture capital firm Venrock is also a backer. Lucid is working on its fourth funding round, known as a Series D.

“We don’t have the money in place. That’s why we need to secure Series D,” Chief Technology Officer Peter Rawlinson said at the New York International Auto Show in April.

“It would be irresponsible to start moving earth or start anything until we have a financial runway to execute that professionally and with absolute integrity,” Rawlinson said.

The Arizona plant is expected to cost $700 million.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Rawlinson said Lucid is “thrilled with the response from investors.” He declined to comment on the scale of the fundraising, or the talks with Ford.

“We don’t comment on speculation,” Karen Hampton, a Ford spokeswoman, said in an email. A representative for Morgan Stanley didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In May, Ford’s board of directors ousted Mark Fields and installed Hackett, the former CEO of office furniture maker Steelcase Inc., who has ties to Silicon Valley and had most recently been running Ford’s foray into self-driving cars. The board was unhappy with the pace of change under Fields and the nearly 40 percent decline in the company’s share price on his watch.

Ford is not ruling out a deal down the road, according to one of the people. The automaker has big plans to bring out plug-in cars and hybrids. It is spending $4.5 billion to electrify 40 percent of its lineup by 2020. Rival General Motors already has a long-range electric vehicle on the market.

Ford also has promised to put autonomous cars on the road by 2021.


Trump steel tariffs
could hurt U.S. autos

Ian Thibodeau and Jim Lynch
The Detroit News
July 17, 2017

Tariffs might help U.S. steel companies, but a crackdown on imports by President Donald Trump could hurt U.S. automakers and other industries – and raise prices for buyers of their goods.

The Trump administration is considering tariffs on steel imports in an effort to squeeze China and other countries that Trump says are destroying the U.S. steel industry. No action has been taken, but auto industry analysts and trade experts say the threats already have created uncertainty in the market.

Even though U.S. automakers build vehicles primarily from U.S.-sourced steel, economists say a protective tax on imported steel would give makers of domestic steel the incentive to raise their prices – just because they could. That would be a boon for the domestic steel industry, but it would make U.S.-made cars more expensive and push consumers to buy cheaper cars from foreign companies unaffected by the tariff, economists say.

“Prices will go up and people will buy less,” said Alan Deardorff, professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan. “It’s ironic that in discouraging imports of steel, he may encourage the imports of cars.”

The latest discussions over trade – and steel in particular – arose after transcripts of a Wednesday media session held by Trump on Air Force One were published. In a question-and-answer session, the president described the influx of cheap foreign steel as “a big problem.”

“They’re dumping steel and destroying our steel industry; they’ve been doing it for decades, and I’m stopping it,” Trump told reporters. “It’ll stop...

“There are two ways – quotas and tariffs. Maybe I’ll do both.”

Robert E. Scott, a senior economist and director of trade and manufacturing policy research for the Economic Policy Institute, in a blog post Tuesday underscored the dilemma in economic sanctions.

One segment of the economy – manufacturers that use cheaper foreign steel – could be hamstrung with rising materials costs, he said.

At the same time, tariffs and quotas would save jobs in the U.S. steel and aluminum industries from near-term threats and help domestic producers recover from unfair trade.

“In the best of cases,” Scott said, “tariffs can be used to encourage other importers to develop common policy to address overcapacity and overproduction by China and other major exporters.”

While it is unclear what steps might be most effective, there is mounting pressure for Trump to act.

“Chinese steel overproduction is one of the most significant contributors to American manufacturing job loss,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan said in an emailed response to questions. “We need stronger trade enforcement to protect against countries who cheat. President Trump should follow through on his promise to hold foreign governments accountable for illegal trade practices that continue to put American workers at a disadvantage.”

In June, Trump asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to conduct what’s known as a Section 232 investigation into steel and aluminum imports to determine whether they are hurting U.S. national security. If the government finds a threat there, the rarely used investigation would allow the administration to levy “protective” tariffs against a country or group of countries. Experts expect Trump to argue that the military needs domestic steel for military operations, and that the “dumping” of foreign steel is harming U.S. steel mills.

However, the voices urging Trump to exercise caution are growing louder. Perhaps most prominent is a bipartisan group of 15 former White House economic officials who drafted a letter to the president this week. They specifically took issue with the idea of tariffs imposed on supposed national security threats.

“The diplomatic costs might be worth it if the tariffs generated economic benefits. But they would not,” the panel wrote. “Additional steel tariffs would actually damage the U.S. economy. Tariffs would actually raise costs for manufacturers, reduce employment in manufacturing and increase prices for consumers.”

Compounding the problem, they wrote, is the fact that other countries where U.S. automakers do business could also be hurt by tariffs. Among the 110 countries the U.S. imports steel from are allies such as Canada and Mexico.

“Additional tariffs would likely do harm to our relations with these friendly nations,” the group wrote.

Ford Motor Co. said it buys 95 percent of steel and 98 percent of aluminum used in its American-built vehicles from U.S. manufacturers. The company deferred further comment to the American Automotive Policy Council, a trade group representing Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors Co.

In May, that group submitted two documents to the U.S. government commenting on the Section 232 investigation.

U.S. automakers buy 15 percent of all the steel consumed in the U.S., a vast majority of which is domestically sourced, according to one document.

“(If) the president were to increase tariffs on foreign steel or impose other import restrictions, the auto industry and the U.S. workers that the industry employs would be adversely affected, and (this) unintended negative impact would exceed the benefit provided to the steel industry from this executive action,” read the document. “Inevitably, the imposition of across the board higher tariffs or other restrictions on imports of steel into the United States would only widen the existing price gap by increasing the price of U.S. steel and thus the cost of U.S.-built vehicles.

“This would lead to lower sales of domestically built cars and trucks in the highly competitive U.S. auto market, a decrease in U.S. auto exports, and a loss of the jobs that those economic activities support.”

Representatives from the Fiat Chrysler and GM declined to comment directly on the potential tariffs.

Representatives from the United Auto Workers union and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers – a trade group that represents a dozen carmakers that operate in the U.S., including the Detroit Three – said they could not comment on the president’s trade dealings with China, because the Trump administration has not given a clear outline of its plans.

However, in a June 12 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that addressed renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, auto alliance President and CEO Mitch Bainwol wrote: “Today’s highly complex automobile is a product comprised of thousands of parts sourced from a global network of thousands of suppliers. ... Disrupting this integrated supply chain would increase prices, lower sales, threaten exports and endanger American workers’ jobs.”

Trump could target China through a number of different trade avenues, but even with a possible steel tariff looming, uncertainty likely has put the plateauing U.S. auto industry in a holding pattern, believe Deardorff and Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry, labor and economics group at the Center for Automotive Research.

“The auto industry hates risk,” said Dziczek. “They hate uncertainty. Uncertainty creates risk in the industry, and risk costs money.”

If the tariff is levied on all steel imports, U.S. steel companies would raise prices as well. Many of the vehicles produced in the U.S. are made with U.S. steel. So, auto companies and suppliers would absorb those cost increases for a short time, but eventually the cost of a vehicle made with U.S. steel would increase.

Though plenty of foreign automakers build cars in the U.S., models made outside the country would dodge the steel tariff, keeping prices low on vehicles imported here. That makes U.S. auto companies less competitive, says Deardorff, and would potentially lead to job losses despite short-term gains in the steel industry.

In the meantime, Trump is creating more uncertainty than anything, according to Dziczek and Deardorff.

“Uncertainty is almost like a tax,” said Deardorff. “It discourages any kind of activity.”


What you need to know before
buying a home in Florida

8 important facts for snowbirds looking to the Sunshine State

Toronto Star
July 16, 2017

Wintering in Florida is a Canadian tradition. Yet buying property in the Sunshine State can be a very different experience than buying a home in Toronto. Here are eight important details you should consider if you’re planning to buy your Florida dream home:

1. Construction times are much quicker.

When you buy a new-build home in Toronto, you’re looking at 12 to 18 months before completion. In Florida, it’s more like four to six months. There are lots of reasons for this, explains Laura Di Paolo, senior vice president of corporate marketing for Mattamy Homes. Just a few: no basements, different municipal approvals and unique processing times. 

2. Master-planned communities are developed on a much larger and often a grander scale.

The big differences are the large, well-appointed activity centres, which often make it feel like you’re living in a vacation resort. “In Canada, we have public community and recreation centres, so there’s an issue of market desirability — and willingness to pay for — these types of amenities,” says Di Paolo. “Typically, our taxes pay for these shared public facilities, whereas in the U.S., residents in master-planned communities pay fees toward the creation and upkeep of shared amenities.”

3. There is strong community governance.

Often it’s homeowners associations (HOA) that govern the standards for lawn upkeep, paint colours, landscaping and the maintenance of activity centres. “An HOA in the U.S. keeps your neighbour from painting their garage door a colour that may not meet standards for the community, for example,” explains DiPaolo. “Typically in Canada, there’s little or no governance once buyers take possession.”

4. Rental opportunities abound.

People are always looking to rent property in Florida, and rental income can offset much of the operating expense of a property, which is a nice benefit (though note that you will be taxed by the U.S. government — it’s income, after all). “The Orlando area, with its theme parks, represents a unique opportunity for rental income,” says Di Paolo. “For the first time, Mattamy has homes for sale in a community specially zoned for short-term rentals.”

5. Property management responsibilities vary.

Since Canadians are allowed to stay in the U.S. for only six months a year, says Di Paolo, “you may be required to look after things like pest control, lawn maintenance, home watch and pool maintenance for the many months you aren’t there.”

6. Travel insurance is a huge consideration.

“Specifically, health insurance is an issue for retirees looking to become snowbirds.” Experts recommend you look very carefully at your policy to make sure you’re appropriately covered should you have to seek any medical attention while you’re out of Canada.

7. Home insurance rates differ.

“In Florida, rates are determined by such factors as wind, flood and hurricane ratings, as well as the type of structure,” says Di Paolo.

8. Taxes can be complicated.

“You pay more tax as a non-resident,” Di Paolo cautions. “Consult a tax specialist to look at things like cross-border trusts and naming your children on the deed to save on capital gains.”


2018 Mustang burnout
feature demonstrated

Keith Weston, Vehicle Integration Supervisor, Ford Motor Company Mustang Program demonstrates how a line lock works in the 2018 Mustang, it allows you to lock the front wheels and spin the back wheels to warm up tires for better traction. Clarence Tabb, Jr. / The Detroit News


Ford found inspiration from an
F-22 for their F-150 Raptor
at the EAA AirVenture

This F-150 Raptor has nearly 100 more horsepower than the base model  (Motor Authority)

Motor Authority
Sean Szymkowski
July 13, 2017

Each year, Ford pulls a crew together to build an aircraft-inspired vehicle for the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture aircraft show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The vehicles are auctioned off at the show’s Gathering of Eagles event to help raise funds for training of the next generation of pilots. Typically, the vehicles auctioned off are Mustangs but this year an F-150 Raptor has been selected.

And the inspiration for the build? None other than the F-22 Raptor fighter jet.

Ford Design manager Melvin Betancourt took the lead on designing the special F-150 Raptor. Fighter jet colors, roof-mounted lights, special wheels, and unique graphics throughout the exterior proudly proclaim its aviation motif.

It's not all about the looks, though. Ford Performance has installed a Whipple intercooler and included a few other go-fast bits to inject 95 additional horsepower. It means this F-150 Raptor is currently making 545 hp from the familiar 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 under the hood. Upgraded suspension and brakes are also present.

Last year, the EAA was able to raise $295,000 with the auction of a special Mustang Shelby GT350. It will be interesting to see what the special F-150 Raptor brings when it goes under the hammer.

The 2017 Gathering of Eagles is scheduled for July 27.


How long must drivers wait
for pedestrians at crosswalks?

The Globe and Mail
July 12, 2017

Special to I grew up in Alberta, and when I learned how to drive, we were taught that all cars have to stay stopped in both directions until someone has finished crossing. Now, I start crossing with my kids in a crosswalk and I’m lucky to have anyone stop at all, even after we’ve walked out into the crosswalk with our arms out. Once we’re in it, cars breeze through the second we cross, sometimes right behind us. Have the rules changed? – Matt, Toronto

In Alberta, cars have to stay stopped at a crosswalk until pedestrians make it to the other side, police said.

“By the letter of the law, traffic has to stop in both directions,” said Insp. Ken Thrower, traffic commander with the Calgary Police Service. Section 41 of Alberta’s Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulations doesn’t specifically mention both directions.

It does say “a person driving a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk.”

Since 2016 in Ontario, drivers and cyclists have to stop and wait until pedestrians have completely crossed at pedestrian crossovers and at normal crosswalks, if there’s a school crossing guard there.

So what’s a crossover?

“The crosswalk is at an intersection and the crossover is usually mid-block with the yellow lights overhead and the cross symbols on the roadway,” said Ian Law, president and chief instructor of ILR Car Control School. “[Before] traffic had to stop until the pedestrians were halfway across; the new rule now says all vehicles must stop and stay stopped until the pedestrians have left the roadway.”

It’s confusing, and when the law was first announced, there was worry that it would apply at every intersection, and drivers wouldn’t be allowed to turn right at any intersection until the crosswalk was clear.

So, you have to wait at a crossover – which doesn’t always have flashing lights – but not at a normal stop sign or red light with painted lines (again, unless there’s a school crossing guard there.)

“If there’s a crossing guard with their sign out, you can’t turn right, even if there’s no pedestrians in your way,” said Const. Clint Stibbe, with Toronto Police traffic services.

Fines range from $150-$500, and drivers could also face three demerit points. Fines are doubled in community safety zones.

And everywhere else?

In British Columbia, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, drivers must only yield half the road to pedestrians, said the Canadian Automobile Association.

While Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Saskatchewan have specific laws about school crossing guards, there’s no specific wording about when drivers can proceed after stopping.

Right of way can be wrong

Just because the law says cars have to stop, it doesn’t mean they will.

“You’ve got the right of way as a pedestrian, but if you walk out without looking, you could end up getting hit,” Thrower said. “It’s very wise to look both ways and make sure you engage the driver; somebody might be looking down at their laps at their phones or be creeping ahead without realizing it. We’ve had people get run over at one mile an hour.”

Sticking out your hand or pushing that button doesn’t magically make drivers stop, Law said. “Never, ever assume any vehicle will stop. Red lights and stop signs do not stop cars and trucks – people do, and they are notoriously unreliable.”

A 2015 French study found that when pedestrians at a crosswalk didn’t make eye contact with drivers – instead, just looking at the car – only 45 per cent of drivers stopped.

When pedestrians stared directly at the driver’s eyes, 68 per cent of drivers stopped.

But pedestrians need to pay attention, too. As of May 31, Toronto had 10 pedestrian fatalities. “In seven of them, the pedestrian had made an error,” Stibbe said.


UAW files for vote at
Mississippi Nissan plant

UAW President Dennis Williams is shown March 4, 2017, calling for autoworkers to demand their rights during a speech before thousands gathered at a pro-union rally near Nissan Motor Co.’s Canton, Miss., plant. The United Auto Workers Monday, July 10, 2017, filed an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board, to force a unionization election at the plant following years-long pressure campaign to build support.

Jeff Amy,
Associated Press
July 11, 2017

Jackson, Miss. — The United Auto Workers filed petitions Monday to force a unionization election at a Nissan Motor Co. plant in Mississippi after a yearslong pressure campaign to build support.

Sandra Hightower of the National Labor Relations Board confirmed that the board received the UAW’s election petition in its New Orleans office.

The UAW declined comment but has scheduled an event Tuesday at its office near the plant in Canton, just north of Jackson. That union has long struggled to unionize foreign-owned auto plants across the South, and Monday’s move sets the stage for a key showdown.

The union has worked for years to build support for a vote among the 6,500 workers at the complex. They and community allies also have pushed Nissan to stay neutral in a vote, claiming the company has intimidated workers. The labor board has backed some of those claims in litigation that remains pending.

Nissan spokeswoman Parul Bajaj reiterated the company’s stance that workers get to choose whether they have a union but management opposes representation.

“While it is ultimately up to our employees who will represent them, we do not believe that UAW representation is in the best interest of Nissan Canton and its workers,” Bajaj said.

The pro-union campaign has sought to link support for the union with civil rights for African-Americans. Workers at Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, rejected the UAW in 1989 and 2001 votes, but no election has been held at the Mississippi plant in Canton. The Mississippi campaign has featured support from NAACP and actor Danny Glover, as well as a rally this March headlined by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and former Democratic presidential candidate.

Bishop Thomas Jenkins of New Dimensions Church in Jackson recorded a video and spoke at a Sunday workers meeting at the UAW office. He said he has long advocated for better wages and working conditions in Mississippi.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Jenkins told the AP in a phone interview Monday. “It’s time to go forth.”

The union lost a vote among all workers at Volkswagen AG’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but then won a vote among 160 maintenance workers. That was the first-ever win for the UAW at a foreign-owned auto plant in the American South. German-based Volkswagen had refused to bargain with those workers, saying representation decisions should be made by the entire hourly workforce.

Hightower said the UAW had asked to represent all production and maintenance workers at the plant, a group that could also include contract workers employed by two other companies. She said the labor board would seek to schedule an election “as soon as possible.” However, she noted that pending unfair labor practice complaints filed by the UAW could block the vote. The UAW filed a new round of charges June 26.

Thirty percent of workers must sign petitions seeking an election. Hightower could not immediately say how many workers have signed.


Driverless car battle
lines get blurry

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News
July 10, 2017

San Jose — In the earliest years of the push to bring driverless and electric cars to the American masses, the narrative came easily: It was Silicon Valley and its high-tech wizardry squaring off against the old-school manufacturing power of Detroit.

The question of who will lead the development and manufacturing of autonomous and electric cars remains, carrying the weight of who will benefit from the jobs and revenues they create. An April 3 posting on Wired told readers “Detroit is Stomping Silicon Valley.” Two days later, Robotics Trends declared “No, Detroit Isn’t Beating Silicon Valley.”

The answer may lie somewhere in between. Investments by General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. in Silicon Valley operations — and partnerships between Detroit automakers and California artificial intelligence and technology companies — have blurred the lines.

Interviews with players in Silicon Valley show shifting attitudes toward the Motor City.

Christopher Heiser’s company, Renovo Auto, gained notoriety two years ago for helping to create an autonomous DeLorean capable of doing donuts in a parking lot. Now the company is a leader in developing operating systems for driverless cars. It recently drew investment from heavy-hitter Verizon Wireless.

Count Heiser among those who doesn’t buy the idea that one area must dominate the future automotive arena.

“The Detroit versus Silicon Valley narrative has never held water,” Heiser said in an email to The Detroit News. “This isn’t an either-or proposition. The only way automated vehicles make it to scale is for automotive companies to work with technology partners they trust. The tech companies that get it — The complexity, the safety-critical nature of cars — those are the ones helping to make driving safer and more efficient. Bringing all the pieces together is the challenge, and collaboration is the solution.”

Since 2015, Ford has had a small presence in Palo Alto on the Stanford University campus. By the end of this year, the company plans to open a massive new facility for its work on autonomous issues. That will eventually lead to a doubling of Ford’s 150-employee workforce. The expansion comes on the heels of Ford’s February announcement that it was investing $1 billion in artificial-intelligence company Argo AI.

A year ago, GM acquired San Francisco-based software startup Cruise Automation to serve as the centerpiece of its own driverless car research. An infusion of $14 million will be used to create a new development facility for the company in the same area and create 1,100 new jobs in the area.

While Fiat Chrysler Automobiles lacks a physical presence in Silicon Valley, it has expanded its partnership with Google offshoot Waymo by providing an additional 500 Chrysler Pacifica minivans for research.

‘Old Detroit ... evolving’

It’s a trend that has not been lost on industry leaders in California.

“I think it shows that Old Detroit is really evolving to start ... I would say lead innovation,” said Nakul Duggal, vice president of product management for chipmaker Qualcomm. The traditional auto companies, he added, are making the moves toward becoming service providers that can use technology to adapt their existing products to autonomous uses.

“I think all of these moves are what you might expect for technology leaders and market leaders to be able be prepared for what’s coming in the future,” Duggal said.

Physical presence in California aside, the strategic partnerships forged by automakers have been just as eye-catching.

“Ford is investing in Argo, GM has Cruise,” said Sean Wix, a member of the technical marketing team for Nvidia, whose processors take data from vehicle sensors and identify what the car is “seeing.” “Everyone is buying into this whole (artificial intelligence) thing and is spending a lot of money on it.”

J. Christian Gerdes, director of Stanford’s Dynamic Design Lab in Palo Alto, works with several automakers on driverless technologies. He has gained an appreciation for what Detroit does well, and what it does not.

“It is still, in my mind, almost like magic what the auto industry can produce and sell for something in the $15,000 to $20,000 range,” he said. “It blows my mind that that’s possible. ... There is a lot of expertise in the auto industry around volume manufacturing, around safety-critical systems, around a lot of these design aspects that are, honestly, hard to duplicate.

“But it’s also hard, in a company that is set up and organized around pricing that magic, to also necessarily stay on top of all the new possibilities and all of the new technologies,” he continued. And, he said, that gives smaller companies the opportunity to be innovative and really push the boundaries.”

New players in new places

Developments in recent years seemingly support the notion that the future of driverless and electric vehicles may not be centered in any one region. One example is Lucid Motors, the Menlo Park, California-based maker of the luxury electric car Lucid Air, which debuted at the New York Auto Show in April. After looking at 60 locations across 13 different states, the company settled on the community of Casa Grande, Arizona, just south of Phoenix, to be the home of its new manufacturing plant.

“The site itself was basically ready with everything we needed — good access to railways and good access to highways,” said David Salguero, Lucid’s marketing manager. He declined to discuss what other states had been under consideration.

Phoenix has also attracted attention as a robotic-car testing ground for GM, Ford, Intel Corp., Uber Technologies and Waymo. Pittsburgh has been a focal point for Uber’s testing in recent years.

And new players continue to pop up in new places. This week, Blacksburg, Virginia-based Torc Robotics announced its own self-driving car project.

Back in Silicon Valley, not everyone is as attentive to what is happening with electric and autonomous vehicles — even those with links to the automotive industry. Many feel no real sense of competition over the production of tomorrow’s cars.

In San Jose, Dave Hennon has worked as a mechanic for decades in this region, yet the high-tech nature of what’s on the horizon, as well as the battle over it, seems remote to him.

“I’m not going to be too involved in it at my age,” he joked. “I’m going to be 60 later this year.”


Ford has record June
sales in China

Ford and its Chinese joint ventures sold 100,561 vehicles there in June, the best-ever sales for that month.

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
July 9, 2017

Sales in the U.S. slumped last month for Ford Motor Co. and most other automakers, but the Dearborn-based automaker’s Chinese sales grew 15 percent in June.

Ford and its Chinese joint ventures sold 100,561 vehicles there in June, the best-ever sales for that month. The company sold 537,522 vehicles there in the first half of the year, down 7 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

Those results come as Ford grows its footprint in China through sales and production. The automaker has found a new market for several of its U.S.-made vehicles, as well as those it produces with the Changan Ford Automobile and Jiangling Motor Corporation joint ventures.

Ford plans to build an all-new Lincoln SUV exclusive to the Chinese market in China by the end of 2019. And Ford leadership plans to move all U.S. production of the struggling Focus sedan to China in the second half of 2019, marking the first time a Chinese-made Ford vehicle is imported to the U.S. from those operations.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Ford June sales slipped 5 percent compared to a year ago, due largely to poor small car sales and a reduction in fleet sales.

But Chinese sales in June were driven by strong Ford Mondeo sales, a four-door sedan. Ford sold 17 percent more of those vehicles last month compared to the previous year, which runs counter to the plummeting passenger car sales Ford and other automakers are encountering in the U.S.

China is not insulated from the current SUV craze, though.

Among the joint ventures, the Ford Escort sales grew 30 percent year over year in June, though overall sales through the first six months are down 9 percent. The Lincoln MKC and the Navigator both saw sales increases.

Ford also sold 121 imported F-150 Raptors in June, and 488 in the first half of the year. The company also sold 2,070 Mustangs in those first two quarters.

The company in 2016 sold a record 1.27 million vehicles in China, though the company’s imported vehicle volume for 2016 was down overall from 2015.


Detroit’s bid for respect
is earned, not given

Daniel Howes
The Detroit News
July 6, 2017

Detroit’s “we-don’t-get-no-respect” lament is about to get a test.

For six straight months, auto sales are down from last year, led by plummeting demand for traditional cars. Plants are eliminating shifts and putting a growing number of line workers on layoff — even as the likes of General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. rake in profits on pickups and SUVs amid low gas prices.

Money is growing more expensive because rock-bottom interest rates are inching higher and some lenders are reassessing the attractiveness of auto lending. High-tech content is proliferating across model ranges, boosting transaction prices and swelling monthly payments.

And Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc., more highly valued by investors than GM or Ford, is poised to launch its first high-volume electric car this month. The $35,000 Model 3 will help answer just how formidable Tesla really could be within the mass market, and how much consumers from the United States to China really will go electric without the impetus of soaring oil prices.

For skeptical investors eager to see whether Detroit can manage adversity, now could be their chance to get an early look. Will the new leadership at GM and Ford, and the veteran Sergio Marchionne at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, show the discipline they claim to have — or revert to the bad old habits that erode profits and tarnish brand images?

Will the urge to juice sales with incentives overcome the hard-won understanding that the price for so-called spiffs is suppressed demand and squandered brand equity? Brands like GM’s Cadillac have spent the better part of the past decade rebuilding a brand that would be damaged by such moves.

Answers will be found in what the companies do, not what they say, and how quickly they do it. Detroit comes by its seismic reputation honestly. For too long, it managed cockily on the upswing, panicky on the downturn and made excuses along the way.

Only its performance over the coming months will demonstrate whether that old narrative can adjust to new realities. Or whether the reinvention of the past seven or eight years reverts to the historical mean that so many investors trading Detroit shares flat seem to expect.

Detroit is more likely to embrace the new normal because it must. In the battle between Silicon Valley and Detroit, the city and its hometown automakers that helped put the world on wheels are at a disadvantage largely of their own making.

Investors clearly have longer memories than customers and dealers, employees and hometown boosters. The country’s most valuable companies aren’t old-line industrial names producing real, tangible goods; they’re tech companies largely powered by software developed in a business culture radically different from Detroit’s.

Judging by market valuations alone, investors are far more inclined to believe in Silicon Valley’s ability to innovate and build value because they’ve done just that for the past decade. And Detroit has not, notwithstanding billions in North American profits earned during the market boom now showing distinct signs of slowing.

That may not be fair, but it’s reality. The first mass-market electric car capable of going more than 200 miles on a single charge — and already in U.S. showrooms — isn’t a Tesla. It’s GM’s Chevrolet Bolt.

Detroit has something to prove: that it learned from its many mistakes of the past; that it can harness its technical capability and redeploy it for an electrified, autonomous and mobility services world; that it can change, can be attractive employers for millennials and can still remain corporate bulwarks in communities where it operates.

The past seven years of expanding U.S. profits is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. Neither is GM selling its Opel and Vauxhall brands in Europe to the French, or bolting the Indian and Russian markets. Neither is Ford finally deciding to assemble in China Focus compacts for sale in the United States, or even ousting CEO Mark Fields after less than three years on the job.

The undeniable truth is that the companies that endured the ignominy of bankruptcy (or, in Ford’s case, barely avoided it) are held to a higher standard now because they achieved a lower standard for way too long in the past.

Reaching that standard and attaining it starts with managing adversity well. It also means showing that icons of the Old Economy can play smartly with New Economy rivals competing for a share of next-generation transportation, valued in the trillions.


Automakers unlikely to
set a record with ’17 sales

Ian Thibodeau and
Jim Lynch
The Detroit News
July 5, 2017

Near-record SUV and truck sales can’t overcome poor passenger-car sales and keep the industry on the record pace set a year ago in the United States. Yet analysts and automotive executives are quick to say business is good, even if the full-year results come up short of 2015 and 2016 records.

That’s partially because automakers are riding a cash wave as buyers abandon cars for bigger and more profitable vehicles.

Overall sales were down 3 percent for June compared to a year ago. For the first half of the year, the industry is off 2.1 percent compared to the same period a year ago with 8.45 million vehicles sold, according to Autodata Corp. Car sales industry-wide were down 11.4 percent year-to-date.

“June’s sales number reaffirms that the U.S. vehicle sales cycle is in a post-peak phase,” Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist and director of industry insights for Cox Automotive, said in a note Monday. “The U.S. economy remains strong — confidence is high, unemployment is low — and this will continue to support vehicle demand over the near-term. (We expect) 2017 light-vehicle sales to finish near 17.1 million — down from last year’s record, but still a robust market.”

The Detroit Three each saw sales slip in June compared to a year ago. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was down 7.4 percent from a year ago; Ford Motor Co. was down 5 percent; and General Motors Co. was down 4.8 percent.

For the first six months of the year, Fiat Chrysler sales dropped 6.7 percent compared to mid-year 2016, with 1,067,362 vehicles sold. Ford dropped 3.8 percent year-to-date, having sold 1,294,397 vehicles in six months. GM was down 1.8 percent with 1,413,285 vehicles sold.

All three automakers saw steep drops in car sales in the first half of the year. GM’s were off 18.6 percent, Ford’s fell 20.2 percent and Fiat Chrysler’s fell 24 percent in that time.

Automakers sold a record 17.55 million vehicles in 2016, and it’s almost certain the companies will fall short of that this year. Several forecasters have recently trimmed 2017 estimates for sales of new cars and trucks.

The numbers on sedan sales are troubling enough that some analysts believe the time has arrived for automakers to consider whether some models should be discontinued. Rebecca Lindland, an executive analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said the downturn is reminiscent of what happened to minivans at one time.

Yet the minivan, with its sliding door, had a hook to keep buyers interested, and eventually, sales stabilized. Sedans, she said, have no such hook.

“It’s worthy of examination,” Lindland said. “Nobody makes the harder decisions better than (GM CEO) Mary Barra. And maybe (new Ford CEO) Jim Hackett is the kind that comes in and says ‘We need to a look at this.’ I think we’re in a time when some hard decisions have to be made.”

Ford said the June decline was driven largely by a 13.9 percent dive in fleet vehicle sales for the month coupled with continued falling passenger-car sales. Its retail sales on the month were flat, though.

Ford sold 227,166 vehicles in June. GM sold 242,873, and Fiat Chrysler 187,348.

“Obviously it looks like we hit a peak last year,” Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said during a conference call with analysts and reporters. “That’s not to say it couldn’t play out differently for the balance of this year or even into ’18 ... but (expected annual sales near 17.5 million) is a very good industry. I’d take it all day long.”

GM’s drop came amid a strong showing in the crossover market. The Chevrolet Equinox in particular performed well, seeing an increase of 36 percent.

“U.S. total sales are moderating due to an industry-wide pull-back in daily rental sales, but key U.S. economic fundamentals clearly remain positive,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM chief economist.

Several Fiat Chrysler vehicles posted strong showings, including the Ram series and the popular Jeep Grand Cherokee; its sales rose 21 percent over 2016.

Ford remained optimistic about its truck and SUV sales. The Dearborn-based automaker moved 97,536 trucks and 77,712 SUVs in June, up 1.2 percent and 3.2 percent year-over-year, respectively. Ford managed to sell 77,895 F-Series trucks in June. For comparison, the company has sold 82,721 Focuses since the start of the year.

LaNeve said Ford’s F-Series had its best sales performance for the first half of the year since a record year in 2004, and Ford SUVs had the best-ever first-half performance, marking the first time the company has sold more than 400,000 SUVs.

He said that’s encouraging, given the three new SUV models Ford will roll out in 2018.

Some foreign automakers had a better month than the Detroit Three. Volkswagen of America Inc. sold 47,113 vehicles in June, a 10.8 percent increase. Meanwhile, Subaru’s 52,057 vehicles sold represented an 11.7 percent increase from 2016. Toyota Motor North American Inc. saw a more modest bump, with sales of 202,376 vehicles adding up to a 2.1 percent increase over 2016.

Analysts with Edmunds expect a “softening” market for 2017, with sales predicted to slip 2 percent compared to 2016’s record high. That would make 2017 the fourth-best sales year in U.S. history.

Cox Automotive analysts estimate that 17.1 million cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. in 2017, followed by a drop to 16.7 million in 2018.


Phoenix emerging as Mich.
rival for self-driving tests

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News
July 3, 2017

Chandler, Arizona — Limited regulations, mild winters and predictable street grids are turning the Phoenix area into the latest hotspot for testing self-driving cars.

On a Tuesday in early June, Intel Corp. was testing Ford Fusion Hybrids on the roads of suburban Chandler. General Motors Co. and its Cruise Automation subsidiary were putting a self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV through its paces in downtown Scottsdale. A self-driving Volvo XC90 owned by Uber was seen in Scottsdale the same day, and an Uber spokeswoman said it was mapping communities to expand its real-world laboratory.

The Phoenix area has attracted the autonomous-driving programs of Intel, GM, Uber, Ford Motor Co. and Waymo. Over the past year, Phoenix has joined Metro Detroit, San Francisco and Pittsburgh to become a major center for testing robotic automotive technologies.

The Phoenix climate lets companies make sure their self-driving software and hardware systems work in extreme heat and glaring sun. There’s even the occasional dust storm. Ford tests its Fusion Hybrids there in winter, when ice and snow covers Michigan roads. The hope of the companies is to rack up miles in order to sharpen navigation and crash-avoidance systems, and one day put driverless cars on the road.

Waymo, the self-driving spinoff of Google, hopes to have hundreds of real people in the Phoenix area ride along in self-driving Lexus RX450h crossovers and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans this year. The early-rider program allows selected residents to grab free rides daily to work and school. A test driver will remain behind the wheel in case anything goes wrong.

“We’ve found local residents and officials have been enthusiastic about this technology,” a Waymo spokeswoman said. “Phoenix is a fast-growing region that relies heavily on vehicles, so this gives us the opportunity to learn from people who would be willing to use self-driving cars for everyday travel in a variety of transportation situations.”

Waymo, which also tests in other states, said earlier this year it would grow its fleet of self-driving Pacificas from 100 to 600. Last week it said car rental company Avis Budget Group would maintain and service the Phoenix fleet.

Chip-maker Intel Corp. has 15 self-driving vehicles and an autonomous vehicles lab in suburban Chandler, where the company employs thousands. The company has eight self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrids on Chandler’s streets. Data from sensors, cameras, lidar and radar helps Intel fine-tune the computing brains of the robocars. It’s also researching human interaction and riders’ experiences with the cars.

“The more data they get, the more they can hone in the algorithms to train the vehicles to be more confident on what they’re recognizing and how to react,” Marcie Miller of Intel’s Automated Driving Marketing group said.

Absence of regulation

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in August 2015 signed an executive order on self-driving vehicle testing and pilot programs to help encourage development of the technology in the state, which it believes will help save lives.

Automakers and companies don’t need special permits or licenses to test in the state. Autonomous vehicles have the same registration requirements as other cars and trucks. Unlike California, Arizona doesn’t require companies to report each time that a car’s autonomous mode is overridden by a test driver.

“It is the lack of regulations that really makes Arizona attractive,” Mike Ramsey, research director for technology advisory firm Gartner Inc. said in an email. “In the U.S., if it isn’t illegal, it’s legal. Arizona hasn’t passed laws on the subject – that actually makes it easier to operate there.”

Eighteen states, including Michigan, have passed laws to address autonomous vehicles; governors in four other states have issued executive orders, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Michigan’s broad law, signed in December by Gov. Rick Snyder, will allow the public to buy and use fully self-driving cars when they are available and will allow ride-sharing services without drivers to be operated by auto manufacturers or by ride-hailing services such as Lyft or Uber.

Doug Parks, GM’s vice president for autonomous technology and vehicle execution, told reporters in June that Arizona is welcoming to the testing and it offers GM another location for testing that differs from the complex urban streets of San Francisco and the winter testing offered in southeast Michigan.

“(The) Phoenix area is a different kind of environment,” he said. “The roads are bigger, more residential, wider streets. It’s just a different layout.”

Intel Corp. has a fleet of self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrids it tests in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area. The state of Arizona has become a hotbed for self-driving vehicle testing. Photo taken June 6, 2017. (Photo: Melissa Burden / The Detroit News)

Popular driving sites

GM is running more than 50 autonomous Bolts in Scottsdale, San Francisco and southeast Michigan. It recently built 130 next-generation autonomous Bolt EVs that will be added to the test fleet.

The automaker has not said how many Bolts are on the road in each location, but recent employment ads for Cruise Automation recruited autonomous vehicle trainers for different work-shifts in the Scottsdale market. The work pays $20 an hour, plus benefits.

Ford, which has a proving grounds outside Phoenix, has tested self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrids on tracks and public roads in Michigan, California and Arizona.

“Specifically to Phoenix, we’ve used the area during the winter months in Michigan, as we can continue testing due to the more temperate weather conditions,” Ford spokesman Alan Hall wrote in an email.

Ford is working with Argo AI, the artificial intelligence company in which Ford is investing $1 billion to develop a virtual-driver system. Hall said the companies will work together to determine future testing, including locations.

Uber is testing more than 150 self-driving Ubers in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and the Phoenix suburb of Tempe. The company would not disclose how many are being tested where. Uber has worked with the University of Arizona to develop mapping technology.

The ride-hailing company has been picking up passengers in Tempe for the past four months, an Uber spokeswoman said. Tempe riders who requested an uberX — the least expensive Uber option that seats up to four — are matched with a self-driving Volvo if one is available.

“We are picking up riders in the Phoenix area daily,” an Uber spokeswoman said in an email. “The state of Arizona has had a relationship with Uber for some time and has led the way when it comes to embracing ride-sharing and innovation. Governor Ducey has made the sharing economy one of his top priorities during his time in office and with that foundation in mind, Arizona is an ideal place for Uber to introduce self-driving cars.”


Ford creates robotics, artificial
intelligence team

Ian Thibodeau
 The Detroit News
July 2, 2017

Ford Motor Co. plans to create a Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Research team aimed at boosting technology development for the automaker as autonomy and mobility become more important parts of the company.

Ken Washington, Ford vice president of research and advanced engineering and chief technology officer, wrote in a Thursday blog post that “the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence on the way we get around  —  even in just the next five to 10 years  —  is potentially enormous,” and the new team will help Ford focus on developing elements to help the company meet its goal to change how people move.

The team brings parts of Ford’s research wing onto one team to evaluate vehicle sensor technology, machine learning methods and the development of personal mobility devices, drones and “other aerial robotics to enhance first-and-last mile travel,” according to Washington’s blog.

The team will be based in Dearborn, with an outpost next to the University of Michigan’s MCity research center for autonomous and connected vehicles, Ford said Thursday. The company wouldn’t say how many people will be part of the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Research group.

The move will push forward projects already underway in autonomous vehicle development, among other things.

Ford plans to bring its first-generation fully autonomous vehicle to market by 2021. That car won’t have a steering wheel or pedals, and will most likely be deployed in a fleet contained to certain “geo-fenced” areas of a city or campus.

The new team will have an emphasis on advancing autonomous technology while an artificial intelligence company, Argo AI, develops the brains of the Ford self-driving vehicles. Washington said earlier in June that Argo already has all of the information and data it needs from Ford to make the first-generation car work.

The new robotics team will collaborate with Argo “so they can someday put this promising emerging technology to work in future generations of self-driving vehicles,” Washington wrote.

That will lead to Ford having two separate fleets of self-driving vehicles testing on the road, according to the blog. One will be led by the new Ford team, and the other will be run by Argo as it develops that virtual driver system.

Outside of autonomous development, the robotics and AI team will look at ways to implement robotics in “ergonomically difficult tasks,” continue relationship-building with startup companies, and lead projects with University of Michigan, Stanford University, M.I.T., Virginia Tech, Purdue University, Texas A&M, Georgia Institute of Technology and other universities.

“This is the next step in Ford’s automation story,” Washington wrote. “This decision is driving energy with everyone on our team, as it clearly indicates the direction of Ford Motor Company. Because we understand the science of robotics and artificial intelligence, we can establish a team tasked with not just watching the future, but helping to create it.”


Trump hits South Korea
on auto sales barriers

Keith Laing ,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
July 1, 2017

Washington — President Donald Trump criticized South Korean auto companies for selling cars in the U.S. while American carmakers are struggling to gain a foothold in South Korea.

Speaking at a Friday joint news conference at the White House with newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump said, “South Korean companies sell cars in America. American companies should have that same exact privilege on a reciprocal basis, and I’m sure we will be able to work that out.”

The comments came as Trump and Moon were discussing a trade deal between the two countries that was enacted during former President Barack Obama’s administration. Trump has derided that agreement as a bad deal for U.S. workers.

“From when the U.S.-Korea trade deal was signed in 2011 to 2016, you know who signed it, you know who wanted it, our trade deficit has increased by more than $11 billion,” Trump said. “Not exactly a good deal.”

Moon said through a translator that he had a “candid and lengthy” discussion with Trump during his visit to Washington. He did not mention Trump’s comments about his country’s automakers, Kia and Hyundai.

Under the 2012 U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement known as KORUS, South Korea reduced its tariffs on U.S. autos from 8 percent to 4 percent and the country was to eliminate them entirely in 2016. Obama administration officials said the trade agreement resulted in a 24 percent increase in sales of exports from the Detroit automakers in Korea by 2014.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross painted a starkly different picture of trade relations between the two companies on Friday.

“The trade balance of South Korea has doubled since the KORUS treaty was put into effect. And the largest single component of that is automotive trade,” he said. “There are a lot of non-tariff trade barriers to U.S. exports.

“Only 25,000 cars per Big Three manufacturer are allowed in based on U.S. standards. Anything above that needs to be on Korean standards,” Ross continued. “So that kind of rule-making affects quite a few industries and really restricts the access that U.S. companies have to the Korean market.”

U.S. automakers have pointed out the imbalance and they have accused the Korean government of manipulating its currency to ensure higher values for its companies.

American Automotive Policy Council President Matt Blunt said Friday, “Clearly, KORUS has had mixed results for America’s automakers and it has failed to live up to expectations. There is no question the Korean marketplace is one of the most difficult for any automaker to export into in the world. We appreciate the administration’s attention to the very real challenges we have seen in implementing this agreement.”

The AAPC lobbies for Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Washington.

South Korean companies Hyundai and Kia have manufacturing plants and other facilities in the U.S.

Hyundai’s website says that over half of the cars it sells in the U.S. are manufactured at its plant in Montgomery, Alabama. Kia similarly says that 40 percent of its vehicles are made at its plant in West Point, Georgia.

Neither company responded immediately to a request for comment.

General Motors Korea, formerly known as Daewoo, sold 180,275 cars in South Korea in 2016, according to data compiled by IHS Automotive. GM Korea is currently the third-largest automaker in South Korea. Imports overall accounted for only 10 percent of the 1.8 million cars that were sold in South Korea last year, according to the group.

Hyundai reported sales of 775,005 vehicles in the U.S. in 2016, which the company said was a 1.75 percent increase over 2015. Kia reported sales 647,598 vehicles in the U.S. in 2016, which the company said was up 3.5 percent over 2015.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said Trump may have a point about barriers to entry for U.S. automakers that are trying to enter the South Korean market. However, he said leveling the playing field would not guarantee parity between Detroit and Korean automakers.

“If we still can’t sell cars in Japan and Korea even when the barriers go away,” he said, “then the market has spoken.”

Congratulations to Pat Riley & Mohammed Zakaria both
Retiring July 1, 2017

Pat Riley

Mohammed Zakaria

Patricia Riley
28.2 Years
Mohammed Zakaria
28.8 years


Pat Riley retires July 1, 2017

Pat Riley retires July 1, 2017

Pat Riley retires July 1, 2017












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